Kevin's Dead Cat

After surgery sliced off an entire tumor and 1/3 of my tongue, plus six weeks of radiation therapy, I've been re-learning how to eat, drink, and talk with my newly re-constructed tongue and coping with side effects. But the cancer came back and I don't know what's going to happen next.

My Photo
Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

I don't want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Trial and Error

In my search to find food I can actually taste, James and I went to a Thai restaurant two blocks from the loft...EUREKA! My new drug is Tom Kha Kai, a spicy hot soup made with shrimp (but normally chicken), lemon grass, cilantro, red chiles, lime juice and coconut milk. My first warning should've been all those pretty pieces of chiles floating in the pink broth. The heat went right through my eyeballs and I got the most INCREDIBLE endorphin rush! (not really, but you get my point).

I also tried a chilidog and chili cheese fries at Tommy's. What was I thinking? I couldn't taste any of the chili fries, so I gave them to Tim (one of my roommates). He claims he's never had chili fries before! What kind of American are you? With all the food I'm tossing aside lately my roommates are going to be some pretty well-fed starving artists. Tim and Takako (his girlfriend) have an adorable black cat named Peanut Butter. They'd better keep an eye on her, because I plan on taking her with me when I leave and re-naming her Gazpacho. I loooooove this cat!

Living in such a creative environment inspired me to change the look of the blog and stick my face in one of my favorite Modigliani paintings (sorry, Amedeo). I can't wait to move into my own place so I can start painting again.

Saw Dr. Kagan on Thursday after radiation treatment. I just needed some reassurances that all the pain and wierdness in my mouth was typical. After I gave him a general description of the past few days he said, "Yes, expect more of it." But he also said I was doing a good job taking care of my teeth. He tossed over some swab sticks and said I could continue to take all the codeine I needed. Yessir! Dr. Kagan is very nice, but a doctor's appointment doesn't feel complete without hearing at least one worst-case scenario. I guess it's just separation anxiety from Dr. McNicoll.

Twenty more treatments to go.

(I can't believe they killed-off Leo.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Making plans

The good news is that I'm no longer anxious for when the side-effects will kick in. The bad news is they've kicked in.

I'm sleeping well at night. But no interesting dreams so far. And I have pretty vivid ones. I need afternoon naps now, just like in nursery school (college, too, come to think of it). I'm not so much asleep as catatonic.

I think a lot about the holidays coming up. I'm thinking about leaving town, getting away from everything as soon as radiation treatments are over. I have family in Hawaii. Christmas on the beach sounds kinda nice, although I would have to stay in the shade with 45 billion SPF sunblock. It's been a while since I've gone bikini shopping.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

My first mistake was driving in the rain.

The second was stopping at Borders for no good reason. Bought the latest from Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, and Tom Waits. If there was a new Jeff Buckley I would've grabbed that too. But, well... he's dead.

I could've done without "Dear Heather", but when it comes to L. Cohen, I'm a sentimental fool. So if you're not familiar with his work just grab The Essential Leonard Cohen. I was sold the first time I heard "Suzanne", a goner when I heard "Take This Longing".

So now I'm forbidden from any and all book or music store purchases for another two paydays, that includes

Dinner and dancing

Last night's cheesecakes didn't register. So, in my new quest to taste something - ANYTHING - I sought the assistance of PigDog Journal's "Dining at the Deathwave Grill" column. Unfortunately, there are only two recipes I can attempt without landing in jail. Historically, I've referred to this favorite website of mine for their "Spocktails of the Week" recipes, but these days I'm too lazy to score 'shrooms or Vicodin.

My 2004-2005 season tickets for the Ahmanson Theatre arrived this morning! I subscribed so long ago I almost forgot about them (was it in May?). So now I have "Caroline , or Change", "As You Like It", Matthew Bourne's "Play Without Words", and "Anything Goes" to look forward to.

More good news. Leonard Cohen has a new CD out today, "Dear Heather". I love him, but is he EVER going to write a song about a girl- ANY girl- named Laura?

Monday, October 25, 2004

Can't say they didn't warn me

Lost a couple more pounds, but Team Slingblade let it slide. I told them that the side effects kicked in this weekend. I had to take a long nap in the middle of Sunday, and the back of my throat feels like the Sahara.

I can't taste salt anymore. Sweet and bitter are still around. Can't taste bread, pasta, or tortillas. But strangely, I can taste egg noodles. Coffee drinks are still good, along with coffee flavored yogurt and chocolate milk. In the interest of being able to still fit into the new clothes I got 2 weeks ago, I bought strawberry cheesecake, chocolate covered cheesecake, and a brownie on the way home (dinner's ready!).

In loft news, the electricity is finished. The plumbers should be done by Wednesday, and hopefully the inspectors will clear things by Friday or Monday. I was hoping to spend the night Tuesday so I wouldn't have to worry about driving all the way down to Long Beach after the election night parties/riots.

Trying to keep my spirits up. Did you know that depression is rage turned inward? That's what I get for being generally non-confrontational. Although I did lose it a little with the electrician when I stopped by the loft this afternoon. I know there's really nothing wrong with my state of mind that seclusion couldn't cure. That's what I miss the most, living alone. My three roommates are great, but I'm definitely having solitude withdrawel.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

5 more weeks to go

The first week of radiation is history. Yesterday morning I had a donut, actually half of two different donuts. I could barely taste either one of them. I was afraid the diminished sense of taste was starting early. But after a bland dinner out I scored a Chocolate-Caramel swirl Freddo (Peet's Coffee, accept no substitutes), and all was right with the world. I guess the donuts were just... lame. But I do think my salty receptors have begun hibernating. I may start carrying a bottle of hot sauce in my purse.

Yesterday was a good day. I started my hellish commute a half hour early and was rewarded with a view of Downtown L.A. after three days of cleansing rain. It's the only place and time where I've witnessed golden blue light. I caught a couple of fellow commuters stopped on the 110 fwy just admiring the view, oblivious to the car inched half a mile ahead of them.

I did the touch-screen early voting thing at the Downtown Public Library before heading off to radiation. Gary Oldman was a guest on Jonesy's Jukebox, so there was good music and hilarious conversation about Peter Sellers and filming "Sid and Nancy" during my drive to the Westside. I actually shared a very crowded elevator with Mr. Oldman back when I lived at the Alexandria. He was filming something at the hotel, and man is he SHORT. Damn cute, though. He whispered something about the elevator "going sideways as well." I smiled and said, "Sideways, huh?" He got it and laughed.

I FINALLY got my hair cut. Five inches hacked off, and it's still long. Ferdie, my stylist for the last 11 years (has it been that long?) kinda lost his mind when he saw me. We hadn't seen each other since February, way before the cancer-thing. Usually, he whips out a straight edge razor and I'm out of the salon inside of an hour. But this time it was 90 minutes of disbelief (on his part) and reassurances (on my part). He must've been really shaken because he used scissors for the first time in I-don't-know-how-long. He's such a sweetheart. Is there anyone left in my life who doesn't know about the cancer-thing? Hmmmm.

Still don't have a Halloween costume. Maybe I'll skip the holiday this year entirely. No matter what I wear, who's going to swoop on a girl with two huge scars?

Thursday, October 21, 2004

2 months later...

Arm - Since I've been slathering it with baby oil every day it's looking- I wouldn't say good, but less disgusting. I think the skin graft is getting narrower, and it's starting to ache sometimes. Before, it was only my thumb and pointing finger that felt tingly/numb. But for the past few days, the tips of my other fingers have been starting to feel the same way. My next appointment with Dr. Blackwell isn't until Nov. 9th, but if it becomes a problem I have his email address. I can flex my hand back a lot farther than I used to. Still having problems with the shoulder, but it's improving a little bit each week.

Leg - The scar is still there, but more of the skin is returning to normal color.

Neck - The skin right below the jawline is still a little swollen, but you'd have to really look to notice. Same with the J-scar. For whatever reason, the tracheotomy wound is starting to itch. The skin around it is still tight, but sometimes it feels like someone is rubbing the tip of a quill around it.

Tongue - All the stitches have dissolved, and the only swelling left is underneath the left side. It tingles a lot, but I don't think the nerve endings have kicked in completely. Still talking like a deaf person, but I can be understood over the phone much better. I can lick my lips now, but not an envelope. Weird.

Almost done with the first week of radiation therapy. Still hate going there. Still annoyed by the whole idea. Still dreading the day when the side effects will kick in. Then again there's Caramel Ice Blendeds, chipotle, and a brand new season of The West Wing. So things aren't all bad.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Viewer e-mail

Since I've been posting more frequently I've been getting more specific (and dare I say bolder) questions from blog regulars. I've also figured out from the questions who visits regularly, who bothers to check the comments, and who the biggest freaks are (get a life, Eric). So here we go:

- No, Smartasses. I don't know where you can get a Lance Armstrong bracelet these days. Cough up the $50 and go on eBay if you really want to send me over the edge.

- Batgirl because a couple of friends sent me a basket of recovery flowers signed "Spider-Man and the HULK" (inside jokes, don't worry about it). But the HULK decided to be Ali G this year and Spider-Man, he won't tell me. But since I can't find a decent Batgirl costume (but lots of lame Catwoman outfits), I've gotta figure something else out.

- I don't attend a yoga class in L.A., I do my own routine at home. I don't think I can even call it yoga anymore since it's a combination of yoga, pilates, and dance stretches I've mashed together throughout the years. I should probably name it something; what's sanskrit for "easily distracted"? Music: Velvet Underground, Leonard Cohen, or Ravi Shankar, depending on my mood.

- Yes, I'm staying at James' in Long Beach until my loft is ready. I'll find out more about when that will be on Friday. And no, we're not back together.

Also, entirely too many of you (4) think that you're the guy who "reads bad poetry to impress chicks". Hilarious. Especially since the person I was talking about hasn't said anything about the comment.

I caught crap from Team Slingblade today because I'm not supposed to lose weight during r-therapy. They threatened to stick a feeding tube in my stomach if I didn't cut it out. Bastards. So tonight we're having a big pot of turkey chili with lots of cumin and peppers. I also grabbed two bags of tortilla chips, a tub of sour cream and guacamole, AND I'm skipping yoga and drinking two glasses of chocolate milk tonight. That should get those fiends off my back.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

I loooove the rain

Especially when it doesn't happen during my commute.

I had a special treat today. Sol, one of my colleagues at Boxerland, came along for my radiation treatment this afternoon. I know her primary goal was to hook-up with a young internist. But hey, I didn't want to be there either. So she came on board Galactica, watched the light show, and we scored lunch at the Burger King next door. It really helped having someone there. I didn't think it would, but it did. You're the best, Sol.

Turns out I was supposed to have blood tests my first day. But since I had to bring Sol back to the office we saved that for tomorrow. They weighed me again... yup, lost 2 more lbs. But that might change. The bakery nearby has a variety of mini-cakes, of which I buy at least two nearly each time I visit. Plus I've re-discovered chocolate milk. I was told that foods would begin to taste different. It's true. I'm craving things like lemon yogurt, caramel, and bell peppers. And I was never that crazy about them before. Things I used to have all the time, like dark chocolate, Diet Coke, and raspberry anything haven't even shown up on the radar.

There was a sale on seafood, so tonight it's paella. Here's a tip: if you like it spicy, but you don't want the seafood overpowered by regular chorizo, try Soyrizo (it's tofu, but it doesn't taste or feel like it). They sell it at Ralphs, but not all Vons or Albertsons carry it. Not bad with eggs either, and not as greasy as the real thing. Leannah clued me in on the stuff a long time ago.

Got an invitation to a Halloween party today. Should I make an effort and find a Batgirl costume? or be cheap and go as Lara Croft? Even worse, grab a white sheet with black circles sewn all over it and say I'm the Holy Ghost? But then I'd have to spend all night drinking with the Father and Son.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Dance, Dance, Dance

Got out of bed an hour earlier. Got into work an hour earlier. I even had time to stop for a cup of coffee before jumping on the 405 (yet another yellow bracelet sighting outside the bakery).

Read email, sat through conference call, fixed ColdFusion code, outlined Kids Corner re-design... next thing I knew it was 12:30pm, time to head for the bunker and BillyBob. The line for flu shots snaked around the block outside 4950 Sunset. Parked the car, checked-in at reception, and took the elevator down, down.

The whole thing, as promised, took only 5 minutes. A lot of buzzing and clattering as the huge metal arm rotated counter-clockwise around my head. I was able to keep my left eye open under the mask, and from the reflection on the machine I caught the green beams projected on my face for a few seconds. "You did great. See you tomorrow."

I headed back downtown to pick up my mail from the loft, and to liberate my saute pan and a bottle of white wine. Not to drink, but to cook with. I'm burnt out on take-out and restaurant food. So tonight I'll be cooking up a storm. I've been craving this chicken with artichokes and red peppers dish I haven't made in a loooong time. Very spicy.

Sort mail, pay bills, yoga, cook, eat, wash dishes, read, and finally sleep. Then tomorrow: work, radiation, buy groceries, yoga, cook, eat, wash dishes, read, and sleep. Next day, repeat. Before I know it, it will be December.

"Dance," he said. "It'stheonlyway. Wishwecouldexplainthingsbetter. Butwetoldyouallwecould. Dance. Don'tthink. Dance. Danceyourbest, likeyourlifedependedonit. Yougottadance."

-from "Dance Dance Dance" by Haruki Murakami

Friday, October 15, 2004

Inhabiting my wound

The dread has been surfacing bit-by-bit since Dr. McNicoll told me about the impending radiation treatments, but this morning I was caught by the riptide. I told the office I wouldn't be coming in today.

One minute I'm telling Leannah how sick I am of people telling me how great it is that I've lost so much weight (Don't they realize it wasn't an accomplishment over will power? I fucking had cancer!), the next minute I'm crying because she suggested I take the first week of treatments off work. I tried to figure out why I'm reacting so differently to the prospect of radiation than I did to surgery. Instead I fell asleep and had a bad dream.

Mood swings suck. I haven't been turning on a dime in the middle of sentences, but I don't recall being this sensitive to what other people say since I was a depressed teenager who hated her life. I don't hate my life. I just want to get on with it. I described r-therapy as like surgery, except it lasts six weeks and I'll be awake the entire time with no anesthesia. However, I still have some codeine left (sorry, Tom, no more sharing with the class).

When I was on the slab yesterday, with my eyes closed and the mask pressing my head down, I felt buried alive. Usually I can calm myself down by picturing a friend of mine who looks so completely happy and peaceful when he's asleep. But it didn't work this time. What did work was imagining Team Slingblade going through my purse while I was stuck on the machine ("What's with all the keys? Is she a janitor?", "Look at all these receipts... and no cash.", "None of these pens have any ink.").

I hope this is the worst day I'll have. But I know better. Usually, I would retreat to my bookshelves, but my books are packed away, and until the loft is done, I don't have the luxury of seclusion. So here's (hopefully) my one completely downer entry. And I'll end this sermon with excerpts from Aimé Césaire's "lagoonal calendar" before pulling the pin from the holy hand grenade.

I make the most of this avatar
of an absurdly botched version of paradise
-it is much worse than a hell-
i inhabit from time to time one of my wounds
each minute i change apartments
and any peace frightens me

i inhabit thus a vast thought
but in most cases i prefer to confine myself
to the smallest of my ideas
or else i inhabit a magical formula
only its opening words
the rest being forgotten

to tell you the truth i no longer know my correct address

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Team Slingblade

Had my "Radiation Planning" appointment this afternoon. The Radiation/Oncology bunker is in the lower, lower level of 4950 Sunset Blvd. The place is huge! 20x50 feet with ceilings at least 25 ft high. But they do amazing things with taupe and coral. There were about 25 patients and family members waiting when I got there. I was easily the youngest person there by at least 15 years.

Janelle, one of my "team members" brought me back to go over side-effects, do's and don'ts, and to sign more release forms. I asked for a morning schedule, but I got 1:13pm...1:13??? Anyway, I start on Monday. They have eight radiation rooms, all with names like Enterprise, The Ark, and Celebrity. I was assigned to Galactica, but I asked if I could be transferred to BillyBob (Mmm-hmmm). I was, but just for today.

The room was quite nice. Quiet, low-lit, a bit chilly, the zapping machine took up half the room. On the ceiling, there was a huge lightbox with a hi-res picture of a blue sky and cherry blossom branches. So when you're lying on the metal slab, it's like your just taking a nap in the park! If I still had my morphine drip I bet I could've made the trees sway. So I put on the mouthpiece, they fastened my head to the table with the mask, and the metallic humming and vibrating commenced. It was just more x-rays to help calibrate the beam so they're zapping my tongue and not my ear. Then I was cut loose for the rest of the day.

The Senator heard that I was back in the office. She ordered me to come in for half days for a while. I guess one of the traitors I work with told her how much of a disruption I've been this week. I brought in my copy of "America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction" ("Find out which of the Founding Mothers were FMILFs"). Anyone calling in to the front office must wonder what all the laughing in the background is about. So I drove to Cerritos and nibbled on some Filipino soul food for an hour and a half while reading the day's press clips. Yes, it's all coming back to me now. If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.

So since I'm interacting with friends and colleagues more frequently like BC (that's right, Before Cancer) I realize I didn't truly appreciate how hilarious the people in my life are. The word "funny" doesn't quite do the job since there are some out there who are truly drama queens (and you all know who you are). I may have to start changing the focus of this blog if radiation therapy becomes more of a downer than I expect it to be.

Sol asked me what it would take to get mentioned on the blog. Apparently, not much. But if you read bad poetry to impress chicks, call me in the middle of the night looking for your husband, or ignore me after I give you an iPod for your birthday (and you ALL know who you are), you might want to submit an alias.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

First Day Back at the Office (post-op)

As my colleague Evelyn said this morning, "Working sucks, but not working is worse." 'Ain't it the truth? Left to my own devices for one more day would be good for the GDP, but bad for my bank account. My colleagues had hung a big banner welcoming me back, complete with photos of all my crushes (Edward Norton, Toby Zeigler, Eddie Izzard, to name a few).

Then I remembered that I only have one suit, which I bought last week since none of my pre-op office clothes fit any more. I guess it's casual day for the rest of the week until I can get the old stuff altered or new stuff bought.

BTW, don't bother trying the "Nutella" flavored ice cream at Bristol Farms; it tastes just like Jerseymaid's Mocha Almond Fudge. And if any of my friends in the Westside are wondering why there were no Maggie Cheung films at Cinefile over the weekend, I've got them all. I promise to return them tomorrow.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Happy Birthday, James

You're my best friend and not just for sticking by me and supporting me through this entire ordeal. But especially when I have wierd dreams of cocktail parties during terrorist attacks, and I'm trying to convince Richard Gere that you like him more after he was booed by the NYPD and FDNY for promoting peace, and Tom Cruise picks me to be on his basketball team before we end up making-out while his ex-girlfriend moves out of his apartment, and Rock Hudson asks me in Italian to pose as his mistress so I can smuggle his money out of Iran.

You're also the best ex-boyfriend in the world and I love you.


Friday, October 08, 2004

Radiation Simulation

I reported to the Radiation Oncology department this morning to prepare for the upcoming six weeks of radiation therapy. There have been some questions from people about why I'm going through radiation. First, the entire tumor was taken out. But the radiation specialists thought that because there was a narrow offshoot from the tumor's main mass, I should have radiation treatment as a precaution.

Dr. McNicoll also explained last Wednesday that if the cancer doesn't come back 12 months after radiation treatment is over, I will be considered cured. But personally, he says 24 months just to be absolutely sure.

I was fitted for a mask that I would wear during treatment to help target the radiation to a specific area. I put in the dental "sten" I got fitted for last week in my mouth and they pressed a warm towel-like plastic(?) sheet tightly over my face that hardened as it cooled. It felt like a facial for the first couple of minutes, but then the table I was lying on started moving and humming. They x-rayed me while the mask hardened. Then they magic markered it up and sent me off for a CT scan with the sten and the mask on. This is all supposed to help the machine target the beam more accurately. I was in-and-out of the place in 50 minutes.

Next Thursday, I'm meeting with my "team" to schedule the actual therapy sessions. They're supposed to be at the same time each day. I asked for a 7:00 - 9:00 a.m. block so I wouldn't have to worry about it for the rest of the day. Carlos, one of the guys on my team, said that after the therapy was over, I could keep the mask if I wanted. So everyone start thinking of something clever to write on it at my "Cancer Sucks" party. And come up with a better name for the party while you're at it.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Post-Op Appointment II

Saw Dr. McNicoll again this morning. We went over what to expect from the next few weeks of radiation treatment. He stuck the scope up my nose again, examined my jaw and neck, and other than the fact that I should pay more attention to my arm wound, I'm recovering nicely. He still hasn't made it to Cole's when the Hawks play on Wednesday nights yet. He gave some lame excuse about he and his wife helping their kids with their homework on weekdays, blah blah blah (just kidding).

Today was chock full of activity. Dr. McNicoll in the morning, lunch w/Big Eric in Chinatown, stopped by the office to check 1 1/2 months' worth of email (189 messages!), then Cole's of course for dinner. Eric and I had a 2 1/2 hour lunch at this dimsum place, so I actually had time to eat a decent amount of food. At Cole's I had my first corned beef sandwich in I don't know how many weeks and caught up with John, one of the regulars who I hadn't seen all summer. So between the eating and the talking all day, my tongue is all tingly and fatigued. Feels reeeeally wierd.

Dad got out of the hospital yesterday afternoon. The doctor said it was angina. He's doing fine now.

My radiation simulation appointment is early Friday morning. I'm supposed to bring the mouthpiece Dr. Soltani made along with me. I expect they'll tattoo the area in my mouth their targeting for radiation, fit me for some kind of mask (I heard that somewhere, but I forget where), and schedule my radiation treatments for the next six weeks. I'm ready for it, I guess. The last six weeks since the surgery went by pretty quickly. Let's hope the next six weeks move just as fast.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

One thing after another

My father was admitted into the hospital tonight for observation. He started having chest pains early this evening, and it's continued on and off since. I know I've been watching too much bad TV drama (such is the life of an insomniac) because I had such a great weekend up until now, and why should I be surprised by another inevitable dip? For someone who actively avoids drama, I'm sure getting a lot of it lately.

I really wish 2004 would end.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Only a flesh wound

The arm wound is healed and no longer needs to be wrapped in Xeroform (it's a linen bandage soaked in some petroleum-based antiseptic to keep it moisturized). Now the arm looks less like "Jaws" and more like "House of Wax". Strangely, the graft is getting narrower, especially around the wrist. I'm still going to wrap it in gauze so I don't frighten children on the street. It oughta be good for Halloween this year.

All my things are moved to the new loft, but I can't actually live there until the final permits have been approved. I turned in the keys to my old place Thursday, so I'm living like a gypsy out of the same trusty suitcase I took to Italy (and which I hope to take to Vietnam). My first day back at the office is October 12th. Hopefully, I'll be sleeping downtown, since the office and the radiation treatment locations are both within the Metro Redline system.

Looking for an electric stove, refrigerator, and bedframe. If anyone has or knows someone who has a spare of any of the three, give me a heads up.