Tag Archives: cancer

Dust of spring

IF YOU STROLL across our yard this month it’s like stepping through a lawn of dead, crunchy locusts.

We keep the large window in the living room shut to keep the dust out. The equally large one in the dining room, however, is opened because you need some fresh air.

All our springtimes are like this, the polar opposite of our soggy, green, slippery summers.

Yesterday about noon, I sat myself down on the Jesus Patio with the intention of reading, but I didn’t read anything. The Kindle just sat on the glass-top table as I stared around.

I had the Canon, so I photographed the clay head that sits beside the cactus. He’s not a man to be messed with.

Later we lunched at Tiendita Verde, and then we headed downtown, the two of us in separate cars, leaving a larger carbon footprint. It can’t be helped.

We ran into Jaime there. He’s 11, and the son of our nephew who died recently of cancer at 32. My child bride and her sister have taken him under their wings of late.

Jaime is a remarkably good kid. I like him.

The egg sandwich

LUNCH TODAY consisted of two egg sandwiches.

I hadn’t eaten an egg sandwich in years, much less two at a time, but I was hungry. I ate both sandwiches alone.

There were two reasons I made the egg sandwiches. One is that I was cooking for one, and it’s easy to do. The second reason was that I wanted to try out a new frying pan that I bought recently at Bed, Bath & Beyond in the capital city.

cracked-eggThe pan is copper-based, and it requires no oil or butter whatsoever to cook eggs or anything else. It just does not stick, slides right off. Sweet.

I ate alone, and I likely will spend the night alone too, but that’s okay, especially considering the circumstances.

* * * *

THE CIRCUMSTANCES

We have a nephew with cancer. It was discovered a year ago, late, and he’s been getting chemo down in the capital city at a government hospital.

Fortunately, he has medical coverage due to a new job he found — driving a wrecker on the autopista — not long before the cancer was discovered.

We’ve been driving him down there almost every week for the past year, waiting for two or three hours, and then bringing him home. The problem began in his testicles, but that was solved rather quickly with surgery.

However, it spread to his lungs where a number of tumors took up residence. The chemo seemed to be helping.

Recently, he began suffering severe headaches. A CT scan last week revealed the lung tumors were all gone. Alas, they had traveled to his brain, six of them.

He will not live. He is 31 years old, married with two children, 6 and 10. He was brought home from the hospital last week in an ambulance, and he’s been bedridden since.

The doctor said he may go blind, talk nonsense and other bad stuff. He seemed to be semi-conscious.

In the middle of last night, he began convulsing. His wife — and brother who lives next door — called an ambulance and returned him to the hospital in the capital city.

That’s about 40 minutes down the mountainside.

This morning at 8:30, we got a phone call, and we drove to the hospital. I left my child bride who expects to spend the night in the hospital. Tests are being done on the nephew.

I drove home alone and got hungry shortly after arrival. It was a good time to test my new copper pan.

The sandwiches were whole-grain bread. I applied Dijon, lettuce, spices and Worcestershire sauce.

I am counting my own blessings. When you’re feeling low, an egg sandwich can be a good thing to lean on.

Year of cancer

NO, NOT ME. And not quite a year either.

Last January, a nephew discovered he had cancer. The problem began when testicular cancer was misdiagnosed as a cyst.

The testicular cancer, untreated, spread to his lungs, and that’s when the problem was discovered. The cyst diagnosis had come from a doctor practicing at a generic drugstore.

Mexico is chockablock with doctors, and many find work at drugstores, charging about 20 pesos a diagnosis. While this may not be a bad option for minor, routine ailments, I wouldn’t count on it for anything potentially serious.

The drugstore option is used primarily by folks who are financially challenged. That would be our nephew.

He is 31 years old, married, two great kids, 10 and 6, and few real occupational skills. His father — my wife’s brother — was murdered by a lunatic when our nephew was a toddler.

His mother died a decade later due to diabetes, which she simply ignored until it killed her.

The nephew was 14, and his brother was 16 when mom died. They have been on their own ever since.

The testicular cancer has been removed. The lung cancer is more stubborn, but test results have been going in the right direction. By sheer luck, he had health insurance from a job driving a wrecker on the autopista near here.

He has been receiving chemotherapy at a government hospital in the nearby state capital. This has been going on for the past year. At first, we were part of a group of friends and relatives who ferried him to these sessions.

He has no car.

But, in time, the others have dropped out. Now it’s just us. Once a week. Some weeks on, some weeks off.

* * * *

Alternative medicine

In addition to this traditional treatment, he is also going to a witch doctor. At least, that’s what I call him. Others call him a practitioner of alternative medicine.

The witch doctor was recommended by another aunt and, unfortunately, he is not located in the nearby state capital but hours away in the City of Querétaro.

Once a month, the nephew travels to Querétaro by bus, leaving early in the morning, and returning late at night. The witch doctor is not cheap, and he prescribes all manner of medicines, none of which is covered by the health insurance.

My wife and other aunts pay the witch doctor.

The nephew has more faith in the witch doctor than he does in the oncologist at the government hospital.

The test results have shown a good bit of improvement over the year, but the lung cancer is not in remission.

I hope for the best while thinking of Steve McQueen.

Death and cigarettes

A SISTER-IN-LAW lives nearby. Most of the family reside elsewhere. Distance assists good relations.

This sister-in-law, whom I see almost every day, smokes nonstop. It’s not pretty, and it smells awful.

I smoked cigarettes, cigars and pipes for years. I was not a heavy smoker, however, and I stopped in the early 1990s using a tapering-off routine that was pretty easy.

In a supermarket checkout line today I got a good look at a cigarette rack and was amused by the packaging. It was a popular brand in Mexico called Montana.

At least a quarter of a package face displayed a dead rat. Another was a photo of an open human mouth full of cigarette butts, the implication being that you’ll stink like an ashtray, which is quite true.

Cigarette packages, last time I paid attention, simply informed buyers that they’re dangerous. Times have changed.

Candy-Skull-01b-1Of course, tobacco companies do not put photos of dead rats and mouthfuls of butts on their packages voluntarily. They are legally obligated.

My sister-in-law will tell you in all seriousness that she won’t stop smoking because doing so increases the risk of lung cancer. She says  she knows too many people who stopped smoking and immediately died of cancer.

Her twisted logic always leans her way. She smokes to maintain her good health, her stinky well-being.

Are dead rats on cigarette packs in the United States?

* * * *

Speaking of death, our Day of the Dead celebration is about a week away, and the town is putting on its best face.

Streets are being cleaned. Tree trunks are whitewashed. Curbs are splashed yellow, and road stripes are repainted. We look almost new — as new as a six-century town can look.

The Hacienda is getting cleaned up too, unrelated to the Day of the Dead. Workmen are here painting, scraping, cementing, attaching, repairing, all manner of improvements.

It’s a yearly event.

The downside is that I’m trapped here today because much of the work is inside, and going off and leaving them here alone isn’t a bright idea. I don’t know them.

An upside is that I’m killing time by typing away.

And thinking of you.

The race obsession

WERE IT NOT so disruptive and destructive, the seething obsession with race in the United States would be hilarious.

blackDo most nations do this? No. It exists almost exclusively in the white man’s world, and it’s something the white man is doing to himself, self-abuse, gleefully abetted by blacks.

Are citizens daily hurling accusations of racism at fellow citizens in China, Russia, Bolivia, Kenya, Israel, ad nauseam? Of course not.

Slavery caused it, you might say. But slavery existed in South America too. Slavery has existed throughout human history in almost all corners of the globe, and it still exists in some zones.  People with all manner of skin tones, including white people, have been slaves.

Yet this perpetual hurling of “You’re a racist!” is almost exclusively contained nowadays in societies dubbed liberal democracies.

mariaIt is a political tool used by leftists. Sure, conservatives fling it on occasion too, but that’s because it’s a filthy habit they’ve picked up from leftists. It’s become so common that everybody uses it. It’s now a late-stage cancer eating the innards of society.

The cancer is not racism itself — not at all — but the constant hurling of the epithet and the grievous damage it’s causing.

Racism is part of human nature, and always will be. People, many of whom are not too bright, look askance at those who are different. You will never, ever stop this. You must live with it, and try to ease its effects as much as possible, occasionally with sensible laws.

blondeTragically, the racism epithet is rotting American society, and it’s a dreadful thing to witness from down where I live.

Were it possible, I would come up there and rap you all across the knuckles with a hardwood cane. I would do it until you’re bloody and howling with pain. It would be good and just.

Al Kinnison’s hat

hat

I DUSTED IT yesterday. Al Kinnison’s hat. It’s been hanging on the wall here about nine years, since just before he died in 2005.

Long before the cancer appeared, I often told Al that I wanted him to leave the hat to me in his will. I was joking, but I did covet it.  Since he was almost old enough to be my father, I figured he would go first, and he surely did.

I had no idea the hat was too small for my head, so it’s been a wall decoration on the downstairs terraza all this time.

The hat had been a gift to Al around 1940 when he was 14, and he kept it — and wore it — all his life. Al was an Arizona cowboy in spirit, bred and born, and a mining engineer by trade. He did other things in his 79 years, but mostly he was an old mining engineer/cowboy.

I met him here not long after I moved to this mountaintop. Al arrived before me but not by much, a year or two. He and his wife Jean, a very crusty woman who often had a snoot full, had bought an old Colonial directly downtown, and they renovated it.

After we built our Hacienda, Al gave us a housewarming gift, a string of raw garlic to hang over the front door for buena suerte, good luck. It dangles there to this day — and we’ve had no bad luck whatsoever.

Al was a wonderful guy, a brilliant fellow. He would help you with absolutely anything you asked. He and Jean would often lasso tourists into their home for chitchat and coffee. And Al was a libertarian’s libertarian, about as anti-government as it’s possible to be.

He was complex, as are most brilliant people. Though warm as 9 o’clock coffee, he angered easily, but he got angry only at things that had it coming. Stupidity sat badly with him — and street musicians. Stupidity is worldwide, and street musicians are all over Mexico.

Jean died first, about two years before Al. She felt real bad one day, and Al took her to a clinic a block away. As she lay on the cot, a look of shock and surprise suddenly spread across her face, and that was it. Al told me this the next day. I had gone to his house and found him alone shuffling through paperwork, distracting himself. In that situation, I likely would be doing the same. Al loved Jean.

As we sat there in the dimly lit kitchen, he stood up and starting walking in circles, trying not to cry. I really miss her, he said. I felt badly for him. A short while later, I left him there with his paperwork and his sadness.

The cough started about a year later. Al wouldn’t mess with chemo, of course. He decided to let things happen naturally. I visited now and then. A sister came down from California, the best-looking 70-plus-year-old woman I had seen in all my life, to lend a hand. She was divorced from one of the lesser Beat Poets in San Francisco. I forget which one. She was exceptionally nice.

AlAl had told me about his plan right after the cough started. He had a stash of cyanide that he’d owned for years, something he’d obtained back during his days as a mining engineer. That was to be his end game.

He went gradually downhill. He never seemed to be in pain, which surprised me. He only grew weaker and weaker. I visited him at his home on his final evening. I did not know till the next day that it was his final evening. But it was. He could hardly stand up.

Another friend who had stayed the night told me that Al was found later lying peacefully in bed. He had taken that strong medicine he’d been saving for decades, and it pushed him over the brink. I miss him still. He was a stupendous guy.

And I have his hat.