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.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

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

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Dude Abides

Yesterday was the 6-month anniversary of my surgery. I didn't even think about it until late last night because of everything that's been going on with everyone else: family births and deaths, relocations, broken hearts on the mend, and a bout with what might have been the flu.

So last night I was at a seedy bar with my seedy friends, drinking and 2nd-hand smoking, when I remembered that it was the anniversary. I had to repeat "dirty cop" several times to be understood and Gary and Chuck started making off-hand comments on how my conversations are a lot more interesting since I got my funny accent. I forget how it devolved into a Marlboro Country joke, but the increasing amount of tasteless (but damn funny) mouth cancer jokes officially got out of hand last night. If your definition of "normal" is drunken hilarity at my expense, I'd say things are definitely back to normal. I couldn't be happier.

Currently, all my friends are in relationships. But their girlfriends either live out of town or work crazy hours. So I've been scoring dinners and free drinks by default. It's like having a bunch of high school boyfriends; no sex but lots of cocktails.

I read somewhere that loving someone in the past is a memory, loving someone in the future is a fantasy, and that the only place one can truly love is in the present. A year ago I was spending too much time in the past and the future. And that didn't make me very happy.

I guess what I'm trying to say is the cancer helped me follow through with my intention to live more in the present. In the way that a hungry person walking down the street only sees restaurants, I could be the single person who only sees couples. But if I did, I'd be ignoring the best part of my life.

And when I hear yet another woman complain about how there are no nice guys in Los Angeles, I can smile and wonder where the hell they've been looking.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

You're being very un-Dude, Dude.

Zola KatherineI'm still feeling a lot of anger today, to the point where I nearly threw a coffee mug at a colleague's head for the bullshit ribbing we give each other everyday. Until then, I thought my meditation sessions were going well.

A friend's father died suddenly yesterday. We just heard this morning, and it tore through our network like wildfire. As if that weren't tragic enough, he died the day after she had buried her aunt.

On a much, much happier note, Rob (from I See Hawks) and Katie had their first child; a beautiful little girl named Zola Katherine. She was born last Thursday. I guess bad news travels faster.

I remember being a lot happier when the only death I worried about was my own.

Monday, February 21, 2005

I guess God has to deal with him now.

Why are my favorite writers shooting themselves NOW! In November it was Iris Chang, yesterday it was Hunter S. Thompson.

Son of a bitch killed himself. Mark, my boyfriend in college, did the same thing over 15 years ago. I still get angry when I think about it. I feel the same anger when people I feel the slightest affection for shoot themselves. I felt the anger when Iris did it, I'm feeling it now. I want Haruki Murakami on a 24-hour suicide watch.

I miss Mark.

Friday, February 18, 2005

My Not-So-Dirty Little Mouth, Part II

Dr. Lam called this morning. She spoke to Dr. Soltani about cutting my fluoride treatments to every other day because of the staining. Dr. Soltani said it should be every day because of the acidity in my saliva.

So I asked if it was okay to use something like Rembrandt occaisionally. Dr. Lam said no because the alcohol content will dry out my mouth. Besides, the staining really isn't noticeable, and that I was being a jerk (my words not hers). Good thing, because I'm back to drinking Vietnamese coffee in the morning, and I don't want to stop.

The swelling left on my neck and jaw has really gone down since I've been massaging it daily. When I press on a specific spot below my ear, I feel a tugging inside my fake tongue. It's kinda freaky, but I've gotten in the habit of rubbing that spot absent-mindedly.

Tet Festival 2005 in Garden Grove, CASpeaking of Vietnam, I went to the Tet Festival in Garden Grove this past weekend. Because of the rains it was like walking through a rice paddy. The costumes were great, but the food was just ok. There was nothing there I couldn't get any other weekend, and without getting my boots all muddy.

Since it looks like I won't have to go to a wedding in Connecticut this summer, I'm thinking more seriously about taking that trip to Hanoi in June. I've been pricing airfare and tours that include Cambodia. I'm also spending a lot more time on the Our Man In Hanoi blog.

I should just do it.

Only a Flesh Wound

For the past few days a small part of my real tongue has been getting scratched up. Since the swelling on the back-left area pushes the front-right area against my teeth, there's been some irritation. And all the chocolate chip cookies and toasted bread I've been eating don't help either.

It doesn't look bad, otherwise Dr. Lam would've jumped right on it. But I can't sleep now because it's the way my tongue felt before the tumor was diagnosed.

It's probably ridiculous to worry since it's only been 2 months since radiation therapy ended and any cancerous cells would've been zapped. Besides, I've been taking flaxseed, watercress, loads of vitamin A, and haven't so much as said "whiskey" or "cigar" since the surgery. So I'm just worrying over nothing, right? I've finally gotten my sense of taste back. I don't want to have to go through radiation and lose it all over again.

I made an appointment with Radiation Oncology for March 11th. I wish it was sooner.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

My Not-So-Dirty Little Mouth

I had my dental appointment with Dr. Lam this morning. We hadn't seen each other since she sent me off to get biopsy-ed back in June. It was quite the love-fest when I first arrived because she had been reading the blog, and I just love her and her assistant Julianne. They had sent me a Christmas card this past year.

So I got my teeth cleaned and polished, and scored a prescription for more fluoride gel. Dr. Lam is MUCH more gentle with the chiseling machine than those fiends at UCLA.

Turns out it wasn't wine and coffee that's been staining my teeth, it's the damn fluoride gel. Dr. Lam said she would call Dr. Soltani about cutting my fluoride treatments to every other day rather than every day. Otherwise, she said my hygeine is fantastic.

Julianne, flossed my teeth after the polishing... unexpected. I sat in the comfy chair with the neck pillow wishing she could floss my teeth every night.

Dr. Lam suggested that I buy an electric toothbrush because of the plaque. So in 5-7 business days I will be the proud owner of a Sonicare Elite 7500 Power Toothbrush.

If I can help it, I will never go back to UCLA dental again. It's just so much nicer at Dr. Lam's. I walked to her office from home rather than driving way the hell out to Westwood, I didn't have to wait 45 minutes in a crowded waiting room, and everyone should have Chinese artwork in their offices (did I mention that Dr. Lam has a beautifully decorated office in the Fine Arts Building downtown?) .


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Most Neurotic Valentine's Day... So Far

Got turned down by two different guys for the same night, made dinner plans with one guy who ended up not calling, but had a great dinner with another guy who called from way out of left field.

But the best part... James gave me "Repo Man" on DVD this year.

This holiday just gets screwy-er and screwy-er.

Friday, February 11, 2005


File under: "Laura, things are going to start tasting different."

Before the surgery, potatoes were one of my FAVORITE foods: roasted, mashed, fried,... whatever. But this morning I had a breakfast burrito, which I picked at until lunchtime. I've gotten into the annoying habit of taking burritos apart since I shouldn't be taking big bites right now. By the time I'm bored with one, my plate looks like an autopsy slab. But I digress.

When the dish reached the open carcass stage, all the diced potatoes were left uneaten. That never used to happen. French fries, hash browns, twice-baked, and rosemary roasted doesn't sound nearly as appealing as they used to.

I guess that's one less carb to worry about. But I'm sure I more than make up for it with all the risotto and polenta I've begun cooking.

I went to Roscoe's last weekend and fried chicken isn't the same, either. I taste the chicken and the batter and all that, but I just didn't enjoy it the way I used to (which was entirely too much). I seem to be losing my taste for a lot of things which, until recently, I believed I just couldn't live without.

I'm easing back into my old drama-free disposition, but I wonder if I'm letting too many things slide. Especially since so many of my friends are having major personal/professional upheavals.

These days, I have to make more of an effort to be the warm, fuzzy center of their universe; I mean really watch what I say. When someone's heart is breaking, it doesn't help to say, "Screw it. There are worse things that could happen." Especially when they know that it's how I really feel. It would truly suck if the cancer turned me into a crappy friend.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Bobble-Head Chef

How did this happen? Somehow, I scheduled four dinner parties in one week: loft-warming, catching-up w/an old friend, Chinese New Year, and consoling a friend who's getting a divorce (yes, another marriage bites the dust). Which is fine usually - the dinner parties, not the divorce - except for the fact that I'm the one cooking.

The one-bottle-admission rule is still in effect, but I've also been buying at least 4 bottles each weekend. I have more bottles than canned goods. The regular girl at my wine shop has gotten so sick of me that she gave me the number and work schedule of their Spanish and Portuguese wine expert so she won't have to pass along any more of my requests.

People were in and out all afternoon Sunday, despite the Super Bowl. Fortunately, all the dishes were washed and put away by 10pm. I had a great time. Drank all day, and discovered that I can taste paté. Agnieszka took pictures non-stop until the pizzas started coming out of the oven, I felt like I had my own cooking show. I also scored a great mixing bowl set from Marycruz. Leslie brought this amazing paté, and everyone devoured the latest concoction: banana bread pudding.

But the best part... I'm still not gaining weight. Maybe it's the walking to and from work every day, I don't know. But I'd better not say any more because I don't want to jinx it.

All week long, I've been waking up in the middle of the night. Not because of the snoring. I'm pretty sure that's done with. It's because I've been so dehydrated. I keep a glass of water by my bed now. Last night, I woke up at least four times because my mouth was so dry. During the day I seem to be producing enough saliva, but at night... zip. I should probably cool it with the wine and coffee, but they taste so good.

I still haven't bought any new clothes. I did go shopping. But I don't so much shop as hunt. I prowl around the racks, and if it doesn't look good from 2 feet away, I just keep on walking. My girlfriends hate that, which is why I usually go shopping alone. Also, it seemed like everything that fit (that wasn't a suit) looked too provocative for my comfort. Or maybe I still haven't gotten used to being this thin.

Will I ever?