“You Stink!”, Cosmo Kramer

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  The fact is, everything is in the eye of the beholder.  Perception is everything, always was, always will be.

Can a blind person feel a person’s face considered less than beautiful and ‘see’ beauty?

How do we see ourselves in the mirror compared to what others see from the outside?

How does a “good” personality make up for less than stellar physical traits?

Hell, how do some colors of skin evoke judgment?

Smells can evoke judgment, right.  Smells can bring about a negative reaction causing a judgment to be made.  “That man who just walked by stinks, dear!”, he said, “He must be a bum!”  Perhaps?   Perhaps he is a rich guy with poor hygiene habits.  Either way, you will make a judgment of some sort when smelling smelly folks in public, correct.  Either way that judgment made will be negative considering the subject matter:  stinky bodies.  I must admit, I am a ‘stinky person bigot’.  There, I said it.

So what do ‘stinky person bigots’ do about their ill feelings toward stinky people?  They choose to avoid them.  Avoiding them can mean giving a wide birth, or taking care to not walk by them too fast so the odor wafts with you evoking other people to possibly blame you for the wind of stench,   don’t hire them.  Ah ha!  Isn’t that illegal?  I’ll answer that.  No, it isn’t.  Discrimination in the workplace I believe only involves sex, nationality, gender, race, sexual preference and something else that slips my mind…it doesn’t cover poor hygiene habits, bad haircuts, facial hardware, tattoos for that matter, nor stupidty.  Ignorance in my book is a freebie for everybody for consideration that the definition of ignorance is ‘lack of knowledge’, nothing to do with IQ or common sense.  I suppose if you were ignorant of the fact you have terrible body odor and poor hygiene habits I could give you a pass, but I’m afraid I’d still have to avoid you and would never give you a job.  Some things are just too simple!

So yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Perception is everything, especially your perception of yourself.  However, judging a smelly person is not a perception, it is a majority-recognized fact.  In the words of Cosmo Kramer, “You stink!”

I highly doubt the person who elicited this diatribe from me is reading this.  But just in case, “You know that once a week, old skool Euro sponge bath in a bucket thang ain’t cutting it, mam!”

To dance again like no one is watching.

To be able to dance like there is no one watching.  The fact is, I was never much of a dancer.  Oh, I did my share of it when I was in the bar hopping phase a hundred years ago.  Getting out on the dance floor in that environment was essential to meeting the ladies.…still is I would imagine.  No, I’m not a dancer…this is a metaphor.

So how does this metaphor transfer to me, to us, to anyone of our age?  The way I look at it, it means something like living life with a sort of reckless abandon, to go for it, to enjoy the things worth doing.  This would bring up the bucket list here again but I’m not going to do that.  For the most part, I’m generalizing since the bucket list is so in need of revising.  Realistically there are just so many things that I can’t and won’t get to.  That’s not a bad thing, it’s just reality.  I won’t climb half dome, so what?

To dance like there is no one watching.  Some people have interpreted that to mean it’s alright to act like complete assholes with little or no regard to who is there or whom it affects.  That is so not me.  I’m quite a dialed back from breaking into a whirling dervish in public when I feel happy.  My emotional auto response is somewhat out of control at this age though.  I cried at the end of Pollyanna the other day, no surprise there.   I try not to get emotional in public!

I would just like to be able to dance like there is no one watching to the tune of if it feels good and does not hurt myself or anyone else, go ahead and do it.  I just haven’t figured out what those things are and what limits there are.  Right now my physical limits with chemotherapy are a heavy burden.  Some days of the week it’s all I can do to get out of bed, only to get back in bed after a trip to the kitchen or bathroom.  At best right now on good days, I get out and go to the store and run a few errands with Loretta.  Then I’m ready for the “barn” again, a dilapidated mess.  At times it is discouraging .

The good thing is that most of this is all temporary.  The effects of chemical infusions will come and go then  I will be able to build myself up again and start down a new road.  I will be able to try dancing like no one is watching, or riding my bicycles again, or joining a bowling league, or fishing, or traveling.  Looks like I just started a new bucket list, a realistic one that doesn’t necessarily involve dancing!

What’s on your nightstand?

Up at two a.m. is early even by my standards.  I’m often awake and out of bed at five-ish, but this is a bit absurd.

I just seem to have a litany of things swirling around in my mind, and strange as it may seem, not the usual suspects of late.

I don’t worry about money like I used to.  Not that we have more of it now than earlier, certainly not.  It’s just not an issue.  In fact, even though it may be a couple of years off, we were seriously discussing living out our lives in a fifth wheel somewhere.  That may take a couple of bucks.  Nope, just not concerned right now about how to buy a retirement trailer, we’ll figure it out.

It is not at all unusual for me to wake up and lie there thinking about photo or writing projects.  Maybe that is partly to blame for me being in front of the computer at this unholy hour.  After all, I am writing.  And, I sat on the edge of the bed with one of my point-and-shoot cameras a few minutes ago photographing my nightstand all the medications that are close at hand (for lack of a better place to put them).  They used to reside next to my side of the dining room table.  Now, they’re right there when I open my eyes!

Looking at these photos in post-production reminded me of how badly in need we are of bedroom furniture.  Check out the exotic condition of the “wood”, if indeed that what it is, wood.  There are various plastic vials of blood pressure and heart-meds and a couple related to my current affair, as well as my medical appointment calendar one nice nurse saw fit to print up for me.  There is also one of those breathing exercisers where you suck in trying to make the ball go higher that I hardly ever use now (bad patient!).  Beyond that, I have a little portable bedside stand that holds my water, the t.v. remove, an almost spent roll of t.p. (no Kleenex box for this kid), and my wallet from time to time.  Watch and ring is on aforementioned nightstand as well.  Since I do have to take some of the medications in the morning and at night, I thought it best to keep them where they are.

Until last night, there was one of those Halloween-sized Kit-Kats on the nightstand, my chocolate drug of choice right now.  I looked at it for several days before deciding to make short work of it just before bed last night.

Oh, along side my bed on the floor resting against the night stand are about six or seven cook books from Bobby Flay’s Mesa Cookbook to a large American Foods coffee table thing to a richly photographed Thai cookbook.  By the way, I tend to not buy cookbooks that often now since I am a recipe-downloading-freek and have thousands of recipes in a relatively organized folder on my computer desktop as well as several hundred favorites residing in a large ringed notebook in the kitchen.  The later is not bedside but on top of the microwave in the kitchen.  All of those recipe are in separate plastic sleeves.  I will break down and buy a new cookbook on occasion if the photos are really cool.  Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I will bust open a couple cookbooks and make restaurant menu lists.  No, not fantacising any longer about owning a restaurant, just “consulting” with menus and recipes…mostly comfort and diner foods.  I wouldn’t survive a week owning a restaurant yet alone running one at this point in my life.  I would gain back the fifty pounds and have a massive coronary the first time my cook called in sick an hour before his or her shift.  Note to self:  write a blog about some of my recurring restaurant nightmares.

Well, at this point it may be time to try getting a bit more sack time.  I sufficiently managed to make pass an hour or so of time and put something to “pen”.  So, all in all getting up this early wasn’t a total waste of time.  I was thinking of flicking on the television but not wanting to see those incessant informercials.  When they come on I feel like Quasimodo.  Instead of bells, it’s, “The commercials…the commercials!  I can’t stand the commercials!”

Good night.

PS  Unfortunately, none of those pills are sleeping pills…yet!  (Note to self:  email my doc about this).

“Take my cancer…please!”

We had the opportunity to attend a “Chemo Class” of sorts yesterday.  Actually, it’s called “Chemo Orientation” and is held by and at Kaiser.

The class had been scheduled for weeks.  I knew it would be a week or so after my first infusion, so I was a little reluctant to take the time to attend, after all, I’ve already gone through it!  What could they tell me?  In addition, I’m not afraid to Google any and everything regarding my cancer and what goes with it – I must already know all there is to know.  And…it started 20 minutes late and my attitude was deteriorating by the minute.  “We’ll be leaving now”, was at the tip of my tongue at 2:20 when they finally gathered us up and shuffled us off to the conference room where the class would be held.  I stood patient until then.  Beside, I watch Breaking Bad…what else do I need to know?

Long story short…I really didn’t learn anything new and earth-shattering at the class.  The well-informed nurse who presented the information did a comprehensive job doing much more than just read what was on the slides projected on the screen.  She actually spoke to us directly, about 12 of us plus support people/family.  So all in all, she confirmed a lot of info I was kind of already familiar with.  Afterwards, I thought how great it would be to have been able to have some of my family and friends along as well, but, it was not to be.  So, here is a little of what I heard at the meeting.

One of the most compelling passages in the presentation addressed the fact that it is O.K. to tell family and friends that you are “sick”.  Yes, sick!  It’s OK to tell anyone, “I appreciate it, but today is not a good day to come visit…I’m feeling particularly crappy today”.  The nurse went on to remind us that we are indeed ill and need not feel obligated to anyone but ourselves.  Be polite but have yourself first and foremost in mind when it comes to safety and well being, especially around sick people, ie, colds, flu, and so on.  The other side of that coin: do whatever you are able to do in your condition, ie, as much exercise as you can, work as much as you want (though this has a caveat), get out often, etc.

Work and energy.  Here’s the caveat.  Your brain still thinks you can do what you did before the cancer and the chemo.  In other words, you brain will try to write checks your body can’t cash!  You start out well meaning with a project or wanting to go back to work, then you just run out gas…and fast.  I’ve already experienced this at home puttering around the garage with a project or two – working on my old stereos and a couple photo projects.  I just have to sit down often and recharge!  How discouraging but real.  By the way, regarding going back to work, this is totally up in the air and totally out of the question right now.  We’ll see down the line.  In fact, I had a nice conversation with the head store manager where I work the other day, and when it came to me coming back she just shook her head and offered this, “Nope.  It’s up to you but I wouldn’t do it.  Stay out as long as you can considering what you have going on.  We miss you and look forward to your return, but don’t push it”.  Then hugged me and thanked me for coming in and talking to her about all of this.  Makes you feel a bit better about being on a leave of absence.  No guilt.  No pressure.

The nurse went on to tell us about certain foods and medications both good and bad.  About most of this information I was already aware.  Stay well hydrated especially before and during chemo cycles.  Take your anti-nausea meds well before you have an infusion not after you’ve gotten sick.  Call the doctor if this happens or that happens.  Wash hands often and keep things clean. And so on.  I won’t bore you with all the details.  Suffice to say, Loretta and were way ahead of the curve.

Probably the most important bit of information we got…answering our question:  What about a flu shot?  Her immediate answer:  YES, get one now, today, right down the hall when you leave!  And so we did.  At Kaiser, it’s all part of the plan, ie, free, easy, and relatively painless.  Funny how a couple of the folks in the orientation class left shaking their heads, “I ain’t getting no flu shot!  It’ll make your arm sore and you get sick for a day or two”.  Queue game show buzzer here…NOT!  Even if it did do those things (temporary all), it’s a small price to pay if you don’t want to contract a dose of influenza while going through some of the other heinous side effects associated with chemotherapy.  It’s a no-brainer.

Speaking of side effects, the bottom line is that they are temporary.  They go away after a few days and will go away permanently when the sessions are over.  The most important bottom line:  the ends to the means is that this is killing what leftover cancer wasn’t removed during surgery.  And that’s a BINGO!

So, Loretta and I left the chemo orientation class with a refreshed feeling of, not well being, but well informed.  Not only did we get to meet a few nice people in our same situation, we felt we had a better understanding of this whole process.  There is a lot of info and support available out there and we will opt for that when the time is right.

One last thing they wanted us to know.  Depression during this period is not an option, it is a given.  In some way, shape, or form, all of us will get depressed from this experience.  Some will deal with it better than others.  Some will deal with it on their own.  And some will seek help through counseling and/or medication.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  It’s a fucking bummer to have cancer and getting through this process with the least amount of depression and frustration is key.

The validation we received was very important to both of us.

Of course, I was the one who asked the most questions and I was the one who volunteered to stand up in front of class, raise my shirt, and show everyone my chest port scars!  Some things never change.  I’m such as sucker for an audience these days!  I was ready to do 3 minutes of standup.  “Take my cancer…please!”

A retraction…of sorts…and a thank you.

A commercial on television today went something like this: “If someone asks you what it takes to be a Modestoan, you pretty much have to just smile and pat them on the back”.  It was a spot for some long time local business.  When I heard that, I just smiled and said to myself, “If someone asked me what it takes to be a Modestoan, I would just smile and say…just know how to cook methamphetamine and play the banjo!”  Right or wrong, I think that’s funny considering Modesto is the “meth capital” of the United States if not the known universe (statistically, it’s true).

In light of recent developments with my health I must print a bit of a retraction regarding my somewhat snarky, cynical, and sarcastic attitude toward Modesto.  There are a lot of loving, caring, law-abiding people who live here.  I’m not sure how many of those are not transplants, but there are a lot of nice people here; regular people who have expressed their concern for mine and Loretta’s well being during this cancer thing.  So, for that…thank you Modesto.  You know who you are.

We’re still planning on blowing this burgh sometime next year.  Nice people notwithstanding, we miss the coast where we used to live.  Plus, we both have a plethora of relatives living nearby our destination, all within less than an hour.  Some will be within a few minutes, including mine and Loretta’s moms.

So, thanks again to all the nice Modesto folks who care enough to ask how I am doing and have included us incessantly in their daily prayers.  We truly do appreciate it all!

Sowing the seeds of recovery.

Perhaps it’s appropriate that I am going through this little episode in my life as Autumn finally makes an appearance around these parts.  My favorite time of the year brings out my sweats, sweatshirts, and that funky smell the first time the heater goes off.  They told me I would have a sensitivity to cold while undergoing chemotherapy.  Like everything else associated with this I suppose it all depends on the individual.  I sleep with the ceiling fan on and the window open all year-long, I am very warm-blooded.  Poor Loretta just pulls up another comforter during the Fall and Winter.  I have closed the window above the bed this time though, maybe there is something to this sensitivity to cold thing.  The docs told me I may not be able to stand in front of an open refrigerator but that hasn’t happened yet.  There has been a slight bit of nausea but no vomiting (I’ve been taking my anti-nausea pills like a good chemo patient).  Besides one rough night of labored breathing and irregular heartbeat a couple of days following infusion, I’m just plain tired.  And my appetite?  After that one bad night I won’t tell you what I’ve been eating and had cravings for.  Let’s put it this way, I haven’t lost my appetite or want for food (healthy, junk, or otherwise), I just can’t eat s much of it in one sitting.  The most annoying part so far?  The “as advertised” bouts with the Big D.  Imodium AD is my friend right now!

The weather is beautiful this time of year.  I even washed the old Nissan last weekend.  We planted a substantial amount of herb seeds in a little roll-around greenhouse a couple of weeks ago.  So far, only the basil and some oregano sprouts have made an appearance.  Patience has never been one of my virtues until now for several reasons.  If you plant the seeds, the herbs will come my son!  On the way are parsley, cilantro, thyme, chives, marjoram, even jalapenos.  Must find some chervil, probably have to order it on-line.

I feel these 12 chemo treatments are like planting the seeds of healing.  One must plant more than one to ensure success.  One must have patience.

carpe diem

A movie title from the 50’s came to mind this morning: The Beginning of the End.  Starring Peter Graves, it was a typical “B” horror flick about giant grasshoppers taking over the world.  Not the premise of this movie, it was the title itself that caught my eye.

I start chemotherapy tomorrow, I’ve known this for several weeks.  I’ve known that I have cancer for a little longer.  So today I asked myself “Is this the beginning of the end” for me?  Realistically, that “Big C” timer is ticking.  One year, three years, five years?  No one knows.

The only time I can recall feeling this way was when I found out that I was destined for Viet Nam courtesy of the Navy in 1971.  It wasn’t so much of a fatalistic feeling as it was a feeling of mortality.  I was 21 at the time. I returned unharmed.  Funny, even when I had a major heart attack at 36, I wasn’t really worried.  I was more pissed off at myself during that long ambulance ride to the hospital.  I was in a lot of pain and I wasn’t worried, I was angry at myself for letting this thing happen.  That’s pretty much how I felt in 1998 when I went in for bi-pass surgery – I was a bit perturbed at how I could have let myself get to this point.  But I didn’t have these overwhelming feelings of mortality.

Of course since then I’ve reconciled the fact that there may not have been anything I could have done one way or the other to avoid those medical situations.  There is no reason to place blame or rationalize how I got here now either.  It’s just the way it is.

Well, the realistic Beginning of the End for all of us is birth.  From the moment we are born things go downhill.  The aging process is inevitable and it is cruel…and it is unavoidable.  With that realization, this beginning of the end nonsense has already been taken off my plate and replaced by another saying.  This morning, I heard the Latin term carpe diem mentioned in a news interview.

Carpe diem?  I’ve heard it before but never knew what it meant until I Googled it this morning.  And when I read the painfully simply definition, it all made sense.  Carpe diem – “seize the day” is the literal translation, “to enjoy, seize, use, make use of”.  Carpe literally means “to pick, pluck, pluck off, cull, crop, gather”.  And I truly seem to have a renewed want to pick, pluck, cull, crop, and gather!  Without seeming too flippant or, heaven forbid, too irresponsible…let’s get this party started!

The other foreign language saying I’ve tried to live by of late is the French cook school ditty mise en place –  “everything in place”.  And right now, I think I have everything in place, more than any other time in my life.  I am doing exactly what I should be doing right now, and that is taking care of this cancer.

Tomorrow at 1:00 pm I have an appointment in the infusion lab at Kaiser.  Specifically, Chair #1 is reserved for yours truly.  It’ll take a couple of hours then I will be sent home with a portable pump attached to my chest port for two days.  Then back Wednesday to have the pump disconnected, and returning every other Monday for six months.  Mise en place…everything in its place.  And the days I’m feeling well enough from the effects of chemo…carpe diem…seize the day.