Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

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Facebook Can Be As Horrific As Twitter

Social media is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I clicked on a “Daily Mail” article on my Facebook page, which took me to a page where a picture of Dick Van Dyke appeared. This was a picture of the 96-year-old actor and his 50-year-old wife. The ones I have seen of Dick and his wife all dressed up for things like the Kennedy Center Honors have been quite flattering, but this photo was a candid shot of the former song-and-dance man dressed casually and apparently about to enter a car with his young wife. He was bent over, his concave chest exposed, and he had a gigantic full beard that resembled David Letterman’s. In other words, it was not a flattering picture, when compared to many others.

Someone had posted this unflattering photo and said, “Dick Van Dyke is 96. Doesn’t he look great?”

My entire remark/comment was, “Define ‘great.’” And so it begins.

I was being entirely serious about wanting to hear why the poster would find this photo so “great.”

Soon, a woman who claimed to be a nurse at the National Health Service in the United Kingdom wrote, “Be kind.”

I was legitimately confused as to how asking the simple question “Define ‘great’” was not being “kind.” The kind thing to have done would have been to select a more flattering photo of the duo—probably one where they were dressed up for an evening event and knew their photo was going to be taken. Of course, the full beard was a bad look for Dick, just as it is for David Letterman. [Some other comments below my own noted this.]

I sent the woman who had done the “Be Kind” posting this remark:
“Wow! Such snark! I would have liked the person originally making the comment to specifically say what they felt was ‘great’ about the Dick Van Dyke photo. He looks much more bent over than in the photos I have seen of him in the recent past, and the beard is not a good look. He does not look ‘great,’ nor do most people at age 96, which I think was your snarky message to me, a person you don’t even know in the midst of cancer treatments. YOU ‘be kind.’ Geez.

I added, “I’d unfriend you but you’re not my friend in the first place.”’

The “Kind” lady responded: “Don’t pull the I’m going through cancer treatment as a reason to be a cow, Sweetie. Get a grip and get on with your life.”

WendyMe: “I asked a legitimate question. YOU are the one being ‘unkind.” I think the photo was a poor one for Dick Van Dyke.”
I added, “Why don’t you go have a stiff drink instead of behaving like a name-calling low life.”

Ms. Poole reacted with 4 smiley face emojis and the words, “You need help, Love.”

I responded, “Yes, trolls like you are out there trying to pick fights with others whom they do not even know.”

Our “kind” nurse then said: “Don’t make comments if you can’t take the criticism. Brave over a message, aren’t you?”

Me: “It was a simple inquiry into why that particular photo, which is very bad of Dick Van Dyke, was termed ‘great’ by the poster.”

Our kind nurse responded: “Go away, you ridiculous woman.” (UPDATE: On a different blog, tonight, 5/20/2022), the “Be kind” woman denies being a nurse or saying that she worked for the National Health Service. I do realize that the NHS probably has office workers, as well, so take your pick, but I quoted her back to her from my own copy of the exchange, which was mostly her being horrific to me. I purposely avoided using any profanity and—aside from the remark about her foot in the blocking door—chose to ignore commenting on some truly comment-worthy photos that make my pose on the steps of the AMC in Chicago at the Film Festival look like Cannes this week.)

Me: “YOU are the ‘unkind’ one who inferred otherwise. I asked for clarification. That photo was NOT a good pic of Dick Van Dyke. If you think it was, I would hate to see your wedding photos.” (Actually, only engagement photos and only from 2021, but verry comment worthy, had I chosen to go there.)

The “kind” nurse then called me “an absolute tool,” but typed it as “toof.”
I responded, “ Toof. Define ‘toof.’ (lol)”
Kind Nurse: “TOOL. Learn to read.”
Me: “Yeah. Right. I’ve written 50 books, Sweetheart. And I taught reading. So, wrong insult.”
Kind Nurse: “And yet you are unable to read.” (*Owned and operated a Sylvan Learning Center for Reading and other improvement for  close to 20 years and taught reading at the junior high school level for 18 years before that. In other words, like Trumpists, an insult with no basis in fact whatsoever.)
Me: “You are a strange person who goes around telling complete strangers to be a ‘kind’ person because they ask for clarification. I am very able to read and to block, both of which I have done. Not sure how long it takes to kick in but hopefully sooner rather than later. My remark was very benign. Look it up. Yours was very snotty and snarky. And, yes, you are attacking a person with stress from recent cancer diagnosis, so give yourself a medal for what a huge bitch one would have to be to do that.”
Kind Nurse: “Clearly I’m living rent-free in your head as you keep trying to justify yourself. For someone who teaches reading and writes books your punctuation is shocking. Guess you have to have someone proofread for you.” (*Everyone who writes has proofreaders. I am often that proofreader for others. After stints at 5 colleges, my proofreading is not in question, but my typing in a white heat probably was.)
Me: “Glad to see you’re engaged, at least. Close in age to Dick Van Dyke, are you? That last remark was so amusing I almost laughed. You and Dick would make a handsome pair.”
Kind Nurse: “You need to get back on your medication, dear. Clearly off your trolley.” (*As a cancer survivor, I take 8 pills a night, none of them having to do with mental health,all of them having to do with staying alive and getting well.)
Me: “All I asked for was clarification about what the person meant by the term ‘great.’ That was a horrible picture of Dick Van Dyke. Your calling me a “cow” simply seems to mean “takes one to know one” judging from your photo.” (*OK…I couldn’t stop myself after seeing this person’s photos, which were underwhelming. My bad. Apologies all around, but I definitely was the restrained one.)
Kind Nurse: “There are horrible photos of you in your leopard print, but we didn’t comment on that, did we?” She added that my outfit was “monstrous.” [Outfit is brown fabric with gold overlay and not a leopard in sight. It’s one of my favorite jackets, very expensive, and never fails to elicit compliments when I wear it in person—one of them from Vanessa Redgrave.]
Me: “Leopard print? Lol. That was Cher. Well, at least I wasn’t hung up on somebody 96, as you seem to be. That is not a leopard print. Get some glasses.”
Kind Nurse: “It’s a bit blurry, which is probably best, considering.” (Definitely agree that it is blurry; that’s what happens when you count on your spouse for photos. Maybe, if you ever get one, you will also experience this.)
Me: “Don’t forget your advice; Be kind. You are SO kind, aren’t you?”
At this point, typing rapid-fire, I typoed some spelling errors, causing the kind nurse to say, “For fuck’s sake, woman, learn to spell.” (punctuation mine; nurse had none.When your Big Comeback is because a person typing at the speed of sound misses a letter, you are desperate.)
Me: “I think you meant “chuck” but then, spelling is not your forte. Ooooo. Here comes the profanity. Good for you. The last refuge of the brain damaged. You do this after telling others to ‘be kind?’”

The kind UK nurse then typed, in all caps: CAN YOU ACTUALLY READ (Question mark missing).

Me: “You set such a great example of kindness. I can read, but the vote is out on you.”

She then typed YOU in all caps, as I had typed so quickly that the “y” did not make it to the page. Again, a simple typo, which is quite obvious—unless you are blind or really reaching.)

Me: “No need for ALL CAPITALS OR profanity. Not from the “be kind” lady. Wow. I love to see your “kindness” in action. What a gal.”
The “kind nurse” then said: “So far the only person who can’t spell or read is you.” (No comma after “so far.”)
Me: “I disagree, and so do others.
Kind nurse: “Thought you had me blocked.” (Definitely.)
Me: “I have. Not sure how long it takes to work. You probably stuck your ugly foot in the block door before it closed.” (Been so long since I’ve blocked someone that I’ve forgotten the basics.)
Kind Nurse: “It’s instant if you do it right.” (I probably did not do it “right.”)
Me: “And I do mean ugly.” (I had just gotten a gander at the engagement photo of the middle-aged couple.)
Kind Nurse: (with emojis) “Says you?”
Me: “Go harass someone else, OK? Go demonstrate how “kind” you are to them. I just think it is quite ironic that a person tells ME to “be kind” and then insults me for 20 minutes. Don’t you find that a bit ironic? Or don’t you know what the word means? And all I said was that I wanted a better definition of “great” for a bad photo. Next time, consider whether YOU are “being kind.”
Kind nurse: “YOU messaged me first, you (sic) strand woman.” [Please note: the word ‘strand’ was obviously a typo, which I did not point out, as Ms. NHS had been doing repeatedly, because it is not difficult to figure out that the person, if not typing “live,” would probably have done fine with the word. Take note, Tracey.]
Me: “Yes, I messaged you because of your stupid remark and then I wrote it up on MY page, which may cause some discussion. We have voted that YOU are the “unkind” one. I was simply asking for some clarification of the term ‘great.” How is that “unkind?” I recently saw a cool photo of Dick Van Dyke in a traffic accident situation, and it was “great.” He was driving a sports car and there had been a minor accident. The photo you thought was so great was unflattering. Perhaps that photo of me is, as well, but that is NOT—repeat NOT—a leopard print. Geez. You really do need to have your glasses checked if you think that is a leopard print. You can check out the post I’m going to put up on my blog. It will, no doubt, get a big laugh from readers. (At least it’s some new material.)”
Kind Nurse: “Yeah. I have seen the self-centered woe-is me blog.” (Kindness personified! I had only a couple short articles re health; neither was “woe is me.” I’m well on my way to 100% survival and grateful for it, but the lack of sensitivity of this NHS employee–now claiming to NOT be a nurse—is astonishing. And, in my case, there is proof, while we are simply going to have to take Tracey’s word for her own statements. I hope the kidney donation thing is true, but she’s already back-tracked on the nurse/NHS and next contention will be that the NHS was just something convenient to say, as she insulted me about my lack of a “carer” (misspelling hers) last night. After 40 years of working—18 as a teacher and the rest as CEO of 2 businesses and teaching writing at 6 colleges, I have had a “career” and am now self-employed as a writer, blogger, and film critic. All of which is supported by plenty of proof.)
Me: “Actually, my last post was all about famous women I have photographed. You must be behind, as usual. Catch up.”
Kind Nurse: “You are psycho.” (Ah, the good old insults, again. I’m the least “psycho” person you know, but, like all people just minding their own business and trying to be a good person, I did not appreciate being insulted for half an hour by some wacko in England who seems to think that mistyping in the wee hours of the morning indicates an inability to write or spell. Guess again; once again, you picked the WRONG insult and aimed it at the WRONG person. At this point, Ms. NHS made some remark about me “thinking I was the only person in the world with cancer,” (also nice, like the rest of her remarks). My response:
Me: “Did I say I was ‘the only person in the world’ with cancer? You must live a sheltered life if you think that. One in every 8 women in America will get what I have, they say, and the advice to “be kind” might be followed by someone with a conscience who is a nurse (or an NHS employee). Instead, you enjoy insulting me, making fun of my outfit, calling me names, and being a truly unpleasant person. I think you are in the wrong line of work.” (*This person either lied about working for the NHS, denying her nurse status, or is now nervous about how insensitive and truly crass her remarks were. Good. I hope that the many fans of my “The Color of Evil” series in England report her to their NHS. Nobody working with sick people should be this mean-spirited and vicious without cause. I shall continue to refer to this person as “the kind nurse” as an ironic appellation that is just as good as “the kind NHS employee.” Of course, it is entirely possible that she lied, since none of the accusations leveled at me held the slightest water. Again, its like revisiting the Trump years.)

At this point, I typoed (again) causing the kind nurse to retype the word “names” ( left out the “m”). My response? “Yeah. I’m typing 250 wpm, so deal with it.” (another typo on “with” as “with”)

Me: “I did exactly 2 blog posts on my treatment, to let my readers know. Next, I will tell how “kind” Tracy Poole has been to a stranger. I believe it will start with the “cow” remark and go on to the “leopard” print incorrect observation.”

At this point, the “kind nurse” comes out with: “Maybe tell them how I donated a kidney to a stranger, as well.” (*True or not true? Just tonight, there was a denial of her own contention about the NHS, unless she is splitting hairs and does something other than nursing, which I sincerely hope is the case! If it’s true, then perhaps search your conscience and fire off an apology for your “unkind” behavior and we’ll call it even, although it is not. I need people like you in my life right now like I need another surgery.)

Me: “Did they take part of your frontal lobe, as well? Maybe the cortex? You don’t seem to “get” the “be kind” advice you dish out. If you’re going to dish that out, then follow it yourself. I think you can get along without one kidney, but you are really in need of some additional brain cells. Most of us would NOT say “be kind” to a total stranger and then do their best to be shitty to them for a good long time. By the way, the little laughing emojis aren’t working. The emoji for you is MIA. So, remember: BE KIND. And if someone wants clarification of why the worst picture in the world of old Dick is called “great,” don’t start insulting them, okay? Dick definitely ought to lose the full beard was the point. He looks terrible in that photo, while I agree that he has aged well, otherwise (until that photo was taken, anyway). You, on the other hand, are a whole different kettle of fish and you are NOT ‘kind.’ I also don’t believe that you ever donated a kidney to a stranger. You do not seem to have the right mental make-up to BE KIND.”

There was more, but that is enough to raise my blood pressure a few points. It was mostly just insults aimed at me, anyway, which gets repetitious fast.

UPDATE of 5/20/2022: So, now the NHS employee (possibly NOT a nurse, but NHS employee) is sending me messages on my seldom-used phone at what is 1 a.m. CDT (more insults). She is maintaining her “kidney donation” story is true, but denying she is an NHS nurse. I have no personal knowledge of either, so take your pick. If she donated a kidney, I hope she can get back some of that compassion for others, because she has shown me none, and I’m not going gently into that good night.

But—and here’s the thing—last night, amongst her gloating, vicious, often profane and always insulting remarks—Tracy said: I’m living rent-free in your head.”  Ha! It seems that she blocked but then UNblocked me and on and on. Just to be clear, this is NOT Facebook, Tracey. It’s my blog, in existence since 2007, and my most active fan base is probably in the U.K. (I once did a book signing in Australia, but England, where I was an exchange student in my college days, has quite a few fans of my books, so good on me.)

I already blocked “the kind nurse”, as much as I remember the procedure, so I have no idea why she is continuing to insult and bug me late at night, our U.S. time.  My phone will be off soon, so have fun with that, then.

If she really DOES work for a health organization, she might (if she were really compassionate enough to donate a kidney) think about things anyone in my shoes is going through and realize just how crappy her remarks were and continue to be.

I’m not attempting to contact her in any way, so I have no idea why she keeps blowing up my phone with HER remarks, which should, if the world were just, be an apology. Her mean comments were really low.  I hope she feels a certain degree of shame/regret. I don’t think it is likely, but that is one good reason to update.

However, as for me, I have “blocked” her but she, herself, says she UNblocked to send me more insults.

“Great,” she said grimly. I, too, have a copy of her remarks to me and–aside from the foot-in-the-block door remark (with apologies all around for a fleeting lapse in judgment)–I was pretty chill. So, Tracey, what I would say back at you (one of your “taunts” last night) is: “Gee. I seem to be living rent-free in your head.” There will be no photos of this woman. It’s late, but it’s not THAT late.

Famous Faces I Have Photographed

One question I am investigating is whether more people check my blog on weekends than on week days. [Or whether anyone ever checks it at all.]

I have no real “topic,” other than the Quora question asked of me tonight, which was: “Have you ever met any famous Hollywood actresses?”

Well, come on, now. I review film and attend Red Carpet events prepared to ask a question or two and take some shots with my trusty Nikon. How would I NOT occasionally meet a famous actor/actress?

So, the answer is, “Yes, I have met some famous actresses.”

Rather than list them, I’m going to show you a few of the pictures I’ve taken over the years, as I was meeting them. All of the pictures are mine and all rights are reserved.

Those that you see with “Texas Hall of Fame” behind them include  Oscar-winner (for “Misery”) Kathy Bates, one of the co-stars of television’s “Grace & Frankie” sit-com (whose name escapes me), and Marc Maron with his then romantic partner. Director Lynn Shelton, who tragically died in May of 2020. This photo was taken not long before her death.

Then there is Carey Mulligan, clutching a microphone, before she was Oscar-nominated (for the 2nd time) for “Promising Young Woman.” This was taken in Chicago as she did promotion for Paul Dano’s directorial debut “Wildlife,” which had Jake Gyllenhaal, wildfires and a largely incomprehensible plot.

Kathleen Turner (“Peggy Sue Got Married,” “Romancing the Stone”) was taken at the retirement party for Michael Kutza, who founded the Chicago International Film Festival, upon his retirement.

 

 

 

 

Kathleen Turner

Vera Farmiga, from 2009’s “Up in the Air” opposite George Clooney and television’s “Bates Motel.

Mandy Moore at SXSW with “This Is Us” when it premiered there.

Vanessa Redgrave, appearing in Chicago with her directorial debut, the documentary “Sea Sorrow.”

Geraldine Chaplin, a judge at the Chicago International Film Festival.

Viola Davis

Helen Hunt, when she appeared in Chicago promoting “The Sessions” with John Hawke.

Actress/Director Rebecca Hall in 2021, appearing on behalf of “Passing” in Chicago.

This is either Lana or Lilly Wachowski, one half of the brothers who are now sisters, who directed “Cloud Atlas,” among other films.

Le

Random Topics, Streaming Offerings and Observations

This will be a stream-of-consciousness entry that jumps from topic to topic.

In other words, it will be just like my entire blog. (lol)

We are watching the Andrew Garfield “Under the Banner of Heaven” thing and also just concluded “The Girl from Plainville,” which fictionalizes the case of the young girl who urged her boyfriend to carry through on his suicide threats. While I was not aware of the “Under the Banner of God” underlying factualism (factuality?), I do feel as though I had already seen the story of “The Girl from Plainville,” because we watched it on “Dateline NBC.” Another one that is hitting me with that same feeling of “I’ve already seen this” is “The Dropout.” It was better as a documentary, because, instead of Amanda Seyfriend, you had the real woman who foisted that fraud on the nation. There is a fascinating documentary out about the case, which I saw at SXSW. (It was better than Amanda’s more fictional version).

So, that brings me to some documentaries I have known and loved.

Tonight, on Hulu, we watched “Three Identical Strangers.” I really enjoyed it;l it raised some serious ethical issues. It also has a “surprise” ending that, had I written it, I would be accused of making stuff up, I’m sure. Here is the write-up for this documentary, (should you be a documentary fan, as I am):  “Stories of sibling reunions don’t get any wilder than this one, a 2018 documentary that relates how three triplets who had been adopted by different families rejoiced in discovering one another at college age (19) before a disturbing truth emerged.”

We also watched the first installment of “Hacks,” should you be more in the mood for humor, and it was good. After that, we finished off “Candy” (Jessica Biel, Justin Timberlake) which had a rather disappointing denouement.

Here’s another couple of documentaries that sound terrific, and I’ve reviewed a number of little-seen documentaries (“Krimes” was good) many times on my blog, if you scroll through. Here is a second documentary that I want to see:  “Birth of a Family” ($3 on Amazon Prime), “The Wolfpack” (HBO Max) and “Tell Me Who I Am.” (Netflix) If you see “Misha and the Wolves” being advertised, that one I’ve seen; it is well worth watching.

I completed almost one entire week of radiation today—well, actually, 3 days and 1 simulation.

No, I am not radioactive, but I am hurting. Hearing that Iowa City wouldn’t make me do this and then ME making me do this out of concern about a recurrence may make me hurt more than if I had just cavalierly taken Iowa City’s advice and said, “Well, if it happens again I can just resign myself to another grueling six months of hell, with no good wishes from 90% of the social circle of women who were supposed to have been my friends for 40+ years.”

My way of saying “THANKS” to the long distance friends and Facebook friends and colleagues from other walks of life, who found it in their hearts to take a second or two to wish me well. What is it they say about your true friends revealing themselves in times of trouble?

Since some of my friends have moved from the area permanently, others have succumbed to Alzheimer’s, and a few have simply shuffled off this mortal coil permanently, I truly appreciate the casual “Good luck!” during what I hope is the home stretch of this ordeal. I was brought up to at least say, “Oh, I’m so sorry” (even to strangers.)  I guess that has gone out of style, judging from Christmas Eve.  I anticipated I’d hear that more than one time on Christmas Eve, (the first time I “went wide” with the news.) Besides thanking strangers or far-flung non-local folks (“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers” – Vivian Leigh), I have to say that my spouse and kids have been great. I’m currently loaded with lovely flowers from Mother’s Day.

On a completely unrelated topic (my goal here tonight and every night) has anyone else been deluged with those completely ugly stink bugs in their house? Every single night this week one or more of those pesky critters has landed on my arm or wrist or body, causing me to jump up and scream. Sometimes, they crawl on the lighted TV screen. They might have been attracted by the reading light near my seat in the family room. I hope they are done, because I’ve had enough jumping up and screaming to last me for years.

 

Poetry from the Past

I was cleaning out an old purse (from 2006) and found, scrawled there, some poetry.

I think I wrote this poetry to advance the plot of “Out of Time,” my first novel, published by Lachesis. The sentiment seems eerily prescient of today’s Ukraine situation, however, while the second was about the suicide of one of the twin daughters of the President, part of the plot.

Poem #1, “Ukraine”

Hate breeds hate

And love yields love.

This a message

From above.

 

We must love

Or we shall die

A cosmic order

From on high

 

When will all the killing stop?

Save them from the bombs we drop!

Forgive us all our crimes, our deeds,

Show the path to where peace leads.

We are but a cosmic speck

Of ash and dust

Of finite dreck..

Yet our crimes, our sins abound

As we destroy this planet found.

 

When will all the killing stop?

When will tears no longer drop?

Can this tired world be saved, at last?

Or must we all repeat the past?

That was the first poem in this small notebook within my old purse, with this second one being part of the plot of “Out of Time:”

Death began to call her name,

In dulcet tones that sounded sane.

“Lift the glass. Take but a sip,

It will speed you on your trip.

Taste this fatal glass of doom.

Let me show you to your room.

Please don’t worry. Please don’t fret.

This is your best adventure yet.”

We just watched the fictional account of the young girl, played by Chloe Moritz, who encouraged her boyfriend to commit suicide (“The Girl from Plainville”). She asked for a bench trial, was found guilty, and was given 15 months in jail. The incident led to the passage of “Conrad’s Law” which makes anyone who preys upon a mentally fragile person, urging them to commit self harm, [as happened in the plot of “The Girl from Plainville,”] eligible for a 5-year prison term.

In the case of the character played by Chloe Grace Moritz, she went to jail for the 15 months, but was released early for good behavior. And the problem of teenage suicides continues to be a big one, especially since the pandemic.

This third poem was one I wrote to advance the “time travel” plot of another. Never again will I work for months, slaving away to make somebody else’s plot idea into a novel, only to have them give away the book signing that he was supposed to arrange at our local bookstore (then Border’s)  to a different book he worked on with another “collaborator” (who probably did all of the writing of that one). The plot of “Out of Time” involved a time-traveling rock star, which should have been my first clue that this was a bad idea.

Not unlike “The Graduate,” the rock star hero of the novel falls in love with the mother of his girlfriend. Then, there is travel through time and a decision on which of the women to “save” and a lot of other unlikely stuff. I guess you do learn by doing, however, as I’ve written 3 novels since then in “The Color of Evil” series, and the readers and I believe that writing my own plot was an improvement.

So, here is the last poem that I found, (from something like 2006), on an old notebook in an old purse. You’d have to read the book (available on Amazon) to find out how the poem fits in the plot. I was encouraged to read about the discovery of the black hole predicted by Einstein just today, which makes the idea of traveling through time somewhat more plausible.

From “Out of Time”:

When daisies last in our garden grew,

You were me and I was you.

List closely now; I’ll tell the tale

Before night falls and our world fails.

Time’s winged chariot hurries near

I gather strength

To fight my fear

If I should die, before I wake

I pray the Lord my soul to take.

 

The scalpel lay there, cold and bright,

Reflecting the fluorescent light.

It screamed of fear and pain and crime.

Was there a chance? Would there be time?

The world lay shattered at his feet.

Was its fate sealed? Would time repeat?

Our past will not our future be.

If eyes are not too blind to see.

I know that I shall never see

A love so real as you to me

I’ve tried to purge you from my mind.

But caring’s not my choice, I find.

It always ends, as end it must

Ashes to ashes; dust to dust.

Life to death and death to life.

Stay with me and be my wife.

 

And, with that bit of ancient history, I prove why I seldom write poetry. Or doggerel. Or whatever you want to call it. A wise decision.

I have not written any since 2006 (the date on this old notebook.)

 

 

Day Number One of Radiation: 32 To Go

Today’s radiation was a non-event (which is a good thing)…so far.

However, as I was driving to the 12:45 appointment, at 12:28 p.m., the original radiologist who diagnosed me back on December 7th phoned me. Kudos to Dr. Gotswami for taking time out of her busy day to answer the musical question: “Should I try to make it through all 33 days of radiation?”

I could not speak with her at 12:28. I told her I’d be back home following the radiation. Could she please phone me at her convenience later? And she did. Her views on the subject of radiation confirmed mine (rather than Iowa City’s). I just hope that I am in the 52% who benefit, not the 48% who don’t.

Today’s radiation song was another Golden Oldie. (I can hum it, but I can’t tell you its name.)

The thing that concerns me is how tired I feel (and have felt since December 1st.) I can’t imagine that I could become even MORE fatigued through the process of radiation. I honestly feel as though I could lay down and go to sleep immediately. At my “wellness visit” of December 1st, I felt this way. The blood drawn at that time did not show any surprising or unusual results, but 6 days later I was diagnosed with cancer, so….

I must remember to call up and schedule my regular every-three-years colonoscopy. (The fun just never stops!) I’m thinking August for that gem, maybe. With a father and an aunt who died of colon cancer, one can’t be too cautious. As I remember, my father’s first symptom of his cancer was extreme fatigue, which first emerged in March. He died in October.

I am so impressed that Genesis’ Dr. Goswami was kind enough to phone me today and confirm for me the logic of my current actions. She did give Iowa City some cover (additional explanation).

So far, I am glad I followed through on my own instincts, but I realize (from reading) t

doesn’t happen at the outset.

I am still, overall, stunned by my late-in-the-game Iowa City second opinion. And grateful for the chance to thank Dr. Goswami (of Genesis) for the phrase that has been ringing in my mind since December 7, 2021: “You did everything right. You’re going to be fine.”

May 10th Is Pre-Radiation Simulation: Show Gets On the Road Tomorrow

 

The husband and me at my nephew’s June wedding in St. Louis in 2021.

I had a “simulation,” today for radiation that REALLY starts tomorrow—one of two. First simulation involved the much-hated and feared “tube.” The second one (today) was simply to familiarize me with the whirring machines that will be delivering beams of radiation to my attractively decorated right side (which is festively marked up with magic marker at key points to guide the beam’s rays and decals.)

You lie on a narrow table, gazing at the ceiling, which has fake stars twinkling through a black background. A large round metal part of the machine is directly above you.

One can hear Prince singing “Let’s Party Like It’s 1999” in the background, followed by Huey Lewis and the News (“It’s Hip to Be Square”). (Makes you hope the machines are not as old as the music.)

I am warned that the machines that will come whizzing by my head may seem like they are going to hit me in the face, but—not to worry—that won’t happen. (I close my eyes after that warning.) The attendants leave the room, because, well, it’s radiation.
Noises besides music include a sound that resembles a vacuum cleaner, but it’s not the loud pots-and-pan clanking of an MRI machine. The sounds of medical machines doing their thing. They “do their thing” for 15 minutes, after which I am free to go, to start “for real” tomorrow (5/12/2022) with creams and side effects and God Knows What Else.

After hearing the words of wisdom of the Iowa City physician (Dr. Vikas) on Friday, May 6th, I decided that I would like to speak, again, with Dr. Goswami, the President of all radiologists in the Quad Cities, who was on duty at the Genesis Hospital in Davenport (East Rusholme Street; formerly known as St. Luke’s) back in December when this all started. St. Luke’s is now either Genesis East or Genesis West. (Even some who work there seem confused as to whether it is East or West.)

If Dr. Hartmann had not taken off and disappeared without a word to the anxious, not to return to his office until January 25, I might have had all this done at Genesis. But, since nobody would tell me if Dr. Hartmann had Covid or was simply on vacation, and I was eager to “get this show on the road,” I ended up with a much-closer hospital (10 minutes away): Trinity and Unity Point and Dr. McKenzie, whom I had actually met once before in 2018.)

Why did I drive all the way to Davenport for a repeat mammogram?Primarily because they were the only facility that would do a mammogram in the afternoon.

I really liked Dr. Goswami, whose positive words of encouragement (“You did everything right. You’re going to be fine.”) have kept me going for 6 months. You could tell that she was good at her job.

She is a graduate of my alma mater (U. of Iowa), board certified, and did her residency in Wisconsin. She did not pussy-foot around but told me immediately (on Pearl Harbor Day, 2021) that this was going to be bad, even before the lab results came back on Saturday, December 10th. She also pointed out that the small size of the tumor was in my favor and would mean that chemo would not be necessary to shrink the size of the tumor before its removal; nor would chemo probably be indicated afterwards.

In other words, she did not sugarcoat the truth, but prepared me for what has come since. This was in direct contrast to the technician who performed the echocardiogram, who was very close-to-the-vest and mysterious about the outcome of that test to verify that my heart was good enough for surgery. He insisted that only a physician could read the chart and tell me. So, how long did it take a physician (no doubt a heart expert) to read the chart and contact me? FORTY-ONE DAYS. Yup. I did not find out that my heart was “sound” for 6 weeks.
That’s right, one day shy of 6 weeks from when I had the echocardiogram on 11/29/2021 until someone could be bothered to let me know that I had NOT “had a silent heart attack” and was, instead, doing fine, with “the heart of a 30-year-old.” (My response: “I’ll bet he wants it back.”) And, yes, I called 3 times a day, trying to find out.

Plus, I was not told the exact location of the tumor until 10 minutes before being wheeled into surgery, when they were inserting a three-foot long wire into my side to “guide the surgeon.” I had asked. And asked. And asked. Each physician would pass the buck to the next, saying, “You need to ask the surgeon about that.” Or, “You need to ask the radiologist about that.”

When we showed up for an 11 a.m. pre-operative consult with the surgeon (my husband with me) we DID “ask the surgeon about that,” he did not join us until 15 minutes to 2 p.m. We sat in a small, frigid examining room waiting for 2 hours. (Fortunately, we had reading material, but I was so cold in the lightweight cotton hospital gown that I ended up putting my coat back on.)

I asked that the surgeons put the mammogram slide that showed the location of the new tumor up on his computer screen, for my husband and me to see. The doctor only had an old biopsy from 2018, which he did put up on the screen. I spent the entire time leading up to surgery (12/6 to 1/27) trying in vain to find out if the “new” tumor was anywhere near the “old” tumor, because the stereotactic biopsy location of the ”old” biopsy site was in a very bad place. It was inconveniently located and took what seemed like forever—at least 2 months— to heal up. The attendant that day (Jane)—who had not warned me that I might be subjected to a biopsy—denied me a second half-moon sized ice pack, when I requested one, and told me, “You can make one yourself.” She also insisted—despite the negative report from Dr. Croemer and the lab that the biopsy was normal—that I would have to meet with an oncologist or my insurance would not pay for the biopsy. (I sowed up with a 3-page letter about the entire procedure.)

Post simulation, I drove over to what used to be called Illini Hospital and went into their Cancer Center in search of Dr. Goswami, because, online, it said that she worked out of Illini. The two receptionists at the desk of the Cancer Center had never heard of her. One said I should go down the hall to the radiology department and offered to lead me there. We walked there together, and commiserated about how, in today’s medical world, insurance companies seem to try, increasingly, to find ways to dis-allow treatment for deserving patients. One day, said my companion, it will come down to only the wealthy can get care. I did not disagree. I added, “Right. And there will be an age cut-off.” Which there actually has been for some time. (I remember when a good friend’s Mom could not get a stem cell transplant because she was over 50; now it is 70.)

I’ve been told to apply udder cream to the radiated area three times a day, but not within 4 hours of a radiation appointment. I’ve been told to check the first 5 ingredients on the Aloe I ordered from Amazon to make sure that alcohol—which is drying—is not among those first five ingredients. I’ve been told to report at 12:45 tomorrow and the rest of this week, with appointments from then on scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

Don’t Hug Me: I’m Radioactive!

Some of you may have noticed that my blog has been offline since about May 4th.

Why?

No idea. Something about “cloud flares.” Extremely distressing. I hope GoDaddy gives me a week’s worth of freebie credit, because this has been quite upsetting. Thank you, Allison, for running interference on this and finally getting it straightened out. Something to do with “upgrades” gone wrong.

I begin radiation tomorrow, and it will run for 33 days, if I make it. I made a quick trip to Iowa City and met with specialists at their new Beast Cancer Center (open only 2 weeks) on Friday. Dr. Vickas spoke with my husband and me and, when I asked about the risks and benefits of radiation, said, “Actually, if you had had us operate here in Iowa City , we would not have radiated you at all.”

Big silence from the both of us.

Me:  “Why not??

Dr.:  “We don’t radiate anyone over 70. It has negligible benefit in terms of longevity.” (Welcome to being thrown upon the trash pile of life, I guess).

Me: “What about helping ward off a recurrence?”

Dr.: “Oh, yes. There is about a 52% better chance of no recurrence if you are radiated.”

Me: “Then why wouldn’t I have radiation for THAT?”

Dr. Vikas: “Well, we know how to treat that. You’d just come back and have another lumpectomy and go through all the rest of it.”

I don’t want to say that MALE Indian doctors don’t pay much attention to how women fare in the world, but male Indian doctors don’t pay much attention to women and how they fare in the world. I could go on and relate a true story about how my husband received a Vitamin D long-lasting pill in release form from our mutual male (former) Indian doctor, while it was never even mentioned to me that my Vitamin D was low—in fact,far lower than his. How do I know this? I had the good sense to have my blood work sent to my regular OB/GYN, Dr. Mihm, who called me FROM VACATION to tell me to go to a drugstore, buy some Vitamin D. and start taking a lot of it because my levels were so low.

So, tomorrow, it begins. Wish me luck!

Home Is the Hunter, Home from the Hill

Our journey of 1,000 miles (give or take a few miles) has led us back to the Quad Cities, where the bush next to my garage is in full bloom.

Out of 19 phone calls on our answering machine, only 2 were important. One was from Iowa City, moving the time they want to see me up from 3:30 (May 6) to 2:40 (May 6) so that I can be told about some research studies that I might qualify for. This is interesting, because, earlier in the festivities, I wrote directly to the woman who is (ostensibly) in charge of all research studies at that venerable institution, and she told me I did not qualify for any of the studies currently ongoing.

I’ve been a devotee of trying to help other people with the same ailment ever since my mother volunteered for several diabetes studies during her days in Iowa City (ages 82 to 95). In fact, I’m currently in a knee study (control group) charting how arthritis ultimately gets us all and have had frequent MRI and X-rays of my left knee for that one for close to 20 years. I also was recently called from that same list of participants to ask if our joints hurt more or less after having Covid-19.

This time, the ailment is something far more life-threatening: cancer. I don’t know precisely what they want to talk to me about at 2:40 on May 6th, but it is one of the main reasons I am journeying to Iowa City at such a late date, after the barn door has been left open, so to speak, and the horse has gotten out. My treatment began last December. Hopefully, it will conclude on or about June 27th. I go tomorrow to have a CAT scan to set up radiation. On or about May 12th, I begin the radiation treatments that are supposed to kill any remaining cancer cells and, hopefully, prevent any recurrence on the left side of my body. I go every week day, Monday through Friday, for 33 days.

We may meet up with long-time friends Pam and John Rhodes for dinner on Friday night (May 6th) in Iowa City, another doctor appointment I have recently set up, but that part remains tentative. Regardless, we will drive up and listen to the experts give their feedback on everything that has been done (and is being done) so far, and listen to the study they mentioned in a phone conversation on our answering machine that they might like me to participate in. I have read that doctors around the country are trying to develop a vaccine to prevent breast cancer and that would certainly be a boon to mankind—or womankind.

The only other phone call that was important was simply to remind me to show up at 1 p.m. for the “simulation” with radiologist Dr. Stoffel and to have the CAT scan for planning purposes. I also have to stop and pick up one of the adjuvant therapy drugs that I was prescribed back in early February. I will have taken 90 of these Anastrozole pills (1 mg.) on Thursday of this week, so the side effects should have kicked in or be kicking in shortly. So far, taking them at night along with 5 other pills, I’m not aware of any extraordinary “bad” things, although perhaps February 5 to May 5 is not long enough? Don’t know. Can’t tell you, but have been told I have to take this pill for 5 years. Have read many horror stories about bad side effects, but, so far, so good. I have to have my bone density checked, which hasn’t been done since 2017, because that is one of the more serious side effects of this estrogen-blocking drug, and the other is high cholesterol (which I already have and for which I already take medication.) It sounded infinitely preferable to Tamoxifen.

Today, we drove from St. Louis and finished off “Comedy, Comedy, Drama” by Bob Odenkirk. We both agree that both books we selected were good, but the book “All About Me” by Mel Brooks gets the nod because of his much longer career. I started a “drama” book…actually 2 of them. One (“Devil House”) has definitely left me cold. It spent hours describing a trip to the supermarket (alert the media!) and barely used any real “” dialogue. Then, suddenly, in the middle of the book, the author began writing an ersatz version of Olde English.

Look: I was forced to memorize the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales when in high school (“Whom that Aprilluh, when the shoruh sota”), which I learned phonetically. It was pure torture then and putting in some made-up version of Olde English did nothing for the book or its plot—such as it is. It started out with promise: a story about a crime writer who moves into a house that witnessed the brutal murder of a high school teacher by two of her students. The teacher was subsequently thought to be a witch. Perhaps it was the fact that she took the time to hack up both students after dismantling them during their surprise attack and then wheelbarrowed their bodies down to the beach and threw them in the ocean. (Doesn’t sound like normal, ordinary, potential victim behavior).

The book was very sympathetic towards the teacher, but, then, just as we were trying to find a reason why an otherwise rational high school teacher who had successfully defended her life would not simply pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1- for help afterwards, there was a shift in tone and the author protagonist interviewed the mother of one of the high school victims.

O……K…….

I’m no expert, but I like good dialogue and a lot of it in the books I read, and I absolutely loathe lengthy descriptions that serve little to no purpose. On top of that, the Olde English thing lost me and—let’s just say that it is a toss-up whether I will continue residing in “Devil House” any longer, so I moved on over to a second e-book selection, the name of which escapes me.

The second book—as my husband agreed—just seems way too “slick.” It’s like a “Mission Impossible” vehicle for a Tom Cruise character. The not-that-original kernel of the book is that an orphan was raised to be an assassin (Orphan X). I’ve actually reviewed a book that had this same premise, only that book was better. This one has now thrown in talk of Mexican cartels and dialing for a Mr. Nowhere who will help find a beautiful young 18-year-old kidnapped by evil Mexican cartel members, and his apartment has been blown up, so he is re-engineering one of those James Bond-type residences that has all kinds of high tech things like hidden rooms and special glass to deter snipers and I-don’t-know-what-all. Meh. I am not getting into this one, either, even though the author has done a more-than-decent job of writing it. It’s just not my thing, apparently, and not my husband’s either, he says. There was one good sexy scene, which I appreciated since so many thriller writers avoid sex scenes like the plague, but, since I’m gearing up now for good old-fashioned radiation, which is supposed to leave one absolutely wiped out, I can’t want to, as my children used to say when young.

So, it’s “Home again, home again” diggety do. The spouse will have to hit the grocery store tomorrow, because I not only have to spend inordinate amounts of time at the radiologists going through a “simulation” but also have to stop and get more Anastrazole, which I run out of in 4 days.

I’ve unpacked. I’m getting ready to watch “Under the Banner of Heaven” with Andrew Garfield, and all’s right with the world.

The Road Home & the Washington Correspondents’ Dinner

By the time you read this, I will probably be back in East Moline, Illinois, home base.

Poplar Bluffs, Missouri, on April 29th, 2022.

I’m writing from St. Louis, Missouri at my brother-in-law’s house. When we arrived, we went out to see the site where niece Megan and her husband (Aaron) and daughter (Winnie) will be building their new house. [They plan to move from Denver to St. Louis]. ETA: spring of 2023.

We also visited the grave of my dear sister-in-law Wendy, who died April 18, 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic from an accumulation of illnesses, including lymphoma. It would be so much better for us and for the world if Wendy were here, in person, to go out to dinner with us. Sixty-two is far too young to shuffle off this mortal coil.

Austin Tice (#freeaustintice) has been held prisoner in Syria for years and is being saluted at the White House Correspondents’ dinner. The president of the journalists’ association is mentioning other prisoners held and, also, Maksim Levin, Vira Hyryo, Bren Renaud, Oksana Baulin, Sasha Kuvshyova  Zakrezews, —all journalists killed in Ukraine. Benjamin Hall of ABC News is recovering from injuries. (I’m sure I missed a few). “How It Happened” won an award for Axis, a film documenting the end of days of the Trump administration.

Biden Remarks: “Excited to be here among the only group with a lower approval rating than I have.” “We had a horrible plague, followed by 2 years of Covid.” “It would really have been a real coup if my predecessor had attended this dinner.” “Calvin Coolidge attended the first correspondents’ dinner in 1924. I remember telling him, ‘Just get up there and be yourself.'” “The good news is that I have a real shot at replacing James Corden. Great performers going out after 8 years at the top. Sounds about right to me.” “I’ve never had to open before Trevor Noah before. He called me ‘America’s new dad.’ I’m excited to be called a new anything.” Reference to all of Fox News members all being there, vaccinated and boosted. (Tough opposition from Democrats is referenced, as he talked about how he expected confrontation, but from REPUBLICANS.) “There’s nothing that I can say about the GOP that Kevin McCarthy hasn’t already said on tape.”

Remarks from Trevor Noah: 

“That was really great. I got a promise that I will not be going to prison.” (a reference to Biden’s introduction, where he told him that he could make fun of the President of the United States and not go to prison.)

“One of the nation’s most distinguished Super Spreader events. The second someone offered you a free dinner you all turned into Joe Rogan. Dr. Fauci dropped out, but Pete Davidson thought it was okay. You could have picked any comedian but you picked an African variant. Get comfortable, but don’t get too comfortable, Jeffrey Toobin.”

“You may have noticed I’m going to be telling some jokes tonight. I’m a comedian, not Kristin Synema.

Reference to the Oscars: “What if I make a really mean joke about Kellye Anne Conway and then her husband rushes up on the stage and thanks me?” (Chris Cuomo slam). Governor Abbott is providing free buses for the Telemundo table.”

(Ron DeSantis jokes, re his presidential ambitions). “You’re smarter than him. You’re fitter than him. You can walk down ramps.”

(To Biden): “I was a little confused as to why you picked me, but then I was told that you get your highest approval ratings when you’re standing next to a bi-racial Black guy.”

“Jill Biden is still teaching because she’s still paying off her student debt.” “Unemployment at 3.3%—2% if you don’t count the Cuomo family.” [Shots at MSNBC.] Shots at Joe & Mikka (“most adorable HR violation in town.”).

Mick Mulvaney (hired by CBS) was a target of Trevor Noah. “So many other huge talents who can no longer be mentioned in Florida.”

Chuck Todd: “I’d ask for a follow-up, but I know you don’t know what that is.” (slam)

“An interview with (Australian) Jonathan Swan is like being interviewed by a koala bear.”

NPR: “I wish you guys didn’t always have to beg for money. Maybe you’re spending too much on those tote bags. Who’s designing those things? Gucci?”

Fox News: “I think they get a bad rap. It just depends on when you watch. It’s relatively normal in the afternoon, but just wait until the sun goes down.” (“Their segments on Corona virus moved their viewers–right into the ICU.”) “Tucker Carlson: who else could fill an entire show each night asking questions that Google could easily answer?”

CNN: “I blame John King. Your magic wall can predict everything, but you spend $300 million on CNN+ and the wall can’t predict its failure?” CNN Breaking News banner: “Did they just turn it on during the O.J. case and just never figured out how to get rid of it?”

“The media is in a tough position: you’re battling conspiracy theories.  (Named 3 biggies) and said, “And that’s just the people in this room.”

Conclusion: Serious message about the Fourth Estate and how it gives voice to those who, otherwise, would not have one. “Every single one of you is a bastion of democracy. If you ever begin to doubt, look no further than what is happening in Ukraine. In America you have the right to seek the truth and speak the truth, even if it makes people in power uncomfortable. Do you know how amazing that is? Do you really understand what a blessing that is? Maybe it’s happened so long that you don’t remember. Ask yourself this question: if Russian journalists who are losing their liveliood and their lives trying to tell  stories or ask  questions, would they be using that freedom in the same way that you do?”

So, the Correspondents’ Dinner on CNN was a four-hour entertainment fest that wasted 2 of the hours with replays of the Ukrainian conflict.

The “celebrities” that I saw were Kim Kardashian, and the guy who is now the lead on “Billions.” Aside from him, Don Lemon was about the most well-known, although Harry Hamlin entered with someone I think was his daughter, and his hair had been dyed blonde. Strange.

This night was no 2015 Seth Meyer performance, but Trevor Noah was topical and delivered well. The lack of any Grade “A” celebrities was noteworthy, with a very few exceptions, but it was a chance for Biden to show that he is not a thin-skinned dictator who can dish it out, but can’t take it, which DJT modeled at this same dinner in 2015.

 

On the Road Again: Poplar Bluffs, Missouri

I’m currently in Poplar Bluffs,Missouri. Yesterday, we were in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. . We journeyed across Arkansas today. Hampton Inns are our “home away from home” and I (belatedly) remembered that I am a Hilton Honors member and they now own Hampton Inns.

All I know is that we will hit St. Louis tomorrow and, hopefully, see brother-in-law Mark and do dinner and some sight-seeing.

We added up the cost of gas, so far, to and from Texas: $74 Of course, we are driving my Prius hybrid auto, which gets something like 52 miles to the gallon.

We managed to find two of the worst gas station rest rooms in the states of Arkansas and Texas. One had a rest room, but it was “out of order.” We ended up eating waffles at a waffle house at 4 p.m., simply to gain access to a rest room. Today was no better, as this rest room definitely did not earn a gold star for cleanliness. Yet there were instructions posted prominently about washing one’s hands, although I was afraid to touch ANYTHING in this rest room.

I am reading aloud and the book in question on this way home is Bob Odenkirk’s “Comedy” autobiography. On the way down, it was Mel Brooks’ autobiography, “All About Me.” Both re good books and very funny and very interesting.

My spouse insists on pronouncing “Poplar” as “popular” (!) but I will say that the Hampton Inn here is very nice. Rooms are running about $150 per night, so the trip will end up costing around $400, total, whereas our air fare back to Texas for the Fourth of July is going to run more like $600, or $300 apiece.

I can’t say that Arkansas is an improvement over Oklahoma, Folks, but Texas was way warmer and I’m getting ready to don a jacket as we head closer to home.

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