April 2018

Monday, March 15, 2010

Radiation Blogs Part Two

Welcome back! Today I continue with the second half of the CaringBridge blog. If you're new, I started that blog when I was diagnosed with a second brain tumor this December. The purpose of that blog was to inform folks of my health status, especially as I started radiation, but I ended up having so much fun writing and reading that I've decided to continue. Tomorrow I'll post a summary and a glossary of guests in case you get lost and then Wednesday, we'll all begin together. Mary

• Thursday, February 18, 2010 3:37 PM, PST

Day 16 (For those of you paying attention, I actually miscounted so I'm one day ahead of where I thought I was...) Good job on the midterm. Special kudos to Diana who for sure got 100%, to Pea who named the section and to Forrest who told a joke. Who is Wookie? The kind of creature who is the hirsute Star Wars character, best friend to Hans Solo, Chewbacca.
Yesterday I went to see the primary doctor, whom I call Dr. Colombo, and his nurse, whom I call Nurse Ollie (after Anna's and Matt's dog) about my pneumonia. The good news is that I seem to be clear of the pneumonia now. This is how the visit went:
Nurse Ollie: "The doctor is running about 30 minutes behind. The doctor has been running 30 minutes behind for the last 50 years. I'd like to wear one of those sandwich boards or have a reader board that announces, 'The doctor is running 30 minutes behind' so that I didn't have to say it so much....We'll have plenty of time for your vitals."
Nurse Ollie straps the black armband around my bicep in order to take my blood pressure. It whirrs a bit and then flashes "ER84."
Nurse Ollie says, "ER84. Dead on arrival. Let's try your temperature....Same thing." She looks at me. “Not dead yet.”
Nurse Ollie wheels out the contraption meant to take my vitals like it's been a bad R2D2. She comes back in with a smaller, earlier model, takes it out of its case, gasps and rolls her eyes and says, "I'll be right back."
Nurse Ollie returns with a thermometer and black band for taking my blood pressure like the ones they used back in the day and triumphantly takes my vitals. "Here's your gown. I'll come tell you when to put it on so that you don't get too cold waiting for the doctor."
About an hour later Doctor Colombo shuffles cheerfully in, dropping his stethoscope. He shouts, "Hello Mary and... (I think I heard him mumble "whoever you are" to Ann.) He tells us two stories that have nothing to do with me: one about an uncle who survived WWII because he could sleep standing up and another about a patient who has whooping cough. He tells me I'm cured and we go out into the late afternoon sun.

I like your Dr. Colombo and your Nurse Ollie almost as much as I like my primary physician, whose sense of humor is a lot like yours, Mary.
Example 1: I'm talking with Doc in her office and her assistant comes in to consult with her about another patient. Assistant: "I can't get a blood pressure!" Doc: "ANY blood pressure?" Ass't: "NO blood pressure! Not bare-armed, lying down. I've tried both arms." DOC: "No wonder she's feeling light-headed."
Example 2: Doc is warning me about some possible side effects of a medication. Doc: "We don't want to kill you." Me: "Me neither! Are there any symptoms of being -- almost killed?" Doc: "No. Just being dead." (At this point, she jabs me in the ribs with her elbow.) Jane S.
Ollie loves today's shoutout! He's a semi-star now. :) Anna

• Friday, February 19, 2010 3:14 PM, PST
Day 17: When I woke up this morning, it looked like an auburn cat had been sleeping on my pillow. I'm losing a fair amount of hair (in the back, but not balding yet) these days. I had a flash of insight, a scroll unfolded with a poem fully written, much like Coleridge and "Kubla Khan" (though he was on opium and I'm on Tylenol.)
I've never seen an auburn cat.
I'd really like to see one.
But even if I never do,
In my next life I'll be one.
(Credit to Gelett Burgess, of course, for the form)
I'm preparing for my next life as a cat:
I nap in the sun whenever possible.
I let people pet me only when I feel like it.
I like to run around sometimes, but only for my own amusement.
I do have a couple of deal-breakers that I need to inform the gods of reincarnation about. I will NOT:
carry dead mice, spiders or bugs in my mouth.
go to the bathroom in a litter box.
fight with other cats (I'm a lovah, not a fightah).
hasta manana--mary

.Maybe in your next life you too will learn to enjoy carrying these things in your mouth in order to give them as a gift to your humans. Jane S.
Good for you Mary! Stick to your guns! Be your own cat! Rebecca
Oh my -my dearest Mary, I can't imagine what's like to lose my hair. You will look great no matter what. Remember when I did your hair when you where 12 or 13? We were at the beach. You looked great as always. Please know you are beautiful inside and out. All my love to you both!! Auntie Susan

• Monday, February 22, 2010 4:20 PM, PST

Day 18: Saturday I overdid it, so yesterday was miserable, but today has been good. Ann read some new material about radiation which recommended I eat a milkshake every day (I might have made up the every day part.) Dinner tonight? Milkshake and banana. Can't get better than that.
At the beginning of my brain tumor diagnosis, I decided to think of the whole experience as an adventure: as with many adventures, I would learn about people and places I have not known before. Lately, as my hair is falling out and other not especially lovely things are happening, I've been reminding myself of other adventures and how each had its hard times:
Grand Canyon Adventure: Difficulty peeing because the water was so cold.
Guatemala Adventure: Distressed bowel syndrome.
Safari Adventure: Ann almost got eaten by a lion.
Beauty Queen adventure...
After elementary school, I experimented with a variety of haircuts. The first one was my same long hair cut shoulder-length without thinning. I overheard one adult refer to me as "teepee head." So then there was the short hair cut (Dorothy Hammel was in, but my hair curled.) More than one mall custodian, mistaking me for a boy, stopped me from going into the women's restroom. Not so good for my adolescent psyche.
And then Auntie Susan gave me a do parted on the side instead of down the middle. My social life changed immediately: Everyone seemed to want to be my friend. Strange guys walked straight up to me and said to their friends, "She's beautiful" (as if I were a statue). Strangers took my picture at traffic lights. Guys in bars (I mean in church) said things like, "Did anyone ever tell you that you look like Catherine Hepburn?" I found it all bizarre and fortunately seem to have aged out of such adoration.
Sometimes I worry about my sister and my mother, who have had to live with such adoration all their lives, and now about my nieces who seem destined for a similar fate. I hope that they, too, can see all this adoration as part of the adventure and avoid getting too upset about the small stuff.

1) I am so relieved that you don't have hemorrhoids.
2) Your haircut journey was remarkably similar to my own, except for the stage where strange men would come up and remark on my beauty. Maybe that is where I am headed next.(I seem to still be in the custodian stopping me from using the bathroom stage) Renee
Hello Dear Niece,
You know I remember that fun day at the beach. It was so much fun playing with your beautiful hair. I'll be glad to come to Seattle and see what we can do this time. I'm sure we can have such fun again--maybe some spray paint or glitter. No matter what, you will still be beautiful. How are your eyebrows and eyelashes? Maybe we can do them too! Take care you two. Hope to see you soon! Lots of love, Auntie Susan
I highly recommend trying peanut butter in your milkshakes or frozen blueberries. I could relate to your hair story, except the adoration part. :) My hair cuts were usually Farah Fawcett types or straight dorky bangs. When I shaved my head in support of my brother-in-law, I was petrified and then liberated. Who knew what was underneath would be a "nicely shaped head." It was like learning a new language, a part of me I had never known. I know mine was by choice, but I am confident you will always be beautiful. And have you seen the gorgeous scarves out there to fit your every mood and keep your head warm? Thinking of you...Allyson
Adventures ARE fun, aren't they?? I feel inspired to share some of my adventures and the hard times that came of these experiences, too:
Golf Cart Ride Adventure: skull fracture
Skull Fracture: got to spend a Saturday night in the ER waiting room in Miami, begging for morphine
Morphine Adventure: awesome.
Natural Childbirth: episiotomy (be very, very grateful if you do not know what this is.)
Law School Adventure: job making $15/hour. which is not bad: it's just that it is $77/hour less than what i have to pay the kids' tennis pro.
On another note (sorry, I don't write often as I am awfully busy with my bon bons so I have to get it all in at once here), I am so glad you brought up the subject of “Hee Haw”. I love that song with the ladies in their big dresses (and big hair) sitting around singing: "We're not ones to go 'round, spreading rumors. Really we're just not the gossiping kind. You'll never hear one of us repeating gossip, so you better get close and listen good the first time." Brilliant.
On a final note, as one who has truly adored you for my entire life, I can honestly say that that adoration has only gotten stronger as time has gone by, and that it has never had anything to do with your hair (and has been in spite of some of your fashion faux pas, which we will not get into here.)
Stay strong, sistah! And keep those awesome postings coming. I love you -- Sister Jennifer.
p.s. Katherine spells her name with a “K”. All look-a-likes are supposed to know that.

Um... not to be picky or anything, but Katharine spells her name not only with a "K", but with an "a" in the middle, not an "e". Or, at least she did. Rebecca
Oh, no, how embarrassing!! K-A-T-H-A-R-I-N-E: You are right, of course, thanks for setting the record straight. But not to end on a humble note... Sam and Willie were taking the midterm last night and wanted to submit the following:
Q: Where does the general keep his armies?
A: Up his sleevies!! Sister Jennifer

• Tuesday, February 23, 2010 6:37 PM, PST
Day 19: Nine treatments to go. The single-digit countdown.
I have been amused by many of your guestbook entries as I am often amused by my various tumor experiences, so I started thinking about what makes things funny. Here are some theories:
1) Repetition. I listened to part of Johnny Carson's master’s thesis on humor years ago. It was boring. He talked about how repetition, especially in 3s, is funny. My father and I sometimes shout to one another, "Ep." We think it's hilarious, so maybe this theory has some merit. When Dad asks me, "Have you sent the Roth information yet" x3, however, I am annoyed, so there must be more to humor than repetition.
2) Noticing the absurd in the everydayness of things. David Sedaris is my favorite in this category. One of my favorites is his description of a chilly day in a nudist colony and the couple who share a sweat suit: one wears the pants and the other the jacket. (David Sedaris and I, BTW, went to EC Brooks together in 1st grade. I don't remember him and I would guess he doesn't remember me. I was into kickball. I suspect he was one of the kids making clover necklaces in the outfield.)
3) Decontextualizing. Pea's comment on Sara's hike to Poo Poo point (“Sara said, ‘Poo poo’”) is an example of this.
4) Telling it like it is. Rebecca's comment on how Pea is not really one to comment on others' language is an example.
The thing is, I don't really know what makes things funny, but I know when I think something's funny. Deep today. Mary

• Wednesday, February 24, 2010 5:59 PM, PST
Day 20: Eight days to go. The single digit countdown has begun!
Today my friend Karen helped me maneuver the bathroom cleaning carts and wheelchairs as we walked down the hospital halls, and I was reminded of obstacle course races when I was in recovery from brain surgery and of health care workers who must have tried hard but been in the wrong field.
On Fridays in rehab we had "competitions." I imagined a good game of one-on-one (for Marion, that's basketball) or ping pong. On the last day I was there, we had obstacle course races. There was me, recovering from brain surgery and needing a walker to walk. There were a couple of people who had had leg amputations, several others pulling their oxygen beside them, several who were recovering from strokes. Surely, it occurred to someone that this was a bad idea. We downgraded from competition to survival and all made it through. I think the PT is now working with 9 year-olds at the YMCA.
Then there was the speech therapist that I didn't like. I'm a treasure when I want to be but a real pain when I don't like someone, especially a teacher of some kind. I still don't really know what the speech therapist was wanting, but he kept asking me questions and not liking my answers:
ST: "What would you do if your kitchen was on fire?"
ME: "Call 9-1-1 and then yell out for Ann."
ST: "Would you do anything else?"
ME: "No. But when Ann got there I'd ask her to help me outside."
ST: "Okay. Suppose you were cooking bacon..."
ME: "I don't cook bacon."
ST: "Suppose you were cooking bacon and your kitchen caught on fire. It's a grease fire."
ME: "That's a good reason not to cook bacon."
ST: "Okay. Suppose a light bulb went out. What would you do?"
ME: "I'd call 9-1-1 and then yell out for Ann."
ST: "Would you do anything else?"
ME: "I'd ask Ann to turn on another light."
The speech therapist didn't come back. I think he works for homeland security now.
Thanks for checking in! mary aka K-A-T-H-A-R-I-N-E

What do you mean you don't cook bacon! :) Heather

• Thursday, February 25, 2010 10:30 AM, PST
Day 21: Eight days to go in the single digit countdown. BTW, I'm pretty sure the guestbook has gotten more amusing than my blog. Keep ‘em coming!
Today my friend Chris is taking me to radiation. Yesterday it was Karen. The day before, Jim. And every Monday, Ann. My list of drivers has been very long. There have been so many offers that I may have to extend radiation so that I can get to spend time with each of you. And there are so many of you who have offered other rides as well over these three years: to and from work and the university and...So many thanks.
If you weren't so generous, I would take ACCESS, King County's transportation for those of us with disabilities. A fairly intelligent friend of mine once asked me if ACCESS is fun, so I'll give the rest of you who are fairly intelligent a sense of it:
Two summers after brain surgery I decided to attend a support group near our church in Wallingford (about a 20 minute drive from home). I scheduled a ride with ACCESS to take me and pick me up. When I got on the van, I joined seven others on an unusually full van. I was wearing a patch and using a cane at the time. Most riders have both physical and mental disabilities. Most drivers speak minimal English.
As I got in and strapped myself in, everyone was quiet. The driver started down the road, all the windows rattling and the wheelchair lift banging as usual. This driver put the direction finder on the speaker, so we all listened as the direction finder repeatedly said, "Turn left here." And the driver would continue forward. "Recalculating." "Turn right here....Recalculating....Turn left here....Recalculating." We came to the light near University Village. "Bear left here." The driver bore right. "Recalculating." An exasperated man in the back left seat shouted, "Let me off this van! I'm calling the police."
He kept shouting this over and over until a woman in the right front yelled back at him, "Shut up!"
He continued, "Let me off this van!"
"Shut up!"
"I'm calling the police!"
"Shut up!"
It went on.
When we arrived at the first stop, the two of them went in together. Must be an interesting home.
When, two hours later, I arrived at my destination, there was a sign on the door: "Brain injury support group cancelled today."
A few days later, I was the crazy one. More "recalculating" as we toured the south end for an hour or so. At the end I was the only one in the van. I told the driver to stop and I got off to walk home. The driver tried to get me back in the van as I crossed the street.
"This isn't safe, ma'am. Please get back in the van."
"No way. Have a nice day!"
"Please, ma'am."
"Have a nice day!"
The neighbors looked on.
Happy driving! mary

Hello Dear Niece, I can only imagine! I never ever thought I would be on unemployment and never this long. I'm sure you never thought you'd be riding ACCESS. It sounds awful but humorous at the same thing. What would we do without life's bumps in the road. Hang on dear one that's what I'm doing. Lots of love, Auntie Susan
I thought this would be the appropriate forum to thank you for large tub of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly you sent me for my 40th birthday. Actually I'm sure it's also from Ann or I would have merely received a regular size tub of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly. You should've seen the kids’ faces when I opened the package! I plan to use it as you instructed and then send the remains back to you.  You Shouldn't Have (Seriously) - Brother Matt
I think Matt should create one of these CaringBridge websites to chronicle his journey with the Big Tub of Vaseline. Who's in? Pea
I've always wanted a sister--and reading Jennifer's posting confirms why. Keep smiling and keep the updates coming! xoxo Anna

• Friday, February 26, 2010 2:41 PM, PST
Day 22: Six days to go! This is a big decade weekend. Tomorrow is my little brother Matt's 40th birthday: as old as dirt. Our twin friends Ellen and Donna will be as old as rocks: 60.
Since my brother so clearly appreciated the generosity of the giant tub of Vaseline for his birthday, I've been thinking about gifts. I think this might have been the best gift I ever gave. In our family, when you turn 40 you have your first colonoscopy. My note to him was that this would be a practical gift and that it is NOT for his lips. He thinks he'll have left-overs. Maybe. If you do, brother Matt, give them to sister Jenn. I don't think she's scheduled hers yet.
They didn't put me under, but apparently if they do you have to go to a room with a lot of other people who have had the same experience and fart before you can go home. I'm sure Kristin will want to be with you.
That song from the church's annex for young children keeps playing in my head. The tune is the same as the Lord of the Dance, in case you'd like to sing along:
‘Tis a gift to be simple, ‘Tis a gift to be free. ‘Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be [I never understood that line: down from where and who decides where we ought to be?] And when something something just right We will live in the valley of love and delight.
You've probably noticed on your calendar that March 13 is my birthday. No decade, so don't make too big a deal of it.
This community of friends and family is such a gift to me. Thanks for being here. Mary

In reading the old notes I am struck by one relating to the fact that I have asked Mary for Roth info 3X. Perhaps it might occur to Mary that if she'd sent it the first time, I would have never had to ask 3X. BTW I still don't have it. (Consider this a fourth reminder!) Love, Dad
That song is, I believe "Simple Gifts", supposedly an old Shaker hymn.
I think it is "...come round where we ought to be.
and when we are in the place just right
t'will be in the valley of love and delight"
Didn't Judy Collins or somebody record that in the '60's? Rebecca

• Monday, March 1, 2010 11:17 AM, PST

Day 23: After today, it's the one hand countdown! Rough weekend. The radiologist says the next three weeks will be the hardest. This is the same doctor who said I seemed fine when I had the piggy flu and pneumonia, so I believe him when he says it will be hard.
Several of you have suggested I write a column or a book. Why start with print? I'm inspired by the Academy Awards, especially now that every movie gets nominated. I think I'll go right to the movies. Here are my thoughts so far. I'd love your suggestions.
Title: Can't Duck It
Writers: Mary E. with the Coen Brothers
Directors: The Coen Brothers
Actors and Actresses:
Hilary Swank as Mary E. (She's already made films as a lesbian and a teacher; she has short hair from The Aviator; she has big teeth. Perfect.)
Frances McDormand (Marge in Fargo) as Ann
Meryl Streep as Mary's mom Sylvia
Clint Eastwood as Mary's dad Steve (After his guestbook entry, I considered a downgrade to Ed O'Neill, the older father on "Modern Family” and on "Married with Children" but Ann, who has a kind heart, said I should stick with Clint.)
Penelope Cruz as Mary's sister Jennifer
Tom Hanks as Mary's brother Matt
Research Editor: Rebecca --in charge of correct quotes and spellings and Pea's character (what do you think? Amy from the Indigo Girls? Natalie from the Dixie Chicks? Edna E. Mode from The Incredibles?)
Original Music: The Dixie Chicks
Quotations and Words to integrate into the script:
"There's something nasty in the woodshed" (Cold Comfort Farm)
"We thought you was a toad" (O Brother Where art Thou?)
"No capes" (The Incredibles)
"Up and at 'em" (Dad)
"O, the Humanity" (The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon)
"So it goes" (Farenheit 451)
"Let us go then, you and I" ("The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock")
tasty, excellent, unpleasant, ablutions, You're the best
See you at the movies! Mary

Is there any way that you can work Kathy Bates into your movie? Just wondering..... Renee
I've been an engrossed reader up until now, but I have to write to point out that while your number sense is good, "So it goes" is from Slaughterhouse Five, not Fahrenheit 451. I'd hate to see a mob of English teachers blast the movie for inaccurate citations. Marion
I am so thankful for your journal and for all the support you have been receiving from your family and friends. Your grace and sense of humor during this "round of misery" have been an absolute inspiration. You mentioned your upcoming birthday - what fun it would be to know which day of the week everyone would guess you were born:
Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works for a living,
And a child that's born on the Sabbath day
Is fair and wise and good and gay."
When I entered your dad's study yesterday, I found him laughing and crying at the same time while he was reading your journal - I left with tears flowing and chuckling at the same time myself. Thank you and everyone else for helping me through this "round of misery". Lots of love, Mom
Warning to you all that mom's challenge is tricky, don't fall for it!! (in other words, mary was NOT born on a sunday!!) Sister Jennifer
I thought Matt already had a colonoscopy... didn't he spend a couple of weeks in his apartment in Tampa with the shades down, staring at the blank wall because he thought he'd been violated by his doctor?? I don't think Vaseline was involved. Maybe that was the problem. Sister Jennifer
Oh for crying out loud, English teachers arguing over book quotations. It really is like being stuck in one those old humanities meeting—possibly like a character in Catch 22…or is that Slaughterhouse 5? Declan

• Tuesday, March 2, 2010 12:38 PM, PST
Day 24: After today, the little pinkie is down on the one hand countdown. Four days to go.  Since my radiation ends on Monday, there will be an exam on Tuesday and an awards ceremony on Wednesday. The exam will be the same format as the midterm (but with different questions). The concepts with which this group has struggled most (wookie, percentages and Vaseline) will surely be there.
The awards ceremony will be for guest book entries. I have thought of a few categories with some current contenders. Please suggest your own.
1) Nominees for the award for deadpan humor goes to:
A) Pea, "Sara said Poo poo."
B) Mary D. "You are very funny....I did not know that."
C) Rebecca: "Katharine Hepburn spells her name with an "a" instead of an "e"
D) Rebecca: "I just wanted to add that Pea is a fine one to be commenting on someone else's language."
E) Jane's doctor
2) Nominees for entries that generated the most response are:
A) Brother Matt for "Vaseline"
B) Sister Jennifer for "K-A-T-H-E-R-I-N-E"
3) Nominees for best musical contribution:
A) Sister Jennifer for "Spreading Rumors"
B) Heather for "Fairest Lord Jesus"
C) Pea for "You're Okay"
4) Nominees for best corny joke are:
A) Brother Matt for "Two Blonds Walking Down Opposite Sides of the Street."
B) Forrest for "A Cheeseburger Walks into a Bar"
C) Sammy and Willie for "Armies and Sleevies"
Thanks for making me laugh. Mary

I'm panicked! I have some cramming to do with only 4 days (whoopee!) left until the final exam. I missed the mid-term because I was in Nicaragua working with orphans (no...really...I was...I think I even have the giardia to prove it...I'll know by Friday). Plus although I've read all of your journal entries I'm way behind on reading the guestbook entries and know there's no way I can rise to the challenge of either your erudite, dry humor nor Forrest and Matt's 13-year-old jokes (love you guys...). I am, after all, the girl who, in her high school year book amidst quotes of rap songs and inside jokes about illicit parties quoted Albert Camus. I'm not making this stuff up.... Katie O.

• Wednesday, March 3, 2010 9:54 AM, PST
Day 25: After today, the ring finger goes down on the one-hand countdown. Three days to go. Holy cow.
I want to alleviate Katie's panic and any other anxiety about the final exam. It has been interesting to me that just the use of the words midterm and exam seem to arouse for some of you very capable adults a sort of anxiety.
The exam is only for you. No one else, including me, will know your performance unless you decide to share it. This is blog paradise, so there are no grades. The exam is a way for you to test your understanding in order to deepen your understanding. So take a deep breath.
What understanding should you deepen? My learning has been the idea that for me a brain tumor and its treatments are not a pause in the adventure of life, but are instead a part of the adventure of life. And this adventure, though not the one I would choose if I had a choice, allows insight into myself and the world that I would not otherwise have. Much of that insight is funny.
The second deep understanding is that this support system, my partner, family, friends, colleagues, students past and present, and sometimes strangers allow me to experience this tumor and its treatments as an adventure. I feel safe and loved.
This philosophy of learning is key to my experience with this brain tumor and to my experience as a teacher and a learner. So back to test anxiety. Think of this exam as your adventure. Happy travels (not travails). Mary

Phew..........thanks for that clarification.........I thought I was going to have to be a brain tumor drop out! Karen K.
what do you mean, "there are no grades." i have been studying ever since your last entry. You see, after you disallowed my essay on the midterm, I did not score as well as I would have liked, and I was really hoping that by nailing the final, I could raise my average on the adventure to something in the A/A- range. Sister Jennifer

• Thursday, March 4, 2010 3:27 PM, PST
Day 26: The middle finger is down (a relief to many of you, I'm sure.) Two days to go in the one hand countdown.
My dear straight-A sister Jennifer commented that I had disqualified her essay. Actually, I loved the essay. It was hilarious. Her daughter Isabella got an A+ for it. It put me in mind of others who have tried to take credit for someone else's work, (though to Sister Jennifer's credit she did have Isabella request that I give her mom credit on the midterm.)
My first year of teaching high school English a student turned in a Xerox copy of another student's paper as his own. He did take the time to white out the other student's name and write his own in. I'm not sure if I was more offended by his laziness (at least write it in your own handwriting!) or by the idea that he thought I wouldn't notice.
Later the same year, a student copied another student's six page paper word for word. Both turned it in. This time, I'm not sure if I was more annoyed by the idea that they thought I wouldn't notice or the fact that it took me three pages to notice.
A few years later, a struggling student turned in her mother's master’s thesis as her paper. It took me a while to figure that one out, but the fact that the student chose to write about T.S. Elliot's "Gerontion" tipped me off.
Further into my career, in the middle of a parent conference about a student's grade on an essay, an irate and frustrated father finally yelled, "I worked hard on that paper."
Remember, these tests, like all tests, are just part of the adventure :) Study hard. Mary

I think you missed some punctuation: "My dear straight, A sister ...." or maybe I misunderstood the point you were trying to make. Also, for extra credit, I thought I would send Steve MY Roth information -that would get me in good with both you AND your dad. I think that I have now found the name of my next band - "Blog Paradise", it's very web 2.0, yes? Pea
Your stories about high school essays remind me of one I heard about a U.W. student's essay. I don't know what the class was, or who the prof was, or even whether it is a true story or just an "old husband's tale." (Well, my prof husband Roger did tell me the story.) Anyway, a UW professor figured out by typing a few words of the student's essay on Google that the essay had been copied word for word from Wikipedia. Nothing unusual, so far. Happens all the time, so I hear. This time, however, when the prof discussed this with the student, she became angry. With her mother. She insisted that her mother told her that she wrote the essay herself! The professor told her that she would have to write another paper if she wanted credit. Dutifully, the student came back at the next class with another essay. This time, a Google hit showed that it was copied word for word from a different website. When the student was again questioned, she was thoroughly disgusted. "My mother! She did it again!!” Jane S.

• Friday, March 5, 2010 3:17 PM, PST

Day 28: Forefinger is down on the one hand countdown and it's just one thumb up. I think I'm gonna make it. I might start a diet blog next: how to lose weight and eat four meals, including one milkshake, a day. The diet goes like this: breakfast--banana nut bread with cream cheese and apple juice on the rocks; brunch: half a banana with four heaping teaspoons of plain non-fat yogurt and Gatorade; lunch: boiled egg with salt and a glass of milk; dinner--milkshake. Oh, between brunch and lunch, radiation. I think that's key.
Several of you have asked me how I knew I had a tumor. The short answer is that I had a cat scan (back when I thought I was an ordinary cat). But then such a short answer isn't much fun. My tumor was much like my gayness (if that's a word): there were hints along the way, but I didn't figure it out from the more subtle hints.
Before you read this, I should tell you that some of you will decide that you have an ependymoma. You probably don't. It's a rare tumor, especially in adults. The median age of someone with an ependymoma is 5 years old. It's more likely that you're gay.
Hint that I was gay: When I was taking home a bunch of female friends (from the basketball team, of course) in high school, I noticed a teenage couple walking down the sidewalk. "Why is it," I mused aloud, "that the girls are always more attractive than the guys?" The car got very quiet. I didn't ask that question aloud again. Years later I learned that four of the five of us in the car had come out as lesbians. Maybe I misinterpreted the silence.
Hint that I had a tumor: I used to blackout or faint from time to time. My junior high basketball team nicknamed me Casper because I'd turn so white. In a more dramatic move, I fainted while delivering a mini-sermon at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church (Baptist churches in the south do not have small congregations.)
What lightening strike finally informed me that I am gay? Ann
What lightening strike finally informed me that I should see a doctor? I started seeing double when I was biking. When I told Ann how cleverly I had solved this inconvenience (by closing one eye when I biked), she thought I should see a doctor.
So really, it's Ann's fault that I discovered I am gay and that I have a tumor. This will be on the final exam.
Keep those award nominations coming, and keep the inappropriate but funny ones (Pea) coming to my email. Happy weekend! Mary

Well, Mary, if being gay means having the impression that "the girls are always more attractive than the guys," then I guess I'm not gay after all!!! Thanks for clearing that up for me! Love, Forrest
I gotta run w/a little stream of consciousness here because I got behind in my reading with the whole aging process thing I got going on (Turning 40 btw Sweets always reminds of the apron you had that said "When you're pushing 40 that's exercise enough").
First of all who uses the word "ablutions" in a sentence and would feel sure anyone would have any idea what you're talking about?! I had to look it up and I received some "Dirty Old Man" soap for my birthday so think I have it covered.
Second of all, there was a midterm?? Must've been when I was an immature 30 something year old, so I would second that the final should count for 100% of whoever didn't take the midterm. Speaking of terms "midterm" and "exam," the first words that come to mind are "procrastination" (Jane, Hayden gets it honestly) and V-I-V-A-R-I-N (is that with an "a" or "e"?).
Concerning the movie, Vaseline, and colonoscopy, maybe we could implement the scene in the Nutty Professor where the dad yells out at the dinner table "I'll cleanse my colon right now!" Oscar worthy. Dad should be Alan Alda by the way and funny that Sweets (aka Mom) is the one that thinks George Clooney or Johnny Depp should play the part of me. Tom Hanks makes sense from the movie Castaway where he befriends Wilson the volleyball seeing as you were MVP of the high school volleyball team and all (and I wouldn't mind spending a few months on a deserted island - kidding!).
As far as Pea's idea for me to create a "Matt's Caring Bridge Colonoscopy" site, I think I should just schedule my appointment at Seattle General and have everyone show up and make a mini reality show - who wants front row tickets??
Also Jenn Jenn - Todd wasn't hiding behind the "Hippo Hunter" in Africa bc he was afraid of hippos it was because he read "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" on the plane ride over - literary reference for Brother Matt here, 5 points!
Please vote for me (this is shameless I realize) in the category "Nominees That Generated the Most Responses" against Sister Jenn Jenn for my Vaseline contribution, but not even I can bring myself to vote for my "2 Blondes" joke over Sammy and Willie's "Armies and Sleevies" joke because, well, it took me 10 minutes to get it. Good thing I look like a cross between George Clooney and Johnny Depp because I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed. Mary, my older than dirt and more inspiring than Gandhi sister, finish strong, you are amazing! Brother Matt

• Monday, March 8, 2010 3:09 PM, PST
Day 28: The full fist pump...all down, none to go. I'm celebrating with a mint chocolate chip milkshake. Wild times ahead.
Ann took me to radiation today as she does every Monday. In case you don't know, Ann has beautiful white hair and I'm walking with a cane. I hold her arm while I walk. As we entered the hospital today, Ann overheard one of the volunteers say, "I don't know which one is the patient."
This has happened to us before. Earlier in the treatment, we were crossing the street in the crosswalk, and an elderly woman wearing her bathrobe and fuzzy slippers turned to me and said, "Thank you for taking such good care of your mother." When she noticed that I was the one using the cane, she looked confused and shuffled along.
Such confusion has often happened in airports. When possible, I call ahead for a wheelchair. As we come off the airplane, me holding Ann's arm and Ann holding my cane, we've often been asked if we need two wheelchairs. Ann makes me carry my own cane now.
Don't celebrate too hard. You'll get an ice-cream headache. Final exam is tomorrow. Let me know if you have questions you'd like to propose.

Alex and I will have a Negro Modelo in your honor. You are really inspiring a lot of beer drinking.
Congratulations! Renee
I look forward to the final exam, and I intend to ace it. Jane
YIPPEE! Love, Rose
I am writing from Hanoi and want a special award for the post from the fartherest distance. I am so glad radiation is done! HOORAY. Beers to celebrate as soon as I get home!! Hugs and love, Susan G.
Will the test be open book, open notes? Mary D.
Congratulations, Mary. I can just taste that milkshake now.... Katie O.
You sound in good spirits. I know you are a great spirit. I want you back as my coach as soon as possible. I need your help and counsel. Take care and hope to see you soon. My best to you - Gene
BIG DAY!!! I am guessing it's a lot like going into labor... you've been pretty miserable for awhile, and things are about to take a turn for the worse, but starting tomorrow, bit by bit, things are going to get better... Of course, it's not all good, you are about to lose your excuse to eat milkshakes... And then there are the people (unenlightened souls who don't know about the blog) who you haven't seen in awhile who will say, "Gosh, that went quickly!!" (or almost as awful, "Have you done something different to your hair?" calling aunt susie!!) Here on the east coast, I will spend the day cramming for the final, thinking good thoughts... Sister Jennifer

• Tuesday, March 9, 2010 10:01 AM, PST
Day After Radiation (DAR) #1: I hope you didn't celebrate too hard with all those milkshakes and that Negro Modelo last night. I went wild.
Your final exam will follow the same format as your midtern. At the end you will grade yourself (that's how my high school calculus teacher liked to do it.) Only we reported our scores. You don't have to. You'll just know in your heart how you've done.
Multiple Choice:
1. Which superhero does Mary most resemble? (Hint: Keep in mind her femininity.)
A) Incrediboy
B) Wookie
C) Elastigirl
D) Spiderman
E) Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman
2. Mary has completed 28 of 28 radiation treatments. What percent of her radiation treatments has Mary completed?
A) 0%
B) 28%
C) 56%
D) 100%
E) all of the above
3. Identify the best definition and usage of the word "ablutions."
A) Definition: debris from sea wreckage
Use: "Colleen ran down the beach after the storm, collecting ablutions that waves had scattered along the shore to use in her science classes since the hospital would not give her a DVD of her colonoscopy."
B) Definition: ritual cleansing
Use: "Before his colonoscopy, Brother Matt will need to use his new man soap and Vaseline for his ablutions."
C) Definition: congestion in both sinuses
Use: "During the piggy flu, Mary struggled to breathe during treatments because of her ablutions."
D) Definition: visual hallucinations
Use: "Ablutions of small dogs chewing on her tubes made Mary uncomfortable in the ICU."
E) Definition: red and pimply acne on the stomach
Use: "Ablutions have caused my mother to wear a one piece bathing suit all her life."
4. In preparing for a colonoscopy, one can use Vaseline to ease the pain. Where does the Vaseline go?
A) Around the butthole (that's the most delicate expression I could find. "Anus" just sounds bad.)
B) On the lips
C) On the proctologist's gloved fingers
D) On the camera
E) All of the above
5. How did Mary breathe during radiation treatments?
A) through her mouth
B) through her ears
C) answer A from #3
D) through her nose
E) all of the above.
Short Answer: Please record in the guestbook.
1) Write a review of the book that Mary might write to be used on the back cover. 20 points.
2) Words that a person might use in a search engine to find this site include: tumor, humor, brain, gay, blog. List up to five other words a person might use. +1 per word.
Bonus: 100 points to be spread through your midterm and final exam scores, as needed.
Send my father Steve your Roth IRA report. If you don't have his email address, send it to me and I'll forward it. If you don't have a report you can send, just make one up. That's what I did.
Mulitple Choice scoring:
1. A) Incrediboy--Because of his red hair and blue eyes, and because living behind a waterfall is pretty cool, you might have made this choice, but he is a fake, evil and a boy. No points.
B) Wookie--You really haven't been paying attention. -50 points. Better answer the bonus question.
C) Elastigirl--Auburn haired, blue eyed, flexible, good with a vacuum. Clearly the right answer. +15 points.
D) Spiderman--The fact that I thought the mask would make a good Spiderman costume might throw you off, but this choice does not show a deepening understanding of my character and clearly is not feminine. No points.
E) Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman--Though this is not the right answer, I like it. +25 points.
2.  A) 0%: You must be way behind on your reading. -10 points.
B) 28%: If there's an elementary school child in your home or neighborhood, you should ask them to explain this to you. -10 points.
C) 56%: See above
D) 100%: Most of you, like Ann, probably chose this answer. On the final day, it is true that as of today I have completed 100%, so since Ann chose your answer, you'll get +15 points..
E) all of the above: This is the correct answer. I have completed each of these percentages at one point. Because you are as clever as I am, you get +25 points. (Ann says this is a trick question, but she agrees that I am right. My nephew Jack agrees as well. We’re all so proud.)
3. A, C, and D: No points. Please learn to use a dictionary.
B: Correct Answer: +15 points
E: In defense of my mother's reputation -10 points
4. A) Around the butthole, Correct answer +15 points
B) On the lips. Only if there's extra. No points.
C) On the proctologist's gloved fingers. No, sister Jenn, a proctology exam and a colonoscopy are different things. No points.
D) On the camera. There may be some concern of smearing the lens and then you'd just have to do it all over again. No points.
E) All of the above. No points unless you're brother Matt. +15 points if you're brother Matt.
5. A) through her mouth--the mask is too tight. No points.
B) through her ears--Please return to your high school anatomy class. Do not pass Go. Do not collect any points.
C) answer A from #3--see above.
D) through her nose--+15 points. +25 points if you are Jane.
E) all of the above--See B. No points.

Hooray! Full fist pump. I'm going to have a milkshake today in your honor. It's Shamrock Shake time at McDonald's and it IS right around the corner from my office! xoxo Anna
"For me a brain tumor and its treatments are not a pause in the adventure of life, but instead a part of the adventure of life." Katharine Hepburn look-a-like Mary E. has survived many things: Wichita Falls, the deaths of Pepper, Sparky, and Tripper, big hair parted down the middle, desegregation of the North Carolina public schools, the Gettysburg Address, a schoolgirl crush on a motorcycle-riding junior high school volleyball coach, GG Anderson's tour of the Mormon church, a college modeling career, Camp Seafarer, a brain tumor, holidays with family, marriage, coming out, Africa, hallucinations, swine flu, pneumonia, and now radiation therapy. In this heartwarming memoir (soon to be an Oscar-worthy motion picture starring Hilary Swank as Mary, Ellen Degeneres as partner Ann, Penelope Cruz as beloved sister Jennifer and Pea, among others) Mary takes us from the horrors of the Seattle public transportation system to the joys of sharing life - with all its ups and downs, idiosyncrasies, and absurdities - with people she cares about and who in turn take the time to care about her. It probably won't make you want to have radiation therapy, but it will make you wish that you could see the world through Mary's eyes.
search terms: radiation, ependymoma, Roth, ACCESS, proctologyCongratulations, Mary, I love you!!!! Sister Jennifer
I aced the final! Or at least I will once I write the book review. 95 points on the multiple choice!! The extra credit for guessing "Wonder Woman" and for "being Jane" helped.
5 words to google: finger, vaseline, ablutions, recalculating, butthole. (Yes, I know butthole was only used a couple of times in the journal, but I wanted to include it anyway.)
I checked out my words by googling them, first with the "and" function. I got 8 hits!! None of them were this website, however. All but one appeared to be lists of random words intended to get you to open the site so that they could steal your identity. One appeared to be real and, yes it was. However in case there are any minors reading this, I will not give you the URL. Get it for yourself, kids.
I googled the words again, using the "or" function. I got 90,500,000 hits!! Surely one of these is this website! Warning: the third one down appears to be unsuitable for minors too. It is a Wikipedia article about computer scientists and features the word "finger." Now, on to the book review, if it's not too late. Jane S.

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