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.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Even a hummingbird couldn't catch Tyler at work.

There's nothing like 12 hours of sleep to put things right. Especially after the week I've had.

Wednesday night I had friends over for pizza before heading to Cole's. I'd already had a glass of wine, when I walked in and Ali asked me to bartend. He had the flu, and Kristin was handling the crowd alone. So I worked the bar until a little after midnight. Great tips, so I didn't complain. But I still had to clean-up the kitchen when I got home. After a pizza night it usually takes me a good hour to scrub things down, then wind myself down.

Thursday I was at the office until after 7pm getting ready to staff the Senator in San Diego the next day. I got home in time to inhale some leftover pizza and vitamins before bartending again. The tips sucked, but it was an early night, and I was home by 11pm.

Friday night, I got up at 4:30am to get my shit together for the drive down to San Diego. I had to balance a tripod, video-camera, still-camera, cue cards, and my Blackberry out the door. One of my colleagues, Adolfo, rented a car, so he actually drove, which was why I was up late the night before making scones for the trip. Despite the double espresso, I nodded off a couple of times, which was a bad idea because the radio was on the news and I dreamt of what was on. I think one dream involved a train crash outside a polling place in Baghdad with light rain throughout the morning.

When we arrived at the Mission, our Blackberries kept going off. While the Senator was at Camp Pendleton meeting with military families, some conservative radio show announced that she was going to Mission San Diego, and that listeners should "throw tomatoes at her." (Yeah, on holy ground they should do this.) There were a few moments of concern, but we got a police escort, and Air America made their own announcement. Turned out there were no protesters, a bunch of supporters, and I got it all on video. In the end it was a really great event. I even got a few minutes and a hug from the Senator before she left for the next event; we hadn't seen each other since way before surgery.

I didn't get back into L.A. until 5pm because of the rain and traffic. But the city sure looks great during a rainy sunset when you're driving over the First Street Bridge. When I got home I ate the last of the leftover pizza, answered e-mail, and crashed around 8pm.

Now the rain is gone, there's nothing but blue skies, and I'm blasting John Lennon while munching on tea and homemade scones (**big exhale**). Unfortunately, it's going to start all over again as soon as I walk out my front door. People are coming over next weekend and I just realized that I only have enough plates and chairs for six people.

My strategy to have a non-Super Bowl party during Super Bowl Sunday hasn't deterred as many people as I had expected. I need a vacation.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Attitude is Everything

Yesterday was a total crap day. UCLA had me on hold for 45 minutes and I still didn't get a dental appointment. I spoke to Dr. Soltani since my next call was the number Dr. McNicoll gave me last week, and she just happened to be the dentist on duty at the Tumor Clinic. She said she had to look up my records to check if my Kaiser referral was still good, and of course the records are at UCLA. It's Tuesday, and she hasn't called me back yet.

Just when I started to cry in frustration, I remembered the first question she asked me when she got on the telephone: "Are you in pain?" It reminded me that her patients may almost exclusively be cancer patients, and probably in worse shape than me. Well, I'm not in pain, my teeth aren't brittle, and all I'm really eager for is a refill on my fluoride gel. So, I said Fuck It, dried my tears, counted my blessings, and went back to work. If the universe doesn't want me to get a dental appointment any time soon, then I'll just have to make do for the time being with Dr. McNicoll's thumbs-up from last week. Besides, I really would rather just go back to seeing Dr. Lam again.

That's what I've been doing a lot of lately: attitude adjustment. I mentioned a few days ago about shifting gears now that I'm recovering in a drama-free, groovy way. I mean, what else can ya do?

Adjusting to less drama after months of cancer madness is a lot harder than expected. Especially since changes are still happening, and still so quickly. Tomorrow is the 5 month anniversary of my surgery. It's such a short period of time to go from cancer in mouth, to no cancer in malfunctioned mouth, to radiation shooting in malfunctioned mouth, to recovering mouth with unrecognizable body. Not to mention three different addresses and an ever expanding social calendar.

If a person really wanted to, she could always find something to complain about. And for the past five months, it was easy except I tried like hell to do anything but complain, just to keep my morale up. Now, there's nothing really to resist complaining about, and I catch myself looking for drama to not complain about just to feel "normal." It's some twisted-ass shit I have ricocheting in my head.

Fortunately, I have Leannah, Evelyn, and Agnieszka around daily to help keep perspective. They're my mental/emotional compass. When I suspect that I'm tap-dancing around the abyss, all I have to do is imagine how I'm currently behaving (or want to behave) through their eyes to pull me back to sanity. Leannah also has this gift of saying you're doing just fine, and making you believe it.

So I remain, as always, grateful for kick-ass friends. But I'm still running short on fluoride gel.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Problems, new and old

For the past few days I've been waking up in the middle of the night. Not just once, but a few times. I wasn't sure until today why: I've started snoring... loud. I caught myself once while I was nodding off. It woke me right back up. I'm guessing that as the swelling goes down closer to the back of my throat, it affects my breathing when I'm lying down.

Also, I had sushi this weekend. The good news is that I can taste salmon, halibut, yellowtail, and crab. The bad news is I can taste salmon, halibut, yellowtail, and crab. I ate my way right into a stomach ache. I haven't had one of those in a loooong time. It's exciting that I'm able to taste more and more each week. But I'm also eating more. I guess now would be a good time to step-up my workouts.

I found out that mouth cancer is very big in the U.K. They even have a Mouth Cancer Awareness Week in November. I found a blog by Pauline Thomas who went through radiotherapy for a squamous cell carcinoma they found on her neck back in June of 2002. I wish I'd found her site after I was told I had to go through radiation therapy. She posted pictures of the radiation marks on her neck also.

From what I could tell on the Mouth Cancer Foundation website, there's a lot more support for this type of cancer in the U.K. I suppose that's because a larger percentage of the population smokes and drinks compared to America. I looked for support groups online when this thing started, but I guess my mistake was starting in American cancer organizations. They're all full of lung, breast, and ovarian support, though. Oh well.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Train trip

I took the Amtrak Surfliner to San Diego this morning. Between Union Station and Irvine the view is mostly industrial parks and tract housing, with the exception of Anaheim Stadium. Very different from the train trip between Rome and Arezzo; I loved riding past all those sunflower fields.

Fortunately, when you get past San Juan Capistrano, you're right on the coast until you hit San Diego. It was such a beautiful day. Even the wetlands (or swamps if you prefer) looked beautiful.

There were a lot of grey-haired surfers in wetsuits between Solano Beach and Oceanside. I can't wait to retire.

This is actually the third time I've taken this train. Sometimes I have to go south because of work. If you've never taken the Surfliner, I would recommend it. It's only $26 each way.

Sometimes, Angels fans will take the train down to Anaheim Stadium on game night so they can get drunk and not worry about parking. But Oceanside is a nice place to visit as well; they have a Surf Museum and a nice pier.

On the way back, there were a lot of conference calls happening in my car. I was one of them. From what I could gather, there was one attorney working on a bond deal, a guy setting up job interviews for the next day, and a rich wife organizing some family gathering.

The sun is setting now. I'm about fifteen minutes away from downtown L.A. I took some video of the Pacific on the way down. I'll try and get them up on the blog this weekend.


Sent from my Blackberry device

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Cementing new habits

I am definitely a creature of habit. Because of the three-day weekend I munched on homemade cantuccini 24/7, and skipped three days of eating oatmeal and working out. By Monday evening I felt just plain wierd. So I spent an extra 20 minutes working out and had a bowl of pinhead oats for dinner. I still feel wierd, but I think it's more about my horoscope and the weather than anything else.

My quickie horoscope this morning read: "You're making every contact except the one you really need to pursue." I'd been trying to get a hold of my regular dentist by email to schedule a cleaning and get a prescription for fluoride gel. But she hadn't gotten back to me. Spent part of the morning trying to maneuver my way through UCLA's and Kaiser's phone system trying to find out if I needed another referral to see Dr. Soltani again... no luck. I already had an appointment with Dr. McNicoll scheduled for the 31st, but I read the horoscope and thought that maybe he's my go-to guy. Sure enough, he was supposed to be in surgery all day today, but it got cancelled. So I got to see him this afternoon.

He just had his hair cut really short. I think he lost some weight, too. But enough about that. He examined my mouth, and said that it's all healing very well, and very quickly. Stuck the scope up my nose, and said my throat looks good, too. As far as the scars on my neck and arm, he wants me to spend more time rubbing mineral oil on them because there are still some tough areas I'm neglecting. Otherwise, (all together now) it's all healing very well.

For the past week, it's been feeling like someone's sticking a needle on my voodoo doll's neck and left ear. Dr. McNicoll said I just need to spend time massaging the area because of the stiffness and the scar tissue around the nerve endings.

Eventually, I asked him whether I needed a referral from him to see a dentist at UCLA. He gave me the number for the Tumor Board, and instructed me to call it on Monday and ask for the UCLA dentist on call. They would be able to hook me up with an appointment, and a referral from one of the radiation doctors if I still needed one.

Oh yeah,... he still rocks.

But, my extended horoscope said: "The heavens are conspiring to bring you even closer to your friends than you have been -- which is really saying something. In fact, you could end up in a long heart-to-heart with someone you've been dying to make peace with, and whether you're delivering or accepting the apology, you can rest assured that it will take."

Is there someone out there who's pissed off at me? Crissakes, give me a call because I'm clueless.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Shifting Gears

Drank a lot last night... a lot. It was the Hawks' first show of the year at Cole's, AND Ali's birthday. I started off the evening with yet another pizza night with Leslie, Lawrence, and Ryan. Four glasses of wine (and two "where the hell are you" phone calls) later, we made it to the bar just as the band was starting. Chuck, Andy, and Catherine were back from the holiday break; Amy showed up, I hadn't seen her since her birthday in Vegas back in August; Rob, Paul, and Paul were looking fit and sounding wonderful. From what I can recall, it was a fun night.

I should've known better than to drink heavily after an insomnia attack the night before. Now I'm completely exhausted. "Knackered" would be the best word to describe how I'm feeling, but since I don't have a British accent, I run the risk of sounding like a jerk.

Daily life hasn't been as tense since the radiation treatment side effects have been slowly going away. Getting closer to normalcy has been a different kind of adjustment. Sometimes I don't know what to do with myself, hence the binge drinking. I'm running out of things to complain/worry about. So, I don't know if my boredom is actually that, or burn-out from the high level of medical drama that's finally dying down.

Yesterday, I started reading entries from before the surgery. It feels like a whole lifetime ago. I was so worried about what I would be like after recovery. With good reason, because now I am a relative health nut. I haven't had a Superstar Burger, much less the Pastrami Burger at Carl's Jr. yet. I'm not even interested in french fries. To think that I used to have a large combo meal for lunch at least two times a week. Now, I snack on dried apricots, eat tofu nearly every day, and ice cream has yet to inhabit my new freezer.

As more friends are coming back from the holidays, or are just plain available, I've been having more dinner parties. A few haven't seen me since before the surgery; I purposely laid-low with some people because of my "intimacy issues." Seeing their reaction to how different I look now wierds me out. I guess that'll happen when you go from size 14 to 2.

I know I shouldn't over-analyze all the changes that've happened. And it's not like the cancer is completely behind me. I still have to alternate appointments with Dr. McNicoll and a Radiation Specialist each month. But sometimes, when I begin to reflect on what happened last year, everything that happened, I reflexively snap myself out of it when I reach a certain point. I guess it's a defense mechanism to keep myself from screaming until I can't scream any more.

I've always been suspicious about how well I "coped" with everything. But maybe, great support system aside, I've seen too many bad TV cancer dramas.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Radiation Therapy Follow-Up #1

My follow-up this morning was with Dr. Julie Hwang. She was very cute, probably the same age as me, married, and very nice. She didn't stick the scope up my nose, but she did stick her fingers farther down my throat than any of the other doctors.

Dr. Hwang said I'm recovering from the radiation very quickly. I should keep an eye out for new lumps in my mouth, on my neck and jaw, or any new types of pain. Teeth tend to be more brittle after radiation, but she said mine look great, and to keep up with the fluoride treatments and regular check-ups. She didn't know what my Kaiser coverage was regarding the dentists at UCLA. I may have to switch from my regular dentist, Dr. Lam. I really don't want to since her offices are downtown, and she's the one who got the ball rolling on my diagnosis. Oh yeah, she's really pretty, too.

Speaking of good-looking doctors, I spotted Dr. McNicoll on my way out. He was talking to a patient and I didn't want to interrupt, so we didn't get to chat. But yeah, the 7th grade crush is still in effect.

I took the Red Line today instead of driving around in the storm. It was raining like a sonofabitch while I was out. Windy, too. But after the appointment, I got off at Union Station so that I could walk through Olvera Street Plaza in the rain. I had the entire place to myself. For a stormy day it was really beautiful out.

I don't know what it is about walking around deserted, old buildings in the rain that makes me feel chipper.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Again, with the lattice o' coincidence

Tonight's "Good Eats" episode is on... OATMEAL (it's all about the "O"). I dig Alton Brown's kitchen, especially the assistant in the bear suit. It's the only thing my apartment is really missing. Turns out we both have an electric kettle. Except his is black & chrome and rocks, and mine is a cheapie $9 model I scored at Fry's (now he's making Haggis dressed like Braveheart; this guy kills me).

Turns out the steel-cut oats I've been eating are also known as "pinhead oats." Outstanding.

So, naturally, I'm cooking another pot of pinhead oats because I've had three cups tonight for dinner, and none left for breakfast tomorrow. Relax, I started the evening with tofu soup, so I'm not a complete addict. And I worked out when I got home, so I'm not going to blow-up.

That can't happen since I'm spending this Saturday at the fashion show portion of the Miss Chinatown Pageant. My brother has friends in the organization, and he scored some tickets. Very exciting. Doubt I'll meet any Maggie Cheung look-alikes, but you never know.

Life is what happens between meals

I had lunch with my friend Paul today. We used to have such fun lunches when we were colleagues, so today we went to our favorite spot and had one of our favorite dishes: albondigas soup with EVERYTHING on it. I was so busy catching up with him, comparing favorite Ron Burgundy quotes, and generally having a great time that it didn't really hit me until afterwards that I could taste EVERYTHING!!!

It just seemed so familiar, like no time passed since the last time we had lunch together, that being able to taste things like chicken broth, celery, guacamole, sour cream, olives, meatballs, and onions seemed... not unusual. Paul, thanks for another great memory.

Then I realized that it's been days since I've had trouble swallowing anything. I suppose I've been so busy chewing on oatmeal that I haven't realized that the swallowing bit hasn't been a hassle.

Big Eric was over last night to finish the satellite tv-thing. We were watching Donny Osmond on "The Kumars at No. 42" while eating tofu soup, so I was too busy laughing to realize, until today, that I could taste the bok choy, sesame, and ginger! What the hell else have I been missing?

I guess I have a lot to report to the radiation doctors tomorrow morning.

(Sigh) It's Thursday already. I'm having a great fucking week. I LOVE EVERYBODY!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

"There's this, like, lattice o' coincidence that lays on top o' everything..."

So I've been talking about oatmeal for a few posts, ever since I've been able to taste it. Now, there's an article in the New York Times on oatmeal, out of the blue, no explanation. No point in lookin' for one, either. It's all part of a cosmic unconciousness.

Personally, I've been going for the steel-cut McCann's Irish stuff because I can taste them more than the Quaker crap. Plus, the website has a bunch of recipes. Not that I'd try them since they all seem to call for the Quick Cooking Oatmeal. The steel-cut takes 30 minutes to prepare, so I make a pot full, then divide it up for the week so all I have to do is microwave it for 1 minute.

This morning, I had a bowl with buttermilk, raisins, and toasted macadamia nuts. For dinner last night I mixed in buttermilk and dried cranberries. Yesterday morning, I mixed in vanilla yogurt, apricot jam, and almonds. Lunch was the only time I deviated: chocolate chip pancakes.

Evelyn and Agnieszka want me to bring oatmeal into the office tomorrow. They want to try it with a big jar of applesauce one of them brought in. Our Southern California Director commented on how we seem to eat all day long, yet none of us "weighs a minute." It wasn't always that way, Baby.

I hung out at Cole's for about an hour last night. Ali gave me crap because his soon-to-be-ex-wife keeps calling me. I gave him crap because his soon-to-be-ex-wife keeps calling me (this is why the "don't give out Laura's cell phone number" rule isn't just for girlfriends). But his birthday is next week, and the Hawks start playing at the bar again next Wednesday, so there's that to look forward to.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


I'm such a lazy-ass. After spending the holidays cooking up a storm, I've yet to prepare a meal that consists of more than oatmeal w/toppings or yogurt w/toppings. I can now taste raisins, chocolate chips, apricot jam, and vanilla yogurt. And even though I've been eating bunches of watercress for weeks now, only since yesterday have I been able to actually taste it.

So I finally got satellite tv installed this afternoon. Unfortunately, the cable goes through a window I have to leave a little bit open. Until Big Eric drills a hole through one of the window panes tomorrow, I'll be freezing my ass off in a 60 degree apartment. But I have loads of comforters, sweaters, and two space heaters blasting from both sides of the bed.

My first follow-up appointment with the radiation specialists is this Friday. I need to find out which doctor writes out the prescription for my teeth gel.