Friday, February 24, 2012

FU Cancer

My Dad has been battling prostate cancer since right before Katrina (2005). The doctors removed his prostate in October 2005 and supposedly the cancer with it. His cancer returned about a year ago. He currently gets treatment five days a week.

He says, "I guess cancer doesn't grow on the weekends or holidays. And apparently you don't need a prostate to have prostate cancer."

My Dad is 76, but is quite active. I realize that I'm going to lose him soon-ish, but am not ready for that day yet.

My cousin Paul - three years younger than I am - has been battling colon and liver cancer for over three years. The doctors keep giving him a positive diagnosis - and then the cancer spreads or comes back. He's 41 years old. 41. He says that if this fifth regiment of treatment doesn't work, he's giving up. We don't believe him - and I really don't hope he's serious.

My aunt Barbara - Paul's mom, and my Mom's younger (66-year-old) sister - has been battling brain cancer for the last year. Her PET scan came back two weeks ago: The cancer has spread throughout her body. Her doctor says that she has single digit months to live. She is living with my cousin David - a doctor - and his gorgeous, patient wife Becki on the Northshore for now. The day before Mardi Gras (three days ago), however, she was admitted to the hospital for an irregular heartbeat. She was moved from the ICU to the "regular" hospital on Wednesday afternoon.

Carlos and I visited with Barbara on Ash Wednesday, while she was still in ICU. She is still Barbara, but we can tell that she is beginning to forget things: A physical therapist stopped in while we were visiting. While attempting to answer questions, Barbara sometimes deferred to Becki. Sample question: "How do you exercise daily?" Barbara wasn't sure and looked toward Becki for the answer.

Another update another day. I have more to add to this story, but I'm angry and upset right now - so have to move on.

Mardi Gras

Work has been stressful for the last month: I was transferred to another department, and the changes are challenging and ongoing. In the midst of all the upheaval, we had Mardi Gras. In this post, I had planned to post about Mardi Gras and complain about my job. Then I came across this blog post - which put all my complaining into perspective.


Each night, after she listed her daily gratitudes and wrote in her diary, she would find the countdown calender drawn on pink paper and dressed in white, silver, purple, and red glitter. With her very special pen, she would carefully cross off one more day, informing me of  the new countdown as she called out wishes of sweet dreams. As the countdown slimmed from a month, to a week, and then to days, her excitement grew.

“I don’t know if I should wear a costume this year or not, Mama,” she contemplated in the middle of a lesson on polygons for her sixth grade math class.

“Mama. do you think I will get a shoe?”

“What do you think the floats will look like?”

“Which book should I bring with me to read while we wait?”

“Should I take pictures with my cell phone?”

“I am so excited for beads, Mama!”

She was preoccupied with the parade, the Krewe of Muses, and our Mardi Gras holiday.

Since our first parades as New Orleanians a few years ago, our Mardi Gras holiday has consisted of Muses on Thursday and d’Etat on Friday. Having a spouse working in the restaurant business, Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras were never spent together – he is busy insuring everyone else has their spirits high on these two special days. And because my daughter is a high-functioning autistic child, we stayed away from the crowds of the super krewes. Just in case.

We have always watched the parades along the extended route, sometimes called the family zone, and it has been an enjoyable experience. We have reconnected with old friends, exchanging Mardi Gras wishes while catching up with the latest changes in our lives, and have met many new friends. My daughter has played along strangers, created art while patiently waiting for the show to start, and read her first Nancy Drew book along the parade route. Through the challenges that we sometimes face throughout the year, issues dealing with social and sensory issues, Mardi Gras and Muses was the moment of the year where it all faded away, where we were a normal family embracing the culture in our new city, creating memories of our new life.

As we sat on the sidewalk along the parade route and patiently waited for start time, we talked about what we thought we would see, which bands we loved listening to best, and whether Elvis would make an appearance on his moped. We watched Pussyfooters pass by on foot, 610 Stompers in full uniform, and a few Bearded Oysters with high hair weaving through the crowd.  As parade time approached, as cliche as it sounds, there was a sparkle in my daughter’s eye and a smile so big, it made me wish that she could spend her life this happy – always.

And then they came. Despite sitting on the ground, our feet on the street, they came in front of us, a gaggle of college kids holding to-go cups full of booze, cigarettes in hand, f-bombs flying out of their mouths with no care who was around them.  Once the parade started, we stood, them still in the street. Then the first marching band hit the road, forcing us all to back up, my daughter getting lost in a sea of twenty-somethings drinking a little too much. Some were local, others were not. She looked at me, her eyes tense.

“Mama, I can’t see. And that guy keeps touching me with his beer.”

Despite her 5′ 6′ frame, she was surrounded by young adults too involved in gossiping about who was going to be screwing who, which picture they had on their phones that were “too epic’ to not post on Facebook, and preoccupied by the booze pouring out of their red SOLO cups.

One boy, over 6 foot, came dangerously close to starting my daughter’s hair on fire. Only one float had passed by.

“Excuse me, Sir,” I said, ” do you think you could move over a bit. My daughter cannot see, you’ve spilled some beer on her, and you almost got her with your cigarette.”

He looked at me blankly, then looked at her. He looked at my daughter from head to toe, staring at the patch on her coat that would indicate she was autistic to medical personal should an emergency arise. He sneered at me before laughing in my face.

I put my arms around my daughter, warming her up, protecting her, whispering in her ear.

The tall man with the bear hat on his head paid no mind to us. He didn’t move, either.

“Hey, man! I need to move. This woman is bitching at me because her retard daughter can’t see the parade!” he shouted to a kid a few feet away.


You can read the rest of the post and all the comments here. I assure you that you'll be moved.