Saturday, August 30, 2008

At the Zoo

Last Wednesday I hung out with a friend's ten year old son, and I took us both to the Beardsley Zoo. It's a small place, but well kept, and although some of the enclosures for the animals aren't as large as I would like them to be, the animals seem well cared for. We saw wolves, prairie dogs, bison, a condor, river otters, Andean bears, tigers, lynx, peacocks and other birds. I loved seeing the critters, and N. kept saying, "This is a fun day." We had zoo junk food, and rode the carousel together, and cruised the gift shop. It was perfect early fall weather (even though it's still August!).

Thursday I took my car in to have the few scratches on the bumper repaired after I rear ended that Lexus. The auto body shop was fairly close by, and it was the nicest place of its kind I'd ever been in. A "concierge" auto body shop. There were reps from Geico (mine) and Travelers insurance right there, a rental car waiting, and unbelievably gracious service. Kind of amazing. Got the car yesterday afternoon, and they had washed the car on top of it. Even got a call from Enterprise asking if the rental car was ok (a 2009 Malibu; talk about bad visibility!).

Was watching "The Grizzly Man Diaries" on Animal Planet last night, you know, that nutcase Timothy Treadwell. I was completely captivated. Before he and his girlfriend were eaten by the bears a few years ago, Treadwell had compiled tons of film footage and still photography that is astonishing and compelling. Although widely criticized for his methods (as was Steve Irwin and others), I was amazed at his apparent communication with the bears, and the information he uncovered during his years in Alaska.

Saw the Robs for a bit today. Cooked them some squash from my garden, with mushrooms, garlic, and tomatoes. They were pleased. Going to the beach tomorrow with a few folks. The water in Long Island Sound never got warm enough for me this year; I miss the ocean from my trip to Naples in March. Perfect temp.

Saw my primary care doc this week, and all my lab numbers were "beautiful," thanks to this cancer "diet." Blood sugar levels way down, since I'm not eating sugar, since I CAN'T TASTE IT! Have lost twenty pounds since May. Cholesterol is good. I remember my friend D. saying, when his mother had cancer and lost weight, that he and his brother wanted to get her a t-shirt for laughs that said, "Cancer is slimming." They didn't. Good move.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Major Downer

Thought today was gonna be my last day of radiation treatment. I brought flowers for every one, one of the volunteers gave me a "hug" shawl which they give to people on their last day of treatment. Then I go into the treatment room and say to Tom, "It's my last day!" He says, "No, it's not." "Yeah," I said, "that's what the doctor said last week." He said, "Seriously, she wants to do more." I burst into tears, and when I talked with the doctor later, she said indeed, she wanted five more treatments on just my tongue. Since the clear margins from the surgery tumors were so narrow, she would feel better giving me this boost, but was willing to let me heal some this week, and start those five next Tuesday. I am extremely disappointed, not to mention in pain, so I got some Tylenol with codeine liquid from her, went to see my therapist, went back to pick up my cane at the natural foods store where I had left it earlier, then filled the script, and am now home. My voice mail had a message from Geico about the car accident so I had to call them and deal with that. I'm not a happy camper.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


So Bindi and I were over at K.'s for a playdate with Momo, and on the way home I decided to take the turnpike. As I pulled onto the entrance ramp, I saw that there was intense traffic, and cars coming from the other entry to the entrance ramp were back to back trying to get into the flow of traffic. I waited quite a while until I could find a gap in the long line of cars and stepped on the gas. Bang! I hit the car in front of me. And it wasn't an old Nissan or even a newish Ford. IT WAS A LEXUS! Aaarrgghhh. They pulled over, I pulled over, I got out, apologized profusely, and saw that there appeared to be minor damage to the bumper of their car. I said to the guy, "What do you need from me?" He said, "I need to have this paid for." His girlfriend was already calling the police, even tho, really, there was minor damage. My new front bumper was scraped as well. In those kind of situations you don't want the bangee to get too annoyed, so I said, let me go to my car and get my insurance, registration, etc. He said ok, and we proceeded to wait for a cop. We waited. And waited. And waited some more. I was still in my car, and the guy and his girlfriend came over, and we began to make smalltalk. They were pretty cool about it all cause I was being so cooperative and submissive, and we traded addresses, phone numbers, insurance info. Turns out his last name was Arcangel. Huh. Ok, GAs, watching out for me again. We waited some more, talked about dogs and cars and geography, and they decided to call their insurance company to see if a police report was really needed. The company said no. So we both decided to go on our ways, and just then a state trooper pulls up, so he told us to pull off at the next exit to take care of this. Probably 45 minutes had gone by so far. He took the report, asked me if I knew it was my fault cause it was a rearend bang, I said yes. Then he gave me a verbal warning for following too close, and didn't even notice that the address on my license was WAY out of date. More cordial chit chat with the bangees, and then we were off. I haven't had an accident in probably 20 years, but I drive a car less than a month old, and this happens. Oh well. It could have been much much worse. Arcangel. Go figure.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Two More Days

Monday is my last radiation treatment. That's a good thing, but healing from this barbaric treatment will take a while. My mouth/tongue are very sore, and I can't taste anything at all. Muchly fatigued. Mouth should get better in 1-2 weeks, tastebuds back not for three months. Another fresh hell. I'll miss peach season and most of apple season.

Have been doing lots of weeding in my community garden after the weeks of rain. I've got a volunteer patty pan squash that is just starting to put out fruit. My big beigy apricoty dahlias are blooming, really impressive. Still waiting for the tuberose to send up flowers. Bought myself a glass gazing globe on sale today, to put atop my Three Graces garden sculpture which now has a bowl of petunias resting on their heads. They need something for the winter. My canna are very dramatic in my hosue garden, so tall with big leaves and then the red flower flame.

Last Sunday I visited some university colleagues and their kids and dogs. That was a lot of fun, esp. the kids and dogs. Gaia, a big black lab, and Henry, a small black and white Boston terrier, three little girls and a boy, and my friend J. who is pregnant with twin girls. A. told me that women's studies has never been so disorganized and she doesn't even understand why it is still being funded. Well, that's what they get for pushing me out.

P. from London is visiting in September, but not staying with me. It will be good to see him, albeit briefly.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Photo of niece R. and my old car.

Went to the cancer support group again last night. I asked the group if those who have/have had oral cancers had found ways to deal with the dry mouth, the deteriorated tastebuds, the sore throat from the radiation treatments. A couple of people went off about losing their teeth because of the effects of the radiation, how it messes up the gums, and weakens the jaw bone. I freaked out. My oncologist never told me this. Of course I cried. Everything makes me cry. Afterwards the PA who was one of the facilitators took me aside and said that losing teeth is not the case for everyone, and that one person's cancer/treatment is very unique to everyone elses. She tried to assure me that this probably wouldn't happen to me. Still. I've been twice to the group, and the first time made me feel awful finding out that cancer is a "chronic illness," and that I will not in fact be "cured." I told this to one of the radiologists this morning, and she said, don't go back to the group. You don't need to get that kind of information that makes you feel so awful. I think I will take her advice. It's true, many of the people in the group have "worse" cancers than I, but I feel like I'm getting way more information than I can handle right now.

I was newly angered that I never heard from the Yale cancer docs whom I went to for a second opinion. They never got back to me. So I came home last night and wrote an email to the directors of the Yale cancer center with my complaint, and sure enough, I got a call from both those docs this evening. Head of the medical oncology unit, and the head of the ENT department. The former apologized (one tiny point for him), and the latter said that they might not have done surgery, but might have done "seed" placement of radiation, followed by the conventional radiation treatments. I was glad they got back to me, but why oh why do I have to get all worked up and write forceful emails before I get a response from the various bureaucracies I am dealing with? Lesson to all reading this: do not hesitate to track down the people who are supposed to be responding to you, but don't, and let them have it. The squeaky wheel gets the grease is a cliche for a reason.

I also called my dentist who, when I told him I had tongue cancer, said, "Oy." Again, I apparently was supposed to have had a check up with him before the radiation treatments began, but my oncologist didn't tell me that either. I need to know why she was not concerned about my teeth, but she is away this week.

I scored a couple of nice things in bulk trash today. The best is a retro turquoise hutch that, with the help of two guys hanging about on the street whom I paid, got the heavy piece into my Forester. I now have some new scratches in the cargo area of the car, but oh well. Has to be initiated sometime.

Got snail mail from MP in Romania today!! Made me happy to hear from her that way.

Gas prices are down to $3.89, which is good. Just confirms that gas prices are completely manipulated.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pool and Homeopathy

Saturday I went to a pool party (in-ground, not sticks), and had the best time playing beachball in the water with four other women. We drew quite the crowd, and I had fun! I had fun! It was kind of like volleyball without the net. Was even able to eat some of the food at the potluck, but my tastebuds for sweets are pretty much gone now. Just today I learned that it can take several MONTHS for the tastebuds to regenerate themselves, which is not good news. It's hard to have an appetite when I can't taste much of anything.

Had a long interview with a colleague of my naturopath, a "constitutional homeopathy" assessment. I told my life story and she asked specific questions about feelings, dreams, etc. in order to choose the right homeopathic remedy for me. Will pick it up on Wednesday. If it works, it should help shift my mood to something more positive.

Weather still unseasonably cool, with quite a bit of rain, but I'm not complaining. August is usually stifling hot and humid here, so this climate change, while disturbing in the big picture, on the microlevel is welcome.

Took a very long nap today. Radiation nap. I let the dog in the bed for a while.
My dear friend JK will be in town tomorrow with his partner, and I'll meet them out at the Robs. That should be very good, although a very short visit. I miss him.

Friday, August 08, 2008



Marilyn Monroe took all her sleeping pills
to bed when she was thirty-six, and Marlon Brando’s daughter
hung in the Tahitian bedroom
of her mother’s house,
while Stanley Adams shot himself in the head. Sometimes
you can look at the clouds or the trees
and they look nothing like clouds or trees or the sky or the ground.
The performance artist Kathy Change
set herself on fire while Bing Crosby’s sons shot themselves
out of the music industry forever.
I sometimes wonder about the inner lives of polar bears. The French
philosopher Gilles Deleuze jumped
from an apartment window into the world
and then out of it. Peg Entwistle, an actress with no lead
roles, leaped off the “H” in the HOLLYWOOD sign
when everything looked black and white
and David O. Selznick was king, circa 1932. Ernest Hemingway
put a shotgun to his head in Ketchum, Idaho
while his granddaughter, a model and actress, climbed the family tree
and overdosed on phenobarbital. My brother opened
thirteen fentanyl patches and stuck them on his body
until it wasn’t his body anymore. I like
the way geese sound above the river. I like
the little soaps you find in hotel bathrooms because they’re beautiful.

Sarah Kane hanged herself, Harold Pinter
brought her roses when she was still alive,
and Louis Lingg, the German anarchist, lit a cap of dynamite
in his own mouth
though it took six hours for him
to die, 1887. Ludwig II of Bavaria drowned
and so did Hart Crane, John Berryman, and Virginia Woolf. If you are
travelling, you should always bring a book to read, especially
on a train. Andrew Martinez, the nude activist, died
in prison, naked, a bag
around his head, while in 1815 the Polish aristocrat and writer
Jan Potocki shot himself with a silver bullet.
Sara Teasdale swallowed a bottle of blues
after drawing a hot bath,
in which dozens of Roman senators opened their veins beneath the water.
Larry Walters became famous
for flying in a Sears patio chair and forty-five helium-filled
weather balloons. He reached an altitude of 16,000 feet
and then he landed. He was a man who flew.
He shot himself in the heart. In the morning I get out of bed, I brush
my teeth, I wash my face, I get dressed in the clothes I like best.
I want to be good to myself.

by Matthew Dickman
August 11, 2008
The New Yorker

Don't be concerned, friends and family, I'm not suicidal. I just read this poem yesterday and found it moving and hopeful. I went to a cancer support group on Wednesday night, and found it interesting and calming to be in a room of people who "get it." There were several people there who are caregivers for people with cancer, though they don't have cancer themselves. One notion that disturbed me was this: I asked the group if after my treatment, which I was told would be a "cure," I could forget about the cancer. They all said no. Cancer is now seen as a chronic illness, and the shadow is always there once you have it. Which is not to say it isn't important to be positive and that the cancer may neve come back, but they referred to cancer as a/your shadow that is always in the background, which sometimes comes back into the foreground.

My shrink upped my meds again. What a chemical soup I am.

Photo of my tulips from the spring.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Gee, What Do You Do With Your Time?

Went to bed last night around 10. Woke up around 1.30am and was up till about 4. Got up at 8.00am, showered, let the dog out, fed the cats. Went to the bank, then to radiation treatment. Talked with the oncologist, then the social worker, who said I should call the American Cancer Society to get hooked up with a "mentor," a cancer survivor who has had the same type of cancer I have. Then went to see my counselor, who massaged my feet while we talked. So depressed, so isolated, so desolate. Then went to the natural foods store to get a smoothie. Their blender was still broken, and hadn't been sent out yet to be fixed. I said, "Go out to Target and spent $39 on a backup emergency blender. Tell the boss a customer said to do that." How hard is it to get a working blender?!?!?!?! So I bought some gazpacho, which I didn't want, but was something I could get down. Went to K's, we shared the gazpacho, and then I said I had to lay down. Momo came up on the sofa with me and we napped for a while, and K went outside to the porch and nap. Then I went to the naturopath, and we talked about treatments for the radiation symptoms. I met her new colleague who will work with me on homeopathic remedies for my unrelenting depression. I told her, no one but my counselor gets the full impact of everything I am dealing with, so if I work with you, don't ask me how I am doing. Assume I am not doing well until you hear otherwise. Stopped for ice cream, and bought some mushy things at the supermarket to eat. Bought lemon ice, but my taste buds are so compromised, it tasted awful. Came home, walked the dog, fed the cats, watched an episode of "House," ate some chicken with rice soup, blogged this. Now to bed to get up and do most of it all again.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Monday Monday

Camilla wanted to go outside this morning, but wanted back inside after 5 minutes. I think she doesn't like the smell of Little Dude, the black and white cat who lives behind me, as he comes around the house often. She pooed under the bed; I guess she needs the full pill of xanax, not a half as I have been giving her. Poor thing. We're both nervous wrecks.

Went to bed at 7.45 last night. The radiation and depression are taking their toll. Woke up at 1.30am, got up, made some pasta which was really hard to eat but I did it anyway, and now have an unsettled stomach this morning from that middle of the night binge. My mouth hurts. While I was up, I watched most of a movie on tv called "The Boys of Brazil," with Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier, James Mason and others. I'd never heard of it. Made in the 70s I think. Peck's character, Josef Mengele, had devised a way of cloning the saved body tissues of Adolf Hitler. He had set up an elaborate system whereby he placed these clones with couples that were similar in age and circumstance to Hitler's own parents. Olivier plays a Jew trying to track down Mengele. It was completely creepy, but so well acted. Shout out to niece E: I think you would like this one. Actually, maybe watching that movie is why I feel slightly ill this morning. It had a fight scene between Olivier and Peck and four dobermans that was positively sickening. No wonder it was on at 1.30 in the morning.

Yesterday's weather was autumn-like. Warm in the sun, cool and breezy later in the day, no humidity. I took Bindiana Bones to have her nails clipped, then we went to my favorite hardware store in Guilford. Got scotchguard for the car (instead of buying their $400 interior protection package), walked on the green a bit, and met a sweet family with their kangal puppy. Don't think I had ever met that breed before (see photo). Tried to call all my friends in the area for a visit, but none was available. Bought myself a chocolate milkshake, but only drank half of it. All I can really tolerate is applesauce and yogurt.

Got an email from an old boyfriend of mine from the 70s who said he was going thru some old papers and found a couple of poems he had written then, and that he wanted to send them to me. I said sure. Wonder.

Saturday I took Bindiana to the dog park for the monthly chihuahua meetup gathering. It was kind of fun, but that group of people is so reserved. If I didn't talk to any of them, I don't think any of them would talk to me. There were a couple of new people with little chi's, and I tried to make them feel welcome. I had met K. there with Momo, and it seemed they absolutely ignored her and her beagle. She took Momo off to play with the bigger dogs. That's what I mean about the northeast. People are so reserved and closed it hurts, esp. when you are a person who likes some lively social interaction like I do at times. Since I don't go to an office anymore and am not on a campus where there is a context for relating to people, I am much more accutely aware of this phenomenon, and I DO NOT LIKE IT!
I miss the illusion of family I had working on the university corridor, but alas, it was only an illusion. Only a couple of people from there seem to give a crap about how I am doing. Perhaps not so different from many blood families . . .

K. and I left and took the dogs to the Redwood flea market not too far from my house. Even the people there, when I would say hello, would pretty much ignore me. Something is terribly terribly wrong. I said in a loud voice to K, "What is the matter with these people?! I can't wait to get out of the northeast!" She gets it.
I bought three cotton bandanas for a buck each. We then went our separate ways home, and I went out for lemon ice. That I could tolerate eating, and I sat with three young people on a bench and listened to their funny conversation. Younger people around here don't seem as jaded and conditioned to containment as the middle aged. The elderly are more open, too.

Friday night I met C. and D. at 116 to celebrate our new cars. They got a Saturn Astra, which was nice and fuel efficient, but so small. I do like the roominess of my Forester, esp. since I've been having such claustrophobia with all these medical procedures. They were complaining too, again, about how hard it is to find community. I do keep going on and on about this, don't I? While there, I met Addie, the owners' new doggie-do. She's a seven month old pit mix, possibly with some golden lab. Sweet sweet sweet and so pretty, with a good temperament. J. found her on, where she was set to be euthanized. She came from some other state, and he saved her. I'm sure she knows that. Was watching on Animal Planet yesterday the special called Jane Goodall: When Animals Talk, which is extraordinarily fascinating. We are only at the tip of the iceberg concerning animal communication but what has been discovered so far is delicious.