Both my parents died of cancer. Dad died first. The week after we buried him, Mom started her last round of chemo. Eighteen months later, she was dead, too. It was a really rough couple of years. I hadn’t wanted to think about this today but it seems I pressed the wrong buttons on the remote when I ordered a Pay Per View movie and instead of getting Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson I got a movie about a young guy with cancer who was a given a 50/50 chance of survival.
When I realized my mistake I changed the channel. A few minutes later I changed it back. No way was I going to waste $5.99 and I wanted to see whether I had made any progress with my cancer “issues.” It’s been 8 years since Mom died and I am terrified of cancer and don’t want to be around people with it.
I eat organic, use botanical skin care products and I take damn near every supplement they say will prevent cancer. I don’t smoke, drink, eat gluten, soy or dairy. I get a mammogram every year. I see the dermatologist twice a year since she found two squamous cell carcinomas and I use a chemo cream one night a week on my face. Mom died of colon cancer and I would have a colonoscopy every year if the insurance would pay for it.
Sometimes the power of a bad example is as powerful as a good example. I’m thinking of Kim Richards, one of the housewives on The Housewives of Beverly Hills.
My daughter got me hooked on that show when she came home from college on winter break. There was a time – not too long ago – when that little intellectual dilettante in me would have dismissed such a show as a complete waste of time only to be watched by the mindless, vapid masses. Thankfully, I shut that little dilettante up and now I’m watching all the re-runs – thank you very much.
Watching Kim’s slow, self-destruction over this last season is good for me. I am, like Kim, am a single, somewhat middle-aged, mother whose child has grown up. We are both trying to keep our hair blonde and minimize our wrinkles. I am not going to pronounce Kim an alcoholic, but let’s just say there was a day – before I got sober 13 years ago – that I would have partied with Kim in a heartbeat.
I don’t think about David Funchess much anymore. I watched him die on April 22, 1986 in Florida’s electric chair. He was the first Vietnam Veteran executed in the United States. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder had yet to be discovered when Funchess, a highly-decorated combat Marine, fatally stabbed a couple during a hold-up in Jacksonville in 1974.
I was a cub reporter and was morbidly thrilled to have the opportunity to cover an execution. The little motel where I stayed in Starke, Florida was excited to see me, too, and had posted “Welcome Christine” on its roadside marquee. This story would be the crown jewel in my growing collection of clips – mostly stories of last night’s school board meeting and car wrecks. That’s how I looked at it.
On a personal level, I was hoping the execution would finally settle my doubts about the death penalty. I was brought up Catholic but having covered a few murders, I was not convinced that the death penalty was unjust. I was on the fence. I had heard of reporters who had fainted or barfed covering executions. I did not know how I would react.
The great thing about being a journalist in south Florida is you get some really weird assignments. Couple of years ago I went alligator hunting with some wounded vets courtesy of the Wounded Warrior Project. I’ve been assigned to go scuba diving to cover damage to coral reefs. Chased oil in the bayous of Louisiana after the BP disaster. Been to more crime scenes than I can remember and lived to write about three hurricanes. I walked on death row a few times. Watched a man die in the electric chair. Even sat in the electric chair during one visit.
So, last Saturday night when I walked into the newsroom for my occasional, obligatory weekend shift and my editor said, “I’m going to rock your world, I knew it was going to be an interesting evening: “You’re going to Mar-a-Lago to interview the governor and his wife,” she said.
Mar-a-Lago is the palatial, oceanfront estate and swank club owned by Donald Trump on Palm Beach. I’ve been there a few times. Once I rode my bike to a fundraiser luncheon and waited in the valet line with the Bentley’s and Roll’s. Amused the hell out of the valets.
Anyway, I went home, put on the LBD (Little Black Dress), lipstick and my red, patent leather, pointy-toed stilettos and headed over to The Donald’s. The thing about these $500/plate galas is you realize, immediately, that rich people – the top one percent of the ten percent – really aren’t that different from you and me. They have money. Lots of money. But that’s it. They are still people – human beings. We may think they are insensitive, arrogant, self-righteous, clueless bigots but I am no longer willing to write them all off as insensitive, arrogant, self-righteous, clueless bigots. They’re people who just happen to have a lot of money. A whole lot of money.
My meds FINALLY came in the mail. Amen. I take three meds, but I ran out of one before the refills came in the mail. Three days without one of the meds. Three days. My brain was starting to feel squishy. I had a horrible nightmare and I could feel a tsunami size headache building behind my eyes. Just a day after resuming the med I felt like my delightful self again.
Am I an idiot or what? I went to my nurse practitioner today and told her about my little refill snafu. She writes me scripts for three months worth of each of my meds. I send them to my insurance company’s pharmacy and, voila, three months worth of meds arrive in the mail. She explained that I don’t have to wait until I am almost out of my meds to send in the refill prescriptions. I told her I knew that. She shook her head. I know. There is no excuse.
I like Pat, my nurse practitioner. I see her every three months and have been doing that for about five years, unless she changes the dosage. Then I have to call her and visit her every week for awhile. Kind of a pain in the butt but I trust Pat with my life. She saved me, along with my therapist. You gotta trust the person writing your scripts. This is very, very important. It’s not like the kind of trust you put in the doctor who writes you a script for a Z-Pak and a couple days later that infection is gone.
I am talking about the kind of trust you put in someone to whom you have given your brain. Literally. You have to really, really trust this person because you have only one brain. We’re not talking about kidneys or eyes and ears. You lose one of those and you can still live. But you have one brain. That’s it.
I screwed up. I am blessed to have an amazing prescription drug plan. I send in my prescriptions for $60, I get a three-month supply. Doesn’t matter which drug or how much it really costs. I pay just $60. So, why do I wait until I am nearly out of my meds to mail in the refills?
This time I waited so long that I have run out of one of my meds. Today is my third day without it. I called the prescription service and they said they sent it four days ago. Hopefully, it will come today. Still, I am going to see my nurse practitioner first thing on Monday morning.
I have never been this reckless before with my medications. I always – ALWAYS – take them as prescribed and I feel good, even great, most of the time. I’m waiting for withdrawal to kick in. Last night I had an incredibly vivid and terrible dream. I was in a building – seemed like a hotel – and it was stormed by some guys who were going from room-to-room shooting people. Everyone was trying to hide. I was under a table covered with a long tablecloth. Another woman was with me. The shooter pulled back the tablecloth and killed her but did not see me. I woke up with my mouth hanging open, feeling like I had been in such a deep sleep for so long that I could not move. And now I am feeling a little manicky. I’m not bouncing off the walls but, man, do I have some great ideas!