Tuesday, July 26, 2011


The Uniballer. Juan Pelota. Titzaru. BoobieWed. Cancer jokes border along the edge of completely inappropriate and an absolute necessity. The same can be said about death jokes. I remember when my friend Ari died, which was not funny at all, part of me felt the need to break tension, ala Chandler Bing, with some off-handed remark. I try and be delicate enough not to be offensive, of course.

I've, personally, found that I have to get some zingers here and there while I meet with the flocks of nurses, technicians and doctors just to keep myself from losing my mind with fear. I look to this blog to document some really good lines, so that if when I beat this, I can start a new career doing stand up. (And, no, it was a passing thought yesterday as I was sliding through the bone scan as it hovered a centimeter or so from my nose and I had the fleeting sensation I was in a coffin and started to panic. At which point, I asked the tech if I should smile pretty for the camera, which made her laugh, and so I did. I showed a very happy skeleton.)

However, I seem to have some competition in this regard, from a rather unlikely source. Robin Williams? Perhaps. But he's only second-hand cancer funny. I'm talking about from my 9-year old daughter.

First, she's a funny little creature, anyway. As most people who meet her, within seconds, they look at me and say, with amusement at the novelty, and a bit of fear that there are now two of us released unto the world, "She's a mini-you!" And when they say that, they don't mean a 9-year old version of me, they mean the current 29-year old version of me! But she was like that as a 2-year old, making random, but strangely wise observations like the classic, "Mommy, earthworms don't eat ice cream," dictated with great authority. And her first word was, "chocolate." Truly, a gifted child and 100% mine. (I only attribute her ability to tan even while wearing sunblock to her sperm donor er... biological father. Some initially say she got her "brown" eyes from him, but she really has my father's hazel eyes.)

Another example of her rapier wit... the other day, we were making Mary Kay deliveries in the rental car, and listening to music on my Blackberry. I have such a crazy mix of music - from some classical, to punk, broadway, folk, Israeli rap, hard rock, early 80's - you name it, I think the only genres not on there include gangster rap, and... yeah, that's about it. I have 2000 tracks to date... and growing. An Israeli folk song comes on, and I sighed, saying that it always makes me think of Machaneh Hachsharah (MH) at Camp Tel Yehudah, which always reminds me of an individual with whom I've had a falling out last year and really want to reconcile with. As I was sighing, about to say, "This song reminds me of... " she responds from the back, "Oh, no, not again. Do yourself a favor and change the song." I sat up and was like, "Excuse me?" And she responds, "I know you miss him. And you wish you could change things, but Mommy, you can't. He's being a poopyhead. I miss him too, but I don't want him around while he's being a poopyhead. And you shouldn't cry over him anymore. Change the song." So I did.

Another song came on, and I laughed, and pointed out that it reminded me of her Uncle Ari, my very good friend who died of a heart attack when he was 25. She rolled her eyes, and said, "CHANGE IT!" I smiled and said, "No, Ariella, this is a good memory. While of course I'm sad that he's not here to hug, or call on the phone, being reminded of him brings a smile to my heart." She then allowed the song to continue.

From there, our conversation went from Uncle Ari and how we met - in Israel. Which had reminded me that I'd found a local camp for kids whose parents have cancer to get away for a weekend and that it had horseback riding, and that the parents could go, too, and enjoy the camp. She reminded me that I'm allergic to horses. I tried to explain the rash I got while I was in Israel working with horses was because I was grooming an extraordinary number of horses that were sweating profusely because they were being ridden in Israel, and most people would have broken out in a rash if they were constantly rubbing their bare arms against 20-30 sweating horses. She didn't get it, so I decided to give her a parallel.

"OK, you know how the Aztecs used chocolate as a poison, because technically, it's a poison?"


"Ok. Well, if you ate 2-3 chocolate bars, which I don't suggest that you do, but if you did, would that poison you?"

"No. I might throw up, but I'd have fun doing it"

(Again, she's an absolute mini-me.) "Right. Now, what would happen if you ate 20-30 of those really high cocoa content chocolate bars Mommy eats? That are pretty pure?"

"I'd die."

"Exactly. So now do you understand?"

"Yep," said with a sly grin forming, "So, if you eat 3 horses, you won't get sick. But if you eat 20-30, you'll die, right, Mommy?" said with that sly grin turning into a sh*t-eating grin.

The conversation veered back towards Uncle Ari. I don't remember how, but somehow we got onto the subject of funerals, and I'd mentioned that one of the things that made it so hard and sad for us was that it came out of nowhere - there were no real signs until we had a chance to look back and say, "OOOOH!"

She meekly asked, "You mean like your cancer?"

And I said, "Yes."

She asked if I was going to die and how she would have to plan the funeral while she was at sleepaway camp. I smiled and told her I wasn't planning to die while she was at camp, joking that if I did, who would pick her up? She giggled, and said, "Mom, I'm serious."

So, I told her that I didn't plan on dying anytime soon, but, even if the absolute worst happened, that I had everything sorted out. She asked what that meant, and I explained to her that I'd had my funeral planned for years - ever since Uncle Ari died, I'd swear I wouldn't leave the kids or my loved ones without knowing what I would have wanted - I have details figured out, where I want the funeral, the seating chart, what music should be played, etc. She raised an eyebrow and asked, "Is that why Grumpy calls you 'anal'?" I laughed and said, "Exactly."

The next song up played, "Dust in the Wind," which was played at Ari's funeral, and I said, "Like this song. This is on the playlist." She asked if she could play the violin part on her violin. I explained that she might be too sad, but if she'd like to try, she could. She asked about what flowers I wanted (sterling silver roses - no surprise to her) and she asked if she could put my picture next to Uncle Ari's, my friend, Aaron's, who died when I was 18, my Gramma's and my cat, Sammy's photos. I told her, I wouldn't expect my picture to be put anywhere else. She asked if I really meant to be buried with my Madone, and I pointed out that it was carbon, so if I get buried with it, maybe after a while, it would turn into a diamond. Her eyes lit up, and I had to tell her I was kidding.

As we were chatting, the Blackberry shuffled and all of a sudden, what song comes onto the radio but, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from the "Spam-A-Lot" soundtrack. She perked up and said, "MOMMY! YOU HAVE TO PLAY THIS AT YOUR FUNERAL!" I reminded her that I wouldn't be the one to play it, because as the guest of honor, my only job would be to lie very still in a box. She laughed and I said, "I get it... at the end, after all the sad stuff, the Rabbi will ask everyone to rise to walk the casket down the aisle and out the door, and all of a sudden, the song starts."

Like this...
"Yeah! And then we can tell people to reach below their seats and pull out BIG paper cut-outs of your face - like that photo Liz Kreutz took of Lance with all those fans - and sing along! That way, they'll all be laughing instead of crying!" I laughed, and then I thought about it...

"You know what? That's not a bad idea. Your Gramma & Grumpy would kill me, but then again, I'd be dead, so who cares?" We shook on it and agreed. We'd have paper cut-outs of my face made up and play "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" as irreverently as I was, and my daughter is growing to be.

Well, the jokes didn't stop yesterday as I went through more tests. Some of the pathology from the biopsy returned later in the day - the cancer is Estrogen Reactive, which introduces yet another blow to my femininity, though my friend, Jody, tried to explain the "Bright Side" of cancer by explaining that when it comes to treating the cancer, not the woman, it's a good thing. (My jury's still out on that, as I'm starting to believe what my friend Shawn said to me years ago - that I'm really a gay man trapped in a straight woman's body... )  I also learned that the membranes are penetrable (I forget the exact term - Jody, what was it called again?)

Yesterday's testing started with an injection of radioactive dye for that afternoon's bone scan, which meant a port in the arm. I had my tech, Rebecca, in stitches. First, I wore my FUCANCER t-shirt by Handlebar Mustache. That, already, made her laugh. Then, as I'd noticed my cell battery was running low, I asked if I was now radioactive, if I could charge my own cell phone battery. Got a laugh.

When I had to go to the waiting room to drink my two cans of barium for the CT Scan I asked if it was legal for me to walk the outdoor premises with open containers or if I'd get in trouble with security. When I was handed the cans, the nurse at the front desk asked if I wanted a straw, I said, "Of course!" Once she put the straws in the cans, I stood there and waited. She asked what was wrong. I asked her where my umbrellas and cherries were for my cocktail. Again, another laugh.

Inside, however, I wasn't laughing. I was shaking. As I explained to the CT Tech when she said they'd be coming for me in a few minutes, I told her that I'd studied very hard for this test - I read my LIVESTRONG Guidebook cover to cover, all the chapters in the Breast Cancer text book my Breast Nurse Navigator had given me, and that clearly all the tests they'd given me up until this point were too hard, as I'd failed all of them, and that I had to pass this next test, or else I'd flunk. She cracked up. I laughed heartily. But my gut was terrified another round of failed exams. Bad news. Wrong answers. And I was reading and studying and doing my best to pass.

Anyway, the humor got me through the rest of the tests - all the way through the bone scan (as noted above) - which was SUPER cool, by the way! As you can see by the sample I found online, it's got a really neat look. When I had told my daughter about the scan, she asked if I could get it printed out life-size to be a Halloween door cling. I thought that was the coolest idea, so I asked the tech. She laughed, said that no one had ever asked her for that, but that she'd try and get it burned onto a disk for me so I could do that.

And now the waiting game.

As of this morning, the initial review of the bone scan shows all is clear. Later this afternoon, I meet with the surgeon to review the final results.

And, appropriately, as I have nothing more to say, Pandora has chosen to play my farewell, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life..."

And so, adieu, until tomorrow.

Oh. And P.S. had another lovely time at the Kleins in New Jersey. The car is picked up, it's no longer a death trap - I'll leave that to my boobies (or, as they say in NJ - at least according to Caroline Manzo, "bubbies," which I always thought was the plural of Der Yiddishe Grandmother)... After 10 years, it appears that children, marriage, divorce and cancer can't keep 2 Partners-In-Crime from wreaking havoc on the world...

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