Monday, August 31, 2015

Knock, Knock. Who's there? Cancer.

UPDATE: The tumor is out and the lymph nodes are clear. Second surgery is Tuesday.

There's an old saw that Ziggy used to count as one of his favorites:
The flood waters are rising and Sam, standing on the front porch of his house, sees a man on a raft floating toward him. “Sam!” calls the man, “get on the raft and I’ll get you out of here!”
“Not to worry,” Sam replies, “G-d will take care of me.”
The flood waters continue to rise, and Sam is standing at the window on the third floor. He sees a man in a large motor boat coming toward him. “Sam, jump in! I’ll get you out of here!
“Not to worry,” Sam replies, “G-d will take care of me.”
A day later, the waters are still rising and Sam is standing on the roof of his house. He sees a helicopter coming toward him. It hovers over his house. “Sam,” calls the man on bullhorn, “I’ll lower a rope, lift you up, and get you out of here!"
“Not to worry,” Sam replies, “G-d will take care of me.”

The next day, the waters cover the roof and Sam drowns.

Before he knew it, Sam was standing before the Throne of G-d. “I was a good guy! I was a faithful husband and good father. I gave to charity willingly and anonymously, “cried Sam. “I observed mitzvoth and went to shul. What were you thinking?"
 G-d shook Her head sadly. “Sam, I sent you a raft. I sent you a motor boat. I even sent you a helicopter…….”

There is a raft waiting for me, and I am hopping on. I am not waiting to see what happens. Nope. Not me.

At my annual mammogram on August 11th, the radiology tech spotted a spot. It was teeny-tiny. It wasn’t the first time this has happened; I was not surprised when I got called back for an ultrasound. At the ultrasound, the radiologist looked at the spot and said, “I’m not so sure this one's a cyst.... Your biopsy is at 1:00 this afternoon.”

Within 24 hours, I knew it was an invasive ductal carcinoma. Breast cancer. 

Now, before anyone freaks and tries to sign me up for the Kult of Komen, take a breath. It’s tiny; less than a centimeter. My estrogen and progesterone staining factors are 95% and 85% respectively. My HER-2 is 1….and there appears to be nothing in the lymph nodes based on that very pushy ultrasound. The oncologist surgeon and the radiology oncologist have both classified the IDC as Stage 1A with a grade 1 tumor….with the understanding that it won’t be confirmed until they biopsy the sentinel lymph node. Either way, the prognosis is excellent...and probably won't involve chemo. 

Being an Ashkenazi woman…as in Jewish from Eastern Europe…this diagnosis is not exactly a surprise. Our risk is very high. Too many of my friends have been down this road. Before you ask, I already have my BRCA-2 kit and will have blood drawn today. Here’s something I didn’t know. If I am BRCA-2 positive, I can pass it to the boys, and their risk for a variety of cancers increase, plus, it can then be passed to their children. 

So, here's the plan. The lumpectomy is on Wednesday. There will be some "adjusting" to the size of the shelf, set for the following Tuesday, and that is the really exciting part of this whole process. Both are out-patient. Six weeks after that will be a course of radiation. The radiology oncologist promised I would not glow in the dark when it's over. He said that so seriously. He's a really nice man, but has no sense of humor whatsoever. My next goal is to make him laugh. 

My job has pretty good insurance. I have access to Virginia Piper Institute at Abbot Northwestern Hospital and their Breast Care center. I have a job that allowed me to bank all those sick days I never used, and they will cover my leave-of-absence and then some. I will have a job to go back to when the surgical part is through, and then they will work with me during the weeks I have radiation. In other words, I am fairly well protected. My out of pocket may be about $6K after all the deductibles. Compared to what it's going to be billed (which is no reflection whatsoever of what the procedures actually cost,) $6K is chump change. Good thing I have it. 

But never mind the out-of-pocket stuff. Being considered high risk, I am well versed in the importance of regular mammograms. If I didn't have insurance, I would go to Planned Parenthood...assuming there is Planned Parenthood to go to. If there wasn't one available, I might not have been able to go. And not going would definitely be a death sentence....just like it is for other women without access to health care for women

I'm already pretty radicalized about affordable health care, but the ease with which my diagnosis has been processed, together with the seamless transition into an excellent facility make me realize how damn lucky I am. 

Lucky? That is fundamentally wrong. No one should have to be lucky to get health care. Everyone should have access the same way I do. Period. End of argument. 

For the record, I really do think Susan G. Komen is a cult and want no part of that juggernaut. There are plenty of other organizations that need your support to do good work for women's health. Like Planned Parenthood. 

Rest assured this blog is not going to become a cancer journal. The usual outrage for all things politically and socially absurd will continue unabated. This includes but is not limited to Trump-l'œil and the GOP Clown Cavalcade.

Meanwhile, Spartacus is learning to ask for help. Not an easy thing. 

With Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, just around the corner, I can think of no better time to renew a beginning. 

The WP's tip o'the Week
Widowhood taught me to set aside money for a rainy day. 
Sam would have to agree - this is a rainy day. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Matisyahu, Mayhem, and Market Basket.

This year, the reggae artist know as Matisyahu was invited to perform at Rototom Sunsplash Festival in Spain. I won't rehash the details, but the week before the festival a group approached the festival coordinators to demand Matisyahu sign a statement in favor of Palestinian statehood. 

Matisyahu used to belong to Chabad-Lubavitch, an orthodox Hassidic group with headquarters in Brooklyn. He was very observant. He was a religious Jew. But he left the movement in 2011, but that's not really the issue.

The issue is that the BDS movement that claims not to be antisemitic went after an American Jewish musician and demanded he sign a document. 

Boycott, Divest, Sanction is a front of Jew hating. I suppose they are entitled to think or feel whatever they want to think or feel, but lying about it? Do they think the entire world is stupid? Or just a select section of it?

BDS is a hate organization. They spread hatred with rhetoric that is meant to destroy. If they wanted to help Palestinians, would they demand the closure of one of the main sources of income for hundreds of Palestinian families...Soda Stream? Shouldn't they be holding that company up as an example of what cooperation can do? Not if their root purpose has nothing to do with Palestinians and everything to do with sending Jews into the sea. 

Hate. They are about hate. They aren't there for building up; they are only tearing down. And the Spanish came off as a whole lot smarter than quite a few American academic institutions. They called BDS out for what it was, embarrassed the hell out of Rototom Sunsplash organizers, and Matisyahu performed. 

There's a parallel going on here. 

I listen to speechifying by the GOP Clown Cavalcade, and I think the same thing. These guys aren't about building a country, a nation made of a crazy quilt of people; they are about hating someone else.... beginning with POTUS. They present no plans, no alternatives, no nothing that would make anyone in his/her right mind think that voting for a GOP candidate would be a vote for reunification of our own American lives. Does their fear mongering somehow justify the institutionalization the battle flag of the Confederacy and calling it patriotic ephemera? No. It's a blatant attempt to legitimize hate. Guys like Walker and Cruz are trying to scare you. They are trying to make you fear that which you should be facing head on. These guys want your lights out. They don't want to you listen to anything but the sound bite.

So there's this store called Market Basket out east. They had a really good CEO who was beloved by his employees and customers alike, and shared ownership of the company with other family members. A year ago, the guy got forced out. 

Well, the people didn't like that, and they mobilized. The Market Basket  work force and community made their displeasure known. Using classic civil disobedience tactics, the public not just voted with their feet, they pasted their competitor receipts on the store windows. The beloved CEO is back.

The patrons and staff of Market Basket took the store to the brink of disaster. But the movement made very clear what it wanted....their CEO back.....and it made sure the management of Market Basket was clear about what had to happen. 

And it did. And Market Basket is recovering. The clientele is back. The employees are back. 

The only question that remains is "did anyone learn anything?"

Yeah, I did. Laughing at Donald Trump is not going to fix what's wrong. More than just a couple of people demanding someone tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth would be a good place to start.

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Take nothing for granted. Really.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Dishonorable Intent

Several of my more irate correspondents found my recent statements regarding the condition of Native Americans impossible to believe. One wrote intimating that I was using this as a clever foil to be racist, another just flat out stated that the situation in which many Native Americans find themselves is of their own doing. 

Yeah. Just like Africans volunteered to be slaves in the 17th and 18th....and 19th and 20th...and 21st centuries. Sure they did. They just lined the coast of African shouting at any passing ship, "Take me! Take me!" 

No one volunteers to be an oppressed people. No one raises a hand to say, "Choose me!" 

White Earth Reservation
Civil rights for Native Americans is a complex and complicated issue. As of 2015, 567 separate Native American tribes are recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In case you didn't know, the BIA holds approximately 55,700,000 acres, about  87,800 square miles  in trust for Native American tribes, Native Americans, and the Native Americans of Alaska. IN TRUST. Kinda like what your mother does with your first savings account. This means you don't have direct access to it, but your executors do, and that's what the BIA is supposed to do. 

The BIA, established in 1824, used to have three sections: Indian Affairs, Indian Education, and Indian Health. The health part has been moved to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, but the other two parts remain intact. History of the agency demonstrates they are not always the friend of the indigenous peoples. In fact, quite the opposite. The BIA was known to aid and abet the government in the confiscation of lands already guaranteed to Native Americans.

Even though most Native Americans don’t live on the "res," it does not mean that the concept no longer plays a role in the life and times of all Native Americans. It does. There are still laws on the books in a variety of locales that, while completely ignored, remain a part of the legal system. Can you imagine if language restricting African Americans to certain segments of a municipality remained as silent law? Can you imagine what would have happened had former slaves been told "Well, technically you're free, but you have to live in assigned areas only that are reserved for you."

If the original treaties "reserved" segments of native lands for use by specific tribal nations, that reservation did not stick. The reservations did not stop the US government from subsequently forcing tribal nations to relocate to lands that were not historically or culturally connected to a particular tribe. As soon as the government had a use for the land, the tribes were moved again. Not sure? Read about the Trail of Broken Treaties.

Are you beginning to see where I'm going here? If not, let me be real specific: very little has changed. In fact, it's being done right now, right here in Minnesota. 

Yes. Right now. 

Looking out over the rice fields.                        Jolene Yazzie for Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera (yes, that Al Jazeera) published a story on June 24th about Enbridge, the owners of the proposed Sandpiper Pipeline, considering a law suit for eminent domain along Lower Rice Lake, not only putting the environment at risk, but creating a huge risk for the wild rice harvesters. The pipeline would run square thought some of the most productive wild rice fields in the state. These fields are hand harvested by White Earth Nation, and they are invoking their treaty rights to stop the progress of this pipeline.

Before you get all huffy, here's the straight skinny on this. In 1837, the Chippewa of the White Earth Nation....known to themselves as the Ojibwe/Anishinaabe, signed a treaty that, in exchange for land concessions, they would retain usufructuary rights. This was important stuff: it meant they would retain the rights to hunt, fish, and gather rice on ceded lands. When a case contesting these rights reached SCOTUS in 1999, the Supremes decided in favor of the White Earth Nation. Although Minnesota claimed the treaty protecting usufructuary rights was vacated when a new treaty was signed in 1895, SCOTUS said, "No," and upheld the rights on behalf of the tribe. 

Wild rice is a crop pretty unique to Minnesota. Yeah, they try to grow it in other places, but everyone on this immediate planet knows there is no rice like our wild rice. 

That, and the rice harvest is a major component of the  income and stability of the White Earth Ojibwe. To damage the lakes involved is not simply a matter of temporary inconvenience. This pipeline is destructive to the rice fields, the environment, and the entire economy of the region. 

The greatest part of this tragedy is not necessarily the broken treaties or the attempt at stealing more land from the Ojibwe. The real tragedy is the one at the bottom of this morass: no one is talking about it.

I want a candidate to talk about Native American rights....and their continued treatment by corporate and governmental America. I want this to be seen as an unresolved problem in this country. 

This is an ongoing national disgrace. We should be ashamed.    

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Circus is Coming to Your Town!

Photo credit - Donkey Hotey via Flicks
I think the thing I am going to like most about this election cycle is the art. By art, I don't mean Van Gogh and Da Vinci, I mean the images that make their way into our collective consciousness. I started referring to the GOP parade as the Clown Cavalcade a while the June 15th episode, and my first mention of this season's clown car was before that. Not like I'm a trailblazer, but I think I may be the only who, in NY Times comments, konsistently refers to members of the US House of Representatives as Kongress Klowns. Now, it's positively illustrated everywhere!

The images are rather amazing. You have to figure the accessibility of Photo Shop and similar programs are at the bottom, but whatever it is, the result is amazing. What started me on this was a Facebook post of Cruz and Grandpa Munster. The caption by Alice Melott, the lady who posted the mashup, was simply brilliant: "Too late. You can't unsee this."

This, in turn, immediately snapped me over to Carly Fiorina and the Church Lady. Sorry. It was something about the way she pursed her lips. It wasn't the pursing of the lips à la Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, this was total condescension and disapproval. And that was bolstered by listening to her talk down John Dickerson on Face the Nation. Sunday morning, I just wanted to lob a grapefruit at her. It wasn't the message, which made a certain amount of sense, it was the delivery. I can just see this woman talking to Angela Merkel. Angela would eat her for breakfast and spit out the bones. Yeah, like I want that for POTUS. 

And that led to finding the morph of Chris "I never saw a kickback I didn't like" Christie into Tony Soprano, brilliantly done  by the NY Daily News, which is not exactly know for brilliance in matters political. Basically, the meme asks which is the fiction? The scary part, I suppose, is that it's not exactly clear which one is which. 

Of course, if one wonders about cartoon characters, go no further than the Donald. I thought using his face for the gremlin in The Twilight Zone's Nightmare At  20,000 Feet, was spot on. There are no words to adequately describe the hubris and utter stupidity of this man. Or not. Two deviant thoughts linger at the edges of my brain: 1) is this man Hillary's stealth weapon to bring down the GOP? 2) Is he much smarter than we're giving him credit for, and this is being secretly taped as "The Candidate," his new reality scheme? Either one has a certain essence of credibility.

On the less funny side, were some of the things that came out of the "debaters'" mouths. I use the quotes here because what we saw Thursday night was not a debate, it was a bloviation. No substance, no facts, just theme and variation on what/whom we should hate. Is this what we are reduced to?  Apparently so. There were times during this so-called debate where everyone was talking at once. First graders know better than that.

The lack of civil discourse and discussion made me just plain angry. I wanted to hear what ideas they had...what did they want to accomplish, not just what they wanted to destroy. I wanted them to talk about the crumbling infra-structure and they talked about who hugged whom. The Donald went on a misogynistic rampage that still hasn't stopped. Mike Huckabee informed us that "The military is not a social experience.The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things." Really? That's all they're good for? The debate over at the kid's table wasn't much more enlightening.

It's really sad. What should've been a great opportunity for the GOP clown pool to show off their differences, was, instead, circus maximus for all of viewerdom, domestic and international, proving they are are nothing more than a bunch of sad-faced, empty-headed, know-nothing clowns. 

Not that I expect the other side to be much better.  For the moment, the only one who is talking about real issues facing America at home is Bernie Sanders. That has to count for something. With any luck, his success will ultimately help shape the real conversation.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week   
If you're getting a good soaking rain once a week and the air is not bone dry,
check your soil before watering. You may not have to.

Monday, August 3, 2015

General Disgust

Between the stabbings at the Pride Parade in Jerusalem, the firebombing of a Palestinian home with the residents asleep inside, and the garbage spewing out of the mouth of the Clown Candidate Cavalcade, I cannot just pick a topic and go with it. Quite the opposite. I have four opening lines, and I don't feel like writing about any of it.

It's a pretty well established fact that I'm disgusted with the viciousness and hatred coming from the religious right in Israel. And the PA foreign minister has traveled to the Hague to file a report with the ICC? Really? Oh, yeah. I forgot. Blowing up bus stops, restaurants and hotel lobbies don't count because the bodies are Jewish. 

Look, I do not for one New York minute think the right wing lunatic brigade should go unpunished. Just the opposite. Lock 'em all up. Terrorists are terrorists and there is no excuse and no reason on the planet to defend what they did. It's so against halacha that there aren't even laws to describe how to respond to such heinous actions. And if they don't start zero tolerance for acts of baseless hatred against ANY people as perpetrated by the black hat crazies, just kiss the State of Israel goodbye. We will do to ourselves what we did at the time of the Second Temple: we will be responsible for our own downfall. 

We. That's a BIG word.
כל ישראל ערבית זה בזה 
All Israel is responsible one for another. 

If we are silent, we are to blame the next time it happens. If the Israeli government continues to turn a blind eye to far-right's hatred of others, then we have not done our jobs as Jews. Either we state unequivocally that is not an acceptable position, or we are contributing to the downfall of the State of Israel. Here is the place where We, the Diaspora Jews, get to have an opinion. We get to say we cannot support a place where Jews commit terrorist acts against Arabs and other Jews, while the government does little to stop it. We cannot support a place that discriminates against other religions, including our own. And we get to say we will not support a place where Torah is violated intentionally, with malice and forethought. A terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist. The color of the flag does not matter; the act of hatred does. 

For those of you who will condemn me out of hand for saying this, and countering, "Do not Jewish lives and children matter?" the answer is resoundingly YES. Jewish lives matter. Arab lives matter. All lives matter. But what matters most here is that Jews not sink to the base level of Hamas and Hezbollah. Two wrongs do not ever make a right, and countering the heinous crimes executed against the Israeli civilian population with homicide terrorism is not right at any time. Firebombing a house is not fighting in a war; it's the cowards' way. Just as we expect the world not to tolerate Palestinian terrorist actions committed in Israel We, Am Yisrael, cannot tolerate any of our own behaving the same way. 

If we do not stand up against Jewish terrorism coming from the lunatic fringe then we are culpable for anything and everything that happens. Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition cannot continue to believe this is okay and something to be swept under Haredi rug. It is not okay. 

As for the Clown Cavalcade on our own shores, Mike Huckabee's idea that negotiating with Iran was tantamount to delivering the Jews to the gas chamber, I would point out that there is no legitimate comparison to be made here. Huckabee is being a provocateur and needs to stop immediately. And in the too-stupid-to-live department, Marco Rubio sunk to a brand new level of utter inanity when he said:
The next president of the United States must nominate Supreme Court justices that believe in the original intent of the Constitution and apply that. We need more Scalias and less Sotomayors.
Great. Just what we need. More justices who want to stand guard in our bedrooms to supervise what we are doing with whom and when. Really? This guy claims he's for smaller government and less regulation...except when it comes to our sex lives? Bzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Wrong Answer! 

Truth is, gentle readers, this stuff is all depressing. And scary. And I have no idea where to go with any of it, but it is keeping me up at night. Really.

At this point, Ziggy would say, "And then they all stepped off the curb and got hit by a bus. Now go to bed."

And if that's not enough, I hear the neighbor kids are reading the blog now. Uh oh. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Parental Guidance Is Advised.
If your kids are gonna read this, you should probably be prepared to discuss it.