Friday, February 29, 2008

Thank God It's Naughty Friday

Since Cancer, the most important character in my dramatis personae, is on vacation, I have to create some gimmicks to thwart writer's block. So, I do a music post every Sunday, which is pretty low-pressure and indulges my obsession with obscure Europop. I think Friday needs a theme, as well...something which requires almost no effort, yet immediately draws eyes to the blog.

Yes, Sex! It will be fun and challenging to find something sexy, yet not too NSFW. After all, my mom reads this. (Mom, NSFW means "Not Safe For Work")

I sometimes lurk at the message boards of a website for young cancer patients called Planet Cancer. I mostly just lurk because I am, er...well over 40. The people who post in the PC forum are heroic in their struggles with the disease, and also in their determination to lead normal lives. And, an important part of being young and normal is to be sexual. In the Dating, Relationships & Sexuality forum a woman wrote:

Hi guys, I'm a little embarrassed to admit to this, but I think it is so funny and amazing, that I just have to post it, thanking the internet for the anonymity...

One night when I was in the hospital and my counts were really low, I think I was having some sexual dreams or something, and since I was awake at 4 am, I um...pleasured...myself. It was the first time in a long time, and definitely the first time since I was diagnosed with cancer. But let me tell you, it must have done some medical good because my blood counts shot up the next day! The doctors were stunned, but I didn't have the guts to tell them why!! I really think that short bit of happiness did some healing to by body and blood!

A mini-experiment followed, with her fellow posters trying to replicate the results before their scheduled tests. Their blood counts improved, too. So, not only will it not make you blind, but it may actually boost your immune system. Have a great weekend!

Photo: Jackie Farry. Order a Fuck Cancer hat Here

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Amusing Searches

bigger feet after chemo

who is the most stupid doctor in the world?

peeing eunuch

naked belgian boys

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Music: Elvis Costello and the Attractions

The girl wearing the purple pants on the left is me, circa 1980. I was attending art school in Columbus, Ohio at the time. The photo is copied from a blog set up by one of my former classmates. It won't mean much to any of you, but if you'd like to see lot of regrettable hair and some very good drawings (not mine!), you can check it out at:

I'd like to pretend that my musical tastes at the time were cutting-edge, but honestly, like a good small-town girl, I was a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. I even drove all night with friends to see him in Indianapolis, possibly the only time I've ever been to the city. I had classmates with more sophisticated taste. My friend Jon even talked me into buying the single Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division, a decision I've never regretted.

The party was outdoors, probably in the back yard of one of those remnants of residential neighborhood just east of downtown. A subwoofer was probably propped against the screen of the back porch, blasting the kind of ambiance that nearly always brought a visit from Columbus' finest. After the cops left, the volume would just creep up. Along with 70's big-arena rock, a few records reflecting the punk and new wave explosion (so far from Columbus) were ending up on the turntable. I'm sure one of them was Elvis Costello and the Attraction's 1979 album Armed Forces. Man, I know I wore my own copy out. Here's Oliver's Army, as performed on a Brit pop show.

Friday, February 22, 2008

CTA Stories: The Old Man of Diversey

He is perhaps three score and ten, and perpetually grizzled, as if he saw a razor last week at the most recent. He wears a Masonic diamond pinky ring, but his clothing is stained and free of a woman's care. He is tall, and I think at one time, was a strapping, handsome man. His most salient feature is the monologue. Every time I've shared a ride with him, he talks incessantly, the driver being the most obvious captive audience. The last time I saw him was when I was traveling west from the Brown Line. He sat in the seat directly behind the driver, and I wondered how she could concentrate as he jabbered away.

On Wednesday, I rode the bus east, and The Old Man was there. Our driver was a regular on the route, an African American man with striking green eyes. He always wishes riders a good day as they leave the bus, his sea-colored gaze resting upon us. That morning, I pretended to read The New Yorker while sitting adjacent to the Old Man. A school crossing guard was facing him. She was a large woman, wearing a police-style cap and a coat decorated with two wide reflector stripes. The Old Man directed most of his monologue at her, which she accepted with judge-like impartiality.

She could be a stickler. Her house was a showcase. A showcase! Everything had to be immaculate. You could eat off of the floor. Us kids could not play in certain rooms. My father's sister-in-law, Dorothy. A person like that can be very difficult to live with. Everything had its place. My pop was straight with ma.."I'm not going to live in no showcase!" But, she could be a lot of fun. Yes, when she wasn't in her own house, she was the life of the party! A damn good cook, too. A very good-looking woman and always dressed to the nines. Her daughters got out of there as soon as possible. One of them told me, "I didn't grow up in a house. I grew up in a showcase!" [to bus driver] GOOD DRIVING JOCK! Well, nobody's perfect. She was a fine woman. They're all gone now. I'm the only one left.

The analysis of Dorothy's character continued for 20 blocks. I once read that in Mexico, there are "the dead," and "the truly dead." Those who are "truly dead," are forgotten. Their graves are untended and no living person remembers them. That morning, I could see Dorothy, her bright lipstick and neat dresses, her laughter, and the little house that was her shrine.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunday Music: Crabby Appleton

Chicagoans pride themselves on their stoic acceptance of winter weather. Well, it's snowed nearly every day for the last month, and even the most stalwart shovelers in our 'hood have given up. The Chicago avenue bus is crammed with salt-streaked, depressed commuters, many of them coughing from the first signs of a vaccine-resistant flu strain. At our home, a sudden thaw caused the garage to flood, marinating the car in over a foot of water. It wouldn't start, and had to be towed. We have no groceries.

Time for escape, to southern California, ca. 1970. This is Crabby Appleton's only hit, but it still makes me feel sunkissed and warm.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Radiation: The end is near

Sorry for the spotty posting. Radiation has been kicking my butt, and I haven't felt like doing much of anything other than sleep. Fortunately, my last treatment is on Monday. I don't know about you, but I like my Elisa done medium-well. I now have a dark tan in my armpit, and a dusting of tiny blisters on my chest. Compared to other patients, my skin is doing great. One woman, who looked to be in her late 20's, told me that her incision had opened and was infected. I asked her how long it had been since surgery, expecting a relatively recent date. "In August," she said. She had sixteen cancerous lymph nodes, so they decided to give her a second blast of chemotherapy, before starting radiation. She looked drawn and frightened, her baldness covered by a bandana.

Late twenties sounds awfully young for breast cancer, but I have discovered that it's not that uncommon. Nia*, a woman who has her appointment right after mine, is only 33. We both had time after our treatments last week, and lingered in the waiting room. She overheard me saying to a nurse, somewhat bitterly, that HIV can be managed better than cancer. The nurse countered "well, we need give you a pep-talk, and then maybe you can feel more hopeful!" No, she's right, Nia said. She's an oncology nurse herself, and the daughter of a woman who died of breast cancer at 29. Her mother was diagnosed when she was 25, and had a metastatic recurrence barely a year after her mastectomy. Nia has two young daughters, both terrified that this could lie in their future. To make matters worse, her long-time boyfriend broke up with her two weeks earlier. "He stood by me through surgery and chemotherapy, so I couldn't believe it when he ended it." Her eyes filled up. "I'm so tired of people telling me to be brave. They don't have to go through this." We are both near the end of our treatment, and now the waiting begins. Waiting to prove a negative, to not have it come back.

Another patient, Barbara*, said to me "Every time I get a headache, I wonder-is it in my brain?" In a way, isn't it, already? The young woman wearing the bandana had the same facial expression one sees in photographs of war refugees: the fifty yard stare of deep trauma and hopelessness. I've been there, and will probably visit again. The only solution for me has been anger, a deep burning rage. Why do they have to wait until a bone breaks before diagnosing metastasis? Unacceptable. Why are young women getting breast cancer? Completely fucking unacceptable! Why isn't there a cure? WHY ISN'T THERE A MOTHERFUCKING CURE?!!

*Names changed

Monday, February 4, 2008

Monday Music: 25 songs from Popmeter

Wish I was cool enough to put together obscure 60's playlists like this one. But at least I'm cool enough to find it and post it. Enjoy Los Salvajes, "los Rolling Stones españoles," among many others. Oh, and I can totally remember that Cherry Slush song being on the radio.