Joyce

I received some difficult and painful news yesterday morning. A woman who worked for me years ago, and became a good friend in the process, died yesterday. Joyce and I stayed in touch over the years, occasionally getting together for lunch and keeping in contact via email and my blog and Facebook. She had been getting progressively frail as she aged, battling brittle bones and dealing with pain that I’m sure must have been excruciating. But she toughed it out. I learned yesterday that a bout of pneumonia put her in the hospital; she simply wasn’t able to recover from it. Her last days were spent in hospice, where she was finally pain-free until the end.

As I think of her, two things stand out in my mind. First, she had an acerbic wit matched to an acute and sometimes caustic sense of humor. Second, in contrast to those sharp-edged characteristics, she was kind and gentle and had a good, good heart. She hid (but not terribly well) the kindness of a “softie” beneath a sometimes rough demeanor.  This evening, as I reflect on how our friendship grew over the years, something I’d never really considered popped into my mind. She demonstrated, perfectly, how a person can be impatient and demanding while simultaneously imperturbable and exceedingly tolerant. She knew how to balance those traits in a way that manifested strength, on the one hand, and compassion, on the other.

I remember the day, in February 1997, that I witnessed her grace and compassion and humanity in full flower. She and a few other members of my staff attended a board of directors meeting at which I outlined to the board my plans for guiding the association (for which we all worked) into the future. After my presentation, the board went into executive session for what seemed like a long, long time. During our wait, Joyce commented that she thought my presentation was strong. She said she expected the board would accept my plan because it was clear and responsive to the business climate in which the association found itself, despite the fact that she didn’t think many of the board members were sufficiently intelligent enough to know it. She didn’t hide her disdain for certain members of the board who, in her view (and mine), were grandstanding when they challenged my plans. But when I was finally called back in to the board room after most of the members of the board had left, the remaining members of the executive committee told me the board had reached a decision not to renew my employment contract. I was surprised and crushed. When I left the meeting, I informed Joyce and the other staff members. She was especially surprised, I think. She was supportive. They all suggested we get away from the Long Beach hotel for a private dinner that evening, but I was not in the mood for company, so they went out later on their own.

The next morning, Joyce gave me a jar of habanero salsa she bought for me the night before. It was a simple thing, but it was her way of saying, “This is the sort of stuff that excites you, not the political bullshit of association boards, so don’t let this surprise setback get you down.” She knew my passion for fiery foods. She knew I was far more interested in culinary adventures than in board politics. Her little gift was meant to encourage me to focus on the things that really matter, not on the things that keep you from them.

Even now, I know that a little gift of habanero salsa might seem an odd way to help me get centered, but it did exactly that. And she knew it would. We spoke later about how that gift meant so much to me then and continued to mean a great deal from then on.  Later, her stubborn insistence on speaking her mind, consequences be damned, got her fired from the job I hired her for. But she bounced back, as she always did. I will miss our occasional exchanges. She was hard-nosed and gentle, a beautiful friend I will always miss.

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Cancer Journal 32, 2019 and Mindless Rage

I’ve still not gotten my bearings with respect to when, after my chemo treatments, I will crash. Perhaps every post-treatment regimen follows the same pattern, but my chemo-brain can’t seem to discern and remember the pattern. This time, it seems that I was pretty beat on Wednesday after the Monday treatment. Or was it Thursday? Or Friday? Or all the above. Yesterday, Friday, I felt pretty decent for at least part of the day. I got out and about a little. A trip to the grocery store and the post office and Walgreen’s (the latter to get a passport photo made). But was that an “up” day after a “down” day? I don’t know. I just don’t remember. Today, though, I started the day decidedly “down.” And I ended yesterday the same way. By 9:00 p.m., I was absolutely wiped out; I went to be and went to sleep quickly, awakening only around midnight and 4:00 a.m. to pee. Then, I was awake around 7:00 a.m., but only enough to crawl out of bed and into my recliner, where I stayed in a state of semi-consciousness until 10:00 a.m. I’m awake and up now, but not entirely alert and conscious. If I continue to feel halfway decent, we’ll go to our church’s St. Patrick’s Day dinner of corned beef and cabbage, starting around 5:00 p.m. If I’m still feeling worn to a frazzle, my wife will go with her sister, instead. And I will vegetate. We’ll see. We still have five hours left before I have to decide whether I can remain upright and alert during dinner.

Once again, my oncologist apparently failed to post the results of my most recent blood work on her company’s health portal. So, I have no idea what the blood work from a week ago last Thursday revealed. I wonder whether the doctor looked at it. Oddly, when I had my chemo treatment on Monday, the nurses didn’t take blood. Normally (the three times before), the did. Oh, well. I’m just placing my life in her hands and I’m sure she would not neglect to do her work. Hmm.

“My life in her hands” seems so utterly meaningless this morning, as I think of yesterday’s monstrous mass killings in Christchurch, New Zealand. The idea that a madman, a racist xenophobe, could decide he had the right to take the lives of dozens of people he didn’t even know, simply because of their religion or their culture or his perception that they were “taking over” his culture is nothing short of mind-numbing. I have no trouble this morning thinking people like him should be sought out, put in chains, and beat until their brains spill onto the ground next to their lifeless bodies. That’s not the solution, obviously, but it might quell the likelihood of such attacks. If “decent” society were to simply rebel against this madness with an equal or greater degree of madness, it might put a stop to such killings. If nothing else, it might satisfy the thirst for revenge I know I should not feel but, nonetheless, do. I cannot even imagine the horrible agony going through the minds of the families and friends of the people who were killed and injured in yesterday’s attacks. Ach! I have no sympathy, no empathy, no compassion for the guy responsible for the attacks. I don’t care how he felt, I don’t care whether he felt his precious white culture was under attack. He deserves to be stabbed repeatedly with a pitch fork, the person doing the stabbing taking great care only to injure him badly, not to kill him. Rage bubbles up like a fountain.

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Triggered

As I read a friend’s blog yesterday afternoon, his words triggered in my mind an epiphany of sorts. Though he wrote about feeling stressed at the unusual degree of obligations he is under at the moment, his words made me realize that my experience of late is at the opposite end of the spectrum of responsibility. I have very little on my plate at the moment and, for that matter, haven’t been overburdened in any way for quite some time. Oh, I’ve had to go to doctor appointments and meetings involving commitments for which I’ve volunteered, but none of these things really demand my time. I can skip doctor appointments. I can opt not to attend meetings, an option I have lately exercised on more than one occasion. I don’t have to do much of anything. I’m free to sit on my hands if I wish and I won’t be punished for it. In fact, generally speaking, I won’t even be missed.

Here’s where my friend’s blog post really triggered my thoughts. He mentioned yesterday’s Facebook outage. He suggested, according to my reading, that people realized that the lack of Facebook did not coincide with the end of the world. They noticed, but they didn’t panic. For some, the absence of Facebook was a welcome relief.  People noticed it wasn’t available and then went about their lives, engaging in something else that captured their attention, probably in something more interesting and more productive.  It occurred to me that it’s the same with me. Except my absence isn’t as noticeable as the absence of Facebook. In fact, my absence is probably not noticed at all, except by a tiny number of people. Even for them, my absence isn’t likely to be as disruptive to their routines as would be the absence of Facebook. That is, my presence in their lives takes up less time and attention than the presence of Facebook. Or whatever. It could be Twitter. Or CNN. Or, as much as it pains me to think it, Fox News. The absences of other distractions would be far more noticeable than my absence.

Part of the reason other distractions would be (and are) more noticeable, of course, is that I tend to stay out of the way. I behave like a hermit. I stay at home and don’t reach out to people except through my writing. And my writing isn’t sufficiently engaging to merit much attention because, let’s face it, my writing is for the most part the epitome of self-absorption.  The thing is, frequently I feel like interacting with other people, but I’ve not developed a relationship with them that is conducive to reaching out to them. It would be awkward, for example, to call one of several people with whom I might want to chat and suggest we get together for coffee or lunch or whatever. Such an overture would be met, I think, with suspicion or some other emotion that’s not conducive to conversation. I can imagine what might go through their minds if I were to approach them about meeting for coffee: “What the hell is this about?” “Hmm, I wonder what’s wrong?” “Is he experiencing an emotional emergency of some kind and is reaching out to me for help?” Something like that.

Oddly, though, I don’t respond that way on those rare occasions when someone reaches out to me. Just yesterday, I got a text message from a woman who asked if I might want to get together for coffee. It was not the first time she has suggested we get together and, in fact, we used to meet fairly often just to chat about writing. We got together a week or so ago, in fact. I had the sense that she contacted me just to see how I was doing with my cancer treatments. Yesterday morning, I suggested we try another time. I didn’t sleep well the night before and spent most of the morning, almost comatose, in my recliner. My last chemo treatment was four days ago, so fatigue began kicking in yesterday morning. I did not feel sufficiently strong to get dressed, much less go out and chat. I did suggest another time, though. My suggestion conflicted with a dental appointment on her schedule. We left it that we would get together sometime “in the future.” I’ve gotten slightly off track, though. My conversations with her are not the kind of conversations I  would seek with people who might consider my overture a suspicious endeavor. I suppose the conversations that don’t take place would be more about learning who the people are, what they think, and exploring whether our thought processes might run in sufficient parallel that we could become friends or closer acquaintances or whatever else might fit the communication. Who knows? I don’t.

I’m 65 years old and still don’t know how to initiate or sustain conversations that could lead to friendship. That’s odd. And it suggests that there comes a time when it is, indeed, impossible to teach an old dog new tricks. At any rate, reading about the Facebook outage and the way people readily dealt with it led me to think about my own value in the eyes of people with whom I have little contact. I’d not be missed, at least not by many and not by much. Facebook is, indeed, a more important fixture in their lives than I am. And that’s because I haven’t tried, or don’t know how, to become more valuable. Hmm. Hmm.

I wonder whether my chemo-brain is responsible for any of this long, convoluted thought process? I wonder whether, two weeks hence, I will read this post and wonder what the hell was wrong with me when I wrote it? That’s true of many things I write. It could be true of this. Or maybe not. Time will tell.

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Solitude versus Engagement

Most of the multiple posts I’ve written over the past several days will remain drafts for the foreseeable future. None of them have so far captured what’s been on my mind, at least not in a way that I’m willing to share with that tiny sliver of the world that might happen by my blog. I suppose part of the problem is that I don’t quite know what’s been on my mind. I know only that it combines darkness with fear. Perhaps I’m uneasy about the status of my health; whether cancer and/or its subsequent treatment are the only things causing my pains. I’ve been uneasy about that for months. I questioned my surgeon, during my post-surgery follow-up, about feeling bloated on my right side. He dismissed it as nothing of concern. Three-plus months later, though, it’s still a concern, meritorious of concern or not. And my esophagitis, still problematic more than three weeks after my last radiation treatment, makes swallowing hard. Maybe it’s all hypochondria. I’d rather think my mental state is out of kilter than to think my physical condition is precarious.

But none of that stuff explains the other stuff. The stuff surrounding a vague sense that I’m ready to abandon this place I live and try someplace new. It’s not so vague, actually. It’s becoming more acute with each passing day. But I’ve had those acute sensations before, thoughts about wanting to leave and try on a new life. They pass. But not always. And not completely. Maybe those lingering wishes to “move on” explain why, even after affirmatively abandoning the idea of living out of an RV, I’m still envious of people who have the option of waking up one day and simply leaving.

What keeps us tied to a place? For me, it’s the financial shackles: home ownership, vehicle registrations, etc. All the legal entanglements that trap us into setting up webs that make it hard to escape. We do it to ourselves. We set down roots that are hard to cut. On the one hand, that may make us feel like we’ve found “home.” On the other, the roots are like manacles, tying us to a prison of of our own making. It’s self-incarceration.

These thoughts flood my mind the day after I finally unwrapped and hung on our mug rack, newly-affixed to the wall, a bunch of mugs we’ve been carting around with us during our moves since 1997. Maybe that act triggered the most recent sense of being chained to a place to which I do not want to be chained. It’s not just this place. It’s any place. I don’t want to feel trapped in a place. Even this place, where I’ve come closer than other places, to establishing friendships. Coming closer, though, is not the same as actually reaching that point. I don’t think my personality can take me to that point. It’s either my personality or the personalities of dozens of other people. The mug rack, though, is now a commitment. Putting it up requires me to acknowledge greater permanence than I want to have to acknowledge.

I’m in the mood this morning to feel the sense of isolation I think I’d feel if I were to wake up in a tiny adobe shelter in the hinterlands of New Mexico. I wonder why that distance from other human beings is so appealing sometimes? I don’t know. There’s so much I don’t know about my self and my moods. I know, this morning, that I prefer solitude to engagement.

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Wishes

To be loved, in spite of legendary flaws
To be loved, even though unlovable
To be loved, regardless of moral defect
To be loved, undeterred by physical blemish

All these wishes cannot stand in the face of love’s substance.
They can’t remain in the harshness of daylight or the dim
glow of soft evenings seeking redemption from the day.
Love is earned by conquering the failings that
tear its seeds into shredded strings of loathing.
Love is granted, in defiance of defect and blemish
and flaw, only to the lovable.

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Cancer Journal 31, 2019 and Indiscriminate Musings

Barring unforeseen complications down the road, I completed what I expect was the last of my core cancer treatments today.

The fourth and final chemotherapy treatment ended without fanfare just before noon today. I expected–based on my experience at the conclusion of my radiation treatment and on what I’ve read and others have told me–some pomp and pageantry at the conclusion of my chemotherapy. It was an expectation unmet. The only expression of “joy” was “yay,” expressed with decidedly restrained enthusiasm by the nurse who yanked the needle out of my chemo port, when I mentioned today was my last chemo treatment. Perhaps they reserve celebrations for people who undergo far more challenging chemotherapy than mine. That would make sense. I can imagine how other patients, who might be subjected to weekly or semi-weekly treatments for months and months and months, might feel that a four-course program over twelve weeks doesn’t merit much ballyhoo. And their sentiments would be understandable. But, still. I guess I felt like the end of my therapy didn’t really matter to the staff. Maybe, were I in their shoes, I would feel the same. But I doubt it. Frankly, I can’t fathom how medical professionals dealing with cancer patients can simply ignore what, to the patient, is a pretty damn important milestone. Yet, in the overall scheme of life and healthcare and multiple decades of life on Planet Earth, an ignored milestone doesn’t really matter, does it? No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t, and shouldn’t, matter much to me. Why should I care that a group of people about whom I know virtually nothing and whose lives don’t intersect mine except in fleeting and utterly tangential ways failed to acknowledge “my” milestone? But, still.

Okay, I think I’ve gotten that out of my system. But maybe not. Maybe I should compare the ways in which the people at the other end of the building, in the radiation section, behaved when my treatments ended. The two guys who handled my radiation wishes me well. Their expressions of good will may have developed through guidance and training. Their behaviors may have emerged only after extensive sessions with an acting coach. The nurse who, after I rang the bell (after being told to do so), left the reception area to give me a hug may be required to exhibit such behavior. The smiles on their faces might be due to thoughts of little bonuses in their paychecks if they successfully trick the patients into believing they actually care.  But I think not. None of it seems true. I think the radiation staff is simply more humane. More human. More caring and empathetic and more compassionate.

Okay. NOW it’s out of my system. I really am happy that the treatments are history. I hope and expect that the residual side-effects will dissipate over the next several weeks. Today, after the session, my wife and I ate lunch at a chain steak house across the street from the cancer center. I ordered a burger, cooked rare. The waitress said  rare means a cool, red center. Yes, I said, that’s what I’m after. I got a pink, warm center. I didn’t complain, though by doing so I might have helped another customer receive his burger cooked to order. But I didn’t. I ate the meat and part of the bottom half of the bun. I still have a tough time with swallowing bread for some reason. But, yesterday I was able to swallow pizza dough without any significant problems. I think my esophagitis is improving. Despite my swerve away from health-related happiness into the food lane, I’m happy to be finished with my treatments. My next doctor visits are March 22 (radiologist) and March 28 (oncologist). In both cases, I expect to learn more about follow-up appointments and tests and the like. The March 28 appointment will lead to a CT scan schedule. And, perhaps, a conversation about Programmed Death Ligand -1 and what, if anything, to do about it. My follow-up visit to the surgeon who removed my right lung’s lower lobe will be in June.  Medical medical medical. Ach.

Today’s final chemo treatment came on the heels of a high-speed visit by Anne, Ignacio, and Woods (my niece, her husband, my brother). They arrived Saturday afternoon and left early this morning. We had a very good time visiting with them. But such short visits don’t allow enough time to completely relax and enjoy one another’s’ company. We took advantage of Ignacio’s skills and strength by having him help us hang a mug rack that will hold 50 mugs (plus or minus one or two or so). While Ignacio’s skills and strength were critical, Anne’s intellect contributed mightily by incorporating the use of dangling lenghts of thread to mark studs in the wall. Within the next few days, we’ll dig the mugs out from boxes where they are stored, wrapped in paper, and will hang them. It’s been YEARS since they hung on the wall. The last place they were on display was our house in Arlington, Texas. We moved away from Arlington in 1997. We tend to procrastinate when challenged in certain ways. I think seeing the mugs every morning (they’ll hang in the office/guest room I use as my writing corner) will brighten my mood and help me heal.

On Saturday, before family arrived, I submitted a request for a window company to come give me a bid on replacing some large windows in the room I originally intended to be my office. Today, I got a call from the company to schedule a visit. During one of three calls, the scheduler asked me whether I was married. I asked her why that mattered. She said “we like to know who we’re talking to.” I told her that made no sense and that the question irritated me and had nothing whatsoever to do with giving me a quote on windows. She seemed to drop it. We scheduled a visit for Friday morning this week. Fifteen minutes later, she called back. “I need to know whether you’re married, ” she said. I responded in much the same way I had earlier. Except I told her I knew why they want to know. They want to know whether they need to use pressure sales tactics and on whom. I told her I find that extremely offensive and that I have no use for a company like that. I told her to cancel my appointment. She hung up. No “I’m sorry.” Nothing. She just hung up. I’m glad I got to know enough about the company to know I wouldn’t want to do business with them. Creeps.

Did I mention that, after I got home today, I sat in my recliner and almost immediately went to sleep? I must have slept for three hours. I felt utterly drained and beyond tired. I can’t decide whether it was today’s chemo or something unrelated. Not that it matters.

I guess I can expect extreme fatigue in the coming days and weeks. I hope this upcoming round will be the last chemo-related exhaustion, coupled with protracted lethargy, for many, many, many years to come.

 

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Neanderthal

Somehow, I remained blissfully unaware that misogyny and blatant discrimination against women were routinely and officially practiced long after I assumed “things were changing quickly.” The year I graduated from high school, 1972, was the first year women were permitted, legitimately, to run in the Boston Marathon. It was only five years earlier that Kathy Switzer ran, incognito and against the rules, and finished. Learning that stunned me. I know that women, even today, have to fight hard just to be treated with some semblance of equality. But I did not know that blatant sexual discrimination was practiced while I was still in high school. I did not see it. I am sure it was all around me, but I didn’t see it. Why would I? I wasn’t the object of discrimination.  So it must have been easy to dismiss it or to assume it did not exist. For as long as I can remember, I have believed women are equal to men and deserve the same treatment, the same opportunities, and the same respect as men. I knew my beliefs weren’t necessarily completely mainstream, but neither did I realize how fragile women’s “rights” were and, today, remain.

I thought we lived in a civilized society. I should have known better. All I need to do is to look at the White House and know better.

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Cancer Journal 30, 2019

Another blood draw today, along with a visit with my oncologist. The same nurse who, invariably, cannot find my vein without prodding my arm with a sharp needle to the point that I inform her that I have nerves in that arm, examined my chemo port. I asked to have  a look. I would have preferred to have asked someone in whom I have more trust, but I wasn’t in the mood to berate my attacker today. She felt my port, prodded a bit, and pronounced that it was fine. Sometimes, she said, weight loss can make it seem like it’s more pronounced than normal.

I waited for the usual extended time period before seeing the oncologist. She came in and asked something to the effect that “weren’t you having problems with nausea or something last week?” I wanted to scream, “Look at your chart and you’ll see that it wasn’t nausea, it was the same cough for which you prescribed drugs for acid reflux!” But I didn’t. I just told her it was a cough and it seems better now. Because it does. Not good, but better. Her bizarre prescriptions last week cost $86. I think my prescription plan opts not to pay for obviously erroneous prescriptions. Apparently, my conversation with the nurse navigator either didn’t make its way to the doctor or the doctor forgot. Whatever the reason, the oncologist repeated her suggestion that I consider immunotherapy if the insurance company is willing to pay for it. She said my concerns about the side effects (basically, everything from permanent brain damage to an excruciatingly slow death) were unfounded. None of her patients have had such side effects, she said. “What,” I felt like asking, “did they slip into comas and die quickly?” But, again, I didn’t. I’ll still consider the immunotherapy. Just not under her care.

Next Monday is my last chemotherapy session. I expect I’ll deal with extreme fatigue within a couple of days of the treatment and, if what I’ve read and heard is true, the fatigue associated with this last treatment could last a month or more. Crap. I’m tired of this stuff. But, I have to keep reminding myself, I’ve had it easy thus far. A lot of people suffer much worse side effects, on top of having a much harder time with their cancer in general. I’m lucky. I hope my luck holds out.

My next visit with the doctor will be March 28, when she will let me know when I’ll have my CT scan. And, maybe, she’ll give me an idea of the follow-up treatment schedule.

My swallowing seems to be getting just a tiny bit better. Knock of wood. My chest still hurts like hell when I move in certain ways, suggesting there’s something “in there” on the lining of my esophagus (I presume) that is slow to heal. My next visit with the radiologist is March 22, the same day I get my eyes examined. I’m very tired of doctor visits, but happy I have insurance that pays for them…or, at least, covers most of the costs.

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Broken References

Spanso Griffin has forgotten all the easy, commonplace words. In their place, a complex vocabulary—suited only for erudite papers penned by academicians—is taking hold. He speaks a stilted language that paints him as pompous and pretentious and undeservedly boastful. His old vocabulary hides in fear under layers of slabs of crystalline brain cells, sheets of deadened thought petrified into hard, impermeable plates. The turgid new lexicon speaks of apertures and fenestrations, cursing words like doors and windows, which the terminology asserts are suited only to the simple-minded .

His travel on foot from the east coast to the midwest is no longer a long walk but a peregrination. He no longer glorifies the memory of a friend; he apotheosizes the man’s life.

Spanso tries to remember the simple words, but they escape him. And it’s not just the language of conversation. It’s the nomenclature of personal engagement. The names of people he has known since he was a child  have begun to dissolve into cerebral sludge, a sticky ooze he can feel sloshing in slow motion from one side of his skull to the other. He remembers faces, but the names he once associated with them no longer make sense to him. Unlike the high-minded intellectual replacements for simple words, names have become gibberish with irrational connections. The person he once called Mike is now stuck in his head as Penumbra. He see the man’s face and thinks of his shadow. Hi midday meal is not lunch; it is torso. He does not sleep; instead, he conflagrates.

This monstrous mixture of pedantry and rancid illiteracy gnaws at what’s left of his intellect like rats, watching his eyes as he screams in horror, chewing on the gristle of a man’s broken knee. Spanso’s days last for weeks. Sleep doesn’t come for Spanso except to accompany intensely brief nightmares that would lead to a horrible death in any other man. But Spanso simply awakens, more confused and angrier than before.

Almost all his few friends have abandoned him, unwilling to tolerate his threats and hissing tirades. Only Calypso Collier continues to listen to Spanso’s incoherent rants, hearing in Spanso’s words hints of the gentle man buried deep in Spanso Griffin’s broken psyche. Calypso says he hears references to the “old” Spanso on occasion. He tells the people who have abandoned Spanso that their old friend is still there, just hidden. But they laugh and say Calypso is stupid, a sucker, an easy mark for a madman.

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Musings on a Late-Week Monday

Lately, I’ve been bitten by new car fever. Not just any new car fever, though. New car fever involving a Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring 6-speed manual. I might seriously consider such a beast except for one important factor: the car’s recommended fuel is 91-octane or higher premium. Who in their right mind would buy a car that requires premium fuel? Damn. I sure like the looks of the car. And I bet it would be fun to drive. But, alas (added for the benefit of a some-time reader who thinks “alas” is the linguistic equivalent of pretention), I shall not invest money I don’t have in a car that prefers gasoline that I refuse to buy. Instead, I will sulk and continue driving my wife’s seventeen-year-old hand-me-down Toyota Camry.

During the last seventeen years, we’ve put only about 9,000 miles per year on the car. That’s not much. Especially considering that we’ve averaged about 16,000 miles per year on our newer car, the 2016 Subaru Outback. Though I call the Subaru my wife’s car, it’s actually the “family car.” We use it when we’re driving together, when I’m almost always in the driver’s seat. I am a steering wheel control freak. I much prefer to be the driver than to sit in the passenger seat, under the driver’s control. But I’m getting better about that.

It’s unusual for me to be sitting at my computer at 10:00 a.m., typing a mindless post that will add no significant value to the world’s literature. The reason I’m sitting here is this: I requested (online) an appointment to have my eyes examined and I’m waiting for a phone call to confirm a date and time for my appointment. I think my prescription could use some tweaking, at least, and I know I need new lenses. My frames are at least five or six years old, so they probably are ready to break (actually, I’m relatively sure they have broken and were repaired, so they’re ready to break irreparably). So, it’s time for an entirely new set of glasses. Two sets, actually, inasmuch as I do not want to find myself with broken glasses and no backup. And I want slip-in sunglasses. It’s only money. And a lot of it.

I don’t want to derail my recuperation by saying anything too early, but I have a hint of a sense that my esophageal nastiness may be improving ever-so-slightly. My cough seemed to have almost disappeared after only a single dose of a codeine-laden prescription cough syrup, but then I made some comment about it and it returned. I haven’t taken more of the cough syrup because the warnings associated with it suggest I could die a horrible, horrible death from side-effects. I’d rather not risk it, but if that’s what it takes…

Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to swallow again? And wouldn’t it be deliriously wonderful to be able to eat spicy foods?! And foods with texture?!  Oh, the joy of the very idea!

Today feels like Monday for some reason, though I can’t say why. The only reason I have to feel Mondays these days is that my chemo treatments are on Mondays. I do not have a chemo treatment today. I have one next Monday. So why would today “feel” like a Monday? It’s not like I need to go to work today, though going to work might be kind of nice, especially since going to work usually suggests that a paycheck will follow at some point. I miss paychecks. I really do. I should have thought about that before I retired. Actually, I should have thought about retirement when I fell into a career. Had I been smart, I would have chosen a career that involved a generous pension for pensioners. As it turned out, I have no pension. Never did. Never will. I have only savings. If I live long enough, I will have Social Security income. We decided to defer claiming Social Security until I turn seventy. Based on recent health-related matters, the likelihood of that happening is considerably less than it was just a few month ago. So now I’m wondering whether I should go ahead and claim it. See, that sort of thinking is what makes today feel like a Monday. That’s the sort of thing that might engage one’s thought processes on a Monday. I suppose I can consider today a late-week Monday. Nothing’s to stop me from deciding to do that. Nothing but rational thought and concerns that I might be branded as ripe for involuntary institutionalization. So maybe I’ll let it slide for now.

In case I was wondering, which I was, I’m hungry. I feel like something substantial, though what that substantial something might be remains a mystery.  For the last two nights, we’ve eaten meatloaf. My first meat in ages, it seems. I was able to swallow it, which was wonderful. The serving size, though, was monstrous. I should have split it in two, but I didn’t. I greedily consumed the entire thing, gaining ten pounds in the process, I suspect. No, the meatloaf did not weigh ten pounds, but as we all know, once ingested, the weight that food adds to one’s body increases exponentially. For example, if I were to eat two ounces of meat, those two ounces would multiply by two as I swallowed them. By the time those four ounces reached my stomach, those four ounces would multiply by themselves, resulting in sixteen ounces, the entirety of which would be affixed to my weight. I would, therefore, gain a pound by eating only two ounces of meat. Now, imagine what would happen if I ate an entire pound of meat! Here, I’ll show you:

16 x 16 =256 (I swallow 16 ounces, 256 ounces, or 16 pounds, would make their way to my stomach)

256 x 256 =65,536 (by the time the meat reaches my stomach, it would weigh 65,536 ounces, or 4,096 pounds)

Clearly, by eating just one sixteen-ounce rib-eye, I would gain 4,096 pounds! Obviously, then, one ought not to eat such large, luscious, mouth-watering steaks, no matter how hungry one believes oneself to be. Instead, one ought to rub a single leaf of celery on one’s lower lip, allowing the flavors of the celery to just barely activate the taste buds. It’s the healthy thing to do.

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Reason to Believe

Still I look to find a reason to believe.

Tim Hardin wrote, composed, and recorded Reason to Believe in 1965. One of the most popular versions of the tune was released by Rod Stewart six years later. No fewer than two dozen other artists have recorded the music over the years. Its lyrics tell a story of betrayal, hurt, and willing self-deception. They portray, in very few words, the effects of painful dishonesty. They imply, but never announce outright, the foundation of the lies about which the lyrics address. The words of the song begin with:

If I listened long enough to you
I’d find a way to believe that it’s all true.

Depending on the version, the tune is only between two and four minutes long. My favorite version is just three minutes long. I remember, when I first bought the vinyl album it’s on, I would play it over and over and over again. That’s probably one of the reasons that LP is scratched. If I had an LP player that worked, I’d listen to the album this morning.

My favorite version never made it to the top of the charts. It was recorded in 1970 by Mason Williams on his album entitled Handmade. Williams’ version is one of the most poignant songs I’ve ever heard, even with its twangy country accents. His version seems honest and unadorned with excuses. I lose myself in it when I hear it.

I’ve long thought there’s a distinct parallel between songs I like and the way I write. The songs are short and focus on a single theme that’s repeated several times. They don’t tell a full story. Rather, they suggest it, leaving the listener to fill in the enormously large empty spaces around the compact bits of information contained in the lyrics and reinforced by the tune.  I like to write short vignettes that attempt to do the same thing. Perhaps I’d be more successful if I followed the form that has worked for so many people for so long: musical lyrics. Lyrics offer evidence that stories need not be padded with so much nonessential “data.” Short stories or even my vignettes tend to be weighed down by unnecessary information. Their kernels can be hidden and even smothered by layers of choking fog. Maybe I should try my hand at song lyrics. But I think I would need someone to compose the tune first, something to which I would attach lyrics. The tune would set the stage for me. I often know from the first moments of listening to a piece the kinds of emotions it will evoke. That knowledge would guide me in writing the lyrics.

Almost everything I write involves emotional pain. I’ve noticed that over the years. Not everything, but damn near it. I’ve never been able to figure out for myself why that is. I suppose there’s something buried in my psyche that a psychiatric surgeon with an impeccably sharp intellectual scalpel could uncover. Still I look to find a reason to believe. Those few words say as much about the denial of pain as any book I’ve read.

I’ll try to embed Mason Williams’s version of the song here. Let’s see it that works.

Posted in Emotion, Music, Writing | 3 Comments

Weighty Topics that Lead to Linguistic Salvation

To look at me, you’d think I might have reached my peak weight. But you’d be wrong. That unhappy event took place several years ago, when I lived in Dallas. I was still working at my business, traveling more frequently on business than I wanted, and eating more than any human should. Based on my height and other factors, my “ideal” weight should be around 165-175 pounds.  My weight reached 251 before I finally decided to do something about it. I began walking a lot. And I lost a lot of weight. I didn’t get even close to my ideal weight, but I dropped to just over 200 pounds. Since we left Dallas, though, I’ve not gotten a lot of exercise. I returned to old bad habits. My weight climbed, reaching a peak of 234 last October. I looked and felt rotten.

If my cancer diagnosis has had any positive side-effects, it has been a forced change in my dietary habits. Since my surgery last November, I’ve lost more than twenty pounds. I haven’t been exercising, so the loss can be attributed almost entirely to diet. I wish I could exercise, but I just don’t have the strength or stamina to get up and walk (or do any exercise, for that matter). Since I began radiation and chemotherapy, my health care team members have urged me to consume lots of calories. “This is not the time to lose weight,” they say. And I haven’t lost a tremendous amount, not since early January, when my weight had dropped (since surgery) to about 223. My weight loss since chemo and radiation began has amounted to about ten pounds.  I wish I could say that was intentional, but it wasn’t. The pain associated with swallowing has, no doubt, contributed to my “success.” I’ve become an unintentional vegetarian. And I’ve discovered I can’t swallow bread and its brethren (e.g., pizza crusts, biscuits, hot dog or burger buns, etc.).

Is there a word for someone who doesn’t eat bread? I’m glad you asked. I looked it up. I didn’t find a word for it, but I found an intriguing French idiom: “Ça mange pas d’pain.” It is translated as “It doesn’t eat bread.” Its meaning is to suggest that something (and undertaking or an item) can’t hurt. While the action or thing may never amount to much or be of much use, if it costs nothing and entails no risk, there’s no reason not to do it. (Thanks to Languagehat for the education on this matter.)  Languagehat gives an example of the idiom’s use: “Passe un coup de fil à ton médecin, ça ne mange pas de pain !” “Give your doctor a call, it doesn’t eat bread!” You see, don’t you, how my mind works? I’d much rather continue down into the bowels of the rabbit warren to learn more about language and French culture and God knows what else than talk about my weight, but I’m trying to mend my ways. So, back to the matter at hand.

The paucity of meat in my diet of late hasn’t bothered me in the least. (I have a very hard time swallowing meat because it hurts like holy hell as it slowly descends my esophagus, meat’s fibers apparently attempting to shred the lining of the organ as it makes its way to my stomach.) I’ve seriously considered trying vegetarianism, but my favorite wife is not inclined to give up meat entirely (or, I think, even to reduce consumption significantly). So, how about pescatariansim? I’m game. I could happily live on a diet rich in fish and shellfish and mollusks and other sea creatures. If I could find a reliable source of fresh halibut cheeks, I could survive quite nicely on that food source, alone. Well, I’d need to supplement it with vegetables and the like, but you get my drift. I’m not good at returning to and sticking with the matter at hand, am I?

I’m quite sure one of the bad habits that has contributed to my weight gain over the years has been my consumption of alcohol. I like beer and wine and hard liquor. I enjoy them immensely. And I tend not to limit my intake. It’s sort of like knowing I should limit my intake of meat to three ounces per meal (if I’m a meat eater) but ignoring what I should do and, instead, consuming an entire sixteen-ounce rib-eye steak, along with a fully-loaded baked potato. One or two glasses of wine is fine. One or two bottles, not so much. Since my surgery, there was only a brief period before my follow-up treatments when I could consume alcohol. So, most of the time since mid-November, I have essentially stopped drinking it. Okay, I’ll admit that I’ve broken the “rules” and have had the equivalent of a glass of wine once every two or three weeks. But, basically I’ve stopped drinking. That, coupled with my inability to swallow most normal food, seems to have resulted in weight loss. If given a choice between drinking alcohol and returning to “normal food,” I’ll choose the latter. I’d rather have both. But maybe, during this three-plus-month period of semi-abstinence, I’ve learned portion control. Both alcohol and food. I get full much faster than I used to, which I take as a good sign.

Exercise, though. That’s missing. And that’s necessary. For now, though, I just can’t. And, unless my $##!@ing cough doesn’t get resolved, I can’t even imagine trying. Yes, my cough seems to be getting worse. And the dimwit oncologist keeps insisting it is related to acid reflux. Okay. I’ll admit I’m not a doctor, but I think I’d be aware if I suffered from acid reflux. And, so far, the pills she’s prescribed have done nothing to address the cough. And the cough syrup she supposedly prescribed for me last Friday has yet to be acknowledged by the pharmacy. Frankly, I’m not sure the nurse navigator has been particularly helpful, by the way. I explain issues to her and she seems to suggest that she agrees, “but the doctor makes the final call, soooo…” If I could actually speak to/communicate with the doctor, I might let her know what I think. But, then, that might not be the best way to relate to the physician who determines the level of chemical poisons injected into one’s blood stream. How the hell did I get off of the subject of exercise, veering into the potential for murder-by-injection at the hands of an irate physician?

A very good sign, within the last couple of days, is that I haven’t spent those days comatose in my recliner. So, it appears the worst of the post-chemo fatigue has lifted. Today, I plan to drive around and do errands. First, I have to go to the local compounding pharmacy to renew my prescription for one of the drugs intended to mitigate my problem with swallowing. This particular drug, a stand-in for another one for which a nationwide shortage exists, is mixed in with a tar-like goo whose nasty flavor is ostensibly hidden beneath the taste of grapes. In reality, the stuff makes me thinks of post-digested rotted grapes mixed in a slurry of road-repair tar and hatred.  Blechh!  Then, I will go to the bank to deposit a check for the Writers’ Club (I seem to be the perpetual treasurer, a role I’d like to relinquish to someone else). Thence to Walmart, where I’ll buy razor blades; if I shave just once more with the blade in my razor, I’m afraid they’ll find me dead, my throat slit with a dull blade. At some point this morning, again connected to my role as treasurer, I must drop off a check to ensure the Writers’ Club continues it membership in the Village Arts Council. I’ll probably go to the Post Office and, if my prescription for cough syrup ever reaches Walgreen’s, to that pharmacy to pick it up. Such a busy day! I should go to a grocery store, too, in search of esophagus-friendly edibles. I’m afraid macaroni and cheese gets old. And it’s so damn caloric!

It’s obvious, isn’t it, that I could spend the entire day writing about things that matter only to me? Yes, my writing is narcissistic. Such is life. I’d really like to return to French phrases and spend the day listening to and writing about them. After learning of “Ça mange pas d’pain,” my mind wanders back to one of my favorite French phrases (actually, my favorite English translations of a French phrase): Le jeu n’en vaut pas la chandelle, which translates into “the game is not worth the candle.” By the way, listening to French phrases online is fascinating. I love the sound of French, but replicating the sounds of the French language is beyond the capabilities of my tongue and lips. If I could suddenly be fluent in three more languages, I would select Spanish, French, and Mandarin Chinese. Selecting only three, though, is really hard. I’d like to, if I may, add German, Italian, Vietnamese, Hindustani, and Arabic. Thank you for that.

Based on what I’ve written here, I think the subject of my overweight has slinked away from my conscious mind, replaced by things more intriguing. And I’m grateful to have been saved from that, as well.

 

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Architectural Emotions in a Mid-Century Mind

Yesterday, after an email from Dwell prompted me to view photos of a restored and updated Joseph L. Eichler mid-century modern house in the San Francisco Bay area, I fell in love with the architectural style all over again. That happens every time I see a mid-century modern house, whether in the flesh or in photos. I like the original “bones” of the style, but I absolutely adore the updated, more modern interpretations of the style. Frankly, I’ve not seen any brand-new iterations of mid-century modern that even begin to compete with the original architectural expressions. But, for some reason, I regularly see original work that is improved with the addition of modern additions or modern flourishes. For example, I prefer modern kitchens and modern bathroom fixtures and designs. But attempts by architects and builders to replicate the appeal of original mid-century modern design fall flat, in my estimation.

If I were sufficiently flush with excess cash, I would find, restore, and live in a mid-century modern house. That endeavor almost certainly would require me to relocate out of Hot Springs Village, which as of this morning would not disappoint me too terribly. I am tired of intellectual and cultural provincialism. I prefer broad-minded people, people who are not only open to new ideas and new perspectives but who gravitate toward new ways of looking at the world. Ach. I’ve strayed from my screed.

There are houses in the Village that mimic the mid-century modern style. In fact, if I were sufficiently flush with excess cash, I might buy a few of them and restore them. But I might have to go to war with the Architectural Control Committee over the restorations, inasmuch as it seems to me the committee blindly follows some horribly restrictive parochial rules that seem hell-bent on preserving insipid architectural styles. Ach. Again, I’ve wandered.

I would fit in better, I think, in California. Both my architectural preferences and my political leanings would more closely mirror those of my neighbors there than here. That has been true for most of my adult life. The few years I spent in Chicago and in and around White Plains in Westchester County, New York were aberrations; those were Democratic strongholds. Otherwise, I’ve lived the life of an outlier, a political anomaly. However, I can’t say either Democratic stronghold was flush with mid-century modern housing. Nor, to be honest, can I say they weren’t flush with mid-century modern housing. However, the Chicago area was relatively flush with houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, including both his Usonian style homes (he only designed about sixty of them; I don’t know how many can be found around Chicago) and his Prairie Style  houses. Whether others consider Usonian related to mid-century modern I don’t know, but I do. And, for the purposes of this post, that’s all that matters. Well, not ALL that matters, but part of what matters.

Last night, as I was trying to go to sleep, I fantasized about the results of restoring a mid-century modern house in the countryside north of the San Francisco Bay area. I don’t know precisely where the place was located, but it was far enough north that it was rather isolated. The house sat high on a ridge, several hundred feet from a sheer cliff at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. The restoration was finished. The house was beautiful and the view was spectacular. Floor-to-ceiling window-walls stretched all along the west-facing side of the house. Outside the glass, a covered stone deck offered protected outside seating; the cover protected the inside of the house from the sun’s rays until a short time before sunset, when the entire living area was washed in brilliant oranges and reds from the setting sun. There was more to the fantasy, but nothing relevant to architecture and being surrounded by intellectually curious and open-minded people, so I won’t go into it. Well, some of it related to intellectually curious and open-minded people, but addressing them here would only confuse the conversation, so I’ll leave it alone.

Why would I fantasize about such things? I can only conclude that the fantasy suggests I am unhappy with where or who I am. Or both. If that weren’t the case, I would have no reason to engage in such flights of fancy. Oh, by the way, during the entire mental excursion, I saw myself as if I were an observer outside myself. And I was wearing a rather stylish grey and white and silver “speckled” sports jacket. The jacket seemed to glisten in the right light. Actually, it reflected the oranges and reds of the sunset in a way that made me appear to glow as if I were radioactive. I wonder if there’s any meaning in that, given my recent exposure to massive doses of radiation that seems to have cooked the inside of my esophagus? Another curious thing about me; I was wearing very nice casual black slacks that fit much better than any clothes I own now (or ever have). The pants legs, unlike any of my clothes, were slim and tapered. And I was wearing a pair of dark grey shoes made of woven leather. Finally, and this is important, I think, my gut seemed to be flat, as if I had remodeled my body as well as my house. I didn’t look muscular as if I were hiding a six-pack beneath my shirt and sports jacket, but I did appear to be in far better condition than I’ve been in for many years. Back to the original question when I opened this paragraph: I suppose I wish I were different. I wish I had a more attractive body. I wish I could wear more stylish clothes. In other words, I wish I looked like someone else. Or, perhaps, I wish I looked like I think I should look, rather than the way I actually look. But that’s not all. I also wish that look were true in another place. “If wishes were horses, we’d all have wings.” My wife said that once, years ago. We’ve laughed about it for years. She meant to say “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” But it came out a bit wrong. A bit.

It’s embarrassing to wish for material things, like a mid-century modern house on a ridge overlooking the Pacific, when so many people around the world would give everything they own for a drink of water or a scrap of food. I try not to “want,” but I just can’t seem to get it out of my system. And when I realize that I’m being horribly selfish, I want nothing more than to share everything I have with people who are less fortunate. But that’s not realistic, either. And decisions about such matters are not mine, alone, to make. Maybe that’s the key. Whether the house on the coast or the decision to give it all away, I want to be the final arbiter. That’s the epitome of selfishness, too. Some people, people who are alone, have that luxury. And it is a luxury. Well, if it’s a luxury, should they share it with the less fortunate? See? It’s absurd. A person could tie himself in knots by trying to make sense out of selfishness and luxury and the self-indulgence of opting not to share his life with someone else. Crazy stuff. Madness.

Ultimately, none of this crap matters, or will matter, if whatever is going on with my body doesn’t resolve itself. If the pain in my esophagus turns out to be one of those “rare” cases that is permanent or the pains in my chest and gut turn out to be other, more serious, maladies that the cancer doctors weren’t even considering and, thus, weren’t looking for, wishes won’t matter. A house overlooking the Pacific Ocean can’t fix terminal disease. Pleasant and intelligent neighbors can’t repair fatal afflictions. Granted, living in a wonderful place in a beautiful setting surrounded by enjoyable people could make the end a bit brighter. 😉 But those things won’t change the outcome. We’re all going to die one day. With that as a given, there’s really no strong argument, then, that we ought not to try to live our lives in attractive and comfortable surroundings, right? Philosophy is so complex and so utterly unable to provide crisp, clear, inarguable answers!

I guess I’ll continue to yearn for a mid-century modern house in a progressive enclave, surrounded by people who actually want to spend time with me and engage me in conversation about things both silly and grave. What’s to stop me?

Posted in Architecture, Emotion, Intellect, Philosophy, Politics | Leave a comment

Skeptic in a Strange Land

When hope crawls out of the dark woods, stepping across
the wet ground to the rural highway on the edge of the woods,
a super-duty pick-up truck careens down the quiet country
lane and crushes that wish for tomorrow under its massive tires.

Howls of laughter from the truck’s cab, fueled by Keystone Beer
and stale cigarette smoke, spew malignant noise like rancid honey
into the hazy air, coating the morning dew with nicotine and tar
and poisons only a tobacco company chemist could readily name.

The death of hope, unremarkable to those witless celebrants,
leaves a hole in the sky quickly filled by bigotry and hate.
Meth-powered parenthood supersedes empathy here,
urging children to curb intellect in favor of mindless bravado.

Here and there, pockets of compassion emerge, only to be drowned
like ill-fated puppies in pools of toxic rage and maniacal fanaticism.
Hope can’t survive here in this land of twisted religion and
pistol-worship; not here, in this Petri dish of cerebral squalor.

Yet, in spite of the desperation born of congenital stupidity,
a few brave souls climb out of those noxious pools, determined
to scrub the thick layers of scum from the landscape and wash
the disease from brains chemically-cooked in ugly pathology.

I don’t know where those quixotic crusaders find moral stamina
in the face of wave after fetid wave of brutish rejection.
And I suspect their efforts will forever be pointless and wasted.
But they continue to try and I watch with skeptical admiration.

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Cancer Journal 29, 2019

I should have listened to the assertions that I would feel increasingly bad as my chemo treatments went along. Instead, I hoped I would be the exception to the rule. I’m not. Ever since last Monday, a week and four days ago, I’ve bounced between feeling decent and feeling completely worn out. Today is, I think, the worst yet. I spent almost all day, virtually comatose, in my recliner. Finally, just before 5:00 p.m., I took a shower. That was after I spoke to my “nurse navigator.” I explained how tired I feel and how excruciating my experience was this morning when I woke up and took my morning medications. I honestly thought I might pass out from the pain in my upper chest/esophagus. Fortunately, it subsided quickly, though an uncomfortable level of pain remained most of the day. My oncologist prescribed something (two things, actually), again, to address acid reflux. I’m beginning to wonder whether she has a clue. As was the case the last time she prescribed something, the pharmacy automated phone alert system called shortly thereafter, explaining that the pharmacy was attempting to contact the “prescriber” because something apparently is amiss with the prescription.

Despite feeling approximately like crap, I am a very tiny bit better than I was earlier. But I still feel rotten. And tired. I didn’t sleep well last night and, after a day in the recliner, I doubt I will tonight. Ach!

The nurse navigator recommended that I avoid very hot and very cold foods, spicy foods, foods with texture, and a few others. She suggested I might enjoy chicken broth or beef broth. And I might. I’m getting hungry. I did eat a bowl of ice cream just before my shower, but the cold hurt my esophagus. Ach! Again.

The phone rang about eight times today. Six times scammers were behind the calls. Twice were legitimate “business” calls. No one else. That’s pretty typical. We could both die and go undiscovered for days. It could be weeks. We are, in the true sense of the words, hermits, recluses, loners, isolates, lonely souls.

I am in an especially poor mood this afternoon. I’m angry at the world, but I don’t quite know why. Maybe I’m feeling sorry for myself, but I don’t think that’s it. I’m just feeling surly and unhappy and I don’t feel that I can count on hope on the horizon. I am sure that will pass. It always does.

Well, I just saw five large deer walk past my window. They went up the slope next to my house, crossed the street, and wandered into the woods beyond. That improved my mood by a fraction.

Posted in Cancer, Health | 2 Comments

What Will Happen to the United Methodist Church?

When I was a boy, I attended the Methodist Church. Occasionally. I wasn’t a fan and, when at a very early age my parents allowed me to decide whether to continue attending, I opted out. Even then, the theology was simply hard to swallow. The concepts of brotherly love, peace, and related philosophies made good sense to me; I readily accepted them. But literal interpretations of the Bible did not fit within my logical, reasoning brain. I could accept much of the Bible’s content as parable. I could not accept it as “fact.” At any rate, I left and never regretted it for a moment.

The news this week that the United Methodist Church acted to reject a proposed

The church’s motto is: Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors. Obviously, the decision to reaffirm its stodgy, ultra-conservative stance that views LBGTs as “an abomination unto the Lord” rejects that motto out of hand. Instead, I think it suggests a better motto would be “Hard Hearts. Closed Minds. Locked Doors.” The fact that 47 percent of the delegates who voted rejected the closed-minded philosophy is heartening to me, though. For them, the official motto still resonates, I suspect.

I suspect the nearly evenly-divided split is frightening to the church. Almost half the delegates voted for a progressive vision that was not accepted and will not be implemented. Those delegates (and the 60 percent of Methodists in general who are said to support LBGT rights and LBGT inclusion in the ministry) are very likely to leave the denomination. Perhaps a new denomination will be formed. Perhaps those who leave will join other, more progressive, forward-thinking churches (which are….?). Or, perhaps, many of those who leave will have become so disgusted with organized religion that they will opt to avoid churches altogether.

For now, the term Divided Methodist Church seems appropriate for the almost evenly-divided denomination. I don’t have a dog in the fight, so the ultimate resolution isn’t terribly important to me. But I’m sorry that the progressive members who, aside from their theological beliefs that don’t mirror mine, view the world in the same way I do must feel abandoned and rejected. They put their faith in an institution that has, by its actions, rejected the core humanist philosophies they hold dear.

Posted in Religion | 2 Comments

Thinking About Emotions and Things Related to Cancer

Suffering most emotions more deeply than others seem to endure tends to drain one’s energy. I say that without knowing, of course, how deeply others experience emotions. I base my assessment on observations and assumptions. I did say “seem.” But from my vantage point, comparing what I feel to what others “seem” to feel, my experience of emotions appears enhanced. Not enhanced as in superior; enhanced as in elevated. That’s true, especially, of the emotions I consider negative. Anger. Fear. Sadness. Shame. Disgust. Indignation.

Simply experiencing those emotions at an elevated level may not be what drains energy. Rather, attempting to conceal them or moderate their display so that their strength more closely mirrors “normal” may sap energy. On the one hand, it’s distasteful that one might feel compelled to reign in the full extent of the expression of his natural emotions. On the other, though, because their intensity is so much greater than “normal,” I fully understand how upsetting their display might be to the average person.

All of this assumes, of course, that my core thesis is correct: that I feel emotions more deeply than most. It’s entirely possible that my emotions are no more intense than others’. It’s possible that others are better able to contain theirs or that my judgment about either my emotions or others’ emotions or both are erroneous.

What does it matter? I mean, does it? Is the relative intensity of my emotions in comparison to others’ of any consequence? Probably not. Except in my own mind. Yet I always feel embarrassed when my emotions visibly bubble to the surface in the form of tears. But wait! What emotion is that? Is it sadness that causes tears to flow when hearing or watching a touching scene in a film? Or is it something else? Hmm. I really don’t know.

Not that it would make a difference to the future direction of the universe, but I’d like to somehow measure my “emotionality” along a variety of dimensions and compare my measurements to others. I wonder if such a measure exists? I’m sure one must exist. Assuming it does, I wonder whether tests of its validity and reliability would convince me of its practical utility. Practical. Another “hmm.” Of what practical value would such a measure be…to me? Would I use it to help restrain my overt-the-top emotions? Would it be a valuable training tool?

This entire train of thought arose from a dream I had last night. I was in another city, sitting at a table on a sidewalk of an alfresco area of a bar. A woman I haven’t seen in many years walked by and I called out to her. I was surprised and excited to see her. The look on her face indicated she did not feel the same. She seemed annoyed that I had called to her. That response upset me so much that my eyes began to tear up. That annoyed her even more. She said “I don’t need this crap!” She spun around and strode away.

It was that dream that made me wonder why I felt so deeply hurt by her snub. It was as if my entire day, perhaps the full week and a month following, had been smothered in a dark cloud so depressing I would find it impossible to escape. Why? I have no idea. But I felt a slam to my emotional well-being that threatened to ruin my sense that my place in the world was all right.

***

I am concerned about my chemo port. It feels different than it did up until a couple of days ago. When I touch the area around the port, I feel sharp edges and odd configurations under my skin. And I feel a very mild, but constant, pain in the area around it. I called yesterday and spoke to a nurse, who suggested it probably was fine. But, she said, if I’m still bothered by in a day or two, I should feel free to call and make an appointment and one of the nurses in the doctor’s office will check it out. I suspect it won’t be any different in a day or two, so I’ll have it checked out. The only thing that she thinks “might” have happened, she said, is that it flipped. Whatever that means. But, if there’s no redness, if I have no fever, if it’s not “oozing,” I shouldn’t worry. Okay. But I’ll still have it checked.

My fatigue, I assume from my third chemo treatment, last week, is far greater than with the first two. I’ve been beat for days. Almost no energy. My wife thinks the chemo is “catching up with me.” And she suggests treatment number four, two weeks hence, will be even more draining. Ugh.

My esophagitis remains, perhaps as bad as ever, though maybe it has improved a tad. Sometimes, when I swallow a sip of water I feel like I’m attempting to down a hot coal. Other times, it’s not bad. But when it’s bad, it’s pretty damn awful. I sure hope my esophagus heals very soon. I want my life to be more normal again. Soon.

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Struggles with Insanity

While my wife sleeps, I slink into her study and borrow her computer. She won’t mind, unless I spend too much time, robbing her of the opportunity to commence her morning ritual of examining the outcome of the world’s overnight gyrations. So I’ll be brief. More or less.

I watched bits and pieces of the Oscars last night, an exceedingly rare engagement for me. I mean, I haven’t watched the Oscars in years and years and years. Oh, I might flip through the channels and pause, but I almost never spent thirty or forty minutes watching them, as I did last night. My time wasn’t wasted, but neither was it invested in something that has the potential of changing my life. But the time I spent watching the actors and directors and cinematographers and such was informative. I learned that many of them either were deeply moved by their selection to receive an Oscar or they are, indeed, polished actors. Some of them shed tears. Perhaps the tears were real, perhaps they were formed in the eyes of alligators. They looked real. Well, some of them did. Lady Gaga, a woman about whom I know very little yet about whom I tend to be deeply judgmental (and not in a particularly positive way), seemed to have hired an alligator to manufacture her tears. Others seemed genuinely overcome with emotion; I prefer their stunned disbelief to overly-dramatic expressions that, in my perception, seem wooden and deeply artificial.

Yet who am I to judge? These are people who have been judged by their peers, the latter of whom have determined their performances to be worthy of lavish recognition. Wouldn’t I be overcome if my peers, whoever they are, heaped praise on me? Wouldn’t I be overwhelmed to be set upon a pedestal and to have my work identified as the product of a genius? Well of course I would. Not gonna happen, but I’d be astounded and deliriously happy, I think. But, then, I think…would it mean more for my peers to lavish praise on me or would I find my intended audience a more satisfying judge? I guess both would be meaningful in their own ways.

It’s a little late for me to go to film school. I’m not going to learn screen-writing in my old age. I doubt I’ll even finish a novel. Hell, a completed short story would be a stunning accomplishment for me. Who reads short stories? Who pays attention to those brief excursions into a writer’s mind that explore odd and emotionally malformed destinations? I think a new association is in order: The International Association of Deviant Short Story  Consumers.   It could be Short Story Deviant Consumers.

If there is justice in the world, my computer may be repaired and ready for use later today. In the absence of justice, I may sit in my recliner and complain about life in the computer desert. I could complain about other things. Health issues. Mental issues. The relativity of poverty. The problems with absolute wealth. The general unfairness of time and the fact that it behaves more and more like an hourglass the later in life it is examined.

My mind is racing through a rabbit warren this morning and I can’t seem to corral it. There are too many things to think about and not enough depth in my brain to allow them adequate exploration. Too much to think about. Too little meat on my mental bones. I’m a little more like a skeleton this morning than I was yesterday. Mentally, I mean. Physically, too, though. I weighed myself this morning and discovered I’ve lost three more pounds, though I don’t know where they went. I suspect they’re resting at the bottom of the rabbit warren, engaged in conversation with a forest of bones. The bones speak, of course, because they are suspended from strings tied to the ceilings of the rabbits’ subterranean den and the bones click against one another as rabbits scurry by, creating breezes that rattle what I’ll call bone-chimes. I know, you’re thinking the writer has lost his mind. But it’s not that; it’s just that the images in my brain haven’t been properly cataloged and collected to form a rational thought or two.

About that weight loss. I’m okay with it, despite the fact that the doctors aren’t. I prefer a thinner me to a corpulent me. Corpulence doesn’t become me. Well, it does. But I don’t have to like it. If only I could couple my weight loss with a corresponding gain in physical strength and stamina, I would be happier than I am at this very moment. But happiness isn’t the be all end all of our existence, is it? No, something else holds that banner. We just don’t know what it is.

Sanity is overrated. Insanity gives us the opportunity to discard all the unkind, unpleasant, unhappy aspects of existence, replacing them with the sounds of bone-chimes in the bowels of rabbit warrens. Even in that confusion, the existence that stands in for life is a decent alternative.

None of this means, of course, that I’m engaged in struggles with insanity. Instead, it simply means that sanity is an abstract concept that doesn’t lend itself well to “normal” assessment. Sanity and its aberrant twin are artificial notions that hide biases in plain sight. Strange twists that suggest I’m “crazy” are merely tricks to make others uncomfortable. I enjoy misleading. It’s one of the perverse joys of writing.

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Single Finger Thinking

Geek Squad called. They can fix my computer so I can use Microsoft Office 365, but the fix won’t last: “Your hard drive is failing.” So, I asked them to replace it. No charge for labor and only $54 for parts. Much better than the cost of a new notebook. But, I may still get a new one, sooner or later, to satisfy my need for instant gratification in case of another failure.

Before my conversation with the geeks, I called my brother in Mexico. Mine was a very late return call. I visited with him for a bit and spoke to my sister, who has been visiting them for a few days. She had been in San Miguel de Allende at a writers’ conference and decided to take a bus to Ajijic for a short visit. Though the conversations were short and I was feeling tired, I’m glad I made the call. My sister suggested I think about making a trip to Mexico in the summer and again in the fall, the latter in connection with my brother’s “big” birthday. I’ll think about that. I hope my other “big” trip doesn’t conflict. I checked. It doesn’t. But I’ll have to explore practicalities.

I’m feeling much better than I did this morning, but still on the low side of only moderately decent. I hope I continue to improve. One-fingered typing is unpleasant. So I will stop.

 

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Unprovoked Rage

I’m struggling with my iPad this morning, typing with one finger. I took my notebook to the shop yesterday. Cheyenne, the tech to whom I relinquished my technological soul, promised she and her crew would repair my computer. She promised it will be ready for me on Monday at 11. I hope I’m ready on Monday at 11. I was okay yesterday morning, but I cratered again yesterday afternoon. I fell asleep in my recliner again and awoke in time to attempt to eat dinner. I managed a bit. And I ate more ice cream, which is packing on enough calories to keep my weight up and increasing. That’s actually a little disappointing, though probably healthier than losing weight.

The doctors want me to down 8-10 glasses of water a day. I’m lucky to go through two. Swallowing is hard and my chest feels like it is about to explode when I’m able to swallow a mouthful. Enough of this BS.

I’m ready for something different. A different environment. A different attitude. A different lifestyle. I wonder whether life on a Caribbean island would suit me? Or, perhaps,  life in the desert of New Mexico or Arizona? I think I’m too old and set in my ways to adapt to a foreign country, though it might be gentler on my psyche than living in the throes of a psychotic narcissist’s daydreams. Not mine. 45’s. The bastard.

I wonder whether I will recover my old self after my cancer treatments? Will my body return to its old, comfortable ways? Will I ever breathe the way I once did, the way I did before an entire lobe of my lung was removed? Will my esophagus ever heal enough so it doesn’t hurt to swallow? Will the pains I feel in my chest and back and gut ever cease? None of my pains are excruciating, but they’re sufficiently disturbing to make me feel like I’m no longer me. They’ve displaced who I was and replaced him with an intellectual invalid whose body is no longer mine. Instead, my body belongs to an old man who can’t think clearly. If I could scream without waking the neighborhood and without destroying the remnants of my lung, I would. I need more than a road trip. I need to relocate to another planet, a place ablaze with molten bones that light up the universe as the universe erupts into its last screams. There. That should have emptied the rage, should it not? But, no, it simply ruined an otherwise unhappy morning.

This is the problem with one-finger blogging. It elicits rage. It causes angst and anger and madness unmatched in modern times. I will stop this or it will only get worse.

 

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Emerging from the Fog

Yesterday is gone. It slipped away almost unnoticed while I slept. The day started reasonably well, except for the pain. I was alert and aware. But after I wrote my blog post, complaining about the pain I feel when I swallow, the day disappeared into a vaporous cloud, a day I barely remember. I spent virtually all day in my recliner, either napping or making my way to or from a near-comatose state.

I should have expected my final two radiation treatments, coupled with my third chemo treatment, to have left me tired and ruined. But I didn’t. I didn’t anticipate that I would have lost such a long, long stretch of time to fatigue. After a full night of sleep, I spend another day essentially comatose. And, then, I went to bed early and stayed in that state for most of the night until around 3:00 a.m., when I woke and felt the effects of too much time reclining, with almost no movement. My muscles ached, my bones creaked and hurt with every movement. I got up, thinking I might be up for the duration, but the aching was more than I could comfortably deal with, at least upright, so I went back to bed. I finally got up around 6:00 a.m. I don’t feel as beat this morning as I did yesterday, but I can’t be sure this shred of energy will last. We’ll see.

If I can muster some energy today, I’ll take my computer in to people who might be able to repair the bastard. Something happened to it the other day that wrecked its usefulness to me. I can no longer open any Microsoft Office 365 programs; I get an error message. And I can’t open Google Chrome; I’m stuck with Microsoft Edge. And, unless I use my wife’s computer to retrieve passwords, I can’t check email. I’ve been threatening to replace my notebook computer. This may be the time. I’d like something extremely light, perhaps a Chromebook, but I want to be able to use MS Office without any complaints; I’ve heard that Chromebooks tend to be persnickety with MS Office. Persnickety computers tend to raise my hackles, elevate my dander, and otherwise annoy me to the extent that put me at risk of smashing the beasts against boulders. My mood this morning elevates that risk.

Something’s percolating in my brain this morning, a plot for a story built more on characters than the plot in which they find themselves. The plot first populated my brain while I was taking my one and only creative writing class from Michael Mewshaw while I was a student at the University of Texas at Austin. The plot revolved around the gentrification of an old, blue-collar neighborhood. The protagonist was a man who bought a house in the old neighborhood and found himself in love with the people there. His wife wanted those people to change. She wanted to trigger the gentrification that would replace the old-timers with younger, wealthier, better-educated people who would update and upgrade the houses in the neighborhood. I wrote the story. It was probably badly done. Mewshaw identified hundreds of holes in it. I don’t think he was impressed. But I haven’t forgotten the characters in that story, nor have I completely forgotten the plot. I’m relatively sure other people have since written the story, far better than I, and have built those characters into people who readers either loved or hated, depending on the readers’ perspectives. But I still think about the story and I may one day finish it. I think I may still have the original somewhere. I know I still had it a few years ago. But I may have thrown it away since. It was never very good and did not merit saving. Yet I did, for some reason. Maybe I saw in it something that Mewshaw didn’t. Or maybe I just wished it was the beginning of a brilliant writing career. If the latter, I was horribly wrong. The fact of the story’s neglect burns inside me. Not a burn like a raging fire but, instead, a burn like and almost-dead ember still hot enough to sear a memory into one’s brain. I don’t recall what title I gave to the story. And I don’t remember how, or whether, the plot developed. It wasn’t a good plot. But I was deeply attached to the motivation of the protagonist. I think, in fact, he was modeled after an older version of myself, as I envisioned who I was, and would become, at the time. I didn’t turn out that way, though. I was never to be the hero who saved a neighborhood from gentrification. I’m not quite sure how I turned out, what I did that might justify a story. For some reason, remembering the story I wrote so long ago (what, it’s been about forty-five years ago, right?) is incredibly depressing. Suddenly, I sense that I’ve spent 45 years simply getting by day-to-day without actually accomplishing a damn thing. Suddenly is the wrong word. I sense that every minute of every hour of every day; occasionally, though, that sense explodes into the daylight and is much more vivid.

Regardless of whether I have more energy today than yesterday, whatever strength I have won’t be spent writing about old memories or a lifetime of inadequacy. Instead, I’ll try to swallow the contents of a bottle of Ensure, shower and shave, and haul this computer to town. If I can emerge from yesterday’s fog, I’ll try to recover a piece of myself and do something productive. What remains to be seen. Maybe just tend to my scorched esophagus. I won’t be any good to anyone until that problem is fixed. Some lyrics from a John Gorka song, Armed with a Broken Heart, grab me at this moment, for unknown reasons. But here they are:

This sudden loneliness has made me dangerous
Please don’t watch me while I fall apart
‘Cause I’m sad and I’m angry
And armed with a broken heart

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Cancer Journal 28, 2019

Food has lost its appeal. I’m no longer in love with the textures and flavors of food. Instead, I seek only enough to survive and keep me from feeling hungry. And whatever I swallow has to give me as little pain as possible. Suddenly, the esophageal pain associated with eating has gotten much worse. I’ll give this turn of events another day or two, maybe until early next week, to correct itself before I ask the radiologist to intervene. I suppose it won’t correct itself; in the hope that I can heal myself, I’ll continue to take the medications he prescribed and will avoid foods that exacerbate the pain.

I thought the worst of it had passed and I was on the way to recovery. I guess the last few doses of radiation, though, broiled the lining of my esophagus. I didn’t help matters, I’m sure, by downing some rather spicy New Orleans style foods. Then, last night, I ate pizza. While it tasted good, it hurt. But, regardless of the pain, I finished two pieces. That was idiotic. This morning, drinking a glass of water is something of a struggle, though I’ve been able to down half a glass so far. But the pain in my chest tells me I’m paying for my dietary indiscretions.

Except for the fact that the oncologist’s and radiologist’s medical staff told me I should not lose weight, I’d look at this situation as an opportunity to lose weight. Water, alone, should do THAT trick. But they insist I should consume ample calories. And they gave me plenty of Ensure to do the trick. The label on the drink, though, as well as plenty of information I’ve received and read from other sources, suggests that Ensure and its brethren are, essentially, massive doses of sugar stuffed with vitamins and minerals that the body cannot easily process as essential nutrients. On the other hand, I’m lazy and tired and don’t feel like doing what I should, which is buy fresh ingredients and make my own nutritious shakes.

I’m counting on the prospect that my present state of mind—an aversion to food—will pass when my esophagus heals sufficiently. It may be just a day or two. It could be weeks. The radiologist advised me to continue his prescribed regimen (of aloe vera juice, foul-tasting tar-like goo, and chalky tablet crushed in two teaspoons of water) for at least two to four weeks after I complete my chemotherapy, which would be about five to six weeks from now. At this very moment, that sounds like an eternity.

It’s amazing how quickly one’s moods can change. Just a few days ago, I was almost elated that the process is nearing its end. Well, “almost elated” might be an overstatement; tired and grateful may better describe my mood then.

I haven’t written much about the effects of radiation on my skin. The treatments have caused a large swath of brown skin, covered with freckles, to appear on my back. And my skin is extremely sensitive across my chest, especially the right side, on my right side under my arm, and across my back (including that large swath). But that sensitivity pales in comparison to my esophagus. And I have at least five permanent ink dots on my chest and under my arms, not that I feel them in the least. But I’m tattooed now with those little dots.

I’d sure as hell like to feel compelled to write about something more interesting and more intriguing than my medical condition. I wish my brain weren’t so foggy. I think my level of “chemo-brain” is considerably less than many people experience, but it’s sufficiently present for me to notice it. And I don’t like it. I feel utterly devoid of creativity. I tell everyone I’m doing fine and making progress, but I feel more like I’m sinking into a vat of mind-numbing quicksand. I hope this sense of…whatever it is…dissipates quickly. I can’t imagine dealing with this for long.

A day or two ago I scrolled through quite a few old posts on this blog and was pleased to find a number of them I found creative, insightful, emotionally charged, and/or intellectually strong. Despite my happiness at finding them, though, I was struck by the fact that they are old. Nothing I’ve written lately—in the last year or so at least—fits those descriptions. I wonder if cancer robbed me of my creativity even before I knew I had the disease. Enough of this. It’s time to try to finish my glass of water and, then, force down a 220-calorie to 350-calorie sugar shake from the makers of Ensure. After that, it’s the aloe-vera juice regimen. Blech.

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A Clairvoyant’s Prediction and My Complaints

Recently, over lunch with a couple of friends from my church, the subject of Donald Trump came up. We’d already eaten, so it didn’t ruin the meal. One of the women said she had engaged in conversation with someone who claims to be capable of seeing into the future. The “seer” was asked whether the self-important narcissist would be impeached. No, she said, his end will come when the investigation into his extensive criminality reaches to family members closest to him and promises to bring the entire clan down. When he realizes there is no way out, he will commit suicide (I think she said by handgun) in the Oval Office.

After my recent posts concerning suicide and my sister’s volunteer efforts to help bring people back from that awful edge, I wonder whether she would have had compassion for Trump? I wonder whether she would have been willing to attempt to coax him back from the edge? I don’t know. I simply don’t. Perhaps, if I were a better person, I would try to convince him that taking his own life was not the answer. But I don’t think I’m that good. Instead, I think I might suggest to him that presidents before him had tried to take their lives and had not succeeded. This, I might say to him, is another opportunity to claim credit for a “first” in presidential politics.

I realize the very suggestion of such a crass and cruel thing paints me a demon. So be it. That’s the mood I’m in this morning. It’s all make believe. I have absolutely no belief that people possess special powers that enable them to see into the future. In those rare cases in which predictions come to pass, I attribute them either to chance or to strong research and highly educated guesses.

I’ve never had an interest in a self-styled clairvoyant’s predictions about my future because any such prognostications would be valueless. They would be wild guesses clothed in mystery—prophesies spun from the soothsayer’s assumptions and dreams. I choose not to invest energy in worries that might arise from unfounded beliefs built on foundations of vapor and dust.

***

On an entirely different subject, I think I’m in the midst of what I’ve heard called chemo-brain or chemo-fog. For the last few nights, I’ve forgotten to take my massive batch of “nighttime pills.” So, last night I set an alarm for 9:00 p.m., which I intended as a reminder to take them. The alarm sounded and, instead of taking the pills, I drank an ounce of aloe-vera juice (which I’m also supposed to do to help sooth the pain in my esophagus). I woke up at 4:00 a.m. to pee and, when I was in the bathroom, noticed that my evening pills were in their container, undisturbed. So I took them. That completely screws up the schedule for the remainder of the pills I’m supposed to take during the remainder of the day. I look forward to a drastic reduction in pill consumption as my cancer treatments end. I suspect, though, I’ll have to soldier on through at least late April before I can leave the majority of the stuff behind me. I can live with that. But this chemo-brain is not a happy experience. I forget things and get confused in short spurts. I hope it’s the chemo and not the start of something permanent.

***

Last night we planned to celebrate the end of my radiation treatment by going to a favorite pub for a drink and dinner with friends. But then we became aware of the fact that another restaurant was offering its New Orleans menu for the last time last night. So, we opted for the latter. We both had friend oysters and assorted sides. It was all good. And I had a Rogue Dead Guy Ale. Its taste was good, too. But all the food, as good as it tasted, was hard as hell to swallow. My esophagitis reduced the meal’s celebratory joy by a factor of eight. Bah! We’ll go to the original pub for a celebration on Friday or Saturday night. I hope by then the problem will have subsided. It will be, after all, several days after my last radiation treatment. My ale was the third alcoholic beverage in literally months. I’m still supposed to minimize consumption of alcohol for quite some time to come, but I’m willing to break the rules a bit for a celebration. So, whenever we get to the pub, I’ll try some wine or, perhaps, a gin martini. Ahhhh, that sounds delightful.

 

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Nine Years On

I’m surprised that my post yesterday, in which my sister’s disdain for “Suicide is Painless” was the focus, didn’t jolt my memory a bit harder. That memory was, I suppose, a precursor to remembering that today, February 19, 2019, is the ninth anniversary of her death, February 19, 2010. And Facebook reinforced that memory, when it reminded me of what I wrote that day:

Mary Eleanor Swinburn, my sister and one of my best friends, died this morning. She taught me that material possessions are meaningless; she lived that lesson and was one of the most compassionate people I’ve ever known. This world was better that she was here and it’s a sad place without her. I am heartbroken that she’s gone, but I celebrate her life.

We (family and friends) called my sister “Melnor” or “Mimi.” And we watched her rage through bureaucracies as she helped people, who were unable to look out after themselves and were being pushed and shoved around by them, get what was due. She could curse a blue streak when injustice threatened to harm people, but she could be as gentle and comforting as anyone I’ve known when someone needed support.

Nine years. It’s amazing that so much time has passed yet losing her is still fresh and painful. That’s the way it is with people you love.

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Cancer Journal 27, 2019

Today I will have the final radiation treatment designed to kill whatever cancer cells remained after surgery to remove the lower lobe of my right lung and the tumor housed therein. Radiation treatments caused me quite a bit of fatigue, off and on, but the most onerous side-effect was (and remains) a scorched esophagus. That side-effect made swallowing a painful undertaking. Sometimes it was tolerably painful, sometimes so excruciating that I howled in pain and rejected even wonderful food that, in other circumstances, I would have devoured like a starving wolf. The doctors prescribed a medication routine I’ve described before; it works, sort of, sometimes. The most horrific pains seem to have disappeared, but I’m looking forward to the elimination of all remnants of the side-effects in my seared esophagus.

Yesterday was round three of four for my chemo treatments. The next one will be three weeks hence. It will be “interesting” to learn what side-effects I might experience from yesterday’s treatment (and the one after), especially since they will not be exacerbated by the radiation treatment (at least not for long). It’s possible that the fatigue will come again; radiation may not have been the primary culprit. And it’s still possible that I might lose my hair; the fact that it hasn’t happened thus far is no guarantee of future experience. In fact, I heard from a couple of people within the last few days that their relatives lost their hair after the third chemo treatments. If it happens, it happens. Not much I can do about it, so I shall not worry. If it starts, I’ll head to the barber shop to have my head sheared extremely close.

After feeling pretty good all day, I crashed almost immediately after we got home. Fortunately, some friends stopped by the house while we were out having my treatments yesterday afternoon and left a big container of potato soup and a giant piece of cake. We had soup for dinner last night, capped with cake for dessert. They were both wonderful!  It was especially nice that we didn’t have to do anything more than heat the soup and, voilà, dinner!  Janine had a pretty long, demanding day, so the dinner was just what she needed. She steamed some fresh green beans to go with the soup; it was perfect.

Despite nearing the end of my radiation and chemo treatments, I’m fully aware that there’s still a lot of “doctoring” I have to endure. Today, I’ll get my follow-up appointment scheduled with the radiologist. I have a blood draw scheduled for March 7, just a few days before my final March 11 chemo treatment. And I’m sure I’ll have a follow-up visit soon thereafter with my oncologist. And there will be C.T. scans and P.E.T. scans and blood work and assorted other stuff I’ll have to deal with on a regular basis, interfering with what could otherwise be a calendar full of relaxed, empty schedules. Such is life. I’ll deal with it.

I’m looking forward to recovering my strength and, then, building my stamina. I haven’t felt really like myself since I underwent surgery on November 19. Even though that’s only three months, it feels a bit like three years. God, I hate cancer.

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