Sunday, May 31, 2009

If you call yourself "pro-life" and you aren't protesting violence against clinics, then your name is a lie.

It is not terribly surprising, though it is very frightening and very sad, that yet another doctor who provided women with safe and legal abortions has been gunned down by the so-called "pro-life" movement. There are a lot of people who call themselves "pro-life" and who genuinely believe in protecting all human life; these people very often do not push to hinder women's access to abortion or to legislate against it because they understand that women have always had abortions, whether they've been safe or not, and that women will continue to have abortions even if abortion is outlawed - in which case, many women will have lasting health problems and many will die. These truly pro-life people also recognize that the business of terminating a pregnancy, no matter how much it may trouble them, is only *their* business if it is *their* pregnancy.

But reproductive rights aside, what do you call a movement that knows its members are actively targeting and commiting acts of intimidation and violence upon those it opposes? Certainly not "pro-life." Video-taping Planned Parenthood workers and putting the license plate numbers of Planned Parenthood clients on the internet is intimidation with the threat of violence. Driving cars into clinics (which was, believe it or not, defended as a "non-violent protest"), shooting doctors, and other clinic violence is more extreme, but such acts are on the same spectrum of behavior aimed at forcing someone else to behave as you would wish them to.

If I sound a little less diplomatic than I might normally sound, it's because I am furious that people are still being told by their movement and their "churches" that pretend to honor God that violence is an acceptable response. And any members of this movement or these "churches" who do not actively and without qualification oppose such actions are part of the problem, and the blood is on their hands. This just confirms what many of us already knew: for many of these people, life is not the issue. The issue is control.

Yes, I'm looking at you, Leslee Unruh, Randall Terry, and others.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Are we back here again?

Today, I was talking with Lesbian Mom A on the playground after school. Lesbian Mom B asked me if my family was a two-mom family. I said, "no." She asked if I was a single mom. I said, "no - I have a partner, who is male." "Oh," she said, because there was a "lesbian party" this past weekend that presumably I would have been invited to had I been a lesbian mom and had the Lesbian Mom Club known who I was. And I felt a little bit like this would have been the time to say, "but I'm bi!" except that it would have felt a little bit like asking the popular kid, who hasn't invited you to her birthday party, if you can come to the party. (Also, I couldn't process where she was going quite fast enough, so that we were past it before I figured out what was going on.)

I think it's great that some of the lesbian moms at this school have gotten together as a group for support and friendship, and I don't think that all lesbian gatherings must include Bs or Ts or Gs, necessarily, but when I first moved here, I was delirious at the notion of finding some LGBT parenting community. Instead, I found The Lesbian Mom Club - which, it seems, does not even include all the lesbian moms - it seems to be a club for the cool and popular. And, on top of this, it's totally backchannel - there's no mention of the group in the weekly announcements that come home from school, so either you are invited to take part or you're not.

So, instead, I'm finding my little community one person at a time, and I guess I'm a little resentful that in 2009 we are still doing the Lesbian Club thing and not thinking about what other LGBT folks - and allies - might be lingering around the outside of the playground, wanting to come in and be part of the community.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Is this true, or what?

Read this.

It is decided (I think).

I will be teaching Eclipse in my intro Women's Studies course next spring. I think the feminist criticism that I have read of the series - that Bella has no real character, that the gender roles are fairly pathetic, that Native Americans are used in a way that is fairly disrespectful to them as people and also fairly stereotypical, the clear messages re. abstinence and the eroticization of same, and a whole bunch of other things that I won't get into now because I don't want to post too man spoilers - is dead on. Still, I finished reading the series this afternoon and then spent an hour going back and re-reading parts of the novel I'd just finished. Yes, I rolled my eyes many, many times during my reading, but yes, it is good enough that I will go back and read it again, and I no longer have any qualms about having just shelled out $40 to buy the last two books in hardcover.

I am really looking forward to classroom discussion next year. There is a lot to sift through. By then, the second movie should have come out, so my class will be able to watch Twilight and New Moon before moving on to the third novel, which is, in my opinion, the best of the four (and also the one that is probably best suited for discussion in a classroom, just because there is a lot more going on, plotwise and in terms of character development, than happens in the other books).

Friday, May 15, 2009

A pretty good representation of "access".

I had three thoughts when I saw this.

First, I thought, "this is why even a cursory knowledge of physics is important."

Second, I thought, "this is why people with disabilities should be included in every aspect of construction planning."

And third, I thought, "this probably represents the state of affairs re. disability access in the U.S. fairly accurately."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Appropriate behavior of medical personnel.

I find it fascinating to observe how the medical staff relate to me as a patient. This week, I've had an interesting experience that I'm trying to figure out how to handle.

In the radiation treatment room, there is a small dressing area, around which one could, if one wanted, pull a privacy curtain. There are also gowns and towels. Because I only need to take off my clothes from the waist up, I never bother with any of this. I probably would if I still had the right breast, but since I don't, and since I'm going to walk 12 feet and then open the gown and remove the towel, it seems silly and actually somewhat complicated - I'd have to wrap and clutch or tie the gown, or hold the towel in place while hopping up on the table. I don't know if the female personnel have ever felt uncomfortable with this, but they are always busy doing whatever it is they do - readying the table for the next patient or for me - while I am getting dressed/undressed.

But lately, there is a new radiation therapist, and he is a man. That's not really an issue for me - but he's a man who seems to be in need of a clue.

The first time he was there when I was there, he came into the room after I was already on the table. While I was getting dressed, he turned away to protect my privacy. The second time, when I arrived, the privacy curtain had been partly pulled. I took this to be a reflection of the presence of the male therapist, and I thought about it, and I thought about my usual procedure, and I decided that maybe I needed to mention what would otherwise be an elephant in the room. So, I said to him, "Look, I really don't bother with the gown/towel. I hope that won't make you feel uncomfortable." He seemed surprised, and said, "Oh! Well, what about how you feel?" I said, "There's nothing there, so I feel fine about it."

Now, I can understand that this might not be how the average patient reacts, and I can also understand that he might still have felt uncomfortable, but from my perspective, at this point, this falls into the category of Not My Problem.

The reason I mention this is because I am wondering if this had anything to do with what happened next.

At the end of my treatment, the table I have been lying on, which has been raised, needs to be lowered so that I can climb down. I was lying on my back, and had brought my arms down across my chest, resting them while I waited to be fully lowered. And, as the table was moving, this therapist was holding onto the side of it in such a way that his bare forearm was touching my bare arm. It was not a case of "oops, sorry, didn't mean to brush against you." It was a constant presence. And it felt deliberate. It felt as if perhaps he thought it was a buddy thing - or a way to show dominance. I really don't know what it meant or why he did it, but I do know that he was aware of it, because we both glanced down to see that our arms were touching. It was not an inappropriate touch in that it was not sexual, but it seemed inappropriate for him to be touching me at all. I didn't fully get this until later - at the time, I was too busy thinking, "hmm, this seems odd," to react.

Now, as a patient, I get handled a lot. Some of this handling is unpleasant, such as when someone incompetent is drawing blood or taking my blood pressure. Much of it, fortunately - because this is certainly not the case for everyone - has been gentle and/or generally unremarkable. But never, with the exception of one clear violation years ago, has it been this kind of unnecessary touching.

There is no reason to touch the patient, particularly a patient in any stage of undress, unless it is medically necessary.

The next day, this same therapist leaned over me - not once, but two or three times - to check a measurement. He was standing on my right side and needed to lean over to see the measurement, but in doing so, he leaned ON me, not just brushing my body but actually LEANING on me.

At best, this seems to show disregard for me as a patient, wouldn't you say?

But there's more. I have a pair of wire earrings; these were sitting on top of my clothes on the bench. He saw them and complimented them, and remarked that he could probably make them himself. Hey - he probably could. I'm not offended by that. But he said this while holding them. He picked up my earrings without asking. Further, I found out today that - still without asking or even notifying me - he took one and made a photocopy of it while I was on the table with my head stuck facing the other direction. His plan, another therapist told me today, is to try to make a pair of earrings like mine.

More power to him. Had he asked me if he could photocopy the earring, I would have said sure. But he didn't - and so now, I think I will have to speak with his supervisor about the lack of respect and of good judgment this therapist has showed to me as a patient.

The skin-care regimen.

According to my radiation oncologist, a new study has suggested that wearing deodorant/anti-perspirant is not an issue for radiation treatment (it used to be standard, I think, to tell patients not to use it if the underarm area was in the treatment field). Despite this, I have not been using it under my left arm; I think the sweat glands are not operating, anyway, which they told me would happen as a result of the radiation (wow - that means I will save 50% on my deodorant costs!).

At the beginning of treatment, I was given a special skin care cream (I think it's actually called "Special Skin Care Cream") to put on the irradiated area 4-5 times per day. Once my skin started to feel irritated, they gave me a more complicated regimen. Now, I put the cream on 2-3 times per day, and at night, I apply Pro-Shield (the same exact stuff I used to put on Bean to deal with diaper rash!), which is a sticky substance that you don't rub in. On top of the Pro-Shield, I put Adaptic strips, which are gauze strips that have been treated with some kind of greasy substance (feels a little like Vaseline). Then, on top of these, I put plain gauze bandages (not the kind that stick on). To keep all of this in place, I put on a tight-fitting tank top, which I then cover with a t-shirt to protect my sheets from all of these sticky, greasy substances.

It seems to work pretty well. It takes any sting out, and I think that the redness, which I notice is a bit more pronounced following treatment, seems to fade a bit by the next morning.

However, the left side of my chest and underarm is looking pretty ravaged. The skin seems to still be healthy - it's not like a bad sunburn where there's blistering and peeling, though I suppose that may come later - but many of the hair follicles have darkened, so I have basically a large red patch within which there are tons of darker little dots.

I do also feel the effects of the radiation internally; there is a tightening and some loss of range of motion, and some soreness (this is more occasional than constant). It's not permanent, but I'll need to stretch to get the range of motion back.

But only eight more to go!

(Edited to add: "ravaged" is a strong word to describe my skin. It's really not that bad. I think it might look startling to someone who was seeing it for the first time, but since I've been watching it gradually, it doesn't look so bad to me.)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

All about radiation therapy.

I have about 11 treatments left. I am getting red and oddly spotted. However, I'm still feeling pretty comfortable. I've been busy with work and neglecting my blog, but it occurred to me that I hadn't written about the radiation yet.

So, let me walk you through this process. First of all, a lot of people have asked me if I've felt sick from the radiation. No. The reason is that they are not irradiating my stomach. (I don't know if you automatically feel sick if your stomach is the target field - it probably also depends on the dose you are getting.) I've been going for about 4 weeks now, and so far, I feel fine. I have experienced some tiredness, but as I've also been burning the midnight oil a little too much, I'm not sure the tiredness is related to the radiation. Mostly what I notice in terms of this is 1) sleepiness, which is different from fatigue and which suggests to me that I need to get more rest, and 2) moments of slight fatigue, where I might decide not to stop off at the grocery store on the way home because I don't have the energy for that. This usually occurs at the end of the day, and it's not much different from my usual energy level at the end of the day.

I'll tell you more about how my skin has reacted in a separate post. I want to tell you more about how they actually do this.

First, they make a mold for you to lie in when you're on the table getting the radiation therapy; this ensures that you are in exactly the same position each time. I had no idea that this was such an exact science, but it really is, so being in the exact same position each time is important. I had to lie back on what looked like a plastic pillowcase containing some of those little beads that are used in certain stuffed toys and pillows. I put both arms above my head and turned my head to the side, and then they filled the pillowcase with air and moved the beads around so that it formed a supportive mold. We played around with this until they found one that was comfortable, and then the mold hardened; each day, when I go in for my treatment, they pull my mold out from its shelf and put it on the table for me.

Second, they take an exhausting number of pictures - a CT scan and x-rays. I say "exhausting" because that's what it is - I was about 6 weeks out from surgery, so I still had not gotten back my full range of motion, and it was uncomfortable (not awful) to have my left arm in that position. I had to lie still for an hour, so they didn't start treatment until the next day. They take the pictures and scans so that they can be sure you are in - all together now - exactly the same position each time. They also gave me a dot tattoo on each side and on my chest, which are further used to line me up each day. I didn't know these were coming and felt a little violated by them, particularly the very visible one on my chest, which looks like someone was throwing Sharpies and happened to hit me.

I do what is called "gaited breathing," which means that I hold my breath during the actual radiation therapy. When my lungs expand, the chest wall moves away from my heart, which allows them to prevent my heart from being exposed to the radiation. There are four angles from which the machine delivers radiation; each time lasts from 12 - 35 seconds, depending on the angle (and the temperature - it was really hot and humid the day I had to hold my breath for 35 seconds). If I can't hold my breath, the machine will stop because I will move out of target range. It's pretty cool.

I lie on my back on the table, in my custom mold, with a cushion under my knees. The machine fascinates me - it revolves around me to get the different angles. The whole thing takes about 10-20 minutes as long as I am in the correct position and they don't need additional pictures. They do take x-rays, I think once a week, to ensure that I am in - guess what? - exactly the same position. Last week, I was off by 4 millimeters because my lungs had gotten stronger from all the breath holding and so they needed to adjust my position. That took about an hour. While it was more comfortable than the initial session of picture-taking, I did get a crick in my neck from being still for so long (they gave me a stretching break about halfway through).

Every other day, they use what I think is called a "bolus" - this is a packet of something that they lay across my chest that draws the radiation to the scar.

There is a little curtain that you can pull for privacy, and a gown you can put on and a towel you can cover yourself with (you have to remove clothing from the area that is being treated). I don't bother with any of these things. I think that this threw the therapists, at first, but what's the point? It seems like false modesty, though I appreciate that this is available for those patients who need/want it.

End of Part I.

Friday, May 08, 2009

"Mother" is not code for "wife".

On my drive home today, I was alternating between listening to Madonna's "Hung Up" for the umpteenth time (literally, because I keep playing that track over and over whenever I drive anywhere these days) and listening to the radio. Just as I was getting close to my exit, the radio djs read a letter from a self-proclaimed "mistress" who wanted to know if mistresses had any rights on Mother's Day. This woman had been seeing a married man for over a year and had had a baby by him, and she felt that she deserved some respect on Mother's Day and some of his time.

The response that I heard - I didn't listen for long, because I was close to home - was fairly predictable: men and women were FURIOUS at this woman and went on at some length to vent their spleen at her lack of self-respect (for getting involved with a married man) and so forth. The djs, of course, were supporting all of this.

I didn't have the stomach or the time to listen further, but I did briefly consider calling or writing in. If I had done, here's what I would have said:

Interestingly, none of your listeners seem to have heard the part where this woman mentioned that she is a *mother*. The holiday is Mother's Day - not Wives' Day. The fact that someone is a wife is not what entitles them to be celebrated on Mother's Day; the fact that someone is a girlfriend or a mistress has nothing to do with what kind of mother they are. We don't even qualify what kind of mother one has to be in order to get a card or flowers or a little attention. There are no "For a tolerable Mother" cards by Hallmark. All that is necessary for participation is that one has a child.

I'm also fascinated that what pissed off your callers was that this mother wanted to be recognized on Mother's Day and not that the man in question had cheated on his wife and was continuing to do so. For all of their righteous indignation about self-respect and responsibility, none of your callers felt it was important for the child of the mistress to be with his/her mother AND father on a holiday, and no one mentioned the negative impact on the children in both families that such a father might have. No one wondered if that father was paying any kind of child support or clucked their tongues about the model he was setting for his children. No, it was easier to deny the mistress' motherhood; if it was even remembered, it was conveniently minimized so that she could be more easily condemned.

So, really, your listeners, like society at large, don't actually care about mothers, not even on Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

You would think that, by now, I would have come up with a response.

Today, someone asked me if I was going to be ok. Last week, someone asked me what my prognosis was.

I know this is coming out of a place of concern, but what if my prognosis sucked? Do they think I would want to talk about it in the middle of the meeting (both of these instances occurred at meetings)? Or that I would want to share this personal information in the first place?

It has been suggested to me that I could say - with a smile - something like, "I appreciate your concern; you know, I just don't find it helpful to even think about questions like that."

But I wish I could come up with something that would also be funny. I suggested to a friend, who gets asked a lot about how she lost her leg, that next time, she should respond as follows:

Person: (Noticing missing leg) "How'd you lose your leg?"

My Friend: (Blank look...then, looks down; aggravated expression crosses face)
"Crap! I must have left it at the library just now! Gotta go!" (leaves)

I suppose this sort of thing is more easily done with strangers.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

667th post.

Too bad I didn't notice that the last one was the 666th, because then I would have had something to write about.

* All I can think about right now is that the smell of the freshly-cleaned catbox is nauseating. I don't know if I'm reacting to the smell of the Clorox or if Mr. P. did not do a thorough enough cleaning job. And the box is located unfortunately close to my desk.

* I have before me a pile of grading. I am making some headway. However, the fact that I have no room of my own makes grading at home difficult, particularly if anyone wants to use the living room or dining room, watch t.v., or, as so often happens, bang on all surfaces with large, inflatable, squeaky hammers that one has acquired at various fairs. At least certain persons with an affinity for such activities are currently in school.

* I wonder if anyone else enjoys shredding as much as I do? I have a little desktop shredder that is only supposed to go for two minutes at a time, so it's taken me months, but in about five minutes, I will be all caught up on my shredding. I love it. Shredding stuff makes me feel super-organized and about as OCD as it is possible to be. At this point, I am writing my social security number down on random pieces of paper so that I can shred them. Well, not quite. But almost.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Mother's Day Redux.

I got this comment from A Little Gnocchi on my 2007 Mother's Day post:
"Well it is 2009 and your original post was 2007. I found it on page 3 of a Google search "alternative mother's day". The first page of the google search was all different types of flowers...I was looking for other stuff like these Diaper Drives for Mother's Day The focus of both drives being to help out families who are struggling with some of the basics that cost too bloody much: diapers for the young, tampons & pads for women, incontinence pads for the elderly or infirm."

And with that public service announcement, here, again, is Why I Hate Mother's Day.