Make Mine Maroon

I have come to dislike pink. It was never my favorite color. Too little girly for my taste and not a color that ever looked good on me. Very dark pink, hot pink is okay, but that rosebud pink always seems to suit other people, not me. Then, I had breast cancer. Since then, I am besieged by pink … not only the color, but an attitude.

I lost both breasts and got, in return, two nice fake breasts. Implants are not real breasts. They are vastly better than nothing, but they aren’t flesh. They have little or no sensation and I’m not sure how long it will be until they stop feeling like alien invaders.  The implants look fine under clothing but somehow aren’t me.

I am tired of being told my attitude is the critical issue rather than the disease. A lot of people seem to want me to be upbeat because if I’m happy, it makes them feel safer; these people do not want to hear if I am at sometimes besieged by feelings of sadness and loss. Considering the prevalence of breast cancer … of cancer in general … that’s sad. We really should have long since improved our ability to understand. But cancer scares the bejeezus out of everyone and no one wants to deal with that.

Walking around grim and full of impending doom is not necessarily a good choice, but each of us should be allowed to feel how we feel even if it’s bad. We’ve taken a major loss. Telling us we shouldn’t feel unhappy, that we should stay positive is unfair and infuriating. It ought to be acceptable to be fearful, worried, to mourn losses, to wonder “why me?” People complain about a lot less. They moan and complain about their bosses, their love life, their cars, traffic and the weather, but if I complain I had cancer … that’s not okay? Really?

Fake breastsI come from a family where cancer has taken a lot of lives. Getting it wasn’t exactly a bolt out of the blue. The closeness of these losses is not reassuring. It will be too late for me, but I’m sure there are many undiscovered genetic links to be found. They are evident in family histories, including mine. Eventually, these connections will be discovered and I hope research money is being spent on this type of genetic research. Being able to predict and prevent cancer would be much better than trying to make it go away.

I hate the “Pink” culture. I resent it. Glorifying breast cancer as if it were a kind of gift — which it isn’t — is unfair. Treating it as if it’s a “test” that if we pass, makes us heroines is equally ridiculous.

I am entitled to be pissed off. Frustrated with endless round of ill-health. I can’t afford denial. That’s a direct route to early death, or at least earlier than need be. Denying reality and pretending everything is fine when everything is NOT fine is unhealthy. No one with a serious illness can afford it. One way or the other, the problem is not my (or anyone’s) attitude, positive or otherwise. The problem is cancer.

Absolutely no evidence of any kind exists to confirm the widespread belief that a positive attitude results in a higher survival rate.

That’s a myth perpetuated by people who are threatened by your cancer. If you have a positive attitude, maybe it means that the boogie man won’t get them.

Reality bites. Cancer is sinister and sneaky. It profoundly changes your life, even if it doesn’t kill you. It casts a long shadow under which you will always live.

I resent sappy postings on Facebook telling me that all cancer patients care about is living another day, that we have abjured selfish desires like money. Really? Personally, I would be delighted to get an infusion of money. I’d love to have a new car. Pay down the mortgage. Fix the driveway. So, please feel free to send your checks. Cash, personal checks and money orders are all accepted and if you want information for direct transfer into my account, I’m sure we can work it out. No donation is too small. Please encourage friends and family to donate too. Unlike regular charities, I promise to send you a personalized thank you note.

Cancer is a financial disaster for many, if not most people. Depending on what insurance you have and where you live, it can deplete your resources and leave you with nothing. It’s part of why maintaining that smiling face everyone wants to see can be so hard. Bad enough you’re sick. Bad enough they’re removing body parts. But you’re also broke and may never recover.

I remind myself that all of us are here on a temporary guest permit, that no one gets out of this world alive. Any one of us could be felled by a speeding car or hit by a meteor. No one gets a guarantee. Cancer adds another layer, a ticking clock you hear inside your head. You know that the odds of  getting cancer again are high, even if your surgery went perfectly and everything looks clean. As one of my more realistic oncologists said: “It just take one cell. Just one.”

One single undetectable cell finding a compatible place to land and grow is all it takes. You won’t find it until it’s big enough to produce symptoms. If the original organ(s) has been removed, the cell will have to find a new home in a different organ and no one can predict where that might be. Or how long in the future it may become large enough to notice. It could be a long time, long enough to give you a full life … and it could have already started somewhere and you just don’t know. Not knowing, wondering, alternating ups and down of hope and fear are damaging to your mental health and esprit de corps.

You want to be fine, you plan to be fine yet you find yourself always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

A positive attitude will not alter the course of the disease in any way, though it will make you more fun to have around. Pretending to be positive makes others less afraid. It will make your family and friends feel better. To some degree, we do it because what’s the point of spreading gloom? If it doesn’t help you, maybe will help them. The “acquaintances” and other people who impose the obligation to smile regardless of your real feelings are not concerned with your welfare. Most of them could care less how you feel. They just  don’t want to deal with your pain or the threat you represent to their peace of mind. They want you to be okay so they can feel okay.

The culture of positivity that has developed around a bad and painful experience is phony and unfair. Living a lie is not solving any problems. Forcing women to smile when they want to scream is an old, old story: we’ve been doing it for centuries. It’s another version of the Happy Face … housewives with fake smiles taking care of everything while no one considers how they feel. It’s the 1950s redux.

The offensive pink trash bin.

I do not buy into it .

There a reason you can never get a straight answer from an oncologist. Ask them if taking tamoxifen or whatever nasty concoction they are giving you will improve your long-term survival and they will quote statistics. You know and they know a statistic is a numerical average built on a volume of data. It has nothing to do with you as an individual, nor with your history, or genetic package.

When big bright pink trash bins imprinted with that infernal pink ribbon began showing up around town, I blew a small gasket. PINK TRASH BINS? We are celebrating breast cancer with trash bins? You’re kidding, right?

I understand people think they are doing the right thing by telling you how lucky you are to have “caught it in time,” to be alive. Not dying isn’t lucky. If I were lucky, I would still have breasts. Not getting cancer would be lucky. Mostly, just be nice. Unless you’ve been there, you don’t get to offer advice. If you’ve been there, you can share. Otherwise, say something polite, then shut up.

Surviving is grueling and exhausting. We get tired, we have good days and bad. If we are suffering, we want commiseration. If we aren’t in physical distress, laughter is a great medicine. I don’t need friends to tell me not to worry — I know I shouldn’t and we all know I will — but humor is the best gift you can give. It’s free, too. I love to laugh. On the other hand, if this is one of those days during which I want to bitch at the unfairness of life, that should be okay. Friends don’t tell friends how to feel. Cancer is scary: if I have to cope with it, so do you.

If you want my address to send your check or money order, let me know!

Here’s a link that might help give perspective and maybe give someone a chuckle, too. Laughter is good for the soul. It isn’t going to cure anything, but it feels so good!

Spam! Canned meat and junk email!

Among the many dark secrets to which I will never have an answer is this: How did a slimy, over-salted canned meat switch its identity and become pornographic electronic junk mail? Inquiring minds want to know. Even more puzzling is that there are people, mainly men and usually bachelors who like Spam. You may take that any way you like.

Every day I get a ton of spam, virtually speaking. I receive dozens, sometimes hundreds, of spammed messages. Most of them are from a Spanish list server (lista de emails … everything from this address is spam) and of these, about 80% of them are some kind of porn. The rest of them are from advertising web sites that may or may not be legitimate. I am inclined to suspect they are all scams. Legitimate companies do not send thousands of illiterate and nonsensical messages to random blogs.

Then, there are those who ask for advice. They use some version of this message as a comment to a randomly selected post.

“These are in fact fantastic ideas in concerning blogging. You have touched some good things here. Any way keep up wrinting.

Huh? What? It gets better. For completely incoherent, this is one of my favorites. I receive several dozen of these every day:

“Fine way of explaining, and fastidious paragraph to take information concerning my presentation focus, which i am going to convey in academy. Watch Elementary Season 1 Episode 5 Online”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Since a few real comments are always mixed with the spam, I can’t delete it en mass without checking to make sure I’m not deleting a genuine comment.

I know that I am by no means alone in getting tons of this garbage. WordPress does a good job finding it and putting into the spam folder. There are a few false negatives and every once in a while, a couple of false positives, but over all, the spam filter is surprisingly accurate and efficient.

My question is this: what do these spammers hope to accomplish by sending me tons of email that is blatantly junk? The messages, even when they are arguably coherent, never have anything to do with the posts with which they are supposed to be associated. Many of them are repeats and clearly generated on a computer programmed by someone whose native language is not English.

There’s the one that warns me my blog doesn’t display properly on the sender’s computer in Internet Explorer (why would I care?). There’s are three or four versions assuring me I am absolutely brilliant, they love my post about (insert post title) and promise they will tell everyone how useful the information is on my web blog (they always call it a web blog). The thing is, while there are many ways you could describe my site, it isn’t filled with useful information. My stuff may be interesting, sometimes thought-provoking, occasionally funny, off-beat and apocryphal, but useful? I don’t consider it useful and I write it.

There are those that request I exchange links with them (over my dead body, pen clutched in my cold fist). And those that would love an invitation to write for my blog (over my rotting corpse), plus those who suggest I come to their site to see huge penises, hot lesbian sex, hot gay sex, hot sexy sex, huge breasts, gigantic butts, and attractive ladies doing disgusting things with inanimate objects. If not, they would like to sell me some Viagra.

Does anyone actually believe this is going to generate business? Make money? If they believe this, why do they believe it? Does anyone ever respond to these “messages”? So many questions, so little time.

If anyone has an answer, let me know. I’m baffled. Meanwhile, feel free to visit the Spam website. You’ll be glad to know that Spam now comes in a wide variety of flavors, including a low sodium version that dodges the question of  all that fat but lowers the salt level. The site includes recipes, a Spam Museum (no joke), and an online shop where you can buy Spam gear, such as caps, tee shirts, and other strange and wonderful things. So maybe I do include useful information. I guess it depends on how you feel about spam.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Geometry – Old Mill in Rhode Island

I struggle with geometry, photographically and historically. Not my strong suit, but I’m always willing to give it a try. This is the clock tower of a mill in Rhode Island. It was built in 1911 and was restored for use as office space.

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The Clock Tower

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