Sunday, April 25, 2010

It's Always There

I leave today for a week in Orlando for a Caregivers conference. Longest we have been apart since John’s surgery. I notice that my mind calculates time this way.

Yesterday in the car on our way to a concert we were listening to the Yankees game and there was a public service announcement for Colon Cancer screening. We both listened and didn’t speak. It’s always there.

We talk about the future. We talk about “when we are old” but cancer and its nasty statistics are always there. And I calculate. I plan for a wedding and a funeral. I dream of white and black. My contingency plan is always in place. Cancer is the hum in the background. It’s always there.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Colonel Chicken Cares about Your Breasts but not Your Life

More pink madness. More marketing fear.

Does the American Cancer Society care about heart disease? Does the Heart Association care about diabetes? Does Liver care about Lung? Does Chrohn’s and Colitis care about strokes? Does anyone care about all of you?

Our health care, health research and health education have become so fragmented because of marketing—and money—that it seems as if no one cares if you live or die they just want the organs they care about to survive. You can go ahead and die, they seem to say, as long as you don’t die of OUR disease.

A current ad campaign by Kentucky Fried Chicken is pitching a special promotion for fried chicken and The Susan B. Komen Foundation. You can now buy a big pink bucket (a bucket!) of fried chicken for the woman in your life and 50 cents from each big pink bucket of FRIED chicken will go to breast cancer research.

This makes me crazy! Does anyone want breast cancer? Nope. Do we want to prevent deaths from breast cancer? Yep. But this fried chicken campaign begs me to ask The Colonel—and Susan B. Komen: Do you really care about women’s lives and their health or only about breasts (both women and chicken)?

Here’s a fast bit of women’s health research: More women—more by far—die of heart disease than breast cancer. More women will die of cardiac related disease than breast or any other cancer. So if you really want to promote women’s health do you want to encourage us to eat buckets of FRIED chicken? (We know that you think we are babies—all that pink crap we have to endure, but you also think we’re stupid and can’t Google the words: breast cancer versus heart disease.)

What’s next? How about some pink Marlboro smokes? Pink Absolut vodka shots? A gallon of pink Hagen Das Ice cream and pink Wise potato chips consumed on a big pink couch in front of a pink TV?

Come on Susan B. Komen, get some balls—or are you leaving that to The Lance Armstrong Foundation? Will one of these health charities have the courage and integrity to care about the whole woman? To say to women—and the market-:A whole woman has boobs and brains and a heart and lungs and we need to take care of all of it for good health and a good life.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Prevent Cancer

A friend of mine is an educator for The American Cancer Society. The info below is from her tagline. Startling when you think this thru. All we fuss about with cancer and One Third of all cancer deaths are related to what we do to ourselves and One Half can be prevented! Holy Chemo Batman!

Tracey's tagline says:

One-third of all cancer deaths are related to nutrition, physical inactivity, and being overweight or obese. One-half of all new cancer cases can be prevented. Check out to learn what action YOU can take to protect yourself!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Marriage Artist

I was talking to my friend Stephanie yesterday about John and our plans to get married in August. “Why get married?” she asked me. The question, asked by others too, has nagged at me. Why get married when we have both been married before; when we won’t have kids; when we don’t know what might happen to his health or to our lives?

Perhaps the implied question: Why are you getting married again? Both of us married before –four past marriages between us--so why again? We talked about the cultural issues, the social status, the fact that marriage carries an additional satisfaction knowing that there are some who have bet against our relationship.

But there is something else: I like being married. As I’ve described it to friends, I like the container of marriage. I have always envisioned marriage as a container in which two people concoct something chemical, physical, emotional and spiritual. Some of the creations live a long time and some don’t. Some have stunningly beautiful chemical reactions, some make stinky messes, but all are living things.

Yesterday talking to Stephanie—as we pushed and pulled at this idea --I realized another part of this. Marriage is a creative act—and yes, in a way that living together is not—the materials are more expensive, there is an audience and there is no net. The very legality adds a risk factor. Seeing marriage as a work of art and myself as a marriage artist came closest to making sense of why I am willing to do this hard, imperfect and often uncomfortable thing over and over. Perhaps it is a kind of performance art created in front of a live audience. Or an installation –bizarrely conceptual and wildly improvisational.

It is also why the question, “Are you happy?” seems irrelevant to me. Friends-- wondering about this marriage –have asked me, “Are you happy?” But that’s not the question that I ask myself. I’m not always happy. What artist is? But am I interested? engaged? challenged? stretched? learning? surprised? perplexed and ultimately deeply changed? Yes to all of the above.

All of these years trying to find my medium, here it is at my finger tips. Marriage as medium. The marriage artist.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

God is Love is Sex is God

Church, passion, kneeling at communion. Our shoulders and hips touch but our prayers are private and intimate. God forgive me, change me, heal me, bless him, show me. Bread in wine, flesh and blood and we eat it kneeling. Devour a man’s body and juices on our knees. We drink blood. Absolute carnality, absolute intimacy, absolute love.

Rising we are healed, saved, restored.

We reenter our pew and he grips my hand so hard. There are tears in his eyes. He chokes, “I love you.”

We come home to the New York Times, mocha coffee and Italian pasties from Bella Napoli. I’m reading about palliative care and he is in front of me, tears again, kissing me, tugging at clothes.

“Is there any greater compliment than a man who wants to f*** you?”asks Helen Gurley Brown.

And he does. And we do. Laughing, grunting, crying all over each other’s bodies, mouths, hands, fingers, legs.

Finally tired and hungry.

God is love. Sex is love. He is risen today. Amen

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Easter Brother

I consider the following to be quite telling about my own personality: I never believed in Santa Claus. I never, even as a little kid, imagined or believed that a man would go house to house in a red suit and bring toys and stockings to boys and girls.

I did, however, believe, until I was ten or maybe even older, in the Easter Bunny. In my own defense I have to explain that we lived near the woods and I saw all kinds of rabbits, little baby bunnies and distance-covering jack rabbits, all the time. But I also had two older brothers who, as only big brothers can, facilitated, my belief. Sig and Larry would talk just slightly out of my earshot about The Bunny. “Don’t let her see him”, and “Did you see the basket he left next door?” They also, to make it more convincing, put bite marks on the handles of our Easter baskets.

My brothers died when they were 42 and 48. Now I’m the oldest. At Easter I miss them. I miss having an Easter basket from Lar who –even as an adult—made me one that included the bunny’s teeth marks to remind me just how naïve I had been. And I miss our sibling tradition of finding the family “King Egg”. As Easter approached we would each decorate our own hard-boiled egg, fortifying them with dye and crayon and competed (Sig and Lar were both went on to become engineers) by ramming our colored eggs together to see whose broke first.

I also miss dressing up for Easter services, complete with new dress and corsage. The three of us continued to go to church on Easter even when we had walked away from organized religion. We kept this holiday because we all liked the uplifting Easter hymns like “Up From the Grave He Arose”.

I kept going to church on Easter even as, and after, Sig and Larry were dying because those Easter hymns gave me a weird hope. It was not a hope of miraculous recovery for either brother, or necessarily for a reunion in the “Great Beyond”, but hope for my own “arose” from the heartache of losing my brothers, my playmates, co-conspirators and occasional torturers.

One of my final conversations with Sig was about my car. I was 40 years old but still easily defeated by my car worries. Larry, who was then sick, was caring for Sig who was dying, and I called their house in tears to report the impending death of my car. Larry, who was on the phone with me, relayed the mechanic’s opinion to Sig who was lying in what would soon be his deathbed.

Lar said to me, “Sig wants to talk to you”. I was surprised because Sig’s speech had become painful and very difficult for him. I waited until Larry positioned the phone for Sig to talk.

“Here’s what you tell them….”, he began, and he proceeded to dictate a set of car repair instructions to convince any mechanic that I knew a nut from a bolt, and that this girl had a brother who would not see his sister taken for a ride.

At Easter I have the best memories of a girl with brothers—of a basket-carrying rabbit who was “just here a second ago” and of making faces to spoil the, “Come on; Say cheese” Brownie snapshots that Dad took of our Easter outfits.

Apart from any theology, Easter lets me believe in the resurrection of my family, of my all too gullible girlhood self, and in a life that rises, falls, rises and dies over and over as we each cycle through layers of loss and gain.