Make that Ativan with a scotch chaser…

In southern Cal, on mini-break, writing this from the waterbed of my friends' guest room.  My back and neck is sore, and strange symptoms in the night which made me wonder if shingles could recur so soon after an outbreak.  


Perhaps I was just tense when I went to bed.  Being away from home releases all sorts of emotions.  This morning I'm acutely aware of my Condition, of being Stage IV.  Not in the usual perky, "Anyone can be the exception and I'm trying very hard to be one" way.  Symptoms usually bring this on—I start thinking—hmm, increased pain, wheezing, chest tightness.  On the other hand, those are also symptoms of anxiety.  I received a bill for $7,008 from Kaiser, because the Court can't seem to get their act together and straighten out the health insurance issue.  It will be resolved eventually, I shouldn't worry, but it's a shock to find that each CT scan costs $6,585.  I receive one every 6 weeks.  

I've always known that the retail cost of my meds were astronomical, like $12,000/month, but I try not to think about the cost of services.  It shouldn't be a surprise, but actually it's quite shocking.  How do people without insurance pay for this?  Is that how much is actually charged to insurance companies?  Don't they usually have a much lower price if the patient has to pay?

These are the sort of things that wear sick people down.  (I wish someone could deal with these issues for me, but there is no one else.)  On the other hand, I should be thankful that I'm still functional enough to try to work through it.  Is it old age, tiredness, or is the modern world reeling out of control?  I might not be here right now without the scans, chemotherapy, and great health insurance plan provided by my employer, so I should quit whining and get on with it.  But the dependence on these things is frightening.  The feeling of having absolutely no control over my life is heightened that much more.

Most people really take their health for granted.  In a way, it can't be helped.  Everything'll kill you, these days, so what does it matter if you smoke, eat twinkies and salami, work in a cement factory, or whatever?

On the ID theft front, I've just read an article stating that according to Regulation E of the FTC guidelines for identity theft, banks aren't obligated to give your money back.  Especially if it involves debit cards.  If you file a dispute within 2 days of the occurrence, your liability is limited to $50.  Within 60 days, your liability is capped at $500.  Although I called on 18th, and some of the activity had occurred just that day and hadn't even posted, I couldn't file the fraud affidavit until March 25th, since Mike was away.  That's 12 days from the start of fraudulent activity (March 13th).  $500 is not small potatoes when you're not working.  No more debit cards to pay for things.  Don't watch those commercials where paying cash mucks up the whole system.  Use cash!

Supposedly, it's best to close the compromised account.  At this point, I'm afraid to go in and check it—I've had quite enough stress for two weeks and I'm supposed to be on spring break.  It's become a working vacation, and I'm actually fretting over the safety of the house right now.  I can see why people have bars on their windows, and it makes me want to move to the middle of nowhere.  I want an alarm system that locks and loads upon break-in, and aims and fires several rounds at the intruder.  The hubby's a handy guy.  Maybe he can rig air tools to all the oxygen tanks we have in the garage…

I'm angry, bitter, tired, and I realize that even Gringott's got robbed, so nowhere is safe.  Cousin Eddy had it right.  I'll just bury the damn money.

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Anthony Minghella RIP

A deep, crushing loss to the film industry and to the world.  The feeling that all the icons of my generation are dead or dying (started with the 2006 obituaries) is scoring a fairly deep cut in my consciousness.


(Whine alert)


Tuesdays are becoming my most unfavorite day.  I left for school at 8 am and arrived at 9:30 am.  It's 12 miles away. It's time to move.

Grrrrrrr.  Identity theft should be punished by cutting off a hand, or some other body part.  I truly feel the perpetrators deserve  medieval punishment of the most tortuous and lasting kind.  Some derelict has Mike's debit card number and is on a major shopping spree at discount retail stores and fast food joints between here and the Central Valley.  It's disgusting.  And he's not even in the country!

My idiot landlord continually comes by unannounced.  He yells into my doorway, "Hey!  Are you there?"  He never asks if I have a minute, if he's interrupting anything, etc.  I should've sneezed and coughed on him, since he completely disregarded the fact that I'm ill and was eating lunch.  He's vulgar, nosy, pushy and all-around annoying as hell.  I think he's afraid of Mike.  He always asks, "Do you still have your cat?", although I've told him the story of Bruno's death ten times.  This man is younger than me.  He wants to spray weedkiller on the front yard.  I veto the idea due to my condition.  He says, "It's environmentally safe."  Grrrrrrrrrrr.

A former co-worker sent me a sermon he'd prepared, possibly for Easter Sunday.  It was about Time.  It came at a most appropriate moment, and I must say, it calmed me right down.  It turned the day around a bit.  Thank you, David.

Further consolation came from watching American Idol for the first time this year (not sure if it consoled me, but it passed the time while waiting for morning to reach Mike, on the other side of the world).  It was Beatle week.  No one chose Norwegian Wood.  It was rather like the (hydroponic) strawberries and ice cream I had…sweet but not very much flavor.  I did find a new show to watch on Monday nights—New Amsterdam.  It reminds me of Highlander, but it's not bad.
Tomorrow is the 5th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war.  It's been ages.  There are no WMD's.  Why are we still there?

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Cycle 15 or Cycle 1, 3rd series…

Dodged another bullet for 3 more weeks at least!  What a relief!  There's even improvement (in the CT scan), despite all the problems we've suffered with this house (leaky garage, no heat, broken dishwasher, etc) and neighborhood, Bruno dying, getting the flu on the cruise, the truck being vandalized and tools stolen, having my health insurance axed then coming down with shingles, etc…Imagine the improvement if we'd stayed in Alameda!  I suppose one never knows, but I like to think the pottery class is what's making the difference.  And the love of a workaholic but otherwise wonderful husband.  And the support of all y'all, not least being the medical team.


Mike's now decided he might not mind living up near Sacramento, along the Delta, but the argument is not having any social support up that way, and he's gone alot.  The oncologist would like me to stay within a 30-minute radius from Walnut Creek, and I sort of like hearing it from him.  He also thinks I should move ASAP, though there's 5 months left on the effing lease.  The market's still dropping so maybe even in June we'll still be able to pull off a home purchase.

The pain of shingles has thankfully gone.  Normalcy for a few weeks would be tremendous!  I rub my hands and wonder, what adventure should I go on for Spring Break?!

Thank you God, for small favors.  If you can somehow let me get Radiohead tickets when they come to San Francisco, well, that would just be the frosting on the cake, if you know what I mean!


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And it’s only Tuesday…

Well, today I told my ceramics professor that I had cancer, in the course of talking about my absence due to shingles.  Turns out his grandmother had Stage III cancer and she's cured.  I didn't ask what kind but I'm sure it'll come up again.  I did tell him it was Stage IV, that I could still live a long time, and I thought throwing pottery was helping.  He was very grateful for being informed and assured me I had the best attendance record in the class.  He actually seemed incredibly amazed at the effort and hours I put in, and I felt reassured by his understanding of the trials and tribulations of cancer treatment.  


I was bad today, giving in to a cup of coffee and eating wheat noodles in the chicken noodle soup I made for Mike.  He's sick.  Yesterday morning he discovered the pipe to the Nissan truck's catalytic converter was halfway cut.  This happened over the weekend, although we were home.  They've already broken into the toolbox and taken his circular saw and two cordless battery packs.  Laboring with the idea that we couldn't afford $300 for a new catalytic converter, I had to sidestep his fury and convince him, after a long day and the onset of another flu, that we should drive it to a known safe area, our old neighborhood—Alameda.  That stole 2 hours of already shortened sleep, and tonight, after driving to Sacramento and back, he created an impenetrable steel cage for the converter.  

It's time for a car alarm, or at the very least, a Club, as I think whoever's trying to part out the truck will eventually just steal it.  Hopefully not tonight.

It's time to move out of this area.  Actually it was time to move back in December.  The monthly savings has not been worth the daily grief of living here.  I look forward to moving away.  Tragic.  I wish I could uproot my sister but she's trapped by the depressed housing market.  One of her guests' car was stolen from in front of her house during Superbowl.  And I live in a better neighborhood, but that matters not.  We have to move back to where the cops are the Gestapo and the speed limit in the entire city is 25 mph because it's full of old people and schoolchildren.

CT scan results tomorrow and then…?  For now, I hope the truck will be out front in the morning.  


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It’s always something

Why is it called Shingles?  Somehow that doesn't sound menacing enough.  It doesn't sound like an excruciating ailment, but oh, how wrong you would be to underestimate the pain.  It can be debilitating.  I consider myself pretty tough, but I eventually succumbed to it for a couple of days.  I fought it today but decided to give in and lie on the couch so I can pretend to feel well enough to throw clay tomorrow.


Had a CT scan today, in anticipation for what would be (chemo) Cycle 15 on Wednesday.  If nothing's changed, we start a brand new set of orders for the same thing—Alimta, Tarceva, Aredia.  If something's moved around, we go back to the drawing board and I guess scrap everything and try an entirely new set of meds (except the Aredia, that probably stays).  I get pretty nervous on scan weeks.  This time is a little bit scarier, since I've been down with shingles and the cancer might be having a field day while I'm writhing in pain.  Or maybe my white blood cells have multiplied sufficiently and decided to fight the war on all fronts (which is hopeful).  Isn't there something 4500 mg/day  of Acyclovir can do to help?

Much of what I've read suggests consuming Lysine supplements and eliminating the following from my diet, as it encourages the virus: Chocolate, Nuts (Peanuts in particular), Wheat, Oats (some say cereal grain in general), Coconut, and Caffeine.  These foods contain a high percentage of Arginine, which stimulates viral growth.  Lysine is supposed to counteract viral growth and is sort of the opposite of Arginine.  Regardless of this fact, I still ate a Girl Scout Thin Mint as my one act of rebellion.

I've been on low-carb diets which I didn't suffer nearly as much as this.  Wheat?  Chocolate?  CAFFEINE?  I'd been eating toast with Nutella and bananas with my coffee for weeks!  I can live without oats, and even nuts, but perhaps that's the Okinawa secret of long life—none of these items are in their diet.  Grains figure prominently in the Mediterranean and Baltic diets, but chocolate, nuts, and caffeine do not.  Hmmm, I dunno.  It's always fish and veggies, fruit and water…no mention of dairy, chocolate, bread, sweets, caffeine, and it's pretty much "little or no meat".  So it's come down to this!  

I'm glad I was never allergic to these foods, that I enjoyed them for most of my life.  People would counter that, now, of all times, I should eat what I like and continue to enjoy them "for the rest of my life", which may not be long.  On the other hand, is there any truth to the idea that I might extend my life by not enjoying all the bad foods?  Who knows, but more than likely, I won't switch to a macrobiotic, probiotic, or any other biotic diet until I'm completely out of options.  Maybe I'm not proactive enough.  Maybe it's because I'd have to make two sets of meals, mine and my husband's, and that would be a giant pain I'm not prepared to deal with.

So, when I get over shingles, I'll drink coffee now and then, cut down on wheat and nut products, and save my coconut intake for Asian food binges.

More on CT scan results in later posts!  Wish me luck!

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Meezes to pieces

Max the Special kitty
Moneypenny, Princess Longbody

The top one is Max.  He came out of a one-bedroom apartment that had 31 cats (West Oakland).  He's the sweetest little purr monster but after analyzing his many issues, I think he may be touched (as Tara would say)—-he's a "special" kitty.  Tonight I found a lump on the back of his neck…He loves to sleep on my chest (he's that small), using my face as a pillow.  I indulge it as much as possible, though it makes for a very long night!

The long bandit cat is Moneypenny, fresh from Fairmont Animal Shelter.  She was a totally amazing find—healthy, socialized, lightning fast and agile, and smart as a whip.  She's The Princess, but doesn't mind hanging upside down when you hold her.  She beats up Max quite often, but I think she's figured out that he's special.  She defers to him with her favorite string toy.  She's vocal, demanding, and precious.

Frankly, they wear me out.  But it's nice to have someone moving about the house, even though they think I'm just the boring Crazy Lady that fills their food bowls.

I'm excluded from Club Blue Eyes.

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