Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Amusing Searches: The Boolean Logic Edition*

ted nugent + biltong

naked and "circus pics"

cta flasher or exhibitionist or wanker or masturbator or pervert

*Boolean logic. Search engine queries.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday Music: Les Irresistibles

Four boys in mod attire + three zippy euro sports cars + smokin' Farfisa organ solo = inert film-making. The director must have been inexperienced/bored/depressed...there has to be an explanation. Les Irrestibles were American expats living in Paris, and this was on the top of the charts in 1968.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Radiation: Week Two

The dressing room in Radiation is a busy place at 8:15, early morning being a convenient appointment time for most patients. I meet the same women every day: the youngish Lincoln Park matron with the Vuitton duffle, the petite grandmother who walks ten blocks to the hospital, and a lady of perhaps fifty who wears skin-tight spangled jeans and an extravagant long wig. It was the last woman who gave me the head's up on what to expect in the next two weeks. "What number are you on?" she asked me. I told her I was on 14, so not quite halfway through. She was getting treatment number 20, and her skin was very sore. She warned me, "Don't put any cream on before. It's like basting a turkey." She showed me the area on her chest and armpit where her radiation was targeted. Her normal color was a medium brown, but the area under her arm had been burned to nearly mahogany. My skin is starting to show a radiation burn, as well. Poor breast: scarred, dented and now broiled until it turns red...Frankenboob, I call it. I hope holding on to it was worthwhile.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday Music: Les Surfaros

Isn't France wonderful? In what other country could a group of adorable Malagasy teenagers become pop music phenoms? Well ok...maybe Japan. Anyway, enjoy the tiny, melodious Surfaros as they sing Sur Garçon, with the choreographic accompaniment of three rhythm-impaired French people.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Second Opinion

Last week, the new oncologist's nurse phoned me. "Can you come in next Thursday?" That was quick. I took it as a good omen. My husband worked from home that day so he could accompany me.

Ah, back to the good old Cancer Center. It was late afternoon, and most of the chemotherapy patients were gone for the day. The remaining patients in the waiting room looked unremarkable--perfectly healthy, actually. I guessed that many of them were waiting for regular post-treatment appointments. Outside, the snow fell in a thick curtain, blocking our view of the lake.

An oncology fellow examined me, first. She took my history and summarized the findings from the scans. "We don't see any obvious signs of metastasis in either your bone or CT scan." Tears of relief welled in my eyes. However, there were a few things which demanded closer scrutiny. The abnormalities, located in my lung, hip and uterus, were likely due to arthritis and other common, but non-lethal conditions. I was going to need further testing to eliminate any doubts.

Dr. C arrived and introduced herself. She was dressed in an attractive sweater and skirt, with black patent pumps. "I have to tell you that I'm allergic to wearing white coats. You'll never see me in one." My husband had some questions for her. "When will Elisa be cancer free?" Dr. C shook her head. "I never use the term. There is no such thing." Even with chemotherapy and radiation, she explained, there was no way to kill all of the cancer cells that may have entered my bloodstream. Therapy from now on would focus on keeping them in such small numbers that they could do no harm. After my radiation was finished, I should start taking Tamoxifen, a drug that inhibits the growth of ER+ breast cancer cells.

I think it shocks many people when they first really understand that it's impossible to "cure" cancer. Cancer will go into remission, a state where no disease is detectable, but that in itself doesn't mean that all the cells are gone. Most researchers don't hope for a cure per se; they look to a future where cancer will be manageable as a chronic disease, much the way diabetes has become.

I won't go into the rest of our visit with Dr. C, other than to say that I felt she addressed my fears with respect and candor, and yet left me with much hope. My husband asked her how she felt about my long-term prognosis. "Knowing what we do now, I am optimistic," she said, smiling.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Amusing Searches

Advertisers take note! The Fifty Foot Blogger continues to attract foot fetishists in droves, or at least I presume they're foot fetishists, based on the search logs. Among the many variations of "foot" or "feet" used as search keywords, are these two stand-outs:

uma thurman's feet

pakistani girls feet fotoes

"Hot Priests" continue to be a favorite, although "Ted Nugent" and his beef jerky biltong are closing in. A few more of my favorite searches:

cancer wig for large heads

hot stories breast milk

i have a dent in my head with hair loss on it

naked people over 40

May you all find what you're seeking.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Gambler

For the second time this week, Kenny Roger's The Gambler was playing on the intercom in the radiation lab.

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away, and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for counting when the dealing's done.

I am far from being out of the woods with this disease. The disappearance of my oncologist, Dr. G, has only increased my anxiety and depression. When I tried to get an appointment, the soonest I could be "fit in" was February 18. I had to call his nurse to ask for orders for CT and bone scans (my idea, not his). It's not clear if he's even read my surgical pathology report, but perhaps he's too busy to pick up the phone for five minutes to discuss it with me. I'd like to thank everyone who has offered advice about second opinions, including Cancer Bitch.

Yesterday, between my scans and radiation, I struggled with the blasted scheduling staff at the Cancer Center. All I wanted was the phone number of a nurse who works for another oncologist there, Dr. C. Exhausted, and sick of being transferred and then stonewalled, I began to cry. It's sad when that works, but it did. I left a (tearful) message with the nurse, asking her if I could be scheduled for a second opinion. One of the techs at the Nuclear Medicine scanning lab noticed my puffy, red eyes, and asked me what was wrong. Trying to hold back the water works, I told her about how my doctor appeared to be missing in action. Later, she slipped a piece of paper into my hand with the names of two oncologists not associated with the Cancer Center. "They're both terrific. The second one actually gives his patients his personal cell phone number." Imagine that; a doctor who actually talks to his patients.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

First Radiation Treatment

Remember when I said I get bitchy during my cancer treatment? In addition to the tattoos for radiation targets, I'm considering getting one on my forehead that says "Five Days A Week, For Six Weeks," because I have to repeat this over and over and over, sometimes to the same people. I'm getting radiation Monday-Friday for six weeks. You will be tested on this later.

Also, please don't ask me what "stage" I am. I may choose to volunteer the information, but since most laypersons don't understand staging, it's essentially just a scary number. I don't like scaring people, especially myself. Despite statistical survival averages, some Stage I cancers advance, while some Stage IV cancers go into remission. For a scientist's insight on cancer survival statistics, I suggest you read The Median Isn't the Message, by evolutionary biologist and author Stephen Jay Gould. In 1982, Gould was diagnosed with abdominal mesothelioma, a rare and, according to survival statistics, deadly cancer. He lived another 20 years, eventually succumbing to another type of cancer entirely.

Off of my cancer soapbox and back to radiation. The radiation lab is in the basement of the Womens' Hospital. A windowless and cheerless space, the environment was considerably livened by an oldies rock station. The Beatles sang "Twist and Shout" while the radiologist and two young male technicians took setup x-rays. "I'm going to try to get your sternal lymph nodes," Dr. K told me. What about lung damage? "It will just touch your lungs, but it's an acceptable margin." The arm of the radiation machine was poised over me, its glass face reflecting an image of my naked right torso bathed in green and white target beams. Once the targets were in place, the medical staff retreated to the control room. An alarm sounded, and the "Beam In Use" warning light on the wall flashed red. I was now being exposed to large amounts of radiation. I felt nothing, at least physically.

Afterwards, I dressed and went in to the ladies room to put on some makeup. I started weeping, and had difficulty pulling it together. It will get easier, I know. I am constantly amazed at my adaptability, an apparently built-in feature for us homo sapiens. It's not that "what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger;" we already are strong, and it takes a lot to kill us.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008




Living is no laughing matter:
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel, for example-

I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation.

Living is no laughing matter:
you must take it seriously,
so much so and to such a degree
that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
your back to the wall,
or else in a laboratory
in your white coat and safety glasses,
you can die for people-

even for people whose faces you've never seen,
even though you know living
is the most real, the most beautiful thing.

I mean, you must take living so seriously
that even at seventy, for example, you'll plant olive trees-
and not for your children, either,
but because although you fear death you don't believe it,
because living, I mean, weighs heavier.


Let's say you're seriously ill, need surgery -
which is to say we might not get
from the white table.
Even though it's impossible not to feel sad
about going a little too soon,
we'll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we'll look out the window to see it's raining,
or still wait anxiously
for the latest newscast ...

Let's say we're at the front-
for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
we might fall on our face, dead.
We'll know this with a curious anger,
but we'll still worry ourselves to death
about the outcome of the war, which could last years.

Let's say we're in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
before the iron doors will open.
We'll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind-

I mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
we must live as if we will never die.


This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet-

I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
in pitch-black space ...

You must grieve for this right now
-you have to feel this sorrow now-

for the world must be loved this much
if you're going to say ``I lived'' ...

Nazim Hikmet
February, 1948
Trans. Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk