That which doesn't kill us merely postpones the inevitable.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
It's Boyfriend Thursday!
So now Superman has decided that Dolly is the Queen of Louisiana and he's going to follow her everywhere she goes and do whatever she does. Dolly has a little bed beneath my desk where she sleeps while I'm working. So guess who decided HE has to sleep under my desk all day TOO? And guess who is now trying to type this with her legs twisted and feet squished way off to one side because there's not one single iota of floor space for me to put them?
Big ol' Doofus!
Guarding his Queen
Waiting for the burglars
Down, stay at a distance. Good boy!
Napping with the girls
The Prince on his throne
And à propos of nothing else, here's some Cajun Hibiscus blooming in the window box just outside the clawfoot tub. Life is good!
Big News: Today I went to the barber and had my hair cut. This was my first real post-chemo haircut, other than that very light trim over the ears I did myself a month or so ago.
Don't get me wrong, I love my hair dearly, and I'm just so glad to have it back, I will never complain about it. But honestly, I was so #@*%! frustrated with it because it was growing in too thick and fluffy, too puffy and wooly, exactly like the texture of an elderly sheep. I would have been ecstatic if it looked like Malcolm Gladwell, but it was looking a whole lot more like Phil Specter. Or like one of those prim pouffy old lady perms. I tried fooling around with various spiking gels and waxes and curl products, but nothing had any damn effect on it whatsoever. It was never going to look even remotely hip.
So I finally gave up and went to Cynthia the barber. Here's what she did:
In other Very Exciting News: I FINALLY got an appointment to have my hideous port removed! I report to the surgery clinic on the morning of July 3rd. Then I'll rush out and celebrate my brand new independence with fireworks. Unless my head explodes with happiness first.
You know, I was talking to a friend on the phone this morning. We chatted a good while, and then right before we hung up he said, "Oh by the way, how's your health?" And I sat there for an instant drawing a blank. Health? Huh? And then: Oh. Right. That. Shit, I had forgotten all about it! I guess that's a pretty good sign, don't you think?
This is a difficult post for me, but it's something I've been needing to get off my chest.
Yesterday when I was describing my harrowing experiences in the ER waiting room at Our Lady of the Damned last summer, I found myself starting to write the following sentence: "I've been in pain, terrified, alone, crying, unable to breathe..." And then I stopped, and went back, and deleted the word alone. Because technically, I wasn't alone. There was somebody waiting at the hospital with me: the man who claimed to love me, the man who claimed he wanted to marry me and spend the rest of his life with me. And yet, when I look back, my predominant memory of those long miserable nightmarish waits for medical help are of being starkly, surpassingly, heartbreakingly alone.
He was there, but at the same time he wasn't. During those waits, he was almost always completely absorbed in his own resentment, angry, furious, bursting at the seams with rage. He was ostensibly mad at "the system," but ultimately he took it out on me, and blamed me for everything that was going wrong.
During those long tense waits, while I gasped for breath and braced myself to fight what doctors then suspected was advanced and probably terminal lung cancer, he never once smiled or reached over and held my hand, or offered kind words of comfort and encouragement. He never showed any empathy or compassion for me or my fears. He just sat and fumed and glowered, grumbled and stewed. Occasionally he would snap at me in annoyance, then retreat back into cold distant silence, reading his book or wandering off in search of a vending machine. When we were finally back in the privacy of home after 12 horror-filled hours, he would explode in a cold icy fury, storming around, seething with blame, yelling at me and threatening to leave me until I was lying on the floor sobbing, with no more will to go on living.
"You're so lucky to have him," people would say. "Not many men stand by their women in times of grave life-threatening illness like he is. It's probably just the Prednisone that's making you so moody and unstable. Maybe you should see a therapist. You know, it's actually harder for the caretaker to go through a situation like this than it is for the patient."
Lord help me Jeezis, I felt like I was losing my fucking mind.
But you know what? I could have saved myself a bundle in therapy bills if only somebody had given me a copy of Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by world-renowned authority on domestic violence and abuse Lundy Bancroft. Damn, I wish I'd known about this book a year ago. Or better yet, three years ago. Or hell, thirty years ago! It sure would have saved me a lot of grief.
So wait, sure there were some bad moments, but there were also good times, plenty of them. So, I mean, abuse? Was this really an abusive relationship, you ask? That's an awfully loaded word.
It is. And you know, I had always prided myself in believing I would never stay ten minutes in an abusive relationship. Not me. I would not put up with anyone who ever laid a hand on me, or called me a bitch to my face, or anything like that. But what I learned from this book is that abuse can take many subtle insidious forms. It's not just about hitting or name-calling.
According to Bancroft:
I have chosen to use the term abusers to refer to men who use a wide range of controlling, devaluing, or intimidating behavior. In some cases I am talking about physical batterers and at other times about men who use or insult their partners but never frighten or intimidate them. Some of the men I describe in the pages ahead change moods so drastically and so often that a woman could never feel sure what they are like, much less attach a label. Your partner may be arrogant, or may play mind games, or may act selfishly over and over again, but his better aspects may make you feel that he is miles away from being an "abuser." Please don't let my language put you off. I have simply chosen the word abuser as a shorthand way of saying "men who chronically make their partners feel mistreated or devalued."
But how could I have been so blind as to not realize I was being subjected to abuse? Read on:
One of the obstacles to recognizing chronic mistreatment in relationships is that most abusive men simply don't seem like abusers. They have many good qualities, including times of kindness, warmth, and humor, especially in the early days of the relationship. An abuser's friends may think the world of him....So when a woman feels her relationship spinning out of control, it is unlikely to occur to her that her partner is an abuser.
Most abusive men put on a charming face for their communities, creating a sharp split between their public image and their private treatment of women...They are drawn to power and control and part of how they get it is by looking good in public.
So how can I know it was abuse?
The symptoms of abuse are there, and the woman usually sees them: The escalating frequency of put-downs. Early generosity turning more and more to selfishness. Verbal explosions when he is irritated or when he doesn't get his way. Her grievances constantly turned around on her, so that everything is her own fault. His growing attitude that he knows what is good for her better than she does...
At times he is aggressive and intimidating, his tone harsh, insults spewing from his mouth, ridicule dripping from him like oil from a drum. When he's in this mode, nothing she says seems to have any impact on him, except to make him even angrier. Her side of the argument counts for nothing in his eyes, and everything is her fault. He twists her words around so that she always ends up on the defensive....
But he would never call it abuse! In fact, he often denied all the cruel things he'd said and done. According to Bancroft:
The partners ask me: "After an incident, it seems like he really believes the abuse didn't happen. Is he consciously lying?" The answer in most cases is yes. Most abusers do not have severe memory problems. He denies his actions to close off discussion because he doesn't want to answer for what he did., and perhaps he even wants you to feel frustrated and crazy.
He'll speak to you with his voice trembling with anger, or he'll blame a difficulty on you, or he'll sulk for two hours, and then deny it to your face. You know what he did--and so does he--but he refuses to admit it, which can drive you crazy with frustration. Then he may call you irrational for getting so upset by his denial.
Abusive men present their own stories with tremendous denial, minimization, and distortion of the history of their behaviors.
An abuser almost never does anything that he himself considers morally unacceptable. He may hide what he does because he thinks other people would disagree with it, but he feels justified inside...In short, an abuser's core problem is that he has a distorted sense of right and wrong. The abuser's problem lies above all in his belief that controlling or abusing his female partner is justifiable.
Bancroft describes different types of abusers, and several of these punched me right in the solar plexus, they were so accurate:
Mr. Right considers himself the ultimate authority on every subject under the sun: you might call him "Mr. Always Right." He speaks with absolute certainty, brushing your opinions aside like gnats. When Mr. Right decides to take control of a conversation, he switches into his Voice of Truth, giving the definitive pronouncement on what is the correct answer or the proper outlook. Abuse counselors call this tactic defining reality.
The Water Torturer tends to stay calm in arguments using his own evenness as a weapon to push her over the edge. He often has a superior or contemptuous look on his face, smug and self-assured...like Mr. Right, he tends to take things she has said and twist them beyond recognition to make her appear absurd. He gets to his partner through a slow but steady stream of low-level emotional insults. She may end up yelling in frustration, leaving the room crying, or sinking into silence. The Water Torturer then says, "See, you're the abusive one, not me. You're the one who's yelling and refusing to talk things out rationally. I wasn't even raising my voice." The psychological effects of living with the Water Torturer can be severe.
The Player is good looking and often sexy. In the early part of the relationship he seems head over heels in love and wants to spend as much time in bed as possible ...As the relationship progresses, he may start to go for long periods giving his partner next to no attention and barely speaking to her, so she feels shelved.
Rambo is aggressive with everybody. He gets a thrill out of the sensation of intimidating people and strives to handle life situations by subtly or overtly creating fear. He has an exaggerated stereotypical view of what a man is supposed to be, which goes hand in hand with seeing women as delicate, inferior, and in need of protection.
Ok, so maybe he was abusive. But he kept telling me how much he loved me! Uh-huh. Bancroft has this say:
The reality is that abuse is the opposite of love. He may feel a powerful desire to receive your love and caretaking, but he only wants to give love when (and how) it's convenient for him.
When an abusive man feels the powerful stirring inside that other people call love, he is probably largely feeling:
The desire to have you devote your life to keeping him happy with no outside interference.
The desire to have sexual access.
The desire to impress others by having you be his partner.
The desire to possess and control you.
But a few days or weeks after his outbursts, he would apologize. Doesn't this prove he was truly sorry? Bancroft counters:
The good news is that remorse is often genuine; the bad news is that it rarely helps. Abusers have numerous contradictory attitudes and beliefs operating simultaneously in their minds. When a man feels sorry for his abusive behavior, his regrets collide with his entitlement.
His remorse is not primarily focused on the way his verbal assault wounded his partner. What he feels bad about mostly is: (1) He damaged his image in other people's eyes; (2) he offended his own sense of how he would like to be; and (3) he feels he should be able to control his partner without resorting to abuse... In a day or two his guilt is vanquished, driven out by his internal excuse-making skills. The effects of the incident last much longer for the abused woman, of course, and pretty soon the abuser may be snapping at her: "What, aren't you over that yet? Don't dwell on it, for crying out loud." His attitude is, "I'm over it, so why isn't she?"
Is there no hope whatsoever? Can men like this ever change? Bancroft isn't optimistic:
My fifteen years of working day in and day out with abusive men have left me certain of one thing: There are no shortcuts to change, no magical overnight transformations, no easy ways out. Change is difficult, uncomfortable work. The majority of abusive men do not make deep and lasting changes even in a high-quality abuser program. An abuser who does not relinquish his core entitlements will not remain non-abusive.
Bancroft lists a series of conditions that an abuser must meet in order to genuinely change, but I'm certainly not holding my breath. The main epiphany I got from this book was not hope that a man can mend his evil ways, but rather a huge sweeping sense of relief and freedom, from knowing that it wasn't all my fault and that I'm not crazy after all. It's such a liberating relief to finally have a name for what was going on, and a Witness who understands what I went through. I almost wondered if Bancroft had maybe gotten some kind of grant to follow me around throughout my cancer treatment, some of his examples were so eerily close to home.
Anyway, I am so much happier now that the abuser is completely out of my life. I feel lighter, freer, more relaxed, and I have so much more energy. Do you have any idea how draining and exhausting it was to be constantly contending with that nonstop stream of arrogance, criticism, control, contempt, denial, dismissiveness, defensiveness, deception, entitlement, grandiosity, hurtfulness, irritability, judgment, manipulation, narcissism, superiority, ...well, the list goes on. But I think Bancroft sums it up best with one word: devaluation. I've finally been able to shake off that deadening sense of being continually devalued.
Abuse is inexcusable under any circumstances, but may I just go on the record right now as saying that I sincerely hope there's a very special hot spot in hell for anyone who abuses, hurts, or devalues a person going through cancer treatment? Thank you.
I've spent way too many miserable hours in the filthy, overcrowded, understaffed, confusing, and heartlessly indifferent waiting room at Our Lady of the Damned. I've been in pain, terrified, crying, unable to breathe, carrying chest x-rays and CT scans that showed a huge malignant mass pressing against my lungs and heart, squeezing my superior vena cava and cutting off my circulation, causing my face to swell and turn blue.
This is technically, in every possible sense of the word, a bona fide hair-on-fire Medical Emergency. And yet I've sat in that damn waiting room like that for eight or nine or even ten hours. More than once. I've sat there totally forgotten, my charts lost or inaccessible, waiting all night to see a new inexperienced incompetent sleep-deprived resident who barely speaks English and doesn't have a clue how to treat me and finally fucks up by sending me off into the dawn with an incorrectly written, unfillable prescription so the whole long wait was for naught. And I've watched the other people around me go through similar horrors. Let me assure you, it's the total shits. As bad as it gets.
So as a result of what I've been through myself and witnessed others going through in the brutal arena of a public hospital ER, the recent story in the news about the woman who died on the ER floor of a Los Angeles public hospital while indifferent medical staff stepped over her body and a janitor mopped the blood that was pooling around her does not shock me at all. But it does scare the living crap out of me. Because I've come much too close for comfort to being in this situation myself and may do so again, but also because every fucking time something like this happens, there are inevitably threats to shut down the entire public hospital system. And then where the hell would poor and uninsured people like me go?
The shocking audiotape of the 911 call suggests the dispatcher had no idea what to do when she received a call last month from the boyfriend of Edith Isabel Rodriguez. As he pleaded with the dispatcher to send paramedics to her aid, Rodriguez lay on the floor, in pain, throwing up blood. The dispatcher was flummoxed, though, because the policy of "take the patient to the closest hospital" didn't apply. Rodriguez was already in the emergency room lobby of Los Angeles' inner city Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital.
Shortly after another bystander made a second futile 911 call imploring paramedics to take Rodriguez to another hospital, she died of a perforated bowel. A security videotape, still unreleased to the public, is said to show her writhing on the hospital floor unattended for 45 minutes. At one point, the tape reportedly shows a janitor going about his business mopping the floor around her.
Unfortunately, there are no simple solutions to tragedies such as that of Edith Isabel Rodriguez. When the facts emerge her death likely will be due to a combination of administrative incompetence, medical and nursing negligence, bureaucratic indifference and emergency room overcrowding. The last is a particularly vexing problem across the country. Emergency room overcrowding is usually a result of a dysfunctional primary care system, a problem not unique to Los Angeles. Too many people forced to visit the emergency room for primary care renders the emergency room not only inconvenient, but occasionally dangerous. It may be worse in the public sector, but patients often have to wait a long time in fancy private emergency rooms too.
Without a fundamental restructuring of primary care, emergency rooms will continue to serve as the clinic of last resort, a situation that benefits no one. As a result of the Rodriguez case, King-Harbor is in for rigorous scrutiny. Federal officials have concluded that King-Harbor's emergency room patients are in "immediate jeopardy" and threatened to withhold funds from the hospital until reforms are instituted. Because of past problems, there is even a chance the hospital may close. If so, it will be another nail in the coffin of the American public hospital system that for decades represented the best and worst of our society. The best because it took care of those the system otherwise ignored. The worst because of the incompetence and indifference that cost the lives of Edith Isabel Rodriguez and others like her.
I've looked into the eyes of indifferent bureaucrats and hostile politicians, and I've seen how little my life is worth. Stories like this one confirm it.
Hey! I've been adding some new stuff to my Deep Inferno Trading Post, and I just thought I'd send y'all a heads up about some of my faves that you might like to check out.
If you're one of those people whose moods are highly sensitive to your surroundings, if you're more interested in expressing your True Self than putting on a show to impress other people, and if looking at my irreverently demented home decor didn't drive you to jab icepicks through your corneas, then you might enjoy My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living by the exuberant potter and designer Jonathan Adler.
"My hope is to give you, cher readeur, a transfusion of joy, abandon, and creativity in decorating your home. Adulthood can make you too serious. Modern technology can burn you out. Daily routines can make you give up on your dreams of grandeur. There are remedies for these ailments, and the remedies are at your fingertips, with the help of Moi, some courage, and pluck. Your home can be the antidote to the heartaches and traumas of everyday life.
I want you to walk in your front door every day and feel happy."
Typical anti-depressive decorating advice from Jonathan Adler:
Minimalism is a bummer: Be immoderate and be happy!
Your home should be like a good dose of Zoloft.
Just because clowns are creepy doesn't mean you shouldn't put one over your fireplace.
Colors can't clash.
Exude exuberance, be inappropriate, make mischief, liberate your inner hippie, love what you love, be true to yourself.
"When you have your picture taken, rent a white poodle and eat Froot Loops--they're more photogenic than oatmeal."
The book is filled with wonderful and wry little Adlerian anecdotes:
"Recently, Simon and I surveyed our New York pad and thought smugly, 'This apartment is a three-dimensional expression of who we are as people, and the art choices are perfect. Could we be more brilliant?' Then, as we looked around, we realized that all of the art featured funk icons or hetero soft-core porn.
Helen Keller could see that we are neither R&B musicians nor porn stars. The truth is, we are more like a couple of herbal tea-sipping grandmothers. We are blissfully content but rather vanilla. We don't drink, we're in bed by ten. Whence the art?
Your stuff (art, objets, furniture) can reflect sides of your personality that rarely see the light of day. Clearly, our idiosyncratic, if not louche, collections provide Simon and me with much-needed vicarious outlets."
But of course the blindingly gleeful photographs are the best part. I swear you can spend half a lifetime poring over this tome, and each time you'll notice delightful new details. Even if you can't afford to transform your beaten down shack by the railroad track into the majestic amusement parks of gay splendor these guys have created, you can still be inspired to dot your decor with entertaining little vignettes that make your heart break out in the Macarena every time you walk through the room. And that, in a nutshell, is the essence of Anti-Depressive Living.
Shakespeare goes to Paris in the bathroom.
Frog and turtle play chess while little Buddha ogles the boobs of Venus.
Happy alligator careens through the cookie jars in his souped up sharkmobile.
So! Here I am, all shacked up. Today was the Wait Around For the Phucking Phone Company Day. The guy was supposed to be here to install my phone lines and DSL sometime between 8 am and 5 pm, but of course it was 5:40 when I finally got hooked up. But I guess I'm lucky he came at all: we had a MAJOR deluge this afternoon that washed my rent-a-husband clean over to the next parish. So where my walkway is supposed to go is now a deep pit of water and mud. The phone guy could have taken one look and driven off into the sunset too.
Anyway, he didn't and now I have a phone, and I have the internets back! Of course the very first thing y'all have to do is see the pictures of my new house.
Let me tell you, it was quite a challenge trying to fit my stuff in here. First thing I had to do was get rid of 90% of it. Can you imagine how hard and yet how utterly liberating that is, getting rids of 90% of your stuff? Rummaging through your clothes, your shoes, your books, your CDs, your dishes, your furniture, your miscellaneous detritus, and flinging nine out of ten items over your shoulder? Gah. But I did it.
Next I had to figure out how to arrange the 10% of stuff I had left in a way that didn't feel too cluttered and cramped. Since there are zero closets or cupboards in my shack, I had to figure out ways to stash and store not only day to day stuff, but also unsightly occasional stuff like suitcases, stepladders, garden tools, the vacuum cleaner.
Anyway, yadda yadda, let's just cut to the chase. Bring on the visuals! Here you have it, my cozy new casa. Let's start with the tiny compact living room.
This is looking into the living room from the bedroom. The two rooms are adjoined by French doors that I decided to keep permanently open, to make it almost feel like one big room. This gives each room more light and a nice open feel.
Small sofa with dogs. The coffee table is a clever repository for blankets and quilts.
This corner of the living room is my office. Where I am sitting right now! The drawers of the secretary are full of stuff. Um. Whoa, that was a great sentence.
Ok, moving along. There wasn't enough room for all the chairs, so the green one volunteered to go out on the front porch, an excellent spot for early morning train watching.
Now let's venture into the bedroom, where my bed takes up over half the space. There is an entire tool shed stashed beneath it.
The weed eater, the leaf blower, two suitcases and a pet carrier are hidden beneath the tv. That white curtain on the right is a closet that I built from a kit I bought at Target. It's sort of a cross between Tinker Toys and an erector set, with instructions that have been translated from Urdu into Japanese into Swahili into Norwegian and then finally into something vaguely resembling English. But look, so far it hasn't collapsed under the weight of my hanging jacket and skirt collection. I did something right.
You've already seen the bathroom, but since the last photos my stalwart young frat boys have managed to cram an amazing assortment of furniture in there.
It's sort of like the 800 clowns stuffed into a Volkswagen at the circus. Furniture everywhere!
And finally, what you've all been waiting for...
Ta-da! The kitchen. Gee, can you guess who lives here?
The china hutch earns its keep.
I had my rent-a-husband take the door off between the kitchen and the bedroom, since there's only one air condition unit and the bed would have to block the door closed. This way, the cool air can circulate. Note the classy Three Stooges refrigerator magnets, the hub around which my entire Anti-Pottery Barn decor theme revolves.
The other end of the long narrow kitchen, which I guess we could technically call "the dining room." I need a longer tablecloth so I can hide more items beneath that table.
Decorating on a shoestring: More fun with contact paper! This must be what people did before drawers and cupboards were invented.
Ok, there you have it, all four rooms plus the porch. Sorry if that was a little too much shack overload. But you know, I'm liking it. It's going to be very livable. I've been feeling quite happy here. Now the next step is to complete the sale of the other house. If all goes well, the closing is set for 10:00 Monday morning. Fingers crossed!
Gppd mornign! It's moving day and I just wanted to tell you all that I am NOT STRESSED! I am typing this down on my knees on the floor because my desk has been cleared off for the movers (I'll take the computer over in my car later), but I AM NOT STRESSED!! I've been up since 4am running around ragged doing last minbute preparations, but IAM NO(T STRESSED!!! My back has gone out, I am lame and in pain, but I AM NOT STRESS!!!!
Oh, and get this: the City of Deep Inferno Dept. of Public Works is tearing up the damn street RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY HOUSE. The whole street is blocked off to traffic, and they've shut off the water for the enmtire neighborhood, BUT I AM NOT FUCKING STRESSED!!!!
No. This is not my problem, this street closure. The movers will deal with it. They are not only experienced professionals, they are BIG BURLY experienced professionals. They will plow their huge truck through the flimsy little road blocks, they will not be intimidated by the crew of scrawny civil servants with jkackhammers and backhoes. They will be here in ONE FUCKING HOUR (oh shit, I've got to hurry and take the dogs over to the vet where they'll be boarding for the day) and they WILL MOVE MY FUCKING STUFF.
No stress. Nope. I'ts a totally stress-free day here in teh land of second chances. Everything is going towork out just fine. Right? RIGHT???? Yeah, righht.
Bon voyage, we're off!!!
New sign on the new gate at the House Of No Stress
My apologies for being so scarce these days. I'm in the throes of crazy frenetic chaotic running around like a mad woman moving.
The actual moving day with the Burly Boyz and their big truck is tomorrow. But I've been slowly moving a few things in myself. You know, it kind of feels like I'm having an affair with my new house: I keep thinking up excuses to go over there and just hang out. I love it over there! Tonight is my last night in this house and I should probably be feeling sad, but all I feel is frenzied with too many things to do before the van gets here, and happily eager to move on.
So look at the new place! It's starting to look like somebody actually lives there:
Check out the doorbell, it's a cast iron steam engine with an authentic train bell. I got it on eBay.
My hunky handyman (or my Rent-A-Husband as I tend to think of him) has been fencing in the back yard for the dogs, installing new locks on the doors, building me a walkway, some gates, adding new electrical outlets, and a bunch of other helpful stuff. He also happens to be one of the best zydeco dancers in the state.
Anyway, I may be offline for a few days, because BellSouth or AT&T or whoever they are this week can't come out and hook me up in the new house until Friday. Until then, you may all amuse yourselves by reading the best cancer blog ever (thanks to Corey for the pointer!). Beautiful, heart wrenching prose. And oh what I would have given to have had a partner that kind and thoughtful and perceptive and understanding throughout the whole hellish ordeal. The birthday post especially kicked me in the gut. I cried on my birthday during chemo too, it was pretty close to the worst day of my life. Go read Follow Lingling as She Gives Lymphoma a Beatdown. The world needs more of these eloquent voices that fearlessly tell the unspeakable truth.
I drove over to Baton Rouge this morning and met my new boyfriend. His foster mom brought him to the PetSmart, and I brought my little dogs so we could see how they reacted to each other.
When they first met they cautiously sniffed each other in the appropriate manner and milled around a little checking things out. As soon as they were convinced that nothing was untoward, they quickly lost interest in each other. The foster mom and I stood in the Kong ailse and talked and observed, and pretty soon a small crowd had gathered around. Women were emitting high-pitched coos at the cute little doglets, imagining how fancy they'd look riding around in an Hermes bag, while men were admiring the big guy with intese and overt testosterone envy, as if he were some big expensive penis extension they'd be proud to wag around the streets of their hood.
All three dogs exhibited excellent social skills and tactful restraint, politely ignoring the embarrassing onlookers. We watched as a few other dogs approached the big guy, including a tiny 3-week old Jack Russell that definitely should NOT be out in public since she was too young for her Parvo shots. Arg. But it was helpful because she tried to clamber all over the big man's ankles, which had to be annoying, and he just looked the other way. Good boy! I was totally impressed with his tolerant manners.
So we all passed our tests with flying colors, and I'll be bringing him home the week of the 17th, once I'm all settled into the shack and have the fence secured. Yay!!!
His name is Superman. Here he is being a perfect gentleman, ignoring the ditzy little rug rats with that typical Doberman aloof dignity. He spent Katrina all alone, chained up to a basketball goal in the 9th Ward. After the storm was over but before the levees broke, some kind neighbors untied him and took him with them when they evacuated to safety in Alabama. His original owners were fianlly located, but they no longer wanted him. So Superman ended up with the Doberman rescue group, waiting for me to come fall in love him.
Yes, of course I wore black pants, and yes, of course he leaned against me like Dobies do when they like somebody. Tip of the day: Rush out immediately and buy shares in the Pet Hair Pic-Up Adhesive Roller Company; over the next few weeks, their stock is guaranteed to soar.
Shmookums! My boyfriend! From now on, just call me Lois Lane.
So I spent the morning over at Our Lady of the Damned today, my first appointment at the oncology clinic since early February. This was just a routine follow-up thing, the kind that cancer patients with private health insurance do every two or three months. Over at Damned General, they only manage to squeeze us in every six months. Whether we're still alive or not.
What a flashback! Ah, that old familiar three hour wait in the crowded room full of people coughing up their lungs. I opted to wait outside in the hot midday sun when I overheard the guy next to me tell somebody on his cell phone that they're testing him for TB.
When they finally called my name, I was happy to see that they'd assigned me to my favorite resident, the really smart one who actually sits down and talks to me and listens to me, who remembers my name and laughs at my jokes. He walked in the room and stopped dead in his tracks, and just stood there gaping at my new blonde hair and my big healthy smile. Speechless! And then he burst into this huge grin and just shook his head back and forth in wonder. And then for the longest time, all he could manage to say was, "WOW."
Shit, I think the last time a guy looked at me like that was when Michael O'Brady picked me up for the junior prom in 1971 and I was wearing that dress that almost got me kicked out of school.
Anyway. We he was finally coherent, we had a talk about maintenance Rituxan. He said I was supposed to start it next week, but I reached in my purse and whipped out a sheaf of recent studies published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology indicating that maintenance Rituxan provides no benefit after R-CHOP in patients with high-grade lymphoma. No benefit, and there are potentially gnarly side effects.
He gave me the same look the guys at the gym used to give me whenever I bench pressed two Volkswagens, one in each hand, and said, "Ooohh-kay. Let me go talk to my boss." And when he came back a minute later he stuck a gold star on my forehead and wryly told me I got an A+ in advanced oncology for the semester. "Aw shucks," I said modestly. "I only have ONE disease to learn about. Y'all have millions."
Then he announced I will have my second post-chemo CT scan in August (private insurance patients have PET scans at least every three months but oh well). I spent another three minutes listing sound medical reasons, complete with references and footnotes, why I should have my hideous port taken out asap, because it turns out that only an oncologist can approve port removal. The cute surgeon who approved it in May didn't seem to know that.
And then we said good-bye, the nice young resident and I. "I'll probably never see you again," he said, "because like you, I'm graduating and moving on." So we shook hands and congratulated each other and wished each other long bright shiny futures. As he was walking out he suddenly stopped and turned around and smiled at me. "You know," he said, "this line of work can be incredibly depressing and discouraging sometimes. But when I walk in here and see how you look today, compared to how you looked a few months ago, that's the big payoff. It makes everything worth it."
So I left beaming, feeling all squishy and sappy inside, though also slightly guilty when I passed the sad sick chemo people waiting in line in the hall. It felt unseemly to be beaming that hard in front of them, because I remember so well what it was like to be them. Anyway, I know this was just an eyeball assessment, and the real test of how healthy I am will be the CT scan in August. But still. I think I made his day, and he sure as hell made mine. Whatever shows up in August, I feel good today, and I feel happy. And maybe, just maybe, if my young man is true to his word, I'm finally going to have this hideous fucking @#$!*&$ port taken out, SOON.
The author decked out in her snazzy prom attire du jour.
A single woman in my fifties, in debt, no income, no health insurance, and then that grapefruit-sized tumor wedged between my lungs turns out to be a malignant high-grade highly aggressive stage IV lymphoma. How much worse can it get? Bwahahaha! Stay tuned and find out.