A Snow-Bird’s View

Frogs, lizards, butterflies, and hummingbirds
Continuously blooming flowers
The scent of freshly cut grass

Palm trees, hibiscus, and bird of paradise

Live oak trees with moss swaying in the breeze

Singing birds in December

The ease of  going wherever, whenever without the need to bundle up

Sandals, flip-flops, and pedicures for life!
White shorts, sundresses, and tank tops

So much less stress
Sunshine everyday
Magnificent sunsets
Beautiful beaches with sugary sand, seagulls, sandpipers, and dolphins

Warm temperatures to ease achy muscles

Humidity to keep skin soft and supple

Did I mention sunshine?

Cocktails on the lanai before dinner

Oh, hell, cocktails on the lanai after dinner
Outdoor cafés



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I’m sitting in the waiting area with Dad while my mother is undergoing a biopsy of her lung. We were silent for a long while; my Dad not being much of a talker.  On the other hand, I usually talked too much, but always felt a little inhibited when it was just me and my father. I guess you would say that Mom was always the buffer.

“You know that they are looking to just confirm and stage it, right, Dad?”

“Yea, I know” he says, tearing up.

I’m trying to hold it together, because for some reason I feel compelled to be the strong one;  I can’t show any weakness, or all the walls will cave in.  I’m very scared for my mother–lung cancer is an awful disease–and I’m worried about how my father is going to deal with her illness, and perhaps, her death.  My relationship with my father is a complex one.  As I write this I think how naïve that sounds; who doesn’t have complex relationships with their parents?

When I was really little, I remember a young, vibrant Dad.  He worked in the city Monday through Friday, and for a while had a part-time job in the evenings at the local grocery store. In the summers, my parents would often take my siblings and me on all sorts of day trips (what families today call stay-cations).  Dad would have a week off and instead of going away, we would venture out to local places of interest.  I remember going to places like, The Land of Make Believe, Fairytale Forest, and The Gingerbread Castle.  Sometimes, we would spend a night out someplace that was too far for a one day trip, such as Lancaster, PA, to see the Amish. I can remember going to Lake George, and the Jersey Shore too. My parents were always loading us into the car, and off we would go. We also had a pool in the backyard, and enjoyed many days swimming and having cookouts. Dad spent his weekends taking care of the pool as well as the yard and doing other household chores; he was a hardworking man.  We always spent Sundays with his parents, either at our house or theirs; my mother’s mother also lived with us, and, so, I guess you could say Dad was a real family man.

As the years went by, and I grew older and more aware, I noticed that Dad started to drink more than he used to.  My first memories of this were when I started recognizing that he would get angrier than usual at some little misstep or at something that seemed relatively insignificant.  I soon learned to stay out of his way when he was like this, and as the years went on, he was like this more often than not.  During these years, it was difficult to categorize what kind of relationship we had; it was as if he had two different personalities, and I was confused more than anything else.  Eventually, he stopped his “bad habit” as he called it and our family time was more and more normal.  By the time I was having children of my own, he was a different man from what he had been during those years. As my children grew, I saw how wonderful and loving he was with them, and it brought back memories of my own early childhood and the man I knew then.

Dad was still not a man of many words, and with my mother around, he didn’t need to be the one talking!  She was the social one–she initiated interactions with other relatives and friends.  Mom and Dad had grown to be a loving couple that were always there for their family–always. Dad developed good relationships with his children and our spouses, as well as his eight grandchildren.  Dad was a real family man once again.

Now, here we were many years later, sitting in the hospital, waiting to find out what Mom was dealing with.  It wasn’t long before we learned the truth: Stage 4, inoperable.  It felt as though there was an iron weight on my chest, crushing my own lungs, as I tried to comprehend what it meant: the treatments to come, the eventual loss of my mother, and how Dad would deal with it all.

My mother endured the battle for six and a half years.  She had non-stop chemotherapy, and thankfully, until the last six months, she maintained a good quality of life. However, the fateful time came, and my mother passed on.  Of the many roles that my mother played, the most prominent was liaison–she was the one we all spoke with, made arrangements with, checked in with.  Life now would change in many ways, but her death would have a tremendous effect on my relationship with my father.

Although I live almost 1,200 miles away from Dad, we are closer than ever. We speak almost daily, and I go home to visit him several times a year. In addition, he has come to visit me!  Ironically, my mother’s death has been the catalyst for our developing a new relationship–one which we might not have had if my mother didn’t pass before him.  He’s still not much of a talker–but he does talk a lot more than he used to. I’m different, too: I am comfortable confiding in him, and sharing with him how I feel about most everything.  More importantly, I am able to tell him that I love him every time we speak, a sentiment that has always been true, just not always easy to express.

Did You Smoke?

bluesmokeWhen I was initially diagnosed with lung cancer, I was shocked.  Truly.  Even though I did smoke for many years, I had quit smoking about 15 years earlier.  I’m not saying that I thought my chances of suffering any of the health effects smoking causes had vanished completely, but I thought that they had greatly diminished.  My maternal grandmother died of lung cancer and my mother had recently been diagnosed with it also.  They both had a history of smoking; however, Mom quit over 25 years before. In addition, a cousin, who never smoked, was also diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Subsequently, my mother and cousin have also lost their battles with this disease.

I am lucky in that when I was diagnosed, I had a tremendous support system: family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors.  All of these wonderful people assisted wherever they could, responded whenever I needed them, and emotionally helped me to get through some really dark times.  I was facing a formidable disease that required various treatments.  I received  chemotherapy for three months, radiation simultaneously during six of those weeks, and two lung surgeries.  I am so grateful for all the compassionate people in my life at that time, including doctors and nurses who made this hell bearable.

What was irksome, however, was when I would tell someone that I had lung cancer, more times than not, the first thing they would ask was, “Did you smoke?”  What difference does it make? Of course the implication is that I did something to deserve this horrific disease.  I’m sure that the people who ask this question don’t intend to purposely imply this, but, it is exactly what the question suggests.

I can understand, to some degree, the psychology involved, even if it is subconsciously, to believe that people cause their own health problems.  If you believe that, then it eases the worry you might have about suffering the same fate.  For instance, I can see believing that if you have never smoked, then you won’t have to worry about lung cancer (not true by the way), or that if you are obese you are responsible for all of the ill-effects obesity has on your body.  It makes people feel secure–as though they have control over their own fate: “If I take care of myself, then I won’t need to worry about suffering the consequences of not leading a healthy lifestyle.” To some extent this may be true, however, there are so many factors to many diseases that are not yet discovered.  Just look at how often a new scientific study is published contradicting something that another study previously stated.  Is coffee good or bad for us, what amount of red wine is beneficial, do Omega-3s really improve heart health, are there any benefits to taking vitamins? We are bombarded with information that isn’t the ultimate word–there are always more studies to be considered. Even though we want to be in control of our health, this is not necessarily possible.

A great essay on this subject that delves even deeper is, “Hating the Sick: Health Chauvinism and Its Cure” by Fred Pelka, published in The Prose Reader, The: Essays for Thinking, Reading, and Writing – See more at: http://catalogue.pearsoned.co.uk.

Yes, there are certain actions that we can associate with diseases: smoking increases one’s risk of lung cancer. Period.  But what else does? What about exposure to radon or asbestos?  What about genetic factors?  Why do some people smoke  their entire lives and never get lung cancer and others have a history of smoking just a few years long ago and get it?  What about all the people who have never smoked–not even socially?  How do we explain their suffering?

One evening, I was discussing this with my husband, and it occurred to me that what made me so angry was that I felt that I was being judged, and that felt unfair.  Then and there I decided that in the future, whenever anyone asked me if I ever smoked, I was going to lie and say, “No!” We laughed about it and said, “That solves that.”

Not long after, I was at the Cancer Center for radiation.  I was scheduled everyday at the same time, as were the people receiving treatment before and after me.  This particular day, there was a new woman in the waiting area.  We introduced ourselves and made small talk while waiting for our turn to be “zapped.”  She asked me what type of cancer I had, and I told her, “lung.” (I have to tell you that she reeked of cigarettes).  Her eyes widened and she asked, “Did you smoke?”  I didn’t have the audacity to tell my lie, and, so, I told her that I had, years ago.  “Oh,” she was very sympathetic.  I asked her what type of cancer she was being treated for and she responded, “Anal.”  I don’t know what came over me, but I started to giggle uncontrollably. . . all I could think was, “Did you sh*t?”  She responded with a nervous laugh, and then, thankfully, I was called in for my treatment. I know I behaved badly, and should be remorseful about it, but somehow I found that encounter liberating.

Tampa to Philadelphia: 5 Hours on the Ground

flight-delayedI recently took a flight from Tampa to Philadelphia to visit my family.  I rely on my siblings to take me to and from the airport; I feel as though it’s an imposition on their lives and schedules, but when I suggest that I should take car service, they all protest. I try to accommodate them when booking flights.  One sister works full-time and can only drive me in the evening, so  I made arrangements to depart Tampa at 6:05p.m. and arrive in Philly at 8:30p.m.  Perfect for her to get me after work.

We’ve been having full-blown summer weather here in Tampa since April–hot and humid, except for the rain.  Our rainy months are usually during the summer, when the heat of the day builds up and causes intense afternoon thunderstorms.  Recently, however, as hot as it has been, the storms have been sporadic; they have also eluded my house and so we’ve been doing the rain dance (the one I used to do when the kids were little and I didn’t feel like spending another evening on the baseball/softball field) because even with the lawn sprinklers, the grass is drying out. The day I’m to leave for Philadelphia is another sizzler.  My husband drops me off at the airport, I wiz through security, get to the gate and board the plane on time. Up until now, there has been nothing but glorious Florida sunshine. As we are sitting on the plane finishing the boarding process, it begins to rain.  Just a few drops on the windows at first, then a little heavier, wetting the ground. We are scheduled to leave in five minutes, so I’m hoping we just get above the clouds without too much turbulence.  At this point, I’m watching the last of the boarding passengers and thinking, “Get your butts in your seats and lets go.” Seriously, I cannot understand what takes people so long to put their carry-ons in the overhead bins, and sit the hell down! I could never be a flight attendant as I would probably end up yelling at passengers!

In a matter of minutes, the skies open up and we are sitting in a torrential downpour. Crap. But, I’m a Floridian now; I know these storms pass as quickly as they pop up, however, the wind picks up, and the lightning and thunder are putting on a show. The pilot announces that we have to wait for the storm to pass, and everyone seems relieved that we won’t be taking off in this violent weather. I’m content to sit here with my Kindle for a little longer.  My only concern is that my sister is aware of the delay, so I send her a text so she knows to wait before making the hour-long drive to the airport.

Not long after, the rain lets up and it appears brighter outside.  Moments later a Flight Attendant announces that that there is still lightning in the area and, therefore, we must continue to wait: “If there is lightning in a three mile radius the grounds crew are not allowed on the tarmac, and we don’t want anyone to get killed.”  Did she actually feel the need to say that? Did she think that some of the passengers would say, “F**k the grounds crew! Let’s go!”?

It’s beginning to get warm on the plane–there just isn’t enough air coming out of those little twisty things above.  Unfortunately, I’m wearing heavy denim pants because I was expecting cooler weather in Philadelphia. I start to feel perspiration dripping down the side of my face and neck, and my shirt is now sticking to me and the back of my seat.  People around me are starting to complain.  Not that there is anything we can do–weather is weather and we have to deal with it; we are all uncomfortable. I’m beginning to think about how I could covertly slip off my bra, which is soaked in sweat, but I’m not desperate yet.

It’s strange when you think about how there’s this large group of strangers who barely look at one another before getting on the plane, but who are now part of an experience that makes them somehow connected.  Before getting on the plane we all have our own identities, our own itineraries, our own agendas, but once on that plane we become a part of a group of passengers of flight 1494. We are in it together. Like it or not.

“It’s too hot.”

“There’s no air.”

“Can’t we get off?”

Let the pissing and moaning begin. Believe me, I get annoyed just as quickly as the next person, but it irritates me when people vocalize their displeasure when there is nothing that anyone can do about it. We all know those people that just like to hear themselves whine.  I just want to scream, “Shut the F**k up!”  Really, we’re stuck on this plane together, in close quarters, have you given any thought to how tedious it is for others to listen to your bellyaching?  There were several small children on the flight and there was some crying–this I can understand, but when an adult continuously lets out loud, irritated breaths it makes me want to slap him!  One little girl was enjoying just walking up and down the aisle saying “Hi” to everyone, having a great time entertaining herself.  I wish I could say the same for some of the adults on that plane.

Not long ago, there was talk of allowing passengers to use cell phones during flights.  After spending five hours on the ground where everyone was using their cell phones, I can tell you that it would be a horrible idea. I’m sure the incidents of passenger rage would dramatically increase. For instance, one man in front of me kept getting phone calls (it appeared from the same person) because he would answer his blaringly obnoxious ringtone (Theme from Rocky) with, “Hey” and “Yep, we’re still here, nope, don’t know nothing yet…I’ll let you know.”  Ten minutes later it was the same conversation.  I wanted to reach over the seat to grab his phone and turn it off!  I was sitting in an aisle seat. The woman across the aisle from me was sitting across from her husband, who was behind me.  They just chatted back and forth about what they had to do when they got home and how they needed to get ready to go to the shore this weekend. Did they not see that I was trying to read?  They were on this plane before me–they chose to sit this way, so why do I have to deal with them? Have you ever tried to read with five conversations going on around you?  This would have been fine if not for the conversation of the woman next to him, talking to the man next to her.  She’s talking about why she came to Tampa (business) and all of us within earshot learn all about her illustrious career.  Humph-we’re so impressed. The couple next to me are mostly unremarkable, until she gets on the phone with grandchildren talking about how great it was going to be to spend time with them and what they might do together. After Gram is done babbling on I hear, “Do you want to speak with Poppy?” and she hands the phone to her husband, who then goes about talking in a high-pitched little girly voice as if he might be speaking to a three-year old.  I hope that was the case.

The man sitting across the aisle and one row up made the biggest faux-pas of all: he pulls out a tossed salad that reeks of chicken, raw onions and, I think, hummus.  Really?  We are all stuffed in here with little air, it’s hot as hell, and now you have to bring out food that smells so strongly that it permeates the entire cabin?  The only thing worse would have been if he pulled out some putrid limburger cheese.  My God, man, did you even think about the rest of us?

Finally, they announce that we can leave the plane if we would like, but we must stay in the terminal.  I’m tempted, but I only have a carry-on luggage with me and a large tote.  I don’t want to leave these on the plane unattended, but I don’t want to drag these items out to the terminal either.  I decide to sit it out for a while longer. At least with the cabin door open it is a little less hot–not cooler–less hot. With three-quarters of the passengers off the plane now, I head to the bathroom.  Big mistake. I’ve been in cleaner Port-A-Johns at county fairs–it smells of urine and is sticky and foul.  I hold my breath as best I can and escape as quickly as possible.

Fifteen minutes later, people start coming back–an announcement was made asking passengers to return to the plane! Maybe we will finally be taking off!

People are bringing food on the plane and it is beginning to smell like Chili’s.  The distinct smell of spicy burritos and guacamole fills the cabin, mixed with the sour scent of body odor, and I still have that urine smell from the lavatory stuck in my nostrils. I can also smell cigarette smoke and alcohol on the returning passengers. I usually have problems with perfumes because my olfactory sense is very sensitive, but right now I’d give anything for a whiff of Eau de Puppy Breath. We continue to sit for a while longer and it’s obvious that the storms just keep popping up. Now I’m wondering why I ever thought it was a good idea to book an evening flight this time of year.  I should know better! All I can think about is my poor sister.  She worked all day, and has to work tomorrow.  At this point, I might get in to Philly around 11:00, and by the time we get home it will be after 12:00: she’s going to be exhausted.

We sit for another long period of nauseating smells, insufferable cell phone rings, and aggravating conversations, until we are told that we should get off the plane, that it will be at least another hour!  Slowly, everybody files out, and aaah the air is so much cooler in the terminal…and we sit and wait there.  I am happy to see that every scheduled flight is delayed; human nature, or maybe pure bitchiness. The terminal is packed, but I decide to stand on line at Starbucks and get myself an iced coffee–the first thing I’ve had to drink since boarding the plane.  I can see the wisdom of the airline choosing not to sell alcoholic drinks during a delay–who wants to deal with the obnoxious-had-too-much-to-drink guy while stuck for God only knows how long.  But they could have offered us WATER!  An hour or so later we are called back on the plane and asked to show an I.D. Why? Do they have all our names memorized or something?  It’s not like the attendant is scanning them electronically. It seems like a false sense of security–a Lewis Black type of woo-woo-woo (picture a TSA employee  waving a magic wand around you) just to give us the impression we are safe. Anybody could have boarded that plane at this point!

Finally, we are all on the plane, the plane begins to pull away from the gate and everybody cheers!  Within ten minutes we are in the air–It’s 11:05–five hours late. We won’t land until 1:30ish.  The lights go out, and everyone seems to drift off to sleep–no phones, no conversations, no odor. When we do land, we all head in our respective directions, no longer part of the miserable group with which we shared the last eight hours.

When I get to the curb, my sister is waiting for me with a smile on her face.  Poor thing–she’ll be up all night.

I Should Have Known

3464f5bb3206b2f4a4d9938f4a667b3cSmall droplets of sweat are forming on her forehead and upper lip, and I notice there’s a slight tremble to her fingers as she attempts to light her cigarette.

“Do you really have to smoke that in here?” I ask, annoyed that she is smoking at all, never mind in my car.

“I have the window open,” she retorts quickly.

“I really wish you wouldn’t” I hiss, but much to no avail, as she’s already got that damn thing lit.

“Mom, please, I don’t feel good,” she moans.

“Well, smoking that is not going to make you feel any better. In fact, it will probably make you feel worse.”

She makes a lackluster attempt at rolling her eyes, but just blows her foggy breath out the window, as if every movement is draining the life from her.

“What do you have now?” I question, as it seems that recently she is ill at some point everyday.

“I don’t know . . . nauseous, weak, my head hurts.”

“I’m going to have to take you to the doctor if this keeps up,” I warn. “How long can this go on? You’re tired all the time, you’re not eating and you’re starting to look a little drawn.  Maybe we should get some blood work done.”

“No, no, just give it some time, I’ll be fine.”

As we drive on silently, my instinct tells me that something is not right–I start to think of all the possible ailments she could have–everything from ulcers to cancer. Oh God, I hope she’s not pregnant.

“Mom, pull over! Mom! I’m going to be sick!”

I quickly pull onto the dirt shoulder and watch her bolt out of the car vomiting as she tramples the roadside wildflowers. Lovely.  This is getting worse instead of better.  We’re on our way to an appointment with her Psychiatrist, who she has been seeing for a while now.  This is the doctor who thinks she is either Bipolar–or Borderline–yes, Girl, Interrupted Borderline.  In addition to seeing her regular therapist, he is treating her symptoms with a cocktail of drugs: “It’s a matter of finding the right medications that will have the best effect.” A real genius.

When I think she is done throwing up, I hand her some napkins and my water bottle to rinse out her mouth. We make our way back into the car: it’s hot and smells like smoke; between that and the puking, I wonder how I can hold onto my own stomach.

“It might have to do with the new medication he added last time.  Maybe it’s making you sick,” I say out loud, half to myself.

“I don’t know Mom, let’s just go.”

“I’m sorry, but we have to stop somewhere: I need to use the restroom,” my daughter says to my husband as we are driving to my brother’s wedding–still at least a half hour away.  We’ve been stuck in Friday night rush hour traffic and this trip is taking twice as long as it should.

“But we just left the house,” he says emphatically, as if this will change her mind.

“Thirty minutes ago, and I have to pee. Sorry! Stop at that CVS on the corner.  They have bathrooms.”

“Alright, but hurry it up, we’ll probably be late as it is.”

“They aren’t going to start without us,” I chime in. “I’ll come in with you, I have to go, too.”

“Ugh, here we go, this is going to turn into a twenty minute stop!” my son gripes.

“No, it won’t . . . we’ll be out before you know it,” I say as I force a smile at him then dash into the store.

We find our way to the bathroom in the back corner of the store, only to find that it is locked. So we race back to the front of the store looking for an employee. (Mind you, we are both in heels, so when I say race I mean that tip-toe trotting thing one does when trying to move quickly, but not fall flat on your ass). We find someone who can unlock the door for us, but we have to wait for him to finish ringing up a customer.  Why they won’t just give us the key is puzzling–do we look like key thieves in our nice clothes and heels? I don’t care; we just need to get in there and get out.  Finally, we are escorted to the bathroom; I run into one stall and my daughter into the other.  I’m at the sink washing my hands when I hear gagging.

“Are you sick again?” I question as I stand outside the stall.  More gagging noises, followed by coughing.

“Are you all right?” I anxiously ask.

“Just a little queasy, but I think I’m okay now,” she calls out.

“What happened?” I ask, bewildered as she seemed fine just moments ago.

“I don’t know, it just came on all of a sudden.  But my stomach is crampy; I think I need to stay here for a few minutes.  You go back to the car–I’ll be out in a minute.”

Not sure of what to do, but feeling the need to show my face out at the car to appease my waiting husband and son, I head out.

Five minutes later she comes out, looking none the worse, and off we go.

“I’ll be back in a little bit, Mom!” my daughter yells out coming down the stairs, as she heads for the front door.

“Where are you going?  You’ve been laying around complaining that you don’t feel well?”

“Aaron just got off work and he wants to go get pizza.  I won’t be long.”

Frustrated that she doesn’t just rest, I try to remember what it’s like spending an entire evening at home when you’re 18, sick or not.

“Okay, but don’t be long.  Do you need any money?”

“No, I’m just going to get a soda.  Maybe that will settle my stomach.”

“Maybe,” I utter not very enthusiastically.

An hour or so later she returns, smiling, happy–asking what’s on TV as she nuzzles up to me on the couch.

Perhaps she is Bipolar, I muse: her mood swings are epic.

Turns out, my daughter is a heroin addict.  I didn’t know, but somehow I feel as though I should have known.

Arrogant Doctors


Imagine pouring your heart out to your Oncologist about something important to you, when he suddenlypicks up his belongings and leaves the room–mumbles something inaudible, and leaves! No resolution of the issue, no mention of when to follow-up with the next set of scans. NOTHING. Just leaves you sitting there wondering what the hell does that mean?

Recently, I put a call in to my Oncologist, the head of Thoracic Oncology at a large Cancer Center in Florida.  It was regarding an insurance form that his office filled out incorrectly.  Through this experience, I’ve come to learn Dr. Oncologist is only concerned with whether or not my cancer has returned. The various treatments and surgeries I’ve had have not been without lasting effects–I’m not complaining–these treatments have saved my life, however, my life is very different than it was pre-cancer. My point is that Dr. Oncologist never asks about any of my other health issues, so when I go for my scans and they come back clean, everyone is happy, and off I go. My current Oncologist is not the Oncologist who saw me through my diagnoses and treatments as I moved from the Northeast to Florida afterwards.  I’m not sure if that should affect our relationship, but I feel that somehow it does.  My prior Oncologist knew every little ache and pain I experienced and was invested in me as a whole person; I don’t get that from my current Oncologist.  I’m not looking for sympathy, I just feel that a doctor should be aware of all of my health issues even if he is not treating me for those specifically.

Let me give you an idea of what I deal with: I have a limited lung capacity causing me to have shortness of breath upon exertion such as walking too fast or too far, walking and talking at the same time, attempting to carry  anything and walk (i.e. laundry, groceries), walking on any incline, especially stairs.  In addition, I have severe thoracic pain in my entire right chest area, front and back as well as internally, which is managed by a Pain Management Specialist at the Cancer Center through Radiofrequency Ablations and medications.  I’m never pain free–it is remarkable what you can get used to after awhile.  I also have issues with my left arm and hand due to the necrosis that I have around the surgical site (which was also radiated) where a metastatic tumor was removed from the right side of my brain. I will also have to take anticonvulsants for the rest of my life because of seizures caused by the necrosis.  My adrenal glands no longer function due to the massive doses of steroids I took to reduce brain swelling before and after my craniotomy, therefore, I will need to take steroids from now on. There are more health issues that I deal with that I won’t go into detail about, I just want you to get an idea of what the lasting effects have been.

When I tried to speak with my Oncologist by phone, a social worker returned my call to tell me that the doctor said that the form was correct; there was no evidence of disease, I was capable of working.  I couldn’t even comprehend what she said.  I hung up and tried to make sense out of what just transpired.  Obviously, anyone who knows what I experience daily understands that working is just not possible. A few days later I called my Dr. Oncologist’s office again and left a voicemail asking to speak with him, explaining that I understand that I currently have no evidence of disease, however, what about all of the ramifications of my past treatments? I  suggested that if it was more convenient, I would even come in to speak with him.  Once again, I receive a call from a social worker stating that Dr. Oncologist still feels that the form is correct and there is no reason for me to come in!  That’s twice I was dismissed and made to feel like a malingering low-life!

Several weeks later I was due to have my scans.  While reviewing my scans, Dr. Oncologist receives and takes a call on his cell phone!  From the conversation, I can tell that he is speaking with a patient whom is entering a clinical trial.  I suppose that trumps no evidence of disease.  I mention this only to contrast the fact that I was not given the courtesy of reaching him by phone.  After we review my scans (all clean by the way), I tell him that I must speak to him about what happened with the insurance form and how he made me feel. I explain to him all of the lasting effects of my treatments, in addition to the myriad other health issues I have, and it concerns me that he is unaware of these. I also acknowledged that in retrospect I should have sent the form to my Primary Physician who has a broader perspective of my overall health. Basically, he was unapologetic, claimed he did not know, but now he does.  I’m not even certain what he was referring to. . . my health or the way I was treated!  And then he “took his marbles and went home” like a little kid unhappy with the way the game is going. I suppose I was dismissed again. Pure arrogance.

Has a doctor ever treated you like this?

Is it unrealistic to expect doctors to be both personable and professional?

Would you report his disrespectful treatment to his superiors?

Pubic Hair and Other Things I No Longer Care About

There are many things in life that I just don’t care about anymore.  I’m not sure if it’s because I’m older, now being in my early fifties, or if it has to do with having faced my own mortality as a cancer survivor, but quite frankly, things that I used to find embarrassing no longer evoke that type of response from me.  For instance:

  • Pubic hair showing at my bikini-line.  There was a time I would have died of humiliation if that Sicilian Situation as I’ve always called it, made itself visible in my bathing suit.  Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to scare any children or anything, but if some of that is growing back and is visible along my bikini-line, then so be it. We all have it!
  • Nipples.  I have spent most of my life attempting to conceal those little things.  I was especially concerned if they were visible if I was cold.  Why?  I was brought up to believe that some things were private.  Thanks goodness, I’ve really evolved on this one, as I often choose not to wear bras because they cause me great discomfort due to my lung surgeries.  Look, you know I have them, what’s the big deal?
  • Having perfect hair.  I was one of those girls who washed her hair every day.  Wash it, blow dry it, style it with some kind of hot curler or flat iron.  Every day.  I did this until I was in my mid-forties.  Then I began to appreciate the day-after hairstyle–not perfect, but okay.  Honestly, I wish my hair always looked as good as it does the day I wash it, but the day after is good enough.  Let’s face it, although I think of my self as attractive, I won’t be on the cover of Vogue any time soon. Who else is going to care if I don’t wash my hair daily? Day-after hair is under rated.
  • Shaving my legs every day.  I was obsessed with shaving my legs. I have light skin and dark hair.  If I shave my legs in the shower in the morning, I have 5 o’clock shadow!  There were many times in which I shaved in the morning, and then shaved again if I was going out in the evening! I couldn’t stand the feel of stubble and I was always in search of the perfect razor.  I even tried using Nair and shaving it off in the hope that it would grow in slower.  It never worked–I have turbocharged hair follicles. Now, if I shave every other day, I’m fine with it.  I’m not sure if this is because I can’t see it unless I put my reading glasses on, or because I live in a 55 and older community, and I know nobody else can see it.
  • Having my makeup fully done before leaving the house.  I was one of those girls who wouldn’t be caught dead without her makeup, especially eye makeup.  At minimum: liner, mascara, concealer, foundation, blush and lip gloss.  All to walk the dog or go to the supermarket. While I don’t love walking around au natural, I don’t feel embarrassed if I bump into a neighbor while out and about without my makeup on! After 53 years, I guess I’ve become accustomed to this puss.
  • Passing gas in public.  It happens.  Of course, never intentionally, but sometimes it just sneaks out and catches you by surprise!  Once again, I spent my life believing that some things are private.  I spent hours of my life reprimanding my children who thought it was so humorous; I couldn’t understand how they had no shame!  Now, however, there are times, when a sneeze or a cough can simply allow an audible escape and, well, what’s a girl to do?  Sometimes, just changing positions, like getting out of a chair, can cause an obvious toot or two. The way I look at it, at least I’m not crapping myself. Yet.
  • Having boogers in my nose hairs.  Oh, I always try to catch a glimpse in the mirror after blowing my nose to make certain that it’s all clean, but sometimes I’m not in a position to check.  There have been times when I did have something visible in my nose only to be found when I arrived home, or checked a mirror in the ladies room at a restaurant.  Absolutely humiliating, “How long has it been there?  Who have I been talking to?”  I remember sitting across from a local congressman at a  community meet-and-greet.  He had a huge 70s era, porn star type of very dark mustache. Laying right on top was a huge ball of snot.  I couldn’t focus on anything he said; I was so mortified for him!  All I could think about was how he would feel when he got home and realized that he had a little hitchhiker with him all evening! I guess I was traumatized after that and was always checking my own nose. These days, I realize there are worse things that could happen– we all need to wipe our noses.
  • Having visible mustache hair.  Another curse of the dark-haired Italian with light skin.  Over the years, I’ve tried many methods to either get rid of mustache hair or make it less visible.  Some work well, others make it worse.  For instance, using one of those personal trimmers only makes the edges of the hair coarser so that as it grows in it feels rough.  Not a great feel for your upper lip.  Waxing is the best, although it’s painful. I’ve even had my skin burned at a salon, so instead of hair, I had dark patches of damaged skin on my upper lip.  Now, I have my own wax kit and do it myself–when and if one of the following occurs:  I have time, I remember, or I can notice the little bastards without a magnified mirror.  Now and then I look at my face in the lighted mirror on the sun visor in the car–most of you ladies know this is the true test–with the light and sunlight you can get a good gander at what’s growing.  I might be aghast at what I see, but I usually forget about it by the time I return home.
  • Pooping in a public restroom.  I assume we are all in the same boat here.  Again, some things are private.  That is why we don’t have side-by-side toilets in our homes.  It is also, the only reason I close the bathroom door.  I don’t care if my husband walks in if I’m peeing, showering or  primping.  However, once, many years ago, the unenlightened man dared to open the closed door only to hear me scream, “Hey, I’m pooping here!”  We’ve been married 31 years, and he has never done that again.  So, while I don’t want anyone in my private bathroom while I am doing this, sometimes we must do this in a public restroom.  I suffer from many gastrointestinal ailments and oftentimes, I find myself in a stall with feet to my left and feet to my right.  I used to be humiliated by the sounds that I thought others would hear and went through the usual attempts to muffle the sounds. . . coughing, tearing toilet paper, flushing unnecessarily.  Now I don’t care.  Why is it that everyone is okay with hearing someone pee, but not poop?  I’ve paid my dues sitting in a public toilet praying that the person re-applying make-up, or checking out her outfit would just leave and let me go #2 in peace.  I’ve earned my right poop publicly.


I’m not certain why I have this liberated outlook on life, but I am comfortable with it, as I find myself more and more comfortable with myself.  It’s about time.