Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I tried the bland diet for several days—eggs, yogurt, peanut butter, applesauce, white bread—and didn’t notice that the symptoms were better, plus, with the complete lack of fiber, intestinal activity screeched to a halt, if you catch my drift, so I decided to go back to my normal diet, but I also decided not to be an invalid.

This decision was per what I read lately in Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility, by Ellen Langer, who observes that when we receive a diagnosis, we tend to picture a monolithic and/or worsening state of affairs. We think, “Well, I have such-and-such condition, which means things are like this, and such-and-such is going to happen in time.” Maybe. But maybe not.

Instead, Langer advises noticing day to day what is actually occurring—being mindful. I hadn’t entirely committed to a diagnosis, mainly because I hadn’t been able to make up my mind whether I had gastroparesis or a brain tumor, but, whatever it was, I decided to notice day by day how it behaved, and also to entertain the idea that maybe this is just the new normal, and I soon felt better. There is still a moment of nausea here and there, but that could well be due to declining estrogen.

Langer also points out that, when it comes to colds, we say, “I had a cold, but it’s gone now,” whereas with cancer, we say, “My cancer is in remission,” suggesting it’s bound to come back. Why not say, “I had cancer, but it’s gone now”?

Before I leave the health segment, I will report that I fell down on Sunday, for no reason I am aware of. I was in the parking garage at my grocery store, Rainbow, standing on the cement floor alongside my bike. I was waiting to see if the woman at my preferred parking spot was coming or going, and then I became aware that I was falling down. It seemed to take five minutes. First my left elbow hit, then my left shoulder, and then my neck made a horrible noise, and then I was lying on the ground, tranquilly thinking over my new circumstances.

The woman turned around and picked my bicycle off me, and I wordlessly stuck out my hand and she took it and helped me up and I thanked her. She thought I might have tripped over the marker at the front of the nearest car parking space, and I hope she’s right, but her back was to me when it happened, and when I came out of the store later, it didn’t seem plausible that I had stumbled over that thing. It really was not near where I’d been standing, but I hope I’m wrong about that.

Anyway, it was very lucky in that I did not break any bones. I didn’t knock out any teeth. I didn’t hit my head. I didn’t impale my eyeball on a randomly placed spike. My left elbow and shoulder weren’t even bruised. Maybe I’m getting springier as I age! Yeah, I probably am! The inside of my right thigh is quite bruised due to the bike falling on it, and my neck was painfully stiff, but it's already easing up, and, best of all, I’m not paralyzed from the neck down.

So all is well, plus I discovered the excellent song “Nekrohaven” by Satyricon, and Korn, my former favorite band, after putting out about five CDs each of which was worse than the last, has put out a new CD that sounds like a combination of its two best CDs (Issues and Untouchables, in my opinion). It’s not as good as either, but it’s way better than the last five CDs.

This past weekend, Tom and I went to Open Studios on Saturday. I thought about Carlos a lot. Last year he and I headed out to do the same thing, but en route got so sick of each other that we decided to go our separate ways. But after five minutes, I realized it wasn’t going to be a fun day without him—it was a gorgeous, sunny afternoon—and when I found him, after fearing I wouldn’t be able to, he had come to the same conclusion and was walking toward where he thought I’d be. I can still remember how happy and relieved I felt when I saw his halo of white hair.

Then we (meaning Carlos and I) saw art, sat at a café chatting for quite a while, walked to 24th St. along Florida St., had dinner. I remember it all vividly. Lately there has been less grief. It’s been nearly eight months and I guess I’m finally getting used to him not being here. But I have been in this place before, where things seem OK, and then sorrow arises as piercing and weighty as if he’d just died. In all my dreams of him now, he’s still alive, but he’s ailing and disoriented and needs my help. (Except for one where he seemed perfectly fine and cheerful, but he consisted only of a disembodied head in a display case.)

Speaking of being disoriented, a friend of mine reported that someone, as yet unknown, all but drained her elderly mother’s bank account and also has diverted her Social Security checks, who knows how long ago? The bank is investigating. In addition, another relative, only too well known, sent her extremely problematic, borderline violent teenager to live with this elderly lady, and evidently to help himself to her cash on hand! My friend discovered this when her mother kept alluding to the young man in phone calls. My friend finally asked, “How often do you see him?” and her mother said, “Oh, every day—he lives here now!”

My friend, from several states away, got social services involved—the police removed the young man from the house—and now is trying to figure out which person or persons have been stealing from her mother. It’s most likely family members. It is utterly disgraceful that people take advantage of those who are helpless.

On Sunday, I made Deborah Madison’s Baked Spanish Rice, which is a substantial effort, but is marvelous served with bright green peas or avocado slices.

This week I’m hoping to finish a book recommended by my father, Ron Chernow’s nearly 800 pages but superb Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. Did you know his father was a bigamist and quack doctor? Did you know Rockefeller was an avid cyclist? Did you know he made his son wear his three older daughters’ hand-me-down dresses until he was eight years old? (Why waste money on new clothes when all those perfectly good frocks were on hand?) Did you know he started a school to teach freed women slaves to read? Did you know he funded Spelman College, the historically black institution of higher education, and also the University of Chicago? He made an astronomical amount of money by rapacious and at times brutal means (all the while thinking he was doing God's will), but he also gave away an astronomical amount of money and did some real good, including funding the first modern medical research.

Chernow is a marvelous writer. He has put some facts about Rockefeller and that period of history indelibly in mind, and I’m now planning to read all his other books. I’ve already acquired The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance.

Friday, October 11, 2013


The past two weeks have featured much fatigue, feeling lousy after I eat, and increasing amounts of nausea, occasioning much Internet research. I called my primary care provider’s assistant a week or so ago just to regale her with my symptoms, but didn’t request a call back, as I had already diagnosed myself with gastroparesis, which is when food leaves the stomach slowly. The cure for gastroparesis is to avoid precisely everything I eat: whole grains, beans, fruits, veggies, and nuts. (When I said in the last post that I’d apprised my medical health professional, I meant I’d called my ob/gyn to see if she thinks I have ovarian cancer. She doesn’t.)

After several more days of nausea and much time spent lying in bed because I felt too lousy to do anything else, I called my primary care provider back a couple of days ago and the physician’s assistant, who is always right about everything (seriously), called me back and said it could be this and it could be that and to try a bland diet for two weeks, and if that didn’t do the trick, to come in and they’d order some tests.

I called Tom to see if I’m going to die of this and he said I’m not—he’s always right, too—but he also said that my diet is already bland and that I should go to the doctor right now. This was last night, which also featured a lengthy phone conversation with my mother in which we combined our extensive medical knowledge to swap theories: too many carbs? Too much fiber? Not enough salt? Too-large meals? Are grains evil? Could those Paleo people actually be right? But weren’t hippies right first? Why won’t I get a kit for testing my own blood glucose nine or ten times a day? And so forth.

I decided to make some nourishing Bieler Broth this weekend, but then realized I was probably not going to be able to stand up long enough to cook, which is what happened last Sunday, when I spent the day lying in bed instead. So then I thought I’d have store-bought vegetable juice instead, which wouldn’t be as healthy, but good enough.

Then it occurred to me that maybe by “bland diet,” the physician’s assistant had actually meant something in particular. I am now educated on this subject (white bread, Saltines, cooked vegetables, bananas, none of the stuff I usually eat) and will give it a whirl.

One very excellent thing happened this week, which was my meditation teacher’s 60th birthday. We threw a huge extravaganza for Howie on Tuesday evening, with special guests invited, and I, being a longtime student, was invited to speak, and must say it went extraordinarily well. (I had feared I would have to stay home and just ask someone else to read what I’d written.) Afterward, I received many very nice compliments, including from a well-known teacher and writer who told me, “You assassinated it.” This person is a hero to me, so that meant a tremendous amount.

The evening also had a faint bittersweet flavor, as I thought now and then of that person who would have enjoyed the occasion so much, who would have beamed throughout, but who, somehow, just—wasn’t there.