Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Martha Stewart's Fall Favorites for You and Your Family to Enjoy

First of all, happy halloween and happy birthday to Lola and Jon! and happy belated birthday to Ted! anything else happy in the world? i think that sums it up. furrowboofrown.

when jaci and i were eating dinner tonight, she suddenly whispered SHHH! and her hand shot out with panther-like agility and precision and she flipped off our light switch. what?? i hissed back over our now-shadowed lasagna. "i hear trick or treaters! and we don't have any candy!" wow, no sound passeth thru my lips henceforth. but we giggled. and hovered. in the dark. until we were sure kids would bypass our door and we wouldn't have to face them. To add to our unusual hollow-ween spirit, i actually heard jaci say on her cell phone that she "expects our pumpkins to be smashed against our door by the morning". i do not think that will happen. a) they are the small kind, not the rotting carved kind- decorative, autumnal; not a fire hazard or a satanic symbol. b) delivery guys never find our door; assuming drunk local teenagers will seems almost arrogant. we'll see...

Second, sweet potato pie is the best dessert on the planet. Make it from scratch and make it immediately. My tongue does not appreciate dessert while on chemo, but my memory does.

Third. At Fletcher, you are expected to take 4 courses per semester. Go-getters who clamor for 5 receive the gentle lecture about how they would miss out on too much of the experience that transpires outside the classroom: the speakers, the cultural events, the parties. However, I remember the only complaint I really heard consistently during my stint there was how, still, the worse thing about Fletcher was having to choose between classwork and attending the speech of a foreign dignitary, a festival celebrating a country's culture, or even touring Boston's main historical sites. So, dear professors, if any of you happen upon this, my friends/your students are learning a ton, but they seem so overtasked by midterms that their Fletcher "experience" is stymied. There are people at the school who feel that the "D" in the MALD degree has been forgotten; from an ex-foreign service officer, Diplomacy is best learned and practiced at happy hour. Just some unfiltered observation from a drop-out.

Politically-sensitive, pls skip next paragRANT. Apathetic or progressive, rock on.

Number Three, speaking of mid-terms... does anyone care about the mid-term elections coming up? i'm sure adam seiden and susan massey are on top of it, but anyone else? did moveon.org's servers crash (or did their grassroots internet magic die when the supreme court got to pick our pres?) and who's willing to give the Young Dems their cell phone number in the effort to mobilize via mobiles. not me! i'm just sad that politics are so stale. i'm sad that the commercials on TV seem like they could have been written by the same old mud-slinging/cheesy campaign managers. Everyone "hates" politics BUT everyone has an opinion. Everyone can see straight through the smoke and mirrors of campaign promises and most people agree that it is unfair that you need to be rich to mount a successful attempt at higher public office. but what changes? AND, every four years (can't wait for 08), when people again question "why do we have an electoral college again?" "did YOU elect our state's 'electors'? who are they?'", we scratch our heads and believe that there must be something good about it. Like the theory of relativity which has been explained to me by various patient geniuses, I just cannot get it through my thick skull where the electoral college's place is in modern presidential elections. But, like the rest of our mass citizenry, I forget the illogical non-democratic system that elected our current president despite losing the popular vote, only to be reminded when the media pretends to question it four years later. I'm pretty sure the Men in Black use a satellite version of their forgetfulness-flasher on all of the US just before inauguration day. Thank goodness. (I just feel bad for the rest of the world who doesn't get the placating effects of a forgetfulness-flasher [read: economic prosperity, wag-the-dog press,a million staged "reality" shows], so the rest of the world thinks we're silicone-wasp-cowboys & playgirls and we wonder why. don't be a hater Osama, don't be snobby Pierre,come on duuuude.) One more thing, if you don't think about anything but gay marriage and abortion when you go to the polls, please please read more. My blog is mean-spirited and slanted and angry- go to your state's non-partisan election guidance page(start here maybe). and, if you're too busy or you live in the famously-prop-happy state of California, you can just google "voter information" and certain groups (like gun activists or pro-choicers or hispanics) will TELL you who to vote for.

Jaci is taking a course on the madness of crowds and although i rant and rage, I am a cow in the best herd on the planet. the US has glorious faults, but i wouldn't trade our history or our system for that of any other country. patriotism is an essential part of a constructive rant and it's only because i care that this stupid stuff keeps me up at night. Moooooo.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Extreme San Francisco

Last weekend was the long-awaited trip to surprise Kellie and Jennie Edwards as they ran in the Nike Women's Marathon. This was the gift and brainchild of Kellie's boyfriend, James, who, along with Leslie (their sister and my best friend from high school), kept the trip a secret for months! I was amazed and humbled to see so many Team in Training runners and to see my name on the back of Kellie and Jennie's singlets. All of our eyes filled up when we saw each other, Leslie wheeling me through the union square crowd. Thank you girls! It meant so much to me. click--article in SF Chronicle

We saw everyone we could in SF. Friends, cousins, aunties, uncles came out for the various feasts hosted by my generous aunts and uncles. It was such fun and I think feelings of support and encouragement were refreshed for both Jaci and me.

It was a go-go-go five days though, and now I wonder if I'm paying the price. I'm extremely tired and really can't believe I'm even typing away at this blog. My counts were too low this 'hospital wednesday' to administer all the chemo, but i still always get my favorite shot: mmmmm, Aspariganase. Maybe the introduction to the world of the press makes me feel like reporting back in a timely manner. hee hee.

click--press release
Yeah, my auntie lillian held a press conference where she (a somewhat well-known judge and politician), the head of the asian american donor program, a city councilwoman, and three of us sickies encouraged everyone, especially minorities or those of mixed race, to register. The dramatic climax was when lillian cut ten inches from her long thick black hair (jaci was the barber) to donate to Locks of Love, a company that makes wigs for cancer patients. The message was simple and good: "do what you can". Time, money, hair, registration, blood donation, education. I liked the sound of that.

So much more happened in the whirl of our trip. Wise words I want to write in this journal, new opportunities and ideas for moving back to California, seeing cousins I hadn't seen in years, and two ready-to-pop cousins whose beautiful swollen tummies remind me just how long its been since I've been home.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I feel like extolling the virtues of a few people in my life who I mean to mention more often here and who bring me great joy.

"Three Wise Men" I know:

Kent Cummings- When Kent found out I was sick in Boston, he visited me in the hospital nearly every day. He brought numerous insights into the apartment search process and often used his truck to (first, get lost) and then help us buy a bed, move a dog, get to dinner, etc. He's selfless, loyal and can sing karaoke like nobody's business. Kent's one of those people who can just chill; who don't consult their watch when they're hanging out with you (not even on the sly) because they understand that quality time is not scheduled or slotted. I admire the way he pauses and thinks before he speaks, so you can either rely on him for fully-grown intelligent thought or a witty comment that leaves you in stitches. One of the wisest things Kent has done is to recently propose to another awesome soul, Joyce Lee, and they plan to get married next fall. Miss you guys.

Jonathan Endrikat- Jon can quote movie lines and song lyrics better than anyone I know. He's not afraid to burst into song on an answering machine, to see the genius in Tolkien, or to reread J.K. Rawlings. Jonathan is wise because he always seeks to learn more about current events and other cultures, particularly by getting three times his money's worth at all-you-can-eat sushi. (Where does it go, Beanpole?) Jon's in biz school, undoubtedly surrounded by people seeking bigger paychecks upon graduating with an MBA. I find it refreshing and inspiring that Jon went in with a goal and it has only become more clear through his studies: he wants to coach tennis. Jaci told me that was his goal five years ago and I am sure he will have passion for his work at some kick-ass D1 school come next year. Jon's SUPER funny, but he's deeply wise too. He looks out for me, wears my silly gear, and is always respectful to my sister and my family. I'm proud to consider him like my brother.

Dr. Andres Sirulnik- This guy saved my life. He held my hand the first night I was in the ER and there were a dozen people around my cot and someone was sliding a big fat needle into my groin vein. He made me giggle then and he does to this day. He also frequently says he's going to "kick my ass" with that great Argentinian accent. Whenever I say I can't take it anymore, that I want to quit chemo, that I'd rather die... he says he'll "kick my ass". So, who can argue with that? You can google him all you want and find out how esteemed he is in his field, etc, but what that can't tell you, but I can, is that my doctor has emotional intelligence and incredible compassion for his patients (i have wondered where the empathy goes when he is retrieving spinal fluid or mining for bone marrow, but I suppose it's a Hippocratic oath thing and he has to do it). Dr. Sirulnik understands that cancer treatment is not only physical; in fact, it's mostly mental and he has guided me through some very dark times. I don't know too many people in Boston, but I feel blessed to know, be advised by, and cared for by this man.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Seattle Hope

picture of st maarten

Did anyone see last Thursday's Grey's Anatomy? (right, who didn't?) well, i really identified with two characters (you might be thinking meredeth with mcdreamy and o'donnel fighting over who gets to warm up my nueropathetic feet, but no). First, there was a young patient in for surgery due to lung cancer. This woman said that she had never smoked a cigarette in her life, never smoked pot, never even drank. She excercised, ate right, was faithful to her cheating husband, etc etc. And now, she was going in for a surgery with a 40% chance of survival and she felt that chocolate- boxes of it- were now her due. She was binging on cakes, racing other patients in their wheelchairs, even managed to seduce a "poor" intern into a quickie in the bathroom.

If you saw it, or if this little summary makes sense, I just wanted to say that I heard her hysterical confusion at her diagnosis crystal clear. The "why/how" questions cannot be answered in most likelihood, so I have not spent much time considering them. Was it God? Carcinogens I was specifically exposed to? Stress? A voo-doo curse? People wonder if I'm disgusted by smokers, but I'm not at all. God bless those 100-yr-old alcoholics or those people (not naming any names) who haven't eaten a vegetable in their entire life and are fit as a fiddle. It just goes to show, you never know.

The other component of her story which I could understand though, thankfully, not through first-person experience was the issue of regret. I have been so fortunate in my life to have had opportunities come my way, whether they be travel, love, jobs, education, adventures, and I have rarely (I almost want to put never) said no. Some people think you should wait until you're married so that you can experience So-and-So place together, or some people think there will be other chances to do X and put it off, or they credit others' flaws for not giving in to love or forgiveness. When I quit the Foreign Service, I thought I finally understood regret. But from this vantage point, alive for one thing!, living in a beautiful city with my amazing sister, those regrets which would make my stomach turn and my heart ache, have all but melted away. I get strength from perusing my photo albums; I think they almost have to remind me of who I am or was, and I'm kinda proud. (No shit! I hiked that!) I'm deeply sorry for the woman on the TV show said "no or maybe later" so many times but I've said to many of my friends when we're chatting about this disease: "I'm just glad I said yes." Cuz, well, you never know.

It's almost cliche, but if you died tomorrow, would you have regrets? If you had a near-death experience, would you be struck by all the things you still have yet to "do"? Perhaps it's all the drugs I've been on, but I am so grateful to report that YEEHAW I feel like I've done and seen more than most and could die tomorrow with neither fear nor regret. [I guess the flip side of that coin is that I often want to die tomorrow because i'm such a wussy about my therapies and have so far led a pretty active lifestyle. But let's stay positive here.)

Wow, third paragraph and I'm still talking about Grey's Anatomy?? Apologies; this one will be quick. The other patient I identified with was a young man whose brain tumor caused him to say basically whatever he thought. He'd comment on people's body odor or point out obvious chemistry between his docs, etc. I found him to be a really likeable character (but he dies). To some degree, I find myself a lot more honest, to the point of probably being rude. A friend of mine, after a stressful divorce, mentioned this same thing to me. Maybe it's a mixture of that apathy that comes when you realize life sucks way worse than your little optimistic mind had thought, plus a thicker skin all around. Whatever it is, it's fun being a little more direct or assertive or gross, as the case may be.

So, Uma pretty much summed up the haps here. Btw, I am using the paints you brought me and would almost say I'm sort-of addicted, like how i am to crosswords. such activities really take you away. oh and i got four responses for pro-bono guitar lessons, so hopefully that'll start this week. we'll see how long each diversion lasts! If there was an Olympic sport for mediocrity in as many disciplines/sports/languages/subjects as possible, I would proudly bring home the Gold.

after uma left and the hospital gave me the green light, i flew down to st martin for 5 days. 9/28-10/3. i guess now it's been my sixth or so time on the island, but it never seemed so beautiful. there's something in my body that is crying out for nature, clean breezes, natural smells and sounds. my visit there was like medicine. sigh, just writing this makes me want to go back tomorrow. i used a non-digital camera, so today i get that old-fashioned fun feeling of picking up my photos! so, i'll post more soon.

unfortunately, that trip pretty much left me too exhausted to jump on another plane two days later and I missed one of my best friend's wedding. we tried to do some webcam thing so i could at least see it while it was happening but what bride should be fiddling with her laptop on her wedding day. anyway, i am so sad that i wasn't there, but I am so happy for them. Miss you Sandy-san!

the unexpected silver lining of the canceled trip to Madison was that I was home alone. Yeah, just that. I hadn't realized that I have not been alone for more than a stretch of hours since February. and you know what, it felt good. thankfully, i had some energy, so i just ate and slept and worked* whenever I felt like it. I went to a party and saw tons of familiar Fletcher faces and had a blast. I am so grateful for the Fletcher community, which has remembered me and treats me like one of their own. I just want to know who's hosting the next party and how long I can go on being, you know, "that guy" who doesn't actually go to your school but is at all the parties.

Ok, this is too long and it's too late. G'night!