The Ten Commandments, Dog Edition

The Christmas celebrations started this week with a pot luck at our PALS team leader’s home. How generous of her to invite our pooches to join us. Yet the closer the date came, the more my anxiety rose.

During PALS visits, the dogs’ contact with one another is limited. They are to be leashed and under our control at all times. Jelly loves these other dogs, and is tortured she can’t frolic with them on site.

What was I thinking bringing her along to this lunch, then? Without a doubt she’d be overwhelmed with delight. All the new sights and sounds and smells and unleashed friends! Before we left, I read her the riot act. I couldn’t have been more clear. This is what I told her:

  1. Thou shalt not jump on the couch, repeatedly, despite consistent scolding. This is not the retirement home.
  2. Thou shalt not inspect any counters looking for food that someone has forgotten to place out of your reach.
  3. Thou shalt not consume any detritus in the host’s backyard.
  4. Thou shalt not steal any food from unsuspecting people’s plates. Similarly thou shalt not select the target most vulnerable to such a theft.
  5. Thou shalt not become preoccupied with other dogs’ privates. This includes but is not limited to unwanted humping.
  6. That shalt not spend excessive time inspecting thy own privates. Thou shalt save that for home.
  7. Thou shalt not rifle through the host’s laundry, nor transport any soiled undergarments for all to see.
  8. Thou shalt not howl in the house, rendering the group unable to hear one another.
  9. Thou shalt not instigate play with thy friends during the meal. (See Commandment 7.)
  10. Thou shalt not mark the luxurious deep pile carpet in any way.

Despite her briefing, Jelly broke most of these commandments over the course of our visit. Why didn’t I consider that she’d shame me? Why didn’t I leave her at home?

The carpet proved especially appealing. While we chatted in the living room, Jelly scooted her nether regions along the length of it three times. God bless the gracious host who believed Jelly was “marking her territory”, tastefully reframing Jelly’s wiping her butt. Needless to say, I left the lovely get together with my tail between my legs.

Ms. Team Lead and I crossed paths today at another PALS visit. Because occasionally one apology, however sincere, is not enough, again I begged forgiveness for Jelly’s  misbehaviour at the party. I asked Ms. T.L. if she’d like Jelly’s doggie allowance to pay for carpet cleaning. “Oh, not to worry, that was nothing,” she responded graciously.

What did she mean, exactly? After we left, Ms. T.L. discovered a dog had peed voluminously on the basement rug. Thankfully, the carpet’s Scotch Guard made clean up a breeze. She attributed this misdemeanour to another dog in the group. I’d have been more likely to assume it was Jelly’s doing–past ill behaviour is the best predictor of future ill behaviour–but maybe it wasn’t.

Did Jelly keep her unseemly marking to the living room? No one will ever know for sure. Jelly has not had accidents indoors for years. Sure, she can heed those commandments; she simply chooses not to. I can assure you, she didn’t get that from me.

Terrier on bed with sign around neck: "I stole a little girl's ice cream at the park."

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A story without a fairy tale ending

Cover of Hunger by Roxane Gay

As the year nears its end, I become excited about the publication of the Top 100 book lists. One book on every list I’ve seen is Hunger: A memoir of my body by Roxane Gay. When I am a grown-up writer, I want to be Roxane Gay. (Sorry Gabrielle Zevin, you’ve been usurped for now. I still love The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, though.) If you’re interested in reading Hunger, know that it’s not an easy book to get through. The author bares all in her writing.

I hadn’t known of her previously, but Roxane Gay is a respected author of both fiction and nonfiction. She is also morbidly obese in what she justly calls a fat-phobic society. She was gang raped at age 12, after which she gained weight to keep herself physically and sexually safe from others. Dr. Gay views herself as a victim rather than a survivor of her rape, and acknowledges she has not healed from the trauma. She suggests people stop judging the obese without knowing their story, and realize that fat [her word] people have other attributes too.

Dr. Gay, who has a Ph.D. in technical writing and is currently a professor at Purdue University, acknowledges years of self-loathing, challenged relationships, and discomfort in her own body. Her frankness about her life is both uncomfortable and enlightening. She described the profound effects of an emotionally abusive relationship in a way that still haunts me.

She speaks of the all-too-frequent judgement and the difficult situations that she experiences. Strangers censure what she places in her grocery cart and deride her as she walks down the street. Well-meaning friends patronize her by sharing their insights about food, nutrition, and weight loss. Professional colleagues cannot hide their surprise when, after corresponding on line, they first encounter her in her physical glory. Imagine realizing you’ve been provided a chair for a reading that will not comfortably support your body, and worrying the whole time that that chair could break.

This book helped me to imagine what being obese would feel like in a society where thinness equals beauty. Is anyone truly above judging people based on their outward appearances? I know I’m not.

Near the end of the book, Dr. Gay described an ankle break that resulted in a hospital stay, and her community of support’s unexpected rallying around her. Despite all her self-loathing, she realized how many people love her and would miss her if something were to happen to her. I was reminded of how moved I was by my own troops’ tremendous support of both me and J. when I was deathly ill in the ICU. I also recall how much I appreciated the teary hugs I received when I was finally sent home. I too felt that I would have been missed had I not survived.

I can’t say reading this book will be fun, but you too could scratch an insightful read off your Top 100 list. Like me, you may find that Dr. Gay’s insights stay with you. When I’m next on an airplane and the fattest person walking down the aisle takes the seat next to me, I’ll think about this book, and I’ll make as much room as I can. Do unto others and all….

 

Volunteering is not without its risks

Jelly on floor with several hands petting her during PALS visit

‘Tis the season for extra volunteering shifts. We are on the University of Calgary team that visits campus monthly to help the students manage their stress. This week, the last week of classes before exams, we have three visits. Students wait for up to an hour for 15 minutes of heavy petting.

Jelly loves going to the university because the students will sit on the floor with her and let her lick their faces with abandon. They don’t even seem to mind her shedding all over their black yoga pants.

I also enjoy these visits. They remind me of how glad I am that I’m no longer in university. I must have been a nervous wreck dealing with all that academic pressure. Also, I’m thrilled that so much of Jelly’s hair is left in the university meeting room instead of in our home. Forget about trying to brush your dog; join PALS and the students will do the job for free.

During today’s visit, Jelly was looking especially adorable, and we haven’t even brought out her Christmas costume. Because she was so endearing, as I’m sure you’d agree if you met her, many students wanted to hang out with her. When I encouraged them to fondle her very soft ears, they couldn’t help but be smitten.

Of course Jelly was the subject of many photographs today, some selfies with students and some solo shots. One young woman moaned, “Who can resist those puppy dog eyes?” That seemed like a rhetorical question to me–all canines have puppy dog eyes–but I stopped my inappropriate self from addressing this with her.

Another student, whom we’ll name Emily–Emily is the most common girls’ name in the year this student was likely born–seemed especially enamoured with Jelly. She took a few shots of Jelly lying down with her tongue sticking out. Forget the puppy dog eyes; who can resist a napping dog sticking out her tongue?

While she was visiting, Emily texted her mother, “This is Jelly,” attaching a picture. She then added, “I want her for Christmas.” Emily’s mother, bless her soul, responded with a happy face emoji. Thankfully, she did not promise to wrest our dog from us to give to her daughter for Christmas.

Just to be safe, I intervened as well. I said, “Ahem, Emily, you do understand that I am Jelly’s mother (shhh, she needn’t know I’m not Jelly’s favourite mother), and that I might pose a barrier to your taking her home?” I hope we cleared that misunderstanding up. Emily and I parted on civil terms, or at least I think we did.

I will have to keep a close watch over Christmas, however. Is it possible that, rather than coming through our chimney to deliver gifts, Santa will send an elf down to steal Jelly and take her to Emily’s home? (Do elves commit thievery to fulfil children’s wishes? I don’t know. We didn’t cover this in Hebrew school.) You can bet I’ll grab that elf off the shelf (or the mantle, in this case) if I catch him tampering with my family. Some boundaries are not to be crossed.

How to survive a jump off the cliff

Whoops! I guess I’ve been misspeaking by calling my CML drug chemotherapy. The daily medication I’m on is not technically a chemotherapy. My tyrosine-kinase inhibitors (TKIs) are actually called targeted therapies. They stop my CML-causing genetic mutation from producing leukemia cells, and they really work. At last count, there were very few of these deadly cells hanging out inside me.

The only problem with TKIs is that they have side effects that can render them intolerable for some patients. I’ve had few difficulties with the medication–I barely notice I’m on it–with occasional exceptions. While it effectively inhibits my cancer cells, my TKI reduces the production of my white cells and platelets as well. That’s why my white blood count is much lower than it used to be, which is not a bad thing. It’s the TKIs’ platelet-lowering effect that is proving to be problematic of late.

When my liver was misbehaving a few weeks back, Dr. Blood Lite was concerned about my lack of platelets. There just weren’t enough of those sticky cells swimming around. This makes me vulnerable to bruising and bleeding. I had noticed small changes that I had attributed to the perils of travel. I always come home bruised from vacation, mostly due to my clumsy suitcase handling. This time I was covered in black and blue, although I hadn’t had any major incidents like falling or walking into walls. I must have been going through a sensitive period.

My bruises started healing upon my return, and indeed my platelet counts had risen when last assessed. Over the past few days, I may be having a little backslide, however. One bruise I can attribute to yesterday’s gruelling dolphin pose in yoga class. God did not intend for my body to mimic the dolphin. Dolphin pose puts a lot of pressure on my elbows, so the bruising is almost expected.

Only this morning’s repeat blood test will confirm whether my platelets have tanked again. If they are low, Dr. Blood Lite may insist I suspend my TKIs for a few weeks to allow my bone marrow a reprieve. As he said, my drug has been working so well that a few weeks off should not be a problem.

A drug holiday is not a problem for him, I’m sure, but how about me? If you were on a medication that was keeping you alive, would you want to tamper with it? To me, this feels like bungee jumping with a faulty cord. Oh, and a deadly fear of heights. I know rationally that a break from my TKIs will not make my leukemia cells proliferate wildly, but I’m not always rational at times like this.

If the doctor suspends my TKIs, I will take that leap of faith since I trust him with my life. I will close my eyes and jump. I may know that I’ll be fine with a short reprieve, yet I’ll feel better once I can resume treatment again. To me, it will feel like being back on solid ground.

In the meantime, no more dolphin poses for me. Better safe than bruised.

woman bungee jumping in midair

Consent by any other name is not so sweet

One of psychologists’ core ethical principles is maintaining appropriate boundaries with our clients. We all define appropriate boundaries in our own way, but there are certain immutable guidelines. Here are mine.

I do not spend time with clients outside a therapy session, either on line or in person. This means not being Facebook friends, not going for dinner together, not meeting up for the latest exhibit at the art gallery, and not signing up for the same yoga class. If a client ends up in yoga with me, that’s different; as long as I don’t orchestrate our co-attendance, and we don’t have an unplanned therapy session during savasana, I have not violated these rules.

To take this one step further, any ethical psychologist does not engage in a sexual or romantic relationship with a client ever. Some might consider such a relationship permissible after the therapeutic relationship ends, but not me. If you can’t figure out why that shift in boundaries would be inappropriate, I’d suggest you not become a therapist.

Thus, if I am a client’s therapist, I can’t also be his employee or his best friend or his soccer coach. This philosophy is clearly foreign to the entertainment industry. Daily of late another idiot confesses under duress to behaving in a sexually inappropriate manner with one or two or 60 people over whom he has had power. These abusers’ power lies in their potential positive or negative influence on that person’s career. Maybe I can educate this industry to end these long-standing abuses of power.

The Harvey Insights

  1. If you are in a position of power over an individual, whether as a movie producer or a mentor or a coach or a boss or a teacher or a parent or a therapist, do not engage in a sexual relationship with that person.
  2. If the object of your interest is 40+ years your junior, let’s assume there is an inherent power imbalance. In other words, date someone your own age.
  3. If you hold meetings in your hotel room and forget to wear clothes, your behaviour may be construed as sexually improper.
  4. If your ungentlemanly sexual behaviour is the talk of the town, be aware that at some point the police may get involved.

If it is too late for you, and you have already made gross (in all senses of the word) errors in judgement, consider that the following are not valid excuses for your behaviour.

The Life-Is-No-Longer-a-Bed-of-Roses Excuses

  1. I was drunk and I can’t remember abusing you.
  2. I was confused about my sexual identity at the time.
  3. I have a sexual addiction. (Sorry, folks, there is no such thing as a sexual addiction, and thus no treatment for this fictitious ailment. Sexual addicts are people unwilling to admit to their propensity to abuse others sexually.)
  4. I thought she consented. (Have you already forgotten that 40+ year age difference and the inherent power imbalance mentioned earlier? Perhaps you’re suffering from age-related memory loss. You might want to investigate that. Oh, and stop flattering yourself.)

Finally, consider that not saying yes may mean no. If you put on your reading glasses, you might better be able to read between those lines, fellas. Don’t miss the oh-so-subtle signs of your subordinate’s fleeing screaming from your hotel room.

Quote: It's not consent if you are making me afraid to say no

The princess and the pee

Red basset hound licking woman's face

We’ve been home from our international adventure for two weeks now, and my post-vacation fever is long gone, but my mellow yellow phase seems to be hanging on. I don’t quite feel like myself, although I feel like I should by now. I’ve been dabbling in yoga and walking the dog, and Jelly and I have been PALSing around, yet when I’m at home, I am crashing.

I don’t want to admit that I’m still unwell. I tell myself my symptoms are all in my head. Maybe jet lag is hanging on. Maybe I’m depressed because our trip is over. Maybe I’m overexerting myself during the day. My blood test results were almost back to normal, so I don’t have reason to feel so crummy. But I do feel crummy. I can’t seem to make it through the day, and sometimes not even through the morning, without a nap.

Yesterday, for example, I took the dog to the dog park so she could eat sticks (why else do dogs go to the park?), I came home briefly, whereupon J. and I headed to the grocery store. We were home by 11 a.m. and I felt like I’d been up for hours. As I sat down to script my Monday post, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Before I knew it, I was talking to the couch.

Annie: Hi Couch.

Couch: Hi Annie. Short time no see.

Annie: Ha ha. Hey Couch, I was wondering, would you mind if I lay down for a bit?

Couch: I was actually hoping for a little alone time today. You’re seeming a little needy lately. How about talking to Bed instead?

Annie: Are you crazy, Couch? If I go to Bed, I’ll have to admit that I’m still sick. Bed is where sick people nap. I’m not sick. 

Couch: All right, but could you take the other end today? My right side is stiff from all this laying about.

Annie lays down on the other end of the couch. Within minutes, she is out cold, completely missing who said yes to what dress. About an hour later, she is awoken by the pitter patter of poorly trimmed dog nails.

Jelly: [Licking Annie’s face, which is at perfect Basset height] Hey mom, whassup?

Annie: [Firmly] Back to your bed, Jelly.

Jelly: [Whining] But mom….

Annie: TO YOUR BED!

Jelly sighs and then briefly returns her bed, whereupon Annie promptly falls back to sleep. Within minutes, Jelly is back up and pacing.

Jelly: [Urgently] Mom, pretty pretty please, could you take me out? I really have to go. I’m gonna have an accident. Please mom!

Annie: Jelly, sometimes it’s not all about you.

And so Annie dragged herself off the couch, put on her coat, and took the dog out to piddle. So much for the nap. And Couch was relieved to finally have some alone time.

As you have probably gleaned from this story, I’m not quite myself yet, even though I expected to be back to my normal by now. When exhaustion is my sole symptom, I struggle to accept that I am sick. Would I be more kind to myself if I had a cold? Maybe not. My denial runs deep.

 

 

Introducing the emotional hangover

Have I ever defined the post-Bar Mitzvah (Bat Mitzvah, in my case) blues? When someone gears up for something for so long, and it’s fantastic, but then it’s over? That’s what today feels like for me.

After months of anticipating yesterday’s Light the Night Walk in downtown Calgary on a beautiful fall evening, it’s over. My special support team walked the full five kilometres with me–a kilometre for every year–to celebrate my enduring good health. The evening was perfect.

I’ve described the walk before but allow me a medically inaccurate and absurd analogy. Imagine each walker as a blood cell. There are the white blood cells, the largest in size but fewest in number. Those are the leukemia (and other bloody disordered) survivors holding our little white lanterns. Then there are the red blood cells, which are smaller but more plentiful than the white cells. The red-lanterners are those walking in support of the white lanterners.

Platelets are small fragments of blood cells. They are represented by the gold lantern holders, who are survivors in their own way, walking in memory of someone who has died. They may feel they’ve lost a part of themselves.

Finally, let’s not forget the plasma, which carries nutrients, hormones, and proteins through the body. Consider the plasma all the amazing volunteers who registered all the walkers, distributed t-shirts and lanterns and coffee and hotdogs, and lined the pathway cheering us on.

We of many lanterns walked along a narrow pathway, clustered together but hopefully not clotting. We white lanterns were surrounded by our devoted red-lanterned supporters. One group followed after another, each its own community of red-lanterened support for one little white lantern. The gold-lanterned folks formed their own groups or were sprinkled amongst the whites and reds (we had two golds on our team) because blood disorders touch too many people. Along this narrow pathway–an artery? a vein?–walked all these blood cells, supporting one another, guided by our plasma support staff.

At moments during the walk, I looked around me and saw my little group, distinguished by their absurd team attire–perhaps next year you too could look sharp in a multicoloured Dr. Seuss hat–and I realized how not alone I am. While I searched for my own team, I saw so many similar groups ahead of and behind me, reminding me that we’re all in this together.

I’m blessed by the people who walked with me and the people who sent their regrets and wished me well. To the team members who hunted down my ridiculous 5-year pin, which I finally received from a kind volunteer, a 5-year survivor himself. To the two very handsome firefighters, the retired one who appeared on site unexpectedly with his beloved partner, the other one in uniform who handed me my survivor’s rose at the end.

Today I am spent, drained, hungover, but in a good way. You must know this feeling. I look forward to next year’s event. If you too aspire to be a red blood cell in colourful clown attire, know there’s always next year.

Crowd picture at Light the Night Calgary 2017

A microscope may help you see our team.

Hangin’ at the hospice

Small dog on hospital bed being petted by patient

Twice a month, my PAL Jelly and I go to visit the seniors at a retirement home. Adjoining the home is a hospice, and often we stop in there along the way. Because Jelly is vertically challenged, it is hard for her to visit with people who are bedridden, but she does her best, seeking out chairs and couches so she can raise herself up within reach.

I admit that entering a hospice isn’t easy. I never know who I’ll meet and what condition they’ll be in. Others must feel the same because somedays there are very few visitors, if any. Some of the patients are so close to dying that they are not up to company.

The past few visits, we’ve been watching a dog-adoring hospice patient become increasingly frail. From the pictures hanging on the wall, I can see he was once a strong and vibrant man. On the wall, there are several pictures of him with his dog. Over time, he is having more and more difficulty moving his body and speaking clearly. Imagine the frustration of not being able to communicate easily. Despite his challenges, he greets the PALS dogs with a broad smile, even if he needs to be woken from sleep to visit.

Since this patient is missing his dog terribly and is unable to reach down to pet our dogs, we lift our dogs up onto the bed with him. When Jelly’s turn on the bed came yesterday, she was more than glad to oblige. She snuggled up to the patient and kissed his face repeatedly. He laboured with his little remaining muscle strength to raise his hand to pet her. I was moved watching his effort to be with the dogs.

While we were visiting, two granddaughters walked in to see him. One of the girls immediately started crying when she saw the dogs and bent down to pet them. She told us she had had a bad day and she was so glad we were there. She didn’t elaborate, but I was glad seeing the pups comforted her.

I tried to imagine how hard it would have been for these young girls to enter the hospice not knowing what condition their grandfather would be in that day. From one visit to the next, like us, they have been watching him die. What would they find to talk about? Would they even be able to decipher what he was saying? Could they find some way to communicate? Hopefully the brief PALS appearance facilitated their visit, which I’m sure wasn’t easy.

This experience reminded me that we bring our dogs to the hospice not only to see the patients. The staff caring for these patients day in and day out–the nurses, the aides, the cleaning staff–anticipate our arrival. The family and friends who arrive when we’re there appreciate the wagging tails as well. Some even schedule their visits when the PALS dogs will be there. I’m happy knowing that the dogs make the day a little bit easier for many of these people. They deserve at least that.

Getting back on the therapy horse

Bride trying dress with group watching on Say Yes to the Dress

Since I am expecting a hoard of new clients to swarm my office any day now, I felt it was time to brush up on my therapy skills. I considered reviewing some of the books on my office shelves or going to a family therapy conference or ten, but I’m taking the easy route instead: I’m watching television.

I’ve admitted previously that I have an odd fascination with Say Yes to the Dress, and not just because J. and I both wore jeans to our home wedding. Before I started watching this show, I did not realize that brides-to-be took entourages to shop for the special dress. Makes sense, I guess, to seek input.

I imagined that the bride’s opinion would take precedence in the end. If the bride said yes to the dress, who would care if her mother or best friend or clothing-designer cousin or long-deceased grandfather who spoke through her aunt the medium said no? A lot of people care, it turns out, especially the bride.

I’ve witnessed many a bride crying in her dressing room, afraid to exit for fear of the entourage’s reaction to her choice. Many a narcissistic mother has forgotten that the appointment is actually about her daughter the bride. And many the oblivious father is unaware that his daughter is more concerned with pleasing him than pleasing herself. Because I am a psychologist and not a medium, I can’t speak for the wishes of long-deceased grandfather.

I marvel at the sales associate-cum-family therapist who, while helping the vulnerable bride-to-be find her perfect dress, manages the needs of the highly opinionated crew she has brought with her. Consider this a glimpse into family, and group, dynamics. (Turns out we often play similar roles in groups as we do in our families.) Ms. (or Mr.) Dress-a-Bride manages to keep the entourage happy while ensuring that the bride’s needs are met. This often involves skilled negotiation with widely varying personalities.

Now let’s consider another favourite nap inducer, Chopped. The chefs who participate on this show are a product of their family upbringings, as are we all. There are the only-child competitors who won’t share ingredients vs. the eldests who unscrew their competitors’ unyielding bottle tops, if you believe in that birth-order baloney.

I’ve also learned from Chopped how many adult children are tormented by their parents’ disapproval of their professional choices, despite their successes in their careers. This needing-to-please theme sounds oddly familiar. (See above.) The chefs pray a Chopped win will foster their parents’ acceptance, finally, after all these years. Will these contestants ever understand that what matters most is how they feel about the path their lives have taken and not how their parents judge that path? I fear not, barring help from someone like me.

You too can hone your therapy skills from television shows like these. Who cares how to incorporate cinnamon hearts into an entrée or whether a princess gown or a mermaid would better suit the bride? Focus on what really matters, like I do: how people are getting along.

Once you master the complex dynamic issues in these shows, we can move on to 90 Day Fiancé or even Big Brother. On second thought, maybe not. Even I have my limits.

Celebrate your milestones, whatever they are

3 Light the Night walkers with their Survivor t-shirts

We leave on our big vacation in 12 sleeps. When we were first planning this vacation, J. told me her rush of fall weddings would end immediately following Thanksgiving. We could be on the plane already, except I didn’t want to miss the annual leukemia walk. Which would you choose, a trip to Israel or a leukemia walk? Don’t answer that.

This decision to delay the vacation may not make sense to you; I’m a little bewildered by it myself. Going on this annual walk, hanging out with my fellow leukemics, wearing my guest-of-honour SURVIVOR t-shirt, has become a significant event in my year. I’ll try to explain.

My definition of a milestone has changed over my five years with leukemia. After I became so sick, I was proud of being able to walk unassisted and to tie my shoes without falling over. I vividly recall my first post-diagnosis yoga class, which I survived despite falling over a few times. I remember cooking my first real dinner post diagnosis, and seeing my first client. Being alert enough to drive again was another milestone.

As time passes, the goals have shifted. There’s the annual Cancer Centre’s Christmas gift-basket draw, which means I’m alive to lose my money again for a good cause. I don’t hate my birthday anymore, and the importance of cancerversaries is self-explanatory. For whatever reason, this leukemia walk has taken on an odd significance in my annual calendar. It’s my prize for getting leukemia and not dying from it.

This year’s will be all the more special because I will finally receive my 5-year pin. Now you know the real reason I delayed my vacation: I wanted a silly little commemorative pin. Frankly, I could have lied about how many years I’d had the illness and received this pin anytime–no one asks for a doctor’s letter–but I’m too honest for such deception.

This coveted pin is nothing to speak of. It’s the shape and colour of a drop of blood with a 5 on it. The blood-drop symbol is almost identical to that used by Canadian Blood Services. When I wear my pin proudly, people may well assume I am a blood donor (I selfishly only take blood), and not a leukemia survivor.

Does it matter that the pin will have meaning only to me? Of course not. If anyone asks, I can always set them straight. (Ha ha. “Gay person sets unknowing one straight.” And they say we’re out [no pun intended, truly] to convert people!)

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I never envisioned reaching goals like these. Now, planning for my next milestone keeps me hopeful that leukemia is not going to take my life. No wonder cancer-related goals, however insignificant, have become so important to me.

Then, two days later, J. and I will leave for Israel. Who ever thought I’d get any doctor’s blessing to travel so far? Yet another cause for celebration. That and anticipation of the best hummus and falafel anywhere. I can almost taste it….

A plate of hummus with falafel balls in the middle