Toys R on Us & the Bad Oncologist

Monday I met with my friend C from the Bay Area, in town to give a lecture and to celebrate his father's 80th birthday. After being an adjunct lecturer and a freelance editor for many years, he's finally gotten a job as chair of liberal studies in a university. He is an inspiration to us all. He's considered full time but just has to work 30 hours a week. That is truly inspirational. All this is an answer to the question: What can you do with a Ph.D. in English?

We had coffee and then he went with me to Tom Thumb Hobby & Crafts in Evanston, because I wanted to look at outdoor furniture to put on my head. I'm working on a proposal for an art installation called Chemo/Lawn and part of it will be made up of pictures of such things on my lawn-like head. I bought two miniature trees, a swing set, slide, see-saw and picket fence. I don't know how I'll get the fence and trees to stay up. I sort of jokingly/seriously said I'd use chewing gum. The sales clerk said that it doesn't come off. I said, Peanut butter is supposed to work. And he said, On the Simpsons, they tried peanut butter and oil and nothing worked. I said, That's a cartoon!

How can people get household hints from cartoons? I mean, it's one thing to get political news from the Daily Show, but at least Jon Stewart is a real person. Though Jon Stewart isn't his real name.

Now on to the Bad Oncologist. As a scientist deciding what potions to give me, he was probably good. Or excellent. Let's say he was excellent. But as a person, not so good. My psychiatrist, the Effusive Shrink, had told me early on that some of my anti-despair medicines would mix badly with Tamoxifen. I mentioned this to the first oncologist while I was in the middle of chemo and he waved me off, saying there was plenty of time yet. The Effusive Shrink had to call him twice before he called her back. Flash forward to the Girl Oncologist, who made me wait while she looked up drug interactions. She found one, with Cymbalta. She said she'd talk to the Effusive Shrink about substituting Effexor. I met with the Effusive Shrink today who said that another anti-nihilism drug that I take, Wellbutrin, also mixes badly with Tamoxifen. Our plan is to taper off the Cymbalta and start slowly on the Effexor. Then we'll substitute something else for the Wellbutrin. In the meantime, I don't want to start Tamoxifen because then I won't know whether any side effects I have are from the Effexor or the Tamoxifen. But see, if the Bad Oncologist hadn't waved me off, we could have started this back in May. Though we were also waiting for the results of my genetic testing. Or rather, I was thinking about genetic testing then, though my surgeon had said it wasn't necessary, and I finally got the testing in July. If I had the BRCA gene mutation, I'd probably get my remaining ovary removed, and then I'd definitely be in menopause and I probably wouldn't be taking Tamoxifen. So I guess the oncologist was right to wait.

How disappointing to realize that there's no one to blame.


Anonymous said...

That's amazing, CB! I actually was in Tom Thumb yesterday around lunchtime (I work nearby) to pick up something, and I noticed all the dollhouse furniture and thought of you e-mailing you about continuing your decorating search there!! Who knows, maybe I was channeling you from one or two aisles over!

Just curious: do you actually wear the CB lawn furniture when you are out and about? Or is it more a leisure item? ;-)

Glad you're feeling well enough to add interior decor (well, of your head, at least) to your formidable resume!

Take care,

Anonymous said...

First, your link to Tom Thumb hobby shop does not work. Second, if you want to know about how Tamoxifen or for that matter, Arimidex (which I am taking) interacts with the SSRI drugs, I can tell you a long story. Maybe another time
~Susan Coster

Anonymous said...


Based on my varied experiences with growing boys (and I should immediately add that all three of them survived into their forties in spite of by best efforts) I'd suggest experimenting with some of the water soluable white glues. Surprisingly they seem to hold various items to skin (examples probably shouldn't be repeated here) and wash off with minimal longlasting effect.

The Fifty Foot Blogger said...

Well, I think you're being generous with the oncologist, especially since I now know we shared the same one. Who knows if he's excellent at anything? He surely does collect his fees, though.

I hope the new one pays Tamoxifen a bit more scrutiny, especially regarding how it interacts with your other meds. I dislike how the Tamoxifen is considered above criticism by some oncologists.

Anonymous said...

Well written article.

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Cancer Bitch said...

A PhD in English gives you respect? In what world is this?

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