A celebration of an ordinary thing

Come to mama

I’m celebrating. In a very small way. No, not because I finally took a food photo that gets the colors right and actually makes the food look appetizing.

Rather, I am pleased because this is the avocado salad that kicked this whole blog off, just a bit over two years ago. I ate it then because I was celebrating because the colitis that the ipilimumab had brought on was helped by steroids. I didn’t realize that it would smack me down almost immediately and I’d be a stranger to fresh veggies, cooked veggies, and food that tasted like anything, for a number of weeks.

I joined my local gym a couple of weeks ago. Across the street from it is the Dominican restaurant where this salad comes from. To celebrate my first gym visit, I stopped in there to get this salad to go. They were out of avocados that day. I tried again today, after my workout. Success. I don’t think the owner thought very highly of my lunch plan. He insisted I take a hefty sample cup of Dominican oatmeal to try. I tasted it. It was thin, like gruel, and decidedly did not hit the spot (but I lied).

All I wanted was to come home and dig into this salad, which is humble and almost certainly wearing dressing that comes from a bottle (what they call in Newfoundland, where I visited ages ago, “Eye-talian dressing”).

In one of the many poetry workshops I took in college, I was assigned to write a poem that was a celebration of an ordinary thing. Back then, if I recall correctly, I wrote a poem about a bus farebox.

Later on in college, I read Brendan Behan’s Borstal Boy, his nonfiction novel about the three years he spent in a juvenile prison. I remember especially being touched by scenes like this one, in which he receives a decent meal from a prison guard (ignore the highlighting):

Brendan Behan, from Borstal Boy

I just ate the salad, while autumn sunlight streams through the window. I drank seltzer, an act which would have been just a fever dream two years ago today. People today like to say about something good that it “is EVERYTHING.” We all know that isn’t true. I wish it were true. What this was, though, was something.

And now, I’m going to enjoy an afternoon of untroubled digestion and productivity. I wish at least that much to you.

Pass GO, collect $200

Unintentionally timely

Twice this week I passed through the Union Square subway station, home to thousands of encouraging Post-it notes on the tiled walls, to buoy people after last week’s election result. When I walked through on Monday morning, early, on the way to my CT scan, all of the notes had fallen to the ground, because they were never meant to last long, or bear important messages — only ephemera like shopping lists, phone numbers, notes to self. (Except suddenly, even the ephemera matters. Shopping: What can we buy to support the pipeline protest efforts in North Dakota? Phone numbers: Which elected officials have you called today and what have you asked them to speak out against? Notes to self: Get adequate sleep. Exercise. Take frequent breaks from news consumption.) By the time I was coming home, the notes were reposted. There were new ones.

The Uniqlo ad campaign is all over the walls of the same subway station. I can’t be sure of its timing, but the timing is kind of uncanny. The message on the sign above isn’t necessarily one that will sell parkas and cashmere, though. You can’t read it straight, it seems too bitterly ironic. Why, indeed?

This morning I rushed out of the house to my 9 a.m. appointment with my fate Dr. P. Somehow I managed to arrive on time. Phlebotomist B saw me, and once he had confirmed my birthdate and wished me a happy one (it is somewhat imminent), he tapped my vein while we talked about the election. He voted. He is an immigrant from the Gambia. I don’t know a thing about the political system of the Gambia beyond what Wikipedia can tell me (Phlebotomist B is always in too much of a rush to talk about things like this at length), but I did just find a headline from the past day, saying three journalists were arrested there, in advance of their upcoming election. So, I think it is safe to say, things are… not too good there. Now I want to cry, because our country has let Phlebotomist B down. Our country is now just about as messed up as where he came from.

I waited a few minutes, saw N the medical assistant. He was friendly, but only wanted to talk about Thanksgiving. Then Nurse Practitioner K came in. She told me straight off that my scans were great, nothing at all of concern. So then we were able to move on to talking about the election. All I will say is, she would be justified in billing me for mental health services today. She is a wonderful healer of the whole person. (And we talked about Christian Slater, of all people.) After a quick physical and EKG (a precaution due to Mekinist, which can cause cardiomyopathy), I was out of there, hobbling back to the subway. (Nurse Practitioner K thinks it is time for me to break down and get the cortisone shot already.)

And there you have it. My “lease” is extended again. I don’t see Dr P until early January. Who can say what will have happened by then?

Year Two


This is just about how the city feels today, the day after Election Day 2016. (I took the photo on Halloween, when people were still jolly, and this scene didn’t suggest an impending nuclear apocalypse). People cried openly in the street this morning. I passed my childrens’ doctor. She was crying too.

I’m here not to talk about the election, but to humbly observe a little anniversary. Today marks the second anniversary of this here little cancer chronicle. Because I habitually post through an app on my tiny phone screen, I don’t have access to stats like how many posts (there have probably been over 200 306) or how many visitors (a steady stream every day now 13,445) or which post was the most popular (I believe that’s now a post that has not much to do with my illness at all, but is an introduction to the work of the artist Nina Katchadourian).

But: I’ve written a lot here, in sickness and in health, and the fact that I’m still here to write about my cancer seems like a good trick. I didn’t know for sure when I began the blog that I’d be around this long. I guess I meant all those long rants as legacies, maybe?

In the interest of updating you, there is no news on the cancer front. I will have a CT scan next week (upper body, excludes brain). I am not really thinking about it. I hope that is a wise move. I’ve joined a proper gym, with machines that have TVs attached, and the first thing I always do is shut the TV off. And, I got some translation work, from a place that may be able to give me more, which is exciting!

So what I’m doing here, really, is enduring. No, not enduring in the “putting up with it” sense. I mean being enduring, lasting. Persisting. Thank Science for that.

And thank you all, my readers, for coming back again and again. It is a “small, good thing at a time like this,” to know you are there.