The A to Z Blogging Challenge calendar looks like this:
But in my mind’s eye, until this evening, the calendar looked like this:
If I’d paid attention, I’d have noticed I was supposed to post yesterday, a Saturday, instead of taking the day off.
If I’d paid close attention, and counted, I’d have seen that my April calendar provides for only 22 letters, four fewer than the official calendar assigns spaces to, and also four fewer than are found in the alphabet. I was embarked on an A to V Challenge.
When I realized I’d gone wrong, I considered dropping out. After all, I’ve breached the rules, failed to post as required.
But it’s a glitch, not a transgression, and a blog challenge isn’t a life-and-death matter. So I proceed.
Two weeks ago, my radiation oncologist used the word remission.
Nothing has changed. My most recent CT scans show the same results as those done in December 2016, three months after I completed radiation treatments. The bone scan, my first, was also clear.
The oncologist, although he’s now smiling as if he means it, continues to be conservative. Stable is the word he uses. “As long as you’re stable…”
The radiation oncologist has always been more upbeat, possibly because she isn’t in charge of my case, possibly because she has a cheerful nature. A year ago, she was calling my scans awesome. I liked that word.
Remission, though, has a certain ring to it–a medical ring.
For two years, I’ve been living from scan to scan, and that won’t change either. The challenge continues: to live with past, present, future all at once; to wrap my mind around the contradiction–I have cancer, I had cancer, I . . . what?
The next CT is scheduled for early June. Scan to scan.
Read more posts dedicated to the letter G by clickingAtoZ.
For several months, William has been taking insulin injections.
The good newsis that he cooperates, mostly. If he’s downstairs when shot time comes around, David grabs him and puts him on his lap; I give the shot. If he’s upstairs on the bed, that’s different.
David goes up first and pets him. I follow a minute later. When he sees me, he starts to get up. David positions him so I can scruff him. Sometimes before I get hold of him, he lunges, and David has to redouble his efforts. Then I give him the shot and we pet him and tell him he’s a good kitty, something he already knows, and that’s that. In short, he doesn’t mind the shot, just the temporary loss of free will.
The most difficult part is scruffing him. There’s not much to scruff. Sometimes I have to try several times to pull up enough skin so the needle doesn’t go too deep. The veterinarian has trouble, too.
The other good newsis that in all the time I’ve been sticking a needle into him, I’ve stuck it into myself only three times.
The second other good news is that have I never injected myself with insulin.
The really, really good news is that I always stuck myself before, or instead of, sticking him.
Except for once last week when the needle went through his skin and into my thumb. As I said, there isn’t much up there to scruff. Since them, I’ve aimed more carefully.
The best news is that his blood sugar is down and he’s back to his old self, wrestling with Ernest (William starts it); staying downstairs more; playing with the Filthy Pink Mouse; grabbing my hand, holding on (claws), and biting my fingers. Sometimes he just licks my hand. That’s icky, worse than the biting.
It’s been a calendar year since I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
My good news is that I finished chemo (the evil drug) at the end of May and now am much stronger. I said many times during chemotherapy that the side effects were mild. Now I realize that during that time, I felt pretty rotten. I was weak. The feel of water on my skin was unpleasant. I couldn’t walk more than five or ten steps without stopping to rest. I lived on Benadryl to keep my hands and arms from itching. But I still believe I had it easy.
In June, I had lumpectomies (I didn’t know you could have surgery twice within one week). In September, I went through radiation, twenty consecutive days, weekends and Labor Day excluded, smiled cheerily at the technicians, let them admire my cute socks, lay perfectly still for a few minutes while they zapped me, and drove home.
The hardest part was getting the gown tied correctly.
On the last day, in the hallway outside the radiation room, one of the techs asked if I wanted to celebrate. I said, “Sure.” He brought out a small cardboard box and the three of them threw confetti at me.
If I seem to be making light of the experience, I suppose I am. In part, that’s because it’s what I do. It makes better copy. In part, it’s because I didn’t go through the hell others go through. In part, it’s because I have to.
Within days after the last radiation treatment, I slid into depression. The radiation oncologist said she’d seen it before, and I needed a goal: travel (just did); creative activity (got one story with an editor, working on another one); gardening (no place to plant and I kill everything anyway); talk to a therapist (already do); exercise? (oh d*mn).
Before it ended, I heard myself thinking, I’ll buy the package of 300 stars instead of the one with 1000. I might not be around long enough to use 1000. Every time, I immediately countered that with, Stop it, you can’t think that way, buy the 1000.
Radiation might have caused the downhill slide, but I believe it stemmed from the feeling that I wasn’t doing anything to help myself heal. Three months without the chemo drug, I felt all right. I no longer had to report at 8:00 a.m. for radiation. There were no technicians to impress with my brave, cheery attitude; nurses didn’t seem impressed. Taking a pill every morning took no effort. Periodical infusions to boost the immune system had weeks ago lost their luster. I wasn’t working at it.
Hearing, or telling myself, Cheer up! didn’t help. As all depressives will tell you, it never does. It makes us want to cuss or, better yet, to kick the sunshiny idiot adviser in the knee.
My other good news is that by Christmas I was on the mental mend, thank goodness. Because the scariest part was that depression and big T-cell boosting smiles don’t coexist.
My second other good news is that my latest CT scan, done in early December, shows the lesion in each lung and the two lymph nodes that were radiated in September have decreased in size so much that they wouldn’t show up on a PET scan. The radiation oncologist’s pronouncement: “Awesome.” Indeed. The oncologist is pleased and said he hopes I am, too. Yes, I’d say I’m pleased. The next scan is scheduled for March.
I continue to juggle a positive attitude and uncertainty. The next scan may be clear. The lesions and lymph nodes may show metabolic activity again. Problems may show up elsewhere. I’ve been having pre-cancerous tissue removed here and there for the past fifteen years. Cancer is the Curse of the Wallers. It’s in the other side of my family, too.
But I’m here, and I had an excellent report, and I keep on keeping on.
Which makes everything I’ve written here not just good news, but the best.
P. S. I have hair again. Shirley Temple and then some. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it.
Roaming around online, I happened upon the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.
And instead of thinking what a normal person would, I thought like a member of the Professional Organization of English Majors: Why Damon Runyon?
Runyon wrote the stories on which the musical Guys and Dolls was based. You remember–“A Bushel and a Peck,” “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” “Luck Be a Lady”…
What did he have to do with cancer research?
Then it occurred to me the foundation might be named for someone else.
And that, although I’d assumed I was well informed, nearly everything I knew about Damon Runyon could be, and was, expressed in the third paragraph of this post.
So I headed for Wikipedia and discovered my original Why? was right on. They’re the same person. I learned a few other things as well:
Alfred Damon Runyan was born in Kansas and grew up in Pueblo, Colorado, where he started in the newspaper trade. He is believed to have attended school only through the fourth grade. At one of the newspapers he worked for, the spelling of his last name was changed to Runyon, and he let the new spelling stand.
While covering spring training in Texas, he met Pancho Villa in a bar, and later he went on the American expedition into Mexico searching for Villa.
For years, he covered sports and general news for various Hearst publications and syndicates. His “knack for spotting the eccentric and the unusual, on the field or in the stands, is credited with revolutionizing the way baseball was covered.”
He was a “notorious gambler” and paraphrased Ecclesiastes: “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s how the smart money bets.”
He wrote stories celebrating Broadway life that grew out of the Prohibition era. The stories are “humorous and sentimental tales of gamblers, hustlers, actors, and gangsters, few of whom go by ‘square‘ names, preferring instead colorful monikers such as ‘Nathan Detroit’, ‘Benny Southstreet’, ‘Big Jule’, ‘Harry the Horse’, ‘Good Time Charley’, ‘Dave the Dude’, or ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’.”
The stories were carefully constructed, but their style made them distinctive. He avoided present tense with “an almost religious exactitude.” He created a special jargon for his characters to speak. He used slang, sometimes rhyming, reminiscent of cockney slang, as in the following passage from “Romance in the Roaring Forties”:
“Miss Missouri Martin makes the following crack one night to her: ‘Well, I do not see any Simple Simon on your lean and linger.’ This is Miss Missouri Martin’s way of saying she sees no diamond on Miss Billy Perry’s finger.”
Twenty of his stories were made into films, including Little Miss Marker, which launched Shirley Temple’s career, and which was the biggest film of 1934. It was remade as Sorrowful Jones (1949), 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962), and, again, Little Miss Marker (1980).
And now to answer my original Why?
When Runyon died of throat cancer in 1946, his friend Walter Winchell went on the radio and asked listeners to give to cancer research.
“Mr. and Mrs. United States! A very dear friend of mine – a great newspaperman, a great writer, and a very great guy – Damon Runyon, was killed this week by America’s Number Two killer – Cancer. It’s time we tried to do something to fight this terrible disease. We must fight back, and together we can do it. Won’t you send me a penny, a nickel, a dime, or a dollar? All of your money will go directly to the cancer fighters, in Damon Runyon’s name. There will be no expenses of any kind deducted.”[
“The organization gained more visibility in 1949 when Milton Berle, a long-time friend of both Runyon and Winchell, hosted the first-ever telethon, raising $1.1 million for the foundation over 16 hours. In its first three decades, the foundation was a popular cause among celebrities from Hollywood to Broadway and the sports world. Marlene Dietrich, Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, and many of their contemporaries served as supporters and board members.”
It supports promising young researchers, who are typically unlikely to receive government funding until they’re past forty. Scientists study all types of cancer at the molecular and genetic levels, and not according to the organs in which they are found.
Fundraising events include the Runyon 5K at Yankee Stadium, the William Raveis Walk + Ride, theater benefits, and an annual breakfast. In the Runyon Up, participants run up the 72 flights of stairs in World Trade Center 4. The Foundation accepts memorial gifts and encourages friends to like it on Facebook and Twitter. Donors can sponsor the research of a current scientist.
Since 1946, Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has invested more than $300 million and funded research by over 3,500 scientists. 100% of donations go to research.
Among the latest “New Discoveries,” the website lists the following articles:
“Unlike other cancer charities, we do not place safe bets on well-known, established scientists. We seek emerging talent with bold innovative ideas, the rising stars of cancer research who are willing to take risks and are not daunted by the most complex scientific challenges.”
Damon Runyon gambled. Obviously, so does the foundation bearing his name. And obviously, it’s very good at it.
The odds are, Runyon would say, “That’s the way the smart money bets.”