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.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

"C" is for cookies, and cookies are for me

True to her word, Amy showed up at Cole's with a box full of homemade chocolate chip cookies. They were excellent. Then Chuck (who promises to come to the wedding dressed as Al Pacino) broke out the blender and mixed my favorite milkshake. The ingredients are a secret, and we haven't really named the drink yet. But as long as he makes them I'll drink them. At this rate, I'll have no problems fitting into the wedding dress. Nine more days and counting!

I gave James two more wedding presents tonight: a coffee mug from the Venetian LV and Nick Cave's latest CD. The first gift I gave days ago; I told him I would take his name. I have two more gifts waiting in the wings. As the wedding is getting closer, we've been getting more affectionate; like high school kids. It's so odd that after six years I can still get giddy just looking at him. I think I'm going to enjoy being married.

I told Ali on the way to Vegas that things have been feeling so right since James and I decided to get married that I should've married him three years ago. Ali said no, because then he couldn't be my Maid of Honor. I guess things do happen for a reason.

John and Paloma have agreed to send me off with a couple of lap dances next week. And Chuck, Andrew, and Catherine have agreed to witness/participate in the blessed event. So while James is at his bachelor party, I guess I'll be at my first strip club.

How much do you tip for a lap dance, anyway?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I had a full tank o' unleaded

Saturday night, after closing the bar at 3am, Ali and I drove off for Las Vegas. The original plan was to drive the entire way, but after babysitting two drunk musicians at Cole's, Ali decided that we should fly out of Ontario Airport instead. So we caught a 6am flight.

We gambled, I ate, scored a day at the spa, and a little black dress at Kenneth Cole. Ali introduced us to all of his dealers and pit bosses, telling EVERYBODY he was my Maid of Honor.

Kimberly flew in the following afternoon, and Ali treated us to an amazing dinner at The Palm @ Caesar's Palace. I had an enormous 3 lb. lobster! We were quite a sight: a Persian guy with a tall, blue-eyed blond and a tiny Asian. He kept making "How much for your women?" jokes because of the the stares we caught.

It was easily the most fun I've ever had in Vegas. Ali insisted on travelling strictly by limo everywhere, threw bills right and left, and made damn sure I ate. If we had Dr. McNicoll's email address, Ali wouldn've sent him pictures of me at every meal from his camera phone.

You haven't been to Las Vegas until you've been there with Ali. He's the best Maid of Honor... EVER!

Friday, April 22, 2005

See Laura's friend rock!

Longest Lunch Theater Company Kicks off its First Annual Eat It Festival!

East Village - Eat It begins its first annual weekend of comedy on May 27, 2005. Produced by the New York-based non-profit Artistic Evolucion, Inc., Eat It is a creative collaboration of the Longest Lunch Theater Company and independent artists from across the country.

Also featured is Artistic Evolucion’s, Allegra McBane, in Rainbows and Razorblades: Cabaret with Vicki Moonbeam.

In Rainbows and Razorblades: Cabaret with Vicki Moonbeam, Allegra McBane takes the audience on a journey through the heartbreak and sorrow of love with her unique renditions of classics. Born with little to no natural talent of her own, Vicki Moonbeam has been enchanting audiences on the assisted living circuit across the Northeast for two years. Come hear her tales of woe set to music, and enjoy a free PBR, her signature drink—with price of admission.

Eat It wraps up its weekend of theater and comedy with the Best of the Fest variety show of festival-featured artists, new faces, burlesque performances, and much much more.

Eat It will take place on May 27 and May 28 at the Red Room in the East Village, 85 E. 4th Street between 2nd & 3rd Avenues, 3rd Floor (no wheelchair access) and Best of the Fest on May 29 at the Slipper Room, 167 Orchard Avenue. For advance tickets and more information, please visit our website,

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Happy Birthday, Allan.

It's actually on the 22nd, but we ambushed him at Cole's last night. Like last year, he got a cake topped with Laker bobble-heads. This year, identifying the players was a challenge. No pictures, unfortunately. It was all last minute because Allan has gotten a lot more paranoid around the big day. But Ali insists on celebrating whether Allan wants to or not (isn't that what friends are for?).

My brother dropped off the Chinese herbal medicine last night. It's a big box of 10ml vials I'm supposed to take throughout the day on an empty stomach. My meals and medicine intake will be completely regimented. I'm supposed to avoid crab, chicken skin, chiles and alcohol. But garlic, mushrooms, vinegar, and bean products are supposed to be good. I just took one of the vials. Tastes exactly like you would expect medicinal herbs to taste like: echhhhhh.

I've been reading "The Anatomy of Hope" by J. Groopman, MD. It's on my ever growing reading list. After reading the different stories of cancer patients who either lived or died, I think about my blog; am I chronicling the way I lived or the way I died?

Nothing is certain. Mostly I still have hope. And on moments when I have none, there are plenty of people around to loan me theirs. Planning a wedding instead of a funeral helps a lot. Planning for things months away, like visiting James' family in August, building a 2nd floor mezzanine in my studio, and checking out the tail end of the Venice Biennale helps more.

When I broke the news to Ali he said, "But who's going to teach my daughters how to handle players?" He was only half joking. I almost cried. But looking forward to things like watching my friends' kids grow up makes the probability of really bad chemotherapy side effects worth it.

There are too many things worth sticking around for.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


The pain has gotten more manageable. Since I can't spend all day doing yoga or meditating, I've stopped trying to be a hero and started taking as much Motrin as needed, when I need it. I also took Chuck's advice and started using the Biotene Mouthwash for dry mouth. It's my new favorite thing since it also eases some of the pain. I'm even able to eat oatmeal for breakfast this morning.

It's my fourth day taking red ginseng extract. I don't know if it's doing any good, but it's not hurting. The dried mushrooms are pretty tasty, too. I drink the water I boil them in like tea, then cook the mushrooms in whatever I'm making for dinner that night. I'm not sure if they're the right mushrooms, but as long as they're wild mushrooms, they're doing some good.

I had a lot of fresh fruit for lunch yesterday. I was just shoveling the stuff as quickly as I could stand. But the wierdest thing was at dinner. I made a spinach salad, and couldn't stop eating it. Maybe it's true that the body craves what it needs, because before the first bite I was much less excited about it.

I've also started drinking Ensure because I'm not gaining any weight. Here's a statement that will make most brides hate me: if I'm going to fit into my wedding dress in two weeks, I'd better keep eating.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

2-hour meals

It's getting harder to eat. Even carrots hurt now. Mostly, I cook diced tomatoes, cabbage, mushrooms, and anything soft in either chicken or beef broth. I can still have beet salad, though. I've got a great recipe with a shallot vinaigrette and chevre. It doesn't hurt too much as long as I keep it on the far right side of my mouth. Even with Motrin, it just takes me over an hour to eat.

Oatmeal has become almost unbearable. I've had to make time for either cheese and spinach omelets or pancakes in the morning. Otherwise, it's maple yogurt with lots of flaxseed. Paul M. introduced me to the best blueberry pancakes the other day. They're at a diner in North Hollywood called Sitton's. I had them with a side of vanilla ice cream. I'm definitely going back for their milkshakes.

I'm still waiting for the Chinese herbal medicine to arrive. Yesterday, I went to an herbal store and scored some dried mushrooms and red ginseng extract. The goal is to have the most insanely strong immune system possible, and reduce the amount of acid while increasing the amount of alkaline in my system. So many things to consider, especially for someone whose idea of a meal was a Superstar Burger value meal.

So many changes, with more to come.

12 days

James and I have been engaged for 12 days, and we're so happy. We told my parents yesterday that we were getting married. The word "shocked" isn't strong enough to describe their reaction. But they like James, so it wasn't a bad surprise. The bad surprise was telling them that Ali is my Maid of Honor. Over lunch, James asked my brother Angel to be his Best Man.

My wonderful, amazing, crazy friends are throwing me a wedding. The reception and ceremony will be at Adam's penthouse, right on the roof of my building, and the party afterwards will be at Cole's, Leslie and Laurence are hosting the rehearsal dinner right across the hall, Allan is officiating, Paul M. is singing, and it's all so unbelievable that no one believes me when I first tell them.

How the hell did I deserve to be surrounded by the most amazing people ever?

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Ali and Giddy (his aunt) told me very nervously that sometimes I have really bad breath. He said his mom was the same way when she was going through cancer treatment. Because of how much my mouth has been hurting, I haven't been brushing my tongue. I guess I shouldn't skip that. Combined with how acidic my saliva has become... well, you get the idea.

I can't really use mouthwash because of the alcohol content, and the breath strips are out because they hurt too much. So Giddy said I should chew on mint leaves, then tossed over a bunch of candy cane drops.

What a pain in the ass.

The tumor is stiffening up the left side of my tongue, so now I'm swallowing in a really wierd way. Result: I'm burping an awful lot; about as frequently and loudly as a nine-year-old boy. James thinks it's funny, but the novelty is dying out really fast with me.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


I spoke to Dr. B this afternoon. He looks like the actor on the West Wing who took over Josh's job, but with longer hair. A complete 180 degree turn from Dr. S. He talked about chemo drugs that I'd never heard of, so of course 90% of my questions went right out the window. But we talked about shrinking the tumor rather than the all-or-nothing tone of curing outright. He was very encouraging and had loads of positive energy. I like him.

So, on May 11th, I'll start on a Carboplatin IV in the chemo clinic. If I don't get sick, I'll have ten sessions, once very three weeks along with 2 Xeloda tablets a day. I probably won't lose my hair, and nausea will be kept to a minimum.

I asked about possible negative interactions with Chinese herbal remedies. He said their hasn't been any definitive proof of herbal remedies helping or hurting, basically leaving it up to me. I haven't decided yet. But I think I will be starting acupuncture soon for pain management.

It was a really good appointment. I'm feeling a little tired, but also a little hopeful.

CTScan Results

Good news! The cancer cells haven't spread to any other parts of my body. It felt really great to give my friends some good news.

As promised, Romain met me at Dr. McNicoll's office. James came along as well. Dr. McNicoll and I talked about pain management, the irritation on my tongue (due to the tumor), the tumor as it appears now (half on the reconstructed tissue, half on my original tongue), and sending any medical records to other cancer facilities/hospitals. I made him laugh when I told him that I named my tumor. We also talked about clinical trials, symptoms if things make a turn for the worse, and Steve McQueen. I love Steve McQueen.

He told me to keep up the great attitude, and to call after my appointment with Dr. B this afternoon.

I cooked dinner for James and Adam last night. It was an opportunity to use the black truffles I bought last week. We shaved some over risotto, it was wonderful. Then we hung out at Cole's with Ali. Mike came by after work and finally met James.

They had Manhattans, Chimay, Woo-woo's, and then champagne up at Adam's place while I sat back and laughed. It was so great seeing some of my favorite people having a good time. This is my idea of medicine.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Bang Bang

We shot at silhouettes. But instead of aiming at the bulls-eye on the chest, I aimed at the mouth. Ali nicknamed me "Crazy" for the rest of the afternoon, as in "Damn, you're good at this, Crazy." Or, "You want some ice cream, Crazy?"

I tried out Ali's 9mm, .40 calibre, and .357 revolver. It was oddly relaxing after a while. It wasn't the first time I'd gone shooting, but I was still nervous beforehand. I'm usually nervous when we go over safety procedures.

By the third clip, the testosterone got out of hand. After shooting off a round with the revolver Ali commented, "You know, [mutual friend] couldn't handle that one." I reminded him, "[Mutual friend] can't handle a lot of things."

There's nothing like getting in touch with your inner bitch on a Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, April 09, 2005


I mentioned earlier that Allegra is getting me in touch with specialists in alternative health who helped her friend's mother through stage III ovarian cancer. I took a look at one of their websites this morning.

I've never been skeptical of alternative medicine. A friend in college contracted HIV back in the early 90s. She swore by holistic medicine, and as far as I knew, never developed AIDS. And I always felt it was a dreadful idea to blast a body with radiation to make them healthier. Nevermind that it didn't help me.

But I also say things like, "Heard of it. Never saw it. Sounds like bullshit to me."

The prospect of being treated by something called "BioConscious Medicine" gives me pause. I love science, technology and modern convenience, and how walking down congested city streets makes me feel hyperconscious and powerful. I don't like how buying organic foods, substituting green tea for my lovely espresso, and daily meditation make me feel so fragile.

I'm not in danger of becoming a hippie and opening an ashram in Venice Beach. I just miss feeling so young and strong that I can take my health for granted.

Friday, April 08, 2005

CT Scan

Maria called yesterday afternoon to tell me that the CT Scan is ready. I have my appointment with Dr. McNicoll next Wednesday. The next day I see Dr. B.

Thank Buddha for Jack Kornfield's meditation CD, otherwise my side effects would be driving me crazy. I've got dry mouth, excessive phlegm, and drooling all at the same time; my ears are still ringing; and because of the tumor and swelling, I don't recognize my own tongue anymore.

It's such an enormous disconnect from the rest of my body because everything else looks and operates just swell. My arms look insanely strong (they're really not), on a good day and in the right light I have Bruce Lee's abs, and I can jog for blocks without my lungs exploding. My skin is continuing to firm up, so every time I do yoga I find another unrecognizeable part of my body. I still do a double take when I catch a reflection, because I still picture myself the way I looked 40 lbs. ago.

In the hopes that chemo may still be an option, I've been trying to gain ten pounds. It's a lot harder than it sounds because I'm trying to do it with the least amount of processed flour, sugar, and butter. Because of the pain, I've adopted the tapas lifestyle of "eating a little bit, often." Yesterday's lunch lasted an hour. Dinner lasted 90 minutes.

Everyone is conspiring to fatten me up. Leslie made homemade ice cream last night, and it was sooooo gooooood. Paloma invited me over for brunch this Sunday, but Ali already promised to take me to the best Persian food in Orange County(?). That is, after we go shooting. He thinks I need to let out some aggression with a few 9mm handguns.

Allegra is putting me in touch with an alternative medicine contact. Her friend's mother survived stage III ovarian cancer 7 years ago.

The human body is a screwy, screwy thing.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Time flies, regardless.

I postponed my appointment with Dr. McNicoll yesterday. Maria is going to call me when the results of last week's CTscan are ready. She also cancelled the appointment with Radiation Oncology scheduled for tomorrow. What would be the point?

I have an appointment with a different Medical Oncologist on the 14th. Romain says that Dr. B is not as rigid with his diagnosis as Dr. S, and is more open in discussing what the patient wants as opposed to what he feels the patient should do. If chemo can't cure me, but can buy me some time I'll do it. Who knows, it may not make me as sick as Dr. S. thinks it will.

My mother has been gathering telephone numbers from her friends at Kaiser, Filipina nurses of course. Telephone numbers for clinical trials and 2nd opinions. It's what I've been doing all week. That and trying to eat more. I've dipped below 100 lbs. While Calvin Klein may think I look fabulous, I don't. The other night, Ali and Leslie wouldn't let me leave Cole's until I cleaned off my meatloaf dinner.

I've also been trolling the message boards on, and developing a new eating strategy based on the meal journal I've been keeping. I could definitely be doing better.

On Monday, my brother told me not to become fatalistic. I'm trying. I'm trying to find things to look forward to. I'm trying to imagine a life beyond the next three years.

Ever since I was little, I've wanted to be a grandmother. I always imagined that on my deathbed I would be surrounded by my grandchildren. I let go of that image this week. But I'm not angry anymore.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


We're back together again. Engaged, in fact. Apparently, I drunk-dialed him after the Haggis Party and told him what Dr. McNicoll said. He came right over. He claims he proposed, but I was so drunk I don't even remember waiting up for him. Although, when I woke up to find him sleeping next to me the next morning I wasn't surprised.

That's when I asked him to marry me. He said yes.

We've actually been talking about getting married for over three years. But since I wanted kids and he didn't, we just stayed best friends. But since I won't be having children, there's no reason why we should waste any more time being apart.


Adam organized an amazing Scottish dinner in my honor. I just thought we were going to have haggis, which I've always been curious about, but it turned into Scotch, ceremony, poetry, bagpipes, and one of the most wonderful dinner parties ever.

Adam, Ali, Chuck, and Andrew wore kilts. They dressed me up in a Highlander drum major outfit, the guys "played" bagpipes, and we paraded the haggis around the penthouse before the ceremonial cutting, complete with Robert Burns. It was insane!

The food was wonderful, though it wasn't true haggis because it wasn't cooked in a sheep's stomach. But the Scotch was plenty authentic!!! We took a lot of pictures, the last five of which I don't remember posing for. The guys took off their underwear for the sake of authenticity. Catherine, Megan, and I did the same... for the sake of authenticity. Kimberly was the only holdout. That's okay, though. We'll get her in Vegas.

The next morning I remembered where my underwear went, but I don't know how I got home.

Pictures to follow.

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Plot Thickens

Dr. McNicoll called me this afternoon. It's never a good sign when he calls me on a Monday. I was in the corner dressing room at Target trying on yoga gear when my cell phone rang. He found out some of what Dr. S told me last week. I think he was a bit upset because after I told him that Dr. S said chemo won't cure my cancer, he repeated twice (and quite forcefully) "That's a very blunt way to put it. Accurate, but blunt. That's very blunt, but accurate... "

Now for the kicker: I asked him if Dr. S was right, and that we should talk about surgery, and he gave a lot of explanation as to the nature of my cancer and answered some of my questions. But basically, Dr. McNicoll said that surgery won't cure my cancer either. The cancer cells have likely spread, and that cutting me again is not something he believes will help. He said that he sent me to Dr. S because there are oncologists who are very aggressive in going after cancer cells. I may get sick, but I can always stop chemo treatment if I do. He reiterated that he's not a chemo specialist, but that he does know that surgery won't cure me.

I asked if he could suggest someone for a second opinion. For surgery he mentioned a guy at UCLA who he trusts and has a lot of confidence in. I said that I meant another oncologist. So he gave me the name of another doctor at Kaiser.

There was much more to our conversation, although my memory is failing me. If radiation didn't work the first time, it probably won't work a second time. Chemo won't cure me, only shrink the tumor. The cancer will spread, if it hasn't already. Surgery won't cure me.

I also remember him saying that he's seen my cancer before, it's very common. I have anywhere from three months to three years left. I guess anything I do now would be about increasing the length and quality of my life as much as possible.

Today is my Dad's 70th Birthday. We had a family portrait taken after I spoke to Dr. McNicoll. I asked my brother to meet me outside the photo studio early, and I told him in the car. I haven't told anyone else.

I'm afraid.

Sunday, April 03, 2005


Ten years ago I got a tattoo on the back of my neck. For everyone throughout the years who've been bugging me to tell them what it means, you're patience is about to pay off; it's the Chinese character for "hoping." I got it during another low point to remind myself- to get in the habit of being hopeful. It worked then. I've been rubbing it like a talisman since the 2nd biopsy. Maybe when this is all over I'll tell you what the character below it represents.

Last night, Chuck and I attended the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company performance at the Music Center. It was amazing. I've been wanting to watch this company ever since I read Vanity Fair's write-up on "Last Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin" back in the 90s. So that's another item crossed off my "someday" list.

I've been crossing a few things off that list lately. It's one of the upsides to having your life threatened.

During the walk home afterwards I told Chuck about the cancer coming back. We hadn't spoken for almost two weeks because his girlfriend was visiting on her spring break. I don't know if it was because of the show, how we are, or my meditation paying off, but I wasn't sad or angry when I told him.

One minute we were walking past the L.A. Cathedral talking about attending mass tomorrow for the Pope's death, the next I'm describing Dr. S's prognosis. It's so easy talking with Chuck about my cancer. Maybe since his mother is a survivor he gives off the attitude of "everything will work out alright," and it's very calming.

I've been avoiding James for the exact opposite reason. With Chuck (and John come to think of it) I don't feel self-conscious when I talk about the cancer. But since James was right there with me the first time, especially through the bad stuff, it's harder leaning on him this time around. He knows too much, and I feel guilty putting him through it all over again. But mostly, I don't want to re-live the crime, and he's a star witness.