Sunday, November 25, 2012

Seratonin-Endorphin RUSH from Humor Blogs, GREAT FOR MYELOMA

I’ve been WAITING for the right opportunity to empower this blog to cure cancer – and here it is, straight from David Freudberg’s public radio show, Humankind:  "I think [laughter] is a tool, like swimming or meditating, that helps you live, that keeps you buoyant, that keeps you afloat, that gives you mirth, that's like a life preserver in a sea of difficulty. But it can't be instead of. I mean, I've cried so much in the last couple of years and that's been so necessary."

-- Marion Grodin, comedian and cancer survivor   
Indeed. By Thanksgiving week, I had become so obsessed researching clinical trials for multiple myeloma – a blood plasma cancer my spouse was diagnosed with August, 2012 - that one of my best friends suggested I revisit humor-writing, to re-orient myself (so I’d remember to buy a turkey and cook it Thursday).

This strategy worked. (I even remembered our kids were coming in from various parts of the world, so I washed sheets and comforters.)

This is my second opportunity to become a researcher and caregiver for an immediate family member diagnosed with cancer: my mother survived a rare but treatable form of acute leukemia, only to contract end-stage ovarian cancer and succumb a couple years later.  I guess this is my third rodeo. But each has been very unique, very special.

There are myriad blogs today for cancer survivors of all diagnoses: for the newly diagnosed, for their families, for veteran survivors and clinical trials.

The only reason I would add mine to the global array is that it uniquely does not focus on, say, cancer-markers plummeting after the third of eight cycles of novel drug therapy.  It COULD.  But it is not a myeloma blog – or any of the sort that so elegantly share journeys with and triumphs over malignant disorders. There are beautiful ones out there: the Myeloma Beacon is a wonderful website; there are hundreds of blogs:  I follow Pat Killingsworth and Nick van Dyke. 

But THIS? It started as a place for me to re-balance and re-ground. Sure, to remember Thanksgiving, but also to re-charge sufficiently to return to the work of getting this family hitchhiker under my spell. I’m a Myeloma Wrangler.

That said, though, if David Fruedberg’s public radio show Humankind devoted part of its series to treating cancer in large part with humor!? Then this blog IS a part of that purpose. To that end, I now offer today’s gut-splitting laugh-fest, “Juliet The Cat Died Tragically Yesterday Morning” … OR …“JTCDTYM”

When my spouse discovered Juliet Saturday, we were reminded of something my Mom used to say to me all the time:  “You can’t have anything nice.”

Our cat Juliet was nice. 

She was the black-and-white replacement for Katie-Ophelia, who’d died in the same tragic manner. (We also had cats in living color, but they were named things like Morris and Tiger, so they died of natural causes.)  It’s true: for Juliet and Katie-Ophelia, they died of Shakespearean names.

Also, the street we live on.

It’s deceptively rural.

Our house is located RIGHT at the spot where the road begins to ascend a bit upward -- at Summit-Ski-Style Grades --  maybe 75% … toward a gorgeous lake. It is precisely at our house that folks go from 20 MPH to 45 in nanoseconds. 

We’ve lost … oh, as of Juliet... four cats this way over a quarter century. And although my spouse would disagree, I say the treatment for Death-By- Shakespeare-and-Cars is a brand new kitten. 

. . . and the only way to get one of these is the Miracle Of Birth, like the one I experienced many Junes ago, during the zenith of the full moon: the perfect time for public schools to release my four kids for summer . . .

I was on the sofa half-dreaming, half-listening to the morning news, when vague kid-conversation jostled me from sleep.

 “It looks like she’s smiling.”
“She WAS out for four nights.”
“She’s gotta be pregnant.”
“Her mammals are huge!”
“They’re not mammals, you moron.”
“Whatever. They’re huge.”
“Let’s tell Mom.”
“Dude. No way.  It’s summer vacation.  We wanna LIVE.”

  I considered this exchange for five seconds before rolling over, vowing to never again partake of Stephen King AND clam dip before bed.
  Meanwhile, Precious The Cat, within seconds of her diagnosis, began to inflate until she resembled a pelted mylar balloon held down by four clawed stump-ettes.
   The children danced gaily around Precious during her confinement, cooing the words Big Mama, patting her great belly, pouring her great saucers of milk, and fanning her greatness during heat waves.
   “Trollop!” I said to her each day, which made her purr and grow still greater.
   Bitterly, I phoned the friend who gave us an originally un-pregnant Precious The Kitten to ask, “How much greater can a pregnant thing GET?”
 “She’ll have them when it looks like she’s going to explode.”
   This news entertained the children.

“Better stand back, Mom.  Looks like she’s gonna blow.”
“Three seconds to critical mass!”
“Quick!  To the shelter!”

   On a doleful July evening at the start of another full moon, a small voice cried out, “Mom, her water broke!”
   I didn’t know cats had water.
   Drawing on my skills as a trained English teacher, I did what any rational person would do in a birthing crisis.  I called three girlfriends and went out for hot fudge sundaes (At Roland’s Pink Cone on Route 16!) 
   On my way out the door, I shouted, “Stick Precious inside Daddy’s suitcase!” and fled.
   Having done exhaustive research on feline obstetrics, I knew Precious’ first litter would be small and she wouldn’t deliver for at least three hours.  But I called home anyway when I got to Roland’s Cone.
   My 16 year old answered the phone.
   “Yo, you’ve reached Hell House.”
   “Nick?  It’s Mom. Any sign of—“
   “Seven. We have seven wet, black kittens and there are more where they came from.”
   “That’s impossible, I’ve hardly been gone seven minutes.”
   “She’s feeding them all now.”
   “Cut it out, Nick, or put your brother on the phone.”
   “It’s true!  They’re deaf, they’re blind, they look like rats, they—“
   “Get Jacob.”
   “Mom? Hi!  Did you know that kittens are born with their amniotic sacs intact?  The mother chews off their umbilical cords and then—“
   “I have to go, Jacob.  I have a business meeting.”
   “Wanna hear em ‘mew’ cuz I can stretch the phone cord and—“
   One girlfriend fairly dropped her mocha nut when she learned I’d just had kittens.  “Get me the biggest male you have.  I need a Killer Guard Cat.”
   In fact, that night at the Great Cone, I unloaded two more kittens on other dairy-addicts.  Fortunately, Precious stopped at seven kittens, as I had run out of co-dependents.
   I soon learned that our quiet town is the quintessence of “community.” Before the paint dried on a FREE KITTENS sign the kids duct-taped to a tire swing, two would-be pet owners perused the four kittens still unclaimed.
   But Nature giveth … and She taketh away.  Two of the original seven, sadly, did not survive.  (Precious The Mutant only came with five 'mammals.')
   By the time all five healthy, remaining kittens were weaned, each was spoken for and would be adopted into loving homes. 
   The more I think about THIS blessed event, the more I must revisit the concept of “miracle.”  
   And even “replacement kittens.” 
   I’m thinkin' … dog.