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Filtering by Tag: death

AWARENESS

Cindy Maddera

If I received money every time someone asked me why we don’t have a cure for cancer yet, I’d have enough money to run away to Italy. Or, at the very least, pay off some credit card debt. I usually just shake my head and answer with “I don’t know” because it is the easiest/laziest answer I can give to someone. I don’t think many people realize that the term ‘cancer’ is a very simplified word to describe a whole giant group of diseases. The thing that groups these diseases together is a common root cause: abnormal cell growth. That abnormal cell growth can be caused by genetics, viruses, chemicals, obesity, autoimmune disorders, hormones, and physical agents like asbestos or BPA. Any one of those things can set off a chain reaction in one cell that leads to a mutation in an oncogene that can have various results. A daughter cell inherits the messed up gene and then goes hay wire The mutated gene causes the cell signal other cells. The gene mutation can make that cell start dividing. A mutation any where in the oncogene can lead to multiple situations. Basically, it’s a molecular level choose your own adventure in cancer. Cancer is fucking complicated.

That’s why we don’t have a cure for cancer.

Yesterday, Josephine and I were finishing up watching CBS Sunday morning and we’d reached the part where they show this week’s calendar. That’s how I know that today is Cancer Awareness Day. When it was announced on TV I thought “great! I’ll just add that to the list of things I’m totally aware of this week.” Like for instance, how Chris would be forty eight on Wednesday. The day after Chris’s very last birthday, I spent the whole day crying. The. Entire. Day. I just cried and cried and cried and cried. By the time Chris actually did die, two days later, I was a complete shell of a human being. The nurse told me Chris had passed and I looked at the hospice care worker and said “what do I do now?” She thought I was asking about who comes and takes the body and all of that other stuff you have to take care of when someone dies. I kind of meant that, but I was really curious about what exactly I was going to do now, in general, for the rest of my life. These are the thoughts the I am very much aware of every year during this particular week in February.

The thing that I am usually least aware of during this week is what killed Chris. Abnormal cell growth formed a tumor on Chris’s liver right around the junction of where the left and right hepatic duct meet up. This meant that he was no longer able to excrete liver wastes and bile, which aids in digestion. Still to this day, I have a hard time admitting that cancer was the cause of Chris’s death. It just happened way too fast and without any warnings for me to be able to admit that. Also, at the end of the day, no one was really able to tell us what had caused his cancer. They found a small amount of cancer cells in esophagus and one specialist tried to link the tumor to those. They also talked about hepatitis B. If you read this article on Viruses and Human Cancer in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, then the whole hep B theory makes the most sense. Don’t worry. I was vaccinated for hep B and C ages ago. Chris’s vaccination history was a bit sketchy. No one could say for sure what vaccines he’d had over the years.

Viruses are the cause of around fifteen percent of cancers. Epstein Barr, hepatitis B and C, human papilloma virus (HPV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The hepatitis viruses and HPV are about the only ones with vaccines. They can all be prevented by using safe sex and safe needle practices. So maybe instead of focusing so much awareness on finding a cure for cancer, maybe we should be doing more to prevent the cancers we know how to prevent.

MODERN LOVE

Cindy Maddera

My music selection has been all over the place lately. I go from a Kesha station in the mornings to Morrissey in the afternoons. Some times I toss in some Pomplamoose or broadway show tunes. Last week, it was David Bowie. Hours and hours of everything Bowie. Modern Love started playing and for the first time I noticed that David Bowie speaks at the beginning of that song. His speaking voice caught me off guard. I was suddenly struck by the sound of it and immediately regretted not having a chance to have a intimate conversation with David Bowie.

David Bowie died from the same thing Chris died from. Cancer of the liver. I know what Mr. Bowie’s last few days looked like. I think of his wife who had to witness his last few days. I think of a few other women who have had to witness those last few days of their own spouses. I want to squeeze all of them tight and just whisper “I know. I get it.” The image of how they looked in the last few days are never going to leave your brain. It will float to the surface of your memories at random. Michael’s drunk face does it for me. I guess, at least I know what he’s going to look like in his final days. Also the smell of Jason’s Organic henna shampoo does it. It’s a shame because I really liked that shampoo.

The scientist in me finds it fascinating how the soul of a person sort fills the organic spaces like balloons. As the soul shrinks, the body doesn’t get smaller. It gets more hollow. Sunken. The body gets more and more unrecognizable as the person you knew. There are machines that photograph the entire insides of the human body, but there’s yet to be an image of what one could interpret as a soul. Everything has a name and (mostly) a function. The large intestine, small intestine. Heart. Liver. Kidneys. I would be tempted to say the appendix could be the organ that holds the thing that makes you, you. I’ve never known a person who has had that removed to know if they’re different afterwards, but considering that the removal of an appendix is pretty standard procedure would have me ruling out particular organ. I don’t have my tonsils and I’m pretty sure I still have my soul.

Pretty sure.

There’s something there that doctors haven’t seen that keeps us inflated and whole. Something more than air. It is the thing that makes you who you are. I know exactly the moment when Chris was no longer Chris. The same thing with Dad. There’s a part of me that wishes I didn’t witness those moments when the balloons filling up the their organic spaces, started popping. Those popping balloons didn’t even make a sound. No warning, yet I knew it was coming.

I know when to go out and when to stay in. Get things done.

Is that what’s holding our souls steady and in place? Knowing when to stay in so we can get things done?

It’s time to change the station.

HE'S DISEASED

Cindy Maddera

I received a letter from a collection company recently claiming that Chris owed $89 to someone. I expect that this will still be happening to me in ten years, even twenty. People want their money even if it has to come from beyond the grave. I took the letter out and wrote 'he's deceased' at the bottom. Except then I looked at the word 'deceased' and my brain got confused. I said something like "I feel like I didn't spell that right. Instead of saying 'he's deceased', I feel like it may say he's diseased." So then, I picked up my pen and wrote 'he's dead' under 'he's deceased'. You know... just to clarify. I'm not sure where I'm going with this post. I really just wanted to jot down the above because I found it funny in a sad sarcastic kind of way. 

I've been thinking of a new angle on how to write my story. I thought about writing around my online dating experience. Each chapter could be a date, except maybe not because I didn't really go on that many dates. I do have the first sentence rolling around in my head. Actually it's been rolling around in there for awhile now. As per usual, I just lack the discipline to sit down and write it. In my head, the story plays in a sarcastically funny slap your forehead kind of way. Just imagine a sad widow, slapping a bright sunny smile on her face and trying to make herself interesting for a various slew of men who are either divorced, never married, or married and never divorcing. I really think there's something there. 

I've also been thinking about moving all of the furniture and cleaning under everything. One morning last week, I dropped my earring and it bounced under the bed where my fingers wouldn't reach. I had to use a ruler to fish it out and when I did, it came out with a bunch of dust and cat hair. I eyed the earring with one eye before thoroughly washing it and pouring alcohol all over it. We have mice. They're not getting into the pantry, but still...we have mice. The cat has been earning his keep (sort of) by catching them with the help of the dog. This is what usually happens: The cat is chasing a mouse. Josephine senses this from the bedroom and immediately wants out. I open the door and then the two of them start chasing the mouse. If Josephine catches the mouse, she takes it outside. If the cat catches the mouse, Josephine steals it and takes it outside. At four AM this morning, both of them lost the mouse behind the bookcase. The cat was so pissed off by this that he brought a bird into the house. That he left alive with working wings. 

Really, I am in the mood to clean out everything. Not just the house but myself and I don't mean that I need to drink more kale juice. I'm talking about sweeping out the the creases and crevices of my brain. I'm talking about pulling all of the thoughts and ideas out and setting them down on paper in one giant Chris styled list. I'm talking about making an actual outline for that story and cleaning out a corner of my bedroom for meditation. I've got the most serious case of Spring Fever and I keep thinking of that old saying 'feed a cold, starve a fever'. What do you starve yourself of when you have Spring Fever? Potatoes? Pizza? If you asked me today what I wanted to eat every day this week, my answer would be 'pizza'. I probably need to starve myself of the TV and couch lounging. 

That sounds as awful as taking antibiotics.  

I'VE STOPPED BREATHING

Cindy Maddera

The thing I find interesting about Our Town is the message of how you'll miss all of this when you're gone. Colors are more vibrant and even the most mundane item can be breathtakingly beautiful. A coffee mug. The weight of that coffee mug cupped in both hands, absorbing the heat from the hot drink in the mug. So pay attention now, kids! You don't get this stuff when you're dead. The flip side to this coin is what you no longer have when others are dead. Our Town is not about the living as much as it is about the dead. I wonder if Chris is standing just on the other side of some invisible wall, thinking the same thing. Are we both missing the things that are now gone? What's it like on his side of that wall?

Sometimes on dark days, I imagine the people I've lost wrapping their arms around my insides. In a Tim Burton inspired fashion, I see the ghost arms encircle my ribs and guts, my heart and I watch my internal organs turn gray and hard. Don't we all see our lives as a movie, our very own personal Truman Show? We all want to be a movie, a soundtrack, a star, even if it's that smallest most distant star. It's not so bad watching my insides turn gray and hard. I see it as invitation. "Hey, why not come hang out with us?" the dead say. And it's tempting. I'd love to veg out on the couch, watching dumb action movies all day with J or sitting in the driver seat of some expensive Cadillac as Dad drives us across several state lines to exchange it for a different fancy Cadillac. I'd love to spend the day doing anything with Chris. 

I've been forgetting to breathe. I'll be sitting at my desk and all of a sudden I will gasp for air as if I've been playing that game of how long you can hold your breath under water. I'm holding my breath. Every time it happens, I wonder about how long it's been since I last inhaled and exhaled. I know that part of this is all because I've spent the last month riding in cars and planes and hunched over microscopes or a lab bench. My chest has been closed off like a clam, but even clams need to open up and stretch sometimes. I used to do backbends all the time, opening up my chest, opening up my heart. Then my back broke and my heart felt squishy and vulnerable, so I stopped. Now the arms of the dead have wrapped themselves around my ribcage and my heart and I gasp for air like that goldfish I had as a kid who would jump out of the tank all the time. You'd walk into the room and he'd be laying in a damp puddle on the shag carpet, only his mouth moving as he struggled to breath air without water. That fish lived for ages despite all his suicide attempts. 

Today in savasana, I laid with a foam roller between my shoulder blades, my heart and lungs splayed open for all to see. I stayed there for ten minutes while I screamed inside my brain the whole time. It was torture. I could image the dead clutching to hold tight even while their fingers were being pried free. Before I knew it the ding of the timer was jolting me back to the here and now and the people I've lost no longer wrapped their arms around my heart and lungs. I am partly relieved and partly disappointed.