Tag: cancer

The Gracie Foundation

Everyone needs a little pampering, a surprise gift of love, and no one moreso than a person with metastatic breast Cancer. The Gracie Foundation provides all that and a deep feeling of warm love in a priority mail box to its recipients. I received mine on Monday and not a moment too soon, either. You can nominate yourself or be  nominated by someone else to receive the amazingly beautiful and incredibly useful, high quality priducts to make breast cancer treatments just a little easier to bear. In my box: a large bottle, with pump, of body lotion; a scented soy candle; a cooling eye mask; a bath scrunchie; a gray knit cap; pink warm socks; an awesome mug for a big cup of tea; delicious scented soap; a pen and todo pad for chemo brain days; face cleansing wipes; and a book explaining the origins of the idea and the woman who founded this wellspring of love to carry on her legacy through giving even beyond her physical lifetime.

Gracie’s husband, who she married just a week before her fight with cancer ended, carries on her legacy and so he and volunteers ship off a little of Gracie’s beauty to others who need a bit of that special thing that made her a much loved woman of substantial giving.

Thank you, Gracie. Your spirit and soul fill my heart with beauty and joy, and I think that’s just what you had in mind. ♥️

CATS and KITTENS!

I have your full attention and yes there will be adorable cat interest stories to entertain you, so fear not dear reader. I make this assertion: blog posts, essays, and cute tongue in cheek stories about cats and kittens attract far more readers than similar stories about any kind of cancer. I’m fairly certain of this without even checking the statistical data. I might have this all wrong, but I doubt it.

If a kitten could invade your body physically, you’d know it. I don’t mean a “sitting in your lap purring” invasion of your personal space, I mean getting into your body traveling around a la the Disney movie “Inner Space,” in which a family is shrunk down to the size of a baby flea injected into the bloodstream of a human being. I recall the roller coaster ride at one of the Disney properties in Orlando, Florida supporting the film. I bet it took in millions in ticket sales from the drones lined up in snaking hours-long waits for a single minute of thrills. I cringe at the idea almost as much as I cringe at the idea of Silicon Valley rush hour traffic, bile of rage welling up in each driver hours before jumping into a pool of BMWs and Priuses.

Back to my subject matter – cats versus cancer. Cancer cannot compare in the arena of adorable versus ugly. Cats win hands down. The statistics about cats do not make people cringe, unless they’re cat haters or sociopathic torturers. Other than some dogs, the occasional wolf or coyote, certain birds of prey, and most carnivorous mammals larger than a cat that may view puss in boots as a nice appetizer for supper, nothing and no one really hates a kitten or cat. Even Grumpy Cat, that self-loathing short legged curmudgeon. His or her angry looking furrowed kitty brow genetically beaten in by human torturers kind of like a form of cancer. Nothing a little radiation therapy couldn’t handle.

Believe it or not, cats, not only dogs, can detect breast cancer. At least British kittens can. Recently, a women in the UK claimed that her kitten would wake up in the morning and jump on its owner’s right breast. She let this go in for two weeks until she visited her physician. It turned out the kitten sensed she had stage one breast cancer, and now the woman is on her way to a full recovered. See the article referenced below for the whole story.

There’s marked differences between cats and cancer. It’s no surprise these differences create a preference for cat content over cancer content. And although a kitten created a happy, lucky breast cancer survivor, this is one of the few Venn Diagrams containing both kittens and cancer with any overlapping area at all. Instead, if you were to think about the two topics, you’d draw the diagram in two distinct and separate circles: one labeled “cats” and the other labeled “cancer.”

Why? Cancer doesn’t playfully attack you – it aggressively wages war on your body. It’s not aloof or passive aggressive, just aggressive. It doesn’t purr or meow. Your friends don’t say, “ohhhhh! Such a cute little cancer you’ve adopted. What’s her name?” My cancer, as with other people with incurable cancer that eventually kills us if the treatments don’t do us in first, is named “metastatic” or “stage 4.” Cancer won’t play with a toy or a ball of yarn, it plays tricks and hides from mammograms if you have dense breast tissue, like me. It can’t smell catnip nor will it steal your ham or turkey sandwich. It won’t let you pet its head or scratch behind its ears. It hardly allows you to poison it with chemotherapy, radiate it or even cut it out surgically. Best of all, you needn’t buy Cancer a litter box or a food dish or food to fill the dish. Cancer lives in its very own self replenishing food dish. I am it’s food dish and it will eat me alive. I’m also it’s litter box and it’s cat tree. It doesn’t ask or meow to go outside and every once in a while I take it on a vacation with me or to a cancer retreat to entertain it! Lucky cancer is even treated to large doses of its favorite treat, cortisol, whenever I become stressed. I have a very obedient cancer. It responds well to chemotherapy- first Xeloda and now Ibrance.

Unfortunately my health coverage doesn’t quite cut it for this latest round of treatment to get it out of my liver. So I reached out to the Patients Advocacy Foundation and they are funding the $3000 copay that I cannot even begin to cover. Cancer pounced aggressively on my financial life from diagnosis, forcing me to get out of the workforce and spend many days at home. With my cat. And not much more company than that 90% of the time.

A cat will make you feel a little better if you do have cancer by showing you love and affection, and in my case remaining with me in bed when I feel terrible or on the days when I cannot bring myself to fight the fatigue. He’s around when the humans in my world disappear, some never to return again. But my cat only leaves my side to eat or use his litter box. I know if he had opposable thumbs he’d feed me and bring me soup and things to drink. He allows me to cry in his fur and won’t run away when I talk about uncomfortable subjects. Simon loves me unconditionally, while my cancer hates me unconditionally.

So here’s some entertainment for you to forget about cancer for a while and the article from the Daily Mail about the cancer detecting kitten. But I hope you’ll come back again to read more about the uncomfortable topic of how stage IV breast cancer in the form of invasive lobular carcinoma with metastasis to the bones and now the liver, aim to destroy a woman and how she lives in relative peace and happiness, regardless of what rages on inside and outside of her physical body.

Kittens Boxing in a Ring, circa 1894
The oldest known film of kittens
YouTube’s oldest cat video (movie?) made in July 1894, not posted until the 2010’s

My Kitten Alerted Me to Cancer
Kitten saves British woman from rare form of breast cancer
Continue reading “CATS and KITTENS!”

One Fresh Hell, Hold the Tomatoes

Last week found me a visitor to a mental health facility, leaving each evening alone and downcast. The place just a few miles from our home, in the foothills south of the city, in an unremarkable single story building where I chose to allow supposed professional responsible human beings to rescue my ailing partner from the shackles of long term anxiety and depression. Leaving without him broke my heart and provided not a whit of relief as a few close friends hoped a “break” in the action might provide. His pained eyes looking upon my sadness as yet another judgement to come down upon me. Another multi-year term added to the #lifer tag around my neck, another blow to my remnants of hope.

All the while I possess the knowledge that I likely won’t live to see our future through to a plausibly happy conclusion. Even though this love 10 years in the making, its melodramatic script changed and the film itself in the can, spliced together and the story arc mangled under the cruel editor’s blade. The final reels go to the studio with my scenes cut and lying on the editing room floor.

I hoped for relief at the end of a long week spent alone over the course of treatment, yet no sparkle reappears in his eyes yet and his life not yet resuscitated. It takes the Zoloft about four weeks to help much. But I’m mostly alone these days. Yearning for my partner’s support and the kind of tender and caring love many of which many metastatic sisters write and blog about, I now look over at him, home in bed, and find one whose dark, inky emotions remain locked away inside his heart, like the stars behind clouds in a dark night sky. He lays there disengaged, thinking to himself about things that cause long bouts of sighing, and the simmering anger of so many men who find themselves bitten by such disorders.

Sometimes, my difficulty lies in hiding my visible outrage for being his care giver for over three years, of which this past 18 months one of the most heart wrenching trials of my life. My god – this and cancer, too? Fuck. What more can one do but look up and ask the ceiling over our bed long and winding questions about the treacherous nature of spiritual meaning, self-worth, and the relative value of a life. I then break from the sum of my existential questioning of cogito ergo… to find an email in my inbox from someone who reaches out to me to thank me. Grateful for my honest approach to my blog posts they type out a note that reminds me of why it’s worth it to know that it’s my responsibility as a wife to make a decision to help alleviate my partner’s suffering and try to revive him. To ask that his soul be returned his body.

He, too, wants only the same for me and indicates we may not stay together. For fuck’s sake — why now and you have got to be joking (the only sentences I can form without punching him in the face.) These trivialities came to him exactly how? And in what universe does he believe he lives in where this would even be okay by a substandard unintelligent alien culture of unfeeling assholes? And with that he passes wind and falls asleep and I’m left to wonder alone, naturally, what fresh hell might await me tomorrow?

Hopefully a new sandwich called “fresh hell” from the deli and no more than that.

Eventide

Riding passenger side snapping right,
I’m down in front stealing long exposures.
From the back seat our youth sits
Mocking us with instant polaroids.
Destroyed pictures of minutes and memory
Precious and precarious slip a stone
At once here and at once gone.
Right under the driver breaks hard and higher
Up another mile, silently stealing all we pass.
As if it meant nothing, had no value.
Yet we never stop to salute the flowers –
All wilds and yellows and purples.
The foothills’ shoulders grow peonies
Upon sunshine golden with military ranks.

How jagged time?
We spend ours climbing again as
Eventide approaches us.
Stealing the light
Squinting and teasing Every photographer’s eye.
The lens escapes the fight as fists fly
Above us rung the first punch
Headliners: the over-real versus the unbelievable.
Then we drop down tearing around
The Summit dragging the day with us.
With us flat then right over on the side.
Buckshot sprays whitetail from
Underneath the wheels,
My skin and bones chill fast underneath
Blankets just a quarter mile thin –
Count the microclimates in a 14 mile exposure.
My imagined assignment, anyway.

Inertia now driving our ascension
Finally dousing my focus.
Yet I am pacified by
Deep coastal royal blue velvet,
And by the courtly cape
Of dense silver fog.
Trees, reach in and take my attention
Lost in the sky and yet at home.
Away with the little brick foxes
Already started by the drooling hounds,
Running in distant golden broken lines
Shrinking to a pointed index
Finger of bent redwood lumber.
Penciled between the knotted trees
Escaping our eyes
They write letters to us
To one another, to anyone.
I imagine the trees alone love themselves.
Writing in dead languages those
Modern towers of Babylon
Without oral tradition
No monks or followers to take dictation
The mighty ones tie rings around
Paper and papyrus of their own making.
They, like me, can write their own stories.

Distant deamons dance to the music of the eventide,
Whose eardrums thump and pop from slight descents.
Mercies clear the stares and the macabre glances.
And up ahead the night hides just around
The voluptuous Earth’s curves.
Yet she shakes off the road upon her hip
Langushing and lounging
Laughing at all the forsaken highways.

You snap me awake.
My hypnotic state undone
By our quick duel and I, only me –
I roll one window down
With enough sense to know
The party orange of evening presents
A moment for exposure
Showing the night undone
By the simplest flash
As we find a space and stall the motor,
King and queen of the hills
Announced by snare drums and trumpets.
Goodbye, twisted bruised skin of eventide.
Eventide, goodbye.

Mine Fields

Is the rain bothering you awake?
No honey, your breath tries my dreams.
Silence, broken by my
Finger tips tapping out
Warnings in barbed Morse code.
So even a clock stopped dead
Is twice right, like opinions or
Pain medications.
A real mistress knows that
Night whispers her end.
Pearls, wisdom and
Idioms stick to the black
Floor of a yellow city cab.
Like all irrelevant souvenirs,
We leave it on the seats.

Do you hear the cat snoring?
Yes, he lies back pure in sleep,
Swift tail whips a dream’s fiend.
Wagging sinuous and snapping,
Fortunes of thumbs and scams or
Of more dexterous hands, of
Beasts who feed and caress.
Swiping the tiny dimple up
Right between his almond
Eyes. Exactly where four
Fumbling aimless paws
Aim yet miss. He must always
Itch, just as you flip and fumble
Over to find a cold field
Covered head to toe in clover.

Follow the Queen

My room unlatched
Releasing shirts, slacks
To hungry closets for
New black suits.
Drawers devoid, empty,
Open for guides and
Maps. A single dirty window
Opens to a brick wall.
My memory of the word
“Defenestration” fell out.
My mouth shares the doubt
Of an incomplete education.
Underneath paper thin sheets
Uncover my form asleep dreaming,
Murmuring bird breeds.
I fly into the diaspora.
Street artisans took to the
Deep sea once, yet to which land?

I hold the receiver and
Wish for a revolver.
Legal language defense
Foreign escapes
Hold up in court.
Unknown room numbers
In a delicious series of
Chambers marked 12, 31
Maybe 2004.
Remembering a stone cold six story
Buddha in a wide open gin palace.
Cigars and molten cherries
Jubilee. Bananas foster
Charles Foster Kane,
His full name from nothing.
Mother’s greasy brunch pumpkin
Markets and street tchotchkes.
Snow globes from America where
Going down South the snow
Attracts curious tourists.
Temporary neighbors
Angry without rose beds,
Lawnmowers without preteens.
I learned the names of
Chateaux. Bordeaux, Chablis
Pure sunshine Chardonnay.
Tastevin and Caskets
Down in the catacombs
The same town underground.

Rise up and run off
Spilling me like syrup
On pancake embankments.
A cooing stewed pigeon
On an expired warranty the
Black dial telephones,
Hissing tube televisions.
Anonymous but you only
Would send such indifferent
Cheap bouquets of sprayed
Carnations and baby’s breath.
Such sorry little pimples
Those flowers, like calling
Cards for bill collectors.
Or foreign exchanges between
Currencies for emergencies.
Ladies wearing smart suits
Tahitian pearl chokers
Rhinestone bangle bracelets
Bengal tiger-print hot pants.
A real mistress
Ends in a whisper
Her knowledge sits stuck
In the back of a cab.
Like all irrelevant souvenirs.
Bees swarm from the 300 year oak
Guarding the fire department.
Emptying from the hive
Growling as one great
Carpet to cover the daylight yellow
Moist and musky bungalow.
Shotgun shacks, powder kegs open
Their queen, a patron saint
Leaves her scent, thinning the
Hive of the dullards,
The abused and the confused.
One last time, dressed
For success the top opening
For California mornings air.
I sneak out the back and press on,
Press on emerging into traffic.

Florida, State Your Name

You carry our secrets whispered into cardboard boxes tied tight with candycane twine
(That kind you find in old-time kosher bakeries.)
Tall cakes topped with buttercream flowers in new-fatigue green and suburban-Mustang blue whose
Stemless petals rise above yellow spongey layers with strawberries.
Pure as curbside snow. Pure as little girls with pinch pink cheeks.
Too early for my birthday the trail of a mistake runs upstairs from cheap paper doilies.
Pin striped suit coat and sea glass blue shirttails waving gooodbye, or hello,
(I never knew the difference.)
My hair twisted into a gilded fist as you push my resistance down,
Down into the drowned warped boards.
Raising my right hand, I swear you found a pushover:
A raggedy doll tape and bubble gum, of bare burlap, plaid, and buttons, of red yarn
Covering my torn skin where I stitch myself up and over
(And over to hold myself in again.)
A stray calico cat sits in the window right above your shoulder, startled by your loud heart.
I can still hear you slapping your thigh and then,
Distant laughter cries at your day-old jokes jokes and overtold stories.
Your hysterical, foul, scorn defers a look at me.
I hated you for that minute, then carrying on again I forget you already told me.

My face looks tired, uncooked, undone.
While white hot light sheds the palmetto scrub
Covering the non-natives invading our country- bright boisterously green parrots.
Which fly in on an uncommon flight schedule,
Catching a torrent of wind the turkey vultures wind into a tornado
Turning up higher and faster into the late afternoon rain.
Here, every shower comes in on time right at four.
Bursting open ladies with umbrellas, with daisy dresses, tulip capris, white rose tanks,
Waltzing by the front porch screen doors squeaking,
Slippery dimpled thighs sing together,
All sweet, easy, glide by leaving their perfume behind.
Then zipped into black patent leather hand bags powders, compacts,
Glossy rippled heat waves us in on a 45 degree right angle sun ray.
Show up the hidden mildewed sinews of ductwork,
And the hum of air conditioners masking our words.
Slowly dripping outside busy windows pelted by huge mosquitoes,
Or rain?
(Probably rain cries outside)
Only two minutes, like soft boiled eggs on timers,
Now done cooking. Her eyelashes, false
Newly bred widows sit with spidery eyes,
Single fingers silently making reservations for you.
They reapply the glue, so unkind, that damned humidity.

Never, never, never give up.*

Christmas 2017

In the spirit of enjoying my newly found power of living in the now, and not over thinking my tasks or decisions too much, I find a listing worthy of our time and  instead of sitting home asking what to do and not doing much together, we decide it may be fun to head out to see a film. We drop our imaginary swords after a weekend of tension and melancholy leading up to today, Christmas Day.  After purchasing our tickets online, we slipped out of the garage with plenty of time to spare and without the usual tension causing any arguments. So without a hitch, we went out with a playful, familiar affection for one another.

I didn’t allow myself to over think what needed doing, and it all got done. I found myself grateful and comfortable as we drove the quiet holiday road, listening to Mozart. I am more home focused  these days as my current course of chemotherapy has caused my blood cell counts to decline. Compounding this, The C suffers from depression thats holds him locked in our house nearly  every day, sleeping more than he’s awake.

But tonight once he finished dressing, he smelled clean and crisp and looked really handsome and I told him so.  With patience he waited for me downstairs while I took a deliciously steamy hot shower, one of life’s little delicacies and a major privilege of living in a first world country. I dressed up a little bit for him, but for myself mostly.  As someone with gender altering breast cancer, I recommend it highly. If you don’t really feel like getting out into the public, dressing up and putting on a little makeup can help your inside rise to the occasion outside.  It doesn’t hurt, whether you have hair or not, gained or lost weight, became flat chested or had reconstruction, try it. I find needed confidence and The C says, babe, you look really hot. Grin. Blush. He playfully, but gently so as not to mar my transluscent skin, pinches my ass and impish grins and says, what? as I squeal “oh, don’t!” And we get moving to the film.

The Darkest Hour starring Gary Oldman, who by the way OWNED the role of Churchill, engaged us from beginning to closing credits. Big new bonus feature, there’s now reserved seating recliners to kick back and put your feet up in, leather ones, too.  My inner marketeer assumes this phenomenon arose from a study about what makes people stay home instead of going to the theater to see a film. My conjecture: the study found people dreaded mortgage size snack bills and horribly unsanitary cloth-covered, ass numbing seating, originally designed for the Spanish Inquisition’s torture chambers. I can just see the PowerPoint presentation designed to sell the plush, button operated gluteus maxims warming cuddle machines to the theater chains’ operations management. (PowerPoint brain IS akin to chemo brain. I suffered both and the similarities are uncanny.)

Anyway,  The Darkest Hour covers Winston Churchill’s first month to his wartime appointed Prime Ministership governing Great Britain. He’s refused to lead his nation into a seriously precarious position of becoming like France in an act tantamount to surrender. Indeed, he would have accepted this fate had he allowed former PM and war cabinet member Chamberlain’s cowardly and first choice for the prime ministership, Lord Havilland to drive a country into a state that neither man was strong enough to lead. It turns out Chamberlain had only months to live having been diagnosed with cancer.  Me. Havilland drove his agenda as well as the King’s and persuaded Churchill to allow a seat at a table for one, at the so-called peace treaty with Hitler via Mussolini. History would be changed forever, and for not only Great Britain, but for all of Europe. There’s a surprise mini arc in the action that I’ll not give away but you’ll know why if you see the film.

Prime Minister Mr. Churchill, ravaged by lack of sleep and terrible indecision, finds himself unable to conjure the words for a speech he must deliver to the House of Commons regarding the decision to fight or to act with cowardice and surrender.  In an impulsive move, he leaves his chauffeured car running into the station and takes a train, something he’s never done, to Westminster and goes, so to speak underground. There he finds strength through listening to people’s emotional cries of “victory!” in the train car. Men and women who rightly are stunned by the presence of the PM and who represent a cross section of his constituency. Churchill initially went underground looking for a match to light his cigar, but emerged into the rainy day not only with the light for his oral fixation secured but enlightenment for his immanent oration. He finds answers he needs in that moment without over thinking his decision, in the hearts and minds of his beloved nation’s people.

I won’t spoil the ending, but we all know how the US for five long years allowed the punishing of our strongest world ally. Roosevelt got the blinders off very late in the war. Yet Churchill gave many European people hope for a future not ruled by tyrants. Without the navy but with his inspiration his ability to launch an entire force of civilian boats, to rescue 300,000 troops – the entire British military force stranded on the coast of France – waiting for help from across the English Channel.  Those boats were not captained by soldiers, but by regular people brought together, finding strength and bravery from deep inside their hearts and souls. Such bravery exhibited on so many levels boggles the mind and I need more time to digest the strength employed by everyone involved from the King of England, to Churchill, to his wife, to his supporters, and to the boats men living up above the White Cliffs of Dover.

I get chills thinking of the scene. It’s not a film full of CGI or big blasts or comic superheroes or special effects. It’s all in a short time with small spaces containing big exhibits of strength and bravery. Churchill knew that bravery comes not only from a wellspring inside, but from the community with whom we share a common connection. In his case the whole of Britain, in my case a small subset of the blogosphere. 

I know I represent a small subset who communicate via blogs. Here I find the brave and the vulnerable and in turn, this frees me to shed my own fears.  When someone stumbles into a post or poem of mine, and finds my “confessions” supportive,  the support I need comes easily.

At the beginning of this circuitous confessional, I found strong brave ties to a man I never knew. My relatives emigrated to the United States via Ellis Island in New York.  I am here because my great grandparents had the forethought to safely move our families out of the USSR, away from the tyranny that would slaughter Jews by the hundreds of thousands. Because of their courage I never will know  the atrocities of a true bloody ground fought war on a grand scale or the ensuing post traumatic stress disorder of an entire nation.

But we all fight our own wars don’t we?

I feel like my body is a country, my cancer, Stalin and  Hitler (Shitler?), the ground troops like my immune system, and my spirit like Churchill himself. Never, never, never give up. Victory is the only option, cried Churchill to the House of Commons that afternoon. From that scene on a wide screen was another brave heart who imbued in my spirit the strength of the lion himself long gone to find the One universal truth. He showed us the wisdom to listen, not just orate beautiful monologues that drown out the strength of other men and women, be they big public figures or new mothers with babies or blue-collar bricklayers from London.

Or even the small voice of a blogger in Silicon Valley, echoing words into the great web of the unknown. Too much drama? Nah, #fuckcancer.

Sloop John B. aka Let Me Go Home

So hoist up the John B’s sail
See how the main sail sets
Call for the Captain ashore
Let me go home, let me go home
I want to go home
Well I feel so broke up
I want to go home
Hoist up the John-b sail.
See how the main sail sets,

I groan as I depart outrunning the Smurf blue scrubs-clad wheelchair engineer who, I’m totally convinced, wants only to embarrass me with one last spin round the rotunda of Stanford’s gynormous older hospital (a new one is on the way, thankfully). Leaving behind me a dishearteningly BORING stay in Stanford’s F-wing. Wow, ever so apropos of the oncology floor, the F-uck it wing, the F-ucking cancer wing. Let me never ever go into a hospital again.

Dehumanized. Depersonalized. Muted. Turned into a brainless pajama bag of pain and shit. Exasperated, exhausted annoyed. Telling the same boring story of how I arrived, my trip through the ER, the amount of fluid siphoned out of my abdomen, whether or not I went poopy in the toilet, as well as my level of discomfort. All told to a supporting cast in this theater of the absurd. All except for my angel in uniform, Stacey, who actually sees me as human and spending more than one shift with me, even requesting to take my bed at assignment time. We talked about everything and nothing, perfumes, children, cancer, other nurses, hospital stories. Stacey stopped by when she wasn’t obligated to do so, and see how I was feeling, to let me know she’d ordered the Flower Bomb perfume I sprayed on her wrists a few days earlier to make sure she’d like it enough to plunk down hard earned cash for it. Like a friend might, she came by my room when she’d heard my ticket outta there had been stamped, to say goodbye. Stacey remained my friend in the hospital for six boring shifts and her big smile, bounty of hair and breasts, and her need to talk to someone who could just ask questions and listen to her.

Basically, and aside from Stacey, at any given time, one might become confused permanently by a troupe of medical professionals, including:

Two doctors, one of whom visited me for exactly three minutes and accidentally ran into me during one of four daily 30 minute cross hospital walks,
Seven distinct nurses
Three nurse practitioners
Two social workers
One psychologist
One spiritual leader of the Rabbinical kind

The same questions day in day out, night after sleepless night…your level of pain, 0-10, 10 being the highest. Where? Which pain? It’s all over and all different. I learned to pantomime and point to my pain, showing anyone who buys a ticket to my freak show behind the curtain. No one likes to stay overnight in a hospital let alone six fabulous nights at the Palo Alto Stanford Hospital Resort and Country Club. Where sleep comes only to those who sleep with the fish, there’s no relationship between yourself and a concept called privacy.

I’m not contagious, therefore my roommates become a series of Spanish speaking, translator required, entire family toting, new treatment guinea pigs under tight scrutiny from the nurses who all ignore me. I’m not part of the program. And but the way why the translators who clearly were trained in translation skills raise their voices with each translated word to the supposed Spanish only speaking individual in the next bed in the room, is beyond my comprehension. I hear both of the roommates, between whom I get one 36 hour reprieve from holding my farts due to close proximity of their family and our shared bathroom.

You want to define understatement? My visible excitement level peaking higher than my pain level for the first time in weeks as I jumped at the first chance to “give up” my bed and an opportunity manage my symptoms at home until my next procedure. Emphatically and resoundingly, please please please let me go home – like The Beach Boys song. For the record, the break in self care and trying to pull my partner out of bed (generally so I could try it out alone for a few hours to recuperate) I needed more than I realized. I fully enjoyed people focused on all of my physical needs for a little while. Pathetic, right?

Maybe so, but I’m home. I got home a week ago yesterday. Simon, my cat-son, truly gave me the what for when I got in, ignoring me at first, but unable to help his nose, which had a mind of its own, from sniffing down my belongings and then coming over to sniff me. Persuaded by sight and scent he crawled into my lap and purred and I rubbed by now-damp eyes in his soft brown fur, and said, Mommy’s home, baby, mommy’s home.

Now that’s pathetic.

My phone call to Cancer’s customer service

A transcript of my imaginary phone call to The Cancer Store’s unhelpful desk. While the veracity of these two seemingly innocent characters is dubious, the names are changed to protect their identities, so by reading any farther, you waive your rights to any legal action should they bear any resemblance to anything or anyone living (or dead.)

Cut into conversation in progress between an agent the Cancer Store (CS) and dissatisfied client (Me):

Me: No, I ABSOLUTELY HATE having metastatic breast cancer. (Blows nose, whimpering)

CS: Mmmm hmmm. (Background sound: filing fingernails)

Me: Can I return it, please?

CS: Our product works very well, right? (Smug, mocking)

Me: This product works exactly as it should, yes indeed, too well. Although, I really hate the overall ownership experience. (Getting tense)
CS:(silent)
Me: Where do I send it back?
CS:(silent)
Me: Hey look, I don’t appreciate your attitude. Ridiculous! The total cost of ownership adds up to an exorbitant amount of money. I can’t see the value in a million plus dollars a year to treat it. And it never shuts up. Keeps me up all night, doesn’t let me hold a full time job…and it’s wrong, all wrong. I want my life back not stupid Cancer!
CS: (Yawns audibly, sniffs) Yep. Umm hmm.
Me: Well, I can’t afford it and it really just doesn’t fit me at all. So I’m sending it back.
CS: Did you receive our free sample and try it? (several people giggling call now on speakerphone)
Me: Yes, but I swear I never asked for it. (Begin tears)
CS: Ma’am for the last time, it IS all your fault. Of course you deserve it. Don’t you remember the time you stole Barbie clothes on Easter from a drugstore open on Easter when you were nine years old? (Uproarious laughter from crowd of people on speakerphone)
Me: Is that when I picked it up? I would think…
CS: Really? You would think? (Sarcastically sounding like the Charmin Toilet Paper man)
Me: Look! I learned my lesson and that was over 40 years ago! I was a child. This doesn’t seem fair. The cancer I got just keeps growing, and somehow no one could even detected it for years. Now, it runs off and hides from treatment. I would never order a generic anyway…I would ask for it by name brand, not just generic C A N C E R. (Spells out Cancer, desperation in voice)
CS: Oh dear, you have the wrong department, I need to put you on an eternal hold in which you will hear only dead silence. What stage did you purchase, ma’am?
Me: Stage 4, well I didn’t purchase anything at ALL! That’s the reason why I called your so-called service department in the first place. (Sounding triumphant)
CS: The number 4? As in metastatic cancer? I only show “lobular breast cancer” on our order form, miss. You may have to speak with a supervisor. Please sit silently on hold for the rest of your life.
Me: Wait! WAIT!!! What did you say? Wrong department or you’re getting your supervisor? Hey!
CS: Both. Oh, wait before I put you on hold, would you mind taking a survey to help us improve our service? And we are running a special on chemotherapy from the creators of your cancer epidemic! We’d be thrilled to help you with your treatments in a lifetime contract service plan. Don’t worry we kill 113 people from Metastatic Breast Cancer every single day!
Me: You have got to be kidding me!
(Clicking noise followed by dead air, Cancer customer puts phone on speaker phone but cannot hang up… fast forward to surreal scene of a bedroom 50 years in the future to the skeletal remains and hair on the floor of my former physical self, as the new demolition boats come to tear down the now oceanfront house, in San Jose, California.)
The End