Radiation Antidepressants

A is for Arms. Yes, strong arms and hot sex work best, especially when one’s sexuality is part of the “treatment area,” and lucky are they who have them on call. Being called “Wonder Woman” and regarded as newly invested with Special Powers can go a long way to staving off any feelings of sexual insecurity. Not everyone is so lucky, however. Some of us have partners, all right, but often partners are so afraid of the C word that they flee, even if they appear to be present. When this happens, try one of these simple solutions:

F is for Fish. Paint fish, go fishing, make polyclay fish, draw a lot of little fish on a piece of office paper: it just takes three lines and a dot. Your basic fish shape is even more simple than a penguin, which is the only creature I ever tried to draw until I my fiftieth birthday after which I would try almost anything. Fish are so astonishingly decorated, however, that almost any shape, color, or design is completely believable. Try to invent a new fish and it probably already exists.

P: Pudding. Yes, pudding is almost as comforting as Mother, and my radiation team nurse encourages me to gain weight anyway, because apparently it will help me heal better. I was hoping to lose weight on what I called my “Radiation Diet,”, as most of my radiated friends did, but my appetite seems unaffected and my weight has not changed at all. Sigh. Meanwhile, I have discovered that the tapioca pudding on my supermarket’s refrigerated shelf (not to mention rice pudding and, oh god, chocolate pudding) really fit the bill when I’m too tired to think up anything to cook or too tired, having thought of something, to cook it. Pudding is the ultimate comfort food, rivaling ice cream, chocolate milk, and scrambled eggs with cream cheese.

KM is for Kiddie Movies. The Incredibles, recently rentable, like Shrek 2, made me laugh out loud for almost an hour and a half just when I really needed it– lots of fun for kids but also for adults, funny but sweet, imaginative with a James Bond sort of plot family style. Combine a really good Kiddie Movie with an adult-size glass of wine and dish of Moroccan almonds for a brief but much-need out-of-body experience.

This makes me wonder if we couldn’t do an Anti-Depression Alphabet. Any contributions?

My Therapist: A Rainbow Wrasse

Painting fish seems to calm me down. I don’t have to think about the composition, just paint the fabulous real-life colors. I spent all day painting this rainbow wrasse, which is just one of a large number, not just of wrasses but of rainbow wrasses. Getting the colors right pulls me out of myself a little and by the end of this crabby day, I have a beautiful fish to show for it.

I sold my parrotfish, so perhaps these little paintings are appealing to others as well as myself. I find both doing–and having done–them, strangely satisfying.

Click on any image to enlarge it.

Last week of Radiation

It’s funny how people get quiet or disappear when I’m not cheery any more and I can’t really blame them. I’m not very good company this week. I only confess to this to reassure any one else going through radiation that it’s no picnic and even if you’ve heard of people who just breeze through it, they probably didn’t. At least three friends who’ve gone through breast radiation have told me that they were a little tired and a little sore but it was never painful.

So I have been really surprised at how much I am hurting now, and I’m not nearly as burned as some other women I’ve seen. Second degree burns are apparently not uncommon, although only “skin changes” were listed on the list of side effects I was given. That’s some euphemism for burns on an area as sensitive as a breast. It was too much–I passed on the last treatment of the entire breast. Today I did the first treatment of the lumpectomy area, with four left.

I don’t seem to have it to put on any kind of happy front any more. So don’t let anyone tell you it’s a piece of cake. I know I have it better than most cancer sufferers and I know I’m lucky to get such good treatment but this isn’t the time to remind me. Toldja I was cranky.


Polymer clay is fun stuff and I have about a dozen little squares of it around in happy colors in case I want to make a bead or two now and then. It bakes up in about half an hour and handles well, even to making paper-thin sheets.

I’d never tried to empty an egg, much less cover it with clay, but it worked. I made a roll of five colors (four snakes pressed around another middle snake and rolled together), and sliced it into quarter-inch discs, which made nice flower petals. The flowers got pressed to the empied, washed and microwaved (8 seconds) egg. Into the clay I pressed small pearlized beads.

To make working on the egg possible, I stuck a bamboo barbecue stick through the egg and stuck that into a block of flower-arranging foam. To bake it, I lay the egg-on-a-stick across a cake pan. This left two holes, one at either end of the final egg so I could thread a ribbon through with a few bead additions.

Ta da! Happy Easter!

4_Way Chic Sacs: Mary’s New Line of Handmade Reversible Bags

My new reversible 4-Way Chic Sac seems to have everything: I’ve been field-testing the one pictured here with great success. It’s sturdy, good-looking, unusual, and one-of-a-kind, (I make, at the most, maybe four or five similar, but not identical, bags). Plus, there are FOUR WAYS to wear this bag: Out flat, it can carry legal pad; flopped over it serves as a good-looking clutch, advantages that hold true for both sides. It can slip over a wrist or easily carried by the reenforced handle. Elegantly simple, useful and attractive, this is a wonderfully versatile design which really does work in four modes.

On the up side for me: It can’t be instantly copied except by someone who really knows how to sew. Sewing involves lots of little tricks and this bag requires two of them, involving twelve pattern pieces. The “handle” pieces, which would normally show, on this bag are hidden inside and give it strength.

Because I design and sew each bag individually, carefully choosing the front fabric to the reverse–I don’t do them efficiently, factory style–no two are exactly alike. I can also custom-make bags for a $10 additional charge. Each bag takes me about 1 1/2 hours using high-quality fabrics, some from Paris, others from my extensive collection of materials, including many ethnic designs.

Most of my 4-Way Chic Sacs are patterned on one side and striped on the other, measure about 12″ x 14″ (12 ” x 7″ as a clutch) and retail through this website only for $35 plus tax (6% in Michigan) and shipping ($3.00), a really great price for an art bag. To order, call 989-894-5925. I’ll also consider wholesaling them.

Please go to 4-Way Chic Sacs for more pattern choices (that page isn’t up yet but soon will be.)

Lookin’ Good on Donegal Bay

I did the first layer in acrylic, but it was harsh and I didn’t like it. The light was good–lots of contrast–but it looked like paint-by-numbers, and although the composition was pretty good, the sky and bottom of the painting felt empty. I added clouds and moving water. Still boring. So I did a layer over the whole thing with pastels, and then, after some useful criticism from the subject, who is himself an artist, I did a final layer in oil pastel (kind of fancy name for expensive crayons). The result has depth and movement that I really like, and while I used a lot of bright color, the skin tones look perfect from across the room.

Slogging Through

I’m getting sore at last, and I get sharp stabbing pains which I’m told is fluid looking for a new path to the nodes. None of it is bad enough yet for a pain pill. Today I did the second simulation…about 45 minutes during which I was propped up on pillows and wasn’t allowed to move while new angles were calculated for the scar area. The last five treatments will concentrate there only.

Today was the last day for one of our ladies’ club…sometimes up to four of us who gather in the tiny waiting area for women. The last day is always a big one so I made sure I was there to help celebrate. As for me, I have nine treatments left, last one scheduled for April 4.

Half done!

So far, I feel really good. What is euphemistically refered to as “the treatment area” is also doing just fine: “pinking up” a little but nothing hurts. According to my weekly checkups, my right arm continues to measure the same as the left and my weight fluctuates only half a pound. I still have quite an appetite, which may prove my biggest problem–I overstocked my staples and freezer lest I get too wiped out to shop, but so far, that hasn’t happened–my radiation diet plan may just backfire.

Okay, I maintain my sense of humor, but I know very well I could never do that during chemotherapy. I am very, very lucky that I don’t need chemo, the treatment center is ten minutes from home, my treatment appears to be state-of-the-art, I have wonderful support from friends and family, and the staff at the radation oncology center are so friendly I actually look forward to seeing them. Who’da thought?

Simple Things

The Chinese cleaver is my favorite, a surprise gift from my husband (ex now) about twenty years ago. He was a man who could fix anything, loved good tools, and never knew what to buy me when some dreaded gift occasion loomed. I usually gave him big hints, just to make it easier for him, and he usually took them, but this gift was his own idea and the best ever. I have tried to replace my Chinese cleaver, likely purchased in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and recently spent fifty bucks (reduced from $140) on a big all-purpose stainless steel job, but it quickly got dull. I’ll have to learn how to sharpen it, as the carbon steel blade on my cleaver rarely needed doctoring, despite the nicks suffered from overly ambitious whacks.

The serrated knife I bought, along with five others like it, a couple years ago at a garage sale for 35 cents. This thin, flexible blade slips through almost any fruit without effort.

The smallest knife, bought at a dollar store for fifty cents, is a perfect mushroom knife. The thin, flexible blade, which seems to stay sharp despite daily use, slices up (among other things) a softish mushroom without fuss. I bring one of these (I buy these in four-packs) with me on my wild mushroom hunts along with a pile of old-fashioned lunchbags–remember how small they used to be?– to separate the edibles from the maybe-could-killyas.

Finally, another garage sale treasure from so long ago I can’t remember: my Bakelite-handled butter knife, with a thin stainless blade that is flexible, not stiff like flatware knife blades today. It spreads anything in an extra-thin layer and can even work as a skinny spatula when I can’t find a pie server.

Because I have long suffered tendonitis in my wrists, knives that cut without much effort I find essential. 

Radiation Day 12

I have become friendly with two women who await their own ten minute appointments in a tiny space barely containing three chairs and surrounded with fabric-covered walls. They seem to enjoy my little project which I’ve called “Same Place, New Day”: Each day I bring in and pin up a new day (like the one pictured here) from one of my Lake Effects posters. Now there are twelve, twenty-one to go.

Yesterday was A’s last day, her 33rd zap, and to celebrate, I gave her a copy of my Lake Lover’s Year book which tells how I did the little paintings she likes. But that wasn’t the only good news: she and I found out that the third woman in our little party, who has been awaiting in agony for last week’s bone scan report, does not have the much-feared bone cancer. We were all smiles over that happy news.

But this was not a good week for several of my close women friends who have suffered, among them, the loss of a beloved cat, a miscarriage, and the death of her mother. Such huge losses. We surely do ride a see-saw in this life, by turn giving support and needing it.

Click on any image to enlarge it.