4 p.m., Apr. 27, DF Caf
We're nibbling on some veggies and dip waiting for the DF 10 pager to go off and call us up to the Infusion floor. I'm reading an awesome New Yorker article on Muzak that my friend N. passed along.
We're on an upside down schedule today, here much later than usual, waiting for the lab to determine whether my blood counts are Taxol-worthy. Even if they're not, I'll still be getting the Herceptin, the antibody that supposedly shrivels up the bitch that is HER2. So, here we wait.
Caroline: Mama, what's a swine?
Me: A pig.
Caroline: Why isn't it just called "pig flu."
Looking around, I'm starting to believe that Code Red was right about the MJ mask being "trendy" amid all the pig flu hoopla. While I've been coming to the DF since the end of January, I've never seen SO many masked patients wandering the corridors. And this is a place where you'd expect to see masked people, pig flu notwithstanding. Is everyone just in from Mexico?
Anyway, I'm really into this Muzak piece. Did you know why it was dubbed "elevator music?" Me neither. Apparently, when skycrapers first came on the scene (bringing multi-floor elevators along with them), people were anxious about riding up 50 floors in these little boxes suspended on wires in narrow vertical corridors. The music supposedly lessened the anxiety while their ears popped. It's the same reason why dentist offices adopted Muzak -- to take the edge off the horrifying reality that someone is about to drill into your skull via your maw.
I get that, I just don't get how string instrumentals of Elvis Presley tunes could possibly have a calming effect. I clearly remember being at the Finast supermarket with my mother -- I was probably 7 or 8 years old. A trumpeted Muzaked version of Him by Rupert Holmes came on and made me furious. "They're ruining it," I thought.
Anyway, Muzak is no longer in the elevator/dental office business, they are no longer maiming songs with harpsichords and tubas -- unless you're in Japan where business owners routinely request "contemporary instrumentals of popular songs" for some reason. Whenever you hear playlists of songs in their original formats -- at supermarkets, retail stores, restaurants -- there is a good chance it's Muzak. I always assumed it was satellite radio.
Muzak is also rampant at the loathsome mall. Which is no suprise. The mall is to me what the elevator was to those skyscraper newbies. I feel suffocated, barked at, like the floor could fall out from beneath me at any time. Still, sometimes it's unavoidable.
Marketing to Mall Rats with Muzak 101, and a little Falco.
Hollister or Abercrombie: Homogenous techno beats pump out at you from behind beveled room dividers and fake ficuses. The design, as well as the crappy techno, are meant to convey exclusivity, like that of a NYC nightclub or in this case, a keg party in the really, really good part of the woods with hardly any animal droppings. It's also useful in repelling 39-year-olds and others of my ilk: "You are way too old to come in here, lady. You'll just get confused." ** Not to worry, though, nieces and nephews, gift cards will always be purchased when requested, they'll just be purchased online.**
Ann Taylor: According to Muzak, AT's clientele is conservative women who don't want to take any fashion risks, just look polished. They just want everything "bright, positive, optimistic, and uplifting." So, Muzak tends to pipe in Sting and Celine Dion (huh? CD, uplifting? Don't most people want to see her crossing the street against the light?)
Gap or Old Navy: Since customers range from infants to adults, Muzak often throws covers of old songs into the mix. Think: Counting Crows doing Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi."
Now I'm wondering what the Muzak soundtrack for Tello's in the 1980s would have been. What songs would have enhanced the experience of strolling those racks of impeccable cheese, searching for Jordache bags, neon socks and purple rayon with a stolen grape Fanta from Liberty Market in your hand. One song I always remember blaring in there was "Lover Girl" by Teena Marie, the employees dancing and mouthing the words as they organized thongs and beaded barrettes behind the counter.
Still, I'm thinking: How is this Muzak any different from satellite radio? My question is answered just a few paragraphs later. Whereas satellite radio does genres, Muzak does customization to the base right down to the song segue. Being a slave to (and never disappointed by) my Party Shuffle on iTunes, I totally get this. Many people have simliar mindsets, but not everyone dresses the same. In other words, sometimes a little well-placed Falco goes a long way.
I also get this because I went through a phase where I would only listen to satellite radio but my craving for musical variety along with my being too lazy to channel surf won out and lured me back to the college radio airwaves where I can hear Bob Dylan one second and Cat Power the next. In fact, my entire musical M.O. these days involves Shazaming songs from WERS and downloading them to my iPod.
Having new music on the Pod is actually creating an incentive to exercise and right now, I am in need of an epic, cobweb-shedding walk.
Aside: There's a 90-year-old man that lives next door to us that takes his daily walk (shuffle) past our house. Every day, he walks about 100 yards down the street to a little sidewalk bridge that goes overs a brook. He rests there on a wrought iron bench for a few moments before turning back. Vito, who remains staunch in his belief that nobody else has a right to exist let alone walk by our house, barks at the man every day, menacing him back and forth from behind his invisible fence barrier. The man, depending up on his mood, greets him with: "Hello, big fella!" or "Up yours, fatso!" James said he was going to ask our elderly neighbor if he needed a walking partner since a 100-yard shuffle is about my speed these days. All I need is some tube socks, etc. Very funny. I refused to give in to the way-too-close-to-home humor of his suggestion. I told him that when I walk, I must walk alone.
5 p.m. It's a Go! BTW, were you just released from a concentration camp?
James is reading aloud a story from ESPN the Mag about a service called Cha Cha where you can text any question -- anything -- to 242242 and receive an answer within three minutes. (I'd never heard of this, but in under 24 hours, I've seen it everywhere. There is also a similar service called KGB.)
I'm in mid-celery stick, trying to think of a question to ask when our pager goes off and we're heading up to the DF 10 Infusion.
My fellow/doctor Katie meets us there to let us know that my white counts are back up -- way up -- higher than is even necessary. So not only is treatment a go for today, we're also going to scale back on the Neupogen shot this week, only twice instead of thrice. This is all music to my ears. It's going to be a MUCH better week.
Without a doubt, the past week was the toughest one since treatment started on Feb 2. I hit the wall for sure (but not the floor, not yet). I knew being hermetically sealed off from the rest of the world for 7 days was going to suck but at the same time, I looked forward to some enforced downtime: I would finally catch up on emails and FB, maybe do some writing. When the sun finally came out, I would read my book on my back deck or sit by the brook with Vito and let the kids run around. Regroup, restore and rest. Aside from reading with Roxicet, none of this went down. James ended up having to take the entire week off because I saw white dots just going up and down the stairs. Then there were the Neupogen side effects: Headache, bone pain and spine pain (what!??), all of which were in full effect and rendered me completely horizontal or stooped over with an icy eyemask and a heating pad for the entire week. Then the antibiotic I was taking gave me some kind of stomach flu and melted away about 7 pounds, so I am not only bald but skeletal -- concentration-camp chic. Katie notes my birdlike physique and prescribes donuts for the week to bulk up. If I weren't at the DF, I'm sure I could be mistaken for a recently released prisoner.
7 p.m. Guess the Nurse Part IV
Today, we have a different chemo nurse because we had to come much later in the day. The sun is starting to set outside. The other patients who were sitting across from us have all cleared out. My veins, after three MF IVs, have finally started cooperating and opened up a pathway for those antibodies and poisons. It's clear we are going to be here awhile. I'm on my 12th Jolly Rancher. James, of course, discovers some fresh sandwiches in the fridge. We wolf those down in seconds.
We're really in need of a chemo buddy. Because of the uncertainty of this week's schedule, I couldn't line up anyone. James is awesome, my constant, but he's living inside of this too; he welcomes the healing distractions of an outsider or a not-so-outsider. Doreen came last time, bringing her positive energy, laughs and the hilarious story of purchasing an authentic $1,500 Gucci purse for under $300 -- while at Jeveli's in Eastie. As a BC survivor, she also brought consolation, saying that BC has got to be better than that anal cancer that poor Farah Fawcett has. She would've been great at our guess-where-the-nurse-is-from game, but we had our faithful Judy from Norwood that week.
James, having read his mag cover to cover, now turns his focus to the new nurse and from where she hails. The dark haired woman, early 30ish, is not feeling him. She won't even glance in his general direction when he starts peppering her with questions. I've never seen this before. Granted, the nurse is very busy this evening, one of the few nurses still on the infusion floor past 7 p.m. She's very talkative with me, but mostly she because is intent on making sure the drugs are seeping into my vein and not the surrounding tissues. I have too much Benadryl in my bloodstream and am too loopy to ask the right small talky questions even if I could get away with them, which I can't. Not the way James typically can. "She won't give me anything, not a thing!" he says, frustrated.
Right now, he's floundering in his usual stellar attempts at idle chit chat: "Are we your last patients of the day," he asks her. She smiles at him and it looks like she's about to throw him a bone, but only says,"Oh no, I'm here until 8:30." When she walks away, James, with the most minimal info to date, confidently states: "North of Boston: Wilmington, Woburn, Winchester, one of those." I shake my head in agreement. North of Boston. Sound guesses, for sure, but not ones I would've blurted out so soon.
I googled the nurse this morning. She is from Woburn! What can I say..it's a gift!
The Network, Walking & Go Go Dancing
This past week, I was emailing/FBing with friends/fam, Paula, Julie, Lisa Daria, Evanne and Heather, all of whom have gone through different cancer treatments. Every single one suffered almost identical setbacks, healing crises of sorts, right around the same time as I did. It usually hit around the fourth week of Taxol or a couple of months into their treatments. Some even ended up in the ER for a few days. But it sounds like things do turn around once you've hit this new low in WBCs.
Julie said what ends up happening is that you're over-the-top happy on the days you actually feel good. Feeling good is a higher high.
This is how I feel today. It's beautiful outside, it's a feel-good day and I'm elated. Cued up: "I think I'll go for a walk outside now, the summer sun's calling my name (I hear ya now). I just can't stay inside all day, I gotta get out get me some of those rays.."
I AM going to take a walk right now because quoting Brady Bunch songs on the PU kind of makes me want to punch myself in the back of the head, just a little.
When I return, I might install go-go dancing platforms all around my house.
Seven Songs of the Day -- 4/29/2009
Today's playlist (with those explanations that I love) comes courtesy of Chris Seremetis. Thanks, Tif!
1. God Am - Alice In Chains, just cause it's fun to say 7 times fast
2. Pass the Mic - Beasties Boys, cause the line: "be true to yourself and you will never fall" is awesome
3. I'll Stick Around - Foo Fighters, cause they rock
4. Rusty Cage - Johnny Cash, cause he's the only who could sing it better than Cornell
5. Stardog Champion - Mother Love Bone, grunge!
6. Do What You Want - OK Go, cause we should all do so
7. Be Free - The Cult, "to be free, like the birds and the bees" cause Billy Duffy just rocks the angry chords