Not Fade Away and Radiate


I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Like any day it's going to get back and I'm going to have movie cancer.  I certainly haven't lost any weight.  I'm finished with the Taxol which was supposed to be the BAD chemo.  I got a break and now I go to a month of radiation, plus Herceptin IV chemo every three weeks.  Radiation is its own process as well.  It's not what I thought it was, as I was envisioning a mammogram but with more power, that it was uncomfortable and painful.  You hear horror stories, people being burned badly and it affecting other areas.  A friend relayed an experience of a relative and rang the alarm bells since that person had permanent internal organ damage.  Walking down the hallway of the hospital hallway, I saw the iconic "fallout shelter" sign from my post-Cold-War youth.  It looks pretty cool.  I feel like I'm on the Star Trek Holodeck.I see a cover of a magazine in the waiting room, and the woman looks pretty happy to have Metastatic Breast Cancer, but it's like an in-flight safety card - there's no way they can illustrate the fear and panic.


Radiation is never good.  From wearing sunscreen every time you leave the house to avoid atomic-fallout like lesions.  Radiation causes cancer.  They said that the radiation stops bad cells from growing, what does it do to healthy cells.  I went in for targeting where they reassured me they would only get the affected area, that radiation would skim the surface like a stone on water, and none of my internal organs will be affected.  They said it's no worse than a sunburn.  I have this image of AM radio waves skipping off the atmosphere, like when we would drive to Florida and at night we could hear New York radio in Georgia in the car.  I lie on the table, they make the targets, they are checked for precision.  I am marked with both Sharpie, the highly-technical medical tool, and also given these pin prick tattoos.


But enough of my fascination with the Cliniac machine - this blog is called The Party Girl's Guide to Cancer, so the weekend before I start M-F radiation once a day, I host a Fresh Air Fund party of my city friends at the pool at my family's house.  It's Pride month so Ashley & Laura bring an inflatable rainbow unicorn.  We have a BBQ, snacks and drinks, and it's like city kids had never seen grass in their lives.  I go my garage rock playlist and it's a sock hop on the patio.  We also have frisbee and archery and all the things you have at summer camp.  I am all over the food - teriyaki chicken, burgers, hot dogs, corn, potato salad, pasta salad, cucumber salad and of course, Boca burgers for our veggie guests.


It took The Dickies the same amount of time for their tour to get up north as it did for me to go and get my nuke tattoos.  I get to meet them in Brooklyn and Poughkeepsie, NY shows.  I'm lucky Poughkeepsie is only an hour from where I am staying.  Being "on tour' seems normal for me - I am a road animal.  Like the bumper sticker about fishing, a bad day on tour is better than a good day at work. It's work but it's fun, too.  I'm at the Brooklyn show with my friend Brenna and we run into road animal Jack Flannigan (RIP) and Danny from D Generation who was my boyfriend for many years in the 80s/90s.  I, of course, had my AY wig, but these small joints are HOT and don't have any workable AC.  Just for old time's sake, I pull off the wig and say, "Look!  I'm a skinhead!  NYHC!"  Danny thinks I look good bald but love is blind.


I was first in mortal terror of radiation.  Nothing smarts like a burn.  I think the worst way to die would be to be burned alive, but I'm guessing it's not that.  Fear turns to curiosity at awesome sci fi set up in a fallout shelter.  I'm offering myself prostrate to the Cliniac Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday...They have me go to a changing room, but on the mauve gown open in the front, I walk 15 feet, take off the gown, get nuked for about 60 seconds, put on the gown, go back to the dressing room, put mauve gown I've worn for less time than I've been radiated in the laundry, put my shirt on and leave.  I also have Eucerin ointment I use AFTER the nuke session from my friend Amy.  You can't put it on or it's like cooking oil and you FRY. I want to get in and out as fast as possible and get in with my day.  So let's get this over with.  I'm cutting out the middleman.  I got the idea when I showed up late.  I walked onto the HoloDeck and just take my shirt off. I get nuked and put my shirt back on.  I never see another ugly robe again.  


So my Monday to Friday gig is getting nuked, but there's always the weekend for FUN!  Emma comes to town from Toronto and we have a day in the country by the pool with favorite dog Violet, and head into NYC.  Paul Collins of The Beat and The Nerves is playing Coney Island Baby in NYC and it's been over 10 years since I saw him last in Stockholm.  He finishes the set with the crowd-pleaser "Hanging on the Telephone", as made famous by Blondie.  Emma has another friend from Toronto in town and we check out all the bars around Tompkins Square park.  Vazac's Horseshoe Bar AKA 7B has a photo booth which is always fun.  It was also been in lots of movies and TV shows - Jessica Jones, The Verdict, Crocodile Dundee - a bar with a million stories and I have a ton of photo booth strips from this bar in a box somewhere that I could blackmail some people with.

  

We're crashing at my friend Bianca's apartment and cat and bird sitting for her while she's away. It feels good to "live in the city" again.  We walk out of the apartment and meet friends for Brunch.  it has been almost 9 years since I was able to do that.  Such a simple thing.The most fun about Sunday Brunch is the collision course of company.  There's Emma and Mike Hoffman who bonded when we played in London 2012 and he crashed/passed out at her flat.  There's nothing like bonding over a daytime lager to make fast friends.  There has not been a trip to New York without a Mike Kowalski hang.  Even better, we have special guest star Aaron Nathan AKA Chuck Worthy visiting from out of town.  When The Kowalskis played San Francisco, we crashed at Chuck's house, and I don't think we even slept we laughed so hard all night.  Chuck and Mike are two of the most effortlessly hilarious humans in my orbit.  Chuck was talking about living in Berkeley, where the greatest tragedy of the locals would be if the farmer's market was closed.  He said, "You would see women wearing atheleisure with their yoga mats over their shoulders yelling, "What, am I supposed to buy my kale at Whole Foods like a REFUGEE?!?""  I think I still have some hollandaise lodged in my sinuses from laughing so hard.


When Monday comes again, I'm going to COMMUTE to radiation.  I leave the apartment in NYC, and drive to the hospital in Connecticut.  Alas, Emma has to leave and I'm driving her to the Airport so we can have one last hang.  I'm on the highway back to the City and a muffler falls off a minivan in front of my and even though I tried to swerve, I ran over it and it put a hole in my tire and bent my rim.   I called AAA for help, and my membership had expired and I had to pay an EXTRA $50 to have them reunistate it when I had an emergency.  While I am waiting for the tow truck to arrive, EMTs from Westchester Medical Center pulled over, made sure I was okay, and changed my tire.  I offered them money which they would not take, and took their names so I could send a pizza to their station.  Even with all of that, I was in time enough to pick up Emma at the apartment and get her to the Airport to make her flight.  Another amazing experience was the Bowie exhibit, which I did not know was curated and narrated by Bowie himself.  From the amazing writings in the beginning, to the set designs at the end it was a journey and bittersweet to take the tour led by Bowie.  Upon exiting the gift shop, I had to grab a t-shirt, mug, fridge magnets and a Major Tom T-shirt for Kevin (see below).  


July 4th was my Independence Day from radiation treatment,  My most motivated cancer coach Monica invited us to go Cherry picking.  Sounds like an all-American activity, right?  First of all, it's about 100 degrees. Hotter then, well, radiation burns.  We get to the orchard and as we are riding the cart out to the orchard the heat starts to get to us.  I wish I had a cherry picker to pick cherries.  As all-American an activity this is, we pay $40 for 4 containers of cherries.  Supporting the American Farmer on independence Day!  On the way back, one woman faints and we get her water.  We tell the orchard that they should probably get a cart just for her.  She was wrapped in a long silk sari, like being wrapped in plastic in the blazing sun.


After the next few days of radiation I get another long weekend for my favorite annual camp out and debauch - Beermageddon.  It's just as it sounds.  Beer, camping, explosives and heavy equipment.  Saturday night is "formal night".  Kevin gets a Captain Kirk costume, and I decide to exploit my baldness and pay homage to fierce bald lady of the moment, Imperator Furiosa from Max Max: Fury Road.  We have the War Rig.  And it's my birthday, so I get a cake along with another attendee.  I even have battle scars.  Monday through Friday tit fry gives way to weekend Road Warrior.

Speaking of Camping, we also went for the more traditional camping weekend to the Adirondacks with our friend Monica - the one who shames me into these 5Ks, and comes up with cherry picking in a field in 100 degree heat.  We go kayaking as well, cooking over a fire, hiking and beautiful views from the ridge.  Very mellow, as most of Monica's friends have been doing this together for years.  Kind of like Beermageddon for the AARP crowd.  I wake up and my wrist is SCREAMING.  Like ice pick through the joint, can't sleep, flopping around like a fish in bed pain.  More proof that exercise is bad for you.  Back to civilization, I can't take it anymore and the Alleve is not alleviating it.  The orthopedist with a name comprised almost exclusively of consonants tells me I have an equally unpronounceable condition - De Quervain's tenosynovitis.  It requires a shot with a giant needle into my wrist joint.  It could resolve it, or I could need another one.  If I need three, then I need surgery.  At least it's not cancer. 


I had no idea this was a thing, but I graduated from radiation.  They give me a certificate of completion, as if I grew up in the generation that mandates this for doing the bare minimum required to stay alive.  I never "graduated" from pre-school, kindergarten, primary school or junior high.  If you could not meet those basic requirements, you were fucked.  I didn't need a diploma from any of these things as there would be no hope for me if I could not get beyond these basic requirements as a functioning human.  I think these things are just social media photo ops for parents, but my folks would have beat my ass if I could not get beyond the Eighth Grade.  Different times.  Parents no longer expect their children to be fully-functioning adults by 18.  It's pathetic.  I'm all for 2-year compulsory military service, where you might actually earn any certificate you are given.  I passed radiation with flying colors - RED!  Now that I am unbeholden to the daily microwave treatment and have graduated on to bigger and better things, I'm getting as far away from this as I can.


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