Friday, December 11, 2009

Mr. Teapot Head

C. J. and I were eating lunch at the Shrimp Store today, when a man came in with friends and sat at the next table. He had the worst comb-over I've ever seen. A lock of hair, about one inch by twelve, had escaped and formed a graceful curve down the back of his head. He had a serious nose, and in profile he looked just like a teapot. He had violated the equator rule by parting his hair all the way around in the lower latitudes, and gravity had its way. It was hard to look away, like driving by a traffic accident. I really had the urge to stop by the table and stick it back on top with a damp finger. But I didn't.

We often see people that must not own a mirror. If you had a full length mirror by your door you would not go out with a roll of yourself hanging out between your shirt and your jeans, would you? How about the stretch knit stuff that hugs every pudge and crease? How about sandals with gnarly toes and long toenails hanging over the edge? Are these intentional but unfortunate choices? Do they stand in front of a mirror and get the look they want? I confess that I once wore pink fuzzy slippers around town for half a day before I noticed. And I'm reaching the age that such is expected. Am I old enough to confront these people and point out their flaws?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


When I got out of the shower and toweled my head, it didn't look so shiny. Can't see anything, but I'm hopeful. It's been a month since the last chemo treatment, so maybe, just maybe. . .I won't have to decorate my head every morning.

Last week I had my last weekly checkup (now comes the every three month checkup) and told the valet who parks my car that I wouldn't be seeing him much. He said "Well, let's make a clean break of it. Don't ask if we can just be friends, because that never works."

I'm already dreading the three-month checkups. I guess I want this to be all behind me, when I know it's not. As dear friend Mike wrote recently, lifelong watching is just one more aspect of this disease. He quotes from Coleridge "like one who on a lonesome road, doth walk in fear and dread, and having once turned round walks on and turns no more his head, because he knows a frightful fiend doth close behind him tread." That is no way to live. I plan to throw back my shoulders, put on a happy face, and get on with it!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Big Thoughts

...."A human being is a part of the whole, called by us, "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest -- a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security."Albert Einstein - (1879-1955) Physicist and Professor, Nobel Prize 1921=

This ties with my ponderings about our search for connectedness. We reach out for others every time we visit with the neighbors at the garbage can, call or e-mail our friends, comment on their Facebook entries, join a church or group of special interests, contribute to a cause, and it is a good thing. I enjoy sending a small check to Doctors Without Borders, the Nature Conservancy, and Heifer International because it's a way to touch millions that I will never know. Heifer lets me give a breeding pair of goats to a family far away and surprise members of my family with a pair of virtual goats. Check it out at

Albert would be proud of you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dear United Health:

You are now calling yourself Secure Horizons, among other changes that make me uncomfortable. Don’t you think the new name sounds sort of ephemeral? Like when you’re flying, the horizon is just always disappearing?

I have sent in two claims for reimbursement, both returned with a terse note from the post office: “Return to Sender; No such addressee.” Since your Florida address didn’t seem to be working, I called Customer service in Salt Lake City. I reached “Rick,” who seemed to have an accent. But then, I’ve never spoken to a Utah native, so what do I know? I asked him about the weather and he said they are having the monsoons. He suggested that I quit trying to raise Secure Horizons in Florida and send everything to United in Utah, contrary to what your notices say.

Okay, I like the old name. Reminds me of United States, United We Stand, United Fruit, real solid. However, I’m not sure it will work any better to get me my reimbursements. Want a suggestion? Give us a little more personal attention. And maybe change your name to “Aunt Bea’s Health Insurance and Guava Jelly Kitchen.”

Monday, August 31, 2009

Hey, Morons

You know who you are. You send me these endless e-mails about illegal immigrants, health care nightmares and such. If you believe this stuff, you are a moron. If you don’t, you are making me think you are. You are all entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

Fact: Illegal immigrants do not vote, receive Social Security or Medicare and no one is proposing that they do.

Opinion: Many of you don’t know the difference in an illegal immigrant and a doorbell. Many of our citizens are immigrants.

Fact: Most of our hospitals are required to treat anyone that comes in as an emergency. If you have appendicitis, you don’t have to show your birth certificate or naturalization papers.

Opinion: Thank God.

Fact: The government has no plans to take over health care, except for the 40% of the payments it is already making. (Not counting tax breaks for private coverage.)

Opinion: Maybe it should. We don’t get to vote the insurance executives out of office.

Fact: The public option in the House bill is to catch those whom the insurance companies kick out because they get sick or won’t insure because they may be.

Opinion: This scares the hell out of the insurance industry, and may kill the bill.

Fact: Our country went from a balanced budget at the end of the Clinton administration to a 10 trillion deficit as of 2008.

Opinion: Don’t blame Obama.

Fact: I have been a registered Republican most of my life.

Opinion: misguided youth.

Fact: The World Health Organization pegs our health care system at number 32, just above Cuba ; France is number one.

Opinion: If you hate our country so much, move to France.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Me and my wig

Well, I settled on a 50's revival look. June's traveling with Grease and said I would fit right in. Well, it beats looking like Alton Brown (Good Eats) or Charlie Brown (Peanuts.) Wig and I will be inseparable for about 6 months, but a do-rag works around the house just fine. Some people go commando. I'd hate to scare the yard man.
First outing was yesterday, when I met an old friend for lunch downtown. She lost 50 pounds and got a facelift and we didn't recognize each other. A waiter finally figured it out and got us together. It helps to be well known among waiters. They all know CJ and what he eats.
He stayed home yesterday, involuntarily. He lives for lunch, a habit formed over many years of hanging out with his friends while I was working. I quit paying yacht club dues when it appeared that he was running with a bad crowd. Those bad boys drank way too much, and picked on him when he didn't drink at all. The real reason I quit paying was that they wouldn't let me eat there. Ladies were restricted to the room where they played cards. I went in with a few other lawyers of the male persuasion one day after a court appearance. They tried to seat them in the regular dining room and send me upstairs. Fortunately the guys suggested we go elsewhere. Black and Jewish men had already made the cut, long before women. Hell yeah I was pissed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

healthy habits

The New York Times online lets you comment at the end of many articles. I do this a lot. Makes me feel "published." Mainly gives you the last word. Or at least the 227th word out of 430 and counting.
I posted one today, after yet another article trying to relate health habits to longevity by state, with a kicker in there for the number of doctors:
"Just maybe there is no direct correlation between lifestyle and health in many categories. If you get hit by a bus it doesn’t matter how much bacon you ate. As for life expectancy, our grandparents ate much more local, fresh food, walked to town, and never got cancer. Of course, their life expectancy was 42, so they didn’t get around to it. "
This is closely related to some moronic objections to health care reform, as expressed by the head of Whole Foods, that if we just ate right we wouldn't need so many doctors. Now don't get me wrong. I think eating right is very important. After drinking eight glasses of water, nine servings of fruits and vegetables (making sure to get 25 grams of fiber, 1500 mg of calcium and 1000 of Vitamin D) we don't have much room for Snickers. Don't even hint that I brought my health problem on myself. Unless you give me a bite of your Snickers.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Some mornings start off better than others. This morning I got up, gave my hair a couple of swooshes with the brush, and literally jumped when I saw that my brush had morphed into a big cone of cotton candy. It was as big as a wadded up T-shirt. Sure, I knew I'd lose some hair, but I thought we might have a gradual thinning. I already got my wig, had it styled to match me, and my friends have supplied me with scarves. After my shower, I poured a bucketload of Drano down the drain, and called Anita.

Anita is a retired hairdresser and my guardian angel. She came over and cut my remaining hairs into what she called a "Pixie." If you can imagine a pixie that looks a lot like Charlie Brown, that's it. Maybe this is all that will happen. Sure.

I went to the oncology clinic for blood tests and coffee hour with the nurses and other patients. The subject of euphemisms came up, and we wondered about the words like oncology, cranial prosthesis, invasive carcinoma, and found that we have adopted these terms too. One woman had been to her GP, the radiologist, and the surgeon before anyone used the word "cancer." She was shocked. She remembers telling the surgeon that it wasn't fair that she should get cancer on top of all these carcinoma problems.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

When you hear someone say "I hate butterbeans, country music, democrats, the color orange," or whatever, does it irritate you? It drives me nuts. I try to smile pathetically, instead of saying something like "Well, you're an idiot," or "Who the hell cares?" or "Well, they ain't so crazy about you, either."

This was the train of thought that segued, late at night, into thinking about the many worlds of people out there that I don't know, and especially those worlds that I don't know I don't know, and therefore don't think about. There are concentric circles within each of those worlds, of course. Start with a large world of, say, music. Within that are not just genres, but divisions such as listeners, performers, teachers, collectors, concertgoers, directors, producers, sellers. I belong to a small world of folk musicians that overlap the worlds of guitar, banjo, mountain dulcimer, hammered dulcimer, singing, tin whistle and kazoo. Within each of those worlds the true believers favor even smaller groups that favor more or fewer strings, frets, picks, or noters, or combinations or fractions thereof. If I'm not asleep yet, I can start over with the worlds of horses, cars, flowers, art, literature, politics, and go on until morning. Tonight I think I'll start with desserts.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Adventures in chemotherapy

Tuesday is the beginning of Carol's Big Adventure in Chemotherapy. If we live long enough, there are many adventures waiting for us. Maybe someday I'll rank them from one to ten. I haven't even started this one but I think it will be low on the list of favorites.

The doctor promises that I can jump up and go to work after each three-hour session of IV poisons. I'm not planning to go to work anyhow, but I would like to drive home and jump in the pool, have a nice snack, and get on about my business. He's trying to convince me that I will not get the nausea, heart murmurs and immune disorders normally associated with chemo. This is because I am getting his special blend of poisons. He's very convincing, but then so is every snake oil salesman in the world.

The hair will go, and fairly soon. That gives me doubts about how safe and mild this special mix of poisons is. They gave me brochures of all sorts of wigs and turbans. I can't see me in a turban, unless I'm telling fortunes in a gypsy outfit at the Halloween carnival. I see a do-rag, maybe a Harley motif. Then I have to get CJ a muscle shirt to match, with a message on the back that says "If you can read this, my bitch fell off."

The main reason I'm going for this is that I'd hate myself if I didn't do all I could to prevent a recurrence. Breast cancer recurrences can show up in places like brains or bones, hard to find or treat. And at my funeral, when it is time, I want some serious weeping and wailing going on, not a bunch of biddies clucking around that Carol was worried too much about her hair.

Monday, July 20, 2009

cranial prosthesis

The cancer doctor has put the chemo decision in my lap. He did, however, point me toward some research, by giving me some websites that they use. He also gave me some factors to use in my search. Not only do we consider the stage, type, and group of the cancer (small, invasive, and mean, respectively) but also some biological markers that more specifically define my problem. After following flowcharts and diagrams in three sources, the decision is made for me. I need chemo.

Then I researched the specific chemicals the doctor named, and the side effects to expect. Some of the scary ones I had heard about, like heart and immune system impacts, are not there. The nausea is expected, but they counter that as best as they can with drugs given with the chemicals. Four IV infusions given three weeks apart doesn't sound too bad.

The unavoidable side effect is hair loss. I have a (refillable) prescription for a cranial prosthesis. Yes, that is doctor-speak for a wig. Why use one syllable when you can bill for six? Small price to pay, though. Hair grows back, and life goes on.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Tadpole

The Tadpole-sized object that showed up in my routine mammogram turned out to be early breast cancer. The biopsy the next week showed that it was small but mean, so a week later I had a mastectomy. The surgery is minor if they don't have to take your armpit or do reconstruction, and I went home the next day, last Friday. Didn't even need pain meds. The doctor found lots of fluffy fat which he rearranged very artfully, so I even have cleavage.

Thirty years of mammograms have finally paid off. All this talk about self-examination is hooey without the mammo. I've been feeling around for a marble or a ping-pong ball, and no one could have felt the tadpole, even if they knew better and knew where to look.

Next week the drains and the staples will come out. I'll also meet soon with the cancer doc to plan a future course of action. After he reads the tea leaves, I'm expecting chemo. Having a little breast cancer is like being a little bit pregnant, you still have to deal with it. It's too soon to choose a wig, but I may go with Cher or Whoopie. You can vote.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


We're pretty sure our local pair of bald eagles has gone north for the summer. We never saw a baby, but we hope he went along. We looked for their nest, but you can't see it unless you're on the balcony of a nearby condo. We saw them bringing in sticks and vines, so we know where it is.

I discovered a great webcam, at where we can watch another eagle family raise triplets. Much of the time it's like watching paint dry, but I keep it running while I'm doing other things, like playing my dulcimer. They are just over a month old, but they grow up pretty fast. It gives us hope that our eagle chick was able to fly north with it's parents.

Today both parents were in the nest at the same time, and you can see how much bigger the female is. They were both feeding the kids. They would pull off a hunk of roadkill or whatever, and a chick would pull it from the big yellow beak. After lunch, the grownups left and the kids took a nap. They woke up and one by one started flapping their wings and jumping a little, taking turns, showing off. A big shadow appears, and Momma swoops in and sits on them. You could almost hear her saying "Don't jump on the bed." I guess she knows they're not quite ready to fly.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Here we go, driving up 4th Street, one of the busiest in town, and a flamingo flew right in front of us. I'm sure, because they are very distinctive and hard to confuse with a dove or a seagull. Then, too, CJ also saw it.

There is no flamingo sanctuary anywhere near here, but who knows how far they might fly on a lovely day? From Busch Gardens? I'd like to think there are some nests happening in our few wildd nature spots near the bay. What makes this amazing is that he was near the bridge to Tampa, between two large cities that are wall-to-wall people. Maybe they are adapting to us.

Bald eagles and ospreys have adapted to city life. I've read abouut peregrine falcons living on New York skyscrapers so they can get a good swoop down on their food. Ospreys have built nests on several of the big light poles at the playground near us. They usually carry home a fish in their talons, but one went by the other day with a live, angry bird in its beak. The bald eagles in the neighborhood have been seen toting sticks back to fix up their old nest. They stand near the road on top of a dead tree, looking off over the ponds. Last week they started making out in front of one and all walking by. We pretty much figured out that the larger one is the female. Hope the nest is ready.

It would be nice to think the flamingo was heading for its mate, back in the salt marsh, fixing up a nest.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

No more dogs

Old Buddy finally joined Cappy in doggie heaven. We'd like to think it's like a big dog park where they could go meet Marvin, Andy, Snoopy, maybe Riker and some of his other relatives. But that would not be Buddy's idea of Heaven. He liked to watch the dog park action from CJ's lap. Cappy would be mixing it up with the big dogs, introducing them to each other, showing them the best gates and water bowl. Snoopy would be finding the gate of least resistance. Marvin would be making idle threats, and Andy would just wander around looking lost and bewildered.

Buddy was not just afraid of most dogs, he was afraid of anything with a face. Christmas lawn ornaments, like large Santas and snowmen, were not to be trusted. Jack-o-lanterns were scary, so it was best to cross the street. Cappy would walk right up and pee on them. Buddy was not afraid of most people, but he was never sure about Joanne or Deenie. Joanne would bring bacon in her purse, but it only worked temporarily. He actively disliked Joe Miele, and would pee on his shoe if he could. If we met him on a wallk, Joe would dance around to stay out of range.

After fifty years of dogs, occasional cats, birds, fish, hamsters and snakes, I'm done with pets. CJ wants another dog, and wants me to help him decide what kind. I said any kind is fine with me, as long as it don't poop.