January 27, 2011

No longer a port in any storm

My porting days are over. Translation: I no longer have a chemo-needle-friendly "device" implanted in my chest. It's a far cry from where I was a year ago, at this time -- between rounds 1 and 2 of chemo, with 5 more to go

I've gone, done my time, and walked by the "infusion room" aka chemo lounge at my doctors' office, and finally, had a sigh of relief. No port, no entry. Here's to hoping no one ever wants to appoint me as a Superfund site again. Or make me a one-woman radioactive blip on the sidewalk. The only exception to the latter is, there will be more PET scans, more signs that I am, I hope, home free.

Home, of course, will never be the same again. This season I am snow-bound, but it's better than being the girl in a bubble. Hello, normal white cell count. Hello, immune system. So long, fare well bottles of Purell. Return to regularly scheduled interaction with the public. That is, once I find my snow boots.

I'm all set for sledding, apparel-wise: boots, snow pants, ski mittens, down coat with hood, extra cashmere cap for warmth, all requisite long underwear and thick socks. Only thing I'm missing is the sled, and the assurance of normal bone density. What would it say about me if I took a hill too fast, clipped into a tree, and broke my hip? Age-appropriate? Ha!

For public consumption and to speak the vernacular, I am a survivor. Not at all sure the word is appropriate to describe the experience, but that is what our language, in the world of cancer patients, has labeled appropriate. I have, for the record, survived worse: 40 years of depression vs. less than a year with a cancer diagnosis. By comparison, cancer was a walk in the park. Without snow gear. I'd hardly call it a trek, considering how I've felt in other circumstances.

With lymphoma, the odds were in my favor: 90% "cure" rate is what I'm told. "Cure," not "remission." After two solid years off chemo, "cured" is what they will call me. But what term will I use?

They say you can't go home again, and while that sentence applies to me literally -- my aunt and uncle's hotel in Lake Placid burned to the ground, and Haiti had, well prior to the earthquake, become a politically untenable place to go -- Wonderland, my hometown, looks different as well.

Tourists may like Toys R Us in Time Square, part of the Disneyfication a la Guiliani and Bloomberg; those of us with memories oddly enough prefer the old days, when that was a seedy part of town. We miss the fake ID joints, the peep shows, the 24/7 porn palaces and all the people who frequented them.

What price safety? Total loss of character and place? I'm sure the hookers made a better living than the minimum-wage folk now operating every chain restaurant in the land that's open to reassure tourists that Wonderland is "safe."

Sure, I no longer have to defend my city's crime rate -- in the old days, Detroit's and D.C.'s murder rates made ours look like amateur night -- but I have less of my city to defend. So much has succumbed to another strip of the global village with all of its big-box, made-in-China-but-sold-only-for-export chain stores bleeding our local shops dry that we're losing our personality.

I love New York? We used to lure visitors with a huge advertising campaign. Now busloads enter voluntarily. I would enjoy those who commute much more if they had to pay a percentage of the NY City tax dollars from which they benefit. New York is a city of first-responders, but no one counts how much it costs us and how our neighbors beyond the borough lines have benefited since we stopped collecting income tax from them.

We should have a cover charge for entry, even if it is "congestion pricing" for cars in midtown. We should have neighborhood stickers for cars, so the locals have their place in the street and let the out-of-towners resort to a garage. That is, we should also have temporary windshield-visible signs for residents to lend to those who park here explicitly to see us. That is, for those of us -- most of us, I suspect -- for whom owning a car would be more challenging that learning to speak a new language.

I fall into that category: never have I legally owned a car. As a teen and college kid, I had one that belonged to my parents, but never did I need learn any maintenance skills beyond filling the tank with gas and checking the oil under the hood.

These days I delegate even that little knowledge to those who drive me the most frequently: bus and subway drivers, plus taxi cabs and other car services. For me, maintaining a car simply means I have discount coupons on my refrigerator for whenever I need a ride to the airport.

If you need outdoor camping or related skills, don't call me. If you need urban camping tips, from conserving water to overriding electronic stove ignitions, call me. Inside I have battery-powered lamps, radio and fan; for the great outdoors? Snow boots. If you need a port for an indoor storm, I'll see what I can do. Outdoors? Baby, you're on your own.

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