Canferatu: The Prequel

In which our heroine finds herself clutched in the monster’s filthy, razor sharp claws, afraid for her life.

Introduction: The scripting process begins and ends

This narrative slowly opens and possibly took several years for the writer to realize the finished script. Editing the story of a life continues beyond publication, past the timeline of those who inspired the characters themselves. Those millions of words, her own and the voices of many others, became nothing more than ash made by trash bin fire. The wire mesh bin sat next to a solid oak beast of a work surface, the top ringed by years of too-hot coffee cups, and covered in a tablecloth of loose papers. A cracked black leather swivel chair sat empty and pushed back and turned away from the monstrous kneehole desk. On top of all the remnants of the writer squats an old black Corona typewriter, its clacks and clangs silent, it and the room gathering dust with every day since it’s author began her lifetime leave of absence.

Three years ago she abandoned a life of of golden accolades and long, meandering plans for future gambols. Three years ago, she traded the promise of generally uplifting experiences for the protracted life of a victim, incarcerated in her own body for crimes no one could pin down to a single suspect. Lately she looked weighted down by absurdly heavy fatigue. Additionally, without any real past precedent, she began to catch many uncommon colds and any new flu of the present season. Never before had her immunity left her body so unsecured and without patrol. It seemed illness had cracked her genetic health code. Our author’s body felt like someone else’s, although outwardly it looked exactly like hers, other than bluish circles around her eyes. As her story unfolded, she assumed these symptoms had to be a sign of work burnout and too much step-parenting stress.

Cortisol, a result of stress, certainly played a key role, aiding and abetting the ghoul who committed the ultimate crime against her, in an inside job right under her skin. Regretfully, she paid minimal attention to the diseased monster on a million-year long crime spree, taking women and even some men to an early grave, but not after draining them of their life force and absorbing it into his own body, which made him stronger with each new victim. And the shape-shifting monster metamorphosed to outsmart even the savviest of detectives who aimed to catch this predator once and for all. With each new case, the authorities found some new twist or turn to throw them off of his scent. He reeked of death.

A malcontented criminal, he tortured her unmercifully then leaving her alone, broke, and without empathy from anyone. This vampiric disease sucks the life out of its victims, some slowly, and some very quickly, but all losing their lives to the waking nightmare itself. In her case, she wrote the screenplay, acted the starring role, and eventually scrapped her success for a slow decline towards failure at the fangs of Canferatu, or the Vampire.

Part II. Oh, no! (Everything changed overnight )

One March night, I curled into the fetal position in the middle of our bed, sweating and wailing. I suffered from extremely severe abdominal cramps from what we thought was a case of bad food poisoning. My husband, Craig, finally demanded I get into the car and go to the hospital. He physically put my body over his shoulder and got me into the cloud like front seat of his Jaguar and pulled the seat belt around me. This, only after his heart sank as he watched helpless. Inconsolable and with huge tears bursting from my eyes, I screamed at him, “there is no way I’m going to the hospital! I’ve never been to the hospital! I’ve only been once in my life, when I was born and I’m not going!”

On the other side of the looking glass, this Alice awoke the very next day in a bizarre alternative universe. “You have metastatic stage IV breast cancer and ascites fluid build up in your abdomen.” Everyone around me looked stunned. Everyone who called to check up on me went silent, leaving me holding my cell phone and repeating, “hello?” checking to see if their calls had dropped.

“Not her! She’s fine. She takes care of herself. Look at her – she’s going to be 50 in June, she doesn’t look anything like 50, let alone like someone with a doomsday prognosis.” Sword of Damocles hung on the mint green wall over the hospital bed, my morphine drip morphing everyone’s words, a swirl of doctors, test results, and of two hospitals fighting over whose patient’s money the other stole by keeping me in their bed. I felt like a mixed metaphor in the wrong storybook. Now Goldilocks? Clearly I wasn’t in a fairy tale and Goldilocks would certainly find every hospital bed uncomfortable.

The bleak prognosis of my diagnosis shocked me and everyone involved in my life. Inescapable, unbelievable, incurable…a normal life as I once knew it (whatever normal means who can say) abruptly ended as exhaustion, pain, sadness and finally a wholly reinvented life took over completely. What could anyone say after five days hospitalization, five liters of cancerous fluid removed, five days of struggle to work with insurers, five more to become a patient of an oncology team, and five weeks from the day of my initial hospitalization I began my chemo and hormone treatments. Yet all my doctors could say was…wow.

Everything changed, including my relationships with my family, my friends, my stepsons, and Craig. My husband fell into the depths of an anxiety fueled depression. I’m happy to report three years later, he’s finally recovered, sort of – unless some dramatic bullshit flung from the other side of town where his brainwashing banshee of an ex wife pretends to raise his younger son. Do not judge. I’ve kept this ugly saga away from my writing generally speaking. This discussion requires a blog site all its own, and that would only serve to elevate an already overinflated sense of control for a person with a massive narcissistic disorder. No thanks. Dealing with the emotional wreckage and fallout is quite enough. (In case you’re reading this, and you know who you are, go fuck yourself.)

Craig’s recovery requires a medication called Pristiq. His mental health issues began well before my diagnosis. After the stage four gauntlet got laid down, he struggled with the horrible notion of my death and we began about five months in hell to get back to one another. He initially reacted by ignoring me and admitted feeling resentment, of which he felt ashamed. In hindsight I am uncertain as to how ashamed he really felt. It’s clearer to me how much resentment lingers in the air between us, even now, three years later. It’s as though he tests me. He waits to tell me I never want to do anything and asks me to go out with him when I’m having a bad Health day or when I’m enraptured in writing or editing a piece of poetry or an essay for my blog, or trying to work on my Etsy business. All of these things suffer from the resulting bickering brought on by the care giver role thrust upon him. The role he threw off like a bad suit after a long day almost immediately after learning of the responsibilities.

Lonely, scared, angry, tired, moody, but generally motivated to live, I said, “not me, no way.” And sure as I tell anyone who’s reading this, I’m still here three years after my diagnosis of stage IV A1 lobular hormone receptor positive breast cancer with metastasis to the bones (and now liver). My sexuality and womanhood now stripped away from me, I no longer appeal to my husband or anyone for that matter. I feel like I’m a non-gendered adult. I’ve taken a laundry list of medications, sat in monthly seats in the infusion center for shots to my abdomen and gleuts, monthly blood work, countless visits to oncologists, psychologists, palliative oncology, radiology, specialists, a multitude of nurses, a surgeon. I spent a second week-long in the hospital. I’ve been to breast and metastatic support groups, cancer retreats, and learned to deeply meditate.

There’s good things that I’m certain have humbled me. Yet I speak to none of my former friends but a couple. My new friends don’t expect me to be as I was and know me only as I am now – someone with metastatic cancer. I never see my stepsons who have been convinced by their mother that I’m lying about the severity of my disease because I look too good and I’m simply a gold digger who doesn’t want to work full time anymore. I wish, honey, I wish.

It’s still a nightmare and admittedly and despite the “best of the worst case scenarios,” I’m not thrilled with a life path that leads only to an early demise. Canferatu never sleeps, his fangs deep within my neck. And though you cannot see him, he preys on my organs and functional systems until another cocktail puts him into a coma, but a coma he always awakens from to claw at my insides and take more of my energy for himself.

I still want my life back.

The Island of the Misfit Toys

Metastatic cancer feels a little to me as though I am standing along with the rest of our group on a lonely island in the middle of an unknown world, called the Island of Misfit Toys. This fictitious land of Yukon Cornelius, of Rudolf one red nosed (drunk?) reindeer who guided Santa that cold Christmas night, and of Dennis who wants to become a dentist.  By the way, a study on social cognition and a desire to maintain positive feelings about the self,  Dennis and Denise represented a higher proportion suggested that people disproportionately choose careers whose labels resemble their names (e.g., people named Dennis or Denise are overrepresented among dentists) And of our own self images, they’re not influenced by much positive representations.

Especially those of us at stage IV, the stage about which no one wants to know much about at all.  We, the misfit metastats, don’t quite measure up to Santa’s ultra high standards. Therefore, we become like the toys left behind on Christmas Eve as we watch bleary-eyed and all shivering from the cold, waving goodbye to the rear end of a sleigh overflowing with gifts for everyone else. We wave to Santa Clause and his big fat ass and to eight wagging reindeer tails.  We wave as we stand alongside Mrs. Clause, who holds a glass of wine and smiles knowingly.

Betty Clause – I imagine this is her first name I don’t know how why – Betty’s thoughts travel inside the Clause residence,  followed by her plump reubenesque body into a frankincense infused, well deserved, hot and steamy bubble bath. Then, as she sinks into the temperature perfect water, I hear her sobbing tears of joy. The kind of joy we’ve all felt after a long hard job well done. She smiles and weeps at the lack of noise and and a home devoid of all the stress. Now the elves have packed up and went away until next winter, and Dennis has gone to dental academy, and all the reindeer shits been scooped up, and Betty gets a little girl time to herself! Finally!

Sadly, unlike Betty Clause, we won’t see jolly Saint Nick coming back after a magical night of delivering toys to deserving children. Instead we must look to break out of the loneliness and outside of a life without someone to cuddle our stuffed bodies covered in matted faux fur, as I feel sometimes as though I were a used up stuffed bear waiting to be yanked off the floor by my arm and taken under someone’s elbow.  The elbow of a boy who used to love me more than any other toy in the box.

I feel the compression that too much alone time can cause, like an astronaut without a helmet, the ring around his neck empty leaving him gasping purple in an airless infinite darkness for a breath of nonexistent oxygen.  Perhaps, and more apropos, metastatic breast cancer survivors represent a horde of Barbie dolls, freakish perverted proportions, and missing one or both of her once disproportionately large nipple-less breasts. Our torsos wrapped in gauze, we hobble back to the warmth of the factory, now quiet after the seasonal rush.

What I do know of cancer’s tonnage dump of loneliness is this: it’s a single perfectly understood universal gestalt, which  includes the undeniable, unbearable heaviness of spending our days just ghostly and a turn a whiter shade of pale. Once death becomes a friend we join the universe’s energy again and mix it up. Imagine if you can, a rave that ends only when your soul, composed of the imperishable neurological energy created by our brains during our momentary, slippery lifetime.  Yet we came up short on everything truly important until it’s too late. Until we found out we had an expiry stamped on our ass that’s not easy to read even under the best light and with the best pair of medical glasses that the cancer industry has loosed on the oncologists who work to keep us alive longer.

But we’re stuck here alone without those who loved our better selves, alone with our thoughts and dreams, alone with our entire life erased from the great whiteboard in the sky and waiting to be written over by us, preferably soon and preferably with a happy ending to our stories.

Yes, I ramble. But I hope you get the point.  The imperfect beings made more imperfect by metastatic cancer of any kind aren’t the kinds of people who you’re gonna pop by and see, the guilt ridden phone call you know you should make but haven’t and shit, the longer you wait, the more difficult that call becomes. We the misfit toys don’t care when you call, when you stop by, what you DO NOT bring, what you want to talk about or do not want to discuss.  As I’ve stated in earlier posts, I don’t want to talk about cancer either.  So come by, call, write, I’m still me.  I’m still thinking about the Columbia University findings regarding how people make important life decisions on unconscious tags for better or for worse.  We make our decisions so irrationally, it seems, that there must be some reason, something we don’t realize.  Here’s the well stated conclusion of this very interesting paper on Attitudes and Social Cognition.

The findings of this report stand in sharp contrast to many of the assumptions that both scientists and lay people have typically made about major life decisions. For example, these findings raise serious questions about whether people are fully in control of their own behavior. Nonetheless, the idea that people make major life decisions on the basis of unconscious decision rules does not necessarily mean that people are irrational. Instead, the specific form of implicit egotism identified in this research may represent an unconscious route through which people create social worlds that typically make them feel good.

Such speculations aside, the most important implications of these studies may be the most obvious: there may be much more in a name than most people realize. To paraphrase an anonymous author of tongue twisters, this research offers some new insights into why some people might find it more satisfying than others to sell seashells by the seashore. Why do we seem to make so many important life decisions based on unconscious emotional responses? I suppose we truly trust our guts to decide what makes us happy? Is it the same reasoning That causes so many more people with the names Denise and Dennis becomd dentists than those named Bill or Belinda?

I assume if there were more personally uplifting stories of some of us who were doing well, pictures of us with hair not just with our turban or wig slightly off kilter on our heads, or emaciated from the ravages of chemotherapy with puffy grey circles like rain clouds under our eyes, then maybe the loneliness of cancer wouldn’t be so deep and dark.  Maybe so many husbands and partners wouldn’t become depressed or even leave.  Maybe we would meet more people like ourselves instead of hiding away to stay at home.  The wounds deepen with every passing month, albeit invisible wounds. The kind that even Santa Clause can’t put on his list as us being naughty or nice this year.

The findings of this report stand in sharp contrast to many of the assumptions that both scientists and lay people have typically made about major life decisions. For example, these findings raise serious questions about whether people are fully in control of their own behavior. Nonetheless, the idea that people make major life decisions on the basis of unconscious decision rules does not necessarily mean that people are irrational. Instead, the specific form of implicit egotism identified in this research may represent an unconscious route through which people create social worlds that typically make them feel good. Such speculations aside, the most important implications of these studies may be the most obvious: there may be much more in a name than most people realize.

To paraphrase an anonymous author of tongue twisters, this research offers some new insights into why some people might find it more satisfying than others to sell seashells by the seashore.

From Nifty to Niftier

In 2012, I was a “nifty” woman awarded the label of a top 50 women in technology on twitter by Webbiquity.com – hey that’s pretty cool. But today, my disabled body cannot find a way to arrive on time, maybe 50 minutes late, but not an award-worthy statistic. 2017 Nifty Fifty Flake. Making lemonade from the lemons that fall far from the tress and slooooowly attempting an ascension to the locally driven retail and internet word search puzzle grabbing customers to my Etsy site. I rise or try to anyway, to arise to the transcendent world of low tech ecofashion. I recently wrote a post on my Etsy shop about the waste in the fast fashion industry, which I had no idea existed until I researched the surface of what I’m trying to accomplish by selling vintage goods. I knew it was good for the environment but I had no idea about how good.

Here’s the post for your reading pleasure and feel free to visit my shop at http://www.etsy.com/post/yeuxdeux.

Hello, my fellow self proclaimed eco-fashionistas, please read on and give yourselves another pat on the back for buying vintage from a small purveyor. Your proud and your clothing says more about your real love of our planet and not just of great old fashion.
Imaging it’s about 7:30 on a regular weeknight and you walk from the offie to a working dinner with some clients. As you toss your 40’s baby blue crushed velvet jacket over your chair and sit down while placing a napkin over the lap of your favorite new old 50’s dress. You can also be aware of the ooh’s and aah’s, since we all know vintage when worn well brings us many questions and can be great conversation starters as well. And now you can also tell all those complimenting your gorgeous and unique, well fitted outfit the facts about today’s new “fast fashion,” akin to fast food, and the waste of the fashion industry since the second world war, especially in the United States.
Here’s some fast facts for you – and not just to make you feel good about buying good vintage, wearing it, gifting vintage and antique pieces, but about not filling our land with more waste from the now second largest polluter and waste maker of all manufacturing industries.
  • As much as 15% of fabric ends up trashed in the process of making clothes. (US EPA, 2016)
  • 11.1 million tons of clothing are thrown away per year and the average American trashes 63 pounds of textiles per year. (US EPA 2006)
  • The average T-shirt wastes 700 gallons of water in manufacturing (US EPA, 2017)

Petroleum-based polyester and poly blends comprise most garments manufactured today in fast fashion found in stores like Target, H&M and others. The fabric proves very hard to recycle without losing quality and therefore goes mainly to the dump along with 15% of the other wasted materials mentioned above, winding up on the manufacturing plant floor. We won’t discuss the overseas manufacturing of garments in China and the Philippines where blue jeans create a special kind of illness uno themselves to the human capital creating the tight pre-washed garments that make your ass look great!

And for the back pocket of your jeans, here’s the fast fashion facts you may want to take with you to continue that dinner conversation you started back in the introductory paragraph of this blog post:

  • US consumers buy 20 million garments per year
  • That means every man, woman, child, and not to mention pets in some cases buy 63 garments per person per year.
  • That means everyone buys at least 1+ garment per week.
    The US EPA 2017
Would you rather read an exciting new sky blue 1940’s jacket hand-made in gorgeous crushed velvet just came into YeuxDeux Vintage and is available for your re-use and environmentally savvy shopping – arriving in less than a week and ready for you to wear, or would you rather force yourself to get in the car, waste time and gas, buy something not quite so dazzling and at the same price, and chance that someone else at the table ran over to H&M for a cheap version of the same thing you ran over to H&M for at lunch to impress the customers at your table that evening?
More impressive is your still going to have this jacket in your wardrobe for years to come, and perhaps even have it for your daughter or niece or nephew to wear years from now when they steal it out of your closet?  I present to you the facts, my economically savvy and ecologically friendly favorite Etsy buyers. Isn’t that why we love vintage on another level – the real notion that we’re saving the future of our planet with fashion gifts from the past.