The local print media are not cooperating. Yesterday this was the banner headline and main story in our city's tabloid:
Finding solace in memories
Filling book with reflections on wife a labor of love...

It took a while to find the breast cancer, but there it was, on an inside page: "In 1993, Maggie felt a lump in her right breast. It was cancer and the start of a 'year of hell,' King says. A lumpectomy. Chemotherapy that made her hair fall out." Only a lumpectomy? (Only a labor camp?) And chemotherapy, which always makes your hair fall out unless it's chemo-lite, which Cancer Vixen had so she could compete with the super models trying to horn in on her husband. Eight years later, the article said, Maggie had uterine and ovarian cancer. So she officially died of ovarian cancer. Yesterday I glanced at this while lunching with P and I laughed. I don't know why I'm laughing, I said. Dark, cackly laughter, she said, quoting me to myself. Today I talked with my friend Y the cartoonist in the wilds of Ohio, and I was telling her I feel foolish feeling OK, feeling that After I Get Through all this, I'll be fine, when people are dying of breast cancer left and right. (The obit page of the other daily the day before yesterday had profiles of three dead women. Two, breast cancer. One, esophageal) I must say that two of my mother's exercise pals are longterm survivors (12 and 20 years) of breast cancer. Y said she had a good feeling about my health. Today L and I were waiting at Fancy Hospital (this time, for his doctor) and I was looking at our palms, wondering what our life lines showed. I should get my palm read and see if the fortune teller can see the breast cancer first, to test her, I said. She can just look at you, he said. You're missing a breast.

We were waiting for a cardiologist, for L's hypertrophic cardiomyopathy AKA idiopathic hypertrophic subaortic stenosis. First we had to undergo the sacrifice of Those Who Go To Teaching Hospitals: the ritual humoring of the medical apprentice. The Fellow was slightly nervous and slim with beautiful dark eyes and lashes. He asked all the questions whose answers were probably right there in the file: age, activity (baskeball 3-4 times a week, bicycling in reasonable weather), medicines, symptoms. L really has no symptoms. His main complaints are two very cautious doctors--his internist and the cardiologist his internist sent him to. He's had an angiogram (squeaky clean) and cardio-tests that left round pink irritations on his chest for three weeks. He has a thickened something (wall?) and a murmur. His blood pressure doesn't go up much when he exercises; it could be because he's in such great shape or it could be part of his malfunctioning heart. The cardiologist has been muttering for a couple of years about a heart-valve replacement. What L has is what makes student athletes drop dead on the playing field. The thing is, they never knew they had it.

The Fellow listened to L's heart and breathing. Then the doctor put L through all the same paces. (That's my main complaint about these apprentices. They basically use the patients for role-playing. I told L I should have told the apprentice that I was feeling sore around my heart, could he take a look. Would he be in for a surprise!) The cardiologist said that it seemed L was OK, that to be totally safe maybe he shouldn't engage in competitive basketball; even Michael Jordan hung up his sneakers. Hard exercise carries a risk, he said, but it was unknown what exactly the risk is. Basketball is L's great love, his Zen, his flow experience. L explained that he plays with old guys, that the game isn't as competitive as it could be. In fact, they call themselves the Geezers. The doctor said that heart-valve surgery is usually performed in order to make people feel better and that L seems to feel good. L said: Somebody would have to speak more forcefully than you are to make me stop playing basketball.

The cardiologist said he would check with the cautious cardiologist about the results of other tests, and would probably put L in a 24-hour harness to follow all his heart-blood comings and goings. L is supposed to call him tomorrow. The doctor was late in getting to the examination room, and had to leave for a phone call, but otherwise he gave us all the time in the world. He even was almost sitting down--half-sitting-half-leaning on the exam table, one leg bent, the other on the floor. Like movie stars had to do in bedroom scenes in the days of censorship: one leg always on the floor.

On the way to the elevator L said, Dropping dead doesn't scare me at all. What he meant was he wouldn't mind dying on the court; he'd rather be dead than languish. He said he thought the cautious cardiologist had sent him to this guy (who's apparently tops in the field; his work is often cited by other cardiologists) because he knew what he would say. He knew he would play the good cop to his bad cop.

L's father had many heart attacks and that is why L started exercising seriously in his 30s. I am proud of him. It hasn't rubbed off. He's more or less the same size as the day we met. I have gained 30 pounds since, and those pounds have turned me from a pear-shape to an apple, which makes one more at risk for ... ahem... cancer. It seems an hour of exercise a day is one of the best preventatives. Cancer Bitch will work on motivating herself. Her heart, according to the scan she had the other day in preparation for chemo, has nothing wrong with it.