September, 2010 Archives

A Breath Of Fresh Hair

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September 24th, 2010

God, I love the way the wind feels through my half-inch hair. A big blow has been exhaling through Michigan for many hours now and my tiny follicles, like the long stringy willow tree out back, have been dancing in the breeze. One of the first things they teach you at Cancer College is how […]

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcwillow_tree.jpgGod, I love the way the wind feels through my half-inch hair. A big blow has been exhaling through Michigan for many hours now and my tiny follicles, like the long stringy willow tree out back, have been dancing in the breeze.

One of the first things they teach you at Cancer College is how your perspective on life will change. I keep waiting for a dramatic shift and all I get are little bitty glimpses of appreciation. The breeze through my hair, which nowadays I “wash” only a few times a week, is one of those moments where I remember to be thankful. Shampooing used to be a daily drudgery. Wild, unkempt hair in the wind never looked good on me. “Ha,” I say to myself now, “take that, Suave.”

You also learn at Leuk U. that there are many strange side effects to your treatment. Apparently the tingling in my left arm that I’ve been feeling for a week and a half isn’t a slow-moving heart attack or a stroke taking its time to strike. The technical definition for it is, well, tingling in the left arm.

A doctor has told me this twice, this week and last. I also heard second-hand from Marci’s chiropractor, who strangely knew a whole heap about cancer, that if my tingling was serious, I’d know it by now. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which doctor made me feel more assured, (HINT: The first doctor was the one who missed the warning signs for my blood clot).

As I drive home with the windows down and greet young man willow out back I laugh at how just a few words from a few doctors can completely change my attitude. No longer am I harboring sinister secret enemies slowly springing a trap. Now my biggest fear is psychosomatic illnesses running roughshod in my mind, taunting me with their, “Uh-oh, what ifs,” and their more diabolic, “If you don’t go to the ER nows.”

I love the way my new ‘do and the willow just let the wind blow without a care. Neither are re-shaped, even temporarily, nor do they seem to stress out that there’s a breeze. A logical leap would be for me to wish that for myself, but I think not caring or not being affected just aren’t in my toolkit. I am affected by lots of things, everything. My greatest strength is my greatest weakness. Its name is sensitivity.

I’ll probably still worry, just a little, that the tingling is a harbinger of something nefarious. I’ll wonder why I need to collect 24 hours worth of urine in a bright red jug before checking in for my stem cell swap. And when the centimeter or two of hair falls out then grows back, I’ll probably once again care how I look after a stiff breeze or shower-less morning. My perspective will shift. But will my vanity?


An Occasional Little Schnuffle

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September 20th, 2010

Since I bummed a lot of you out with my previous post, I thought I’d follow up with something useful. Incidentally, a long lost high school friend of mine recently scolded me for not updating this blog more often. I loved the way he pantomimed being at the office, going to my site and pounding […]

Since I bummed a lot of you out with my previous post, I thought I’d follow up with something useful. Incidentally, a long lost high school friend of mine recently scolded me for not updating this blog more often. I loved the way he pantomimed being at the office, going to my site and pounding on his desk in frustration when the same post is there day in and day out. I apologize for that but as usual, I digress.

Do you find yourself snoring at night? Do you wake up wondering why they’re working a pneumatic drill in your bedroom? Does your spouse complain? Does this sound like an infomercial?

Well Dr. Rodney is here to help. One of the benefits of being in the hospital is sharing medical advice with fellow patients, nurses and doctors. After a quick and off-the-cuff conversation with a fellow leukemia patient last month I found myself wondering about snoring. I actually had to go back, seek her out and ask for clarification because I couldn’t believe what I heard.

Deep breathing. It’s that simple. She had gone into a sleep clinic months earlier to deal with an apnea issue and one of the main things they taught her was to work on taking deep breaths all throughout the day. Now this part needed clarification.

“Really?” I asked, thinking clarification is best when you only use one word.

“Yes, various times throughout the day, just relax, take several deep breaths through your nose and exhale, if you can, longer than it takes to inhale,” she said.

So of course I tried it.

I didn’t believe the results. I’m not sure if I believe them yet but something has changed in my sleep patterns; I don’t snore nearly as much. My wife was telling me that after my second hospital stay — you know, the one with the blood clot and all — my snoring was cacophonic. Sure, it could’ve been caused by any number of things but I had been building up to a crescendo for years. Marci even has earplugs resting on her nightstand.

After talking with my fellow patient and doing those deep breathing exercises, apparently my night rumblings have all but disappeared. Remember this is anecdotal evidence I’m sharing here and you should know never to listen to me. But the deep breathing worked.

Now, several times throughout the day and most every night or before napping — yes, I nap a lot these days — I remember to inhale deeply and exhale even deeper. Sometimes I send a rush of blood to my head but if I’m lying down, that’s not all bad. I have to tell ya, I’m surprisingly much more snoreless, (By the way, if you’re keeping track of my made up words, Spellcheck doesn’t even come close to allowing snoreless.)

While my wife is busy typing at her computer behind me I ask, “so if I were quoting you about my snoring right now Marci, what would I write?”

“It’s not bad at all; an occasional little schnuffle.” Apparently I’m not the only one with a creative vocabulary.

I looked it up online and some sites — not the majority by any means but some sites — list the same exercise. So there you have it. Take this advice or forget about it. Do your best not to yell at me in the Comments section for dispensing quack medicinery. And if you know of something else that’s helped you, jump in and feel free to share. After all, if you find it on the internet, it’s gotta be true.

Dichotomy

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September 14th, 2010

Everything is all messed up. And in the same breath, everything is perfect. On the outside, looking in — and honestly, from the inside looking in too — it appears the misfortunes I’ve had over the past year have been devastating. Losing my job would be enough to throw me over the edge. Getting another […]

Everything is all messed up. And in the same breath, everything is perfect.

On the outside, looking in — and honestly, from the inside looking in too — it appears the misfortunes I’ve had over the past year have been devastating. Losing my job would be enough to throw me over the edge. Getting another job and having that paper go out of business after a short few weeks would appear heart-rending. My daughter not getting into the overseas program she dreamed about or us getting robbed in Paris both were punches to our familial psyche. Not getting a summer or fall teaching gig after finding my calling as a professor was a blow. Leukemia. Yeah, leukemia. You know the rest.

Sure, each of those losses held gifts for us hidden in the ruins. But I don’t always feel those gifts. I can’t honestly sit here and say I’m glad I don’t have a job even though not having one lifts an entire metric ton of weight off my shoulder in terms of needing to get things done, organized, taken care of, worried about.

Some days, like today, I can feel the equal and opposite weight on my shoulder of the cancer. I can feel it dragging at my heels as I sprint for the cure. And the one place where I normally get my solace, the people around me, are some of the ones doing the dragging. Talking to older patients today had the effect of putting the stink eye on my prognosis. Here they were, lined up with their bald heads and face masks — that I too will soon sport — telling me all the things that can go wrong. Each of them having had recurring cancers and at least two marrow transplants. How can you think everything will go smoothly? Do you know you won’t be able to cook meals for months? You’ll have to have someone around you 24/7.  You are susceptible to every disease out there. That hair that’s slowly growing back on your head, well it’s about to fall out all over again.

And on and on.

They meant no harm; they just smelled younger meat recently joining their club and like a freshman initiation, I had to walk the gauntlet. But mixed in with the “advice” were nuggets I could glean that made visceral sense. One guy said he felt like he was back to his normal self right away, even though he wasn’t supposed to go out and do things. It was winter time anyway, so that didn’t really bother him. Another person said attitude is everything, which I’ve often heard. Too bad that claim was immediately disputed by some of the others there, lined up waiting for their appointments. One of the participants even asked what type of anti-anxiety drug I was on. When I said I was anti-depressant-less, the others chimed in with their pharmacologicals. It seriously almost made me depressed.

I was thinking about all their jumbled words as I was later locked into a breathing chamber upstairs in an adjacent building. The plexiglass enclosure was supposed to test the many facets of my breathing. For a guy who has a few recent psychological issues surrounding not being able to breathe, you don’t really want to shut me up in a box with a glorified clothespin over my nose and a large tube protruding from my mouth.

“Now pant quickly, now inhale, now exhale even if it feels like you can’t force any more air out.” The machine actually stopped up and I was supposed to push as hard as I could against my lack of being able to breathe.

Where were those anti-anxiety pills?

I realized after my bell jar tests were over that this whole cancer and recovery thing really pisses me off. People telling me their horror stories really pisses me off. Not knowing how long all of this is going to take really pisses me off. Not having any control over it all really pisses me off.

And yet I have the time to write. And yet somehow we are making it work financially. And yet my daughter not being in England and me not having a job as a professor or photo editor seems to work to our overall advantage right now. I wouldn’t wish leukemia or recovery on anyone, but I definitely wouldn’t wish it on someone who’s busy.

I don’t know the cosmic plan. I don’t know my own plan. But I’m getting the impression that somehow this is all playing out perfectly, according to some unforeseen diagram.  And yes, that pisses me off too.


Far Too Much Time On My Hands

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September 9th, 2010

* I was wondering if it’s too late to get a whacked-out “church” down in Florida to burn Spiritual Wanderer on September 11th. The world-wide publicity could really help my sales. * I invested wisely; thank goodness I never fell for one of Henry Winkler’s Fonzie schemes.    * In “She’ll be coming ‘round the mountain,” […]

* I was wondering if it’s too late to get a whacked-out “church” down in Florida to burn Spiritual Wanderer on September 11th. The world-wide publicity could really help my sales.

* I invested wisely; thank goodness I never fell for one of Henry Winkler’s Fonzie schemes.   

* In “She’ll be coming ‘round the mountain,” who is she?

* Did you know the world gullllible isn’t in the Dictionary?    

* Those primitive cave drawings we’ve all seen? Yeah, they’re crap. My baby nephew could do better and he’s never even witnessed an antelope slaughter.

* Would Elvis Costello be as popular if his Mom had named him after his uncle Abbott?

* To me, the real Guitar Hero is the workaday schlub who comes home from his craptastic office job to his dingy basement apartment, pulls out his beat up six-string, then uses it to rescue orphans from a burning building.

* When nobody’s around and I’m cleaning up the kitchen, putting away leftovers, I turn up my favorite urban music really loud. I’m way into Saran rap.

* Rembrandt used to bilk everyone he ran into. There wasn’t a person he didn’t try to swindle. He was the original con artist.

* The local synagogue is planning a Passover trip for kids to Seder Pointe.

* Have you ever swam in a carpool? I did once but got felt up by a Dodge Prowler.

* If one more middle-aged white guy tells me, “you da bomb,” I’m just gonna explode.

* Man, growing up the Bee Gees gave me the Heebie Jeebies.

* I reconnected with a good college friend, Christa. She was married for a while to a dude named Stan Ball. She still goes by Christa Ball though since — even though as a little girl it meant nothing — as a grownup her maiden name Meth drew too many late night phone calls.

* Maybe it’s me, but I think Trappist monks should have to eat everything they trap.

* I wonder if before Lady Gaga’s collaborators got to it, she originally was signing about an enigmatic NBC weather man; “can’t read Al, can’t read Al, no I can’t read Al Roker’s face.”