Friday, November 18, 2011


Recently a friend of ours said he thought we were courageous.  He seemed to include both Dennis AND me, so I was a little taken aback.  Actually, I was stunned.  I recall sitting there with my usual vacant, saucer-eyed noncomprehending stare that so often makes me appear slightly genetically challenged.  It’s my “Duuuhhhh!” face.  Perhaps he didn’t notice. Perhaps my application of excessive mascara was a distraction.  Perhaps my appearance was deceiving.

But his comment prompted me to think about courage.  It is such a noble trait, a characteristic of grace and dignity, a virtue to be acquired and assumed.

 I have never thought of myself as brave.  Episodes of paranoid excess due to an accumulation of unknowns expose my “Barney Fife on steroids” underbelly.

I am more the burrowing nocturnal marsupial in camouflage fatigues and pith helmet whose primal instinct is to run through the neighborhood shrieking, “Be afraid.  Be very afraid,” with the irrational conviction of a Harold Camping.

I confess I don’t understand exactly what courage is.  As much as I’ve studied Shakespeare, I don’t really know just what it means to “Screw your courage to the sticking place.”

I am much better acquainted with the attributes of fear, which include paranoia, alarm, dread, anxiety, doom and gloom. 

Fear is bile green with tentacles that strangle and suffocate.  It is base, a mongrel that prompts one to carry talismans as big as the Hindenburg to ward off the emotional brown-outs that tend to suffuse one’s subcutaneous.

On the hierarchy of emotion, fear can trump even the most righteous attributes.  Fear generates revulsion, especially to those possessed by it. 

In fact, on a whim, Dennis and I went to see Ballet West’s production of “Dracula.”  Talk about VAMPIRES IN TIGHTS!  Their fangs were uncomfortably apparent.  The scenes in the crypt were so well performed that it actually gave me the wubbah wubbahs.  Absolutely nobody gets the gruesomes at the ballet.  (I being the notable exception.)

But then I began to examine the facets of courage, and the people I most admire who  seem to own it.  I decided there is an integral psychic after-burn associated with this gift – a sense of sun on their faces – an empowerment, an enlightenment, an elegance.

They persevere… simply putting one foot in front of the other.  They are patient and positive. 

I have concluded above all, that courage is not the absence of fear.  Quite the contrary.  Perhaps Admiral Rickenbacker said it best:  “Courage is doing what you are afraid of doing.”  OK.  I get that.

Monday Dennis had  an eyes to thighs PET scan.  It revealed that only one of his nodules seems active right now.  It’s “hot.”The others are apparently comatose.  We are jubilant.  Now, how to eradicate the obscenity.  We are entertaining suggestions.  But at the moment, the three most rational options are:
  1. ablate
  2. radiate
  3. operate
We recognize the miracle of having one option, let alone three.  Each one, however, comes with its own set of possible risks, side effects, and scary terrors, which send us into cold sweats and drives us to willful misconduct.

Sometimes the thoughts are disturbing.  But less disturbing than thinking about ballet dancers doing pirouettes in tights.  Now that takes courage!

But there is no room for doubt or fear.  We will do what we are afraid to do.  And we will put the “ablate” in “celablate!”   

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ghosts of Halloween Passed

After every Halloween comes November.  We began celebrating the transition at 12:01 a.m. – not because we were partying, but because we’d overwhelmed our digestive systems with scones and hot chocolate consumed at a speed unsustainable by our age.  I believe there’s actually a mathematical formula for figuring the intake/biological-rejection-time ratio for really old people.

So we raised a cup of “projectile pink” Pepto Bismol and belched a toast to the new month in unison.  It was one of our proudest moments.

November is a month of promise and possibilities.  It’s just that we have to get beyond October before November arrives.  Now, no one isn’t graphically aware of how much our family hates Halloween.  In fact, Brodi has re-named that day as National Suck It, Doc Day.  How appropriate.  But we did receive some much appreciated assists in getting us through dreaded October.

The first was courtesy of our grandson, Carter.  Of course, pink is the color of breast cancer awareness month. It is the color of hope. It is also the color of Carter’s costume.  Nothing gothic for this kid, no sir.  He was a pink human woopie cushion!  We all agreed it was most appropriate for the occasion.

Another significant assist came on our recent pilgrimage to Houston.  Dr. Wolff was very pleased with Dennis’ progress.  At one point he stood over him and said, “Just look at him!  He’s amazing.  And he’s not going anywhere any time soon.”  I took that straight to the bank.

Dr. Wolff further reiterated that the way to fight this disease is with brute force, as if battling some foul and narcissistic creature from the Black Lagoon.  We were with him so far.

But then he lost us. Dr. Wolff said that after inflicting blunt force trauma, we should consider backing off chemo for a while. 

Oh yeah, like that’s going to happen.  We have fought so hard for so long, and have reduced the number and size of the nodules by half.  Was he actually suggesting we “un-chemo?”  AS I-IIIIIFFFF!  No.  No.  No.

But apparently, Dr. Wolff is smarter than I am.  He said that those who take a chemo break actually do better over-all.  Hmmmmm.

OK.  OK.  We promised we’d confer with our family about it and then decide. 

When we discussed the issue with Erin and Brodi, we all agreed that because of the degree of difficulty involved, this called for drastic action.  We reasoned that in order not to squander our existence or our options, we’d go platinum en masse.  When in doubt, bleach it out.  Lightening our hair always enlightens our minds.  It’s easier to get to our alpha state when blond.  And, it’s cheaper than recreational cosmetic surgery. 

So the girls and I assembled around Erin’s bathroom sink, shrouded in towel turbins like terry cloth burqas, empty boxes of Loreal platimum 01 littering the countertops like spent cartridges, and foamed our collective scalps.  We muttered incantations over our cauldrons of peroxide, reciting ancient recipes dating back to Jean Harlow calling for eye of Newt, Mitt and Herman and invoking the spirit of Dulcolax, which caused our squirt bottles to foam and bubble by the light of the full moon.

To ensure maximum potency, we drank anything with caffeine and ate our weight in Halloween candy.  Within an hour, we went platinum…and then we went stupid.  Too many calories per hour, but we really put the “duh” in “duhlicious.”  We rocked blond!

But most importantly, as we emerged from our cocoon of platinum, our family had arrived at a 3-pronged plan of action:
  1. Ablation
  2. Vacation
  3. Celebration

We are considering ablating two nodules in Dennis’ right lung.  This involves killing the buggers with high intensity microwaves.  I offered to shout dirty words down Dennis’ wind pipe, but he didn’t think that would have the same burn capability.  I’m not so sure. 

While ablation is invasive, it is not a huge operation.  (My way wouldn’t require anesthetic, but whatev.)

If all goes well, Dennis will take a chemo vacation for several weeks under strict surveillance.  We will then celebrate with significant G-force, which includes daily “Tebowing,” and give the stink eye to cancer. 

We gathered in a very blond huddle, and after a moment of silence, we shouted in unison, “Happy ‘Suck It, Doc’ Day!”