Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why Doctors Die Differently

Look at this article from Sunday's Wall Street Journal. Doctors--even those that treat cancer--make different choices than their patients. Because they know some stuff. This is a great reminder of a key concept in cancer caregiving and care. A doctor will only answer what you ask and you have to ask very specific questions to get very specific answers. If you say, "Will this chemo help me?" the answer might be yes. But if you ask, "Will this chemo specifically and significantly improve my life expectancy and quality of life?" the answer might be different.

Read this. Food for thought.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why Women Love Bull Durham

The past couple of nights I have been watching Bull Durham. This is the movie from 1988 with Kevin Costner playing an aging catcher in the minor leagues. This is a movie that appears to be about baseball life with its travails and hopes and the desperate desires of men who want to play ball for a living. It is seemingly a men’s movie with all the swearing and ass slapping and drinking and real life baseball lore. But no, this really is THE all time best chick flick.

Yes, we love Kevin Costner from the first moment he arrives in the locker room wearing his navy blazer, rumpled white shirt and the khakis that are the perfect shade of tan with a hint of olive. He’s a manly man who in the first 20 minutes gives the fabulous, if too artful, monologue about his beliefs which includes, “I believe in the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman’s back…that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap”, and which ends with his belief in “long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days”.

Yes! You had us at “long, slow and deep”—and yes, at the Susan Sontag critique too.

But there is a later scene that truly outs women for what they really want.“Do you want to dance?” Sarandon asks Costner, sitting in the kitchen late at night. He says yes, but surprises her by not dancing but instead by sweeping all the food and dishes off the kitchen table onto the floor. He spins Sarandon onto that now empty table and they go at it rolling and clutching.

Oh, that’s part of it. We want a man to want us that much; we want a man who wants to make love a second time so much that he goes for it on the kitchen table. We do want that kind of passion in our lives. But, there is something else in this scene that truly makes this a women’s dream come true.  What most women truly desire is not what Costner does, but what Sarandon does NOT do. As all of her dishes and the leftover food crash onto the floor Sarandon allows herself to be swept onto that table instead of diving for a broom, or a dish cloth or saying to her lover, “Hold on just a second, I’ll clean this up and then meet you in the bedroom.”

No, she is in the moment and desires this man and this sex more than she desires a clean floor or neat kitchen. She wants the rapture of this man and his body even with cereal and milk oozing under the fridge. And she is not saying, “Oh God that was my mother’s china bowl.” Nope, she’s on that table fucking her brains out.

Oh, to be that kind of woman. We assume the power is in the man, that to be taken that way would free us. But what we see in Bull Durham is a woman who CAN be taken. She is not a woman thinking, “When did we last wash these sheets?” while a man is going down on her.

Oh, we do wish for a partner to love us with such sweet abandon, but Sarandon, in Bull Durham, shows us a woman who can abandon herself. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dating in CancerLand

"Dating and Desire"--Here's an article that appeared in several papers yesterday. The topic is dating when you have cancer. It's a young people's issue and a not-so-young-people's issue as well.  If married sex with cancer is hard to talk about --think about this. Maybe send this link to your favorite oncologist and say, "Come on!"

Click on the link below to read more


Monday, February 20, 2012

The Cottage Weekend

This weekend we made our pilgrimage to The Cottage in Lenox. It's an annual trip and an anniversary celebration. Each year it's a measure of how we are. We have gone there in terror (year one), in joy, in exhaustion, in lust, in chemo and in total silliness (my favorite).

Each year we pack a huge bag of books, magazines, and the Kindle. And even tho the owner of the B&B feeds us well we take extra desserts (cannoli) and extra breakfast (scones). And I take my red licorice (and some red lace). Then we lock our selves in for 2 and a half days of reading and relaxing.

On the way home we hit the used bookstores in Lenox, Stockbridge and West Stockbridge for more books. This year my great find was a first edition of "Death was The Other Woman" by Linda L. Richards. How could I pass up a title like that?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Six Month Madness

Yesterday was John’s six-month oncology visit. As before, I am unsettled for the few days before then very calm the day off. Prayer pays off. This time it was blood work, the poking and prodding, the euphemistic avoidance of talking about any bodily functions.

I feel like an old hand at this. But still I feel the anxiety in the air in that strange waiting room. There’s a sense of who is new and who is a regular and those that are back again.

The test results were mixed. Fine, passing fine and “we’ll have to see”. It takes at least five days for the “cancer marker” to be cultured and read. So now I really feel some worry. Funny name, “cancer marker”. I imagine a cartoon thermometer that has “You Gonna Die” at the top and gradations of life and pain along the way up. It’s really a protein test that signals, “more tests needed” but that name: Cancer Marker.

Here’s the hard part. When we get to this place each time (or when his cough won’t go away, or bathroom breaks take too long, or when he is tired and my imagination goes right to Big C—Part II) I have a kind of selfish dread that is hard to talk about.

When John’s cancer adventure began we were so caught off guard. He was in good health, we were newly weds, life was good and the cancer process came on so hard and fast—doctors and surgeons and hospitals and chemo and pumps in the night and emergency buzzers going off and learning to insert all kind of things in all kinds of places. It was fear but there was also so much adrenaline that overran thought or process. He did it, I did it, we went thru it. We ate all the lasagna and returned very dish. I cried a lot but mostly I had a big-eyed stare and a Doctor Sardonicus grin stuck on my face. It was new and we had no choices. And neither of us knew how hard it was going to be. It was one day at a time for 15 months.

But now, looking back I am horrified by the cost and the pain and how we both ached thru that process, so when I think, “here it comes again” it is worse. Now I know what chemo means for colon cancer and what it means for both people to live day and night with that FU pump and the sheer grief and logistics of it all.
Neither of us had time to tell anyone how much pain we were in—shared and privately. It’s taken this long to be far enough away from it to really tell each other.

So when we go back to the oncology center I have the terrible thought: Can I do it again?

Those are the caregivers I feel for. The new ones have a kind of shocking adventure race to run but the ones coming back again and again also have the shame and pain and grief of the silent question, “How can I do this again?”

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cold Hands Warm Heart

I wake in the night and listen. The reassuring rumble tells me that the furnace is still on. It’s good news and bad. It means we have heat and there’s still oil, but at this hour I visualize the dollar bills that might just as well be fuel.

I don’t fall back to sleep easily. A glass of water, and check on the dogs, curled like Danish pastries on their pillows. I’m awake and afraid in the cold night. My fear of cold has an ancient echo. I listen for the furnace at night the way my Polish ancestors woke in their huts to check on the fire.

With only 29 days, February is the longest month, and we secretly count it down.  February is to winter what Wednesday is to the workweek: If we can get through February, even snow in April won’t rock us. 

In many wedding albums there is a picture of the groom carrying the bride over the threshold. That odd custom is also about staying warm. In ancient times when a woman left her father’s home and was set down on the hearth in her new house she was in the most important spot in any ancient home. She literally kept the home fires burning. 
Temperature is part of my own married romance. Coming to New York from Baltimore –where there is just one decent snowstorm each year--I too was set down on a new hearth. I married a man who comes from Northern Ontario where winter runs from September to May and wind chill is scoffed at. “When Canadians have 30 below, they mean it, he says; “Wind chill is for wimps”. 

So to marry this tundra man I had to learn to dress for cold. To get me from the Inner Harbor to the frozen Hudson he plied me with jackets and sweaters, scarves and gloves, even a hat with earflaps. 
But physical acclimation is real. That first winter, living in upstate New York, I thought I’d die. My boots were good below freezing but my fingers could barely tie them. Each year it gets easier. Now I complain about the cold, but no longer imagine myself part of the Donner party.

But there is also an emotional acclimation to cold. A quote of Camus is taped inside the cabinet where I get my coffee mug each morning. It says: “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” Some days that tells me that I have enough beach memories to cling to on the slippery slope of February, and other days it is the word “invincible” that reminds me that living cold does indeed build character.

But having a warm house is important. I can’t swear that my first marriage ended solely over the thermostat setting, but for years I never went on a second date with a man whose response to my “I’m cold”, was “Put on a sweater”. Now I’m married to a man who knows that cold hands do not mean a warm heart, and that a big oil bill is better than roses. But surprisingly, I’ve grown too. I am willing, in this new life and climate, to go and put on that cost-saving sweater.

The word comfortable did not originally refer to being contented. It’s Latin root,  confortare, means to strengthen. Hence it’s use in theology: the Holy Spirit is Comforter; not to make us comfy, but to make us strong. This then is February’s task. We may not be warm but we are indeed comforted; we are strong and we are counting the days. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sex is Good

Well, that's the message of the article in today's Times Union by health advocate Lynda Shrager. In this perfect Valentine's Day piece she makes a strong case for more sex for everybody. What's never quite clear in stories like this tho is whether "sex twice a week" means orgasm twice a week. We know that you can have a lot of sex with out both partners having an orgasm. So does the one who comes get all the health benefits?

And if that's true do the benefits accrue if your "partner" runs on batteries? That's the problem with euphemism; we are left in the dark even when the lights are on. But to be on the safe--and healthy--side go for the O on Valentine's Day.

Here's the link to Lynda's column. Her health advice is always great so do bookmark this one:


Friday, February 10, 2012

Free Legal Services at Albany Health Law clinic

Here is another regional resource for individuals and families dealing with cancer. Experienced health advocates and second and third year law students staff the Health Law Clinic at Albany Law School. They can advise and guide you on issues that range from disability rights, employment law concerns, securing benefits and the rights and supports for caregivers.

The services are free.

For more information call: 518-445-2328 or look at the Albany Law School website: www.albanylaw.edu

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cancer and Careers Conference

As a cancer patient, survivor or cancer caregiver you know the struggle of keeping a job, balancing treatment and work responsibilities, juggling caregiving and work responsibilities and dealing with bosses, coworkers and yes, the doing the work itself. "Cancer&Careers" is a national organization that is a resource for patients, caregivers, family members and employers.

The National Cancer and Careers Conference is June 22 in New York City. The conference is free, there are travel scholarships and it's one day jam packed with information and support.

Here's the link: Consider sharing this with your boss, coworkers and your Human Resources Department.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Young Adult Cancer in Fiction

Two new novels with stories themed around cancer are new releases. What's remarkable is that they are both very good novels apart from the cancer storyline and from the fact that both are published in the Young Adult category.

Likely the publishers booked them as "YA" books because the main characters are teenagers but be assured these are powerful, well-written and emotionally mature books. Yes, they are great reads for folks you know 13 to 18 who have a friend with cancer or who want a serious, non-vampire read. But they are also for those of us who love a good novel, with complex characters, engaging narrator, and great writing.

They are:

"The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green   and

"The Probability of Miracles" by Wendy Wunder.

Add these to your library list or get them at your local independent bookstore--in our Albany Capital Region that is The BookHouse at Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany or Market Block Books in Troy.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Event for The Capital Region Hope Club Friday February 10th

HopeClub of the Capital Region & The New York State Capital District Alliance for Women in Media invite you to the 2012 Benefit Gala.


Tickets are $40

Please RSVP by Wednesday, February 8th to:
www.cancer.org/hopeclub OR call Mary at 518-454-4006

Complimentary Champagne Toast & Wine Tasting
Hearty Hors d'oeuvres
Carving station, Pasta station
Dessert, coffee/tea, cash bar

Sensational Silent Auction!

*Cash, Check or Credit Card accepted. Business Attire. Walk-ins are welcome!