March 18, 2010

Well, well, well

Boy, howdy, we're having a good time now.  I spent from three until six yesterday afternoon at Jewish Hospital East getting an MRI.  Great staff there -- skilled, efficient, kind --  and the chandelier in the front lobby is one of the wonders of the world.

It was my first MRI, brought on by a slight bit (an iota, a midge, a morsel) of breast cancer.  The two best words I've heard lately were uttered by the surgical oncologist.  The first was "early." The second was "small."  Oh, yes, there was a third one: "treatable."  Let us all hail the great, quiet god Mammogram. While we're at it, let's have a round of applause for its noisy counterpart, the MRI.

Some people respond strongly to MRIs.  My late husband had panic attacks when forced to have them; even with him taking anti-anxiety drugs beforehand, I had to sit beside the machine with my hand on his foot for him to make it through. Then again, he was having whole body MRIs to check for damage to the long bones and his skull, so the procedure went on for hours.

I, on the other hand, found it all quite interesting.  Everybody talks about the noise, when in truth it's not a noise but a multiplicity of noises.  There's a constant sound of very large birds chirping high overhead.   There are also clicks and rattles and bangs and bumps coming in an ever-changing series.  At the time, I felt as though I were listening to various kinds of equipment:  tractors, boats, airplanes, back hoes. Today I'm thinking more in terms of a symphony.

Breast cancer is not striking fear into my heart, or any other body part, which surprises my friends and family enough that I think it bears explanation.

 To begin, my father died four weeks ago yesterday; and I'm only capable of coping with so much trauma at any one time. I'm far more concerned about my mother and her adaptation to the care center where she now lives.

Also, I walked through multiple myeloma with Fred. Now there's a cancer that will kill you dead.  (Okay, not everybody dies; Geraldine Ferrarro has had it for years; but roughly 11,000 people are diagnosed with it each year and roughly 11,000 people die from it each year.)  Also, it's an orphan disease, which means low funding. There is no large contingent of survivors giving speeches, because the potential speakers are mostly dead.

Probably most significant is the fact that Fred had a voracious, aggressive form of multiple myeloma. The best treatment available at the time was known to cause acute leukemia within three years. So, yes, a cancer diagnosis is upsetting; but right this minute this is no big deal. I expect surgery and radiation in the near future for my ductal carcinoma, which among ourselves we're calling ducktail carcinoma because that's just the kind of people we are. I've been quoted survival rates of 95, 98, and 99.8 percent, and right now I'm riding that high.

I don't expect to lose my hair, but what with living in Louisville, I've decided to address the breast cancer with amazing Kentucky Derby hats and am visiting every shop (retail, craft, consignment, and thrift) to see what's available.  I'm co-ordinating them with my outfits and looking damned cute while I'm at it.

Day before yesterday I found an enormous pink hat adorned with pink and black feathers and some netting that if it's not arranged precisely right makes it appear a gargantuan black booger, or perhaps a cockroach, is hanging off the end of my nose.  The day before THAT I found a black cloche streaming with rhinestones.  More haberdashery details will be forthcoming.

I've been contemplating these events since I arrived home after my father's funeral; and I've made a conscious decision to speak of it from time to time on this blog. Otherwise, except for telling my family, I'm not talking, except to strangers in stores where I'm buying hats.  Silence is the place that gives me strength for noise.

As a footnote, I want to say I don't believe a positive attitude cures people or that a negative attitude kills people. I'm not being jovial on purpose; it's simply how I feel.  (A store clerk mentioned that she overheard me singing quietly to myself while trying on hats. Who knew?) Which doesn't mean my life won't suck for a few months and which is not to say that it won't annoy me all to hell. Be advised that I reserve the right to begin whining whenever I feel like it.

People often ask how they can help. Here are some answers, suitable for most situations:

Hand-addressed mail with real live postage stamps is always good,whether letters, postcards, mailart, or greeting cards; and I believe the very best thing about cards is that people send them, not that they choose a particular brand.  (Yes, Jennifer, I'm talking to you.)

Candy is always welcome, because even if the Object of All the Attention can't eat it, somebody will. (I like the old fashioned virtually flavorless jelly beans; and I like Peeps, preferably yellow but I won't turn my nose up at other colors; and Milky Ways; and Turtles, and chocolate bunnies, and York peppermint patties, and Godiva if you're feeling flush. Or Hershey's bars.  Or Cadbury's, but not those nasty eggs they sell around Easter.

Ice cream, chocolate cake with chocolate icing, yellow cake with chocolate icing, and Waffle House waffles can brighten any day but unfortunately don't travel well.

Books are an excellent option; I read nonfiction and poetry and am especially fascinated with science, nature, and environmental writing, and also with the poet Hafiz (transl. Daniel Landisky), who is ever so much better than that fella who gets quoted all the time (Rumi? Runi? That guy.)

You can never go wrong with pink tulips, yellow roses, an iris, or an orchid.  (I mention the last because I'm re-reading the brilliant Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief.)

I could also use the odd can of Iams dog food in the lamb flavor, because that brand and flavor are rationed in stores (I never find more than a can or two at Feeders Supply, and K-Mart only had two cases this morning), and Koko is QUITE fond of it.

I could also mention towels, but that's a soliloquy rather than a mention, so I'll wait until I feel like being philosophical.

 My address is in the column on the left.  Fire away.

 Meanwhile, be well; and imagine me whirling through these next few months in my many large, bright, sparkling hats.

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