Not Down Or Out

It could be worse. I might not be laughing.

Month: May, 2013

Catastrophizing

Feeling snowed under.

Feeling snowed under.

Did I mention that next Friday I have an appointment for a gynecological exam and will likely see the “oh-so-very-NOT-nice” physician’s assistant whose examination of me left me upset for weeks? Did I mention that this has me feeling very anxious–as do all doctors’ appointments?

The best part of blogging has been reading the blogs of people whose situation has been worse than mine. I know how that sounds. But the other bloggers’ sharing has given me a perspective on my own experience that I could not have gotten from my own experience if I chewed on it until it was fully consumed and digested–a process that might have taken my whole life.

Until my diagnosis with cancer, I had never had an operation. I had never suffered a serious illness. The most serious medical procedure done on me was the inpatient removal of a mole that was chafed by a bra strap. The most serious pain I had ever experienced was passing a kidney stone at about the age of 20. That experience proved more humorous than serious.

While I was in the emergency room to determine the cause of my pain the doctor decided to perform an internal gynecological exam to rule out some gynecological problem. Following the exam, I continued lying on the table while I waited for results. Then a hospital administrator escorted a university student into my curtained “bay” so that the student could ask me questions about my use of contraceptives for some classroom statistical analysis. I agreed to answer the questions. The administrator helped me sit up. The nurse had not properly secured the end of the table when she took down the stirrups at the conclusion of my exam.

When I sat up, the end of the table fell down and I was catapulted to the floor. I landed on my hands and knees with the hospital gown open from neck to knees. I landed outside of the narrow confines of the curtained bay. There I was, naked and on all fours, in front of everyone, including someone with whom I went to school.

It goes without saying that there were apologies, and many hands reached down to help me rise, and no one laughed. Which seemed amazing to me at the time, because I could not stop laughing! Seriously, the pain from the kidney stone was the worst thing I had ever felt in my physical life. My hands and knees “smarted” in a way that had me thinking about that old adage, “Come over here and I’ll give you something to cry about.” I was blushing the color of a beet until it seemed every inch of my face might explode. And everyone was looking at each other like it might be the end of the world.

It wasn’t. The adage proved to have some relation to fact. There were worse things than the pain I experienced from passing a kidney stone. I could be in even worse pain, naked, on a germy ER floor, in a down facing dog position as others (one of them a fellow student holding a clipboard) tried to get hold of “something” naked, in an non-salacious manner . . . in an effort to help me stand up. Oh, the perspective this gave me helped me accept many of life’s indignities that have followed.

I still have not had a good cry about having uterine cancer. I am not sure I need to at this point. I was nonplussed when I received the diagnosis. In retrospect, it explained so many things that I had been experiencing such as heavy periods and a late end to menopause. I reacted by trying to put the entire puzzle together. I also had a very fatalistic idea about what it meant to have cancer. I just assumed that my life was over and was trying to figure out what I would need to get done before I died. Making checklists is a hobby. I never did make out that checklist.

The doctors were much more optimistic and they were being extraordinarily negative. Their entire focus at the time seemed to be on my inability to survive surgery because of my blood loss (I needed 8 packs of blood to reach a minimum state of readiness for surgery) and my seemingly poor general health. But one doctor, the head of the internal medicine department, kept coming back to report that I had passed another of his department’s tests. It appeared that I might only have anemia and cancer.

I counted my blessings day and night. I am serious about this. I did not have a book to read. There was nothing I cared to watch on TV, and I had no idea if I was being charged for using it and had no medical insurance. When my sister Kathy flew in from DC she brought me two magazines, a pen, and some paper. I loaned a magazine to my roommate and covered the paper with my scribbled lists of blessings. If my luck had run out, then I wanted to recall that it had been a good run. If the Law of Attraction was at play, then I wanted to be in a positive place to attract good health.

I did not sleep for nearly a week (other than during surgery). The closest I got to it was that micro sleep you sometimes feel happening during a long drive. One minute you are on the turnpike in Indiana and the next minute you are seeing signs for exits to Cleveland and are wondering, “What the hell happened to most of Ohio?” You have been functioning, but not optimally.

I have shed plenty of tears since October 2011. I was devastated to learn that the law school terminated me. Radiation was a nightmare. The week after treatment ended was horrific. To this day I feel like I might have died but for my sister and mom “springing” me from the county hospital. I have never been so afraid or helpless. Recovery from treatment was marginally worse than what I felt while going through six weeks of radiation and chemo. Radiation cystitis had me crying twenty-something times a day in the bathroom until that became such old hat that I just gritted my teeth and endured.

But others’ blogs were like speed markers on the road that let me know I should pace myself on my tendency to manage fear by imagining myself handling the worst case scenario. No one ever knows what will happen next or how she will handle it. And the saddest truth about cancer is that others have handled/are handling much worse than I can imagine on my own. They do manage. Sometimes angrily. Sometimes with frightening resignation. Often with grace, humility, and even humor.

I am covering my mouth with both hands and trying not to cry as I think of what some have shared about their experiences. I know that my odds are good for long-term survival. It was stage one with complicating factors, not the stage three cancer the surgeon first described it to be. It was a slow-growing cancer. There appears to be no evidence that cancer spread or remains. My surgery went very well. I am no longer in daily pain. My other side-effects can be handled.

When I agreed to adjuvant radiation and chemotherapy I did not know that they could one day lead me to another cancer. I was awake, but still in that stage of micro sleep. I just kept driving until I saw signs for Cleveland, one of which is an exit marked Strongsville. I took that exit and have put down some roots. I could spend my days catastrophizing, but that might only make this tougher.

Source unconfirmed

Source unconfirmed

The bloggers who have shared their struggles and victories are daily reminders that I should live in the “now” and not get ahead of myself. Whatever is ahead of me will be handled–ready or not–and handled better if I focus on the present and do not let anxiety rule me.

There was a time when I could laugh at the experience of landing naked and in pain on the ER floor while answering questions about condoms and diaphragms. It’s harder to do that when you’re dealing with cancer. But I still have a sense of humor. And I have been shown by some wonderful people that there are worse situations and that I can face them if I must. Life is worth it until it isn’t. And, even then, there will be hope that life’s ending can be endured.

So, I am every day grateful for the community of bloggers who have so bravely shared their challenges and fears. Without your courage and generosity, I could be wasting my life catastrophizing.

If you have never seen Loretta LaRoche, you should. She is the source of the word “catastrophizing.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggGoe_y5WqA. In that video she talks about how we can sometimes take our tough challenges and magnify them until we become hopeless. Here is a link to a video of her discussing the Joy of Stress: Party Pants, in which she reminds us to embrace life’s adventures rather than always putting joy off. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5tOFdSJZJk. Here’s her video on Pessimism vs. Optimism. http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=kqE9cuWxdqo&feature=endscreen. She uses humor to help people handle stress. Her message is resilience. I think she may also be reading many of the blogs that I read about living after a cancer diagnosis. She seems to understand that we can keep smiling–sometimes for a moment, sometimes for a day, sometimes longer.

Did I mention that next Friday I have an appointment for a gynecological exam and will likely see the “oh-so-very-NOT-nice” physician’s assistant whose examination of me left me upset for weeks? Did I mention that this has me feeling very anxious–as do all doctors’ appointments? Maybe I’m already feeling better because of the messages of hope in so many other people’s blogs.

Star Trek Into Darkness

No need for spoiler alerts.

I had papers to grade last night, but I decided to see the late showing of the new Star Trek movie Into Darkness. I really enjoyed it and recommend it if you find yourself in a dark place in your life and want to feel good. I’m not going to say anything else about its plot except that it deals with dark subjects.

Most of the previews that preceded the movie were also about dark subjects: sheriffs with drug-abusing daughters (Longmire), Hollywood “fixers” who cover up deaths and wield baseball bats when trouble is afoot but ache to see their kids drawing closer to crime in the form of a much despised father who is just out of jail (Ray Donovan), and more. There were several apocalypse stories, including the world’s takeover by zombies in World War Z (Think of any Lord of the Rings castle attack with recently dead humans in place of–I’m not sure what you call the hordes in a Lord of the Rings movie) and Elysium (about class conflict in a sci-fi setting, by the maker of the really depressing movie about race conflict, District 9).

Even Superman’s new movie Man of Steel had a trailer filled with dark colors and visuals. The “light” subjects included the story of two out-of-work men (the actors playing them also haven’t made a really “feel good” movie in awhile) who intern at Google where they are hazed by the nerds and even take shots to the gonads (am I the only one who sees enough of that on America’s Funniest Home Videos?). Another “feel good” film was about four seniors doing their version of The Hangover, called Last Vegas. It might be okay for my age group, and I love Robert DeNiro in any movie, but, really? Will there be any new stones to turn over in Las Vegas if the men have more money? Can anyone say scantily clad women, gambling, drinking, and aftermath? Will you pay $7.50 or more to see Morgan Freeman dance?

My point is that I was not the only one experiencing dark days. These movies and TV shows have been in production for a long time before they were shown or previewed. People have been feeling the drift into darkness for a long time. I have felt it since 9/11. Perhaps you have felt it even longer.

Terrorism (domestic and foreign), war, genocide, diaspora, recession, world-wide depression, political instability, violence in the streets, burning or collapsing fashion industry factories, global warming, BP’s pollution of the Gulf of Mexico, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, tornados, hurricanes, collapsing bridges, derailed trains, GMO foods, rising rates of death from cancers, school shootings, movie theater shootings, mosque shootings, bombings, hacking of people’s private information–pick your nightmare. There have been many scourges, and the themes of movies and TV shows reflect that.

I left the theater feeling better anyway. Because fiction sometimes takes us from the dark place. It restores our faith sometimes in our own initiative, our grit and determination, and our caring for (at least some) of our fellow earth denizens.

I cannot claim to have any super powers at all, but in the darkness of a theater, surrounded by the smell of popcorn I can no longer eat, watching the crew of the Starship Enterprise grapple with certain disaster, I get the idea I can handle my own challenges.

I’m not sure I am up to watching The Internship with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson (opening June 7), but movies aren’t medicine, not yet anyway.

Star Trek Into Darkness
2013 Film
8.3/10-IMDb
87%-Rotten Tomatoes
Star Trek Into Darkness is a 2013 American science fiction action film. It is the twelfth installment in the Star Trek franchise and the sequel to 2009’s Star Trek. Wikipedia
Release date: May 17, 2013 (USA)
Director: J.J. Abrams
Prequel: Star Trek
Production company: Bad Robot Productions
Genres: Action film, Science Fiction, Adventure film

Stressors Rising

Free clip art. clipartlogo.com

Free clip art. clipartlogo.com

The stress of my daily life sometimes gets to me. My “to do list” has “to do lists.” Tonight you can observe–sort of a “fly on the wall” perspective on the reasons why I feel stressed this evening–too stressed to find relief in sleep.

Let’s run through the top stressors of the day. I woke with shooting pains from my lower back to my knees. I think it was sciatic pain. I did not hurt my back and do not usually have this pain, but I had it this morning when I woke at about five in the morning. It was so bad I had to roll out of bed. Then I had to get back up into my huge four post bed and lie flat on my back and raise my knees to my chest and stretch until something realigned well enough for me to exit the bed again. I walked gingerly until it seemed the pain had passed. By that time, there was no going back to sleep.

I wrote an email to a new friend met online in the blogging world. I thought I deserved to spend what would have been my sleep time on something for myself. It was a pleasure, but led me back to work. I graded papers. This morning I had six classes in some state of operation. I knew I could knock one out today if I tried.

I had to turn in final grades for my law school class. This involved getting them approved by someone else. I got them to her and she got back to me swiftly. Then I needed to submit them. I did that more than twelve hours later.

I had an information session scheduled for this evening for one of the schools for which I teach. Prior to nine in the morning, I left a message for someone at the school reminding the person of what I needed for that session. I am a person who uses checklists. I needed a room number. I needed a list of attendees. I needed packets about our program. I needed evaluations for attendees to complete. The session was scheduled for six in the evening in a far distant suburb. I needed to run some errands as I headed out there and needed to leave early to avoid snarled traffic jams.

The individual that I contacted did not get back to me until almost noon. He needed me to get there an hour earlier to meet with one attendee who could not be there for the session but needed to speak with someone. I agreed to get there at five. The room was scheduled. It had the right services. The last time I did this I was assigned a room that was too small for the expected attendees, lacked a computer, Internet link-up, screen, and air conditioning. I thought things might be going my way.

I originally agreed to do this information session because we had numerous attendees. There were only four people on the list. It was too late to cancel the event. The person who set up the event had forgotten to send the packets to the school for my meeting and it was too late for them to be delivered today. So the person emailed me the materials and I had to print them. He could not supply some of the pieces by email. My printer ran out of toner midway through printing what I did receive. I figured that if I got to school early enough I could print the documents at school. I only needed four sets, right?

I am teaching two online classes. I needed to check in with them to see what was going on. I did, but could not take the time to do anything except check for problems. I have papers to grade. The papers will have to wait until tomorrow.

Last night, right after I left my mom’s house following a holiday dinner with my brother Danny and sister-in-law Lisa, my mom went to bed. Then her doorbell started ringing. She does not always get up to answer it. The person was insistent. When she found a robe and made it to the door there was smoke billowing from the front of the house. Birds had built a nest in an exterior light fixture. The light was off, but the activity somehow produced a fire. There was no hose available on the front of the house.

My mom ran back into the house, grabbed the mobile phone, and ran to her garage. She opened the garage door. The neighbors, who had seen the smoke, started spraying the electrical fixture with water. My mom decided to call my brother instead of the fire department. He is an electrician and lives nearby. Danny and Lisa showed up shortly after the fire was put out. He removed the light fixture and left it in the front yard. He was on his way to work (he works the overnight shift sometimes).

My mom left me a frantic message about the house being on fire, then got on the phone with my sister Kathy, who lives in Maryland and was too far away to do anything except worry–and the two of them tied up the phone line.

I heard the news when I got home, but I could not get an answer at my mom’s house for some time. As I heard the story, the light fixture was still attached to the house and could ignite again. The degree of damages was indeterminable due to it having been dark outside. I offered to come back and stay the night. My offer was rejected. But, of course, I was not off the hook.

I emailed my brother and sister to determine what everyone else knew. No one answered. This no doubt explains the pretzel twist my back felt in the morning.

I left for my mom’s at about one in the afternoon. By that time I knew the light fixture had been removed (bless you, Danny). But I still had no assessment of damage. I took my digital camera along in case I needed pictures for an insurance claim.

I stopped to mail some bills and later realized that I had forgotten to stamp one of the envelopes. Oh well, I mailed it early. It may return for postage before I need to re-mail it.

I arrived at my mom’s house to find her standing outside studying the situation. It was not too bad. But her Internet connection was down (again). I went inside and restarted the router and got the connection restored. I need to come back tomorrow and replace the router. This was about my fourth trip for this purpose in the last couple of weeks. One can never receive enough emails containing jokes about old men, pictures of dogs and cats, or rants about political issues.

My mom told me that she had gone out that morning for a meeting at the senior center. The mayor came to answer the seniors’ questions. After my mom got home she realized one of her mobile phones was missing from its cradle. It turned out to be sitting atop the hood of her car. It likely was left there last night when she was done calling Danny about the fire. Evidently she drove with a steady hand. It was still there after she drove to the senior center and home. This is what sometimes passes for good news in our lives. The mobile phone did not end up on some road with a single lost shoe. We take our blessings where we find them.

Just smoke damage. I think we'll live. I'm not sure about the birds.

Just smoke damage. I think we’ll live. I’m not sure about the birds.

We discussed the need for a new light fixture. We will try to get one Wednesday when I come to replace the router. My father was an electrician, too. We cannot possibly go to the Home Depot to pick up just any old fixture. We will go to an electrical supply warehouse. I will need to measure the current fixture. My mom is certain it was tough to find the original (burnt) choice. Danny will install it if we can find one.

The birds did this!

The birds did this!

We discussed other bird nests on the property to determine if any of them could also start a fire. I found myself praying for serenity. What do I know about these things? There are reasons I do not own my own home.

I left for the information session. I made good time despite all of the road construction. I went to the computer lab and printed four sets of information for the four attendees listed on my sign-up sheet. I scrounged in the school’s lobby for brochures to complete the packets.

I helped three students with their resumes and cover letters. Then I graded some more papers. I wanted to try to make a doctor’s appointment for August, but no one answered the phone at the hospital. I will have to try again tomorrow. It will be the fifth or sixth time I got to that project too late in the day.

I write a newsletter every two weeks. I read news stories looking for ideas for my June 10th issue. I made a list of ideas to pursue and located some background research. I receive about seven different news updates per week. I read their stories to see what others in my field were buzzing about.

I am also recruiting for law firms. I identified some people to contact later this week.

I went to the room where the information session was to be held. The person who had to meet with me early walked in behind me. She was early and said she only had fifteen minutes to speak with me. It turned out she was not one of the four people whose name was on the sign-up sheet I had received. I gave her one of the four packets I had made. Now I was one set short. I did the presentation and answered questions, setting a new record for speed. It usually takes at least one hour. She turned out to be very interested in the program so stayed a little longer than she planned.

Then I set up my audiovisuals and headed for a copy machine. The administrators saw me about to pay for photocopying and insisted I let them copy for “free.” This sounds like a time-saving offer, but it turned into a networking exchange that ran long.

Not that any of the four expected attendees showed up at six. At quarter after six I was prepared to head home. No one had showed. Of course, as I prepared to shut down, one person arrived. I redid the presentation. She also was very interested. We spoke for an hour.

Then I left the building as it started to rain. I drove an hour and forty-five minutes back to my house in sometimes blinding rain. When I got home I submitted my grades online. I reviewed another student’s resume. I checked my six email accounts. I made something to eat. I spoke with a friend whose life, she thought, might be more stressful than mine.

I answered emails from students who would like their grades faster. I checked in at wordpress.com. I answered an email inquiring about a paper graded and not returned because the document was not named to include the student’s name–despite the fact that my course materials instruct students to use their names in the names of documents submitted online.

The thunder and lightning outside got so bad that I had to stop touching my computer for awhile. Then I decided to blog because I felt so stressed. I knew this would help and it has. It has convinced me that anyone would be feeling stressed under the circumstances. I am not going to worry about what I did not do today.

I am reminded of a song for children that no doubt explains why people like me seem old way too soon.

I Know An Old Lady
I know an old lady who swallowed a fly,
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly,
I guess she’ll die.

I know an old lady who swallowed a spider,
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly,
I guess she’ll die.

I know an old lady who swallowed a bird,
How absurd to swallow a bird!
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly,
I guess she’ll die.

I know an old lady who swallowed a cat,
Imagine that, to swallow a cat!
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly,
I guess she’ll die.

I know an old lady who swallowed a dog,
My, what a hog, to swallow a dog!
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly,
I guess she’ll die.
I know an old lady who swallowed a goat,
Just opened her throat and swallowed a goat!
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog,
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly,
I guess she’ll die.

I know an old lady who swallowed a cow,
I wonder how she swallowed a cow?!
She swallowed the cow to catch the goat,
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog,
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly,
I guess she’ll die.

I know an old lady who swallowed a horse,
She’s dead, of course!!

http://www.timmyabell.com/music/lyrics/ol/oldlady.htm

I hope your day went better, but will not be surprised if you tell me that you, too, find yourself overextended. If you have any tips on avoiding this condition let me know! Tomorrow I will refuse to swallow the fly!

Memorial Day

Dad and Grandma Babe

Dad and Grandma Babe

Last night I watched the PBS showing of the Memorial Day concert at the Capitol in Washington, DC. When I lived in DC from 1975 until 1992 I sometimes attended this event. My mom called during the show to ask if I was watching. Some years we watch it together. It is a moving event because the actor hosts often read for the audience the letters written by military men and women to their families. Last night there was a remembrance of Charles Durning, an actor and a veteran. There also was a heart-breaking reading of letters from brothers who enlisted together and now are parted because one brother found it impossible to bear his survivor’s guilt after the deaths of comrades and his brother’s loss of a leg.

Later today I plan to stop by the cemetery to visit my dad’s grave. I can do that on the way to my mom’s house. My brother Danny and his wife Lisa will be there for a barbecue. It is my sister Kathy’s birthday, but she will be far away and celebrating with her husband Jeff, daughter Maureen, and son-in-law Justin.

My dad served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, but he did not see action during his period of service. He was a polio survivor. I think that is one reason why he was stationed in Hawaii after his basic training. He suffered physical side-effects of polio all of his life, not that he ever spoke of it, other than to report a fact in passing. He spoke much more often of his years in the Marines, especially of the men with whom he served. Some remained friends of his until his death.

There are others in my family who have served. My great uncle, Dr. Edward P. King served in the Navy. He was a doctor. My Uncle John served in war times. My nephew Al serves now in the Marines.

My sister Kathy makes Quilts of Valor for men and women injured during service. I understand that some of the quilts are sent overseas. When a soldier is injured his or her clothes usually are cut away to permit medical personnel to treat wounds. Sometimes the soldiers are wrapped in quilts during their transport to another military hospital location. Kathy and her husband Jeff (the DC area coordinator) travel around to present the quilts sewn by members of Kathy’s charity to returning servicemen and servicewomen. Jeff and Kathy have met many returning soldiers over the years. http://www.mspquiltingangels.org/jointheangels.html; http://www.qovf.org.
Kathy and her friends also make quilts for children with cancer and other childhood diseases.

One of the soldiers with whom my sister has come in contact–Lt. Alix–received a quilt and heard my sister talking about how I was having a tough time going through cancer treatment. Lt. Alix gave my sister a medal she had received for military service and asked my sister to give it to me. She wanted to pay forward her award by giving it to someone else engaged in a battle.

That was very kind of Lt. Alix. I don’t think the award was something I deserved, but I am grateful for the sacrifices this  airwoman has made for our nation. That’s the thing that is unique about military men and women’s sacrifices: they are made for others.

Medal Reads: Hometown Heroes Salute-Airman-Family-Community

Medal Reads: Hometown Heroes Salute-Airman-Family-Community

My battle was for my own life against a disease that advanced very slowly. I had plenty of time to address it. Among persons dealing with cancer I had a relatively easy battle. I know so many men and women whose battles are much more intense.

In contrast, our members of the armed services battle for a nation against immediate threats too numerous to name or identify. As I listened last night to a tape of Charles Durning’s memories of his own service, for which he was awarded several medals, including the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, three Purple Heart medals, and the World War II Victory Medal, I felt my heart break over the experiences of our military. Far from family, surrounded by friends whose lives also hang in the balance, serving often in harm’s way, sometimes present while friends are killed, sometimes facing mortal or disabling wounds of their own–always vigilant for others’ safety and sometimes forgotten.

I wrote to Lt. Alix to thank her for her kindness, but she did not answer me. I hope she knows that I appreciate not just her generosity to me, but her generosity to our nation. On Memorial Day and every day there are heroes walking beside us. They may never say a word about their experiences. Their wounds may not be visible. They are not the only ones who sacrifice. Their families often suffer long separations. Some of our nation’s heroes give their lives. It is fitting that we remember all of these sacrifices with respect and gratitude.

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” – John F. Kennedy

Facts of Life

My mom swears that I was very young when she took me to the zoo and I called out on sighting elephants, “Pachyderms!” If this story is true, then I owe it to my mom. She set me in front of the aquarium when I was a baby and let me watch the neon tetras race from one side of the tank to the other. As a result of this eye exercise, I learned to speed read before I started kindergarten. She also taught me to call them as I see them.

When I was set to begin first grade, my mom volunteered to cover the first year reading materials in brown paper bags. We sat together at the kitchen table for two weeks, during which I practiced cutting the bags to size. When my fingers grew cramped from cutting the paper and folding it to fit the textbooks, my mom had me read aloud from the books. By the time that school started I had read the entire year’s curriculum.

I was not nearly as well prepared for sex as I was for school. Oh, we had the talk about the facts of life when I was nine. But I was only about six when Gregory, a nasty little boy who lived down the lane, told me about sex. I recall that he stuffed a jump rope down his pants. Then he tugged one of the handles through his open zipper and explained the mechanics of intercourse in the world-weary way of a boy who knows just enough to be dangerous.

I can still remember my disbelief. I stared at him for a long moment and then said, “I have seen your mother, and I can well believe that she has done such a thing. But my mom would never do anything like that. Not ever!” He laughed a little, but then looked just insecure enough for me to press home my point.

So I poked him in the chest with my finger and said, “Ohh, yeah, your mom looks like she would do such a thing, but my mom wouldn’t touch that!” Here I gestured dismissively at the piece of red wood dangling from his open fly. “Because she is a lady.”

When I told my mom what I had said she bit her lip and shook her head in disbelief. Of course, I told her about all of this when I was in my forties.

In high school I was voted to be many things. I don’t remember all of them. But I do recall that my class voted me second most innocent girl. I was outraged–not that there was any point in denying it–and not for the reason you might imagine. The girl voted to be the most innocent girl was a cheerleader. I barely knew her, even though I was voted first or second friendliest girl in the class.

I was outraged because someone told me she was a “slut,” and I did not want anyone to imply the same thing about me. I am pretty sure that I had no idea what it meant to be a “slut” back then.

Oh, I knew by then that Gregory had not lied about the mechanics of intercourse. I knew many things about sex in the same way as I knew that pagan babies in Africa somehow were nourished when I cleaned my plate. All the information was acquired secondhand.

I understood that good girls waited until marriage. My Grandma Elsie loved Harlequin romances and Barbara Cartland novels so I also understood that love was a heady experience and its physical expression was something a girl had to be prepared to halt if she wanted to be a good girl. I knew that good girls were good. I even knew that bad girls had more fun.

I recently described my outrage at being placed in the same category as someone people called a slut and admitted that I am now ashamed of myself for having been quick to distance myself from another girl my age merely because someone else had judged her. I think the decision not to judge others is one of the biggest lessons I have learned in life.

I am not prepared to apologize yet for my comments about Gregory’s mother. She was, after all, a mom who wore a bikini while she watered her lawn. No one who had a grown kid wore a bikini back then. There I go again, judging.

I once had a friend who addressed the issue of “judging others” by surrounding himself only by people just like him. If he only saw people who would act as he did, then he could avoid the urge to judge.

Another friend defended his judgments. When I asked him whether he had an opinion on everything, he tipped his head to one side and asked, “Isn’t that the object of an educated mind?”

I have a friend who rationalizes judgment as discernment. She is always speaking of people as falling into categories based on behavior. At times it appears that all the categories are on the same level. But once in awhile I hear judgment made about an entire category of people sharing a trait as though that made them similar in all material respects.

I felt the sting of another’s judgment this week. I received a letter from one of the schools at which I teach. The school has been investigating the circumstances surrounding my termination on the day I underwent emergency surgery for uterine cancer that presented itself as hemorrhaging.

One supervisor (Martha) ordered me to stay home and not return to work when three days later I told her I was going to be able to teach my next class. She knew I had been terminated, but did not tell me. Her statement was that people who have hysterectomies, like people who have babies, must take longer to recover.

That woman’s supervisor (Susan) sent me an email the next day and informed me that she already had terminated me because people in my situation always suffer setbacks and she could not take the chance I would return only to become too sick to continue.

The deans apparently signed off on these acts. The email I received giving notice of my termination states that the dean of faculty may have agreed to my termination. The law school’s dean later agreed to pay me the remainder of my stipend for the semester, then he or someone else stopped payment. It took me ten months to get payment.

The investigator wrote to me this week:

I’ve completed my investigation into your allegation that Professor Martha . . . may have violated the university’s Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy and Procedures.  I have determined that she did not violate the policy; therefore, OIDE considers this matter closed.  I have attached a letter for your reference.

I feel judged–to be a fool. My complaint to the university, which it solicited from me after learning I also have complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, was not about Martha. It was about a series of events triggered by Susan. I could not then determine what Martha’s role was in the entire matter. There also is no mention in the letter of events that have occurred after my initial termination–events I would characterize as retaliation for the initial complaint.

I have written to inquire about the status of my complaint, which involved others and other events. So far, no response.

I do not want to judge those who judge me, but today I am feeling a little more affinity with my friend who asked when I challenged his judging of others, “Isn’t that the object of an educated mind?”

It seems to me that there is a giant pachyderm in the room that some others refuse to see or cannot name. Does the university really want to ignore an email that puts in writing discrimination on the basis of a diagnosis of cancer? Does it want to ignore the fact that my doctor had said before and after surgery that I would be able to return to work the following week? Is it familiar both with the Americans With Disabilities Act’s explicit recognition that a cancer diagnosis can make a person particularly vulnerable to discrimination and its implicit recognition that people can be discriminated against unfairly even when their conditions appear to be a disability but those conditions do not actually prove disabling?

My question: Are these the facts of life? I feel, for the second time in my life, like someone from the neighborhood has shared with me an important lesson on how a person gets screwed. I feel that once again, the message might be right. This might be how a person gets screwed.

In Sickness and in Health

liebster-award

One of the duties associated with having been nominated to receive a Liebster Award is that you should name others to receive it as well.

I have read that some have named a single blog while others name as many as 11. Today I am naming two:

http://sarahandycancer.wordpress.com

and http://happilyhomeless2.wordpress.com/.

Both are written by wives loving a husband through cancer. Around the world today there are millions of husbands and wives giving care to a partner through sickness.

I am not married. I was once a long time ago. I am soon to be divorced twenty-five years and was married for seven years before that. I am not fascinated by the condition of marriage. I did not destroy my wedding photographs, but I donated my wedding dress to charity, threw my wedding band into the Potomac River, and gave my engagement ring to my niece because I did not want to see it in my jewelry box any longer. I do not watch TV shows in which women say “yes” to dresses and shriek at family and friends for failing to make a wedding day perfect. I can be counted upon to smile and cry during others’ weddings, usually because I am a little disappointed that my own wedding day remains my happiest memory in a good life.

My husband left me. That is unusual. I understand that women initiate about 66% of divorces. http://shine.yahoo.com/love-sex/women-initiate-divorce-66-of-the-time-why-do-they-want-to-get-married-567068.html. This is ironic when you consider how much literature there is out there for women who seek to bring a man to one knee so that he will propose, she can accept, and they can dedicate their lives to the accomplishment of the best wedding anyone has ever attended.

Many of my friends who remained married, many of them happily ever after, are now in the process of guiding children through the last years of a college education, through the acquisition of a first post-college job, or into the bonds of matrimony. There have been times when I have envied them their finger-painted-art-covered refrigerator doors and their Mother’s/Father’s Day celebration breakfasts in bed, but I am not envious of their tuition bills or the prospect of planning and paying for the best wedding anyone ever attended.

I enjoy Pinterest.com as a way to pass the time when my mind is fried and my body will not relent at bed time. But I confess that I am saddened by the number of racy photos of brides in lingerie to be sent to the groom on the morning of a wedding to keep him focused on the prize, the photos of tackle boxes filled with mini-bar-sized bottles of alcohol alongside make-up and hair devices in the bride’s toolkit, images of high fives during a post-ceremony kiss, and the snapshots marked “need this photo” for our special day.

I remember my wedding day with (a depressing amount of) good will because of what was not happening. I did not begin the day reviewing a checklist of poses that the photographer had better capture for my album. I did not have, nor imagine for a moment that my groom had, cold feet. It never would have occurred to me to send him pictures to review prior to the ceremony. I did not need a shot of liquid relaxant to walk down the aisle because I was anxious about perfection eluding me. I did not usher friends in front of the camera for lots of “must have” memories. In fact, I found the few photos my photographer staged for us kind of silly.

I just got up, got dressed, and walked down the aisle on my dad’s arm and pledged love to someone who was a friend and a lover. Of course, things did not end well. Maybe I should have cared more about the details. I suspect that is not what makes marriage work either.

I do admit to being envious of the brides who got it right. I read Sarah and Andy’s story because they read The Princess Bride to each other while Andy recovered from surgery following his diagnosis with stage 3B gastric cancer. When they wed they planned to have a family. They found themselves unable to have a child and unable to adopt one. They exchanged the dream of a an art-covered refrigerator door for late-night dashes to the ER following the removal of Andy’s stomach. Despite all this, every time I see one of Sarah’s postings show up in my Reader page on wordpress.com I smile at their photographs of post-marriage kisses taken in sickness and in health. I find myself rooting for the latest posting to disclose a landmark in Andy’s recovery. It’s hard to be cynical in the face of a good love story. Sarah makes me believe in their dreams.

In the blog Happily Homeless 2, Handsome Husband is not Every Woman’s dream. He’s already divorced, a recovering alcoholic, raising children. He remarries, this time joining his life with that of a woman raising children of her own. They seem like hopeless romantics. Both are so open to remarriage and the difficult task of blending families. It’s reassuring to know that once married, many men and women remain open to doing it again. But men seem a little more open to it than do women, ironic when you consider how men are perceived as needing to be dragged to the altar:

The perceived benefits of divorce differ by gender. Women were far more likely than men to say that having their own self-identity was a top reward….
…….43 percent of women said they emerged from the split against remarriage.
Only 33 percent of men said they wouldn’t remarry.

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=713110, quoted at
http://shine.yahoo.com/love-sex/women-initiate-divorce-66-of-the-time-why-do-they-want-to-get-married-567068.html.

In the case of Happily Homeless and Handsome Husband, you have two people who believe in marriage (and each other). They also deal with cancer. But, unlike Sarah and Andy who face it together while young, they deal with it at the end of a twenty-three-plus-year marriage while young-at-heart. I have not gone back yet to read the earliest entries in Alison’s blog. I found it recently and have read its latest chapters. Instead of talking about a perfect wedding, Happily Homeless describes a different type of ceremony. The gown is a hospital gown worn by the groom. The best man and other attendants are the couple’s children. The flowers are sent by well-meaning friends. The family and friends are there to say good-bye to the groom. The bride is dealing with the pain of life without him. I cried as I read of this couple’s happy ending, too. And I envied them even though they also walked a painful path because they held on so tightly to each other until parted by death.

What makes me nominate these two blogs for the Liebster Award is that the award and these two blogs are about caring. The bloggers discuss what happens when life gets tough and your partner needs you in ways you don’t need your partner. They speak of how you sometimes have to find balance because suddenly the ground beneath your feet is shifting. They tell tales in which no one gets by on fairy dust or magic. They are about the hard work in marriage. They focus on the relationship being built and maintained. They still have dreams and fantasies, but they have realities that test the fabric of their dreams and prove that dreams can be as tough and as flexible as rubber as it meets that bumpy road.

The stories of caregivers are what you cannot foresee when you watch TV shows about brides choosing the right dresses and bridezillas picking the wrong battles. Some think the battle is over when someone’s put a ring on it. Some think that they need their liquid courage to walk down the aisle. Some think that the beginning of a honeymoon is the beginning of life lived happily ever after. Some think marriage is about the right poses in a book of memories. Some begin the next day and days after it facing a whole new set of challenges. And the truly heartwarming thing is that some people make it! They (men and women) take their vows and find ways to keep on living them:

I, ____, take you, ____, to be my (husband/wife). I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

I smile at weddings because they are the start of a venture that holds the promise of something wondrous. My heart may still ache when I think of loves that fail, but it is healed by the stories of loves that last when health is failing. I am grateful for the chance to observe people cling to each other proving that the finest in us is what counts, not the finery that surrounds us.

Good-Bye, Gick

Ed, Marge, Mary & Babe

Ed, Marge, Mary & Babe

I opened the email and read the news that Gick had died:

My mother, Margaret Rosemary Theresa Kelly Moder went to heaven Monday morning at 9:12AM. We had just left her side when it happened.

Gick was my Grandma Babe’s cousin. In the picture above, Gick sits between her husband Ed and her sister Mary. My Grandma Babe sits over to the side.

Gick’s mom and my great grandmother were sisters. Gick’s mom was May and my great grandmother was Nellie. Nellie was the eldest. Nellie Hanley married Harry King. They had two children: Dr. Edward P. King “Bub” and Mary King “Babe.”

When Nellie was 50 she had surgery to correct a deviated septum. She died shortly after it of meningitis. Babe was 18. Her dad would last only three years without his Nellie. Bub was already in the Navy. Babe went to live with Aunt May, Uncle Tim, Mary, and Marge. Aunt May was a fighter. She argued with everyone, especially her sisters Nellie and Agnes “Ag.” May was the baby of the family of six children, so you know she must have been tough to take on Nellie (11 years her senior). But she took in Babe. Babe always felt that Mary (seven) and Marge, aka Gick (five) were like her little sisters.

Marge was a “gal.” She loved her bicycle. She and her cousin Bece once rode their bicycles from Chicago to Wisconsin. Bece got a terrible sunburn. Marge, with her beautiful Irish skin somehow fared well. Marge boxed, too, if you can believe it.

Marge always had dogs. She and her kids once brought a carload of turtles home from a vacation to Fenton, Missouri. She and her kids also had pigeons (Homer and George) and a crow (also George).

Mary was the one with all the style. According to Marge, Mary always knew how to tie a scarf to make an outfit. Marge loved her leather coat with a fur collar so much that she wore it on the train during the summer! Before such a thing as air conditioning. But Marge was fascinating in her own right, without resort to the slightest artifice or fancy.

Marge met Ed at the Rathskeller. He was on his way up the stairs to leave with his friends as she was walking in with a girlfriend. He looked at his friends and said, “That’s it.” He turned right around and followed her down the stairs. It was love at first sight. He walked Marge and her friend back home at the end of the evening. She appreciated the escort. Ed was “charming.”

Of course, she didn’t want anyone to know they met in this way. So she concocted a better story for her four children and waited until they were older to tell the truth–like when they were all adults! She told the kids that she met Ed at a USO event. For their 40th anniversary, her son Tim ordered some minted coins bearing the USO emblem on them to commemorate that meeting. That’s when Marge finally admitted that the USO had nothing to do with her having married his dad.

Ed invited Marge to travel to Monmouth, NJ for his receipt of his second lieutenant Army orders. May let Marge travel with a friend’s wife. Ed offered Marge a ring. Marge told Ed, “A girl likes to be asked.” So he formally proposed. Marge accepted. Ed later trained at Harvard University. Marge married Ed at the chapel at Harvard University in front of eight witnesses in military uniforms.

Ed was in the United States Army Signal Corps. He served overseas in Shanghai. But he was there when she needed him. They raised four children. I’m not sure how many grandchildren and great-grandchildren she lived to hold in her arms and love. Those grandchildren and great-grandchildren called her “Gick.”

When I was a kid Babe and her husband Kayo, Mary and her husband George, and Marge and her husband Ed were close friends. They used to get together to play cards and drink and laugh. They called these events “meetings of the Cousins’ Club.” The six had lots of fun.

Cousins Club

The Cousins’ Club plays cards: From left to right: My dad, Mary’s shoe, Marge, Ed, my mom, George, and Babe. Kayo was the photographer.

We lost George in 1974. We lost my Grandpa Kayo in 1986. Mary died suddenly and dramatically in her doctor’s office in 1990. Ed died in 1993. Grandma Babe died in 1996.

Mary, Marge, and my mom

Mary, Marge, and my mom

Marge and Ed had a long life together, but he died long before she did–in 1993. She died May 6, 2013, moments after her family left the room. I hope Ed came for her and she just said, “That’s it,” and followed him.

I could not make it to her funeral. I wish I had been there. My mom cannot stop talking about how Marge’s kids chose a green casket, because Marge was so proud of her Irish roots.  Her entire family sang a song written for her to the tune of Danny Boy (my mom’s favorite song). And they ended the service by singing every last verse of When Irish Eyes Are Smiling:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awkioQ8bkVI.

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

There's a tear in your eye, 
And I'm wondering why, 
For it never should be there at all. 
With such pow'r in your smile, 
Sure a stone you'd beguile, 
So there's never a teardrop should fall. 
When your sweet lilting laughter's 
Like some fairy song, 
And your eyes twinkle bright as can be; 
You should laugh all the while 
And all other times smile, 
And now, smile a smile for me. 

Chorus
When Irish eyes are smiling, 
Sure, 'tis like the morn in Spring. 
In the lilt of Irish laughter 
You can hear the angels sing. 
When Irish hearts are happy, 
All the world seems bright and gay. 
And when Irish eyes are smiling, 
Sure, they steal your heart away. 

For your smile is a part 
Of the love in your heart, 
And it makes even sunshine more bright. 
Like the linnet's sweet song, 
Crooning all the day long, 
Comes your laughter and light. 
For the springtime of life 
Is the sweetest of all 
There is ne'er a real care or regret; 
And while springtime is ours 
Throughout all of youth's hours, 
Let us smile each chance we get.
--Chauncey Olcott, Geo. Graff Jr., & Ernest R. Ball

We’re smiling through our tears. The Cousins’ Club is back together again.


					

Facing the End

I am a positive person. I think sometimes I am a little bit of a Pollyanna. I am also getting old, which is why I know who Pollyanna is. Anyway, one of the most inspirational blogs that I read is by a man who is running out of options and time. His world is filled with pain. Maybe you are not in a positive place right now. Maybe his blog is not the right thing for you to read. But, if you are up to it, Mike is telling it like it is for him. And I can be positive about what I am learning from him even though I know he is facing a fate I don’t always feel I can even contemplate.

If you’re up to it, check out Living Life to the Fullest from the End Stage: https://miketerrill.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/when-it-all-comes-crashing-down/comment-page-1/#comment-181.
I think Mike inspires like no one else when it is time to put away the juicing recipes and stop buying antioxidants and think about the fact that life is short but the memories you make with and for others can survive what you cannot.

I recently was nominated for a Liebster Award. It’s about caring. So I’m going to pay it forward by asking that all the many caring bloggers and visitors who stop by this page now and in the future say a prayer or hold a thought or take a leap and read what Mike has been saying. Because how a man lives is also about how a man dies. And this man’s struggle has touched my heart.

Jingle-ing, Ring-ting-tingle-ing, Too

Windchimes

Just hear those sleigh bells jingle-ing, ring-ting-tingle-ing too . . . .

Sleigh Ride, Mitchell Parish (1950).

Bells Jingle-ing: The abatement of my radiation cystitis has made life so much more pleasant. I wake up without fear of the high level of pain I experienced every time I entered the bathroom. Now I am free to notice some of the other side effects of cancer treatment that barely registered before now. Of these, the most persistent is tinnitus.

My ears ring every day, all day, as long as I am conscious. It is not a musical sound. Instead, it is like static. It disrupts the peacefulness of an empty house or a remote location. My only relief from the ringing is when I sleep. Sleep has often eluded me and never been so peaceful for me as it is now. My longing for sleep is not occasioned only by the desire to experience silence. It also is a result of cancer treatment. I have never experienced as much fatigue as I have since undergoing adjuvant cancer treatment.

In my case, the specific cause of the ringing in my ears appears to be the chemotherapy drug Carboplatin. The National Institutes of Health report that Carboplatin significantly increased the number of cases of tinnitus among a test group of veterans who did not have tinnitus before undergoing treatment:

RESULTS: Baseline tinnitus rates were high (nearly 47%) relative to the general population of a similar age. Subjects with exposure to ototoxic medications had significantly increased risk for developing tinnitus. Those on chemotherapeutic agents were found to have the greatest risk. Cisplatin elevated the risk by 5.53 times while carboplatin increased the risk by 3.75 over nonototoxic control medications. Ototoxic antibiotics resulted in borderline risk (2.81) for new tinnitus. Contrary to other reports, we did not find that subject factors (increased age or pre-existing hearing loss) or treatment factors (days on drug or cumulative dose) contributed to rates of tinnitus onset during treatment.
CONCLUSIONS: This large prospective study confirms that new tinnitus during treatment is associated with chemotherapy and with certain ototoxic antibiotic treatment. Cisplatin and carboplatin were found to be the most potent ototoxic agents causing tinnitus at much greater numbers than the other drugs studied. Implications for counseling and audiological resource allocation are discussed.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20701838 (study concludes tinnitus rates rise among patients taking Cisplatin and Carboplatin). Various studies confirm the link.

The following chemotherapy drugs have been reported to cause hearing problems in 10 percent to 29 percent of patients:

Platinol® (cisplatin)
Paraplatin® (carboplatin)
Mustargen® (mechlorethamine)
There are many other drugs that may cause hearing problems in some people. Some of the common ones that cancer patients may be taking include:

Aspirin (high-dose, long-term use)
Aminoglycoside antibiotics: erythromycin, gentamycin, tobramycin, or streptomycin
Antinausea medications: Phenergan® (promethazine).
Diuretics: Lasix® (furosemide), Diamox® (acetazolamide)
Heart and blood pressure medications: Lopressor® (metoprolol)
Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): ibuprofen, Aleve® (naproxen sodium)

https://www.caring4cancer.com/go/cancer/effects/lesscommon/hearing-problems.htm.

Some report that the ringing stops at some point after the conclusion of treatment.

Changes in hearing
This is very rare if you have standard doses of carboplatin. But if you have high-dose treatment you may develop ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and may lose the ability to hear some high-pitched sounds. This side effect usually decreases when the treatment ends. Let your doctor know if you notice any loss of hearing or tinnitus.

http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/Cancertreatment/Treatmenttypes/Chemotherapy/Individualdrugs/Carboplatin.aspx.

Others noticed the ringing during treatment, including many people in my age group.

On Apr, 19, 2013: 27,681 people reported to have side effects when taking Carboplatin. Among them, 61 people (0.22%) have Ear Buzzing. . . .
Age of people who have Ear buzzing when taking Carboplatin * : . . .
0-1       2-9      10-19 20-29   30-39   40-49  50-59   60+
2.08% 0.00% 8.33% 2.08% 2.08% 8.33% 47.92% 29.17%
. . . .
Top co-used drugs for these people * :
Cisplatin (25 people, 40.98%)
Taxol (21 people, 34.43%)
Taxotere (14 people, 22.95%)
Decadron (13 people, 21.31%)
Morphine (13 people, 21.31%)

http://www.ehealthme.com/ds/carboplatin/ear+buzzing. I took Taxol at the same time as the Carboplatin.

It has been about sixteen months, and the ringing continues for me.

It appears to be the platinum in Carboplatin that damages the ears.

Platinum-containing drugs, such as cisplatin and carboplatin, are known to have ototoxic side effects causing hearing loss that may be accompanied by tinnitus. This study reviews recent studies on the ototoxicity of cisplatin and carboplatin and summarizes the effects of protective agents that may prevent hearing loss and tinnitus. The primary locus of ototoxicity is in the cochlea, but oxidative stress to the inferior colliculus has been reported recently with carboplatin. Enhanced spontaneous activity within the dorsal cochlear nucleus has been correlated with loss of outer hair cells in animal experiments using cisplatin. This may result from disinhibition of neurons within the dorsal cochlear nucleus caused by reduced input from spiral ganglion cells. Carboplatin may cause tinnitus by oxidative stress within the inferior colliculus or by loss of inhibition within the inferior colliculus resulting from cochlear damage. This could lead to compensatory gain and enhanced responses in neurons within the auditory cortex. Protective agents may prevent tinnitus by preventing damage to the cochlea, thereby obviating the development of disinhibition within central auditory pathways.

http://www.tinnitusjournal.com/detalhe_artigo.asp?id=417.

Ring-ting-tingle-ing, too: I also have peripheral neuropathy. My fingers sometimes tingle. Most of the tingling occurs when I am tired. It is more noticeable at night than during the day. Many cancer treatment patients report neuropathy. This is one patient’s posting at the Cancer Survivor’s Network about the links between chemotherapy and neuropathy:

Chemotherapy drugs that can cause neuropathy. NCI lists these as most likely to do so:
Cisplatinum (Platinol)
Carboplatin (Paraplatin)
Vincristine (Oncovin)
Vinblastine (Velban)
Etoposide/VP-16 (VePesid)
Cytarabine (Cytosar, Ara-C)
Hexamethylmelamine (Hexalen)
Suramin
Paclitaxel (Taxol) and Docetaxel (Taxotere)
Other medications reported to contribute to neuropathy include oxaliplatin (Eloxatin), gemcitibine (Gemzar) and thalidomide (Thalomid).

http://csn.cancer.org/node/188490 (gdpawel).

I was not told about these effects before treatment nor asked about them during or after treatment. I am not whining about this. I probably would have accepted these risks if I had known of them. But I cannot help but wonder what other revelations lie ahead.

Sleigh Ride: It’s not Christmas, but I sometimes feel like I am on a runaway sleigh ride with Billy Bob Thornton directing my trip (reprising his role as Bad Santa) and Will Ferrell giggling for no logical reason (reprising the role of Buddy in Elf). I strive to remain jolly here  at NotDownOrOut!

Liebster Fest

As I understand it, one of the responsibilities of a Leibster Award winner is to disclose eleven random facts about herself.

Eleven Random Things You Don’t Know About Me

11. I am allergic to eggplant. I am not allergic to any other food. I only became allergic to it in the last ten years. Before that, I loved baba ganoush, eggplant parmesan, and ratatouille. I am not allergic to dust or grass or pollen or pets or any other common item. It is odd that eggplant has become my kryptonite.

Eggplant

Eggplant

10. My driving philosophy is “Lane Loyalty.” Yes, I have a “driving” philosophy. When I am behind the wheel of a car I look out for the cars already in the lane. If you see the sign that says merge left or merge right and instead pull into the lane about to close down, race ahead, and then try to cut back into the line, do not expect my mercy and kindness. Wait in line with everyone else. Read the signs and make adaptations in course in an orderly manner. This driver does not care if you wave your middle finger or curse. After I see that you have been forced to wait a little, then I will let you in, but I do not reward people who ignore lines.

Merge

9. I don’t text, IM, or use my cell phone. Oh, I have a cell phone. I carry it with me when I am out and about. But one of my idiosyncrasies is that I like being out of touch for part of the day. I will return your call if you leave a message, but I prefer to answer calls and emails when time permits me to give the matter my full attention. Sounding alarms or repeatedly calling me does not alter my priorities. I like to aim for thoughtful communication. That does not happen when I am driving, working, or contemplating my life.

No cell

8. I love watching the political shows on Sundays. Sometimes I watch them again when they are replayed after the late evening news.

george

7. I do not have cable TV and my TV is more than twenty years old and needs an adapter and an antenna to receive a signal.

TV

6. My favorite TV shows are Big Bang Theory, Elementary, Saturday Night Live, America’s Funniest Home Videos, Wipe-Out, Sherlock, Downton Abbey, and Doc Martin. I can see all of them on free TV.

Sherlock on BBC

5. I am absolutely terrified by spiders and centipedes. Spiders can bite. Centipedes run at you when you threaten them. That kind of strategy scares me as I smash the centipedes dead.

Centipede

Centipede

4. I have a vacuum for every room of my apartment. They come in handy when I encounter a spider or a centipede!

Love my Orecks best!

Love my Orecks best!

3. If I ever have a cat again, he’ll be yellow and I’ll call him Chairman Meow. My prior cats were Mr. Whiskers and Lady Grey.

Yellow cat

2. I collect children’s books written when my mom was a child–like Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton, Maida, the Happy Hollisters, and Honey Bunch.

Judy Bolton

1. I really do have so many “things” that my apartment is a little museum to the memory of my deceased relatives. This picture hung on the wall of my Grandma Elsie’s home. It reads:

I love you when you’re laughing. I love you when you’re sad. I love you when you’re teasing. I love you when you’re glad. I love you when you’re fooling. I love you when you’re true. And the reason why I love you is just because you’re you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In my next post I will pay it forward by nominating some of the many blogs I follow.

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