Saturday, July 15, 2006

7.15.06, Just Saturday

Nothing going today except good weather and (other) writing. Maybe one small nap too, since last night I was struck with some kind of Ambien-impervious insomnia. Just what I need. For today's Franky Scale at an approx. 6 for now. It's been variable like before, dipping and rising. If anything inspires me after a walk through the neighborhood, I may return, but then again.

Friday, July 14, 2006

7.14.07, "What Defines This Life?" You Ask

*Franky Scale: Why just one? Started about 6, dropped to a 5 for a while till I did some pharmacological adjustment. Ended up close to 7, the day was good, saying good bye to Ms. T over crumpets and books at the Left Bank, then with Mme. X for a dinner of bar food.

*Dearest Prof. Jeong, Yonsei University,

First, I wanted to let you know that this is the right blog. I was so glad to get news of you recently, or more accurately news that my fucked-up news had reached you. And I was moved by and can imagine your reaction. It's been too long since we've seen each other and I hope, as always, only the best for you. I miss being able to drop in and discuss aleatory marxism, Althusser, and modern poetry. Whether the category "lyric" is salvageable let alone salutary . . . figuring out what Hwang Jiwoo is talking about . . . So much there left undiscussed. Also, I'm sorry if the pseudonym threw you off track, my nom de geurre, as it were. For professional reasons I witheld my real name initially and the "Mr. Jones" trope, though I haven't yet discussed its why's and wherefore's, has proven useful in unexpected ways. Let's talk soon, I'll try to email.

*There is a certain clarity I possess, or feel possessed of these days, only occasionally, usually around this hour of twilight — not meant to sound either Romantic or mystical, just noting the phenomenon — so at this time, when the combination of hunger / fullness, pain / nonpain, nausea / calm, etc. settles down below the most obvious level of consciousness, then I feel my fingers freed up (odd metaphor of the keyboard age), and a certain sense of vision accompanies this: not Blakean, or Ginsbergian (after Blake) but more Spinozist, it's almost scientific, that of a lens grinder, someone who is thinking of visual theory at the same time as rhetoric. I hope it combines to produce somthing lucid or pellucid even or even merely reflective of the clarity. Jibberish? Could be. Oxycotton? Could be.

*An Anonymous commentor posted a few questions on the post called "What Cannot be Said" from two days ago; it ran as follows:

"question to consider (or not?)? [a] what if all questions are the wrong questions at this moment? [b] it isn't as simple as what to do with your time; [c] rather, what will you do regardless?

[d] not what to do in the time left, but what would you do anyways, given one week or one year?

[e] what defines the life you have chosen?" [I've added the letters for easier reference.]

The final question #e I can answer with some confidence, what defines a life, whether chosen or fallen into, is always the same it seems: it's action, the practices of everyday life, movement, activity. All the talk and hyperbole, all the promises and the efforts, all the intentions and the apologies, and finally, all the ideals and the general wishes or desires — none of it means more than a passing comment in a dark bar, in the end. Part of a failed seduction. In the middle and the beginning, too, it's nearly meaningless, however, we can more easily kid ourselves, succumb to an ideology that allows us to remain productive. After all is said and done only the book that is published, printed, or passed around and read at least, is the book that counts. All the ideas for other books, all the drafts (in the mind) and sketchy notes, uncompiled notes don't count. The Other ideal profession doesn't count, only the one you actually did. Me, professor, modern Korean literature, poetry, aesthetic theory. Like it or not, that's what defines me, it's where I've come. Most simply put, I can't help but think more and more surely over recent years & especially now, that only what one does is what defines one's life.

As a brief interjection, these questions have all been covered on the blog before. In fact, they're nearly the primary philosophical or psychological reason for starting, for figuring it out. That said, I'm glad they're raised again since revisiting them now and then is always a good idea. Too, things change quickly in the Big Casino. (And too also, it's good to have comments to engage with now and then on the blog.)

Question #d is, to put it rather directly, not relevant. Not anymore, not to me during this period. The meaning of all activity has radically changed for me since I was introduced to terminal cancer, except to the extent that I think of the act / action as described in the paragraph above. To ask what "I" would do "regardless" (#c and #d) of this situaiton means to ignore this situation; one would have to confront it head on and then decide to live in defiance of its reality. I think that's somewhat counterproductive, especially in light of the numerous ephiphanies the experience affords. So much new insight to be had from the 2x4-across-the-head nature of this new knowledge, that not only am I mortal (of course) but that my mortality has been radically foreshortened into a number of months I'm supposed to be able to count on my hands. (The timeline now, based on admittedly less than ideal statistical averages, in fact puts down the number of months like this.) Finally and practically, I probably would not be concerned with writing a memoir currently without the news. Life's obligations would push all that aside.

I suppose the latter two questions addressed would be quite on target for someone at home with eternal recurrence, someone unquestionably not possessed by the notion of "the grass is greener," someone who had made all the "perfect" life choices and was either in unquestionable love with her work or independently wealthy. Wouldn't it be nice — sorry, not be sarcastic toward anyone who's so comfortable in their skin (and / or loaded), it's just never been me.

On #b, looks like I screwed up my numbering.

On #a, I wonder the same frequently: do they need to be asked? The facile Socratic retort doesn't apply I think; and yet if there is ever a time to do perhaps this precisely is the time . . .? One thing for sure, and no one every said I wasn't picky about language, but the logic of "at this moment" does miss the primary fact of what it means to be confronted "prematurely" with death. The Moment becomes This one, for better or worse. The next moment may never come.

And how can I resist the return to aleatory marxism, above, to note again that "the lonely moment of the last instance never comes"? Perhaps it's time for me to reevaluate that proposition in light of my new context . . .

Thursday, July 13, 2006

7.13.06, Working on Normal, Next Restaging

A pretty flat 6 on the Franky Scale today; and that's with some pretty sustained effort on my part to be as "normal" as possible. Otherwise I'd go mid-5's, just physically kind of crappy. I've been thinking that a bit more structure, in terms of "work" and related routines, might be helpful, and this was emphasized by Dr. Melfi yesterday as well. That means I was spending more time "in the office" today — though I guess I don't need the quotation marks since I actually was in my office, not just something like it. The bloody nausea is a real drain. That's the primary complaint I'd make, the shit is just tedious. You know it won't kill you, not on its own; it's not an unbearable pain in and of itself; and I basically have enough control over it to never actually throw up. It's just a nagging . . . like my writing at the moment.

So, the plan is for my next (this will be the second) restaging to take place next week, on the 20th I believe. In case I didn't offer up this number before the most recent CA 19-9 score was 5790, which is 210 points down from the previous number, which was about 300 points down from the previous, and that was about 3000+ below the previous. My oncologist asserts that there is no correlation at all between "better news" and larger drops; he did reassure me that the only significant numerical movement is down. As long as it goes down, whether by 10 points or 1000 points, we're to read it the same way. Still good news, have to say, "good news" within the confines of this system. On the 20th, there will be more CA 19-9 numbers, other bloodwork, and more radiography (CT scans). Has the tumor shrunk more? Is it static? What does my liver look like? (. . . it's like a movie preview . . . or not.)

Finally, for now, SLC people, cheer up. I can feel these worried vibes from you up there at 4K+ feet . . .

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

7.12.06, What Cannot be Said

Pre-script from the early evening:
1) I did have a meeting with Dr. Whiting yesterday at the end of my infusion session. We talked chemo rationale once again; all of what was said conforms to what I wrote about yesterday in the a.m. before my IV party (see that post). We also discussed my latest CA-19-9 numbers, no lowered to 5790. Another drop. Another step in the (for now) desired direction. Every downward movement of the number, the so-called tumor marker, is desirable.

2) The swirl of feelings, dealings, copings, and communications or their attempts continues a pace. As it should. Few if any of us know what we're doing; but most all of us seem to be trying whatever we know or sense how to do.

3) How I try, in countless ways. One through writing that comes often through reading. So, three new books yesterday: after reading more of Michel Surya's enigmatic biography George Bataille, I picked up Bataille's three-volume The Accursed Share on that inexplicable surplus energy to be found, used, squandered, or celebrated in any "political" economy," one I've never reached yet; then also Louis Althusser's (yes, finally my favorite) last of three posthumous works by Verso called Philosophy of the Encounter: Later Writings, 1978-1987, which includes a great short bit at the end called "Portrait of the Materialist Philosopher." I seem unable to resist the philosophers, especially those solidly materialist in outlook.

The standard blog:

Several pages of very heavy material, possibly for the blog, sit waiting on a desk. (OK, there in my harddrive, but the paper and desk reality seems so much more appealing . . .) Problem is precisely their weight. The blog has become a wonderful space to pass along and share certain types of information, but only certain types. Boundless and totally honestly meditations on death, for example, I fear will not be well received. Could be taken symptomatically, as signs of some disturbance within me, or worse, signs that I'm weak and not fighting hard enough, not optimistic. So they wait, and some are good, while I evaluate . . .

Franky Scale: (still no new measure for this) Given the drugs and steriods still pulsing from yesterday I feel all right, a general absence of worse feeling; I'll put 6. There is still a kind of background fatigue from a day of sucking in toxic fluids and before tomorrow which is always the day when the negative effects seem revealed. A limbo of Wednesday, where I peeter (sp?) around as if normal, wind down in the evening, then close the shutters in anticipation of the storm.

Otherwise, in the land of what we can say acceptably, I go to see my shrink today, with whom I'm experiencing a bit of dissatisfaction. I feel like many helpful, kind of textbook suggestions have been made — even more helpful because they come from the cancer textbook which I can't seem to find — but on the deeper, if you will more existential issues, we've not done much. So today I'm going to direct the talk, and ask for her help, so that we stay only in that area where possible: things like the use of one's time when you have little time left, the identification of desire, the discrimination between more and less genuine desires, what becomes of the concept of selfishness in the face of death.

Most of these issues are subordinated to that first question: "What do I want to do?" It's asked rhetorically, it's a question that by nature she cannot answer for me, it's an impossible game from the start, even the rules contradict each other, and yet this is the kind of knowledge that I'm off to seek.

Here is where being, for example, a devout Christian or (un)serious Zen follower would obviate the need to ask — to yield oneself to an unquestionable higher authority, or simply to flow without concern for or attachment to authority. (But who wants to take the easy way out? That's at least one thing I've learned about life.)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

7.11.06, It Could Be Worse. . .

Good morning. As most of you know today is IV chemo day. Not really like the joyess and stress-free capitalist celebration we call X-mas, nor like a birthday, but I wanted to write a few words of reminder about what it's like to allay some fears that I read, feel, and hear out there. Two of the comments for today — poasted to yesterday's short post on the blog — express this concern in a nutshell and then in a larger nutshell, a mellon rind-shell, or some much more appropriate metaphor, according to the proclivities of each author. Last week, too, a friend of mine went to the IV chemo session for me for the first time, and I hope no one will mind me saying so but the change this visit brought about has been rather stark.

There are two (I think?) long posts about what it's like for me to go into the hospital for the infusions once a week, and then of course the pill-taking chemo on all the rest of the days is mundane. Boring and unnoticeable unless you know what I'm doing, as harmless looking as taking multivitamins after breakfast or dinner. Sure, the symbolic import of taking the pills was unsettling for me the very first time I threw these peach colored, oval pills into my mouth. That's a minor thing though. If you go back and find those early posts on infusion, every detail is drawn out and the whole story is there, I can't remember the dates off hand; the whole thing is retold so as to settle fears, to say "Hey, this is not that bad," because I knew what I had imagined before seeing or experiencing this and I didn't want anyone's imagination to run away with them by not knowing what's happening.

Today, then, I wanted to post a little reminder: yeah, the drugs are toxic and there are side effects, but the whole process is like a long IV, just like you see at any hospital, just like many of you have had before. I get pricked with a needle, once, sort of, but even that is probably less serious than when any of you get a blood test because I have the fancy port-o-cath implanted in my upper right chest, making it childlike simple to get drugs into my aorta. It means they can't miss when they stick me, no vein finding, prick, done. Easy. I go, I lie down in a bed, I have a little private room (which I should for the cost!), they take my blood, then I wait for about 40 minutes. They go off to check that I'm still "otherwise healthy" enough to get the chemo drugs. After that, I keep lying there, and get an IV for 4 hours. Like I said before there is no pain during this process. Too, it's got to be understood for what it is. It must be accepted, known to be real, understood to have what power it does; otherwise we enter into the kind of denial that paralyzes rather than makes productive again.

Another question that came up: how long will you do this? What if the side effects are too serious, would you want to stop? Well, I do plan on asking the doctor again just to make sure the situation hasn't changed, but chemotherapy for me, for someone "in this stage (of cancer)" is palliative, it's for reducing other symptoms, it's for giving me more time. I stop chemo and poof. Who knows exactly how long till "poof" but that's what happens. You quit chemo and the cancer gets to have its way with you. So the answer to how long is, for what the term is worth, forever. "Forever" as that terms signifies for me; my own forever. The only other option is my mother's, that would be a miracle. There aren't any other options, none recorded and known about anyway.

My apologies for posting something so mundane, it just seemed necessary. I know the commentors can say "I know the infusion itself isn't so bad, it's the cancer I hate." Yeah, that's a valid point; but so is what I've written here. The chemo is all I have to keep me going, it is quite literally the Anti-Cancer. Just like they call chemotherapy drugs "anti-cancer" drugs. We're supposed to like chemo. Your grief and anger and other myriad forms of pain are not being touched here; they're all necessary and can be healthy feelings, I know this. They are different than mine, as we all grieve differently as one friend pointed out recently, and I respect yours. *Let me try and restate what she said to me, that basically that all of us in our individual complexity will grieve in and out of different stages, will feel depression or anger or sadness or loss of outporing love, whatever, at different times — the point is that when I look into your eyes, all I can truthfully is "I know you're in pain, I know it must hurt, but I can't really know what that pain is like." It's about a strong word-feeling: humility. As described to me. (Are you embarrassed yet?)* Me, I feel stuck, ill able to express my point here. . . I do thank you for all the concern and the support just before the infusions. Simultaneously, I don't want us to get out the black crepe, rent the hall, and tie gardenias to the hearse.

. . . I'll be honest, I'm reaching here, not sure from where nor to where. I feel a need to say something helpful, or comforting, or informative when I read those comments, like yesterday's, and when I see friends who no longer know how to act. I reach for the "How to Die of Cancer" handbook only to find and remember, "Right, there isn't one." For now, read generously, know that I'd like to help, and that often times all I can do is just stagger my fingers across the keys — which too can be a problem since neuropathy in the fingers is also a chemo side effect.

Monday, July 10, 2006

7.10.06, Brief Check-In

Perhaps it's a purely psychosomatic issue, with the IV chemo session on for tomorrow, but this evening into tonight I've been feeling increasingly "out of it." More psychological than anything else, I'm sure of that. Still the "reality" of it. This would put me at a flat 6 on the Franky Scale. And in part what felt like a better day earlier, working in a cafe, being in a bookstore for a while, etc., turns downward with increasing nausea. That is definitely psychosomatic — I think I alluded to this earlier with a comment about Pavlov, or dogs, or me as dog, or as Pavlov, in any event starting to feel "sick" even before the needle is in. I can even know this, expect it, even plan for it, so why can't I just make it not happen? With that, a bit of lightness in the head, and at least the illusion that I'll start reading a new book tonight, I better close.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

7.09.06, "Death Has No Peer"

Allusions to voyeurism. (This is unrelated.) Tom Waits sings “The Black Rider,” none the less.

A nametag that says “Artist” and has a name on it.

A woman, who could be naked, smoking from behind. Black and white with shadows. In Polaroid profile.

Death’s Little Maxims, in the form of an ongoing list.

A rejection slip from another highbrow poetry magazine.

Cut. A perfectly made Americano. Still in that prime, finite window for drinking. For my mother who does not drink coffee, it’s her favorite.

One only slightly faded copy of William Carlos Williams’ book Paterson, supposed to be a locale as allegory for a man’s life. Printed the same year Frank was born.

The constant search for numbers: 7? Or 6? Or 6.47? or maybe 6.8 for sun and include a graphic next to it, Small Face not smiley — what could be worse — just a little face that isn’t really rattled, a brow that’s not really furrowed, not waiting, just being, eyes not too washed out.

Cut. Real eyes, with the biggest question in today’s tightly circumscribed world, what book next?

Circumscription, however, upheld by numerous questions of true immensity.