In Therapy

While difficult, it’s necessary:
Please forget whatever you’ve learned.
Simply cast off far as your reach allows
Catch right out of your murky memory
Blue fins, red snappers, orange roughy.
Back farther still to the new golden oven
Our kitchen clock never learned the truth.
A fast 2/4 beat jazzy dancing
Upbeat, and a seductively winking
Sexy new VCR 12:00, 12:00, 12:00.
Technology became everyone’s
Personal red light districts.

Edison’s electricity fails
Exceptionally bright children.
Kicking the ground, head down,
Out until dinner’s ready or
We cross our fingers, she yells,
“I don’t feel like cooking, ya know?
You mind if we head to Figaro’s
For a coupleaslices and movies?”
Old, black and white anachronisms:
Laurel, Popeye, Lucy. Finally, the promised
Pizzas arrive dripping grease and saying cheese.
One pie done. “Mom” all turn at once
Six egret blonde necks crane
Towards sound as birds do
Before they fly off, too.
Cackling in the corner booth
Smacking on Juicy Fruit, Fruit Stripe,
Jaw jacking, laughing until they cry.
We taste their lemony demands,
Denied their own slices of pie.
Our fathers’ sweets from up north
Mountainous cheesecakes,
Spongy black and white cookies.
Dads come from the stripped albums
Reappear from their half of the picture,
As if a building in an earthquake split
In two as the house shook like a jell-o mold.
Waves of sound pulsing
The walls and the doors
Slam shut and bang
Time until another
Station plays a top ten chart hit argument.

Her next Marlboro hangs like
A twig from a crow’s feet.
Who has a light?

Are you on drugs, lady? Or, is Walgreens new policy to fill only judgement biased prescriptions?

The Who – The Real Me – Quadrophenia
Love didn’t reign o’er me that day at Walgreens’s drive through window, but a pharmacist predisposed to judge people based solely on a list of prescriptions rained down on me with a very ugly realization.

Context is King
Our perceptions of other people when we lack personal context, especially someone you’ve just met, can be jaded by situational circumstances. To prove my hypothesis, I’d like to try a little experiment in sociological phenomenology (a fictional new branch of anthropology) With no Amazon gift card to intice you, please participate in my no-paper-or-pen-required field test, for the sake of pseudo-science or better yet, to help argue my point using logic and reasoning.

Here goes: read the following list of medications and think about your immediate impressions of a person who uses these every day:

Test Your Perceptions
Now hold your prescription perceptions of that person in your mind. What does he or she look like? How do they act and what kind of morals and personal values do they have? Are they capable of illicit or even illegal acts?

Now, here’s another piece of information about this person: they are on Medicare and social security. However, they look too young for such social services and furthermore not very sick at all.

Now hold that image and add this concept in your mind – Is she scamming the system? Lazy? Have you read or watched news stories about drug addicts who buy and sell prescription medications? About criminals stealing from social agencies meant to help the aged, the infirm, and the critically ill? They should be in jail or at least in drug rehab for opioid addiction, right?

So, you have your current picture of this person firmly in your mind based on some pieces of factual information but knowing nothing else about them at all except they are female, about 50-ish, driving a late model Mini Cooper. Now, certainly your perception of her changed based solely on this new information about gender, age, and the car she’s driving. You do not know if it is her car or borrowed. Do you assume it’s her Mini?

Now, I’d like you to add the following medications to the list above and tell me how adding contextual medications for stage four breast cancer to the list changed your perception of her:

Different? Of course. Pain, fatigue, and anxiety all go hand in hand with stage four metastatic breast cancer. What do you perceive of her now without your logical fallacy rendered false by new information providing context that you did not have prior to understanding her medical condition? Completely different I would imagine.

Here Comes the Judge
On this basis, Walgreens pharmacy can kiss my skinny Jewish ass. After receiving a slew of text messages regarding my prescriptions, their readiness for pick up, and questions about why I’m not over there receiving advice from my local Walgreens pharmacist, I head over to the drive through. I’m saved by small favors of a drive through pharmacy down the street especially after an hour long colonic with my intestinal angel, Lisa.

At the Walgreens drive through that day, new staff I’d not seen before had taken over for the former day pharmacy crew, who all knew me by site and didn’t need me to repeat the spelling of my first and last name five times slowky, please. They knew why I’m taking an onerous list of 11 medications prescribed to me monthly for my cancer and chemo side effects as well as my other medical conditions. They did not judge.

A Logical Fallacy
Judgmentally and silently to the outside world, her poorly constructed argument against her own internal monologue, used a logical fallacy. It probably goes something like:
A. All customers who pull up to the drive through pharmacy window are lazy.
B. Users of opioid-based pain medications are all lazy prescription drug addicts.
C. If a list of a customer’s medications includes opioids that are not quite due for refill, she is lazy and therefore a drug addict who shoukd be arrested on the spot.

As my list of prescriptions were read aloud over the outside speaker for anyone within earshot, I felt my face get warm and red and not as a result of a hot flash. The pharmacy assistant’s snotty attitude grew as did her pride in redressing me, the criminal. Reading off my medications like a drug crazed wish list, it may as well have been the voice of the prosecuting attorney wrapping up the case as though I were going to be indicted by a grand jury for trafficking in illegal substances. She looked down her nose at me in my Mini, disgusted, and with a shake of her bobble head, her down cast eyes said, “addict.”

She did not bare in mind I’d told her what meds I was there to pick up. None were of the schedule 1 type requiring an act of what’s left of Mein Trump’s cabinet of fools. Talking over me as I tried to explain about the text messages and how I wasn’t expecting any of those medications for another two weeks, I knew there wasn’t a way to get through to her. She allowed her perceptions to paint a preconceived picture of people she’s afraid will get her in trouble with her supervisors or worse, fired. Everyone whose physician prescribed these drugs for immediately fits the profile. Arrest us, please. It’s better then hearing the rants of public lunacy and the angry mob running after us with maltov cocktails flaming proudly in their raised hands.

She argued over my interruption of her tirade and she kept on with her fear driven illogical argument with no response from me or anyone else forthcoming. There was nothing to say except to please get the pharmacist and that I refused to be served by her ever again in the future and that she may want to review the file she’s reading to see that it clearly states I have stage four metastatic breast cancer. How dared she?

Can You See the Real Me?
I slipped from not thinking too much about cancer that day to only thinking about cancer the rest of that day. I thought deeply about this woman judging me based on perceptions without context. I’m learning not to judge people based on what I see, because there is so much I don’t see. So little I know about anyone. So expecting them to notice what I need or my definitions of how they should act is as preposterous as her judge, jury, and executioner style of customer service.

We have an opioid prescription medication epidemic in our country getting worse by the day and leading to deaths by overdose amongst other ugly preventable causes. Does this mean it is impossible for a responsible adult with terminal illness to peacefully pick up her prescriptionsand without fear of embarrassment or harassment? I’ll let you the judge. I’m not impartial.

Relay for Life

Finally, after three years and some months, my energy and my spirit rose to the occasion, not only to passively raise money but to also actively participate in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. I’m on a local San Jose team, which I came to know a couple of years ago at an estate sale. The woman who held this particular estate sale turned out to be the team’s captain. Team JBK – captained by Mary Keenan. We raised over $34,000 this year and came in first of all the teams in our area.

I arrived at 8 am, on time (a miracle) with the decorations for our two tents – about 60 bright multicolored paper flowers and long plastic Mexican banners for the Cinco de Mayo themed relay. My table full of vintage jewelry and other antique goods sold in our booth along with other team members’ donations of hand made jewelry, Home baked cookies and brownies, and a few other cool things. My wares and cash raised from my wonderful friends, my partner Craig, and my sister Jan, all totaled about $1100 bucks. My pals you can see flanking me (I’m in the middle) of the first photo – Lisa and Sue – walked with me around the track until about noon. I returned in the evening about 7 pm until 9 and walked with Craig and Lisa’s 13 year old son. Craig dedicated two luminaria – one in honor of me and one in memory of his mother. I dedicated two: one to my grandmother Leah Kaminsky who died in 1969 of metastatic breast cancer; and the other to my father, whom I lost at a young 71 in 2013 to brain cancer.

I wept and made whimpering noises as I tried to contain my emotional outpouring as we walked the track lit by the bright purple HOPE shining against the lake at Almaden Lake Park and all the other survivor honoraria and the memorials to all of our lost loved ones. The bagpipe music played Amazing Grace, and my tears flowed. For everyone here and gone, for wearing a purple “survivor” T-shirt, and for my own fears and my own life changed indelibly by cancer and its ravages. I wished my dad were here. He’d be by my side. He is by my side. So is Leah. She walks within me, beside me. I cannot remember her except in photos. But I know on that day, yesterday she burned in my mind as bright as that sign of hope.

I hope to raise more next year. Thank you and I love all of you for support and raising me up with your hope when I cannot do it myself.