ARE ANTI-MASKERS NARCISSISTS? — by ELLIN CURLEY

We all know by now that Trump is a malignant narcissist. He’s an anti-masker. He’s anti social-distancing. He downplays the danger and severity of Coronavirus even though he has had it himself. He makes fun of people who are responsible and follow “the guidelines” to protect themselves and others against the virus.

I never thought narcissism could predispose people to be risk death in a pandemic. To become “anti-maskers” and COVID-19 rule breakers too. Several recent studies concluded that narcissistic behavior has likely contributed to noncompliance with public health standards during this pandemic. You can see narcissistic tendencies in people who feel that they are special and believe sensible rules don’t apply to them. Narcissism underlies and heightens their lack of caring about others. These are people who focus on their “rights” or their “inconveniences” rather than recognizing that obeying these rules helps other folks as well as the community as a whole.

According to psychologists, narcissists characteristically lack empathy. They feel grandiose and entitled. They do what they want, so if what they want is contrary to what the rules allow, they ignore the rules. These antisocial traits predispose large swaths of the American citizens to refuse to adhere to safety health measures –like mask-wearing, social-distancing and avoiding large groups. All of which have been put in place to limit the spread of the novel Coronavirus.

Rhetoric from all of the COVID rule-breakers highlight stunning examples of lack of empathy along with feelings of entitlement. Statements like “I don’t have to” and “You have no right to tell me what to do,” even if it’s for the common good, are typical. The rage, oppositionality, and childlike petulance are characteristic of narcissists. Somehow, you’d think actual life-and-death danger might make even narcissists stop and think about the potential effects of their behavior, but apparently not.

The U.S. is known to have higher levels of narcissistic personalities than other western democracies and no one knows why. Maybe it’s the nature of the people who came here from other places? No one is surprised that these personality issues have kept America from effectively minimizing the spread of the Coronavirus. We have actually been among the worst countries in controlling the virus and have among the highest rates of both infections and deaths — and since England is right in there with us, maybe that’s the common factor?

Perhaps the take-away from our dismal handling of this worldwide crisis is if we want to accomplish anything nationally in our future, we need to address the narcissism of a substantial block of our population.

To move forward, we need cooperation from the majority of our citizens, To make meaningful inroads into some of the attitudinal and other social issues we face — such as racism, sexism and homophobia — we’ll never eliminate these problems when more than a third of the country are reluctant to address their prejudices and refuse to be told what to think or do.

Unless most people are willing to accept majority-held values based on science, statistics, research, and facts, we’ll continue to butt our heads against these self-built walls for generations to come. It’s not a pretty picture.

YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT, BUT SOMETIMES, YOU GET WHAT YOU NEED

If you didn’t believe before, believe now. I was waiting. I knew. It had to be. I’m surprised it took this long, but finally, we’re here. Is this another media hoax? If 45 should die, would that be a SUPER media hoax? The ultimate media hoax? I know I’m should be praying for the welfare of the ill, but I don’t have it in me to get that “angelic” look you see on statues in the cemetery. I wish I could. I’m sure that would make me a better person, but I never claimed I was perfect.This definitely proves my imperfection. No matter how I look at it, this man deserves this disease. As does Melania. As do the remainder of his wretched crew. Those helpers in his horrific destruction of our environment, courts, political, and legal systems. He has stolen our money, allowed — ENCOURAGED — more than 200,000 people to die of COVID-19.

It didn’t have to be this bad. Whatever it is, however it goes, this man earned it.

Because of his last “rally,” all his big contributors are also in quarantine. You think these donors might possibly be reconsidering if they still feel like giving him a ton of their money? Or — any? The GOP doesn’t even have a “back-up” candidate — and I don’t think Ivanka or Jared are getting anyone’s nod. So who? Pence? Really? Would anyone vote for him even if he ran? The Big Orangeman’s cult followers are not Pence followers. Orangeman isn’t the GOP. It’s just this guy and he is sick. Even if he recovers, how long will he be sick? So far it’s mild, but it’s always mild at the beginning, often for a couple of weeks. Then it gets worse and sometimes, even worse than that. Which of his crazed followers is going to want to stand maskless by his bedside now? How far does their worship really go?

No one begged for this illness more than Trump. He has literally ranted to the heavens to “bring it on.” Somehow, when you beg the universe to “sock it to me,” you generally get socked. I don’t know who, what, or why the universe is how it is, but if I had anything to say about it, I would feel that those who beg for trouble should be allowed to experience it.

Now, we all wait and see how it develops. He’s old. He’s obese. Rumors of heart problems abound. He has the worse diet in the world. He has done much evil to many people and these folks are not rooting for his welfare. How could they? So perhaps the heavens are speaking. We are listening. We hope for the best and in this case, “the best” is what?

What is the best for me, for us, for those poor locked up immigrant children? For the earth and the seas and the water we drink and the air we breathe. And incidentally, for “the man who would be king.”

I’m not sure what “best” is giving all the individuals involved, from the poorest to the wealthiest. You don’t know either. His death could be best. His illness and recuperation might be best. The fear of the disease itself might in itself be best. I am so very, very glad I am not in charge of the “what’s best.” I bet you are equally glad. If there is a God, do your thing, whatever it may be. I’m just thrilled to not be the one making the decisions. No matter how much you believe in whatever you believe, it can be a hard to figure what a guy like “the man who would be king” deserves. As long as I am not in charge of dispensing this piece of karmic dogmatic justice, go Karma and all that this implies!

As “the man who would be king” said, keep your finger on the trigger. Stay locked and loaded. Be careful what you wish for because you might just get it.

GETTING OLD IS GETTING OLD By RICH PASCHALL

GETTING OLD IS REALLY GETTING OLD, by Rich Paschall

When you think of all the things you want to be when you grow up, “old” probably is not on the list.  You may think about being a doctor or nurse.  You may consider lawyer or politician.  Fireman or police officer may be on your list.  In fact, in your elementary school days you may have changed your mind many times. It is OK to dream about the future and fantasize about what you should do some day.

If superhero is on your list, you may have to give that one up rather quickly, unless you are Robert Downey, Jr.  He is still playing Iron Man past the ripe old age of 50.  I guess that is a commentary on keeping yourself in good shape.  Of course, he is just play acting, like we do as kids, and he certainly has a stunt double.  Your own life does not come with a stunt double, sorry.

If we give it any thought at all while we are young, of course we want to live a long life.  Therefore, we do want to get old.  If accident or disease does not rob us of life too soon, then we will indeed get old.  It is all the things that go with it that I am not too pleased about.

Contemplating the years
Contemplating the years as the sun sets.

I did notice the changes in my grandparents as they got older.  I am certain that I threaded needles for both my grandmothers at some point in time.  I knew they could not see as well as when they were younger, but I never thought about that being me some day.  Yes, I can still thread a needle, but I probably have to hold it at just the right distance in order to do so.  In fact, I really need trifocals, but I have settled for two pair of bifocals instead.  The bottom part is the same on each, but one pair is strictly for the computer.  The top part of the glasses are set to optimize the view from where the monitor should be, a little more than arm’s distance away.

This is not fooling anyone, of course, not even myself.  People can see I switch glasses in order to see.  I should have gotten the same style glasses so it would be less obvious.  When I am on Skype, and can see myself back on the screen, I really do not like the look but I am stuck with them for a while.  At least glasses have gotten better and these are not as thick or heavy as ones I wore years ago.

72-LensCrafters-Auburn-Mall_22

As my grandfather got older, I noticed he sometimes used a cane to help him get up, or walk around.  When he was in his 80’s, he never left the house without the cane.  He just might have too much trouble walking while he was away. Sometimes when I walk past a window or mirror, I think for just a moment the reflection I see is my father or grandfather.  My stepmother once said that I should take it as a complIment that people see me as my father, since he was so handsome, but I began to think they saw me as they saw him later in life.  That is, old.

When you see pictures of me, you generally will not see the cane.  I set it down for the shot.  Years ago my doctor sent me to a sports medicine guy for a foot problem of still undetermined origin.  Maybe I was playing sports in the park long after a time when I should have moved on.  Maybe I suffered some trauma that came back to get me.  Maybe it was related to some disease I contracted.  In any case, I had it operated on, which did not help.  Years later I had another operation.  That did not help either.  I had many procedures in between.  Was it just an issue of getting older?  We will never know for sure.

I have heard it said that the aches and pains we feel as we get older are not a natural part of life and we should not just accept them.  Perhaps some accept them when they could feel better, but I have never accepted them.  I have spent a good deal of time getting to know my doctor and all that goes on in his business.  Yes, I might as well interview him a little, he interviews me a lot.  Together we have looked for solutions to my various problems.

The Gabapentin for the foot nerve pain does not seem to eliminate the problem, even if it lessens it.  The Lidocaine patch may numb the pain, but I cut the patch down because a completely numb foot is not a good thing for walking and creates a dull pain, which actually is not much better than a sharp pain.

My doctor does not like my diet or my cholesterol.  He seems to cast a skeptical eye at my insistence that I watch the cholesterol rating on the food I buy.  That does not include restaurant food, however.  Or what John cooks for dinner.  Statins did not work.  They created muscle and joint pain I could not stand.  The non-statin anti-cholesterol pills are not as effective, but hold less side effects, apparently.  Other problems and medications have come and gone. Parts wear out, you know.

Recently a high school classmate of mine wrote to say he had finally gotten in to a senior center he had applied for a while ago.  He had a variety of health issues in recent years and needed to get into such a community.  I wrote back that I could not imagine that any of us would be talking Senior Center, because it seemed like just a few years ago we were in high school together.

With any luck at all, old age will catch you some day.  You will probably feel it coming.

Related: Share If You Are Old Enough To Remember (humor)
To Not Grow Old Gracefully (Sunday Night Blog)

THINKING PINK

Today is the ten-year anniversary of my breast cancer surgery. I would love to announce that “I’m cured,” but with cancer, you are never cured. You can be in remission — sometimes for decades — but it takes just take one cell to restart it. Moreover, having had cancer once or twice doesn’t mean you can’t get it again. The same or an entirely different kind. My mother had breast cancer twice, but died of lung cancer. My brother died of pancreatic cancer as did both of my maternal grandparents. It runs in the family. These days, it seems to run in everybody’s family.

In the course of cancer survival, I have come to thoroughly dislike pink, especially the toddler pink they use to raise money for breast cancer. It was never my favorite color. Too girly. Unless it’s a “hot” pink, it’s also not a color that looks good on me. Rosebud pink is almost as bad as beige. It makes me look completely washed out. Nonetheless, having had breast cancer I am besieged by pink and not just the color, but a distinctly pinkish attitude.

Fake breasts

I lost both breasts and got two nice fake breasts. Implants are not real breasts. They are vastly better than nothing, but they aren’t the right kind of skin. They have far less sensation than the originals. I wonder if they will ever stop feeling like alien invaders attached to my chest. Also, there are no nipples. The implants look fine under clothing but they aren’t me. I was going to do the whole thing including replacement fake nipples, but to get those fake nipple it mean two more surgeries followed by healing and then followed by tattoos because the new nipples aren’t pink. They are just skin-colored. For a while, i considered just getting interesting tattoos without the nipple adaptations, but finally, I realized i didn’t want anything. I’m not doing any nude photographs or going topless to the beach.

I have a bad attitude towards cancer. I’m supposed to celebrate my survival as if it is a miracle of miracles. It was top-quality surgery, but it wasn’t a miracle. i was just lucky that i had a slow-growing type of breast cancer. Even though it wasn’t discovered until it had been around for a while, it was still a relatively small tumor that had not spread into my lymph nodes. It was considered very non-aggressive. Actually, both tumors, were slow-growing, but one was much bigger than the other. My theory was and is that one breast had had cancer for quite a while and the other on showed up late in the process. I can’t prove it, but the odds of having two completely different tumors — one per breast — is unimaginably minute. I think by the time they found one and eventually the other, they were simultaneous, but didn’t start out that way.

Many of my friends have had breast cancer. It has become very common. Maybe it always was, but we didn’t know how to check for it. It is Especially common among younger Black women and any age Ashkenazi Jewish woman. But truth be told, breast cancer is common for all women. Any race. Any age. I’m told there’s a new test out that can detect it earlier without the painful mammogram. Nice, though it wouldn’t have helped me much because I went for six years between mammograms. The doctor forget to remind me and I forgot to remember. I had other issues at the time which were trying to kill me and other potential but non-lethal medical events got lost in the frenzy. If it had been a more aggressive form of cancer, I’d have been in more serious trouble, but lucky (?) for me, I had time to get it fixed. Three-and-a-half years later, I had to have major heart surgery. I considered that extremely unfair. The double mastectomy was bad enough and I was just pulling myself together when it was time for the next round of “life or death, then toss the dice and hope for the best.”

Women who haven’t had cancer point out that if I were better at smiling and telling everyone that I’m FINE, I’d be FINER.

I have stopped going places where people ask me how I’m doing and don’t want to hear the answer. Of being told my attitude is the problem rather than the disease. Many women want me to be upbeat. If I’m happy, it makes them feel safe. These women do not want to hear that sometimes — years later — I am still overcome by feelings of sadness and loss. I miss my breasts. We grow up believing with our breasts are a major signifier of upcoming womanhood. Having both of them removed tends to make you feel less womanly, especially when you are older and past the age of childbearing. It’s a major hit to your femininity. Regardless of whether you feel that this is a very anti-feminist attitude, it doesn’t change how you feel about having breasts.

I no longer like having them touched. They aren’t sexy. They aren’t me.

I’m supposed to celebrate “being cancer-free” except no one who has had cancer ever feels cancer-free. When your breasts are gone, replacements don’t feel like the ones you had before. Those are gone. I have a lot of trouble wondering why so many women have breast surgery to “improve” them. It’s not minor surgery. It’s painful and there’s a surprisingly long recuperation following surgery. No matter how well the surgery is performed, it continues to hurt. Not a lot, but the areas where muscles and ligaments were cut are always sore. Ten years later, they still hurt.

The point of being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about having a bilateral mastectomy is to make other women feel less threatened. If you tell them how great you feel, they don’t have to worry. Or at least, not worry as much. I grant you that gloom and doom might not be a great choice, but neither is pasting a fake smile on your face and telling everyone how happy you are when you aren’t. We should be allowed to feel how we feel — even if it’s not great. We’ve had to deal with a major physical loss. Being repeatedly told we aren’t allowed to feel unhappy and should stay positive is unkind and frustrating. It ought to be okay to be upset, to mourn our losses, to wonder “why me?” People 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?

I come from a family where cancer has taken a lot of lives. Getting it wasn’t exactly a bolt out of the blue. The last words my mother said to me the day before she died was “Get regular checkups.” There are many genetic links for breast cancer, especially for young Black women and anyone with a family link to Ashkenazi Jewishness. Two known (and testable) genetic links have been found (so far) for me, but  insurance only pays for one — the more common marker. What good does all the research do if we can’t afford to use it?

On top of all of this is the “pink” culture. Why pink? Why not turquoise or burnt orange? Along with “pink think” comes a kind of glorifying breast cancer as if it were a kind of gift that helps you “understand” yourself better. Oh please! Breast cancer isn’t a “test” which, if we pass, makes us heroines. What it usually means is (1) we found it early enough to get it fixed and (2) we had quality insurance. Moreover, I am entitled to be pissed off about it. Someone thinks it’s a gift, but I’ve never met someone who actually had it who felt that way. This is a country that seems to believe that denial really improves your health.

It doesn’t. I’ve had enough health issues that I can’t afford denial.  Right now, we are seeing an entire nation in which at least 1/3 of our citizens are in a dangerous state of denial.. No one with a serious illness  (or potentially a candidate for such an illness) can afford denial. Cancer, heart disease — and COVID-19 — is not an attitude problem.


Absolutely no evidence of any kind exists to confirm the widespread belief that a positive attitude results in a better survival rate for ANY disease. Being in a persistent state of gloom is a bummer, but it won’t change the outcome of your illness.


On top of everything else, the sappy postings on Facebook that urge everyone to pray for all the people suffering from cancer. Prayer seems to be the only answer. Personally, I think sending money would be more useful. Sick people have expenses. Children. Mortgages. Car loans. We have not abjured things that cost money. More accurately, we usually don’t HAVE any money. If we had any, by the time we are done with treatment, we have a lot less than we used to have. Personally, I’d be delighted to get an infusion of money. I’d love to have someone come weekly to clean my house. Paying the credit cards, improving our 1973 kitchen, and repaving the driveway are high on my list of things I’d really love to do. Having enough money to fix my broken tooth would be nice too — and enough money to get new eyeglasses would also be a nice touch.

Offensive pink trash bin. Celebrating breast cancer with trash bins?

So if you are wondering what to do with your spare money (does anyone actually have spare money?), feel free to send cash, personal checks, and money orders. I’m sure we will do something useful with it, If you need information on how to make a direct transfer into our account, I’m sure we can work it out. Unlike standard charities, I can invite you over and show you exactly where the money was spent and how it improved our lives. Isn’t that better than giving to some giant charity where most of your money goes to pay the CEO?

Cancer is typically a financial disaster for families. Everything — including the quality of the care you receive — depends on your insurance as well as the facilities available where you live. Major diseases — all of them — deplete your resources and can leave you with nothing.

No one wants to complain all the time. It’s humiliating, boring to listen to, and even more boring to explain. A real rundown of one’s health is a lot more complicated than plastering a big smile on your face and saying: “I’m FINE!” It’s bad enough to be sick and having parts removed. When you’re also dead broke and can’t see any way to get out from under the debt, it’s so much worse.

I remind myself that we are all here on a temporary permit. No one gets out of this world alive. Anyone can be felled by a speeding car or hit by a meteor. We are born without a warranty. We don’t even get a cheesy 90-day guarantee for medical treatments. If it doesn’t work, oh well. They don’t do it over for free or even at half-price.

Everyone wants to be fine. We plan to be fine. We base our lives on being fine. Sooner or later, you won’t be fine. That’s called “being human.”


A positive attitude will not alter the course of a disease.


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? 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 painful experience is phony and embarrassing. Forcing women to smile when they want to scream is an old, old story. We’ve been doing it for centuries.

I understand people think they are doing the right thing by telling you how lucky you are to have “caught it in time.” Lucky to be alive.

Not dying isn’t lucky. If I were lucky, I would still have breasts. Not getting cancer would be lucky.


Friends don’t tell friends how to feel.


So it has been ten years. It doesn’t feel that long. It feels like yesterday. All of the bad stuff somehow feels like yesterday. Weird, isn’t it?

CLIMATE CHANGE IN SOUTH CENTRAL MASSACHUSETTS

We don’t need scientists to explain climate change to us. We can see it all around us. The rivers are dry with their muddy bottoms showing. Fall came weeks early and blew away a week later. The winds which normally blow straight up the Atlantic shore are twisting eastward, so all the rain goes from the mid-Atlantic area straight out to sea, completely missing the northeast.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

As a watershed area, the water that we store here is part of the water that keeps the entire state flowing wetly along. And some of the water normally flows down into Connecticut and parts of southern New Hampshire.

Muddy banks, short dock at Riverbend

I leave a bowl of water on the deck. Squirrels, chipmunks, birds  … they all come to drink. Usually there are little rivulets and patches of wet through the woods. But not this year. It’s bone dry which is scary for any number of reasons, including the danger of fire. So far, it has just been little brush fires, quickly squelched. But New England is 70% wooded. There’s a lot of forest and it’s dry. And contrary to presidential warnings, no one has been out there raking the woodlands to keep them neat. What a really stupid idea that is. There’s so much stupidity going around. It’s hard to keep track of all the dumbness. I wish some of the incredibly stupid ones would drop by. Check out our dry rivers. Maybe pick up a rake and start raking my woods. Maybe cut down a few ailing trees while he’s at it.

We aren’t waiting for climate change to come. It’s here. We’re living in it.

THE JOY OF DUMPING IT

I have felt truly unwell for the past week or two. Really, it started with the abscess in my mouth and the two weeks on antibiotics waiting for the surgeon to pull the tooth. Then the dry-socketed tooth and the resurgence of the abscess and another run of different antibiotics for a sinus infection. All those antibiotics killed “the bad stuff” and the good stuff. My gut is most unhappy with me. My back’s none too happy either, but this is because the confluence of medications I take sometimes gets completely out of hand.

I take what is considered the maximum load of blood pressure medications. “The full load,” my cardiologist commented. Because of earlier surgery for stomach and upper intestinal ulcers, I also take a maximum amount of antacids. Sometimes, I can back off them for a while, but eventually, I get sick and have no choice. They aren’t good for you. I also take some medication for sleeping and some for pain. In total, it adds up to a lot of medication and sometimes, instead of helping me, it makes me sick.

Now is one of those times. I have to make decisions about what to stop taking. I’m afraid to stop taking the BP meds for obvious reasons. I can’t completely stop the sleep medications or I really don’t sleep at all and it’s bad enough as it is. So the pain medication goes first. To a point which is when I realize if I don’t take something, I’m going to stop functioning entirely. I cut down on the antacids. I switch to over-the-counter pain meds — which work very well except I’m not supposed to ever take anything with aspirin in it, but sometimes it’s the only thing that works. I apologize to my stomach for this and eat another yogurt. I also try to up the amount of “real” food I eat. It’s not that I’m on a diet because I’m not. I’m not supposed to diet — ever — but I don’t eat much. I’m surprisingly lumpy for someone who eats as little as I eat, but gravity has had its way with me, so I’m 12-pounds lighter than last year, but I look 10-pounds heavier. Oddly, my pants size dropped, but my waistline got bigger.

 

All of this explain that I don’t feel well, but in theory, there’s nothing wrong with me except what was wrong with me when I felt better. Today I got up the courage to take a really hot shower and wash my hair. I should have done it yesterday, but Garry beat me to the shower. He had previously cleaned the whole house, so he earned it.

By the time he emerged, I was too tired to try.

Thus dawns a new day. I decided to make fried eggs on English muffins with cheese to go with coffee. Usually, I just have coffee and maybe a muffin or a cookie, but my body has been screaming for food. Not snacks, not whatever I could grab from the fridge. After coffee, perhaps bolstered by having actually eaten breakfast — and while in the shower, I noticed that a device I bought more than a year ago which is supposed to catch one’s hair before it gurgles down the drain. It was sitting on a shelf in the shower. I have another one that works better, so I don’t use it. I turned it over and it was grimy on the bottom with a hint of mold.


I THREW IT IN THE TRASH!


I took that “good-fer” and DUMPED IT right into the old trash can. It was a magic moment. Every now and then, I get inspirational and realize I do not need to keep every item I own, even if I paid for it but never use it — and probably never will. I can throw it out! What a concept! Which I did. It did not cure my stomach or make my head stop hurting, but there was a certain triumph in that brief moment of disposal. I felt like a winner. I had thrown away an item I didn’t need and no one had to force me to do it. Usually it is my son saying: “Do you use it? Will you use it? THROW IT AWAY.” Garry is no help because he saves everything. He is the king of good-fers. At least he has stopped buying more things he won’t use to go with the collection.

Today, I triumphed over uselessness. On this special day, I disposed of a bathroom thingie all by myself. Maybe I can find one more item to throw away. Where there’s life, there’s hope.

LIFE, DEATH, CANCER, AND DIGNITY

I don’t talk much about the “reality” of having cancer. It’s not the same for everyone and my cases (two, one for each breast and each different from the other) were relatively mild. The lymph nodes were not attacked, the tumors were (relatively speaking) small. The bigger one in my right breast was the size of a small lemon and the other was half the size. I was assured they were slow-growing but at the same time, I was also warned that it only took a single wandering cell to make it grow somewhere else — probably my lungs.

I had a choice between two complete mastectomies or just having the tumors removed. But I had highly cystic breasts. Figuring out what might be cancer and what was “benign” was going to be very difficult for everyone, especially me. I went with the mastectomies.

To keep the hours of surgery down, I had two surgeons working, one on each side, then two plastic surgeons. A previous hospital had told me they couldn’t give me implants because I had so much scarring from earlier surgeries. I went to a better hospital with more experienced doctors. Seek out the best, most-experienced surgeons you can find. Try to find one who has done hundreds of surgeries like yours. This is not the time to give a newbie her first opportunity. And find a surgeon who listens.

Prefer women. They understand. They have the same parts you do.

Dana-Farber Cancer Hospital (local outlet)

The odds of my getting cancer in both breasts at the same time were staggeringly small. I pointed out that I probably didn’t get them at the same time. I had one and over the years when my doctor forgot to send me for a mammogram, I grew the second. Even though my mother had died from metastasized breast cancer, neither of the tumors was genetically linked. There are lots of genetic linkage involved, but they only know a few of them and insurance will only pay for one test. Pick your tumor. It’s the cancer lotto. Men don’t get our connection to breasts. They see them as a removable piece to get rid of a tumor, not our connection to our womanhood. Where we nursed our babies.

Breast cancer is frighteningly common. There’s a theory that if you live long enough and your were born female, you will get it. Men get it too, by the way and it often gets missed. They aren’t trained to feel for lumps.

When I woke up from surgery, I already had two breast implants in place. This was an act of extraordinary generosity by my plastic surgeon and her associate. Usually they wait for the original surgery to heal, but they felt I needed to be able to look at myself and know I was still a woman. I am deeply grateful. With all the other madness you are going through with cancer, it is good to have surgeons who are also concerned with how you feel about your body and are willing to help.

They don’t keep you long in American hospitals. There’s a rumor that it’s because insurance companies don’t want to pay the money, but the true reason is that there are so many diseases in hospitals that the moment they can get you out of there, they send you home. I’m not talking about poverty stricken hospitals out in the country, but top-notch research and surgical facilities. They want you to leave healthier than when you arrived — and that means getting you out as fast as possible. Also, the odds of your getting edible food are better at home — even if it comes out of a can.

Honestly, I don’t remember much. I know I was in pain, but I was taking so many drugs, my brain was very blunt.

It has been ten years since the original surgery. I have no sign of regrowth, but that doesn’t really mean much. Because of the heart surgery and my metal pacemaker, I can’t have another MRI, so it could have spread. My grandparents, on my mother’s side, both died of pancreatic cancer as did my brother. Just because you’ve had one kind of cancer doesn’t mean you can’t get another. My first husband had kidney cancer, but died of heart disease. It’s all a game of craps. Some of us get everything yet we live on for many years. Others seem completely healthy, get one bout of pneumonia and die.

Moral? Be nice to everyone. You just don’t know what’s coming around the next corner.

So for anyone struggling with cancer or heart disease now, do the best you can. Within the realm of reason, follow your doctor’s orders, but if you don’t feel that the treatment you are on is working for you, speak up. Sometimes medications make you so sick, you have to stop taking them. If you don’t tell them, they may not realize things aren’t going well. When they ask how you feel, tell them. Icky and unpleasant as it is, they need to know and sometimes, small things that don’t seem important to you may be much more important than you realize.

None of us want pity, but all of us want support, sympathy, and kindness. If you don’t know what to say to a sick friend, you aren’t alone. Potentially lethal disease tends to leave us speechless.

BODGES? WE DON’T NEED NO BODGES! – SERIOUSLY

From the battleground, an update, by Rich Paschall

Yes, there is more to the story!

You have probably quoted, or misquoted, the famous movie line. In fact, I would bet you have done it often. Do you know where it comes from? Have you seen the movie? If not, you have missed a gem.


“Bodges? We ain’t got no bodges. We don’t need no bodges. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ bodges!”


The 1948 western film, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, stars Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt, and Walter Houston. It was one of the first Hollywood films to be shot on location in a different country. They used many Mexican actors and extras. When our main characters are in the mountains prospecting for gold, a ragtag group who look like bandits come across the Americans. The leader announces they are the police. This causes Bogart to say, “If you’re the police, where are your badges?”

Well if you want to know what happens next, you will have to check out the movie. In fact, I have not seen it for decades and need to watch it again myself. It’s directed by John Houston who also directed Bogart in The Maltese Falcon. Houston won an Oscar for Best Director for Sierra Madre. His father, Walter Houston, also won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The American Film Institute named it one of the best films of all time.

Back in July: I was thinking about this movie after I got an email from the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA). That was immediately followed by an email from my employer, an airline I have mentioned to you in the past. The topic of these emails? Badges!

Technically I have an airport job, although I had not been to the airport since March 13. On that date, we were told to take whatever we thought we needed to do our jobs from home and not come back. Our group packed up and left.

 

The cargo building has a nice office that was remodeled at the end of last year. It is not near the terminal buildings and is in fact outside the fence along the east side. I had a very nice view of the east runway from where I usually parked my car.  Since the building is on the City of Chicago airport property, we of course needed airport badges!

My current “office” is a small table that is mounted to the wall in a corner of my kitchen. I guess it was meant for cozy little breakfasts since only two could sit there at a time. It is perfect for my computer because there is an outlet underneath the table and it just big enough for what I need. It is not as big or as nice as the work station in the cargo building, but it is away from a public building where people come and go all day.

At home, I have not been expecting the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), or the CDA to show up in my kitchen to ask to see my badge. (“If you work for the airline, where are your badges?”) This is something that could happen at the cargo building and the TSA does make the rounds, as does US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). If you are in a building that handles air freight, they really would like to know you belong there.

The problem with the official airport badge is that it has an expiration date. Every year! All of the people who work in any capacity at one of the world’s largest airports must go to the Badging Office in Terminal 3 every year to get a renewal. My time was up. I needed a new badge Even if I work from my kitchen for the next entire year, I needed to renew in case the TSA, FAA, CDA, or CBP showed up one morning for coffee (or covfefe) and asked to see my badge.

If I said I was not pleased with the thought of going to the cargo building to pick up my papers (“If you work for the airline, where are your papers?”) and then to a passenger terminal to get my badge, I would understate the obvious. But at the appointed hour one Friday this month, I got ready to go with my backpack filled with pills, water, a mask, hand sanitizer, picture ID, and stinking badge. Off I went on a trip I had not made in 4 months. I picked up the papers, chatted with a colleague a bit, and headed out.

I was told the Badging Office would not be crowded. That was true since they only let in a few people at a time in order to maintain the mandated social distancing. This meant we had to stand in a line in the hall outside. A long line. Fortunately, I got in the line before it ran all the way to the back wall where a cluster of people was milling about.  I kept 6 feet behind the guy in front of me, but the woman behind me kept creeping up close behind. We were both wearing masks, but even so.

The “gentleman” in front of me never turned around so I did not see his face. He was wearing a camouflage baseball cap with an American flag on the back. He had “salt and pepper” hair, and dressed conservatively like he would be going hunting afterward. After standing in line for 20 to 30 minutes we were near the door when a TSA agent came up to the “gentleman” and said, “Excuse me, sir, do you have a mask?”

“Mask? We ain’t got no mask. We don’t need no masks. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ masks!”

The gentleman was given two options. They could get him one of those single-use masks, or he could leave. I guess there was a third option. You may have seen their TV show, Chicago P.D. (CPD).

Update: Now just a couple of months later, the Badging Office has realized that a lot of people with badges are either on furlough or working from home. In other words, “We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges.” The CDA has set out to decommission lots of badges. Since I don’t go to the airport, the airline wants me to bring back my badge. I guess this is a commentary about whether we are going back there to work this year. I will have to plan another trip to the airport to turn in a badge I did not need in the first place. Bureaucracy!

“HELLO IN THERE” AND THE SAD DEPARTURE OF JOHN PRINE – RICH PASCHALL

A John Prine Memory, by Rich Paschall

John Prine (Photo Credit: Ron Baker)

When John Prine was growing up in Maywood, Illinois, a suburb along the west side of Chicago, he helped a friend with a newspaper route. “…and I delivered to a Baptist old peoples home where we’d have to go room-to-room.”  That experience stayed with him and inspired him to write the song “Hello In There.”  It appeared on his debut album in 1971.

Ya’ know that old trees just grow stronger
And old rivers grow wilder ev’ry day
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say, “Hello in there, hello”

John performed around Chicago at a number of clubs in the late 1960s. He was one of many singer-songwriters here in that era. His debut album was well received and he was nominated for a Grammy as Best New Artist in 1972. “I don’t think I’ve done a show without singing ‘Hello in There’,” John stated in the liner notes to ‘Great Days”, an anthology album put out in 1993.

So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello”

John Prine died on April 7th. He had been stricken with COVID-19. He was 73. He won two Grammy Awards in his career and was also presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020. His song, “Hello In There” has been covered by numerous artists.

One of the artists to frequently sing John’s song was Joan Baez. If you have plenty of Kleenex handy, you may wish to see her tribute to John recorded from her kitchen when he was hospitalized. She had covered the song on her 1975 album, “Diamonds and Rust.”

“I like songs that are clean and don’t have much fat on them — every line is direct, and all people can relate to it. That’s what I try to do.” – John Prine

See Also: “The Music Of John Prine,” by Marilyn Armstrong, SERENDIPITY, April 8, 2020.
SOURCES: “Joan Baez Dedicates ‘Hello in There’ to John Prine,” by Angie Martoccio, rollingstone.com March 30, 2020.
John Prine Was The Master Of Lyrical Economy,” by Morgan Enos, Grammys, grammy.com April 8, 2020.
John Prine (album),” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, en.wikipedia.org
John Prine,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, en.wikipedia.org

I THINK I NEED NEW GLASSES

I think I need new glasses. I figured this out when after taking a lot of pictures of birds and squirrels, I realized they were all blurry. I could just be having a bad day, but the odds are pretty good that I’m not seeing well. Or maybe my lens needs cleaning. Or the filter.

I’m pretty sure I have an eye test coming up soon. This month, or maybe next month. Maybe I can afford new lenses if I can put them in my existing frames?

 

IF NOT ME, WHO WOULD I BE?

I can’t imagine wanting to be anyone (or anything) but me. In a dream, maybe something else — a horse, an eagle, a dolphin. But that’s dream stuff, not reality. When I was a teenager, during those hyper hormonal years, I wanted to be anyone but me — though even then, I never wanted to be anything other than human. I grew into accepting myself pretty quickly. By the time I was in my 20s, was reasonably fond of at least the mental section of me. Physically, though, I’ve always had issues with my body. Ill health has stalked me from early on. By the time I was in my late 20s, I used to laugh and tell people that, with the help of modern medicine, I’m living proof the unfit can survive.

So here I am, alive and still complaining. Since early ill-health, I’ve moved on to major ill-health.  I’m sure someone elsewhere has even more after-market parts than me, but I’ve never personally met anyone who has more installed after-market installations. The good news? I’ll never be an unidentified Jane Doe on the autopsy table because I carry 4 cards with serial numbers identifying my various implants: a pacemaker, both breasts, and two heart valves. The piece of plastic fibula in my right leg predates serial numbers.

So here’s the thing. I don’t want to be someone or something else. Not for a year or a day. What I want is to be is me, preferably the all-original, functional version of me. That would be a nice touch. Even with arthritis, heart problems, a redesigned intestinal tract and a fused spine and having had cancer in both breasts? I still would rather be me. I would have no idea how to be anyone else. Would anyone? I should think that being someone else would be the weirdest possible place to find oneself. Weirder than being a space alien or a different creature on earth. Whatever rocks we have in our heads, they are OUR rocks!

So I’ll keep me. Slow moving, achy old me. I’m glad I’m alive.

Today was beautiful. Bright, sunny and cool. Maybe we’ll have a few more weeks of this. Maybe after two bad years, we’ll get autumn back, the kind of autumn for which the Valley used to be famous. 2020 has been a terrible year. A fine fall would make all of us feel a lot better.

FAMILY TOLL OF BIPOLAR DISORDER – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I never paid much attention to the Kardashian family and I certainly never thought I had anything in common with them. But now I suddenly have a connection with Kim Kardashian – we have both experienced the chaos of life with a bipolar spouse. I know this because recently Kim’s husband, Kanye West, publicly announced that he is running for president and gave several off the walls, extremely manic rants on TV. Kim later publicly apologized for her husband and asked for understanding because he was off his medications and suffering from a severe manic episode.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West

Boy, could I relate to that! Most discussions about mental illness focus on promoting compassion and support for the person suffering from the mental illness. Fortunately, the stigma that used to exist around mental illness has diminished as we now understand the physiological basis of mental disorders and put them in the same category as other physiological ailments. We also understand that it isn’t the patient’s ‘fault’ and they can’t just ‘will themselves’ back to mental health.

Less has been written about the incredible strain and hardship suffered by the families of mentally ill patients. In my case, my ex was bipolar (or Manic Depressive as it is also called). He was more manic than depressed so most of my experience is with the manic phase rather than the depressive phase of this disorder.

Initially, many families go through a period when there is erratic, irrational, often volatile behavior but no diagnosis. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, this period with my ex lasted thirteen years because knowledge about Bipolar Disorder was in the dark ages then compared to what we know today. I insisted we go to a marriage counselor and she tried to analyze what I must be doing to provoke the unpredictable rages and paranoid fits my ex would have. I had a sense that his behavior was dangerous, but I had to go along with the idea that every marriage is a 50-50 proposition and therefore that  I had to be a big part of the problem.

One night my ex came home and went into an angry tirade about what a selfish, uncaring, inconsiderate wife I was because there were dishes in the sink when he came home from work, after I had fed my two kids. He threw a pot at me in front of the kids. The next night, the kids and I made sure that the dishes were done and the sink was clean when he came home. But my ex still went into an abusive rage, this time because the basement was cluttered. We couldn’t win.

The manic phase of Bipolar Disorder can manifest itself in many different types of behavior .This complicates diagnosis. Mania can show as paranoia, ‘irritability’, volatility, and irrationality. Extreme rages, way out of proportion to the alleged provocation, are often accompanied by verbal and/or physical abuse, the physical aspect applying to property as well as people. Mania can also be periods of unrealistic grandiosity, crazy schemes, uncontrollable spending of money or compulsive traveling. We once took thirteen trips in twelve months, many with the kids and many without, and many for just a few days each. It was very disruptive, as was the wanton spending.

The unpredictability of the manic phase was one of the worst features, especially for the kids who need consistency, security and routine. The kids and I would try to talk the their father before he came home from work so we could gauge what ‘mood’ he was in and figure out what to expect when he came through the door.

Family events and holidays are particularly fraught for families with mentally ill members. Our family stories revolve around which kind of ‘scene’ Dad created at which holiday and why and when Dad stormed out of which family gathering. He once left me and the kids stranded at my sister-in-law’s house in New Jersey when he impulsively drove the car to the train station so he could go back to NYC. My sister-in-law had to leave the festivities and drive with my son to the train station to pick up the car so the kids and I could drive ourselves home.

We were greatly relieved when my ex was finally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 1987. But the relief was short lived because, unfortunately, a common symptom of the disorder is a denial that you have it at all. My ex, as with many others, refused to believe he needed medication, though the Lithium he was prescribed actually worked very well and kept him significantly more level and stable and eliminated his manic phases. Also like other Manic Depressives, my ex refused to stay on his meds for more than a year or so at a time. He’d stop the medication without telling anyone, even his therapist, and he would gradually devolve into worse, more extreme and more and more frequent manic episodes until he was manic basically all the time. That’s when he would hit rock bottom and often had to leave the house because he was so out of control and destructive. Then we had to wait six weeks for the Lithium to kick in once he finally agreed to start taking it again. This is the roller coaster of life with Bipolar Disorder.

I understand exactly what Kim Kardashian is going through. She’s hoping to get Kanye back on his meds but knows in her heart that he won’t stay on it for long. How many times is she willing to go through this crazy cycle? I waited 25 years, until my kids were 14 and 19 before I decided that I had had enough. Knowing what I know now, I would not have subjected my kids to the irrationality, tension and chaos that marked their childhoods. But I was also traumatized and terrorized by the ups and downs of our lives as well, which limited my ability to be strong and confident and take charge of the situation. I was also financially dependent since I had given up my career when my first child was born, but that’s a whole other story.

So my advice to Kim Kardashian is: Get out now while your kids are still young and too much damage hasn’t already been done to them. You have the money to leave and continue to live your upscale lifestyle without the drama and trauma of Kanye’s mental illness in your everyday lives.