Art & Design
Now that radiation therapy is finally completed it has only taken a couple of days to be, again, entirely enveloped in the day-to-day hubbub of work, making time for drawing, rest and yes, more work! It is hard to believe how quickly the last 5 1/2 months have passed me by, and now looking back the flurry of doctor's appointments and treatments seem a bit of a blur. It had a definite changing influence on me and on my general outlook of my own lifespan and our fragile small cameo in space and time. Maybe this is one reason why I have the strong urge to go for walks in cemeteries recently, lately they seem rather peaceful in a rather monumental way. This might be a new branch for creative output, it will need to be explored.
In the meantime, there is still a lot of background work to be done with Mz Manhattan, my over-sized pen & ink project. It takes a lot of time to do the cell pattern with just a 0.5 ink pen - way longer than much of the details and main imagery composition. But maybe the time of development of cell structure background is meaningful in its own way.
I still cannot be certain what precisely prompted the development of the DCIS over time, but it appears as good a time as any to take inventory of any risk factors, re-evaluate my lifestyle and start a new routine.
Oddly enough, I had always considered myself a fairly healthy eater - never been much for sodas, candy, fast foods and such. Admittedly, my diet has changed a fair bit over the last decade, but a lot of factors play into making the daily choices: Not having time to properly prepare healthy meals, or just being too tired to assert creative effort towards variety after a long workday is something that many people struggle with, I believe. On top of that, many healthier fresh and/or raw food choices are still far more expensive than highly processed alternatives from various corporate brands (especially if you want to buy organic foods), a paradox that I still find hard to reconcile with logic. Clearly everyone has to find the best middle ground between good nutrition and finances, and this is by no way an easy issue to solve. Hopefully, we can start a little garden of our own some time soon. CJ
Week six of radiation treatment - the localized "booster" treatment has commenced. And about time, half of my chest is boiled lobster red with brown dot patterns of charred hair follicles. Colors of the summer: scarlet and chocolate, fashionable as ever.
Over the last five weeks I had assumed that the last week with the radiation (now received lying on the back) would be slightly less intimidating - after all you can finally see what the machine is doing when it makes all the noise, right? Wrong. It is a bit more disconcerting to see the big machine honing in and lining up right next to your body than actually not seeing or knowing at all! The biggest difference to the previous weeks being that the square glass of the radiation beam is now partially blocked by a custom-made lead block, with a irregularly shape hole stenciled in the center to match the post-surgery site and scar.
And apparently, we are not expecting any werewolves to enter the cancer center: the stencil outline mark on the skin is outlined with silver nitrate to make a temporary stain without the (up to now) omni-present round signature stickers everywhere. But according to the lab tech the staining solution can sometimes leave some scarring - so maybe there are some unsuspecting folks with recessive lycanthropic tendencies walking amongst us after all, eh? Interesting thought!
The over-sized drawing project hasn't progressed much over the week-end, as the general mental fatigue can be a bit overwhelming. But it's almost over, and once the damage has peeled away I intend on making a full-on energy come-back. CJ
Monday, beginning of week 5 at the Cancer Center of Hawaii. Now that the cumulative effect of the radiation burn is ganging up on me, I think I can almost feel a bit of sting during the 2-3 minutes of therapy blast - although, of course, you normally cannot feel lower dose radiation. Sometimes, it even seems as if there is a faint odor of ozone - and that might be just in my imagination as well.
Funny little anecdote of the day: Starting to feel the urge to give in to some self-pity, I decided that a week of this was nothing I couldn't face or endure. After all, other people have to go through much more severe treatments (chemo, even longer radiation therapy, and in many cases all the effort is not enough to overcome this disease). So while waiting on the weekly x-rays on the machine, I decided to try my best impression of stoic zen-meditation... and the control computer crashed. It may be silly, unscientific, ridiculous and ego-centric, but I find it entertaining to think that I could possibly knock out electronics with my mind in extreme situations. Don't judge me, I'm easily amused when tired. Turns out that joke was on me, the computer took about 10 minutes to reboot and you're not allowed to move after the laser registration is locked in. By the time they got done, my arms were numb and my fingers asleep ("Look Mom, no hands!"). So much for the zen approach, me thinks. CJ
It's the end of the two day respite in between week four and five of radiation treatment - and I'm seeing the beginning of flaking and peeling at this time. From what other patients are telling me, this is about the time when the burnt skin is starting to blow the scene. Since there is only one more week left with the full dose blast, there will finally be time to heal the red patches, bumps and dots soon. And we'll just have to see how many of the dots will stick around to become my new starmap of freckles, joining in with the three tattooed ones. It's strange how fast you can get used to the ten (?) stickers which have been stuck around my torso for the last month and a half. Maybe it is part of the human condition to constantly shift to adapt to what defines normalcy as we travel through time and space.
As I ponder on my own course and what decisions I should make to shape my chances of recurrences and future life, I also think about the women I've met so far. Although I don't know her name, my thoughts dwell on the lady who had her last day of treatment last Friday - and wish her (anonymously) good luck on her upcoming MRI, hoping that no traces of pancreatic cancer growth will show. And on further reflection I have to smile thinking of the young woman who always accompanies and helps another older lady who might be her grandmother, a slight but dignified looking lady wearing her beanie as elegantly as anyone I've ever seen. I wish I could rock a hat the way she does.
So much love, and so much quiet, resolved suffering. And so the world turns, and all of us with it. My best way to deal with it is to continue and express through drawing. CJ
Such are the thoughts that are popping into my head during the first sessions of radiation therapy - apart from the occasional "What the hell is that whirring machine DOING behind my head when I'm not looking?!". Not to fear, Bruce Banner got nothin' on me.
In the meantime I've started the largest pen & ink project to date: "Miz Manhattan", roughly sized 2' x 6'. As the therapy is progressing, I am hoping to finish it in the coming six weeks. Appropriately so, since it is the time allotted for the said radiation therapy and this piece is directly linked to it. Posting some images from the process, hopefully there will be updates shortly. CJ
After my relatively easy brush with pre-cancer surgery it is only now that I fully realize that this will, nevertheless, change my outlook on life, possibly in ways I cannot yet predict. At this point I cannot do much but embrace the evolution and see where it leads - as so many other people do every year with similar and graver circumstances.
And what better way to do that than starting sketches for another transformation-themed drawing, and for good measure I'll throw in Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis and other stories". It always strikes me that Gregor's first reactions to turning into an insect are mainly concerning the impracticality of movement, having over-slept and the resulting complications being late for work. Such a very typically "German" mindset! CJ
Art in Hawaii
Living in Hawaii is an inspiring experience, both artistically and spiritually.