ONCOLOGY AND AN INTERESTING BOOK

REPLACEMENT BREASTS – NOT QUITE ORIGINAL ISSUE


Anyone who has had cancer, no matter how many years have passed, knows you are never “cured.” The best anyone can say is “so far, so good.” Cancer isn’t a single disease. There is no test to tell you your body is free of cancer cells.

This is, of course, true of everyone from birth till death, but when you have had a run in with cancer, it stops being theoretical and morphs into something more sinister and personal. In 2010, I had a double mastectomy, losing both breasts to cancer. It wasn’t a prophylactic double mastectomy. I actually had cancer in both breasts. Two unrelated tumors at the same time. The odds against getting breast cancer in both breasts simultaneously are incredibly small. I seem to be one of the those people who manages to beat normal odds — not in a good way.

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After the mastectomies, I got instant reconstruction. Two silicon implants replaced my breasts. They do not, as people imagine, look like real breasts. When you are in the tunnel through breast cancer to (hopefully) recovery, you find yourself answering weird questions. Like “how large do you want them to be?” Do you want nipples? Saline or silicon?

I went with smallish and no nipples (they require two extra surgeries and they are entirely for appearance), and silicon, which feels more real. I suppose it’s all for appearance, really — the appearance of womanhood matters when the parts have been replaced with something that isn’t real flesh.

Everything went well — or as well as these things ever go. I hoped I was done with cancer. Imagine my surprise when I realized there was something hard underneath the scar across my right implant. Flat, hard. My first reaction was “What the hell?” Can I get breast cancer without breasts?

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I hit the Internet to discover it is probably scar tissue. Or (unlikely but not impossible) a very rare form of skin cancer that grows directly under the mastectomy scar. Rare isn’t impossible. Not in my world, so reluctantly, I made an appointment at the Dana-Farber. It is the only dedicated cancer facility in Worcester County and has been where I’ve done all my follow-up since the surgery.

I had my surgery and reconstruction at the Faulkner Hospital in Boston. My surgeon and plastic reconstruction surgeon are the best. Anywhere. Literally described by my local oncologist calls “the dream team,” If you have breast cancer, this is as good as it gets and if life throws this at you, I strongly advise you to find the best surgeons, even if they aren’t convenient. You want to get this right the first time.

My oncologist thinks, as I do, that it’s nothing to get excited about, but we’ll watch it. If it seems to be growing, or starts hurting, we’ll move on to testing. In the meantime, I take a deep breath and can return to worrying about the lunatic pretending to be President who seems intent on making my personal angst irrelevant by blowing up the world.


As this was going on, I have been reading. A lot. Most of the books have been lackluster, to put it kindly. Life and Other Near-Death Experiences: A Novel by Camille Pagan grabbed me from the first page and kept me engaged to the end, wishing that it wouldn’t end. Which is a pretty unusual thing to say considering the book is about a young woman who discovers she has a very rare, aggressive form of cancer and her marriage comes unglued — at the same time. Literally, both things hitting her on the same day.

life-and-other-near-death-experiences-coverWhat takes the book out of the ordinary from other books that deal with life and death, is it never takes the easy way out. No cheap or easy solutions. It confronts real-life decisions that people in major life crises are forced to make. It does so with humor, wit, and realism.

The main character of the story freaks out when her life falls apart and needs time plus substantial support from family and friends to face her new reality. It’s the most realistic story about dealing with cancer I’ve read and it wasn’t depressing. Not a guffaw filled romp or a vale of tears. It reminded me that how we react to appalling news varies, but we all react. You cannot fail to be changed by facing death while realizing there’s no guarantee you’ll beat it, no matter what you do.

Once you’ve had any medical crisis that will kill you left untreated and might kill you anyway, even with treatment, you never look at life the same way. You don’t take life as a given. None of us should ever take life for granted, but most of us do. Until we come face to face with the dark angel and he’s holding our number.

This is a good book. A surprisingly good book. I hope it will get some attention. It is lumped into the category of “humor” where it doesn’t exactly fit … but I’m not sure where it would fit. Maybe humor is as good as any other placement.

Regardless, any book that can make you laugh in the face of death is worth a read.

WHY THIS WORLD SHOULD END

The Path to a New Beginning, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


Ask anyone what is wrong with the world, and you will certainly get an opinion, or many of them.  We can all point to things that are wrong with politics, education, religion or whatever it is that crosses our minds, but we don’t all agree on what those things are.  We are severely polarized, and we can not reach a consensus.  Worse yet, there are influential people who will try to make sure the majority do not rule, as our recent national election shows.

With an eye toward the concept this divisive world should end, the one that is full of prejudices and deceit, is a video that presents our problems in detail.  That YouTube presentation has gone viral.  A rap artist and rights activist who calls himself Prince EA has put out a video that now has over seven million views and has been reposted and shared everywhere.  It needs reposting again.

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Richard Williams, a 26-year-old advocate for change, has taken a stage name, Prince EA.  It is not unusual for a rap artist to take a stage name, but this one has significant meaning.  For Williams it means Prince of the Earth, for it is with the earth that he is most concerned.  The world, and all of its problems, needs a mighty voice and that is what Williams aims to provide in a well produced video.  He wastes no time in coming to the point.  The video opens strongly:

The world is coming to an end
The air is polluted, the oceans contaminated
The animals are going extinct, the economy’s collapsed
Education is shot, police are corrupt
Intelligence is shunned and ignorance rewarded

The people are depressed and angry
We can’t live with each other and…

He will tell you we can’t live with ourselves. We can’t really communicate with others.  Do we not live in a world of “robotic communication?”  I see it all the time.  There are people too busy with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat or whatever to have real communication.  So perhaps it is somewhat ironic that Williams’ message has gone viral on YouTube.

Presidents lie, politicians trick us
Race is still an issue and so is religion
Your God doesn’t exist, my God does and he is All-Loving
If you disagree with me, I’ll kill you
Or even worse argue, you to death

When we argue people to death, how often do we do it anonymously via Facebook or Twitter.  How willing are we to really face these problems and seek solutions?  The world we see is one Williams thinks should end.  Do you agree?

Our role models today
60 years ago would have been examples of what not to be
There are states where people can legally be discriminated against
Because they were born a certain way

There are indeed role models today who in past generations would not have been allowed to be seen by youth as a standard to achieve, if they were allowed to be seen at all.  And while we permit this type of role model, we see certain parts of society who some would like to suppress, because of skin color, sexual orientation or religion.  How can we popularize sex and violence while discriminating against love and religion?

So what can we do in the face of all of this madness and chaos?
What is the solution?

Prince EA asks the question and he is not afraid to follow with the answer.  It is a simple answer, of course.  It is the answer we have known all throughout time, but rarely seem to apply.

“We can love
Not the love you hear in your favorite song on the radio
I mean real love, true love, boundless love
You can love, love each other”

This is why the world should end.  It needs a fresh start with love.  It is the love we must all provide.  Where do we start to write a new history? Where is that new beginning?  Where is that message that we need to go viral?

“Why I think the World Should End,” by Prince EA, Cinematography and Editing by Brandon Sloan

PRINCESS LEIA AND THE WOMEN’S MARCH: A FITTING TRIBUTE TO CARRIE FISHER

A fitting tribute to Carrie Fisher.

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A little less than a month ago, on December 27, 2016, actress Carrie Fisher died after suffering a heart attack on a plane. Her death was followed the next day by that of her mother, Debbie Reynolds. The world, especially that part of it which (like me) was brought up on Star Wars as a staple of our pop culture, deeply mourned the loss of the classy lady who not only played Princess Leia in the movies but epitomized her. This article is not an obituary for Carrie Fisher. If you want one of those, I highly recommend the touching piece by the Burning Blogger of Bedlam giving tribute to “the people’s princess.” I loved Princess Leia. You loved Princess Leia. We all admired her courage, determination and grit. Carrie Fisher, who went through a lot of hard knocks in her life, will be greatly missed.

Yesterday (January 21, 2017), the day after the inauguration as President of the United States of a fascistic know-nothing who detests women and just about everybody else, millions of people in the United States and around the world–including even Antarctica!–took to the streets to support women’s rights, feminism, empowerment, diversity and to express in no uncertain terms their opposition to the viewpoints of President Trump. I took part in one of these marches, in Eugene, Oregon. Like everywhere else, the crowds that turned out vastly exceeded what authorities expected. There were (reportedly) 750,000 in Los Angeles and over 1 million in Washington, D.C., dwarfing the tepid and pathetic “crowd” that turned out for Trump’s lackluster inauguration. In Eugene I’m told police expected 1,000 marchers. The number who showed up? Over 10,000.

I was struck, during yesterday’s march, by one recurrent image: the face of Princess Leia as an icon of resistance.

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Carrie Fisher, as she appeared in 2015. Her outspoken views are part of the reason why Princess Leia resonates as a symbol.

I saw Carrie Fisher’s face in a lot of places. Many people, men as well as women, were carrying signs with her picture (one of them is shown at the top of this article). I saw a woman with the symbol of the Rebellion from Star Wars tattooed on her arm, and I saw a man with a patch of the same symbol on the back of his denim jacket. In one of the most touching tweets I saw about the march, Fisher’s Star Wars co-star and friend Mark Hamill referenced Leia as a symbol of women’s empowerment, linking it to Fisher’s own strongly-professed beliefs during her lifetime. His tweet included an image of a woman, evidently from the Los Angeles march, dressed as Princess Leia.

When women’s rights are under attack in real-life America, can a science fiction princess help us defend them?


Complete original post at: Princess Leia and the Women’s March: a fitting tribute to Carrie Fisher.

THE WEATHER OUTSIDE IS FRIGHTFUL

Be Delightful, by Rich Paschall


If you live anywhere in the United States, except the extreme southern portions, you will eventually get your share of winter weather.  The further north you live, the worse it is likely to be.  Here in the upper Midwest, we are likely to get a lot of snow and much sub freezing weather.  Some years we get a lot of subzero weather when I can look forward to the possibility of the pipes to the kitchen sink freezing.  It is somewhat less than joyful to discover the water does not run in the kitchen.

During my many years in Chicago land,  we have enjoyed some of the biggest snowfalls ever.  By enjoyed, I mean we were all stranded somewhere.  Hopefully, you made it home before the snow got too deep.  In 1967 as a youngster, I thought it was fun to have over two feet of snow.  School was cancelled and we got dig out cars and play in the street.  We could walk right down the center of usually busy Irving Park Road (Illinois 19) and not worry about traffic.  Buses were stranded everywhere as they were connected to overhead electric wires and could not get around stalled cars and snow drifts.

January 1967 Pulaski and Irving

January 1967 – Pulaski and Irving Park Road

By the Blizzard of 1979 we were not as amused with the snow as we were at a younger age.  In fact, it was the storm that pushed Mayor Bilandic out of office.  We can forgive almost any sin in this town except not moving the snow.  If he had not insisted the city was on top of the situation as the blizzard was raging on, he might have survived the poor effort. Like the snow in a soft storm, Bilandic was pushed to the curb in the following election.

We did not have another great blizzard until 2011, but we have had plenty of large snowfalls before and since.  I have done enough snow shoveling for a lifetime.  If you are lucky enough to have a snow blower, you learn they are not much good when you start measuring the snow in feet instead of inches.

February 1, 2015

February 1, 2015

Recently at work we heard that there was a state of emergency in the Atlanta area as they expected 1 to 4 inches of snow.  One to Four!  Of course we were all amused that they had to shut everything down over an amount of snow we would consider practically nothing.  On the other hand, they do not have mountains of road salt, a fleet of snow plows and an army of city workers prepared for even the smallest of snowfalls.  If the Department of Streets and Sanitation does not move our snow in a timely manner, the mayor will be the ex-mayor after the next election.

One year we decided to escape the winter with a week in Florida.  That was also the year that Florida did not escape the winter.  Everywhere we went from Orlando to the southernmost reaches of the state, we heard the locals swear to us that they NEVER have an entire week of weather like that.  Even Mickey Mouse must have gotten giant ear muffs for his mouse ears.

At least we had the beaches to ourselves.  From Clearwater to Sarasota and Miami to Key West, we did not have to fight crowds of locals and tourists for a spot in the sand.  Only the seagulls were walking around.  Perhaps it was too cold for flight.

Florida in January?

Florida in January?

Perhaps there just is no escaping Mother Nature.  If she so desires, she can stalk you around the continental USA like the merchant of evil she can sometime be.  Winter vacation in Florida is no guarantee of warmth.  When it is barely warmer than 1300 miles to the north, you are being advised that you should have stayed home.

So if the cold and the snow has overtaken your area, what should you do besides fret about the accumulations outside?  Aside from clearing a path in the snow, it may be time for a snowman, snow fort and snow ball fight.  It could be the time to get out the sled or toboggan.  You may wish to lace up the ice skates if you can actually get to the ice rink.

At this point in life, I can recall all those things fondly, but would rather delight in the inside of the house.  After all, there are so many things I consistently delay, a snow day or two would seem like a great time to start.  I have accumulated many books over the years that I have intended to read.  It would seem that not being able to go to the Wild West Sports Bar and Grill should not be so troubling.  I can always start one of the mysteries on hand or dive into the John Adams biography.

This January, I have continued my quest to watch all of the James Bond movies in order. I am now on the Daniel Craig films and have just one more to go. There are other DVDs I have had for a long while that I would like to watch, or watch again.  When the thermometer shows Zero degrees or the snow is piling up, the fire can be so delightful.  If you have a fireplace, that is.  Otherwise, just get a warm blanket.

FASTEN YOUR SEATBELT – IT’S GOING TO BE A BUMPY RIDE

Life is a road which urgently needs repaving. It’s so full of pot-holes, rocks, broken branches, quicksand and mud, it’s amazing anyway can navigate the whole distance. What makes repaving plans tricky is no two people travel the same road. Too many roads!

Okay, sure, sometimes paths cross … even run side-by-side for miles — years — at a time. But even when they cross or run parallel, they aren’t a single road.

It’s like a family with three kids. Say you’ve got an older brother and a younger sisters. Your brother becomes a business man and lives a pretty normal life while your sister discovers her own version of  chaos theory. She proceeds to live a life of crisis and yeah, chaos. Not theory, but the real deal. As for you, you’re not entirely sane, but compared to your sister, you’re solidly grounded. That’s worrisome because you know the weird stuff going around in your head.

Yet all three of you had the same parents and as far as anyone can see, more or less the same upbringing.

So, I guess that road is going to stay uneven. Life will continue to be unfair. It will leave many of us looking skyward, searching for answers and sometimes, for questions.

We have great parents, crappy lives. Horrible parents, amazing lives. That’s just life. Infinitely variable, lumpy, bumpy, and charmingly uneven.

UNEVEN | THE DAILY POST

ALMOST. NOT QUITE.

Expect the unexpected, because something will happen. Always.

When I was newly back from Israel, I took a three-day weekend from my new job to visit friends in San Diego. I bought a carry-on bag (I love luggage). Got tickets to San Diego — not easy because flights to California from New York typically end in Oakland, SF, or LA — none of which are close to San Diego. I finally found one with just a single connection. That was as good as it would get, so I took it along with all my vacation time at work.

I got to La Guardia on time and ready to go, but the plane never made it. Four hours later, the plane was MIA and my connecting flight in Salt Lake City came and went without me. I demanded my money back

The perky young thing at the ticket counter explained, “These are non-refundable tickets. See? It says so right here. We can get you on a flight to Los Angeles tomorrow afternoon. How’s that?” My sense of humor had gone missing with my aircraft.

“Los Angeles is more than 3 hours drive from San Diego and I don’t have a car. By the time I got there — if I got there — I’d have to turn around and come straight back. I’ve paid for taxis and lost my holiday time. All I got is a long day in your waiting room. Either get me on a plane for San Diego now or give me my money back.”

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I got the refund. Took a taxi home. Spent the long weekend feeling sorry for myself. I never made it San Diego, though I did see those friends a few years later — at least for a couple of hours. But, eventually, we lost touch. Distance only makes the heart grow fonder if there is a likelihood of ever seeing that person again. Otherwise, after a while, there seems no point in fighting to retain a connection.

Our fondest illusion is that we are in control. Architects of our destiny. That’s the promise we get from our parents while we are growing up. It goes hand in glove with the big lie, that if you do “life” right, you are sure to get what you want. All you have to do is keep trying. We know — because “they” told us — that good work will be rewarded. Kindness will be returned. If we eat right, keep fit, and exercise we’ll be healthy. Forever. Bad things won’t happen to us.

From the little stuff — flights cancelled, vacations rained out — to failed marriages and careers crashed, life strips us of illusions. But what’s left is real, solid, and true. Is that such a bad thing?

We are passengers on the bus that is life. We aren’t driving. We don’t even know what road we’re on, or our destination. Sometimes, it’s worth reconsidering your options. Stop trying to wrestle the steering wheel out of the driver’s hands. The bus is going where it’s going. Enjoy the ride.

Life is not about where you end up. It’s about the journey.

RECHARGING EVERYTHING

Everything — or nearly everything — runs on batteries. Rechargeable batteries. Laptops, tablets, Kindles, cellphone, headphones, cameras, mouses (mice have fur and make squeaky noises, mouses attach to your computer using USB transmission), GPS, clocks, flashlights, remote controls, electric razors, tooth cleaning machines, and a mind-numbing array of other small electronic devices I can’t remember until I need them. Even our bed has a remote control … and it runs on four rechargeable AAA batteries.

Charge!

To keep the world running, I have to charge things that recharge and keep a stack of AAA and AA rechargeable batteries ready to go.

I have never lived in a house that had enough electrical outlets for things like lamps and televisions, but with all these chargers to accommodate, I own big power strips. Everywhere you look, and in many places you would never think to look, in every room, power strips keep the chargers charging and other electrical devices functioning. The strips range from high-end hubs with surge protection to whatever was on sale at Walmart when I needed a power strip. Every strip is as full as the size and shape the chargers allow.

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Power strips are mostly designed by people who don’t use them. I have come to this conclusion based on the stupid design that presumes you will never have anything larger than a lamp plug that needs a socket. Not even a vacuum cleaner cord fits properly, much less a laptop power supply.

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No room is left on either side that would make it possible to fit more than two or three chargers in a strip theoretically designed for half a dozen plugs. There’s no allowance for odd-shaped power supplies that will use half a strip.

I don’t understand why chargers have to be so inconveniently shaped, or why they can never make a 3-pronged plug that will fit into an outlet without a fight. Why do most chargers require that you insert them at the end of the strip. No one ever seems to consider that there are only two “ends” and only one without a cord in the way. There’s some kind of Murphy’s Law that say if you are going to need two wall outlets, both devices will need to be on top or on the bottom.

I have 2 electrical sockets in the bathroom and 3 devices that require electricity. Fortunately, I never use more than one at a time because only one will fit. The other socket is unusable. One charger blocks both outlets. Always.

black and white wires power lines

I don’t typically notice how dependent we are on batteries until I’m packing for vacation. An entire carry-on is allocated to chargers and batteries and that’s just for stuff we use while we travel: laptops, accessories, Kindles, phone, mouses, etc. I used to pack this stuff carefully. Now I just shove the chargers and wires in a bag and untangle as needed.

If you think our civilization will endure, remember this. In fact, given the scandal of the exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7 batteries, it’s surprisingly timely.

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Our world depends on electronics and those gadgets are dependent on batteries. All which need to be recharged. From an electrical outlet. Without electricity and batteries, life as we know it would end in about two weeks. A month maximum. After that?

Our society would disintegrate, becoming a jungle in which every person will fight to the death for a working battery.

RECHARGE | THE DAILY POST