Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dawn Black Out

Valentine’s Day
Sprawled on my massive bed. Heavy breathing. A little gentle moaning. My hair in disarray. Hot and bothered, beads of sweat are forming. It’s hot. It’s really, really hot. Hate to be immodest but this cashmere has to come off now. And the t-shirt. I can’t wait any longer. It’s been too long. Way too long. AND I AM SO HOT!

I stagger up like a drunken sailor and head to the kitchen where I grab the giant scissors. Time for a dramatic gesture. I grasp two layers of fabric with one hand and start hacking away. Right up the

middle of my gorgeous navy v neck cashmere and my black t shirt. Voila.

Okay, so now I try to pull the left side off but with that arm hanging limp and useless, its not easy. I pull too hard and the blinding rush of pain is excruciating. I scream in agony, burst into floods of tears and collapse back into the bedroom with the destroyed cashmere flapping open to reveal that witty old post mastectomy bra—nice and flat on one side as I don’t even have the energy to stuff it with an old sock these days.

WHY am I in such pain? Because four days ago I blacked out at 630 am in the morning and broke my bloody collarbone and gashed my big fat head as I caught the sharp metal corner of a chest on the way down to the icy Spanish bathroom tiles. The pain really is brutal and since then have not been able to remove aforementioned Tshirt and sweater. The clothes I went down in have not left my person since. That’s how it is for single mothers. I’ve been too unwell to mind and the one bit of good news about an unruly, hormone-raging, mood-swinging teen is that they really could care less if you wore a sack for a year. A couple of times over the long lonely weekend, I tried to work out how to disrobe but the concussion kept me too dizzy to even stand for very long. And yet the balmy heat this Valentine’s day is suddenly suffocating and I must SHED these garments now!

Why did I black out 4 days ago? Well, in full martyr mode I was preparing the morning bowl of three weetabix, sliced bananas and honey for the sleeping teen (yes, capable of feeding himself but you try persuading a lumbering 15 year-old to whip up breakfast AND get to a bus that leaves at 7.05 am) but as I poured the organic milk, started to feel amazingly nauseous and light-headed. Thinking I could just deliver the cereal before hitting the bathroom, I hurried into Nicks room but the cereal bowl slipped through my fingers onto the wooden floor and I screamed out “Sorry—I’m FEELING SICK!” as I lurched into the bathroom. And that’s all I remember till I woke up a few seconds later unable to move with the teen looking utterly horrified and deeply traumatized by his prone bleeding parent.

It was a first. I’ve never fainted in my life. Frankly, I think it’s a pretty lame annoying thing to do. But in my defense I’m able to point out a few extenuating circumstances …More reconstructive surgery (seven hours and kicked out immediately with no preventive antibiotics) on December 15 that – yawn, yawn, led to another staph infection that led to emergency surgery on january 3rd for removal of the implant thus leaving me a mono-tit once again !! Of course, being extra careful once the damage is done, ‘they’ then ordered six weeks of IV antibiotics followed by two weeks of oral antibiotics but that witty little course did not prevent me from getting the worst case of flu in many a year which brought on a stupendously bad cough which led to last Thursday night when I truly could not face the tedium of another sleepless night of painful hacking so I took my evening antibiotic and then downed an Ambien which didn’t even work and when I woke up an hour later coughing so hard my ribs hurt I popped half a vicodin and okay—two hours later, still coughing, I polished off the other half.

So that’s what did it. A drug lightweight. As I regained consciousness, I felt bad. As in sick, dizzy and in pain. I couldn’t move. I haven’t had such rapt attention from my big loveable lug of a kid for—well a really long time. He hovered and did as I asked. I was so cold on the tiles and my head was pounding. He put towels over me. I tried to get up but as I did a searing pain sent me back down. Now Nick’s a pretty cool customer and not squeamish like his old mum but I could tell by his wide-eyed staring at my forehead that some damage had been sustained. He played it down though and quickly came up with the huge bin containing our first aid supplies. He tried to swab me with disinfectant stuff but I asked for the spray and then he deftly found a big bandage to put over it – ordering me very firmly “Just don’t look at it mum”. After several attempts, he finally managed to help me to my feet and back to bed but this pain was pretty scary. I thought I had dislocated my shoulder. The room spun around a bit and suddenly, even though I hate Nick growing up, I wished he was older and had a license. I asked him to call his sister who could perhaps get him to school but no answer there.

There was nothing else to be done. Help me on with my Uggs, I pleaded. He had two Finals starting in about 25 minutes. I had to get him to school. He’d already missed the Spanish Final on Monday due to the flu he’d passed on to me and it had taken several indignant emails to higher-ups to persuade Senora Salazar that her nasty message telling me that no Finals could be retaken was incorrect. Steering one-handed I drove like a bat out of hell all the way to school down near Venice on Robertson. “Just don’t look at your head” Nick begged me again as he hopped out of the car. I promised and headed home –feeling weak, woozy and tearful with pain.

And here’s the really bad part. I had no cell phone. The night before, despite my raging flu, I had driven Nick to his weekly 8 pm therapy appointment. Instead of going in to the session and at least complaining bitterly about his lack of studiousness, I was thoughtful and didn’t want to infect anyone with the flu and instead drove around like a moron getting things like toilet paper and printer ink. I was desperate to discuss some of the more egregious things on Nick’s Facebook page (pointed out to me by my hawk-eyed therapist) but no—I left them to their own devices and Nick subsequently admitted that they discussed the BBC car show TOP GEAR- and only TOP GEAR for the full hour.. He could discuss Top Gear with his dear mum and save her a grueling trip out on a chilly school night.

Anyway, on the way back, we stopped at McDonalds for grub and I actually put my phone down to get a very unhealthful drink to go with my Super Size fries before guiltily hurrying out. I called Mickey D’s as soon as we got home but knew it was a ludicrous waste of time – as confirmed by schoolground photos emailed by the thief from my iphone the next day (and recorded, as they are, on my gmail).
Soooooo, no longer knowing anyone’s number cos they’re all so safely stored on one’s phone, it took me another 6 hours to rustle up a friend to arrive. It was one of the few numbers I remembered – an old home number imprinted on my brain and by some miracle the owner of this number, my dear pal Brooke, had just arrived back from NY and so I was finally rescued from my bed of pain.
(Daughter Lola was quite adamant that I should have called 911 – but I’ve never before broken a bone and who calls 911 unless things are very dire? I’ve called enough ambulances for dad in my time. I was NOT about to call one for myself) So Brooke took me to her Toluca Lake chiropracter who xrayed me with an ancient machine but it displayed most definitely a sad and broken collarbone and then it was off to my family doctor get ten stitches in the huge gaping hole I had only glimpsed at about noon.

Rather worryingly, doc kept asking “Don’t you want your plastic surgeon to take care of this?” and in fact he looked distinctly like he could live without this grim task- but it was now after 4.30 and I had to admit I’d been given the complete cold shoulder by Dr Bob—He was in surgery all day but I’d pleasantly emailed the office and Dr Bob asking if he at least could recommend a colleague to repair my face. Treating me like a stranger, they told me to go to an Emergency Room.
“I mean just because you’ve left me titless not ONCE BUT NOW TWICE --don’t feel like you owe me the courtesy of a phonecall or a follow-up,” I thought to my bitter self.

So after about 5 numbing injections to my noggin, the doc did a stirling job of stitching me up---and we headed home whereupon my darling son has never treated me so sweetly and divinely ever.
He told his sister that the scene of me collapsing to the floor had replayed in his head throughout the day. He was too far away to stop me falling and help in any way and he clearly felt impotent and more than that-scared stiff. He’s already confided to his therapist that he’s terrified I will die and so by the time I was in bed at 8, Nick was hovering like a hawk.

I asked him to pass the hand cream. He squeezed it out and gave me a hand massage. I asked for a pillow and he brought six of them. I asked for a glass of water and he brought it with slices of lemon cut up. He gave a demonstration as to how I should sleep on the one side I was permitted and kept asking—maybe sixty seven times- if I felt okay. “Do you think you might faint again?” and when I staggered up to pee, he followed and stayed outside the door, listening for a telltale thump. SOOO touching and sweet but suddenly this heavenly display of love just made me want to cry. The guilt! It’s enough that he’s adopted, father-less and has learning differences. Do I have to scare the living daylights out of him as well?

At this point I am hyper aware that folk must be thinking me one of the dullest, sickest old bores alive since it is patently true and one friend one australia did actually confirm this fear, only faintly disguising her frustration with a text saying "You poor bugger. Have run out of commiserations."

So I’ll be fine. It’s all relative. Coulda been much much worse. The concussion factor has been dull though—dizzy and faintly nauseous for an entire week and worst of all—I HAVE NO SENSE OF SMELL OR TASTE AT ALL. A classic concussion symptom. I’m truly hoping they return. It’s very odd having not a clue what I’m eating. Last night Nick did a taste test- He mashed up sausages, yam and baked beans and I shut my eyes. Absolutely not a clue what I was eating. Got it wrong every time but we had a good laugh. And that’s the kinda good times I enjoy of an evening now.
A far cry from some of the glam evenings that are highlighted in a spread of my old photos in British Vogue this month.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chemo is crap --The Two Percent Factor.

Seriously. Her books are truly amazing and I feel like such a nincompoop for not having listened to a pal who suggested reading them a year ago, Like the unenlightened naive twerp I was, I didn't associate Suzanne with cutting edge views on cancer and staying well that are now shared by so many leading doctors, oncologists, radiologists and people like Ralph Moss PHD who is not a doctor but has devoted his life for the past 40 years to cancer research. Do yourself a favor and buy her latest book Knock Out which is a series of interviews with all these doctors and without any preaching, the message is deafeningly loud and clear and truly quite devastating. Chemo does not work for breast cancer. Time and time again these reputable people, and I'm now familiar with many of them from reading so many books, say the same thing. Chemo will help your chances of survival by a mere 2%.
Two per cent. That is it.


A 98% chance that it will do absolutely fuck all. And worse. It will all but destroy your immune system for a year or two or more and actually increase your chances of it returning.

The STANDARD OF CARE is crap. As Julian Whitaker MD states in the foreword to Suzanne’s book, “conventional medicine’s approach to cancer prevention and treatment is a debilitating, often deadly fraud.”
It’s simply all about money. Cancer is big business. It’s all about cookie-cutter treatment and maximizing profits -with big Pharma funding a lot of medical schools and paying established oncologists to speak at seminars recommending the benefits of a particular new drug.
A new drug, for instance, like Avastin—which just had, in a very rare move, it’s approval for breast cancer treatment rescinded as it DID NOTHING TO prolong life – but not until the drug company concerned had made a few billion.

The book just makes you gasp every few minutes – with rage and sadness but total appreciation for Suzanne and her passionate challenging of the conventional cancer treatment paradigm.

Oncologists, alone among all doctors in America and any other industrialized country, get to BUY chemo drugs WHOLESALE and sell them to patients at RETAIL PRICES. Eighty percent of their income comes from prescribing poisonous chemo drugs to we patients – around 600,000 of us each year. And by and large, it simply doesn’t work.
Chemo, it has been proven time and time again, truly works in only three types of cancer-testicular, childhood leukemia and some lymphomas.

And so when an oncologist or the American Cancer Society says that chemo works—they are generally referring to ludicrous statistics like 25% shrinkage of a tumor that lasts for a couple of weeks –or patient survival being ONE month longer than they might have had without the drugs. But a month or perhaps two where the patient is so ill and depleted that quality of life is virtually non-existent.

Suzanne points out that “The FDA did an internal investigation of itself last year where they declared themselves incompetent, unable to keep up with the science, understaffed and ineffective.”
Dr Ralph Moss adds that “The FDA was originally created to stop quackery and to allow for more scientific drug development. So they have this attitude that that if something is coming from small developers whose ideas are not mainstream and who don’t have deep pockets, then there is a presumption of guilt…They are very much disposed against the individual or small company that has a bright idea in the cancer field.

They HAVE NEVER approved any non-toxic drug or herb for cancer. The rule seems to be that nothing of a nonpatented, less profitable nature gets through the FDA system. The only things that get through are these synthetic patented agents that are generally very toxic and ineffective. They are so ineffective that the FDA keeps lowering the bar and allowing things to be approved on lower and lower standards of effectiveness and lower and lower standards of safety. “

It just gets more and more depressing….and appalling….but it’s all stuff we NEED to know…

Ralph Moss again --“The government and the medical establishment have a high standard of proof called “increased overall survival through randomized control trials”. The problem is that this standard is rigorously upheld only for the nonconventional cancer doctors; it’s bent for the conventional doctors….you don’t have a level playing field. In fact the people who are least able to afford to perform these trials are the ones from whom it is most often demanded….
There’s a terrible injustice to the way that drug development is set up. It’s an injustice to advocates. New, less toxic and more promising treatments are never adequately researched to the point where they could be scientifically confirmed…The FDA act like the loyal enforcer for Big Pharma. And that’s what they are.!”

So anyone who thinks they may be taking too many prescription drugs—rest assured, you probably are. People from other countries are stunned by the number of drug commercials- with those extraordinary lists of side-effects, that bombard us on TV screens here.

But what I’d like to stress is that if anyone has cancer---or just in case it comes knocking---TRY TO REMEMBER IN THE CHAOS and FEAR that follows diagnosis, that chemo is not necessarily the answer.
And just because so many doctors and hospitals and specialists SAY TO DO IT, DOESN’T MAKE IT RIGHT.
Don't take my word for it. Read the book. It's there in black and white, stated over and over again. I felt like I was being beaten over the head by the horrifying statistic of TWO PER CENT. And people simply need to know!
And they need to know it before sitting in that little room and hearing the fateful words 'you have cancer' at which point, certainly in my case, one is in complete meltdown Panic and Fear mode and doesn't feel like one has time to see lots of different oncologists or bone up on all the newest statistics.

In my case several people all recommended this one oncologist I saw and she said it would improve my chances by 40%. Seriously, that's what she said and my 23 year-old daughter was a witness. Although reluctant I felt I had to do it. I HAD to. For my kids. Months later, I started on the path of knowledge and went to see Dr John Glaspy at UCLA. The first words out if his mouth after looking at my chart were, well tactful.

He said “Well if you'd come to me not wanting chemo, you wouldn't have gotten an argument from me.”
It wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I wanted to think I’d done exactly the right thing – although I was beginning to have a sneaking suspicion that I’d just finished poisoning myself for absolutely NO good reason. I had just read the figure of 2% in a 300 page Moss Report on breast cancer that I’d bought.

‘Why not?’ I asked Dr Glaspy.
‘Well because it only increases the survival rate of people with breast cancer by two per cent!!’
‘Oh my god, really? I just read about that two per cent figure in the Moss Report. So you agree with him?’
‘Yes, I'm afraid so’ But, an incredibly kind, lovely compassionate man, he could see the tears sprouting from my eyes and added.
‘Think of it this way. From now on you’ll do everything right.’

I drove home after that first consultation with Dr Glaspy –who I decided on the spot would be my new oncologist and knew I had at least found someone who was savvy enough not to follow conventional wisdom.

But I also knew it would now be hard to get rid of the feeling that I’d FUCKED UP and put my poor body through hell. I mean, I tried to bury it and forget I'd ever heard the TWO PER CENT figure and told myself all manner of trite idiotic truisms like 'better safe than sorry’. And then it started cropping up once or twice in books I read. Only to practically jump off the page, no longer allowing me to ignore it and live in any kind of denial, once I read KNOCKOUT (which was the NY Times Number One Best Seller for months.)

By the end of the book, I can’t imagine anyone not convinced that, except in rare instances of stage four cancer, chemo just doesn't work for breast cancer.
And I now know that through ignorance, I did myself and my body so much avoidable harm. I did both chemo and surgery- something else the book discusses – VERY negatively- in the last chapter. And now, as I discovered here weeks ago, I need yet another surgery – as one breast has ‘collapsed’ and needs more reconstructive surgery.

And good ol Dr Bob—when he told me how it was best that we get this next surgery done soon – then announced that as of a few weeks ago, he no longer accepts my insurance. But far worse was the fact that when I mentioned that if he was opening me up again, could he perhaps this time put in smaller implants, since all along I have begged for small breasts—he looked at me as if I had not in fact mentioned it about eighteen times—always very politely, as one is to the person who will wield a scalpel as you lie there like a lump- yet again the unconscious party. Indeed, he looked up at me in what resembled shock – as if it were the very first time I had made the small tit request and it hit me hard then and there. I had gone unheard and short of writing in Sharpie on my forehead – SMALL TITS PLEASE- I had been helpless and ignored by the arrogant surgeon and my blood boiled.
Oh, don’t think I haven’t tried to find another surgeon—and the quest is ongoing but the trick is to find one who takes my insurance AND might be prepared to take over what has now become an epic saga of surgery. So far two have pleasantly but firmly refused to go anywhere near me with a knife. It may end up being Dr Bob. A sixth surgery. Fan-fucking-tastic.

It’s all pretty depressing to say the least and hasn’t helped my recovery in that it’s hard not to dwell on the damage that’s ongoing.
My hair –to give just one small instance—has almost stopped growing altogether….about 2 inches in the fifteen months since it came out and absolutely nada for months now (And yes – I actually have resorted to measuring it with a cotton tape measure to prove I am not paranoid and crazy) and alas, there is no denying that’s it just a tad slower than the average rate for humans of half an inch per month. I should have seven inches of lovely style-able locks. I don’t. Not sure why but it makes me sad. And I know that if I had tons of dough I would be having vitamin infusions and acupuncture and various treatments that would probably help—but, who has tons of money?

The book continues to amaze and gobsmack you----
There are tests available now that can tell if you will even benefit from chemo at all!! Not given here in the United States.
There are supplements given in other parts of the world that have been proven to help counteract the effects of chemo. Not given here.

It’s impossible to do the book justice. I simply say BUY IT. Get informed. There are some amazing ‘alternative’ doctors (who’ve been vilified and attacked and shut down for years) out there who ARE CURING PATIENTS. Particularly in cases of people with stage four brain, liver and pancreatic cancer (who have tried all the conventional methods with no success) they are giving these people year after year AFTER YEAR of life with no cancer.

And yes, of course the book goes out of its way to point out that conventional medicine can often work very well.
Are there drugs that save lives?? Of course. Do quadruple bypasses and all sorts of surgeries give people a new lease of life? Definitely! My own brother had a heart transplant in Australia that saved his life! And ER doctors must be applauded for saving lives every minute of the day. It's just that too many doctors prescribe too many drugs that are toxic and we need to be informed, ask the right questions and keep asking til something resonates and truly feels right. Doctors are not Gods and must not be treated as such. We need to be our own advocates.
Too late for me but not for others.
And the summer marches on—no energy to go anywhere….the teen working hard right through the summer as a camp counselor in training and my daughter Lola just back from a fabulous adventure in Argentina back-packing and traveling in rickety buses through the country. Having announced to me via skype a few weeks ago that she had decided she was NOT, after all, going to law school and that I should try to get a refund on the witty graduation gift of an 8-week study course for the L Sats, she’s wondering what to do with the rest of her life.
Funny, but so am I.
I have ideas for TV shows, a documentary on cancer, a movie, a book…but hard to keep pushing the boulder uphill. One can do nought but keep on being grateful for what one has and I have plenty.
What I don’t have is a date---or even the prospect of a date and after three years MINUS a date you’d think that I’d be grasping the concept that my dating days are over but nooooo, I had to go and renew some idiotic subscription with’s dating site. It was their 900th email asking me to renew a long-dead subscription and so, in a wild moment of lonely late-night hope and desperation I did the deeply tedious and gave them my credit card details.

Sure enough three days later they announced- in definitive terms- they had FOUND ME A MATCH.
With eager anticipation, I opened the email—to find that some dickhead was ‘looking for a ménage a trois – preferably with mature, experienced, married women.” !!!!
So a big THANKYOU SHOUT OUT to the folks at Salon who are almost certainly so moronic that they wouldn’t know a ménage a trois from a hole in the wall.
I even wrote to them saying as much and guess what—they didn’t respond or apologize.
If I had the energy I would call and demand my money back –but I don’t. It occurs to me that no one I know will ever set me up on a date again. I have been tainted with the "she has cancer" stain. Does it ever go away?
I have just doubled my anti-depressant dose. On MY orders.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

An old friend dies/ life blooms as a daughter graduates

So---13 days and no son to look after. I fall into a heap for a day or two---constantly emailing and calling to see about the bone cancer results—but nada till two days later when it comes back- NO SIGN OF BONE CANCER. HOORAY !! I’M A HAPPY CAMPER. I try to think of who I can call with the fabulous news that the cancer hasn’t spread to my bones. Ah. No one. Funny thing about being single. There’s no significant other to give a fuck whether the cancer has returned or not. And of course one tries to NOT carry on about it all with one’s poor kids who have been put through enough I think..
And YES says the assistant to Dr Glaspy, responding to one of my emails, I should now have a bone density test to check out the current state of my bones since Arimidex will rob them of whatever it is that makes them strong and actually GIVE you osteoporosis if they’re in any kind of weak state.

Oi vey. But when I go to get it over and done with two days later, it’s such a doddle compared to the bone scan that was checking for a cancerous tumor in the bone. Ten minutes and I’m done. What a breeze.
But what must really be attended to if I am ever to walk out of the house again and engage in any social activities is vile ratty blonde brittle stuff on my head that is meant to be passing for hair. The fringe is all breaking off in big pieces and I can think of nothing to do but appear yet again at the hairdressing joint that used to tend to my lovely long straight ‘sunkissed’ locks where the clientele is so youthful and healthy that chemo-ravaged hair is a tad on the wild side.
“What ‘appened to you love? asks the British owner who thinks he's as cute as Jamie Oliver but ain’t …”Let me guess - a perm gone wrong and now you started cutting it off yourself?”

‘Um, no, I had cancer, remember, and it all fell out. And then, when you were on holiday, Sally dyed it blonde.”
He clearly has no recollection whatsoever despite always remembering to tip him. Half-witted bastard. Much to his horror I break the news that we must go back to the color that had first sprouted from my bald head and indeed the color that is now on a good inch of roots---an odd shade of dark poo brown. But I must ‘own’ it – that’s my color and perhaps it will feel better in its natural hue and stop acting like a crack baby jutting out in all directions and making me look like a mad woman who can no longer find the time to groom herself. It bears very little resemblance to my once soft and manageable totally dead straight hair. It’s hair from another planet called Chemo and it’s the unmentioned booby prize you get.
He claims, clearly lying, that he has an emergency client to tend to and some gloomy apprentice is assigned to me – clearly in the hopes that I’ll never darken their doors again. She does the job with something less than enthusiasm but at least there’s no phony ‘oohing and aahing’ once it’s done. This is not a look they want to promote and I’m surprised I’m not ushered out a back door. I slink out of the salon a broken woman –no more the ‘gay carefree blonde’. It’s silly—and deeply shallow—but hair color can cheer you up or depress the shit out of you.
From that day on I stuff a hat on my head pretty much every time I walk out the door. I try to forget I even have hair and I really see for the first time how someone can let themselves go…..over a week goes by and I don’t even bother to wash it. It’s so dry and unhealthy that there’s no need and I actually feel nostalgic for the good old days when it was greasy and vile after just 24 hours.

So with the teen in Italy there’s no longer the routine of having to drag him out of bed every morning -a daily ritual that begins with my iphone playing the blues at 7am whereupon I literally drag myself up, enter his room, shake him a few times, ask for a verbal response to ‘YOU AWAKE NICK?’ and then turn on his heater so the darling won’t be chilly when he gets up. I then repair to kitchen to make his lunch and get some tea and then I run back to bed till two more ‘snoozes’ have been pressed on the iphone then I pop back in a carefully-timed 18 minutes to give him morning pills and vitamins. This time he must actually sit up and swallow the pills and I make sure the little blue Adderall is not dropped into his pit of a bed so that hopefully the speedy effects of this actual amphetamine I give child for his ADD will crank him into action. Then I rush back to kitchen and prepare one of his Top Three breakfasts—soft-boiled eggs and toast ‘fingers’ – thus named because the toast is cut thin enough to dip into the runny yolk and then straight into mouth—OR fried bread dipped-in-egg OR three Weet Bix and honey, milk and some berries. And yes, I lurch into his room with breakfast and he eats in bed. And then, a five minute insane dash to get dressed, load his backpack and run down to the car. (He bathes at night)
Ludicrous behaviour on my part? Undoubtedly. But it actually forces me- an unmitigated sloth of a morning, to get going and if I don’t do it this way, he’d be happy, as oft has been proven, to go to school on an empty stomach. I feel the least I can do, having failed to find a Prince Charming who would marry me and happily become father to my child, is send him off to an institution he loathes, with a bit of sustenance in him.

But without Nick around I sleep in to appallingly late hours and my body clock immediately re-sets to its natural rhythm- which is to stay up till 1 or 2 or even 3am and sleep in till 11.Or later. I’m not proud of it. My need for endless sleep (a good 9 hours which I never get) has been the bane of my life and even more so since cancer came knocking. But on the fourth morning I must drag my weary body up at ungodly10 am to go back to Dr Charney who has the results of my Complete Hormone Profile. They’re not good. It seems my body is ‘breaking down’ faster than its ‘building up’ and she patiently shows me the four pages of results trying to explain anabolic versus metabolic and the colored graphs and charts. I’m never in the good zone and bottom line is my adrenals are shot, I’m not in good shape and there’s a reason that I feel so staggeringly awful all the time. (Like I might have had some actual fun and am in the midst of a permanent truly shocking hangover.) We briefly discuss the dreaded Arimidex that I’m taking. She’s not a fan but legally cannot tell me what to do as she’s not an MD. Se suggests waiting for the Bone Density results.

She also gives me fairly costly supplements (and advises I throw all the crap I’ve just stocked up on from Trader Jo’s) and that I should try to eat really well, exercise or do yoga, meditate and above all try to de-stress. The last suggestion seems utterly impossible given my dire financial straits and it seems to me that the odds of getting actual paid employment, despite sending out countless emails, are terrifyingly slim. How exactly does one de-stress I ask her, when I was last paid as a writer/director in the Stone Age, when I have no pension plans, no Life Insurance, no savings and …okay, I remember in the nick of time she’s not my therapist and promise to return 2 weeks later for a detoxifying far infra red sauna.
So, feeling worse and worse and with more aches and pains as each day goes by, and convinced it may be due to the Arimidex I email Doc Glaspy’s to get the bone density results. After a week still nothing. I call and am told there are no results because I did not have the scan. I convince them I was not imagining yet another deeply tedious trip to St Johns and could they please check again.
I receive an email the next day from my oncologist. “Your bone density test was a baseline. There is no result. It’s for comparison in a year to see if you are losing bone.”

No result ? When I tell Clara Charney this she has her assistant call and insist on results being faxed over immediately. Shockingly, it gets done. Guess what? There is a result. There’s two pages of results. I HAVE OSTEOPENIA. It’s a THINNING of the bones, a lower than normal bone mineral density—the PRECURSOR to osteoporosis- or as one expert I googled said simply “Anyone with osteopenia is on the road to Osteoporosis.” I am so upset with the good oncologist.
Why tell me there is ”NO RESULT”. He is asking me, someone with thinning bones, to take a drug where the MAIN SIDE EFFECT IS BONE LOSS. What other effects are not yet known as then drug is relatively new and thus hasn’t been round long enough for the full story to come out. And in a year, when my bones are even thinner and osteoporosis may be setting in, Dr Charney says the likelihood is that I would be given Fosomax which apparently makes it appear that your bones are building up again but it’s a false reading as its just rotten old bone which then shatters rather than breaks. She admits that if she WERE ME, she would NOT be taking the Arimidex but keeping a close check on estrogen levels and doing everything else in my power to stay healthy.

It sounds so completely sound and sensible as I walk out the door. Skip the poisonous Big Pharma drug and stay healthy the natural way. But the darndest thing happens by the time I’m home. My new pal Mr Fear has a word in my brain.
What IF pain and aches and osteoporosis is the price I have to pay to stay healthy and cancer-free? (BECAUSE, if I was a rabid conspiracy theorist, anyone with an answer to cancer has been drummed out of the business, sued till they were on their knees – or threatened with death as the beady-eyed Vitamin Section clerk at Erewhon told me yesterday as his eyes darted hither and thither to see who was spying on us before he furtively went into a corner and wrote down “ROYAL RIFE” in caps on a post-it note. “This guy invented a cure for cancer in the forties but the drug companies had his medical license taken away. Look it up on the internet. There’s a guy here in LA who has made the machine. Come back when Megan’s here and she’ll put you in touch.” I’m ready to believe anything at this point but when I google him up, the guy, who still has some followers, does SEEM to have been a total nut job. I just need to ‘man up’ and make a decision about this drug.

And speaking of men, it sure looks like something close to a man walking out in the airport lounge as my boy, not yet 15, appears back on American soil after his 16 day trip to London and Italy. I’m thrilled to have him back. Routine again. Breakfast in bed for the sleepy teen and nagging about homework by night. I missed it.

And suddenly, like a bolt out of the blue, I realize that it’s been weeks and weeks since I got out my trusty Rite Aid phone card and called my oldest friend in the world in Melbourne who’s been desperately ill with pancreatic cancer for well over two years. Her dear husband Graham answers with panic in his voice “So you’ve heard? ”

“Heard what?” I ask as my stomach lurches violently and I wish to God I wasn’t such a selfish bitch who’d forgotten to call.
“She’s not good. She’s back in hospital and she doesn’t know anyone. The doctor took me aside me today and said “Well this is it. Brace yourself.” he confides, his voice breaking. I want to scream. I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach but utter the usual platitudes about how deeply sorry I am to this man who has said, in the past, that if she dies he’ll go off somewhere and never been seen again, ending it all. They had no kids, just two divine dogs—a dachshund and a Labrador and after falling in love with her in their early twenties, they rekindled their affair twenty years ago and have been together every day since.
I call Graham the next day, much earlier. He answers quickly again.
“Hi Lindy, have you heard?” he asks, his voice quite calm. My hopes suddenly soar. Perhaps the antibiotics have cleared up her lung infection, she’s snapped out of it and soon I’ll be having a good ol’ natter with Mand again.
“She died at 4am this morning. It was very peaceful. I talked to her all night. The doctor said that hearing is the last thing to go.” It’s just too much to bear. My oldest friend, the girl I met in first grade and have been so close to for fifty years, is gone. With pancreatic cancer that spread to her liver and lungs, it’s not surprising but it’s utterly devastating. This is Monday and the funeral will be held on Friday at St Andrew’s church in Middle Brighton, the local church that was associated with Firbank, my Church of England Girl’s Grammar school. The church we attended for Easter and Christmas services, the church where I was confirmed, where my brother got married, where I’ve been in recent years to endless funerals.

As I’m researching flights on Expedia to see just how much it would cost to get there, I realize that it would mean missing my daughter’s Final Art Show and graduation from Otis College. I just can’t do it. I make constant calls to Graham and my cousin and other old friends, weeping as they tell me that they’ve decided on the church music – John Lennon’s ‘Stand By Me’, Dusty Springfield’s ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ and Rod Stewart’s ‘You’re In My Heart’. Heavy-hearted, I decide to write something that will be read by my old pal Meredith.

“Nine two seven double six Oh (927660). I know those numbers as well as I know my own birth date. It was the number I called every morning at about 8.30. Just two rings and then I hung up, ran out the door and jumped into the old grey Vanguard with mum at the wheel. Off we shot, usually late, mum driving like a bat out of hell, to the top of Grosvenor Street to pick up my best friend who, almost certainly, would NOT be waiting there as planned. Mum would toot the horn, whereupon Mr Zach would appear, give us a harried wave or an exasperated shrug and then finally the wildly witty, whipsmart whirlwind that was Mandy Zachariah would fly out the door, grab the blazer and school hat Zach was holding out like a valet, and run to the car. In her hand, freshly-ironed green hair ribbons- as was de rigeur Firbank dress code- which she would tie around her plaits as we headed to school. Sometimes, if I begged, she would put her hair into a single plait and give one to me, her ribbon-less pal.

IN later years, if we had time, we'd head straight to the toilets next to the tuck shop and light up a quick Alpine as we'd suck on a Steamroller to hide the smell and chuckle at the thought of her big sister Sue, the school sports mistress, catching us in the act. Bizarrely, we never got caught. But we did get caught for many other misdeeds that generally involved the passing of notes and us laughing so hard and hysterically that we were in danger of exploding and we would be sent out of Assembly, or out of Divinity Class--or pretty much OUT of any class you can think of- on a fairly regular basis. We were easily amused but it's not a bad habit to have..

We were part of a jolly--and I'm afraid I must boast, a VERY cool gang that included my dear cousin Jane Parkes, the mischievous Meredith Walsh, Nicky Dearie, Sue Fooks, Jenny Pullman, Vickie Britten, Paula Kane and Julie Sturrock. Once we were too sophisticated to climb the Broken tree or play horsey by hanging onto the overall strings of the other girl and screaming "Giddyup", once we were way too old to play Skippy or Hoppy--we would lounge around on the oval, seeing who had the shortest uniform, who had the brownest legs, how good Lizzie Putt's hair looked, what we were going to wear to Dancing Class and how most of the Prefects were annoying, tell-tale goody goodies.

Mand and I would walk home to her place where her mum Joan would feed us huge thick slabs of fresh white bread slathered with butter, sliced bananas and white sugar which energised us sufficiently for a strenuous, shoeless dance session in the living room. Mand , ALWAYS a great dancer, was desperate to get on the TV show Kommotion and so sheds pop on a 45 and we'd get down. Mand had a lot of great moves that left me for dead. The SWIM and I think something with a lot of head tossing called the Pony. We were pretty even when it came to Chubby Checker and the Twist- though we'd often collapse with a stitch after our massive snack.

Friday nights Mand often made a beeline for our place as she was very partial to the delicious Pine Burgers and chips that dad would bring back from the joint on St Kilda street opposite the yacht club. He'd often bring Minties and Jaffas too. We'd lie back, eat our Pineburgers, watch black and white TV- happy as clams. Then we'd go and practice our Twiggy-like eye makeup. Big black crease lines, white highlighter under the brow and for Mandy, who already had those great big brown eyes, painted-on lashes underneath. And very pale pink -or white lips. I told you- we were cool.

Then on saturdays, Mand often joined mum and me on trips to Church Street to look in the shops. We were mildly obsessed with the aforementioned Dancing Class outfits. To my amazement, Mrs Zach would actually whip up a dress on her sewing machine for Mandy in a day but after a while, Mand despised them and insisted on store-bought dresses. But she did already have her first pair of heels, in gorgeous white patent leather - and I was now on a desperate mission for heels too. Mand had spotted a pair in brown-with teeny-tiny one inch heels and a very cute bow. They were called Teena Dolls. They fitted to perfection and would match, as Mand pointed out, my itchy brown wool dress. We found mum and dragged her in but she was underwhelmed and refused to buy them. All the way home I whined on and on about the Teena Dolls and even the loyal Mand tried to convince mum that the Teena Dolls were a must. But with Mand in mid-sentence, she suddenly lost it, took the Peter Stuyvesant out of her mouth, turned round and screamed 'I'LL GIVE YOU GIRLS A TEENA DOLL!!!"

Well Mandy just thought that was one of the funniest things she'd ever heard and started to shriek with laughter, turning the disappointment into hilarity. Even mum, who adored Mandy, was soon hooting with laughter too.

Now, it's a silly little anecdote BUT it pretty much sums Mandy up for me. She had the most brilliant, infectious, finely honed sense of humor, with a wonderful appreciation of the absurd and for the NEXT FORTY YEARS, on many different continents, she would suddenly, out of NOWHERE, shout very loudly " I'LL GIVE YOU A TEENA DOLL!" and we'd laugh and laugh and laugh.

She always made me laugh. Her charisma and intelligence and love of a good time made her such irresistably good company. Whether it was down at Lorne discovering a fabulous band called The Groop with it's gorgeous lead singer Ronnie Charles- or hanging with Meredith at Bev and Nick Walsh's house by the beach in Angelsea or having a BBQ in the back garden with Zach and Jane at Airie's Inlet or sneaking into Molina's Pub on Church Street with Jane and hoping not to run into brother David who didn't approve or getting ready to head off to Dancing Class and trying to ignore the teasing of big brother Richard and his pals....whatever, wherever, it was fun with Mand. A sweet, kind and empathetic friend, she was generous to a fault and a bloody good journo, as well as a devoted wife to the wondrously sweet and adoring Graham whose wicked sense of humor and brilliant wit meant a match made in heaven.
He's also been one of the most caring, darling husbands on the planet. A fantastic bloke. They don't come any better.
When I suggested that Mand’s dad Mr Zach would like the Classic where my dad was living, I was thrilled when it all worked out as I got to see much more of Mand and Graham and all the Zachs...but it never felt enough. I adored hanging with Mand. As did SO MANY. There's a reason that she had such devoted friends and her dearest sister Nane around her till the end.

She was the life and spirit of the party. She liked to be happy, enjoy life with a lot of white wine and have an excellent time. She wants us to be happy and THUS, we must honor her wishes and try bloody hard to go on having a good time.
Love you Mand, my darling friend of 51 years and I send my love to everyone.


My cousin Jane calls at 3 am friday morning (Melbourne is 19 hours ahead of LA) to tell me that the funeral, amazingly, was not really sad at all. A huge turn-out, lots of laughs and a tremendous tribute to a darling girl. All the clichés in the world flood my brain as I sit up in bed, crying yet again and talking to my dear cousin. Seize the moment. Try to find the joy. It’s all over soon enough.
Twelve hours later it’s time to get ready for my darling daughter’s Final Art Show down near the airport at Otis. I haven’t seen her this excited since ….well I don’t know when. She and her fellow graduates have been slogging away at Otis for weeks- till the wee small hours cleaning up their grubby, chaotic studios, repainting them and turning an entire floor of the building into pristine, professionally snow white galleries to show their work. Now she runs round the house, getting dolled up and without warning, trying on her cap and gown for me to see. I hadn’t known she even had the outfit here and as she spots tears springing to my eyes, she quickly whips it off and tells me to ‘get a grip’ before proceeding to work on her outfit for the evening which invariably means trying all manner of cute, glam, sexy outfits before opting for her much-preferred laid-back look.
These days, it takes me a full three minutes to get ready. Black pants, a jacket from 25 years ago and a hat. Who knew one would feel nostalgic for those heady times when clothes were thrown around the bedroom as one frantically got ready for a date or a party? Hands up who’s even has been to a party lately…

So soon we’re hurtling in witty Friday evening traffic with our dear friend Tim Curry to this place of learning where my darling has been closeted for weeks, months, years. And I’m as happy as I’ve been in a long time. And soon, about ten feet from LAX, we’re at Otis College---and we’re rushing from fabulous room to room and she’s pointing g out her work with a giant grin on her face and greeting people and being charming and standing in front of her work for her deeply annoying camera-happy mother and I’m not getting the clear shots I want but it’s okay and she’s gone and we’re trailing behind as she points out the three gorgeous watercolors … and then there’s the truly beautiful installation she’s done of stunning crystals that won the Juror’s Prize last night and next, three giant drawings of sumo wrestlers that are so fine and beautiful my heart is just bursting.
…..Oh my goodness and here’s the infamous and electrifying knife installation—all manner of shiny, luminous, sparkling knives and right at this moment her father appears and ever the joker, loudly insists they’re all his missing knives and makes to start pulling them out …and so it goes with friends and ALL her extended family all appearing which includes one mother plus her two stepmothers, her dad, her half brother and sister and even Nick Hobbs and a school friend are soon seen casually strolling in, having just arrived back from a school trip to Washington DC. It’s a great night and I just love her work though the fact that someone has decided to put names of artists on a list at the door and NOT next to the work itself is, in my humble opinion, moronic.

And on Sunday morning we are back at Otis as my dearest girl- totally ‘rocking’ the glam/professorial look in cap and gown, dark red lipstick and a stunning gold sash that signifies she is graduating with Honors – a minor detail she incredibly modestly just happened to tell her mother last night. And it’s the picture-perfect graduation you see in American movies, the first I’ve ever been to and it lives up to the build-up with a fabulous procession of faculty and students, rousing speeches and all the appropriate pomp and circumstance. I’m in a muck sweat, standing on my chair trying to work out whether I should use my new Canon bought specially for the occasion to just photograph or video the moment her name is called and she walks on stage. At the last minute I opt for video and run half way down the aisle and fight my way through a throng of similarly crazed parents so I can really capture the Kodak moment. It doesn’t disappoint. She glows and I am just the PROUDEST MUM EVER.

Moments later, as caps are even flung into the air-like in the movies, I realize I’ve done something very right. I have an outstanding, wonderful, sweet, kind, clever and talented daughter. Her beloved mentor – one of the best sculptors in America- the late Robert Graham who she took a year off college and worked for, transferring from Chicago Art Institute to be at Otis close to Bob’s studio in Venice, would have been SO utterly delighted and PROUD of her too. Congratulations Lola darling. I love you so much.

And the graduation gift from her mum? Not very thrilling. Not a groovy vintage 'woody' Le Baron car. She bought one herself a few weeks ago. Not a stunning new wardrobe from Barney's or a trip to Prada or even a holiday in France. Nope
A 2 month Kaplan course to study for the LSATS—so she can go to Law School next year. ‘No dough in art’, I keep telling her in stunningly philistine fashion. ‘GET A LAW DEGREE BABY!!! (Check out my first VIDEO at bottom of page--Lola graduates!!)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How to embarrass your teenage son...

Okay—back to the pressing question of “Do I take the anti-cancer drug Tamoxifen for the next five years or not?” Yet again one feels very much alone and somewhat abandoned since –well put it this way-- God forbid there could be any CONCENSUS OF OPINION ABOUT TREATMENT WHATSOFUCKING EVER !!. These days I think of doctors like face creams—most are expensive and full of shit. Which one do you trust ? Total crapshoot! As for the insurance companies …not unlike an expensive matchmaking company I checked out a couple of years ago when I first arrived back Stateside (I love that silly expression- so outré but am citizen –can say what I like) from Melbourne. At the urging of a friend I went in for a consultation, lied about my age and worried desperately that I looked old in the nasty sunlight streaming through some dull conference room in a tedious Century City high rise. Point being—they asked way too many personal questions, had countless nosy forms to be filled out, were refusing to guarantee anything AND WERE asking for A TON OF MONEY.

My original oncologist—the one who looks like Morticia with her perfectly groomed long black hair and suits and high heels , has said that I need to start the anti-cancer drug, Tamoxifen. She’s the one who half scared me to death with her dire predictions of what would happen if I did NOT have chemo (and yes, I immediately SIGNED UP for it because I was terrified and my daughter was in the room softly weeping and I knew no better, too panic-struck to do my homework and waste another minute waiting for appointments with other specialists.)
Two months ago she told me to start Tamoxifen right away. She claims that somehow it will reduce the ‘original risk of recurrence’ by 75%. The good oncologist definitely favors the BIG statistics which are confusing and according to Ralph Moss, the famous cancer researcher, misleading and not remotely ‘honest’.
BUT, I try to do my homework these days. I have a friend Carrie, diagnosed just a few months ahead of me, who had a very similar breast cancer profile though she went the radiation route. Before the surgery I call up to see how she’s doing and she tells me that she’s taking not Tamoxifen but a newer drug called Arimidex.
We have the SAME oncologist. So I email the doc asking why she didn’t prescribe Arimidex for me. I wait a few days, email again ---but NOTHING. I have noticed now time and time again that doctors are not very partial to questions asking them about their opinions/actions. TWELVE days later she finally responds to my third email and says she thought she had already responded and promises to check my records. Hmmm. Wildly unacceptable. Two days later she emails that she has phoned through a prescription for Arimidex instead of Tamoxifen. In other words, she had MADE A MISTAKE but HAD NO INTENTION of admitting it or apologizing. Not happy Doc. Even unhappier when I hit Rite Aid the next day to collect my anti depressants. My Arimidex are there too. IF I fork over $320 since I’ve not yet met my Anthem Blue Cross deductible. I tell them “no thanks’.

So I go to see Dr John Glaspy- the oncologist at UCLA.
I had imagined, and hoped, that since he pooh-poohed the chemo when I first met him and inferred that I HAD JUST POISONED MYSELF COMPLETELY UNNECESSARILY with it, he might just say take some DIM (broccoli extract pills that health gurus are very high on) and live your life---but no, I discover that he is a big fan of Arimidex and he says there’s NO question about it – Arimidex is the way to go. And if I’d gone to see him after first discovering cancer, he’d have suggested Arimidex INSTEAD of CHEMOTHERAPY since it’s his firm opinion that it staves off a recurrence far more effectively than chemo and that that is ALL he would have given me. (But I didn’t hear of him till after chemo was over and thus it was too late.)
Yes, he admits, it can cause bad joint pain on account of it squeezes very last drop of estrogen juice out of you---but he says NOT everyone suffers the join pain and you’ll know in about a week. He finishes by saying that I have a 10 % chance THAT THE CANCER WILL RETURN but if I take Arimidex it will be cut in half to 5%. And following the unwritten rule that the longer you wait, the quicker the consult, he’s gone in five minutes.

I now have a 10% chance the cancer will come back? But when I first went to see him for his opinion about surgery, he’d promised that a double mastectomy would reduce my chances of recurrence down to well under 2%. I loved his conviction and his adorable smile. I had been warned and it was a fact. He was Mr Charm and he even seemed to like women. There and then I made the fateful decision to go ahead with the surgery. I even went back with my dear pal Richard and he repeated his opinion once more. Never once mentioning that I would then need to take a strong drug for five years.
So I email and ask why the number has risen from 2% to 10% in just seven months. It takes a couple more reminder emails before he finally realizes I am not letting it go and his response, just a tad patronizing, finally arrives stating that “there is no difference between these two numbers. 2% and 5% are the same number” he insists. Well fine. I get it—they are just statistics. But it has gone from 2% to 10 % according to you--not five, so just stay CONSISTENT for fuck’s sake. CLEARLY, BEING TOLD THE DOUBLE MASTECTOMY would lower recurrence to 2% or less was pretty PERSUASIVE. So again---do me a favor and don’t be so cavalier now. I listened to you—put my trust in you, had the double mastectomy and endured all the crap that followed. Maybe I should have listened to Morticia, skipped the double mastectomy and just opted for radiation.
As I am waiting for his email response, I decide I should seek another opinion and go to see Dr Watson, the gyno/wholistic doctor in Santa Monica, who gave me Vitamin C infusions during chemo and the staph infection phase to build my immune system. She says “Weeeell, Arimidex will rob you of those precious estrogen elements and leave you dry as an old pile of sand up THERE. You could take the DIM”---or, she muses, as if this really might appeal to me –“What about just taking it two or three times a week..? You’ll still be getting a dose but not the full one.”
Excuse me? This seems like odd advice. I’m all for alternative but her complete lack of conviction either way doesn’t strike me as the best way TO FIGHT SOMETHING LIKE CANCER which has defied a CURE from smart folk around the planet for a good SEVENTY or more years.

I mean how does that work? Take it on Tuesdays and Fridays? Or just when I remember to do so? And does it mean that because of my MASSIVE AMBIVALENCE ABOUT ANTI DEPRESSANTS, I should start taking them every third day –or just on high days and holidays?
“NOT HAPPY, DOC! “ I find myself wanting to scream from the rooftops, a la William Holden in “Network…”NOT HAPPY!!”

Now this ‘due diligence’ all took place BEFORE my surgery on March 11.

About five days after the surgery I’m still wondering what to do and decide it’s time to go higher up on the alternative chain so I visit Dr Charney, my lovely naturopathic/muscle testing doc on Robertson says “OH NO…let’s do a Complete Hormone test this week to see where your levels are and then we can determine how to proceed and if you do take the Arimidex (which she is open to) then at least we can see what EFFECT IT IS actually having on your estrogen levels”…Makes sense to me.
And I have faith in her. Not only is she incredibly informed and able to explain cancer and its progression well but she was testing Vitamin D levels – all the rage now- and giving it to people four years ago—as was Dr Watson—so basically you can assume they ‘re about four years ahead of the curve and in a few years even oncologists will be doing Complete Hormone Level Tests to get a sophisticated and accurate level before proceeding with drugs that can leave you with brittle bones, osteoporosis and a dried-up fanny.
A word of warning –Do NOT bother to check the Arimidex website. Firstly it will SCARE THE SHIT OUT OF YOU with its list of about 900 side effects---everything from bone loss and joint pain to depression, weight gain, blurred vision, nausea, chest pain, swelling, insomnia, nausea, racing heartbeat and yet MORE hair changes. Whoopty doo---MORE hair changes.

This dull big Pharma website then proceeds to treat we cancer folk who’ll be helping ASTRA ZENECA get RICHER and RICHER (they’ve made well over two billion bucks so far)as if we’re sub-human simpletons and under the heading “HOW TO COPE WITH BONE LOSS” suggests that we ‘consult with a doctor before starting a regimen of walking.’ You got it! I would never take a stroll without consulting the medical profession first.
It gets better. If you’re suffering from WEAKNESS OR FATIGUE, they confide that you might want to try the very novel concept of eating nutritious meals, plenty of water, and restoring your concentration with a little gardening!!
No, no. That’s not all !! They then generously share yet more nuggets of riveting, life-changing information. Here’s one. Wait for it…..It suggests that when the drug’s side effects have left you wimpering with exhaustion, barely able to move a muscle, you should try to ‘PACE YOURSELF.’ And if that doesn’t do the trick, and you’re still unable to get out of bed or think straight–then their cunning plan is to either ‘ask friends for help’ or ‘RESCHEDULE YOUR ACTIVITIES’.

They stop short of suggesting that perhaps the NEGATIVE side effects of the meds are perhaps outweighing any benefits and that you might try to STOP taking them!! FUCKING BIG PHARMA FUCKS.
Oh no wait, I’m sorry. They do take pains to say that if you’re unlucky enough to have NO health insurance to help pay the $400 for the 30 pills you’ll need each month, you can try to contact them to ask for financial help. Good luck with that.
So I take the pee test for the complete hormone profile and send it off and the plan is that we will wait for the results Dr Charney and I will CALMLY decide TOGETHER if I should take this cancer drug or not. Yes, good to have a plan.
And yet ..and yet…like the best-laid plans, it’s doomed. . Two or three nights later I wake up with serious pain in the middle of my back. I’m not imagining it. Three Advil have no effect. Two hours later I take a Vicodin. The pain continues and then I lie there, silently weeping. I know what’s happened. I am convinced of it and the idea that I won’t see my daughter’s children or be there for my darling fatherless son is just excruciatingly upsetting.
For a start, because of all the surgeries, I realize that about 6 months have been wasted when I could HAVE been taking the Arimidex. Re-reading Astra Zeneca’s Website for Halfwits again the next morning, just confirms my fear…
“During surgery, doctors try to remove as much cancer as possible. Still, it is possible that some cancer cells may remain in your body and could continue to multiply. Recurrence is the term used to describe the return of cancer following primary treatment (for example, surgery), either in the same place as the original tumor or somewhere else in the body.”

… Basic, simplistic stuff---but for anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, they are HORRIFYING WORDS….I decide it’s a good bet I’ve given some of those stray cancer cells a REAL BREAK by not being on the drug and that WITHOUT A SHADOW OF A DOUBT, it’s growing up a storm. As soon as I get home from dropping the teen at school, I email Dr Glaspy and simply say “I‘ve had a lot of back pain and am worried I may have bone cancer.”
I’m relieved to report that this email attracts a very speedy response and just two days later I’m at UCLA having a full body scan.
Tightly swaddled in sheets to stay warm, even my feet are taped together so they don’t move at ALL. The full horror of thrusting myself into this alien universe where only dangerous rays-killers in themselves- can detect the dreaded bone cancer hits home and any moment one expects some scary drugged-up Dick Cheney look-alike radiologist to appear who will absent-mindedly ZAP me with double or maybe TRIPLE the dose—as they recently discovered was occurring for---ohh, let’s see—about a year and a half with incorrectly-programmed machines at Cedars Sinai .
As the gurney starts its journey, I’m tempted to do a runner but the NEED TO KNOW is fairly strong. I stay put and shut my eyes, only opening them when I’m sure about twenty minutes have passed and I should have entered the tunnel and come out again. But no, I AM fully ENCLOSED and the top of the tunnel is just about three centimeters from my eyelashes. FUCK! Adrenaline-pumping fear floods one’s body despite the warnings and even knowing in advance from last time that claustrophobia is inevitable and deeply unpleasant. But I try to think of worse things that could be happening. Like water-boarding.

No actually, I tell myself not to be a pathetic whining wimp and think about people a THOUSAND times worse off—like THOSE who are paralyzed from the neck down or blind or trapped in an underground mine or wrongly sent to jail for life. That helps. (And I promise myself a half Vicodin and a vodka in bed later when the teen’s homework is completed.) I finally dare to open my eyes and there’s nothing but a ceiling about 8 feet above me. Bliss. But then the kind Indian technician comes in, asks exactly where the pain has been and I tell him that it was the middle of the back. Annoyingly, not the remotest twinge right now.
But he says I must now lie still again while the machine does an extraordinary 360 right around my body—focusing on the middle of my back for another forty five minutes. In what may qualify as the dullest ninety minutes I’ve spent all year, I decide my future may lie in inventing a sort of exhilarating 3D light show/movie experience for those who must lie still whilst being tested and scanned, x-rayed, given chemo or IV infusions. Bed-ridden hospital patients –from kids to old folk- would love it. Couldn’t I invent something like that and make millions? If only I had follow-through.

Next day as I wait for the results I learn about a friend who took the drugs for just one year after her breast cancer and then stopped. Five years later the cancer returned. In her bones. I run to the kitchen and tear open one of the trial packs of two weeks worth of Arimidex that Dr Glaspy gave me and swallow one. My plan to wait for the Complete Hormone Test results are out the window. Fear has taken hold.
And now it’s ten days after the surgery and I have very cunningly booked tickets for myself and Nick to head off to Europe for a skiing holiday in Italy leaving in three days. I would have preferred it to be two days later but flights are crowded and it’s either now or never since Spring Break begins in five days and Nick has been wanting to go back to my best friend Gael’s stunning log cabin-style ski chalet in the Italian Alps since he was six when he first learnt to snowboard. I’m too nervous to ask Dr Bob what he thinks – and too horrified to even think about telling Nick that the trip is off. His giant snowboard bag has been packed for a week with the multitude of long johns I’ve insisted on buying and snazzy never-worn white boots plus the precious virgin snowboard that he’s painted pink and green.
And lest anyone rush to judgement let me make it very clear that I had no intention of hitting the slopes. My plan was to chill inside and read a thing called a book. But I am still shattered and so very, very tired. I have to lie down at least twice a day and the thought of packing and vile economy travel via Chicago to London fills me with such dread that even I come to my senses and realize perhaps he can go alone. The giant teen already flew back from Australia alone when he was about 8 and wearing the unaccompanied child tag will mean he’ll be helped with connecting flights and almost certainly make it to his destination despite the horrors of Frequent Flyer travel. When I deliver the sad news that I may not be coming, his obvious joy and excitement are downright unseemly. Not a whit of disappointment. The little bastard’s deliriously happy and I hear him telling a friend that ‘it’s so stressful traveling with mum. It’s gonna be great going on my own.”
By the time we’ve made it though impossible lines just to check in—and reached the Departure Lounge, he’s complaining bitterly that he looks ’like a retard’ wearing the Unaccompanied Child Info in a pouch round his neck and livid that I’m trying to sneak extra water and bananas and cough drops into his backpack! As he puts the ipod earphones into his big manly ears and tries to ignore me, I suddenly realize I’m sending my darling only son off on some ancient American Airlines plane on his own and what if something was to happen…I SHOULD BE GOING WITH HIM! Needing a distraction I whip out my iphone and start to take some photos. He ignores me as I ask him to smile about 7 times and then finally turns and gives me one of his big goofy adorable grins. That’s all it takes. I’m now in floods of tears and Nick, used to his sentimental slob of a mother weeping at the drop of a hat is merely amused. Just as he tells me he’s starving and dying for a double whopper from a Burger King he’s spotted in the distance, there is an announcement demanding that Unaccompanied minors who are being sent off alone by their callous, uncaring mothers, must board the plane immediately. I’m allowed to bring him right on board the plane which he keeps insisting is NOT necessary but I see him to his seat, try to hug him about five times – and finally, weeping again, take my leave. But as I’m working my way through cranky passengers all heading in the opposite direction, I hear an announcement that cash is no longer accepted on international flights and that meals can only be purchased with credit cards. What ??

My poor son, THE only child traveling without a mother on this flight, has NO credit card. He will starve to death. I have no choice….I make a mad dash to the Burger King, and after anxiously waiting what seems like hours (desperate to cut the line, but not quite bold or insane enough to try at an airport )I order some whacking great Double Whopper burger that upsets me a great deal having just seen the documentary Food Inc- but a starving credit card-less teen must be served and soon, holding the burger, fries and a truly massive Coke that could strike diabetes into a giant, I’m dodging cranky travelers in a mad sprint back to the gate- terrified it will have closed and I’ll be forced to consume it all myself.
The woman punching in the boarding cards, the one who took us on board earlier, is very, very busy and so I just I run on through, down the tunnel and up to the plane door. The stewardess there sniffs enviously at the fries and sweetly offers to deliver them but a pilot appears and she’s immediately distracted. Don’t want the lad to get cold fries and so off I dash, past dull folk who spend hours stowing bags in the overhead bins, past lots of jokers asking if I have a spare grub for them and finally, I spot MY BOY!
I stop a few feet away and hold up the burger and drink in triumph…Several passengers break into a spontaneous cheer but Nick’s expression is one of utter horror. Did I change my mind? Is HIS MOTHER NOW COMING WITH HIM? Reddening with humiliation, he whips ipod wires out of his ears, and gives me a beady-eyed stare that in an ideal world would make me invisible but luckily, the smell of fries and burger reaches his nose in the nick of time and he manages a small smile as I hand it all over and reassure him “Just delivering honey. Don’t worry, I’m not staying.” He manages a “Thanks mum. Love you. Bye” before popping in his ipod and starting to inhale the grub.

I take my leave, politely asking a passing stewardess if she could possibly give the teen without a credit card some free food on the flight. She kindly agrees and I make it off the plane and out of the terminal before breaking down sobbing as I realize that yet again, cancer has won out. It’s robbing me not only of a long-anticipated holiday with my best friend but of precious time with a son who’ll soon resist even the idea of holidays together. It’s robbed me of memories that can’t be repeated. It’s also taught me that airport security is pretty darn slack and that one surefire way to annoy a teenager is to appear on a plane with food when he thinks he’s already escaped his mother for two weeks.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fuck the cleanse-vodka, a stale fag & sardines on toast!

Now there are some people who thrive on the discipline of diets and fasts. They truly function better when told what to do and when to do it and it’s funny. ….they actually see results and have something to feel proud about. Smug bastards. Then there are those of us---and I personally blame the Aussie convict gene—who are shocking scofflaws. I’m not proud of it but it’s a fact and I must learn to live with it and more importantly come clean. About ten minutes, for instance, after vowing to commence a healthful regime of avoiding all white and fried food for the next two weeks, I will be MOVED by some invisible spirit force with the strength of a thousand horses, to CHEAT and whip up an Elvis Presley special---a fried banana, peanut butter and bacon sandwich.

YES, I admit it. In the spirit of that good ol’ AA introduction, I would like to say here and now for the record, HI, MY NAME’S LYNDALL AND I’M A CHEATER. Which makes it all the more moronic that I thought I could handle five food-LESS days. But I am a silly old Pollyanna, hope springs eternal and if it wasn’t for the midnight meanderings I might just have swung it. My nocturnal wanderings are not sleepwalking exactly—but I do seem to behave like a zombie in a trance.

That is to say I wake up, at least two or three times every night, and immediately head straight to the kitchen, knowing that trying to get back to sleep without popping something in mouth will be useless endeavor. So I slide in to the kitchen and try to eat something simple and not calorie-laden. Rice cakes and peanut butter, a handful of almonds, an oatmeal cookie, a tangerine—or more often than not—dark chocolate in any form. If especially peckish (hungry where I come from) I will even go as far as Vegemite on toast. But the salty yeast extract that is our beloved Vegemite requires an extra large glass of milk and that will ensure having to get up and pee in about 30 minutes so I try to limit toast and vegemite to Friday or Saturday nights when I can sleep in.
So on night two after surgery, as I automatically stagger to kitchen like poor old Pavlovian dog, I find myself popping salty chocolate almonds (try them- Trader Joe’s—brilliant big chunks of sea salt on the choc almonds) before I even REMEMBER that I am meant to be cleansing my temple/body. I could spit them out and pretend I didn’t swallow two already but it’s a tough decision…and what a waste. So it’s decided then and there…this will be a semi-cleanse. Or half-assed –whatever you wish to call it. From then on ….. just a little benign nibbling at crackers and nuts…oh and the odd apple slice with big fingerfuls of peanut butter and apricot jam right from the jars.. plus plenty of that anti-oxidant packed dark chocolate….not so bad…and I shan’t bother to mention the midnight snacks—since I have decided they don’t count when your skin suddenly starts to ITCH AND BURN LIKE A CRAZY MOTHERFUCKER !!

Wondering if it’s some dangerous allergic reaction to the foul, poisonous Chinese tea crap that I‘ve been bravely continuing to imbibe, I consider putting in an emergency call to the man who runs the cleanse but cannot remember where I put his number and so I stumble round the apartment looking for Benadryl which I find about two hours later in the carefully labeled clear plastic box -MEDICINES ETC -under bathroom sink. Have no idea when I organized such a brilliant thing and in fact don’t remember it existed—so what exactly is the point of being organized when you can’t recall that you got organized in the first place??

But Benadryl doesn’t work and by about 6 am I am ripping off the stretchy bandages that my tits are wrapped in….as I peel it off great big patches of oozing sweaty, blistery skin peel off too, leaving gaping areas of red raw epidermis. Niiice. Time for some more Vicodin which despite my greedy snack addiction, I am always very moderate in taking….and because I am a drug lightweight, leave me completely stoned within about ten minutes. That in turn leads to some slightly impulsive emails to my good pal, ol’ doctor bob. I temporarily forget I am to suck up to almighty surgeon no matter WHAT, and I tell him I am in agony, ask for an apology for hurling me out of hospital the same day, and generally try to convey how traumatized and upset I am. This does not go down well.

Popular surgeons do not seem to appreciate constructive criticism. And he leaps into email action and is frightfully mean and bangs on about wanting to save me money cos Blue Cross consider major reconstructive surgery an outpatient procedure! And if he had kept me overnight at St John’s they might have objected and charged me a quick $20, 000. Oh really? Not what happened the last two times you operated on me….and how much more could St John’s charge ??

I just saw the bill ---$58,000 for the whole procedure with a mere $24,000 for the pharmacy bill. EXCUSE ME?? For what? Some Propofol?? That’s it. I paid for own Vicodin and antibiotics. How about the pharmacy try to act less like criminals and charge a smidge less and let me stay overnight! The whole thing is too infuriating for words. Thinking about health care could make one very ill. (Note to self—query the 24 grand fucking pharmacy bill!)

I make sure to have a friend meeting me there the next day when I go to see Dr Bob since I now sense some unfriendly vibes after committing medical treason and questioning my standard of care. Sure enough, a very chilly atmosphere. I don’t dare say a word about anything and try to be very polite. He coldly says I have had an allergic reaction to the adhesive bandage and after I am inspected and re-wrapped, he launches into a seemingly very rehearsed defense, once again, of his actions. I very simply point out that he told me I would be staying about ten minutes before the operation and he denies it. But why would I want to wake up in recovery and have no one there to take me home?? I swear on my children that he told me I would be staying and even let him off the hook by saying “Perhaps you were just very focused on the surgery and didn’t remember what you said…” In some sort of roundabout way I THINK he finally concedes that it’s conceivable – but NOT likely.

Anyway, I’m over it. I’m over it ALL. Sick to death of my health and talking about my health and the whole friggin box and dice, I drive on home and crawl back to bed for a few hours, utterly exhausted by the trip and ready to weep that, as some sort of punishment I suspect, he ordered me to stay on antibiotics for TWICE as long as originally planned. Within the hour trusty Rite Aid are on the blower telling me that my meds await me.

Day Four. I realize I ‘m weaker than I’ve been in over a year but by this point, everyone, quite rightly, is bored out of their minds by my endless surgeries. The fact that this is the worst I’ve felt throughout the whole ordeal, is unfortunately, not something one dares mention to anyone. Except one very, very old friend, a dude, who emails and asks how the surgery went. I email back a day or two later that I simply feel like crap and that this has been the worst recovery ever. To which he replies, as if I’m the whining nightmare patient from hell…”Be grateful you’re not six feet under!” Oh gee thanks.What a sweet, empathetic thing to say. I loathe 'friends'(who haven't actually visited one single time in 15 months!) like that.

And now it’s time to put on my happy face, my Uggs, a hat on the dry, frizzled up old white bleached hair and get me to school to pick up the gorgeous great big teen of a son who’s been staying with friends and seems to have grown a good inch in the last 5 days. I’m so happy to see him that I try to ignore several facts.

1It looks like he may be wearing the same t shirt I last saw him in..

2.I’ve already had emails from two teachers about missing homework..

3.Teeth look a lovely shade of yellow under the braces and it’s funny how I noticed his electric toothbrush still in his bathroom..

4.He left his novel at home and clearly is now even further behind with reading…

But instead of nagging, the mother who has been out of action for 5 days nobly takes him to his favorite Cactus Taqueria on Vine and get him 2 fish tacos and whatever else he adores…some odd milky drink and a huge bulging burrito that must be about 1000 calories. He wolfs it all down before we’re even home. Once in his bedroom, we finally get to hug, though he knows he can’t really give mum a big bear-hug. Just a very gentle one. I suggest oh so sweetly that he get down to homework soon since mum needs to drink a foul version of a protein drink on my cleanse and then go take a nap. He promises faithfully that he will. Everything is hunky dory. I vow not to fight with him all week.
I wake up over two hours later and he’s under the shower. He takes showers that last forever. What do teenage boys do under the shower for that long? Exactly !!Let’s not dwell on it. And there’s his huge whacking great school bag on his bed, yet to be unpacked. That means ZERO homework has been done during my two hour nap. He is SO not to be trusted!! I take the Playboys from their hiding place in his third drawer as punishment and chuck them. And the yelling begins.
But the bathroom door can be locked and he hides in there for hours with his computer and cell phone and knows I can do nought about it. (Not until late at night when I stealthily creep into his room and take his computer and hide it in my room. But the truth is he’s way sneakier and smarter and should seriously consider a career as a spy. He senses missing items and before I know what’s happening, has crept up behind me, stolen my cell phone and then refuses to give it back till I tell him where his computer is. You can perhaps sense what exceptional control and authority I have with my teenage son---but you try it. They’re relentless, stubborn and always up for a good battle –and these mad chases round the apartment are oft before we’ve left for school and I’ve made it to Starbucks.)
So, as the shower drones on, I drag a chair into the kitchen to search the top cupboard where I sometimes throw the American Spirits in disgust. Eureka !! I find them and light up a lovely stale fag and open the freezer for the vodka. Well it is meant to be the purest of alcohols so that fits right into my purifying cleanse. Then it’s half a xanax in a noble attempt to stay calm and not fight with the teen. And since I’m such a cautious soul, drinking on an empty stomach is unthinkable and thus it’s time for my version of cooking—opening a can of sardines and the making of some toast. And VOILA---the FEAST fast is over!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Juice FEAST my ass...

Sunday 21st march
Well I truly don't wish to sound like a sniveling, whining jerk, but I do suspect that the bastard cancer –or at least its repercussions -has finally beaten me into submission. It has had its way with me and I now officially feel—as my old mum used to say – like I’ve been hit by a ten ton truck. I am also somewhat gobsmacked by what happened just a few days ago after my major reconstruction surgery. Yep, there I was, regaining consciousness and entering that netherworld state that, for a little while, resembles a bad trip with nausea, dizziness and just plain terror mixed in for good measure. (“Where am I ? Am I alive? Did I lose any limbs?? PLEASE DON’T TELL ME THEY HAD TO AMPUTATE!”) when a cranky, business-like nurse appears and asks, as if she’s just finished my leg wax and now has another client waiting, “Is somebody picking you up? Your daughter is listed to call but I’m not getting any answer.”

WHATTT? I look about and notice that I am not in nice cozy hospital room of own but on the factory floor-like Recovery Room.
I try to focus. “My daughter’s in Bali. Why would you call her?” I ask but the penny is starting to drop. I’m being hustled the hell out of dodge and good old Dr Bob has outdone himself and somehow forgotten or not bothered to sort out whatever the hell needs to be sorted out with Anthem FUCKING Blue Cross. Because the bastards at the preposterously profitable Anthem, who, what a SHOCK, have just seen fit to raise my monthly premium by 40% due to my unfortunate cancer episode, don’t let double mastectomy reconstruction patients stay for several nights in hospital as is de rigeur in civilized joints like England and Australia, it means Dr Bob is meant to put in a request. At some point on the day of the op he just tells them I need to stay. Seriously. That’s how it works. (In the UK reconstruction surgery patients are kept in hospital 3-5 days though that may be gilding the lily somewhat.)

So when Dr Bob finally appeared that morning prior to surgery to start carving me up with his permanent marker, I pathetically and very sweetly ask him once more, (I’d casually called, texted and emailed him about it in recent days) if I will be having a sleepover at St John’s or do I need to desperately text up my friend Andrew to be on call to ferry me home later ? It takes him a good thirty seconds of concentrated staring to decide where the middle of my torso is before starting to draw from my collarbone on down. It seems I’m assymetrical. (And I could care less at this point about being naked from the waist down. It’s having your bum flapping in the breeze that really bugs me- as the security guard hovers behind me writing down endless receipts for my belongings)
“No, no, you can stay” he finally says, in a monotone faintly reminiscent of Yul Brynner in The King and I. (As in -I am a surgeon, I am God. You may stay.)

And yet and yet. Here I am, nearly five hours after being knocked out with a good old dose of trusty Propofol and I’m racking my brains to think of whom I can call. By the time the OCD security guard shows up with my wallet and phone – the same fool who insisted on counting every dollar of my money and then separating the credit cards and receipts before putting everything into separate clear plastic bags, I grab my phone and call the first person I can think because I feel guilty about the friend I already told I would be staying overnight… …and….she’s getting dressed to go out to dinner…and then I call an old boyfriend and it goes to voicemail---and sobbing hysterically by now, I call poor Andrew who thought he was off the hook and he foolishly answers the phone and yes, he very sweetly agrees to come get me.

APPARENTLY, I managed to get dressed and into my pal’s car and home though I have, literally, NO recollection of this. (I’m sorry Andrew—I still appreciate it so much!!) I must have also turned on the TV, taken off boots and gotten into bed but alas, did not manage to empty those dreaded drains because I woke up at about 4am and saw that the stopper to one drain had accomplished amazing feat of escaping and was dripping out onto my ---LUCKILY !!_identically-colored red cotton jersey sheets. (For the uninitiated …it works like this---they somehow thread a tube from inside your tit, up inside the body and then it appears in the armpit where it then extends for about 15 inches down, draining the excess fluid into a big plastic bulb, safety-pinned to some part of clothing like your sweat pants or bottom of bra and the bulb MUST be carefully squeezed in tight whenever you empty so that the pressure or something makes ‘em fill up again. )

Okay. So I wake up at about 8am and any semblance of numbing medicine has gone from my system, leaving me in SEARING pain. Not totally surprising since yet again my tits have been sliced open, right under the nipple again, expanders have been dragged out along with scar tissue and brand new gel implants have been whacked in. And this is where it is stunningly upsetting to realize, once more, that had I been still in hospital I would have still been hooked up to an IV and I would have simply squeezed a button, thus releasing pain medicine into my system for a day or two.. Like last time.
But nooo, I now have to swallow Vicodin like crazy for relief—thus ensuring a sure-fire state of constipation for a week at least. (The IV meds bypass your stomach and thus—no constipation). I walk like a hunched-over snail to the kitchen to start guzzling both the pain-killers and the dreaded antibiotics I have on hand, and realize that to avoid nausea one should eat something with them.

And THEN IT HITS ME. Despite being quite convinced that I am of reasonable intelligence –except when Buck Henry points out my grammatical errors in the most annoying, schoolteacherly way imaginable, it seems I was wrong. Apparently I have gone along , erroneously thinking I was fairly bright, cheered by school reports and teachers who noted that “Lindy is very intelligent. If only she could settle down and focus she could go far” Yes, reasonably on the ball, I thought... Not emotionally smart or even cunningly intelligent in a way that might have somehow hooked me a man or a job –and yet, when some CNN dude asks his guest why they think so many Americans are terrified of Obama’s health care bill, it’s only right that I condescendingly scream at the TV –“BECAUSE THEY'RE COMPLETE MORONS, THAT’S WHY !!”
But if I am so fuckin’ smart, how come, in my infinite wisdom, my smart-ass clever clogs self thought it was a nifty idea to choose THIS precise day, after yet more traumatic surgery, to start a cleanse …A JUICE FAST THAT CONTAINS NO ACTUAL FOOD, FOR THE NEXT FIVE DAYS???!!!

I imagine you see where I’m heading with this. The sad truth must out that I am in fact a complete and utter fuckwit with the common sense of a senile slug. Why today?? Must I deprive myself of some wholesome goodies and treats the day RIGHT after surgery? In my own defense, it did, and still does seem smart to do this (a gift from a friend who had signed up for 14 days but gave up after 9—thus passing the five day credit on to me) with both kids away. Lola still swooning about in Bali with her young Aussie stud and Nick Hobbs away with dear pals in Cambria till Monday night. Much the best time to suffer through the horrors of a cleanse whilst no eggs and bacon or delicious pasta are being whipped up by my clever kitchen kiddies. And God knows, someone who’s had the toxic load of IV antibiotics, chemo drugs, Vicodin and anesthesia that I have in the last fourteen months could do with a nice healing cleanse. But the day after surgery??

In a state of horror at my ludicrous lack of timing, I stagger to the front door where a cooler of liquids should await me. I pray that they’ve screwed up and nothing is there. I could swing back towards the kitchen , swallow some gorgeous organic minty dark chocolate and stuff almond butter on toast with sliced bananas on top down my throat before having a nice 4 or 5 hour nap.
I open the front door but I’m outa luck. IT ‘S RIGHT WHERE IT SHOULD BE. The black cooler that weighs a ton and must now be gotten to kitchen somehow. I manage to inch myself down to get the strap and then drag it behind me, feeling like an ancient wench dragging some rock to Stonehenge. Me and the cooler make it to the kitchen. But it’s still on the friggin floor and I have to get it to bench. Wishing I had paid more attention to Nick’s current science studies about inclines and levers, I try to think what could help raise it four feet. But I’m hardly up to devising some cunning lifting apparatus in my state and so I pick the bastard up and heave it onto kitchen bench and unzip it. There’s an annoying letter welcoming me to this crappy cleanse and I see that it gives you the order in which to ingest your ten bottles of liquid. It starts off with a half jar of ANU water. Not even a freakin juice. Just some really hearty, filling, satisfying hyper-mineralised WATER. Does the fun ever stop ?

So I manage to unscrew the top of this annoying jar, drink the water and PLEASE, you have to believe me when I tell you this water tastes bad. I spit it out and check what’s next on the list. Should have guessed. My least favorite thing in the world. Super green juice. I despise green juices. They annoy me almost as much as people who don’t drink coffee. I have a swig, spit that out, feel guilty, swallow some more and try to keep it down. The gag reflex is strong but I fight it, whilst vowing to never let the “plethora of synergistically bound, organic green nutrients” touch my lips again.
I stagger back to bed, and pick up the 3000 page Izocleanze intro that I downloaded from the internet and printed out. No wonder it tastes like crap. It contains, amongst other things, Barley Grass juice, Oat Grass Juice, Broccoli juice, Alfalfa juice, Parsley juice, Moringa leaf, Nopal Cactus, Nori, Alaria, and Bladderwrack .
BLADDERWRACK, you ask? What dat? Oh for heaven’s sake, it’s that well-known member of the “Wild-Crafted Aquatic Vegetable Family”. Huh?

Time for a Xanax and a nap. I wake up around two. Not really hungry to be honest but bored out of my mind and in need of soothing treat. Gosh, I wonder what the Juice Feast (I swear- they call it a FEAST!) has in store for me now. Could it be that a genie will suddenly slip out of one of the bottles and whip up some steaming hot raisin toast slathered in butter? Perhaps he’ll appear with samosas and mango chutney … or will it be chicken pot pie with a crisp flaky crust?

OR… it COULD be a Chinese herb tea called ACTIVATE that enhances metabolism by way of “tonifying the spleen”. With things like Codonopsis, Proia, Jujube Date and Lo Hang Go, it’s a humdinger. Bitter, acrid, stinky and utterly foul. (I later read the directions properly and see that I could have actually heated it(ideally by putting it outside to ‘catch the blessed rays of the sun’ says the brochure) but like that would have made a difference !! I force myself to swallow at least half the bottle, freezing cold and realize that it can ‘tonify’ my spleen, purify my aura and metabolize my digestive system all it wants BUT how do you control the urge to SHOOT YOURSELF or at least shuffle one block to the scarily close 7/11 for cigs, a couple of the new dark chocolate Snickers bars and a Starbucks mocha iced coffee from the refrigerated section. Will I last the 5 day-distance? Wildly unlikely!