Sunday, October 12, 2014


the curtains do not look like sheets after all; they look like curtains always look in hospital rooms or emergency rooms. brown/gold trim with holes like shower curtains, then white. i have plenty of time to observe as i wait on the table for 1/2 an hour or more.  it makes me nervous.  i'm feeling better in general, but neither the tiredness nor the fear have lessened, only the deep dark hole is gone, or masquerading somewhere. my blood pressure and my breathing, dr. andy tells me, are both bad: i
should try to get my pc doc  to change or add meds. i write her; we'll see. the thing is, which i don't say to him, is i don't care about my blood pressure, as i hope that within a few years it will lead to a heart attack and kill me. something will kill me sooner or later,, and looking at my parents' deaths--my mother from a particularly virulent form of Parkinson's playafully dubbed 'parkinson's plus,' my father from dementia caused by small strokes and, eventually, one large stroke that killed him. i wouldn't mind the one large stroke; it's a lesser stroke, or dementia itself, that scare me.  woody allen once said ' i'm not afraid of dying; i just dont want to be there when it happens.' that's my goal now. well that rules out suicide, so the doc's needn't worry on that score.

what i dislike most about the treatment is coming out of anaesthesia.  theres no pain to deal with, as there is no cutting into the body, but the feeling of coming out, my mind ahead of my body, so i know what i want to say but it emerges stuttering and incomprehensible; i know what i want to do, but only small parts of me will move at a time and i'm very dizzy. it doesnt last long, but it's grim while it does.

on Wednesday, we meet cheryl in the waiting room. on first glance, she seems quite ordinary. you expect her to be reading romance novels. well, maybe she does and if so, god bless her. she is waiting for her husband to be done with his treatments.we begin awkward conversation: it really is chilly today, but tomorrow is supposed to be more seasonal.  what do you do? what does your husband do? are mark and i married?[embarrassed laughter: mark and i are old friends; known each other 50 years; were college sweethearts but when that ended grew into the friendship we have now.)  bit by bit the conversation becomes more real. cheryl tells us she is schizophrenic and depressive, but both are being treated successfully with medication. John, less lucky,  is deeply depressive but nothing has helped till now. the first effort at basic ect didnt help much so he has continued into more intense forms of ect, which i didn't even know existed.i am releived to know they do, for john's sake and my own. i had thought this was my last chance; now it seems there's further to go if i need to.

cheryl wants to know about my teaching. when i tell her i teach about women in media and now about other aspects of gender in media, particularly gay and transgender isssues, she is thrilled.  people need to understand about these kinds of people and their lives, she says enthusiastically.  'that's the only way the bigotry will stop.'  she has begun to design what she calls her 'caring creations'--handmade cards for all occassions ...designed for those brave souls battling cancer and mental illness.'

when they call me  in for my treatment, mark and cheryl continue to talk. mark is bowled over by her; she doesnt fit any of our categories of deep-thinking people. when i come out, i am sad to see that john has finished his treatment and they've gone. i look forward to running into them again. cheryl's goal is to give people hope. she has certainly done that for me.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


so far, so good.  treatments monday, wednesday, friday mornings. my retired friend mark comes with me the first day, and he will come  with me henceforth. you gotta have someone with you, even with a taxi.  that's because every treatment requires general anesthetic, and you are seriously and unpleasantly stoned when you leave, even with sleeping after the treatment and then eating donuts and drinking coffee from dunkin donuts.
so i lay down on the table--one of several hidden from one another with white sheeting (it looks like a small emergency room] and the staff gets busy while dr. barker patiently waits. theyre a friendly crew: alison, anette [two black women with slight central American accents] and dr. andy, the white anesthesiologist who enjoys the fact that they are all three 'A's] and who brings in tomatoes from his garden, harvested that weekend, to share with everyone there. i like their combination of friendliness and professionalism.   i notice classical music playing quietly, and comment on it. annette beams.  friday, she tells me, is opera day. all day, opera is the music they play. we both recognize 'traviatta' and make small dance gestures. she's excited about her birthday in december: her friends are taking her to new york, to the met. she's never been to the met before.

meanwhile i am told to lie down on the bed, my head close to the top, and then to take off one sock and put it over the other one.  obviously the anesthetics have taken effect, and i am dreaming. i note that it's a very silly dream.

which it's not. annette is quite seriously telling me to do this. when i can't get up past all the plastic geegaws on my body, she removes the sock for me.  Later the anesthesiologist explains: since the anesthesia paralyzes my body, they can't tell if the brain is having seizures, which is the whole point of the thing. so the anesthesia is somehow prevented from going down into the right foot.  remember te archetypal mother who warns you to wear clean underpants whenever you go out? from that day for me, for the next few weeks now, it's clean sox.

then they do the anesthesia and i'm gone. when i wake up it feels unpleasant.i'm not fully awake;  moving is clumsy, like im unederwater and can't swim my way up.  i try to talk and it comes out in disconnected words. they think i'm awake; i think i'm not. i manage to articulate, very clearly, 'i wish i was dead.' they let me sleep a bit longer for my next treatments.  then they direct me to a little recovery room with the dunkin donuts goodies and coffee and gingerale. i gasp dramatically but earnestly,"water!!' and they seem surprised but agreeable. as i eat, i wake up further [i've had nothing to eat or drink since midnight].when mark and i leave i am zonked, and zonked i stay all day. i go to bed as soon as i get home, and it's just about noon. around 5 i wake up and have a combo lunch and dinner and a lot more water.  and then back to bed.

the next 2 days are pretty much the same, and i still feel crappy. but now my brother has come in from new york to be caretaker, giving poor mark the only break he'll get, as far as  i can see.  but by sunday i can feel the difference in my depression, and it feels good.still dead tired, but not quite in that dark hole.

we'll see how this goes on in week 2.