Category Archives: My kidney cancer

Shania Twain Tribute 2

160px-It1927clarabow“It girl is a term for a young woman who possesses the quality It, absolute attraction.

“The early usage of the concept it in this meaning may be seen in a story by Rudyard Kipling: ‘It isn’t beauty, so to speak, nor good talk necessarily. It’s just It.’

“Elinor Glyn lectured:

“‘With It you win all men if you are a woman and all women if you are a man. It can be a quality of the mind as well as a physical attraction.’

“The expression reached global attention in 1927, with the film It, starring Clara Bow.”

–from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_girl

++++

I love the expression IT girl.

It fills the niche language requires for an often inexplicable phenomenon of desirability.

Shania Twain became the IT girl of country music in 1997 with the (pre-released sexy videos and the actual) album release of Come On Over.

Come On Over became the “best-selling studio album of all time by a female act in any genre,” the most popular country album ever with global sales of more than 40 million copies.

According to Wikipedia: “The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and stayed there for 50 non-consecutive weeks. It stayed in the Top Ten for 151 weeks.”

++++

This is a video of Shania Twain describing the title song and the album:

Nothing Shania Twain has done since has equaled the commercial success of the Come on Over album and analysis of its success continues to be a source of considerable speculation.

There is, for example, the observation that the album’s success was largely a result of the brilliance of her producer Robert JohnMuttLange–called by everyone Mutt.

Mutt

  • Co-wrote the Come on Over songs
  • Arranged for startlingly erotic videos
  • Insisted on Shania’s especially effective and previously unequaled video wardrobe

++++

I interrupt the thread by exposing you to more Shania message with the surprisingly static video:

“If you wanna to touch her, Ask” the number nine cut on Come on Over.

++++

Mutt

  • Married Shania
  • Fathered her son born (in all places for a country music performer) in Switzerland
  • Left Shania for her best friend and she…

Here is the Wikipedia account:

“In August 2001, their son Eja (pronounced ‘Asia’) was born. On 15 May 2008 a spokesman for Mercury Nashville announced that Twain and Lange [Mutt] were separating after Lange had an affair. Lange began seeing Twain’s best friend, Marie-Anne Thiebaud. The couple divorced in June 2010, and Twain is now married to Thiebaud’s ex-husband Frederic.”

++++

Here for the hell of it is another static video of what appears to me to be a feminist song, Shoes, co-written with Mutt.

Shania sings:

“Men: have you ever tried to figure them out?
Huh, me too, but I ain’t got no clue: how ’bout you?
Men are like shoes, made to confuse.
Yeah, there’s so many of ’em,
I don’t know which ones to choose….”

++++

To return to the consequences of Shania’s Coming Home success, when Mutt left questions remained,

  • Did Shania have the song writing talent to succeed without Mutt?
  • Could she wear clothes designed to look especially provocative in heavily marketed videos?
  • Could she refine and foster her feminist message and encourage others to follow her lead?

After a two year hiatus between albums, Shania released Up, a good album with a dreadful cover song (the only bad song she has ever released).

Impatience in fans for a sequel to Coming Home reached the point where one Philadelphia Country Music Station (whose devoted listeners consisted primarily of fans who had never ridden a horse nor could tell the difference between a soybean and a corn field) ran a contest. The winner obtained a free trip to Switzerland for the purposes of hounding Shania and asking her when she would finish the new album.

The album Up was widely regarded as a failure selling only 20 million copies globally compared to 40 million for Come on Home.

++++

Here is Shania Twain in 2003 demonstrating her post-Mutt star quality at the Michael Jackson spot at the Super Bowl, singing from both albums:

++++

Shania Twain remains productive and exceptionally desirable as she continues unrivaled as the Queen of Country.

++++

This leads one to ask: What is country music?

Shania Twain, whose first name was purchased by her former husband Mutt, never wanted to be a country performer. He goal was rock.

Now, a wide variety of singers have raised the crossover questions.

  • Is it country?
  • Is it rock?
  • What kind of music is it?

++++

The arbiter of course is Kris Kristopherson who declared definitely,

“If it sounds like a country music song, it’s a country music song.”

++++

Now would be a good time to describe The pantheon of country royalty which includes Shania’s place in the pantheon and the role of Country Music as cancer therapy. You may have been wondering when I will get around to this subject.

In the next posting  The pantheon of country royalty we will start with Tim McGraw, the undeniable current King of Country.

Here is Taylor Swift, undeniably country–her first solo performance was at a rodeo–, paying tribute to the King by singing the song that brought her fame:

Tim McGraw

–30–

Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I am 66 years old

Givingheraway

I am 66 years old today.

I was listening to a George Strait song at midnight Troubadour.

Troubadour is a song in which an older and wiser George Strait sings:

“I still feel 25 most of the time./ I still raise a little cain with the boys./ Honky Tonks and pretty women, But Lord I’m still right there with ’em / Singing above the crowd and the noise…”

++++

Many friends do not understand that my musical passions consist both of Mozart and country music.

As if Glenn Gould playing Mozart piano sonatas and George Strait singing Troubadour does not present enough cause to question my focus…As if…

++++

Speaking of loss of focus: I am translating Psalm 2 from the Hebrew. “Why do the nations gather?” the apocryphal David begins.

Why indeed? This is not a happy poem despite the fact that the Hebrew sounds are so beautiful.

++++

A week ago today, I gave away my elder daughter Joanna Marie Solkoff to marry Jade Kosmos Phillips. Above is a photo of me giving her away—a photo that looks as though she is giving me away.

Joanna and Jade are on a two-week honeymoon to South Africa.

My younger daughter Amelia, maid of honor, is now back in rural Spain—having called me on Wednesday from the Chicago airport before boarding a non-stop to Madrid.

++++

It is odd in a way I cannot explain having grown children.

Now I am back from Mebane, North Carolina, named for an American Revolution General whom I expect helped General Green become defeated at Greensboro and hence, defeated, have the city in which he lost named after him.

sarahatwedding

This photograph from right to left shows my sister Sarah Schmerler, her son Asher Simonson, and her husband and Asher’s father Robert Simonson.

In the background and foreground is a display of the sense of elegance the wedding brought in North Carolina’s Alamance County a 45 minute ride from the Raleigh/Durham airport.

++++

The air trip of nearly 1,000 miles from small State College Airport to Delta’s hub at Detroit, to Raleigh/Durham was difficult.

I do not want to dwell on the difficulties involved in a paraplegic traveling by air from the small regional airport University Park Airport.

The reality is that through the diligent efforts of the splendid personnel at the airport under the effective leadership of James Meyer the airport made it possible for me to attend my daughter Joanna’s wedding and give her away.

I recognize the planes must be small, that the aisle chair is a necessity, and that I cannot bring with me heavy durable medical equipment, but the Amigo Travel Scooter is light enough to fly with me.

The security issues require people with disabilities such as I to present ourselves an hour earlier than everyone else because the security for disabled people in wheelchairs is significantly tighter than for able individuals.

Sadly, security issues are a federal matter. Indeed, Rep. Issa is currently looking into this.

++++

There are many ways in which all of us can help improve University Park Airport. The term “improvement” is not meant to criticize.

James Meyer and his excellent staff are running a very user-friendly airport.

The individuals who work for the airlines went out of their way for me. I flew Delta and I could not be happier about the quality of service to me as someone who is wheel chair bound.

Our airport is excellent. We need to spend more time at the airport and learn to understand it and appreciate it. Without our airport we could not obtain many of the items State College residents so clearly want and go to restaurants etc. to obtain. There is even an Irving’s at the airport.

++++

I am currently way behind in my work producing two academic papers. Academic writing is difficult to sustain for long periods of time and so I digress by….

Fortunately, tomorrow, Sunday Sonali and I will talk about the Bowers Project Paper and soon we will deliver it. Praise, the Lord.

++++

My health is of less and less of concern. I am appreciative of the fact that I survived the jaws of death. There are times I think twice about my ability to recover from major surgery. I go through periods of considerable pain. Dr. Russo’s nurse and my physician both agree I am doing fine and instruct me to have patience that the recovery will arrive, but slowly.

–30–

–Joel Solkoff, State College, PA, USA

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

 

Troubadour”

I still feel 25 most of the time.
I still raise a little cain with the boys.
Honky Tonks and pretty women,
But Lord I’m still right there with ’em
Singing above the crowd and the noise…

[CHORUS]
Sometimes I feel like Jesse James
Still tryin’ to make a name.
Knowing nothing’s gonna change what I am.
I was a young troubador
When I wrote in on a song.
And I’ll be an old troubador when I’m gone…

Well the truth about a mirror…
Is that a damn old mirror…
Don’t really tell the whole truth.
It don’t show what’s deep inside.
Or read between the lines.
And it’s really no reflextion of my youth…

[CHORUS]
Sometimes I feel like Jesse James
Still tryin’ to make a name.
Knowing nothing’s gonna change what I am.
I was a young troubador
When I wrote in on a song.
I’ll be an old troubador when I’m gone…

I was a young troubador
When I wrote in on a song.
And I’ll be an old troubador when I’m gone…
I’ll be an old troubador when I’m gone…

 

Wedding Toast

Horses on the horse farm Joanna and Jade will marry later this afternoon. Joanna taught horses to jump in nearby Chatham County.

Remarks prepared for delivery later today:

Good afternoon celebrants.

Before presenting a toast to Joanna, my daughter, and Jade, my freshly minted son-in-law, I will first provide context for the toast—context for the joy I feel as father of the bride; joy all of us feel for witnessing this overt commitment to love.

Kierkegaard was wrong. It is not God who requires a leap of faith. It is Love.

++++

Anyone observing Joanna’s behavior in the past few weeks culminating in the vow Until death do us part has been astonished.

Here was my aggressive, self-possessed daughter who expresses admiration for Napoleon’s ruthless acquisition of power….

Anyway, here she was, buckling at the knees full of fear and trembling, forgetting to breathe while her mother and I separately and continually urged she take deep breaths.

Jade by comparison, whose training as a Marine had prepared him well for any kind of disaster (albeit not the threat of happiness), projected a calm exterior any perceptive poker player would have spotted as phony by the tell of his eyes frequenting rolling out of control in surprise at the fate he had brought upon himself.

++++

My role in these proceedings has been two-fold. The first is as an atavistic participant in a chauvinistic ritual where I have just given away (as it is called) the bride. Giving away the bride is a concept that has boggled my mind.

Equally boggling was Jade calling me over a year ago from Hawaii asking Joanna’s “hand in marriage”—a hand I also did not own. Back then, in keeping with my Confucian notions of gentlemanly behavior, I blessed him. Then, I suggested he ask the person whose views on the subject actually matter.

++++

Today’s Japanese Noh-play-like performance is in sharp contrast to reality.

Ever since I literally cut the umbilical cord at Joanna’s birth, I knew that Joanna was on loan for the precious time allotted—never one I owned or was entitled to give away.

Fortunately, Joanna’s mother graciously provided assistance by writing the response to the ceremonial question: Who gives this bride away?

The answer: “Joanna’s mother and I do.”

++++

Having read Diana’s comments on the official wedding blog, I know that her responses to this occasion are similar to mine.

We are each delighted Joanna and Jade are marrying and wish them well.

Joanna is impulsive, brilliant, and ambitious.

Jade is steady, reassuring, and talented in ways he does not yet understand. He is Joanna’s anchor windward. She is his delight.

Their marriage today has auspicious signs and portents.

++++

My second role in these proceedings is to actually be alive and present.

In April, a physician showed me on a laptop a video of my right kidney surrounded by a cancerous tumor.

She said if I wanted to live an additional 10 years, the expertise to save me did not exist in my hometown.

She referred me to Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

In August, I had major surgery which removed the cancer and saved my kidney. My instant reaction to the cancer diagnoses was to embrace the physician and while crying, say, “I want to be there for Joanna’s wedding.”

Being here today is not enough. Not for me and not for those of us here who know and love Joanna and Jade. We want to be here to see what happens next. Of course, I also am eager to see what happens next for my younger daughter Amelia, whom I also love dearly and who leaves for another year in Spain on Wednesday.

++++

Now the toast. This afternoon we see the application of the Pueblo Indian expression:

We shall be one person.”

The key to your happiness is understanding.

The significance of your marriage is today we have all become one family.

No one can succeed alone; no marriage survives without help and assistance.

May you have the wisdom to continually refresh your happiness by relying on us when you need us and when you do not need us.

I toast you Joanna and Jade with these words: We are all in this together.

–Joel Solkoff, father of the bride

++++

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

Rodeo has enhanced my life—a cancer therapy digression

I swear out there ain`t where you ought to be / So catch a ride, catch a cab / Don`t you know I miss you bad / But don`t you walk to me / Baby run…. 

–George Strait

This is Taylor Swift singing her favorite George Strait song: Run

Consider the performance a teaser not on the importance of country music. Personally I love Mozart (five instruments or fewer).  I love country; I love what is happening to country music.

Here and now, I am trying to prepare you for my appreciation of the influence rodeo–yes rodeo–has had on my life.

++++

Consider the following first two paragraphs from a column I published February, 2011:

“The handler applies the fully charged cattle prod to the rear of a bull bred for ferocity. The cowboy—Slim really is his name—holds onto his hat with his left hand. In his right hand are the reigns, two strips of leather held on tightly at first, but capable of falling apart to help the rider jump away from the bucking bull to safety after the regulation eight second ride is complete.

“The maximum score is 100 points; 50 for the rider and 50 for the bull. A mean angry bull is the most desirable because he gives the rider the opportunity to make the most money. This bull is mean. When the bull jumps higher after the cattle prod, Slim smiles with optimism. The gate leading to the ring fails to open. Historically, when the gate sticks, a confined maddened bull has been known to break both legs of a rider. Slim, who attended rodeo schools, is aware of the danger.As a reporter at the World Series of Rodeo at Oklahoma City (before it moved to Los Vegas), I am sitting next to the handlers on the inside wooden planks of the chute. It took considerable effort to get permission to be this close to Slim—close enough to watch his pupils dilate into huge ovals displaying a fear he cannot disguise. The lead handler asks Slim if he would like to wait 20 minutes before beginning the ride. Slim nods him off. The gate opens.

“Sometimes it is prudent to know when to give up.”

++++

Later in this posting I will explain how I came to be sitting on the edge of the bull shoot watching the electric prod holder pressing his instrument against the mean bull’s huge hide and watching the fear in the bull riders eyes when he realized he was trapped with a maddened bull with the door to escape locked? What did I learn from that?

++++

Orientation note: I know I am missing something here. It feels as if I lost my car keys and am frantically rummaging through my stuff looking for the keys. Of course, what I am looking for here is some context.

Why is Joel [I am now going back and forth first to third person in describing myself clearly split in some way] writing about rodeo?

He just had cancer.

Doesn’t Joel have better things to do but type away words and words and words about the time he covered the World Series of Rodeo for a solid week of

  • Bull riding
  • Bronco riding
  • Roping
  • Barrel racing
  • Fervid pro-rodeo rhetoric
  • Groupies up from Dallas just waiting
  • a near-fight in the Gusher Club when the World Series Champion of Rodeo five years in a row nearly punched me for lifting the Champion’s $560 hat off the chair I wanted to sit on. It was a close call. “Never, ever touch my hat,” he said convincingly.

++++

Here is the Prologue Joel [that’s me] failed to provide on his way of introducing his rodeo theme.

++++

I have been thinking about my life. Next month I will be 66:

  • What have I accomplished?

  • What is left to be done?

For me the key to surviving cancer was the knowledge that I could not die because there was work to be done. The first cancer would not let me die because I had a book to finish under contract and my publisher would kill me if I defaulted. Nor would I have been alive to conceive my elder daughter Joanna.

If I died after the second cancer, I would not have had the opportunity to watch Joanna grow until next month when she will marry.

I am especially delighted that she is marrying Jade.

If I had died from the second cancer, I would not have been alive to conceive my younger daughter Amelia Altalena.

Amelia and I will see each other at the wedding after the cancer awfulness became successful surgery to remove the death threat of kidney cancer–an operation less than a month ago from which I am slowly getting better. Slowly.

Certainly, expert medical treatment and good odds were essential. I had the best medical care available during a period when advances were occurring rapidly and I was as close to those advances as possible.

++++

It is late during a very long day during which I made arrangements to attend Joanna’s wedding outside a horse barn in Mebane, North Carolina. I have been writing this posting automatically in the middle of serious stuff I am dealing with. For example, I have not yet recovered fully from major surgery and my mind does not have the attention span it once had. I find I am writing several things at the same time, saving the document, going away for a while.

When I went away for a while this morning, I saw George Strait play Amerilla.

I thought of the rodeo and what it meant to me. Sadly, I cannot leave you with more lessons learned and appreciation of rodeo, not to mention my life. I will return to rodeo. Do not you worry. I have a bad reputation for straying from the beaten path.

You can depend on it.

–30–

Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

Here  is the first stanza from George Strait song Amarillo, the best cowboy song ever written.

Amarillo By Mornin’ / Up from San Antone / Everything that I got / Is just what I’ve got on ./ When that sun is high in that Texas sky, /  I’ll be buckin’ at the county fair.”

My first YouTube on architecture two days before my operation

From the YouTube about section:

Published on Aug 29, 2013

Here is Joel Solkoff’s video in which he visited the Gagosian Gallery.

The Gallery’s Sarah Duzyk kindly arranged for him to visit the Renzo Piano exhibit after it had closed and indeed during de-installation.

Each desk represents a different Piano site.

The extensive array of desks displays Piano’s life’s work. Each desk has a summary of the creative approach beautifully illustrated. There are several volumes at each desk of published books about Piano.

Giorgio G. Bianchi, partner at Renzo Piano Workshop and lead architect on the Morgan, provided a fascinating lecture during the Gagosian Exhibition.

An article about the Morgan Library Museum Disability Architecture written by Joel can be found at: http://www.e-architect.co.uk/articles…

Video by Kathy Forer.

  • Category

  • License

    Standard YouTube License

How do I feel?

I do not feel real. There is a disconnect between my body, which does not feel good, and my mind, which does not feel good.

It is six in the morning. I am listening to Chopin’s Nocturnes; I am beginning to be not unhappy, but capable of realizing happiness will come.

My body feels as if it were hit by a Mack Truck—a brand new red truck exactly like the one friend Philip Moery and I saw just as it was driving off the assembly line lot–packing tons of raw power, initially a frightful yet beautiful sight.

All right, maybe the truck that hit me wasn’t red, but it still hurts.

Everything hurts.

++++

Amelia_Russo Office

++++

The fact that everything hurts is mitigated by the fact that I am no longer in excruciating pain the way I was two weeks ago.

The pills helped but not enough.

I took more pills and they did not help enough.

The pills caused my gastrointestinal system to go on strike—descriptions I will spare you.

++++

Yes, I realized my life had been saved as a consequence of the successful operation that not-so-appreciatively was making me wonder at my sanity to willingly submit to the aftermath of this surgery. Grappling two contradictory thoughts in my medicated head: The first was: I am glad to be alive. The second: I wish I were dead.

The glad to be alive prevailed throughout but sometimes only by a hair.

++++

Now, I am back at State College PA where I live. When I was in New York thinking about State College, I was in dread. The number of procedures required to get from there to here seemed overwhelming. Who, I wondered, was going to take apart my rear wheel drive scooter, my travel scooter, and my wheelchair and put them in the car?

At every step [sic] of the way, there were how-to-get-home questions ultimately only I could answer.

Dewy-eyed optimists might say that my problem solving was commendable because it was helping me reach my goal of saving my life.

Devastated, late in August, the problem-solving took on a distinctly unhappy feel. The problems had to be solved. I did not want to solve them. I had no choice.

++++

Upon arriving at State College, I was so relieved to be home. I had worried that everything with be dirty and a mess (on target), but it did not matter.

I no longer needed to receive permission to go to the bathroom and follow the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge rules requiring that I not bring my coffee from the common kitchen to my room.

Now, I can drink coffee as I type this and go to the bathroom without the nurse’s saying, “No.” No nurse. No No. Alone at last.

++++

Who am I alone? I am a 65 year old paraplegic (an active paraplegic) recovering from major surgery. It will take me two weeks more to recover to the point where I feel alive, an explication I will reserve.

I do not want to see other people. Slowly, I am emerging from this hermitage—going across the street for a quick Mediterranean plate with extra baba ganoush, inviting my friends to see me one-on-one and for a limited time only.

My body is not working well but is getting better. The key barometer to my well-being is the ability to transfer. Before surgery, I leapt out of bed and onto the wheelchair effortlessly.

Now, getting to the wheel chair is harder.

I do not fall.

I am weak.

While I am getting stronger, I really do not want to be outside home much until I master this key factor in being able to take care of myself, viz. transferring as effortlessly as before August 8.

It is happening.

++++

In some ways, I am surprisingly patient with myself.

Take for instance transferring from bed to wheelchair.

I methodically bend down and double check the wheelchair is locked in place.

When I put my left foot on the floor, preparing to swivel into the wheelchair seat, I check and double-check every move.

The consequences of falling; indeed, of falling frequently, is straight to the nursing home—the county home called Centre Crest; I do NOT want to go there.

Part of me is mindful of consequences.

++++

Before I discuss my emotions, which is the primary cause of my writing this posting:

The rank of football-rally-style cancer optimists is distressingly high.

Two apartment buildings where cancer patients recover or die are named Hope Lodge and Miracle House. I would prefer to have my conversations about hope and miracles with God and not  rely on some seemingly uplifting name to keep my spirits up.

This may be one of many unfair observations, which I will not spare you now or later.

Hope Lodge is run by the American Cancer Society and through its generosity provided my caregiver younger daughter Amelia had a place to stay when I was in the hospital and where she could be next to me when I returned to recover.

Hope confronting me everywhere….

One consequence of cancer survivor ebullience is the: Make every day count mantra.

The first every day I was somewhat functional upon my return, I had to fill out overdue forms–lots of forms from trying to obtain money to ensuring my continued employment.

Forms. Forms. Form

Every day I filled out forms I asked myself, not entirely ironically, whether I had survived cancer to fill out forms.

Yes, I realize that after I fill out enough forms, I can scoot to the florist on Allen Street and smell the yellow roses.

Inhale.

++++

I wrote a book about the importance of emotions while surviving cancerhttp://www.joelsolkoff.com/book-store/books/learning-to-live-again-my-triumph-over-cancer/

I know something about the subject.

This time, I prepared to protect myself emotionally and to provide my caregiver(s) with relief, orchestrating pleasant things to do.

Elsewhere, I may detail the preparations. Right now, trust me. I worked long and hard on emotional preparation.

++++

The big surprise to me is that I went crazy after the operation rather than before.

The craziness took the form my issuing barking mean and aggressive orders at my two caregivers, my daughter Amelia and my sister Sarah. I was polite to strangers.

The craziness reminded me of the time 20 years ago at the advice of the Chair of the Oncology and Chair of the Neurology Departments at the Chapel Hill Hospital for the University of North Carolina.

United in their decision both Chairs decided to put me on high doses of steroids to see whether they might restore my ability to walk. They did not think it would work and said so. However, steroids were the “miracle drug of the 1950s” and sometimes steroids have unanticipated positive consequences, so: “Why not? We have nothing to lose?”

Except my mind. I found myself saying terrible and abusive things—words I did not mean and knew I did not mean even before they formed on my lips, but words I was powerless not to utter because THE DRUG MADE ME DO IT.

Last week, I asked a secretary at the Department of Architectural Engineering whether she had a similar experience. “Yes, when my kids were born. I said awful things to my husband. Awful awful things.”

++++

Sarah_close

++++

The craziness appeared in the middle of the night as I was lying in my hospital bed, coughed, and my body felt as if it were split in two.

The craziness appeared as a wave—a fluctuating wave increasing in intensity until it reached a high and unpleasant peak before returning me two days later to reality shaken, not quite mindful of what I had said except that it was THE WRONG THING TO SAY.

++++

My sister Sarah told me on the phone on Thursday her feelings about me when I was crazy. “I knew that you were suffering. Yet you were mean and impossible to be around. I decided I never wanted to see you anytime again soon. If I saw you at your funeral, it would be too soon.”

Daughter Amelia asked: “Why were you so mean to me?”

++++

The expression I am in the dog house comes to mind.

  • I was crazy.
  • I was out of my mind.
  • I did not realize what I was saying when I said it and I did not mean what I said.
  • I had been through extraordinary pressure.
  • I went out of my mind.

My mind has returned.

Forgive me.

I am the brother and father you love.

Remember me?

FrankSinatra

–Joel Solkoff

Copyright © 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

The danger of “living wills”–a post surgical analysis

Of all my many preparations for surgery–including signing up for Premium Spotify [worth it]–creating a valid Living Will exercised far too much time.

I can and may list the valid rationale for having a Living Will, which here in Pennsylvania is called officially a Durable Power of Attorney.

Durable means (as lovers of the English language are encouraged to deplore) limited.

The person selected to execute my living will can only take care of my health care decisions–decisions I have listed in advance (see below) and which She, as it turns out, may only make following my explicit instructions (see below) and is not allowed to vary from my instructions at all.

My agent does not have authority to act for me for any other purpose unrelated to my health care. All of my agent’s actions under this power during any period when I am unable to make or communicate health care decisions have the same effect on my heirs, devisees and personal representatives as if I were competent and acting for myself.

To tell the truth, I would much rather watch a Shania Twain video than go through the gut-wrenching process of picking the person who will turn off the plug if I emerge from surgery a rutabaga.

Here is the video I would rather see than execute a Living Will.

++++

The problem with going into surgery which I knew would be successful (and indeed the surgery was successful) was encountering flak from a variety of sources.

One of these sources was my elder daughter  Joanna, who has two honor degrees in nursing and is convinced–perhaps rightly so–that she knows everything.

Joanna insisted that she be the one to pull the plug.

photo 2

In April I had had the foresight to executed a previous Living Will at my hospital bed, but once out of bed and back and forth to New York for reasons I will not explain (or may) I had to change the document.

For one thing, the April Living Will made the assumption that it was unfair to ask my daughters to perform such a task; my friends would spare them the guilt of pulling the plug. This assumption was wrong and in a way I cannot quite describe demeaning to them.

++++

In preparing for August surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering with the Living Will, I thought I was just going through the motions.

Then. Joanna said, “[Expletive deleted] I am a nurse. If anyone should pull the plug it should be me. Anyway, I would not be pulling the plug. I would be telling someone else to pull the plug.”

Meanwhile, my friend Pinhas had complained that in April he had been made second in line to pull the plug and wanted to be first; plus, my April number one batter up was afraid she did not have the medical knowledge.

Finally, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center required (actually requested–it is optional) an updated Living Will plus other relevant documentation I will bother you with.

++++

My wishes. Clearly, some of my wishes did not matter at all. Others did, but not now–meaning not before August 8th and my kidney operation.

The primary reason I was filling out a Living Will was because I wanted to please the Administrators at the hospital where I was about to have surgery. If they saw that I was a responsible enough citizen to fill out the expletive deleted form, they would decide I was a right guy, guaranteeing some slack later when I behaved poorly–as I did.

I really and truly did not want anyone to take the document seriously. It was one of a list of items on my clipboard, the least important, and one that took up attention from more important things (which I will list for you eventually, but can be summed up with this video from Bessie Smith) :

Here is a salient excerpt from the Pennsylvania Living Will form, which is a lot simpler to fill out than you might expect:

I direct that my health care providers and others involved in my care provide, withhold, or withdraw treatment in accordance with my directions below:

  1. If I have an incurable and irreversible (terminal) condition that will result in my death within a relatively short time, I direct that:
    • I be removed from any artificial life support or any additional life-prolonging treatment. ______ my initials
    • I not be artificially administered food and water, realizing this may hasten my death. ______ my initials
    • I not be provided any comfort, care and relief from pain, including any pain reduction medication, if the effect would be to prolong my life. ______ my initials 
  1. If I am diagnosed as being in an irreversible coma and, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, I will not regain consciousness, I direct that:
    • I be removed from any artificial life support or any additional life-prolonging treatment. ______ my initials
    • I not be artificially administered food and water, realizing this may hasten my death. ______ my initials
    • I not be provided any comfort, care and relief from pain , including any pain reduction medication, if the effect would be to prolong my life. ______ my initials 
  1. If I am diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state and, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, I will not regain consciousness, I direct that:
    • I be removed from any artificial life support or any additional life-prolonging treatment. ______ my initials
    • I not be artificially administered food and water, realizing this may hasten my death. ______ my initials
    • I not be provided any comfort, care and relief from pain, including any pain reduction medication, if the effect would be to prolong my life. ______ my initials 

Regarding item 1, I answered: “I be removed from any artificial life support or any additional life-prolonging treatment

Item 2, I answered: “I not be artificially administered food and water, realizing this may hasten my death.”

Item 3. I answered: “I be removed from any artificial life support or any additional life-prolonging treatment.”

++++

Time for another video:

++++

The PA Living Will form states what I told the form I wanted. Period. See:

“My agent’s powers include, but are not limited to:

“Full power to consent, refuse consent, or withdraw consent to all medical, surgical, hospital and related health care treatments and procedures on my behalf, according to my wishes as stated in this document…”

Other language makes clear: My Agent has no choice but to pull the plug because that is my wish as stated in this document.

The fact that none of my would be agents realized that they had no power at all to effect my major decisions was of no concern to them. What was of concern to them was my welfare. They love me. They want what is best for me. Instead, I had to spend time explaining this expletive deleted stuff to them and the more I explained the more frightened  they became until, naturally, a discussion began about my funeral. [I do not want a funeral; I want a Democrat elected governor of Pennsylvania next year.]

++++

Perhaps a photograph unrelated to anything might prove useful here:

fish

++++

Naturally, the situation became complicated. Naturally, for me. Naturally, for the situation.

I was preparing for an operation in New York on August 8th. Why was I worrying about a durable power of attorney in Pennsylvania when the operation was happening in New York AND Memorial Sloan Kettering requested I provide a valid New York State form?

Not the same form, of course. That would be too easy. The New York State form is entitled, “A Health Care Proxy.” The proxy delegates someone to be my health care agent: “In the event I have been been determined to be incapable of providing informed consent for medical treatment and surgical diagnostic procedures.”

Enter a useful attorney whom we will call Hadley V. Baxendale, a moniker he likes. Hadley had three recommendations:

1. Since I live in Pennsylvania and have been hospitalized several times in this Commonwealth, a valid PA Living Will is a good idea.

2. The New York form is limited in stating explicitly the powers an agent can have. Link the two documents for New York so the New York agent is required to follow the more detailed directives in the PA form–having the two notarized together which I did at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge where I temporarily stayed before and after the surgery. I handed that two-in one document in on Surgery Day to someone entirely covered in white who said, “Thank you. I will put it in your folder.”

3. Hadley said, “There is room in the PA form for additional instructions. Let me begin by asking you the following questions.” I minded answering each question. The Aristotelian/Talmudic logic behind legal–especially good legal–thinking drives me crazy. So, I had to answer how much of a vegetable I was willing to be before I was willing to have someone pull the plug. What percentage of postoperative disability I was willing to take. And other tranquil questions designed to put me in the mood for surgery.

++++

Time for another song.

http://youtu.be/QwIYrx6Bqe0

++++

The upshot was that because they were actually present and available my younger daughter Amelia and my sister Sarah Schmerler were designated NY Health Care Agents for me.

Amelia first. Sarah if Amelia were unavailable.

Both spent my operation time weeping at the old Whitney Museum just before Renzo Piano creates his magic and builds a New Piano Whitney. I have seen a photograph of the two together waiting in front of a sign explaining Piano’s future vision, but can not find the photo. Alas.

This is unfortunate because I could then explain that while each were waiting with their iPhone ringers on in case a major medical decision was required in their capacity as my Agents, Dr. Russo figured out how to close the wound all by himself.

++++

One more song and then a conclusion (I hope). Brief (I hope).

http://youtu.be/uOQwdRMTKEk

 Certainly, having a Living Will is an excellent idea. It is not an excellent idea when you are going into the hospital and have an excellent chance of survival. Then, having intense discussions about your wishes if you are incapacitated beyond redemption takes on an unfortunate side trip past where you want to be and what you want to talk about with your loved ones.

Here is a photo of my sister Sarah getting in shape to be my alternate Health Proxy. Did the enormous time involved in, for example, notarizing the Pennsylvania document in PA and two days later notarizing the New York document (with notarized PA) document attached and also notarized–gathering two witnesses each time. My appreciation to my Rep. in the Pennsylvania House Scott Conklin for making his office available for that purpose. [The Democrats could win the governorship with the right team. Conklin ran for lieutenant governor in the last election and lost. I hoping that he will run as a running mate with Allyson Schwartz and win.] {Whoops. I got off subject.}

A non-partisan thanks to Lorrainne Katt, Manager of the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge where I lived with Amelia, my daughter, as my caregiver. Lorraine in short order assembled a notary, another witness and signed the document herself.

sarahclimbs

This is Amelia several months ago drinking happily in Spain.

Ameliadrinks

Amelia arrived in New York on Monday evening in time for the rules instruction at Hope Lodge where she took up residence as my health care provider that evening. The next day we…The following day, a meeting with Dr. Paul Russo, my surgeon, a wonderful physical therapist, and an intense examination to make sure I would not die under the knife–intense.

Then…Thursday brought the surgery. Would never have discussing all the paperwork have helped me through time that followed the operation. Absolutely.

++++

Another unrelated photo courtesy of the Morgan Library and Museum:

Mozart

++++

A man’s gotta do what a man’s got to do.

I am thinking of me in this role. Filling out a Living Will is certainly a grown up thing to do. It is not a good idea to leave family and loved ones guessing about one’s intentions. The best way to do it is when there are no health issues involved. At nearly 66 years old, I should have been grown up enough to fill out the farm during a pacific time when asking family and loved members their thoughts did not bring out the intense emotion this exercise did.

Perhaps, the lesson of the angst of the Living Will taught me how to be a grown up. Perhaps.

–Joel Solkoff

Copyright © 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

Before Arlo Guthrie sings all the words to Alice’s Restaurant, I would like to thank Law Depot www,lawdepot.com This online service provides forms that fit the requirements of the PA Living Will form and NY’s Health Care Agent form. Each can be easily modified or modified only to include names and addresses. A great service.

++++