Feb 25, 2007

What A Difference 3 Months Can Make

Most people think life sucks, and then you die. Not me. I beg to differ. I think life sucks, then you get cancer, then your dog dies, your wife leaves you, the cancer goes into remission, you get a new dog, you get remarried, you owe ten million dollars in medical bills but you work hard for thirty five years and you pay it back and then one day you have a massive stroke, your whole right side is paralyzed, you have to limp along the streets and speak out of the left side of your mouth and drool but you go into rehabilitation and regain the power to walk and the power to talk and then one day you step off a curb at Sixty-seventh Street, and BANG you get hit by a city bus and then you die. Maybe. ~Denis Leary

During a pre-op physical for my upcoming foot surgery, I was asking my doctor a few questions about some health concerns-namely that my mom died of cancer and I was advised by her doctor to get a colonoscopy sooner than the recommended age of fifty. She asked me what type of cancer my mom died of and I was simply stunned that I couldn't remember the name of it!

Just a mere four months ago, I lived and breathed the hated phrase 'Adenocarcinoma' but all I could think to say was, "I think it began with "endo..." I couldn't remember what my own mother died of and for the life of me, I couldn't even recall the simple word "oncologist" when describing my mother's doctor who told me to get a colonoscopy sooner because of the type of cancer my mother had.

Was it so long ago? No, of course not. But my mother died of cancer and it doesn't matter what type of cancer it was...it still ravaged her and took her too soon and very violently. Maybe my brain just blocked out the details after her death and it was far easier to say stomach cancer than a very rare form of cancer that develops in cells lining glandular types of organs (namely the colon, stomach, pancreas and cervix) and spills death into her bloodstream destroying her everywhere.

They don't have a magnetic car ribbon supporting awareness for Adenocarcinoma. There isn't a walk I can do in her memory alongside other survivors because in most cases there isn't a survival rate.

I was in a Hallmark store buying a birthday gift last week and saw a little display of bracelets each showing a charm in the shape of a ribbon colored for a particular form of cancer. I thought about getting one, but was torn over stomach cancer and colon cancer. I just didn't know.

My mom died nearly three months ago and I find myself left with fuzzy details. If I try real hard to think of specifics of the cancer that took her, I remember our shared nightmare which began in late October with stomach pains. Her discomfort turned into an emergency surgery to repair a perforation in her small intestine and while the surgeon was in there rooting around, well, he found a nice little surprise called a malignant tumor that got sent on it's way to pathology only to return saying, "We're sorry, but she probably has only a few weeks to live."

And I wonder about these past three months since my mom died. Does time heal all wounds? I'd like to think that instead time allows other things to settle into your life to distract you from what happened. Time throws in worry about getting your income taxes done and how much weight have I lost on Weight Watchers this week and maybe I'd better check out that movie before it leaves the theatre.

Your life goes on because you're fortunate enough to be alive when your mother is dead. It's a simple hard fact. You come to the realization that your life is completely your responsibility now because your mother is gone and there's no one left to care about it but you. Looking after yourself means asking your doctor the uncomfortable question about when to get a colonoscopy. And I guess it also means forgiving yourself when you don't remember Adenocarcinoma because after all, what does it really matter? Dead is dead.

Feb 24, 2007

The Ha-Ha by Dave King

Imagine being a single, middle-aged man who can neither write nor speak but is perfectly average in every other aspect of his life.

The reader is introduced to Howard Kapostash as he assumes responsibility of looking after nine-year old Ryan, son of his ex-girlfriend Sylvia who is being sent away against her will by her sister into a drug rehab program for an undetermined length of time. The sister takes care of the cat and Howard takes care of the boy who is not his son.

Howard can’t communicate due to a severe head injury that occurred sixteen days into his tour of Vietnam. He returns home to his mother and father a broken young man who can’t communicate and is unwilling to try even though the mere fact that he survived such an injury is considered a miracle.

The book is told from Howard’s narrative and it’s an amazing story that unfolds to the reader because you learn in flashbacks why Howard never really moved forward when he returned from the war and how he lived in a self-imposed solitary existence with his parents until each of them passed away thus forcing Howard to take on borders in his parent’s house (now his home) to help pay the bills.

There’s a young Vietnamese-American woman named Laurel who makes gourmet soups for a living and two housepainters named Nit and Nat (so named because Howard finds bother irritating and never makes an effort to learn their real names).

The sheer beauty of this book is the way Howard and Ryan learn to interact with one another and how the introduction of this boy completely changes the dynamic of all the tenants living in Howard’s house. But the frustration of the book is the reader clearly sees how manipulative and self-centered Sylvia is from the first pages of the story. We can’t imagine how such a good man like Howard could still be carrying a torch for this woman who continually insults him and takes advantage of his feelings to get him to do things for her that she doesn’t deserve—especially since she entrusts the care of her son to him and the care of her cat to her sister.

The big epiphany for me in reading this novel was how it felt to be unable to express myself just like Howard throughout the story. I wanted to reach through the pages and shout to Howard, “Can’t you see that this can only end badly? She’s going to break your heart! She is not the person you fell in love with at sixteen. She’s only using you. Be careful!”

The satisfaction of completing The Ha-Ha is that you survive the journey right alongside Howard. The author Dave King does an impressive job at showing the dark side of Howard as he learns to deal with just what his injury has cost him in both his present life and the life he could have had were it not for being sent to Vietnam.

In the end, this book is about relationships. It’s about how one person can come into your life and completely change the way you exist. It’s a love story between a fatherless boy and the man that could have been such a good father to him had things been different all those years ago. It’s a story about a man finally waking up to his life and learning that there are always possibilities around the corner if you’re looking for them.

I highly recommend reading The Ha-Ha. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in 2005 and you’ll walk away feeling a new appreciation of just how important words can be—in any form.

Feb 14, 2007

Bust A Move!

In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought you all would appreciate my slick (sick?) sense of humor. Forget greeting cards and rose for your sweetie this year. I've got something way more interesting and thoughtful.

Check out the Busty Mouspads website. I know it sets feminism back lots and lots of years, but what man (or possibly woman) in your life wouldn't get a kick out of gel-filled 3-D breasts on their mousepad? A little poke here...a little poke there...NICE!

Feb 4, 2007

Pimp My Toilet

Everyone who knows me understands my love of bathrooms. There's solitude behind a closed secured door. One might find an opportunity to tighten up stray bra straps in the bathroom at work or readjust undergarments that are sticking into crevices where they don't belong.
So when I saw this Rooter Rooter advertisement in my inbox the other day, I just had to tell you all about it. I know by telling you about this contest that my chances are infinitely reduced in winning the toilet set-up of my dreams. But how can I not tell you about a toilet sweepstakes where you can exercise and pee at the very same time? And just look at that green grass toilet seat cover. Cool, huh?
Notice the bullhorn? There could be countless uses for the bull horn. I could be sitting on the can and shout out commands to any passerby (dare say only one-Spencer?) requesting a glass of water or a fresh copy of People magazine delivered to me.
So if you're a lover of toilets like I am, enter the Roto-Rooter sweepstakes. If you win this sweet setup instead of me, perhaps you'll consider inviting me over for a ride?