Category Archives: Not about cancer!

A dose of self improvement

First, a quick announcement. Charlotte Huff has written an excellent article about the relationship between stigma and cancer for the online magazine Slate. I had the pleasure of being interviewed for this piece; if you’ve not already done so, please give it a read:  A Sick Stigma.

Back to my roots

Back to my roots

Alrighty then. I just wasted I don’t know how much time trying to take a selfie and in the process discovered that lighting is key; dimly lit fluorescent is far kinder than accentuate-every-wrinkle natural light. And although my iPhone is perhaps not quite as truthful, it is infinitely more forgiving than my little leica.

Appearances aside, the point of this exercise was not to demonstate how clean my nails are but rather to show off some new blonde highlights and freshly waxed eyebrows. Yes, it’s true; I’ve rendered myself high maintenance. And Tiffany (from Supercuts), I am sorry, but my heart now belongs to Oksana.

This rash of self improvement all started with the removal of a varicose vein on my right leg. As a cancer patient, I am at greater risk of developing blood clots, and so lovenox, a blood thinner, is given prophylactically two days prior and for a month following the procedure. It is administered by injection and I chose to do this myself (in the stomach!). I got a bit woozy the first go around, but now it is no big deal.

Prep also included the wearing of thigh-high compression stockings (post-op as well) and slathering my right leg in a numbing cream before wrapping it in saran wrap two hours before each procedure. All very sexy (not). The procedure itself took place over three appointments:  Endovenous laser therapy (thermal ablation) followed by two sessions of surgical removal (ambulatory phlebectomy). Although it sounds terribly gruesome and possibly painful, it was neither. Easy-peasy actually, and I am so very glad I finally took care of something that made me self-conscious and which was uncomfortable to boot.

Simple but amazing tool

Simple but amazing tool

Of course, one additional perk was that I got to stay at the surgeon’s home in-between appointments, which gave me lots of Melinda/Kihan time. As usual, my dear friend Melinda took fantastic care of me. Upon seeing how much I struggled with putting on the compression stockings, she whisked me off to a medical supply store and then purchased the little gizmo on the left. The compression stocking is turned inside out and pulled down over the center section. You then place your foot through the opening, and grasping the handles on the side, pull up towards your thigh. Ingenious!

Too close to home


Monday, April 15th, our neighbors in Massachusetts celebrated Patriot’s Day and the running of The Boston Marathon, as they have every April since 1897, when the world’s oldest annual marathon had its inception.

Although children in Massachusetts have a holiday from school, that was not the case here in New Hampshire. It was a little after four when Peter got home, but the sun was shining and the air deliciously warm. I put down my rake and joined Pete on the bed of his dad’s pick-up truck. We chatted amiably as he tucked into a bag of doritos, and I noted what a positive difference the mild weather had made on my state of mind.

And then David came outside cradling the phone, with a concerned look on his face. When I asked him what was up, he explained that my stepfather had just called with the news that there had been more than one explosion at the finish line of the marathon, with at least two deaths and many injuries.

There is no need to go into the details here, as the media has been all over this story for the past week. Suffice it to say that it has been impossible to not feel the impact on so many levels. Sadness, anger, lack of comprehension. Anxiety, as Jemesii called me several times yesterday from her apartment in Cambridge, where all residents had been asked to stay inside behind locked doors as a manhunt was conducted for the second suspect. Relief when the young man had been found.

It’s been a tough week, and not just here. An explosion at a fertilizer plant outside of Waco, Texas leveled much of a community and took at least fifteen lives. A five year old girl in India was brutally raped. And these are just the stories that we know about.

Life can be incredibly painful. We wish it wasn’t so, as our human impulse is to eradicate suffering.

I think that is what I love so much about people; our capacity to care for each other. And events such as those in the past week only tend to underscore the fact that most people are really, truly good. Look at all the first responders after the initial explosions; ordinary people who rushed in to aid and comfort wounded strangers. Or the athletes, who after crossing the finish line, kept right on running to the nearest hospital to donate blood. And then there were all the ordinary people in Boston who opened up their homes to stranded travelers.

Yesterday, Governor Patrick Deval asked the citizens of Boston to just stay indoors. Schools and businesses were closed, public transportation was shut down, and sporting events were cancelled. A snow day, without the snow. It turned out to be a brilliant ploy, as officers were finally able to locate the needle in the haystack. It also highlighted the ability of individuals to cooperate, and to put their own needs temporarily aside for the greater good.

Lives, limbs and innocence were taken this week, and some of us will never be the same. However, in the face of tragedy it is important not to lose sight of one very important concept:  although we cannot always control what happens to us, we can control how we will respond. Evil will never overtake us, because we will not allow it to. Love will always trump hate.

Still time

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Well, somehow, someway I just haven’t gotten around to posting photos from our Thanksgiving trip to Marfa, Texas. It was, as always, a beautiful break from reality. Not just a change of locale, but a slowing down of time that is one part location—days really are longer at that latitude—and two parts attitude; we call it marfa-time.

Also of note, I marked another milestone while in Marfa: my birthday. Fifty three freaking years old y’all.

Just a few things

First, Jemesii and Jamie have adopted a new puppy, and her name is Fig. So far we have had to satisfy ourselves with photos and the little videos Jem posts on Facebook, but Miss Fig is cute as a button and we are very much looking forward to making her acquaintance.

Secondly, a shout out to my stepfather, Jim. After a lifelong career as an engineer, educator and administrator, Jim has not taken retirement sitting down. He is the full time caretaker of our mother Evalynn, whose health has rapidly declined in the past few years. She has battled both breast and kidney cancer and now must contend with limited mobility in addition to advanced macular degeneration. An excellent painter at one time, my mom was also an avid patron of the arts, an interest she shares with Jim. Their home in St. George houses a large collection of paintings and sculpture. Now almost blind, sadly much of what mom previously enjoyed is no longer viable, but my parents have continued to attend local concerts and often listen to books on tape together.

In addition to caring for mom, Jim does all of the cleaning, cooking, shopping, and maintenance of their yard and pool. In his spare time he plays a mean game of golf, produces and records his own music, dabbles in photography and knocks out creative writing. In fact, he recently wrote and published a charming e book, titled Two Boys and a Dog, which can be purchased for download from either Kindle or iBooks. At the age of 79, Jim shows no signs of slowing down.

I am inspired by my stepfather’s enthusiasm and motivation, and feel like a bit of a slacker in comparison. However, I have a small announcement of my own:  I am drawing and painting again.

Of all the mysteries in my life, one of the greatest is why it has become so very difficult for me to devote time to making art. Ever since I was a small child, I have wanted to be an artist, and I remained devoted to my craft until I became a mother. Since then, it has been fits and starts. Until my fiftieth birthday, I was still using the tired line that I was going to be an artist when I grew up. I will allow that I have always exercised creativity, but lately that practice has been primarily limited to writing and photography.

However, pencils and paint were my first love and I am ready to revisit them. In fact, after I tuck into a little lunch, I’m going to wedge open the skylight in my little ‘studio’ under the eaves, and give it another go. May it become a habit.