Spreadable

Spreading spring, by Daniel Horacio Agostini on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

I’ll admit that the image I was hoping to find was one of chocolate spread on bread. That’s probably more my speed these days. But who could resist this building being overtaken by flowers in spring? And its evocation of Venice and all that implies in the imagination (which is very different than the Venice of reality, I know).

It’s been a while. Many things have happened, including a ghastly and unending war in Ukraine, while in the larger scheme few things have happened. Most recently, we celebrated Passover. And just as the holiday began, I marked (or did I celebrate?) a double cancerversary: April 16 is the day my original sentence of malignant melanoma was handed down in 2013. It is also the day my brain tumors were discovered in 2015. I continue to be here, tumor-free (let’s hope — scans coming up next week). And with slight modifications to my person. There’s a slight scar on my chin now, the product of a bad fall I took at the beginning of a solo trip to Italy in February, a trip which now seems like a dream — and not only because my phone died, taking with it all of my un-backed up photos dating back to last June. My eyeglasses broke in that fall and when I got home, they were miraculously mended, something the optician in Italy didn’t think possible.

My glasses are now the source of some discomfort because they are no longer the right prescription for me. At the beginning of April, I had cataract surgery. I formed a precocious cataract at age 50 because of the ongoing inflammation caused by my targeted therapies (which I’ve now been off of for two years). Dealing with the inflammation required long stretches of prednisone eye drops, and those caused me to develop a cataract.

I was apprehensive about the surgery — I mean, it’s one of the most commonly performed types of surgery and folks much older than me sail through it all the time (including my own mother, last fall). But I am far too familiar with this scene from Un Chien Andalou (strong content warning) and desperately wished, as we drove over an hour to the surgery center, that I had never seen the film. My experience was absolutely fine, the anesthesia did its job and the nurses were wonderful. I even remember what the surgery looked like (but luckily not what it felt like): the process of the clouded lens being removed was like a psychedelic 3D light show. And then the new lens was placed and immediately I could see clearly again, without feeling like someone had rubbed Vaseline over my eye.

And so it begins, the slow process of replacing the parts that go bad. I remember how proud my father was of his two implanted devices (one, a stimulator that interrupted pain signals; the other, a pacemaker) that made him a bionic man. Of course, those devices made it more difficult for him to get the MRIs he needed towards the end of his life, so those devices turned out to be mixed blessings. Now that I’ve had one part replaced, I’m no longer dreading this process, but I do hope I can avoid any metal implants.

In a slightly more metaphorical sense, I’ve done some work towards replacing bad feelings. I started taking Lexapro at the end of March. I started slow, cutting the pill in half. I was only meant to do it for a week, but I extended that period, because I was also on a short course of oral prednisone around the time of my cataract surgery (another tip of the hat towards my outlier status, this was recommended to prevent any kind of inflammatory flareup, and it seems to have worked). The prednisone dosage wasn’t particularly high and I wasn’t as jumpy as I’d been on steroids in the past, but I wanted to perceive the effects of the antidepressant independently from the magical overachievement pill that is prednisone.

So I’ve been on Lexapro for a couple weeks now. And its main effect is that I’ve generally become an easily spreadable product, more like smooth peanut butter than chunky. I’m not getting stuck as often. I’m not getting angry as often. I’m not beating myself up as badly. My doctor, of course, suggested that I try therapy as well. I am still not so sure about that piece — I feel sure I was really just in need of a chemical boost. It also turned out I was quite Vitamin D deficient, so I’m working on that, as well as lowering my cholesterol via oatmeal. It appears that I will get to stay on this planet for a while, so it’s time to refocus my energy on proper maintenance. (I am still not quite back to getting regular exercise.)

At the end of March, melanoma took away someone I’d met on social media. Miles was a much beloved creative person, and a close friend to hundreds. He was able to make his exit on his terms, in his own home, with loved ones by his side. I’m sorry that the available treatments weren’t enough to save him from the beast. I am glad I got to know him a little bit.

I’ll try to remember to post next week’s scan results on the About page, as I’ve been doing for years. I’ve been a poor blog poster but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. Life constantly intervenes, and I am grateful for that.

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