Monday, May 21, 2012

A Name For It

Don't take this post so much as a list of complaints as a list of information. Yeah, that's right, I'm not griping, I'm informing! Go with that.

I just found out that something I've been noticing isn't just some random thing but it is an actual condition with a name and everything. Right about the time my radiation treatments stopped I started noticing an electric tingling in my neck and back if I bend my neck forward. Lhermitte's sign. It's not an unpleasant feeling but it's definitely something I worried over a little bit. My Facebook friend, Jennifer Morita Kerr, had asked me if I had had any neuropathy, or nerve damage, from treatment and I hadn't thought of mentioning this, as I hadn't been aware that it was technically neuropathy.

Lhermitte's sign can be caused by radiation as well as chemo, particularly large doses of platinum-based chemo, which I had with Cisplatin. It is also caused by spinal disk herniation, which I also have (unrelated to the treatment) as well as nitrous oxide abuse, which I do not partake in, as well as a number of other conditions, including Multiple Sclerosis.

So let's expand the list of knowledge:
  • Nerve damage to:
Soft palette
Right side of neck from jawline to collarbone
Right ear
Right side of chest
Spinal column (Lhermitte's sign)
Throat muscles
Slight numbness in fingers and toes (dissipating)
  • Extremely reduced saliva production making eating a risky chore
  • Radiation damage to throat muscles causing them to misfire or not work at all, making swallowing an always-risky event
  • Pain and discomfort in shoulder as well as seriously reduced range of motion
  • Pain in neck and chest from reconstructive surgery (the whole chest muscle in my neck thing
  • Tendonitis in my neck where tendons are exposed due to the removal of tissue and muscle covering them
Minor complaints:
  • Tinnitus (constant cicadas in my ears). Cisplatin is known to cause this. It basically kills the little hairs in your ear canals.
  • Reduced hearing (probably the same
  • Permanent loss of hair at the base of my skull
  • Lack of "seal" in mouth, adding to my difficulty swallowing as well as making sneezing and blowing my nose difficult. No gargling. Too much risk of choking.
  • Almost daily muscle spasms in neck
  • Circulation issues (always cold)
  • Pain in jaw (minor TMJ)
  • I think I have 'chemo brain'. I have always been a bit of an airhead, but my usually excellent memory seems to have suffered a bit.
  • I miss my tooth and my chin whiskers
  • I also miss sandwiches. A lot.

Cancer sucks. All cancers are horrible destroyers, but of all the various forms cancer takes, Head and Neck Cancer is among the most traumatic when it comes to long term effects. I'm not trying to diminish anyone else's struggle or victories over cancer, but losing a breast or part of your lung isn't quite the same as losing your ability to eat, talk or in some cases, breathe without help. Roger Ebert lost his entire lower jaw. This means a permanent feeding tube and no speech, even with a throat mic.

*edit* and yeah, I did minimize everyone else's struggle. Losing a breast or a piece of your lung is pretty damn traumatic, to say the least.

Still, even with this laundry list of gripes, I feel very fortunate. That it was found in time. That I found a great surgeon. That my awesome oncological team did what they said they could do - cure me. That I can still eat AND TASTE real food. I don't know if I would make it very long pouring nasty gunk in a tube in my stomach for the rest of my life. I'm fortunate that I have amazing friends and family. I'm fortunate that my list of ills isn't longer and scarier. That I can function. That I'm alive to go see The Avengers with Kaia earlier tonight.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

So Happy I Forgot

My last post promised news and I dropped that like a bar of soap. The good news and my kid coming to town had me a bit distracted.
My scan was all clear and my doctor was very pleased. She only complained about how skinny I am. I think I am a bit thin, but am not really interested in packing on the pudge she seems to be remembering from before treatment. I've actually gained 4 pounds since my last appt. My next scan isn't for six months now. One more 6-monther after that and then it's once a year.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Let the Wild Rumpus Start! Maurice Sendak 1928 - 2012

It's very weird seeing someone doing a lively, funny interview, as Maurice Sendak, the creator of Where the Wild things are, had done only a month or so ago on Stephen Colbert's show, and then find out they're dead.

My favorite tv and movie and everything else website, Pajiba, has a great memorial, but the comments are better and have great links to his interviews.

Peter de Sève

I got your average pushmail today but couldn't send it straight to the trash without mentioning it here, if only so I can get some sympathetic mojo from the awesomeness of this man's work.

I've been seeing Peter de Sève's illustrations for ever, but didn't realize how awesome he was until I found out that he was the artist behind the rather different and goofy character design for Ice Age. The spiraling rocks, the impossible yet expressive body types, you could almost see the swirling pen strokes in the landscapes. He has also worked on Finding Nemo, A Bug's Life and Robots, but his style doesn't shine through as much as in Ice Age, especially his scruffy squirrel/rat, Scrat.

Anywho, he's done many New Yorker covers over the years and the magazine is offering them as prints. Not too pricey. Well, too pricey for me, unless they're signed or something, which they're not.

Anyway, that's my art public service for the day.

Ironed Out Chucks

Figured it was safe to post what I made for the offspring to wear to the Avengers premier.

Monday, May 07, 2012


I'm a bit behind on this one. Every news and entertainment outlet has already done their retrospective tribute to Adam Yauch. All the tweets have been twittered and the faces booked. I write this now almost out of a feeling of obligation. It's not that I don't want to say something about the man, it's that I don't want to think about where he is and where I am.

I was never a huge Beastie Boys fan. To be honest, I hate everything they did before Ill Communication, where they truly crossed hip-hop and metal, not that screamy crap rap they were doing first. Brass Monkey and No Sleep make we want to hurt things. I've liked them since then, but only own one CD, said Ill, and don't have any songs on any playlist.

When I'd heard he had died, I hadn't known at first why. I was fairly surprised, as I hadn't known he was Illin. Too soon?.. Then I found out that he had cancer in one of his salivary glands and things got real, as the kids say. It's a strange concept, that any cancer above the chest is considered to be in one category: Head and Neck Cancer. I'm not sure if brain tumors or skin cancers on the head or face fall into that category, but Salivary Gland Cancer and Tonsil Cancer do.

I find myself wanting to know more about his experiences, his decisions. I can't wrap my brain around why his cancer took his life and why mine didn't. Why his took it after three years. Did he stop treatment? Did he opt for less aggressive treatment? Did he just have a very stubborn cancer? Did it spread? Did it go away only to return? This is our concern, Dude.

Everyone's cancer is different. I guess that's the thing I'm learning here. Why do some people end up losing their bottom jaw and some people can still use theirs to gripe about the food they have trouble eating? Get checked, people.

I have a PET Scan in a couple of hours. This will be my third scan. Second since ending radiation and chemo. Hopefully the area that was a little 'glowy' last time will be gone.

*edit* I'll know on the 10th when I meet with my oncologist.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Temporary Titles

I'm going with the rather bland name, Ridgeline until I can think of a good one for this. It's only about halfway finished, but my technique is similar to the previous painting, Desperately Wanting. The difference here is that I used a better camera and a tripod. I plan to get the rest down for posteriors, but wanted to get this up in the meantime. Next time I will get video. Okay, let's go behind the curtain once more.

I should probably explain the red canvas.
These canvasses came from a friend of my roommate's.
I think they were some sort of DIY modern art project.
3 Red canvasses.

I like a warm undertone to my paintings, but I usually go more orange or yellow,
Unless it's supposed to be around dusk or something. Not much really shows through, but it
presents opportunities to, and, depending on the paints used, can remain softly in the background.
As you can see from these two, I apply the paint directly from the tube onto the canvas.
I do this for a couple of reasons, but mostly because it always seemed silly to put it onto
another surface and paint it up while mixing. I know the colors I want to use and I hate wasting all that paint.
After pushing all that paint around.
I think it would have taken me at least twice as long and would have used more paint
if I had squeezed the paint onto a palette first.
Redefining the structure of the image a bit.
Tweaking it a little more.
Reworked some of the sky, adding some violet and brick red to grey it down some.

I'd say it's about halfway done at this point.
Overall it needs to be lightened up considerably, at least in the foreground.
The middle ground to the right needs some attention as well.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

I Remember Running Through the Wet Grass

One of the problems with painting is deciding you are done. This is a relative concept, of course. It is only done when you decide it is, and in many cases, a piece can be considered done at many points in its development.

The decision about when to stop, for me, tends to land near the decision on the style of the piece.The more abstract I want the image, the earlier I stop laying shapes and colors and start refining them. A few more passes at the canvas and it's a passable Impressionist piece. The further I paint, the closer I get to Realism.

The poor quality of the images don't help the argument, but these are some in progress shots:

The canvas started out rather Kandinsky-esque as
I blocked in sky and laid out color tones for the field.
The canvas came to me already painted red, which is nice, as I like the undertone.
It helps the image stay warm with all those cool blues and greens.

I almost stopped at this point. I may even try to recreate the feel of this image.
It has a bit of a Diebenkorn feel, without the vertical angularity.

A little more refined. Totally could have stopped here.
Like a Chase landscape

2012 Guy Gondron
The finished piece.

Desperately Wanting
2012 Guy Gondron
Acrylic on canvas

I could probably work on it forever if I didn't get tired of seeing it on my easel.