Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sept 16/ diagnoses

The CT scan results are in and it's not good news. Skip has a spot at the base of his skull,
a spot on his lung, another spot on his liver, enlarged lymph nodes in his chest, and the "presenting" carcinoma in his sacrum (all the other cancer being too shy to make itself clearly known, apparently). So the current diagnosis is Stage 4 lung Cancer metastasized to all these other points. He has an appointment Sept 26 with a radiation oncologist-- to discuss the possibility of treating the mass in his spine (perhaps, finally, there will be some relief for the back pain). And, right now, he's currently scheduled to have a port implanted on Sept 27, so that chemotherapy can begin.

The survival rate for stage 4 lung cancer is abysmal. Median life expectancy at this stage is 8 months and the 5 year rate (the percentage of people who live 5 years or longer, even with treatment) is only 10%. In the midst of all this grim existential news, life for us is still remarkably unchanged. Skip is reading a good deal-- since that's one thing he can do while standing or moving around (his back bothers him a good deal, so it's hard for him to sit or lay down for very long)- detective novels and mysteries mainly. Puzzle stories that he can easily get lost in. We're watching Turner Classic movies. And British mysteries.

I'm cooking like mad, freezing food and stocking provisions for the schedule upheavals yet to come. And we still try to walk in the evening. It's just fall here-- turning cool with beautiful yellow leaves peeking through the trees. The red flame trees in the park are already magnificent. And the neighborhood Siamese cats-- from the Siamese rescue center at the end of our block-- still come running out to greet us, if we walk the neighborhood at dusk. Such chatty, tough little creatures-- purring and growling as they brush up against my hands and Skip's leg. "Please don't make me wear one of those knit caps, when my hair falls out," he tells me. "The cats won't know me at all then." "I'll get you a fedora," I tell him. Cancer chic-- he even wonders if he'll have a tattoo to help the chemo nurses find his port. "I want veto power over the design I tell him--""I was thinking a happy face," he answers. Skip a beat. "Or maybe a skull and crossbones."

I've started wearing some rubber bracelets a friend gave me as a joke gift. One's gray and emblazoned "ennui;" the other's black and reads "despair." They're to remind me to keep a sense of humor and irony. I've also taken to collecting crumpled cigarette packs that I find on the street. Found one the other day that says "hombre." God knows what I'll do with them.
"Just don't start scooping up the butts," Skip says.

What I'm reading at the moment-- Post-Cinematic Affect by Steven Shaviro (UK:Zero Books, 2010) , a book that purports to analyze the changing media regime and prevailing contemporary structures of feeling. It's a slender, elegant book and I like the way it begins by simply pitting 4 different media texts against each other-- just to see what they have to say about "what it feels like to live in the early twenty-first century" (2). The beginning chapter is very Deleuzian-- and for people who have read Shaviro's other work it feels very much like picking up the thread of an ongoing theoretical conversation. For those of us who read his blog, it feels like resuming that conversation with an old friend. I also just received Atta from Semiotext(e). Another slim volume that's as easy to slip into my bag as my kindle is. Good books for town travel.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Alt. lit for 9/11

It's been a hard day. We're in waiting mode-- waiting to find out how
much Skip's cancer has spread. And then I got a piece of whack hate e-mail
from the former chair of my former dept.

But I saw this on Chris Kraus's facebook page, read it and thought it
would be a good thing to post on this anniversary.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

cancer/ breaking bad

Skip has been dealing with extreme back pain since July. We originally thought it was sciatica, but tests showed a mass of some kind at the base of his spine. The doc said it was probably a giant cell tumor-- a nasty thing that would have to be removed, but usually benign. But he ordered a biopsy just to make sure. We got the biopsy report last Friday (right before labor day) and it's not good news. They found metastasis, but it's not coming from the spine.

The best conjecture at this point is that it's stage 4 lung cancer metastacized to the spine.
Skip had a CT scan Friday (yesterday) to confirm the diagnosis and to see how far it's spread. Once we know that, we can talk about treatment-- kind and length of chemo etc.

I've started the process for family leave, since I've just been plunged into that very time consuming and heart wrenching part of the medical care system that deals with cancer diagnosis and treatment. I get 12 weeks- pretty much the term-- at full pay. Thank God, since it's impossible for me to think about things like class prep right now-- and I can't imagine grading student papers.

On the up side, we rewatched American Splendor, that wonderful film about Harvey Pekar last night.
And I've gotten Our Cancer Year from the library-- seems like the best way for someone like me to ease into the dizzying world of cancer-lit.

I've started a site that's just devoted to Cancer and Skip news

This one will continue to be more about me and what I'm reading/seeing while trying to come to terms
with the idea of chronic cancer