Intercessions

You should definitely read “About” and “The Cancer Checklist” before you read on. And I am quite sorry to harm any of your religious feelings. Mind you: I have none.

After a quite challenging 2013, if you look at the number of days spent in hospital and the high quantity of operations, I feel the need to ask for a more convinient, comfortable, less hospitally 2014. And who could I best turn to but THE LORD. I’ve been told that he is the chief executive manager of health deals. Okay, here I go.

Dear Lord,

I am not sure how to put this nicely, but I am a tiny weeny bit fed up. I have sent you quite a few intercessions and am still waiting for some results. Any results would do. Is it my fault? I mean, I think I have been quite precise. Is there a problem in understanding what I have said? Didn’t I articulate my intercessions well? Or do your angels not speak English? I always quite naïvely thought they were multilingual. I mean when I left school I could speak English, French and German and read and write Latin. Do you want me to intercede in written form? Shall I turn to you in Latin the next time?

Well, this is why I have decided to WRITE today because I thought you and/or the angels might find it convenient to get something in written form, properly spelled out in front of them. Or is English the problem in the first place? Because of all the “Anglican Church hubub” in the 16th century? Are you a convinced Catholic? Well I, personally don’t like that Henry VIII chap either. I think he was a bit misguided. Well not of course in that he wanted other, more functional wives and all that beheading stuff. But in that he didn’t turn to you properly by means of intercession to ask you to intervene with the pope’s decision. Or did he?

Okay. Here is what I think. 1. Your angels are not well-trained in languages any more. 2. Your office is – if at all – lousily organised.

How do your angels prioritise the incoming intercessions? Is a form necessary? Do you hand out numbers? Is there a queue there? Do you differentiate between privately insured interceders and those in the National Intercession System (NIS)? Do you cooperate with the CSI (Celestial System of Intercessions) or the NCIS (National Celestial Intersession System)? Would the Pope’s intercessions be prioritised over those of Somalian AIDS orphans?

Or are you over-worked? Is you work-life balance unbalanced? Do you fall for this ridiculous, misguided multi-tasking stuff? I am thinking about the following scenario:

Here is a day in the life of a multi-tasking deity, trying to handle several billion intercessions at the same time.

9:00 a.m. MET: God’s enjoying a cup of moccacino whilst

-looking after the new first graders in a local Worcestershire primary school so that they don’t get lost in the building (true story 😉 yep) AND at the same time

-sending pox and malaria to a refugee camp in Somalia on demand  PLUS

-inventing recipes for new cocktails in a Manhattan club AND ON TOP of this

-looking after the old, the young, the sick, the healthy, men, women, dogs, children, 00ps! Wrong order! Butterflies, cars, football games (always both teams), a few thousand harvests in Montana, a couple of rivers in northwest Germany, the quality of the cheese in a northern Italian cheesery, christmas pudding in Southampton, the Italian mafia, the Russian mafia, the Chinese mafia, the New York branches of the Italian mafia, the Russian mafia, the Chinese mafia, their victims (or don’t they become victims if they intercede?), the Tasmanian devil, Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, all the Catholics, the Protestants, the Jewish, Baptists, Menonites, Methodists, Bagwan’s supporters, Jehova’s witnesses, Hindu…

Speaking of the Hindu. God, you should probably convert to Hinduism, where you could cooperate with 29 million 999,999 other deities. Thus, each of you would only have to work on one intercession per minute. Roughly.

You should seriously think about converting, if you’re not a dyed-in-the-wool CATHOLIC because I am a bit worried about your health. Findings from neuro science show that with all your vainless efforts to multitask YOU – the Lord – may be on the verge of burnout. I offer to give you advice in questions of organisation of your work-life-balance.

Can you, in exchange for my help, make sure to work on my list of intercessions first?! Is their anything besides office organisation that I can do to move up in the list? What can I bring you? Do you still fancy sacrifices of oxen? Well, these days they’re not as easy to come by, but I will see what I can do. Or are you more into the virgins business these days? I’ve heard that they can be imported from a few eastern European countries. Although you might have to dispense with the “virgin” part in “virgins”, sorry. But “willing flesh” might do just as well, don’t you think so!? And probably I could ask for bigger numbers if the ladies don’t arrive fresh.

Okay, if that is it, let us begin. Enough of the chit-chat, let’s get down to business!

1.     Oh Lord, from now on let my list of intercessions always be FIRST.

2.     Could you perhaps look after the “schnitzel”* from my back well and ensure that its blood supply isn’t interrupted. (*”the schnitzel” is a lump of muscle and skin from my back that has been transferred to one of my breasts to relieve the pressure on the radiated skin.)

3.     Holy father, can you please make sure that the radiated skin on my right breast doesn’t burst open again.

4.     Please promise that the morphium pump functions well and doesn’t overdose.

5.     Dear God, can you please send some brain for the assistant doctors? And don’t forget to send a language course, too.

6.     And can you look after the catheter at night? Just to make sure it stays where it is supposed to be.

7.     Father in heaven, please give my surgeon calm hands.

8.     Good God, please be so kind as to be lenient with me the next time my blood pressure says hasta la vista.

9.     Dear Lord, please prevent the antibiotics from exuding into the surrounding tissue of a burst blood vessel. Because that’s fucking painful and not too convenient.

10.  And can you look after the redons. Because with undertow they tend to export too much bloody liquids. And I only have a limited amount of the latter.

11. If there is an emergency that has to do with ME, will you please wake up the doctor who is on duty PROPERLY and help him not too be pissed off with me. Again.

12.  And last but not least. Great Father, is it possible to bestow upon the night nurse a stressfree shift? And if perchance I need her, make her willing to help.

13.  Just one more. Don’t make the puncture needle too pointed and the puncture not too painful, please.

Okay, I guess that’s it. One will see. My job’s done. Do yours! I hope you don’t mind my candidness.

Amen.

P.S. Can I send my future intercessions by e-mail? Is your e-mail address “intercession@god.org”? Can you make sure they won’t be classified as spam? Is the spelling of GOD a problem? I mean because in your e-mail it is “god” instead of “God”.

Yours, completely unreligiously,

Maid Manu.


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How radiation therapy works.

Before you read on, you should probably have a look at “About”, “Checklist for The Cancer Club” and “A prescription of Tim Minchin”.

This week’s “Weekly Minchin” is the video sequence on “Morality, miracles, Tony the fish”, which you can find on his DVD “So fucking rock”. Enjoy! There Tim talks about how enjoying sciency things instead of magicky ones doesn’t mean to turn into a cynic.

Radiation therapy isn’t one of the magicky things but definitely falls under the category “sciency”. Even though you cannot see and feel the radiation, believe it or not, it’s there. But how does it work?

Our bodies are made up of trillions of cells. Inside every single cell, each one of which is quite small,  there is an even smaller structure called nucleus. And inside the nucleus there are genetic building blocks called DNA. Every day quite a few new cells have to be built because the old ones have been used up or damaged or done a good job but have grown old. A good example are cells that line the inside of our digestive system, which are simply rubbed off by the passage of our food. Or certain blood cells. Other cells in our body grow very old though, for example our brain cells that can get as old as we get.

When new cells are made, they need a nucleus each. And in the nucleus they need the building blocks called DNA. New DNA is made by copying the DNA of another cell. As the DNA is bloody long, it is very probable that the copy contains slight changes, meaning that it is not an exact copy. A change in the genetic information is called mutation. Many of the mutations that happen accidentally every day are discovered by molecules that check the new DNA building blocks for copying mistakes. These substances are called repair enzymes. It is good we have them because some of the mistakes could cause severe problems.

So far so good. But what does all this have to do with radiation therapy? Well, to cut a long story short: cancer cells cannot repair their DNA like other cells. At least they are not as good at it. So it would be quite a smart idea to damage the DNA of cancer cells. The good news are: accidental copying mistakes are not the only way to cause mutations. There are actually chemical substances and physical processes that have the power to mutate DNA building blocks or to simply damage DNA. Amongst these are UV-light, radioactivity, certain substances AND the radiation that is used in radiation therapy.

The cooperation of several scientists, such as radiation doctors, physicians, technicians and the like ensure that when YOU are given radiation therapy, the used radiation will destroy the stupid motherfucking cancer DNA. And as the cancer cells don’t have the necessary repair enzymes, the only thing they can do is to say “Hasta la non vista, baby”!The team of experts can ensure this by taking 3-dimensional pictures of that part of your body that has to be treated during radiation therapy BEFORE radiation begins.  They make very complex calculations based on these picture and this way can help avoid radiating YOUR good old body cells. But if a body cell and its DNA comes in contact with the radiation it has all the necessary enzymes to repair the damage. Hurrah!!!

Of course my despription cannot replace a proper conversation with YOUR doctor. But I have made the experience that some scientists find it difficult to express complex processes in a way that non-scientists can understand them. AND on top of this they HAVE TO inform you about all the possible side effects, even though some of these may have a probability of under 1%. But they may scare you shitless with their seemingly endless list of what MIGHT happen. If I were you, I wouldn’t  want to be scared shitless, so I’d ask MY radiation doctor if s/he still recommended the radiation therapy to me AFTER s/he had informed me about the risks. And if s/he said “yes”, I would ask her if s/he would recommend this treatment to her husband and her kids, and if s/he said “yes”, I would go for it. So there.

I didn’t think twice when I was offered radiation therapy. And I didn’t ask friends or family what they thought I should do. I asked the experts!!! They had all the knowledge I needed, and when they said it was a useful treatment, I trusted them. Yes. That’s what I did. But I am NOT an expert, I am just a patient patient.

Ah, and Tim Minchin. Usually the radiation sessions are quite short, at least mine took only a few minutes each. But you have to lie absolutely still, which some people find uncomfortable or even discomforting. A good pastime could be a Tim Minchin song that you could sing in your head if you are very excited. This way time will pass so quickly that you will be out of radiation before you can say “Tim Minchin is fucking hilarious!”

Yours, radiantly,

Maid Manu.


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Friendship

Friendship. Full stop.

To my friend Sunshine. I love you for:

Turning the shaving of my head into a styling event. Hanging out with me during chemo. Cooking the most fascinating vegetarian stews. Spending long hospital days with me. Respecting my limits. Shifting furniture with me. Being courageous. Pissing your pants with me when we’re drilling holes next to a socket. Switching on the light in the darkest of hours. Making up silly words. Not hating me for my illness. Thinking before taking action. Apologising for not having your head shaved with me. Telling me about your problems. Allowing me to cry. Pouring out your heart. Offering your support. Sharing thoughts with me. Acknowledging my competences. Enjoying everything with me that we’ve always enjoyed. Understanding my feelings. Overwhelming me with optimism. Asking the right questions. Being compassionate. Accepting my choice to be quite happy. Taking hilarious pictures of suffering. Massaging my aching limbs. Being yourself. Looking at my scars. Telling me how proud of me you are. Lying in hospital beds with me. Running through forests with me. Scaring away incompetent assistant doctors. Making things easier for my husband and sons. Accompanying me to check-ups. Giggling with me. Giving me your warmest shoes for the winter. Being there. Making me feel beautiful. Not losing yourself. Finding Eros Ramazotti video clips for me. Celebrating with me after check-ups.

Yours, friendlily,

Maid Manu.

 

 


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Get the substances working

1.     Keep in mind: Good to know the first round has been administered! Now the little warriors are fighting their way through your body. Whenever they come across a cancer cell: Front kick in the face. Domo arrigato!

2.     You feel sick when you wake up? Feel pleased, because the side effect is quite a valid proof of the effects. Hurray! Bugger off you bastard cancer cells! Hasta la non vista, fare ye not very well, au re jamais voir, auf nimmer Wiedersehen. Get up, switch on all the lights that you want to, take your anti-sickness tablet, nibble on a dry piece of bread, turn on your bestest music and – dance! If you feel weak, dance very slowly, or sit and move your upper body to the rhythm. Put on a big, fat smile! Your brain can be cheated into good mood this way.

3.     Is there anything that you would love to do, like going to IKEA, or the local Star Coffee or Costa Bucks? Good idea! Too tired to leave the sofa? Ask friends/ family/neighbours, the milkman or postperson to give you a lift/to accompany you/to fetch something for you. If you can only sit on one of the sofas in the IKEA exhibition, just sit and enjoy the bubbling life around you. Or hang out on one of the chairs or sofas in the restaurant. If they are occupied, be candid, but be friendly as well. If you cannot drink anything in the coffee shop, tell the staff in a nice way why you need to spend some time there without consuming. Or ask the people who accompany you to drink more, for your sake.

4.     Accept other people’s offers. They want to be kind. Because as they cannot change the essence of the situation, it is important for them to do SOMETHING. It reinstates their power, which is quite important, because otherwise they will feel helpless, and then: angry. For them doing something for you means they are useful. Allow them to be useful. If they can bake well and offer you to bake for you whatever you want to have – accept! And accept with a happy heart and a big “thank you”!

5.     Buy the latest season of your favourite TV show that you have wanted ever since it came out, but were too sensible and sober-minded to buy because it will cost a third AFTER christmas. So what!? Have it! To be honest, you are going through more than a scratch on the bum at the moment. Indulge! Endless hours of watching or sleeping in front of the telly, and nobody dares to tell you it is not good for you. And the remote control is all yours, too. Even if you sleep most of the time, nobody in their right mind will disturb you, or change the programme. Now is the time to take revenge on your kids for all the rows over the TV magazine. Keep it under control, tell them a day LATE what TV show they have missed. No. Only joking. Don’t take revenge on your children. Take revenge on your children AND your husband. 😉

6.     Seriously, don’t drink and don’t smoke. Ever thought that Don Quixote looks pathetic when he fights windmills on his decrepit horse? It looks even more pathetic to see people with their chemo drips outside hospital entrances with a fag on their lips. And to be honest, I think that during chemo your liver has enough to deal with WITHOUT booze.

7.  to 10. I have no idea. You might want to send tips.

Yours, gratefully,

Maid Manu.


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My kids, my hubby and Tim Minchin save the day.

Please read About and Checklist for The Cancer Club before you proceed. Makes sense. Really.

Let’ s go back a few days to “Ace of Base, Free Jazz, Oasis AND Radiohead”. 19 months of a mind-wrecking mixture of music from hell. And then, all of a sudden, it stopped. People have asked me how and why it has stopped. Wild guesses have been made, rancid rumours have arisen, conjectures have been conjured up, preternatural presumptions have been produced. For example that I have made my peace with cancer, or that I finally found Jesus, or that homeopathy works!!! Or that at long last I have found my way back to normality and have stopped putting myself in the centre of attention. Ups! Hail to thee, arseholes!

Sorry to disappoint! Far simpler! Life’s just so cool and my kids are simply getting older and growing taller and acquiring  knowledge EVERY DAY! Blasted little baskets. I’ve told them to stop growing. They are not getting any pocket money until they’re 18 because their clothes are so expensive. And they eat twice their weight every day. I expect them soon to outgrow us and to carry not only the shopping but also US  into the house.

And my hubby. He simply doesn’t take a thing I do seriously. And when I’m grumpy for no obvious reason he shoulders me and carries me through the supermarket until I am properly un-grumped. True story! Funny little fucker that he is! And my job of course is jollyfabtastic. Lovely pupils, compassionate and intelligent. Had four operations this year, all of which were not exactly walks in the park, but I so wanted to teach that I was back on my feet and back in the classroom within days. And of course Tim Minchin.

Watching his DVDs in long hospital nights and sometimes days has helped me to keep as mentally sane as is good for anyone. Because usually as a cancer patient you are either scared shitless or experience different shades of pain, both of which possess a high “mad-driviness”. And thus, in my blog, on top of inviting people with cancer and/or their friends or family, or simply anyone just insane enough to be willing to read what a German cancerista writes in English, I would love to introduce “The weekly Minchin“.

It could start with a reference to his song “You grew on me (like a tumour)” as the song of the week, or even a permanent anthem for my blog (for this song watch Tim Minchin and  the Heritage Orchestra on DVD). I regularly pee my pants when I watch “Prejudice”, Tim Minchin’s hymn of the league of redheads (watch his show “Ready for this?” on DVD, where you can find this song). Imagine you had cancer AND gingervitis! Wow. You could sooooo ask for pity. But then, if you lost all your ginger hair during chemo, would you also lose your “oh-my-gosh-poor-little-thing-he’s-a-carrot-top”-factor? Fuck! But they probably sell red wigs. This could offer valuable insights into the ginger world also to blondes or brunettes. Remember my post “Checklist for The Cancer Club”? If you’ve failed the cancer envy test you might want to go for some “ginger envy”?! Hair dressers could offer “ginger- to-go”- wigs. You could have your eyebrows dyed, or, if you’re very shy, your hairy nether regions for a start, before you have your coming-out as a trans-ginger.

I’m not sure about the laws. Are gingers aloud to marry non-gingers and vice versa? Is there a country there that openly disparages redheads and publically discriminates against them? Have the USA ever had a mixed-race female ginger-haired president? Is there a tinge of the ginge in Mrs Merkel’s fringe?  Is Tim Minchin a redhead at all, or is he a secret member of the ginger envy movement? Is there a conspiracy against gingerism that tries to undermine the genuine ginger community?

Whatever! Cancer treatment is excessively expensive and I would like to appeal to whoever is responsible for free “prescriptions of Minchin”, and an extra-large helping of him in moments of great fear or desperation. At least for me it has been and still is quite impossible NOT to laugh so hard when I watch  him and listen to him that I almost need medical attention. Good thing is, I’m usually in hospital when this happens, haha. Don’t mistake me for a weird fan. I AM as mentally sane and as intellectually independent as you can wish for.

Listening to Tim Minchin’s beautiful mixture of the finest and the foulest language has triggered something in my brain that makes the production of (foreign) language even easier for me than before. Actually, English has never come to me as naturally as it does these days. Probably because English is NOT my mother tongue, I find it more easy to juxtapose my most desperate, my most ridiculous and my most hilarious thoughts that have to do, at least marginally, with my illness and all of its consequences. Writing in English instead of in German probably helps me to keep a certain distance and to look in a rather bemused fashion, tongue-in-cheek style at my life. To mock my own experiences. To show cancer my finger. And it is not my index finger. Nor my thumb. Or my ring finger. Guess what, it is not my pinkie finger either.

And this is my sciency bit for this post: writing and talking about cancer and EVERYTHING that has to do with your life since diagnosis may help you to sort out your priorities in life. It may help you to get on with your life. And remember to give things a proper name. Don’t bite your tongue if you want to tell cancer to fuck off.  Do it in French, Italian, German, Spanish, whichever language suits you best, or has the nicest swear words, or the nicest-sounding curses.

Another advantage is that cursing, swearing, abusing in a foreign language is far more easy and fun than in one’s own. Give it a try. Say “verdammter Scheißdreck” (pronounce “fare-dum-tear shise-drek”), “Kackmist” (“cuck-mist”), “Schweinebacke” (“shvine-a-buck-a”). What do you think? Good, isn’t it!? I’ve always loved using foul language in highly academical contexts, as a rhetorical device, to oppose meaningless, upper class bullshit with even more meaningless, lower class crap.

My own background is not lower class, but underground class. I grew up in a big city ghetto. Up to this day I love using my upbringing as an excuse for occasionally employing underwhelmingly foul language. The fun thing is that kids tell me to watch my tongue sometimes, and they always justify their cheeky intervention in the same way: they say that they’ve been told it is not accepted to say “arse” or “fuck” or “shit”. My answer is usually along the lines: “Oh darling, see, I am grown-up and believe me, I am using all the words that there are.”

Isn’t it just fab sometimes, to be an adult and to get all the fun you were denied as a child!? And on top of this I feel soooooo clever, because I know all the ghetto stuff AND the academic stuff. Actually I am quite perfect. And, of course, the best thing about me is, that in addition to all my ingenuity,  I am not at all narcissistic or conceited, but modest to the extent of self-denial.

Yours, undemonstratively,

Maid Manu.


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K and S

I used to have two friends who were bulwarks of friendship and love. When I became ill they closed in and held me up. They kept me from drowning. Whenever my Ace of Base music was becoming too overwhelming, too loud, they would drown it out by normality. I could then share everyday thoughts with them and they with me. It helped me to stay sane. No, THEY helped me to stay sane. Their funny messages – K´s little chemo poems are legendary – made me laugh out loud. But also S´s heart-warming stories of Super S and Manu Croft manoeuvred me through the toughest times. Just like that. I remember moments of sheer greatfulness and joy even in the darkest moments whenever I thought about these two. They lighted up my life then.

How can I ever live without them? How can the earth still revolve when I don´t have them by my side anymore? I miss them dreadfully, but I have to grow out of them. Mum says about K: “Put her in an envelope and send her away.” She is absolutely right.

They fucked it up completely. S has turned out to be completely sick in the head. Her envy of my cancer took her over completely and brought out the heartless, mindless bitch in her. And K couldn´t bear the size of my problems. She so wanted to have bigger problems then me. How completely mental is this?!

I think I will never be fully able to let go of these two. But then, hey. I hope I have another 40 years to cry for them.

Yours, devastatedly,

Maid Manu.


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Imagine

Imagine the music that you hate the most. Have it? All right. Now walk to your imaginary CD player and insert this musical CD. Switch on the player and set it on “very loud” and on “repeat all”. Remember to switch on the Dolby surround system as well. Sit down very uncomfortably in the centre of the room, preferably on a block of ice or a nail board. Sit there for 24 hours. Don´t move. Don´t go to the toilet. Don´t eat. Don´t talk to anybody.

Until 5 months ago, since my diagnosis, I was in this room, listening to Ace of Base for 19 months. Without a proper break. 7 months after the music had begun, when my friend of 16 years let me down, a second tune joined in. From then on I was listening not only to Ace of Base 24/7, but also to Free Jazz, which, for me, is hell. These two different kinds of music don´t go together well AT ALL. Shortly after, my from then on former friend of 19 years tuned in as well, offering Oasis AND Radio Head in a crossover of the genre “Fuckheads joined up for suicidal self-indulging bullshit”.  Fuck me. No, fuck them. Ace of Base, Ace of Base, Ace of Base, Ace of Base, Free Jazz, Free Jazz, Free Jazz, Free Jazz, Free Jazz, Oasis AND Radio Head, Oasis AND Radio Head, Oasis AND Radio Head.

In order to keep at least half sane, I had to listen to music that I love REALLY loud, preferably constantly the same music, in this case Eros Ramazotti´s NOI from 7am to 7pm. Then, when the kids were in bed, I switched on the TV and watched my favourite series AND worked at the computer at the same time. At the computer I prepared every single school lesson that I had to teach the following day between 2 and 4 hours to keep my mind focused on something good, something that I had influence on. Then, around 11 pm, I went off to bed, switched on the CD player to listen to the same audio books over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over … again. I woke up between 2 and 12 times, lay awake between 2 minutes and 2 hours, and listened to the same audio book over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over … again.

The next morning I woke up and it was Ground Hog Day – again! Ace of Base, Ace of Base, Ace of Base, Ace of Base, Ace of Base, Ace of Base, Ace of Base, Free Jazz, Free Jazz, Free Jazz, Free Jazz, Free Jazz, Free Jazz, Oasis AND Radio Head, Oasis AND Radio Head, Oasis AND Radio Head.

And then? Guess what? 7 am to 7 pm: Eros Ramazotti´s NOI. Then, when the kids were in bed, I switched on the TV and watched my favourite series and worked at the computer at the same time. At the computer …

This held true for every single second of every single minute of every single hour of every single day of my life for nineteen months. And yet I was grateful for every single one of these moments, because they meant that I was still alive.

And suddenly, five months ago, the sickening music stopped.

Yours, no longer haunted,

Manu Maid.


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