MEMORIZING NORMAL … WHAT WAS THAT?

It was another trip to the oncologist. About 3 months ago, I was checking out my fake breasts and found something that hadn’t been there before. Now, before everyone starts to worry, don’t. I felt it in the right breast — like a hard, flat piece of scar tissue. It was located directly below the scar line on that breast. I didn’t find anything like it on the left breast. I did a little check on the internet and discovered that yes, there is a kind of cancer that can feel like hardened scar tissue in an implanted breast. It is rare and usually what you are feel is exactly what it is: a hardened piece of scar tissue.

I thought about it for a few weeks. Finally, I decided to see my oncologist. I’m seven years past my original cancer. Anyone who has had cancer knows you are never “cured” of cancer. You can be in remittance for a lifetime, but it can come back. Anytime, anywhere in your body.

If you come from a cancer-prone family, you could get an entirely new type of cancer in some other organ. If I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that successfully dealing with one disease doesn’t stop you from getting another.

I’ve also learned to not trust how I feel. I always think I’m fine. This is probably a survival mechanism. I will probably die while being convinced I’m suffering a mild and temporary setback or maybe a weather-related allergy.

So, I wasn’t worried about this turn of events. I hadn’t been concerned about what turned out to be bi-lateral cancer. Back then, I was sure it was just a benign cyst. It turned out to be cancer in both breasts.

Essentially, my prior record on guessing what’s wrong with me (I was also sure my heart was fine) has proven 100% wrong, so I went to see Dr. Tahir in May. He agreed it’s probably nothing more than hardened scar tissue. If I want to be absolutely sure, we could run a CT scan.  I’ve gotten so much radiation over the years, I’m hesitant to allow more radiation. Also, the co-pay for a CT scan is $450 which I don’t have. So I declined. He suggested I come back in a couple of months and see if anything had changed.

This was that followup visit.

Waiting at the Dana-Farber

Nothing had changed as far as I could tell … or as far as he could tell. He did encourage me to call him if anything bothers me at all, no matter where or what. I know this is for my benefit because he doesn’t believe I will call unless I think I’m actually about to croak. Still, the urgency of his tone — CALL ME ABOUT ANYTHING ANYWHERE, ANYTIME — made me edgy.

Some of this is probably about money. For want of $450, am I putting my health at risk?

I’m fairly sure (probably, maybe, or at least I think so) that if I thought this was life-or-death, I’d get the scan and figure out how to pay for it later. But, it’s also possible I want to avoid more surgery — even if it is life or death. I’ve had far too much surgery. Far too many hospitalizations. Far too many close calls with death. It’s not that I want to die. I vastly prefer life to the alternative, but I’m tired of being sliced and diced. I’m tired of years of recovery and being told how great I’m going to feel … later. I’m still waiting to feel great.

Meanwhile, all the blood work came back normal. Normal, normal, normal with a slight elevation in liver enzymes,. But that was true last time, so maybe that’s the new normal. Blood pressure normal. Weight up a little. No one except me seems worried about it. The blood levels are a pretty good indicator that nothing major is going wrong. Something would show in all those tests … right?


Sometimes I feel like a potato being slowly grated.

Every year or two, doctors remove a piece of me. Sometimes a little piece — a couple of bad heart valves, for example. Sometimes a couple of breasts. Once, a piece of bone in my leg and they added two implanted breasts, two replacement valves and a pacemaker. I believe that makes me two new pieces above my initial out-of-the-factory model.

Approximately 75% of me works almost as well as the original bits. That’s what my memories tell me, but normal is so distant in mental time, I have to work from memorized tidbits of what “normal” felt like. Of course, the rebuilt me isn’t quite the same. The individual pieces look okay, though — if you don’t look too closely. And I keep my clothing on.

STRUCTURE – THE NEW DOOR

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Structure


The door was rotting and needed to be replaced. One week ago today, my son and his friend Dave, got the job done. It was a big job. Heavy door to remove, heavier door to replace. It’s not quite finished — still needs painting on all sides, but we will get to it as soon as we can. Meanwhile, this is structure!

The old door


THE NEW DOOR

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017

BLACKSTONE GORGE – PHOTOGRAPHS BY GARRY AND MARILYN ARMSTRONG

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

It’s nice to find a new place to shoot. Blackstone Gorge isn’t far away, but it’s a bit strange to locate. One of the many parks that is part of the Blackstone Valley Historic Corridor, it’s off Route 122, but down a small dirt road marked “private.” This probably means that Massachusetts and the town of Blackstone are not taking responsibility for its maintenance.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

You could tell pretty quickly the road belongs to no one. Unpaved. Not even level gravel, but plain old-fashioned dirt. It’s full of ruts too, yet it leads to a lovely finished park with one of the river’s larger dams. There’s a modest parking lot with stone benches and walking trails. But you have to find it first.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

We found it. Eventually.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Now that we have found it, I’m pretty sure we can find it again, so it will join the list of places we shoot regularly. When the leaves changes, this little area will glow. A couple of weeks from now, the world will look entirely different.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

ENAMORED AIN’T JUST LOVE

Enamored

to fill or inflame with love (usually used in the passive and followed by of or sometimes with): to be enamored of a certain lady; a brilliant woman with whom he became enamored. 2. to charm or captivate.


If I were talking about a person — a real, live one and not a screen-idol or a character in a book — I would never use “enamored” to describe the relationship. To me, enamored means “fascinated” or maybe “entranced” by something. Not necessarily someone, either.

I can easily be enamored by things, like a camera, a  lens, a fast car. Even by something I use in the kitchen and occasionally, by food preparation itself.

I can become enamored by a location. A river, a dam. The pond where the swans live or how the mist lays heavy on the beach as the sun rises. When I had a sports car (oh, too briefly!), I was totally smitten by its ability to accelerate from zero to whoopee in nanoseconds. It actually made my heart pound when it took off, almost in flight.

Of what am I currently enamored?

My new door, unpainted though it remains — so far. We had a friend in town all last week, and doctor appointments all this week. I’m just hoping the rain holds off for a while. I’m also enamored of the 3-inch latex topper I bought for our bed that takes our old mattress and makes it feel brand new.

And I’m most particularly enamored by the light of the sun as it changes from the dark yellow of August, to the amber of September and through November.

I am always enamored of Autumn!

ALMOST SEPTEMBER – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Photo: Garry Armstrong

The calendar is about to change. Again. Just a few months for this year. A few brief weeks of tee-shirt, shorts, and boat shoe weather. Walter Houston is singing in my head. Raspy and bittersweet.

It’s the beginning of baseball’s stretch drive. Our Boston Red Sox are in the mix for the post season. It’s high anxiety time if you’re a die-hard fan. Will the hitters cool off? Will the starters maintain their newly discovered success? Will the bull pen purge those relievers who are serial arsonists?

Pro football is also back. If you belong to Patriots’ Nation, you wonder how it will go this year, with Brady a year older. Time will have its way, even with the best of them.

Facebook is full of posts and pictures from parents crying as they send their kids off to school for the first time. There are no posts for drop-outs. We offer requiems for our fading summer flowers. It’s difficult to watch them as they slowly die.

The late night talk shows are packed with “stars” promoting their new series which sound like old series. I particularly object to reboots of old shows that weren’t particularly good back in their first run.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Political analysts are dizzy, trying to explain Orange Head’s bizarre and unprecedented presidency. If you want to really call it that.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Labor Day weekend will offer a brief time out for memories about summers past when we were younger and our world a bit more innocent. Think “Moon Glow” and “The Theme from Picnic.”  I’m William Holden dancing with Kim Novak. Snapshot memories of faded love affairs.

This is a brief respite.

Walter Houston is now singing louder in my head about those once lazy days dwindling down to hurricanes, raging fires, floods, mass shootings and Orange Head tirades blurring our collective sanity.

September Song.

These precious days I’ll spend with you…….

BLUE, BROWN, BLACK, BRICK – CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Colors that start with “B”

Please note: In their continuing attempts to make it impossible for us to do simple things SIMPLY, WordPress has now made it impossible to put two pictures in a row without a large gap. So if you are trying to space your post as you always have, best of luck. Hasn’t worked out well for me.


THE BIZARRE TRIP TO EUROPE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

When I was in high school, my parents didn’t travel. A good friend, nick named ‘Cookie’, was going to Europe for three weeks over the summer with her family. She invited me to join them. I was 15 and thrilled.

The first week we were going to stay on our own in Surrey, England, outside of London, with friends of Cookie’s family. Then we would travel with parents to London, Paris, Geneva, Zurich and Vienna.

Me and the family in Surrey, England

As soon as we arrived in Surrey, Cookie pulled the rug out from under me. She told me she was jealous of me and hated me. She said she planned to make the trip as miserable for me as possible. This was like a kick in the gut to me. Where did this come from? And what was I supposed to do now, alone in a foreign country with a declared ‘enemy’?

Cookie tried to ingratiate herself with the family and exclude me. It didn’t work. The two kids, a son around 18 and a daughter around 21, liked me better and complained to me about Cookie. But I still felt the hostility and the tension. It was very uncomfortable and scary.

When we were traveling alone with her parents, Cookie tried to turn them against me. She tried to sabotage me at every turn. Again, it didn’t work. Her parents just got annoyed with her. She kept on trying though.

Me on the trip in Paris

I couldn’t even write home about my situation because I always shared a room with Cookie and she hovered over me. My letters home are all chatty and upbeat except for a few hurriedly sneaked sentences at the end of each letter. The postscripts were short cries of anguish and pleas for help.

I had never been exposed to this degree of negativity, competitiveness, and outright hostility. It was an unpleasant and weird and particularly difficult for a 15-year old. I must have been more mature than I realized to have survived but even enjoyed some of the trip. We saw beautiful places and did  cool things. I just tried to ignore Cookie as much as possible.

To add insult to injury, we came home on the ocean liner, Queen Mary. There were no activities for kids and it was mind-numbingly boring. On top of that, and having to deal with Cookie 24/7, the food was became inedible. They ruined eggs for breakfast! We lived off candy from the vending machines.

Photo I took in Geneva, Switzerland

I’m grateful this trip didn’t turn me against traveling. In fact, it whetted my appetite. If I enjoyed traveling under these circumstances, imagine what it would be like with a friend as my traveling companion!

SHARING MY WORLD – THE END OF SUMMER

Share Your World – August 28, 2017


What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

Any day in which I wake up, still breathing … and if that is a go, then …

Being with friends. Having one of the good days where most of me works, a day on which I’m not tired start to finish.

In short, being alive, feeling reasonably healthy and being with people I enjoy. And a few dogs.

Complete this sentence: My favorite place in the whole world …

Ultimately home, but there are other favorite places too. I love the mountains best, but almost as fond of the seashore and rivers .

Really, anyplace that I can find beautiful is a favorite place on some level. And if i can take pretty pictures too? All the better.

Who was your best friend in elementary school (prior to age 12)?

That’s an interesting question. I had a best friend, but she was not my best friend. We had a complicated and occasionally difficult relationship. She was pretty, sexy, and cute. I was not. I was smarter than she was … which she didn’t like because she was smart in her own right, but she used her intelligence mostly as a way of attracting people.

Mary (left), Marilyn (middle), Carol (right). We were 6 or 7.

Boys, when we were young. Women, when she got older. I wonder how our relationship would have changed had she known then what she came to know later in life.

There are many strange twists life takes, aren’t there?

What inspired you this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. 

It was good to have a friend in the house, even though it was only a few days. He and Garry are essentially the same age … Garry being 4 months older. But Ben, like me, has had a couple of heart surgeries and like me has never entirely recovered from it.

It’s a hard thing to explain to people who haven’t walked that walk … the tiredness that never quite goes away which comes with a permanent weariness. It’s not that we don’t work at overcoming it, but it gets harder and stuff that was so easy … isn’t. Things that were no big deal? Big deal and getting bigger.

This week, just having a friend to be around who remembers those days of old, when he drove the old Renault (or was it a Peugeot — I always forget) and we were both discovering who we were. They weren’t perfect days, but they were good ones — and fun to remember.

M.A.D., MADMEN AND THE FIVE MINUTE RULE – BY TOM CURLEY

The talk this week about our “So called President” being insane has ramped up to 11 out of 10.

It’s all anyone in the news can talk about. The biggest worry, of course, is that this nut-job has access to the nuclear codes and could start a war in under five minutes. During the cold war, the US and Russia and China operated under the idea of M.A.D., aka “Mutually Assured Destruction.”

Nobody considered what would happen if an actual Madman was President.

Everybody says nobody can stop him. That’s not quite true.

During the Nixon administration, at the end, with Nixon drinking a lot and freaking out over Watergate, the Chief of Staff quietly put out an order. If the President ordered a nuclear strike, or any military strike for that matter, check with him or the Secretary of Defense first. It was illegal, but they did it anyway.

They were right.

Maybe the current Chief of Staff (right now, it’s John Kelly, but hell, that could change next week) might be doing the same thing. We don’t know. But I have a couple of other ideas that might also work, a couple of options to get around the “I’m bored and in a bad mood. Let’s start a nuclear war” scenario.

Option One:

In order to start a nuclear war, he has to get the nuclear codes. They are in a briefcase called “The Nuclear Football”.  An aide, whose sole job is to carry “The Football” around, has to bring it to him.

Here’s how it would go.

SCROTUS: I’m in a bad mood! I want to start a nuclear war! Bring me the nuclear football.

AIDE: Here you go sir.

SCROTUS: Hey, it’s locked!

AIDE: Yes sir. You have to unlock it.

SCROTUS: I do? What’s the combination?

AIDE: I don’t know sir. You were supposed to reset it when you took office. President Obama was supposed to tell you that when he left office.

SCROTUS: I knew it! This is Obama’s fault!

AIDE: Well I guess we can’t start a nuclear war today sir.

SCROTUS: No wait! Try 123!

AIDE: Nope, doesn’t work.

SCROTUS: 000?

AIDE: Nope.

SCROTUS: 111?

AIDE: Uhh …. Nope.

Now the reason that his can work is because of “The Five Minute Rule.” He only has an attention span of about five minutes. After that he gets bored or forgets what he was talking about and moves on to something else. Usually watching Fox News.

Five minutes later.

SCROTUS: I’m bored. What were we talking about?

AIDE: We were talking about how much Fox and Friends loves you sir.

SCROTUS: Yea! Let’s watch TV!

Or …

Option 2: 

When he wants to start a nuclear war, we bring him an actual football.

SCROTUS: I’m bored! Let’s start a nuclear war! I want to bomb Rosie O’Donnell! Bring me the nuclear football!

AIDE: Here you go sir.

SCROTUS: What’s this?

AIDE: It’s “The Nuclear Football” sir.

SCROTUS: It is? It looks like a real football.

AIDE: It is a real football sir. Just nuclear.

SCROTUS: How do I use it?

AIDE: You just go outside and shout out the name of the country or person you want to bomb and then you just throw that football as hard as you can.

SCROTUS: It’s that easy?

AIDE: Yup.

SCROTUS goes outside, yells “Fuck Rosie O’Donnell and throws the football. A secret service agent catches it and runs away shouting “Rosie O’Donnell sucks!” and returns the football to the Chief of Staff’s office and puts it in the bin with all the other footballs — and the actual combination to the real “football.” By now, about five minutes has gone by and the aide turns on Fox News.

Crazy you say? I agree. But when you’re dealing with crazy, you have to think crazy.

 

WELCOME MAGNETO

Magnetism: Takes you down, hoists you up


Magneto is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics, commonly in association with the X-Men. Created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, the character first appears in The X-Men #1 (cover-dated Sept. 1963) as the archenemy of the X-Men. So, Magneto is the “evil bad guy” in the X-Men movies (and of course, in the comics) — or at least in the first one and I think briefly, the second.

But he means well. That’s important. No random craziness. He knows what he wants and has an intended goal.

Magnetism — his personal beat — disrupts engines and technology. Makes the world behave in unexpected way. Sort of like our current world. Magneto struck me as an intelligent, thoughtful sort of guy.

I say lets elect him. Make him president. He’ll be unexpected in a Marvel Comics kind of way, but being an intelligent fellow, his behavior will have something we “other people” will regard as “motivated.” That’s gotta be worth something, right?

BEFORE CHILD PSYCHOLOGY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My mother was born in 1916 and was brought up before modern child psychology was a ‘thing’. Judging from her early experiences, no one in those days seemed to worry about damaging the psyches of impressionable young children.

For example, my mother was born left-handed. This was not acceptable at the time, so she was forced to switch to using her right hand as her dominant hand. She succeeded but as a result, developed a stutter. This is apparently common when you mess with the two sides of the brain. The expert my grandmother consulted told her that there was an easy cure. Just smack my mom in the face every time she stuttered! It did stop her stuttering. Let’s not even think about the psychological side effects.

At the age of around five or six, Mom developed a serious ear infection. It required a horribly painful draining procedure involving long needles. She had to go through this every few days for weeks. The doctor wouldn’t allow my grandmother to even be in the room with her terrified child during the procedures. Mom was literally ripped, screaming from her mother’s arms, held down by several adults, tortured and yelled at when she cried. Talk about trauma.

It sounds totally barbaric today. This may have just been a particularly sadistic doctor, or maybe that was how things were done then. Either way, my grandmother, a usually strong and vocal woman, was too intimidated by ‘the professional’ to challenge him.

But then my grandparents did some awful things too. As a child, my mother had a thick, black uni-brow. To me, she looked adorable, but in 1916-1926, she was considered ugly. So of course, all the relatives referred to her, in front of her as the ‘meiskheit’ or ‘ugly one’. Everyone said she was lucky she had such a great personality. She turned into a beautiful woman in her teens, but she never recovered from those early labels. For the rest of her life, her self-image was that of an ugly duckling.

Mom and her parents

Here’s another example of psychological obtuseness. My grandfather was a serious hypochondriac. He had made some money and he and his family were living comfortably. But over a seven-year period, he spent all of the family money on cures and spas for his imaginary illnesses. He even had an unnecessary surgery that actually almost killed him!

While Grandpa was ‘recovering’ in a sanatorium, Grandma had no money. She and Mom had to go live with relatives. One was my grandmother’s brother, Abe. For some reason it was decided that my mom, a young child, would sleep in a bed with Abe’s wife, who was a raging psychotic. She would regularly wake Mom up in the middle of the night and make her go to the roof. There Mom’s aunt would threaten to jump because she said that her eyes were falling out of her head. Mom would have to talk her down and get her back to bed. On her own. Who knows what these people were thinking putting a young child through an experience like that.

I’m just glad that by the time I was born there was some sensitivity to children’s emotional needs. When I had my tonsils out at the age of six, in 1955, the hospital didn’t automatically bring in cots like they do now so that parents could sleep with their children. But the hospital did let my mom sleep next to me in a chair all night. A far cry from my Mom’s horrific medical experiences.

Thank goodness for Doctors Freud and Spock!

HOMAGE TO THE MAKERS OF THE CAMERAS I LOVE

HOMAGE TO THE CAMERAS I LOVE


Since Ben got here on Thursday, we’ve been doing a lot of camera reviewing. We use the same cameras mostly … with a few exceptions. He has more of the upscale professional Olympus lenses, though we have the same cameras. He also has Pentax Q-7, which I gave him.

I swapped the Olympus PL-6 for an Olympus 14-45 mm telephoto. It needs an adapter for Micro 4/3. He bought my least-used (okay, never  used ) 06 longer telephoto lens for the Pentax Q system — and took the broken Panasonic FZ-200 which he hopes he can fix. I hope so too. That was a wonderful camera and although I’ve replaced it, I’ve never enjoyed a camera more.

I don’t merely use cameras. I love them. I love the way they feel. Holding it in my hands. I even enjoy adjusting settings. I know that’s twisted, but I cannot help myself. To hang out with another lover of cameras is the total talking of tech. I hardly ever get to do that anymore. I used to get that itch scratched at work where tech was the business, but Garry isn’t techie and isn’t interested in conversation beyond “Your pictures came out really well!”

So here’s to the makers of lenses and cameras and adapters. Who have taken us to new heights in graphic exploration. Who have made taking pictures free from sending out film to labs and eliminated all those toxic chemicals.

Here’s to digital software, electronic auto-focus cameras and everything that comes with them.

Cameras. They matter.

ALT-NEWS: PRESIDENT RESIGNS – BY GORDON C. STEWART

My Fellow Americans,

I stand before you today to announce my resignation, effective tomorrow at noon E.D.T.

To all of you who supported my campaign to drain the swamp in Washington, this decision will come as a huge disappointment, but it will not come as a surprise.

6a00e554dac08588330115702f407e970c-320wiAs a real estate developer I know that some swamps can’t be drained. As the Bible teaches, the wise man built his house upon the rock; the foolish man built his house upon the swamp. And the rains came down, and the rains came down, just like they’re coming down now in Texas, and the floods came up and washed the foolish man’s house away.

I’m no fool. I’m a developer. I know when to get in, and I know when to get out.

No matter how hard I’ve tried to lead you out of this swamp, the evil press continues to undermine my efforts — efforts greater than anyone in history before me and, I’m sad to say, greater than anyone who will ever come after me — to rid the country of the snakes, alligators, and crocodiles that are destroying our beloved country and undermining my promise to make America great again.

Donald Trump

America will never be great again. Our best days are behind us.

You elected me because you wanted a winner. I’m a winner! Hillary lost. She lost big! She’s a sore loser. Just the other day she whined about our debate. “Donald stalked me; he stalked me!” Wa-wa-wa! I won. She lost. But the America I ran to save can only be saved by you, the American people. It can only be saved when you rise up to empty the whole swamp of Washington.

Tomorrow I will turn over the swamp to Vice President Mike Pence. Mike is a man who knows the swamp as well as anyone. He came to his office from Congress and will fit right in.

princely-diamond-suite

Pincely Diamond Suite, Hotel Hermitage, Monte Carlo, Monaco

Melania, Barron, Ivanka, Jarod, and I will be moving to Monaco at the invitation of Prince Albert II. Monaco is a principality, but it’s already great! The Prince has invited the Trump family to live as his guests in the Princely Diamond Suite of the Hotel Hermitage in Monte Carlo where our beloved Grace Kelly found a home outside he country as Princess of Monaco, and has invited me to be the grand marshal of the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix, the world’s most famous grand prix.

I love you all. I love America. I wish you well. I’m not a loser. I’m a winner like Prince Albert II whom the press also tried to destroy with vicious allegations of sexual exploits and illegitimate children.

Finally, I say to the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, and all the other fake news media, Mitch McConnell — what a loser! — to Hillary and Bill (whose campaigns, by the way, I generously supported over the years without a word of thanks), Mr. Comey, and Mr. Mueller, as President of the United States of America, I hereby absolve myself of all responsibility for the swamp by issuing a presidential pardon of Joe Arapio and of myself for all alleged offenses past, present future.


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May God bless Joe, may God bless what could have been the United States of America, and may God bless the son of our beloved Grace Kelly.

Oh, my, it felt so good to write this!  — Ghost writer, Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 26, 2017.

 

Source: Alt-News: President resigns