Have you made a big change?

O, how they want us to have had epiphanies, shifts, turnabouts, makeovers, changeovers and on and on. If you happen to be one of the people who have (has? I never remember) made a big change because of breast cancer, and you'd like to be interviewed, read on:

Breast Cancer survivors

Category: General

Email: query-j5b@helpareporter.com

Media Outlet: Book

Deadline: 07:00 PM EST - 24 August


I am a cookbook author and nationally-published essayist writing
a novel centered on themes of rebuilding life after breast
cancer, I am interested interviewing breast-cancer survivors who
were inspired to make a major life change (new career, move,
etc.) because of beating their disease. Would be most interested
in speaking with people of South Asian descent. Acknowledgment
given to interviewees in published book.

The Big C How Pretty Cancer Is

God help us! I just watched Showtime's The Big C online while sitting in my bed and breakfast room on State Street in downtown Jackson, Mississippi. It's funny. It's ironic. It's sardonic. It's clever. It's cute.

It's unrealistic. It's demeaning. It delivers a very very odd message about race.

It begins with a black guy from the swimming pool company talking to the blonde (Laura Linney) about how unrealistic a pool is for her yard. We are in Minneapolis but we could be anywhere where there are driveways and shrubs and lawns and single-family dwellings that one can afford to expand. He says instead she should "bump out the deck," put in a hot tub and and barbecue pit. To get it done faster, she offers to pay him double. OK, I'll start tomorrow, he says. (Later she decides she does want the pool no matter what, and he says he'll get a digger tomorrow. "The bigger the digger the better," she quips. Ugh. Insert joke here about black men and their big diggers.)

It ends with Linney talking to someone who's off-camera: therapist? husband? No, ha ha. It's a dog. I think it's the neighbor's basset hound. And it's unclear whether he's listening. Then as the camera goes further and further away, we see them on the couch together, isolated as if in a boat, and then the FUCKING CIVIL RIGHTS ANTHEM, "This Little Light of Mine" plays.

What is going on here?

Race relations are un-problematized. Cancer is de-clawed. She might as well start singing, I Feel Pretty. She sure looks pretty. Healthy.

But Cancer Bitch, didn't you say you feel fine till the treatment starts?

In between we have Linney telling her handsome young Indian-looking doc (he's 31, she's his first terminal patient, lotta yucks about being the first) all about her swimming games as a kid while she's in the exam room, and then they meet for a meal. Maybe this is how they do medicine in Minnesota, but ain't never seen nothin' like that in Chicago, and, like Linney's character, I too have health insurance.

This seems to be a fantasy about what happens when you say what you've been swallowing all this time. She tells her fat, mouthy black student: "You can't be fat and mean." Linney tells the girl that the other kids laugh at her cruel jokes, but nobody's asking her to the prom. And at their next encounter, Linney offers the girl $100 for every pound she loses as long as she quits smoking. Seems like we're getting pretty close to the territory of Blame the Victim for Her Cancer--she was repressed, so see what happened!

She finds out her neighbor has complained about the backyard construction so walks straight into the old biddy's house and accuses, "You have never smiled even a little bit." And the old lady's house and lawn are a mess, too.

Of course, because this is TV-land, next time we see them the neighbor has upswept her hair, cross the street to shake hands, and smiles and asks to borrow the lawnmower.

And because this is TV, and because everything is so funny haha, her husband hears her doctor's compassionate message on the phone and assumes she's having an affair. She doesn't tell anyone--her son, her husband, her save-the-world goofy brother--that she's got metastatic cancer.

"It makes me feel better to think we're all dying," she says (to the dog). Profound. Never thought of that before. I'm here all year, she says. Performing at stage four. (That was a clever line. Really.) "The laughter might turn into a sob in a second." And it does.

So next episode, we'll be wondering, Will she tell or won't she? Will she mention money? Will cancer be anything more than a giant wake-up call? And at the end, will she be able to best Oscar Wilde's final line: "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go"?

And what is it about Hollywood and house expansion? That disappointing movie with Meryl Streep in it centered around the Steve Martin architect character who came into her life to expand her house. After her second and last kid left for college. Isn't that a sign that it's time to downsize?

Note to Hollywood: Can you spell F-o-r-e-c-l-o-s-u-r-e?

Hey, kids, here's someone who died from breast cancer, as well as other stuff!

One-Breasted Tour Through Dixie

I am so sad because I'm leaving the South on Tuesday. I'm in Selma tonight, having spent the afternoon in the Reform temple with a very nice and spry president of the congregation who is 85. He is 10 percent of the congregation, and ten years younger than the oldest member. He put captions on two recent pictures. On the group standing together: The last of the Mohicans. On a photo of the members sitting around on the pews in the nearly-empty sanctuary: Reserve seating at Mishkan Israel.

The synagogue was started by German Jews; my great-grandfather and his brothers-in-law were fresh-from-the-shtetl Eastern European Jews who were presumably members of the Orthodox synagogue, which no longer has members or a building. It's now the site of the post office. Most of the documents and photos at Mishkan Israel pertain to that synagogue, but I saw a copy of minutes from 1912 from B'nai Abraham, the Orthodox shul. It was in Yiddish, which I should know how to read after ten years of study, but I know I'll have to get it translated.

What I know: My great-grandfather Zendel aka Sidney was born in Plungian, Lithuania, in 1874. He arrived in the U.S. in 1901. His wife Sarah, who was four years older (they allegedly told the census enumerator Miss Lula Hamilton, who got some names wrong; maybe she was better with figures), arrived in 1906 with five kids. This was typical for immigrants, of course. Imagine coming over on the boat with children aged four, five, seven and nine (the latter, my grandmother, Bessie aka Bayle Maryassa) Mindel. Imagine living in the shtetl Pusvatyn (better or worse than Plungian?), your husband has left for America, he says he'll send for you but you never know, you've heard of women who go overseas and they find their husbands are living with a real American woman who speaks English, the men abandon their faithful wives and don't release them with a religious divorce and they are isolated and floating and alone, with their children and Yiddish and nothing else in the new country. He goes and you're pregnant and have the fourth baby, which he doesn't see grow into a toddler and then a little girl. But he does send money for passage and you come, five years later, to 517 Washington Street in Selma. And two years later, an American baby is born. And 103 years later, Bessie's granddaughter aka Cancer Bitch makes a visit and there's a gas station where one house was, and probably an empty lot where the other was, and anyone can see them from their computer, thanks to the Google satellite system, the big eye that sees and records everything.

Why Selma? Why Alabama? It's always the same reason: someone else was already there. In this case, Sarah's brothers Louis, Joe and Samuel Rosenburg nee Pruchna. Samuel came to the U.S. in 1892. Today I put stones on the graves of Louis and Joe and Louis's wife Mattie Smith. The graves were in a row and there was space for another head stone, for Joe's wife, but she wasn't buried there. I don't know where Samuel and his wife Jennie are. I do know that they married in 1910, when he was 38, five-foot-six and 200 pounds, and she was 28, the same height and weighed 150, and had been in this country five years.

What does this mean? Why is genealogy the alleged second-most popular hobby in the US?
The one-breasted researcher has thoughts on this, which she will relate later.,

Type 2014A...

in the folktale roster is the "That's good, that's bad" formula story. I found out that it did not originate with my cousin H, who used to tell these stories in the 60s. Or maybe it was just the one classic story about the man and his new wife.

Here goes my attempt, not adhering exactly to the formula:
I had breast cancer.
That's bad.
That's good, I don't have it any more.
That's good.
That's bad. I have another kind of cancer, polycythemia vera.
That's bad.
That's good, it's slow-growing and sort of under control.
That's good.
That's bad, it makes my skin very sensitive, and it itches a lot. But because of my breast cancer, I joined a rowing team for breast cancer survivors and pre-vivors.
That's good.
That's bad, I rubbed my leg against the gunwale and got "slide bite."
That's bad.
That's not bad, I put antibiotic ointment and a bandage on it.
That's good.
That's bad, I ran out of bandages when we were in Oregon.
That's bad.
That's good, L got me some more bandages at Walgreens.
That's good.
That's bad, I reacted to the bandages with huge red welts.
That's bad.
That's good, it didn't kill me.
That's good.
That's bad, we were in a tiny town and couldn't find calamine lotion, cortisone cream or antibiotic ointment.
That's bad.
That's good, we got Campho-Phenique and I read online that toothpaste helps the itching.
That's good.
That's bad, when I got home half the welts were still there, and red and puffy.
That's bad.
That's good, I went to the doctor.
That's good.
That's bad, he said it could be staph or MRSA.
That's bad.
That's good, he prescribed Mupirocin ointment and asked if I wanted an oral antibiotic or if I wanted to wait.
That's good.
That's bad, the bumps are still red.
That's bad.
That's good, they're smaller.
That's good.
That's bad, I'm leaving town and don't know if I should ask for the pills.
That's bad.
That's good. I have the option. I have health insurance. I'm actually healthy, overall. Despite all. Sorry this isn't very funny, though.
That's bad.

[Photos from Mayo Clinic; mine started out like the one on the left, but are not as bad as the one on the right.]

Leah Siegel

I usually don't have two deaths in a row, but this was just published today, and sent to me by a good friend of Leah's. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer right after she had her third child. This piece even cut into the stony old heart of Cancer Bitch.