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jueves, 10 de diciembre de 2009

Just an Ordinary Day







December 9th of 2009 was just another common day, nothing out of the ordinary. At 6:00 AM The Golden Mile, the business district of the Metropolitan area of San Juan, was still quiet, but the smell of cars approaching were enough to wake me up in El Monte Sur. I prepared breakfast and lunch for Carla at the rhythm of more cars approaching our building. At 7:00 AM, Carla, my brother Gami and I had breakfast, just before joining the stream of cars and horns on our way to El Condado, the tourist area of San Juan where Robinson School is located. While parents drive through the parking lot at the back of the school, pedestrian tourists enjoy the view of the school’s water fountain, the landscape at the front yard and if they are just waking up, they can see the open sea through their hotel room’s windows.



I did not have time enough to drive through Ashford Avenue as I usually do on my way home. So, I missed my morning opportunity to have a glimpse of the sea at “La ventana al mar,” the only little spot of Condado were a hotel or Condo had not yet interrupted our visual access to the wide open sea. Indeed, I also skipped my daily exercise routine at Gold’s Gym, my second private morning ritual. The first one helps me open my eyes to the infinite world beyond me. The other is an inward experience through the molding, contortion and masochist punishment of my own body. Whenever driving through Ashford Avenue, I hope to have a glimpse of the sea, but I avoid any eye contact while exercising. Whenever I dear to raise my eyes, I have the feeling that, right in front of the gym, people driving through Muñoz Rivera Avenue look at us as urban zoo inhabitants, a bunch of good for nothing playing at their monkey bars.

Yesterday I skipped my game of seen and being seen. Instead, I accompanied my brother Gami to pick up my parent’s cat at the vet’s office at 8:30 AM. Congo scratched my mother’s right leg, something very dangerous for a diabetic patient. We took the cat to a vet in order to remove its nails so that my mother could keep it inside the house. That trip to Roberto Clemente Avenue and Rolling Hills was an odd exchange. We returned the cat to our parents while at the same time they said good bye to Gami who was heading back to Boston, his own jungle habitat. At 11:00 AM, I drove back to my home at El Monte Sur. I wished Gami to have a safe trip to Boston and Jaime drove Danilo and I to the university around 11:20. My son went to his class. I stopped in front of the tower to attend for a little while to the peaceful demonstration against violence organized by the students from the School of Business.


I wore a white shirt and skirt as everybody else; a theatrical expression against the darkness of violence created by our own institutionalized evilness: injustice, greediness, and alienation from anything beyond ourselves. I stood for a while in front of the Theodore Roosevelt Tower, a Spanish “Renaissance” building which main hall has the emblems of all the Latin American Countries, the American eagle at the center of the front entrance, and the emblems of the oldest university of South America (Universidad de San Marcos), the oldest North American University (Harvard) and the University of Puerto Rico. The sculptures of a man holding a book and a woman holding a diploma represent the promise of education. Lady Justice is at one of the bases of the four columns at the front entrance of the tower, accompanied by Arts and Sciences, Education and Pharmacy. The dream of modernity stands still and petrified at that Spanish-American minaret tower, while the peaceful demonstration taking place right in front of the building still hopes for a better future, one in which a young female student can walk openly besides the walls of the university without confronting the cross fire of drug dealers that dropped out of middle school to play with guns. Lady Justice, Education, Arts and Science cannot compete with Lady Pharmacy. Harvard, UPR and Universidad de San Marcos are nothing to those kids who see no other light, but pharmaco-“blimblines” at the end of the tunnel. We have all failed in this world with so many open eyes seeing and being seen, and so many other walking in the shadow. I wonder if some day those teens playing with fire have even had the chance to look beyond the walls around the campus of the university, just as I struggle to have a glimpse of the sea that has been covered by condos, hotels and casinos, all of them so tall and brightened by electric flashing power. The Roosevelt Tower at the University of Puerto Rico with two statues holding a diploma and a book are pale icons difficult to sell in Disney or Las Vegas.

From 1:00 to 7:00 PM, I taught three undergraduate classes while Jaime drove Gami to the airport and picked Carla at Robinson School. It was the last class of the semester and I discussed "Candide," by Voltaire. I spent some time comparing the common grounds of different narrations, from Genesis, the Golden Age, El Dorado, and Trapalanda, to the myth of modernity. Needless to say that Candide’s adventures were widely enjoyed by my students precisely because it reminded us of our own fallen world.

At 7:00 PM, Jaime drove Danilo and I to El Monte Sur, and I took the wheel to drive towards Punta las Marías for the last 2009 Council meeting at the Union Church of San Juan.
All the documents of my committee were approved, and I drove back to El Monte Sur around 10:30 PM. It was raining cats and dogs and I decided that I will not return home through Ocean Park, my last chance of the day to have a view of the open sea. I returned home through the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge. It was so dark that I could not see the lagoon. Back home, I opened my Facebook and found out that Jaime was celebrating with Carla my second year as a cancer survivor drinking a glass of Chilean pisco sauer. Two years ago I was unconscious for six hours. I have to admit that although I might never recover those six hours, I have gained my ability to live, enjoy and remember every detail of an ordinary day, nothing extraordinary.

lunes, 26 de octubre de 2009

A Place Where Cancer Is the Norm,” by GINA KOLATA.


My husband sent me yesterday an article published in the New York Times: “Forty Years’ War: A Place Where Cancer Is the Norm,” by GINA KOLATA. I was moved by Dr. Raber’s story. Even though his cancer had nothing to do with mine, I identified with his attitude about using his disease to become a different type of doctor, one who has learned through experience that he needed to formulate different questions to his patients. Rather than asking a patient if he/she is eating well or feeling energetic, he will ask now more specific questions such as: What did you eat today? He learned through his own experience that a “good meal” or “feeling energetic” means something else for a cancer patient.

Indeed, there were days in which eating a soda cracker or corn meal was all what my stomach could handle. I considered it a treat, but I was not eating a good balanced meal. There were days in which I considered an accomplishment being able to walk through the hall at the front door of my apartment using a walker. I am sure I would have answered my doctor that I had a good appetite and was feeling stronger. It’s a matter of perspective, but while I sincerely would have told my doctor that I was “doing better,” I would have deprived him from the opportunity to treat my malnourished and weak body. Fortunately, my doctor knew all that and prescribed me a bunch of vitamins (D3, iron, B-50 and Centrum) so that I could maintain some strength and compensate from my lack of appetite through the difficult process of chemotherapy. Even though my doctor has not experienced cancer, he certainly knows how to listen in an effort to grasp his patient’s perspective. If listening to what the patient feels and says is important, experiencing the pain in your own body breaks the wall between the doctor and the patient, the self and the other. It helps you reach out or at least become more empathetic with the particular pain felt by others.

I belief suffering cancer in the left lobe of my brain have taught me a lot about how to learn and teach literature. From reading a whole play before going to sleep and remembering every single dialogue upon waking up next morning, I moved to the frustrating experience of not being able to read more than two lines, and ending up remembering just the last word of the sentence. I could feel my empty eyes wandering around, trying to go back to the very beginning of the first sentence. Having suffered aphasia for a period of time, there were times in which the word that came out of my mouth did not match at all with what I thought I was saying. “I just couldn’t tackle the bear,” as one of Gregory House’s patients suffering aphasia expressed his frustration of not being able to handle being (tackle) bipolar (the bear). It even became a joke in the family. Whenever I said something while meaning something else, Carla and Danilo used to say: “she couldn’t tackle the bear.” Just to give you an example: for my birthday celebration, I asked Jaime to take me to Casa Bavaria, but I meant Café Berlín.

I was surprised to see that we were heading to Morovis rather than Old San Juan.
Carla, Danilo and Jaime agreed that I said that I wanted to go to Casa Bavaria. Inside my brain, I thought I said that I wanted to go to Café Berlín. There were times in which I wasn’t able to hear two different sounds at the same time. It was impossible to understand what someone was saying if there was any kind of background music or even the sound of a bird singing. I lost the muscles and reflexes of both of my legs, and using my right hand was painful. Everything was difficult: from writing a simple paragraph to understanding one of my previously published articles. Yes, I had the privilege of reading myself while asking “what does she mean, what was she thinking?” “Oh God, this sentence is so long that I have to subdivide it in little segments so that I don’t forget what was the main point.” Suddenly, I was my own student, suffering my own complexity from the point of view of someone who did not even recognize that she needed to know that she did not know anything.

When I went back to Texas for evaluation in April 2009, my friend Sonia told me that several days after surgery I was even clapping with joy when I was able to identify a giraffe as a squirrel. As soon as I left the room to take a shower, she told me that Rose Marie broke in tears, wondering if I would ever recover my memory, my ability to express myself through language. They agreed that as soon as I get out of the bathroom, they would have to explain to me that that animal was not a squirrel and I needed to carry a notebook with me all the time to write down all the words that were difficult to remember. The green notebook I bought for this purpose became my only hope to put together words and images so that I could communicate in a precise and concise effective way. I could not continue saying circle while meaning square or squirrel while meaning giraffe. Nobody would understand me. Nobody who has not seen House would know what my kids meant when saying: “She couldn’t tackle the bear.”

I am not fighting the bear any more. I see through the eyes of that bear. The bear is in and outside of me: in the empty wondering eyes of some of my students, in every “incoherent” word they sometimes use within a sentence, in every word they struggle to pronounce, in every handwriting that’s way too hard to understand, I see myself. Are they taking me to Casa Bavaria while thinking about Café Berlín? Berlín/Bavaria, Morovis/Old San Juan. What’s in a name, I ask? How can I connect the dots to open an effective, and eventually precise and concise channel of communication? Can each of my students carry around a green notebook in the hope to remember what they should know, or at least that they should know that they don’t know? How can I help my students overcome their difficulties reading, understanding, or choosing the precise words? I frequently ask myself “What are you thinking?” “How can I divide this thought step by step so that a different eye other than my own could both grasp my thinking process and the point I have arrived through that process?”

I am a cancer survivor, but I refuse to acknowledge having battled cancer. I learned to embrace it as a gift to become a different person. Have I become a better teacher? I don’t know. I only know that I became and befriended the bear. I hear him roaring from the inside out, and I let him be.

sábado, 5 de septiembre de 2009

Doing Good Things Through Words and Images


As he always does, Joel Osteen opened his televised sermon last Sunday with a joke. A friend of his assured him that cancer makes you good looking because ever since he suffered this disease, people approached him to comment with enthusiasm: “Boy, you are certainly looking good today.” I couldn’t stop laughing! Although his message was about the power of faith in developing a positive attitude to deal with challenging experiences, my mind began retrieving other images and files from the screen of my memory.

I remembered my then 11 years old daughter Carla, running upstairs as fast as she could when I first arrived home from the hospital after my first surgery the 23 of January, 2008. I was using a walker, my face was swollen, my jaw was twisted to one side, and half of my hair was still full of glue from the gauze the nurses removed from my head before sending me home. The other half of my head was bold with a scar full of clips. Carla’s mind was probably retrieving images of “The Elephant Man,” “Frankenstein’s Bride,” and “The Munsters Family.” They were all scary characters to look at, but none of them was her mom. None of them gave her the real and present danger of loosing the mother she knew forever. I am sure she was simultaneously experiencing horror and pity, but decided to step out of the realm of tragedy to view the experience from another perspective.

She came down several hours later and pretended that she wasn’t scared anymore. She brought her neighbor friends over, Danny and Irene, and after staring at me for a while, they all agreed that my head’s clips were similar to body piercing, my scar was just like a tattoo, my hair was definitely a Mohawk, and I was just the punk coolest version of the same Carmen they always knew. In a mater of minutes, the stage of my life was transformed by the creative power of images and language.

Beginning a sermon with a joke comes from a long tradition. Saint Augustine recommends it as a teaching tool in "On Christian Doctrine," and Erasmus goes so far as creating an ironic encomium while proposing a new spiritual point of view to both criticize and reform the Church. Joel Osteen’s joke reminded me of the possibility of doing good things with words and images. Carla, Danny and Irene might have been joking, but they lifted my spirit and reassured me that there was nothing scary about my current situation. Deeply inside, though, I knew that their act was heroic precisely because they were fighting against their own feelings: “If this happened to Carmen, it could happen to me or my mom, it could happen to any of us at any moment.” The way these three girls channeled their catharsis opened for me the possibility to overcome tragedy through the creative use of words and images.

In “The Praise of Folly,” the orator states that we owe her the gift of friendship, a relationship that is impossible without one of Folly’s handmaidens: Kolakia (Flattery). Now, we might consider flattery a vice, but you will agree that for the sake and love of a friend you will not tell him/her that he/she looks ugly or scary. Chances are that you will rather say that she/he looks mysterious, edgy or even “possessed with a deep and special kind of beauty.” When a friend gets into trouble for talking too much, I am sure you don’t go and tell her/him that he/she needs to stop being such a gossiper, but that he/she might be aware that some people might not appreciate his/her open frankness. That’s what I call doing good things through the creative power of words and images. Considering Danny’s, Irene’s and Carla’s re-reading of my dreadful scary looking face as “a super cool image of a punk with tattoos, body piercing and a Mohawk” in light of Folly’s views on friendship, I can further suggest that even a vice-like flattery can turn into a virtue when used to lift the spirit of any heart broken human being. Try it: twist your words and images to turn what is scary and ugly into something precious. Do it for cancer patients, friends, and strangers, or as a teaching tool in the classroom. In the process, we might find ourselves defeating our own biggest fear through a charitable act of folly.

jueves, 27 de agosto de 2009

A tribute to Senator Ted Kennedy

[...]"Those who lived before us, who struggled for justice and suffered injustice before us, have not melted into the dust, and have not disappeared.

They are with us still.
The lives they lived hold us
steady.

Their words remind us and call us back to ourselves. Their courage and love voke our own.

We, the living carry them with us: we are their voices, their hands and their hearts." (Kathleen McTigue)



Our family is forever grateful of Senator Kennedy's support in the struggle against the dictator Augusto Pinochet. It is sad that he died without seeing one of his main goals taking place: Health Care Reform. It is our hope that this dream does not melt into the dust.

"For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die." -- Senator Ted Kennedy, 1932-2009


domingo, 2 de agosto de 2009

Crónicas de un cerebro enfermo XXII.




If reality exists, we can only access it through language. We cannot think without images. The first is the idea of an ancient sophist. The later was said by a philosopher, Aristotle. The problem is that whether one believes that it is only humanly possible to find the best means of persuasion about a subject matter, or actually finding what is the truth, whenever we step into “reality,” our brain retrieves the images and stories that have been engraved in it through both previous personal experiences and shared culture.

I don’t believe this is just another mumbo-jumbo we humanists talk about. I think my neurosurgeons will agree with me in this one. I have told you in a previous “Chronicle” how three days before heading to my awaked craniotomy, a doctor mapped my brain. He created a tridimentional image so that the neurosurgeon could use it to know which zone of the brain I use to understand and produce math and language. This map helped them to determine the portion of the tumor that could be problematic to remove during surgery. Following this map, the neurosurgeon touched the “problematic zone” with a small electrode while I was trying to relate images and math exercises to words and numbers.

The funny thing was that while they mapped my brain trying to determine which part I use to process language, I was ordered not to talk but to think of images while listening to seven different stories. Because these seven stories where supposed to stimulate my brain, they were all scary situations. However, I did not know they were scary at the beginning. So, while listening and figuring out how the story line progressed, I kept changing my production of images. Let’s give you an example: one of the stories began with a description of a pleasant lake where a group just arrived for a trip in a boat. I began imagining “Bank of the Oise at Auvers” by Van Gogh, but while listening the tone and description of the atmosphere in that lake, I moved to “Celine et Julie vont en bateau,” then to the ending part of “Aguire, the Wrath of God,” followed by remembering a day when I tried to row in a boat at the “Bear Mountain” (New York) and ended up paddling very badly in full circles. Right at the end of the story, I saw myself drowning in a small river in “El Verde” when I was eight years old. There I was, fighting to survive as the characters of the story I was listening about. I was trapped at the bottom of that river. I was able to see everybody in the surface: my little brother moving his arms profusely and my aunt’s boyfriend jumping to rescue me.

Although every one of the seven stories was very short, every time I felt as if I were zapping from channel to channel in a huge brain screen, trying to connect the changing story line I was listening with my embedded archive of images.

A lot has been said already about the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates by Sgt. James Crowley. Almost everybody agrees that two different stories were told. Perhaps different images were retrieved by both characters involved in this story at different points in time. I am not hesitant to say that it was easier for me to understand Professor Gates’ story precisely because I saw myself there, drowning, with not many other images to think of at the moment. Perhaps the personal stories and images of a Latina professor might be closer to his.

However, ever since my brain was “mapped” and the tumor removed, my mind is constantly shifting. My brain needs to make new connections whenever I try to “rescue” lost memories. It has, thus, come to my mind the crazy idea that we, creators and students of language and culture, could do something about the way we live, perceive, and evaluate experiences. Herzog, Van Gogh, Jacques Rivette, my failed boat trip at the Bear Mountain, and my near death experience helped to determine exactly were my dangerous brain zone was located and which part of the tumor could be removed without disabling my ability to speak, imagine and understand language. How can we produce striking words and powerful images that could stimulate our minds to create new connections that work?

People might laugh about the photo of Biden, Gates, Crowley and Obama drinking different types of beer around a round table in the backyard of the White House. However, by regrouping differences around a common round table, this photo is suggesting a new story,an alternative image that might come to our minds if we ever need our brain to be “mapped,” and our memory reconnected as our history changes. That's why some people are so afraid of it.

viernes, 24 de julio de 2009

Crónicas de un cerebro enfermo XXI.



July 24, 20009

Right after listening to Obama’s message about Health Care Reform, commentators in CNN were questioning weather or not the complexity of the President’s message would be understood by the general public. For me, the message was sound and clear: the economy and the health care problem are not separate issues. Although there is not one single cause for our current depression, health care is definitely one of the reasons why people file for bankrupt or end up loosing their homes. Attacking all the problems at once might sound complex, but a simple mind with a narrow purpose (fighting against “the axis of evil” in the wrong place) put us in this big mess. Well, we cannot give him all the “credit;” the economy of greed of the eighties and lifting the market regulations (enacted to avoid another Great Depression) by the end of the nineties, didn’t help either.

Regardless of the causes or blames we can think of, as a brain cancer survivor I see the Health Care Reform as a matter of principles. I don’t belief it is fair that other people who don’t have a health insurance or a high income to afford expensive co-payments will die shortly one year after been diagnosed because they cannot pay for the treatment. Moreover, if my treatment wouldn’t have been as succesful, I would have lost not only my ability to work, but both health care and economical resources to support my family and help to move the market.

The cost of my treatment for one year was around $300,000. Out of that cost, I only paid $10,000, an amount of money that even people who have health insurance might not have readily available in their pockets.

Lets face it, if someone without health care gets a seizure while working, and a coworker is so kind to call 911 while the uninssured is totally unconscious, when the patient wakes up in the hospital, he or she will find out that he/she ows already $50,000 dollars for resucitation and diagnoses. Even worst, besides being in deep debt already, that patient will soon learn that the surgery and treatment needed to have a chance to survive will amount to over $250,000 for the first year alone. At that point, the patient is in total shock, but with a lot of faith, prayers, and if and and only if he/she has a life inssurance, he/she has the option of easing the pain for a year with medical mariuana before meeting St. Peter at the gates of heaven. In this ideal scenario, the family will be able to use the life insurance to pay medical bills and if any money is left, to cover funeral expenses and part of the mortgage.

Lets imagine a “better” scenario: the patient has no life insurance, and since the main bread winner is dying within a year, the family sends a chain prayer through electronic mail to one C.E.O. from Walls Street, adding the following important message: if you send this prayer to 10 C.E.O.s and I receive an electronic e-check of $15,000 from each one of you, you will buy an indulgence to forgive you from continuing stealing without being caught or put in jail. A 20 years guarantee is included; you will be admited in heaven provided that in case your investments fail, you donate your “benefit package” for the treatment of cancer patients. Such a faith moves a mountain of 11 C.E.O.s, and the family bread winner is able to get treatment at MD Anderson, and survives to live happily ever after. All the C.E.O.s dance around the cancer survivor, and both the health care and economic mess are miracolously solved.

Lets imagine the worst scenario. The patient is desperate. With neither health or life insurance, and with a mountain of medical bills and no money for treatment, he/she doesn’t know what to do. Whenever he/she dies, the family will probably be homeless. He/she calls the suicide hotline and finds out that Dr. Kovorkian is not good enough because the medical bills will survive him! That’s when the patient asks himself: “where is Bin Laden when I need him the most? How come we don’t have a rich nut in this country who could pay me in advance to kill myself for a ‘just’ cause. I might go straight to hell, but I can be one of those bombers who kills himself and just destroys a small Puerto Rican government building during José de Diego’s Holy Day. Bin Laden will not find out that the building was empty, and my family will receive enough money to pay the medical bills and the mortgage. Who knows, they might even have some money left to buy some indulgences, and masses on my behalf. I might even end up in heaven after all!”


Don’t think I am a cynical. I have had it all: faith, resources, and the generous love and solidarity of my friends, my church, and my family. From the friends and family members who brought food for my children when I was at a hospital bed, to the colleages who taught most of my courses for one year so that I could keep my salary and Health Insurance, I have experienced both the joy of giving and receiving. However, I don’t feel it’s right to be the “lucky one” who had it all. For me, Obama’s argument is neither too difficult nor too complex to understand if we replace the economy of greed with an economy of solidarity. Belief me, the market will be wide and prosperous if people learn the joy of giving and receiving. As Ted Kennedy says, I want everyone to have the same chance to live as I had.

LUNA VIDA

miércoles, 22 de julio de 2009

Crónicas de un cerebro enfermo XX.

July 21, 2009

My dear friends: I hope you are enjoying your summer because it will soon be over! My main goal this summer was “going back to normal,” “recovering my old self.” I was so excited that I had way too many things in mind to do. I learned in the process that even though I am feeling better, I have only moved from doing one thing at a time to perhaps being able to accomplish two goals I never thought of.

For instance, I had the plan of revising four articles for publication (one about Céspedes y Meneses, another about Lope de Vega, another about Calderón and another about Christopher Marlowe), but I was only able to finish one of them and submit it to a magazine for publication (the one about Céspedes y Meneses: “La maniobra del orden artificial en El buen celo premiado”). The other three articles are still in a file cabinet, waiting to be “revised” next summer. The article I managed to “revise” was originally written in English and was way too long (50 pages) to be ready for publication. It was one of two chapters I decided to remove from the manuscript of Rewriting the Italian Novella in Counter-Reformation Spain so that I could turn it into a 200 pages publishable book rather than the original 300 pages. Well, it happened that I reread my original manuscript, two different editions of the text, articles, etc., and ended up quarreling with my own original ideas, and writing something totally different in another language: Spanish.

Now, as my friend Merce Rivas said after I read her resent books (RODIN: EL CUERPO DESNUDO and Entre dos siglos: España 1900), my brain surgery has left me with a new virgin mind. I don’t know about that. I wonder if a secondary virginity of the mind could either dry or flourish my perception and self-awareness. I thought that only Madonna cold be “like a virgin”. I used to laugh when I heard someone say that he “knew” Doris Day before she was a virgin. I can say now for sure, that such a miracle is possible only if your brain is deeply screwed. I know it might be paradoxical, but it is true. I am afraid that inside those dark and humid file cabinets, Lope, Calderón and Marlowe are waiting to be smashed by my new “virginal” brain next summer.

The only thing I am sure of is that the old Carmen is not coming back because there is nothing “normal” about being the same. However, reaching a point of no return is neither comfortable nor spectacular. Although anybody knows that it is impossible to swim twice in the same river, it is comfortable to have such illusion. I wish sometimes that the river was still for a while so that I could stay longer right there, without having to surf over big waves at the wide open sea. Yet, well I know that surfing over big waves is the way to go if you don’t want to become obsolete or drawn all together.

In April, when I was so happy because I did not have to continue on chemotherapy or take anti-seizure medications, I felt that a stone was lifted from my shoulders. However, they also told me that due to the 30 pounds I gained while taking chemotherapy, I developed type 2 diabetes. I have spent half of my time during this summer working out at Gold's Gym and following a strict diet (supervised by a nutritionist). My doctors reassured me that once I loose all the weigh I gained through the treatment, the blood sugar will go back to “normal.”

These days, however, I don’t know anymore what “normal” is, since the nutritionist says that I was emaciated at my lowest weight when I was a teenager, underweight after delivering my first baby, and according to her, I need to loose not 30 but 50 pounds to reach my “ideal” weight. So, now that I lost the 30 pounds I gained through chemotherapy, and I was feeling back to “my old self”, it seems that in order to really fight against the wave of high blood sugar, I have to be in a body I have never been before. I guess when I finish this new regime I will be Carmen in a totally new incarnation, just as my articles will be totally different to their “original” versions. I guess I was wrong, after all. I can neither go back to normal, nor to my old self. I am about to jump into the unknown!

Crónicas de un cerebro enfermo XIX.

Friday, April 10, 2009

I was so excited about the “Dance Salad” I saw last night that I forgot to tell you that while I was getting ready at Sonia’s and Brian’s home to go to the show, Tara Alexander, Dr. Levin’s nurse, called me to give me the results of my second blood work. I have been taking Dylantin pills to avoid having seizures since December 9, 2007. The blood test shows that I have such a small level of that pill in my system that they concluded that I don’t need it anymore. In other words, the tumor had caused my seizure, and the surgery and chemo was enough to fight the problem. The doctor asked me to stop taking the pill. Thanks God, I am on my way to fully recover my old self without any drug. I did not take the pills last night and today I felt well even though Jaime drove me to Houston, we took the train and saw every one of the stations, and stopped to go to The Museum of Fine Arts. That museum is certainly not that big, but it has a huge collection of the most important painters you can imagine. I will have to go back and try to actually see each section in every detail.

However, and you have to keep in mind that this is my first day without anti-seizure medication, trying to see this two floor museum in four hours is an overwhelming experience. I was under the impression that someone wrote a list of who is who in the history of art, drilled some oil from here and there and bought whichever painting they found of the most well known painters still available. Almost everybody is there, but there is not a cohesive relation other than dates and periods. Indeed, I feel that some of the painters might regret seeing his/her paint on any museum’s wall. To give you an example, the collection includes a Goya, only one: a still life of several fish. The painting is cohesive with a Good Friday traditional meal. It had nothing to do with the very 18th.Century paintings around it. I guess someone might have offered to sell them several prints with witches, inquisitors and ugly things like that, but they preferred oil on canvas and the name of Goya instead because they did not match with their idea of the period. The Picassos I saw were almost undistinguishable from Gris or Braque, may be because of the color of the walls in which they were placed. It reminded me of some paintings I saw hanging on the walls of my neighbors’ home when I was living in Encantada: they always made sure that the paintings match with the sofa, the curtains and even the walls.

They are showing right now a beautiful collection of Hidden Treasures from the National Museum of Kabul, Afghanistan. They painted the walls to match with the sculptures and I think they might look better in Kabul, where they belong. I will have to visit another of my favorite museums to make sure that this impression is not the product of my lack of anti-seizure medication, because I surely felt that I was on the verge of having one. By the way, it is not true that all the painters were hanged on every wall. Velazquez, Murillo, el Greco, Balthus or Warhole were not in any of the walls of the museum, but “il fa presto”, Luca Giordano, was there twice. So, Carla might have been very happy to see an ancestor of the family in two paintings. He was called “il fa presto” for a reason.

Back in Porter, Texas, at Sonia’s and Brian’s house, we cooked a little something for dinner, did the laundry and reserved a taxi for tomorrow. We are leaving to PR tomorrow at 3:00 PM. I guess this is my last medical update ever. Since I refused taking linguistic therapy in PR, writing to you for one year and four months has being the best therapeutic way to recover words and memory. I am still struggling with words, but Jaime is already missing my brain tumor. I just remember what father Dario Carrero told me one year ago:

¡Ay quién pudiera encontrar a alguien
que haya olvidado las palabras,
para conversar con él! (Chuang-tzu)

Who could find somebody
who had forgotten all words,
to talk with. (Chuang-tzu)

martes, 21 de julio de 2009

Crónicas de un cerebro enfermo XVII and XVIII.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Since one of Sonia’s sisters is having surgery tomorrow in Boston, she left today to help her. We had lunch together and Jaime and I accompanied her to the airport. After going to the airport, I had an appointment with an Iranian chiropractic and acupuncturist. He was supposed to treat my neck and upper back pain. He pulled my legs, cracked my neck, and left me as a porky pig with my back full of needles. He explained to me that the reason why most of my weight gain and pain is in my upper body has to do with my chemotherapy treatment. I need to clean those toxins away from my system through acupuncture and herbs. I am going to follow his recommendation because I felt like an angel floating on air after having the treatment. My face even looked pink, with a radiant look.

Dr. Faridi seemed very Arab to me, even though Iranians always stress that they are Arian Muslims rather than Muslim Arabs. While he was taking all those needles away from my back, he told me that his wife had cancer but was not as conscientious as I am because she kept eating all the wrong food (chicken, duck, and turkey) without following his recommendation. I guess he read my record while I was with all those needles on. I noticed that his complain about his wife was strikingly similar to the story of that last year taxi driver whose different wives from Central America were sucking his money while refusing to cook for him and ended up inviting Rose Marie and I for dinner with another good friend of his who worked hard, good lucking and clean. Well, after complimenting me for my eating habits, he went on to say: If I had a second life, I swear I rather marry a Latina. I told him, that eating duck, chicken and turkey is not reason enough to prefer a Latina over an Iranian wife. He then argued that Latinas are way more passionate than Iranians. I immediately told him that I cannot defend or argue against his point of view because I am not interested in women of any source. He then said: “That’s the point, an Iranian woman would not answer like that.” I thought he was twisting my words and told him: “Look, my husband, who is waiting for me at the reception, can make you a whole comparison between his first wife, who was Palestinian, and all the Latinas he dated before me.” Either by mentioning my husband or grouping together an Iranian and a Palestinian wife, he politely switched the conversation back to my medical treatment. This Iranian doctor drives through curves that are far more complicated than that taxi driver from Jordan. That’s for sure, I thought. Any way, his medicine was good, and I came out of that office as good as new, only to find out that Jaime left me at the office alone because he fell prey to a spice market he saw several blocks away from the doctor’s office.

After Jaime brought a bag full of herbs and I told him all about my doctor's appointment, we decided to forget for the day about going back home to wait for Dr. Levin’s call regarding my lab results, and head to visit The Menil Collection and the Rothko Chapel . The former is an impressive small museum in which we saw paintings of Max Ernst, Fernand Leger,Picasso, Matta, Magritte, Matisse, Warhole, and even some old masters, including some drawings by Rembrandt and prints by Goya. The Rothko Chapel was like no chapel I have ever seen before. It is an octagon with gray walls and plain black triptychs in every wall. The only window is up in the ceiling: a little octagon through which you could see the sky.
The best view of the chapel was not inside, but outside, since it is surrounded by trees, and The Broken Obelisk, a sculpture dedicated to Martin Luther King.














I guess, some way this chapel made me avoid a vertical view from inside the building to look for the horizontal view outside, in the real world, were a pyramid, placed on top of water, is sustaining a broken obelisk. This sculpture looks as strong and fragile as the contradictory world we live in: dark in the inside with a small vertical bright view that might push us to break outside our own limiting walls to open up our horizon. Tomorrow is another day. I might hear from Dr. Levin on Thursday.


-----------------------

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Rosemarie asks me to remind you that we never accepted that dinner invitation by the taxi driver from Jordan, as I explained in last year’s update. She does not know that being so prudish might call the attention of the same taxi driver whenever she comes to Houston again.

Last night I slept well but woke up in the middle of a nightmare. I blame the tex-mex food we ate after going to that octagonal chapel. In any case, it was a sinful pleasure. The name of the restaurant was “Ninfas.” The waitresses looked like coming out of one of Rubens’ paintings, and on the verge of becoming one of Botero’s models. I just asked for a seafood enchilada and did not eat the rice or asked for dessert, even though the Rubens-Botero ninfa waitress was tempting me with fried ice cream and flan.

Today we planned to have lunch at Humble City Café, go to the Museum of Fine Arts at Houston and after that, go to mass at a Lutheran Church. While eating my mahi-mahi fish with vegetables while Jaime had a Texan dish with beans, beef, home made root-bear, and all those things that we Protestants eat in Eastern while good Catholic don’t, Min called me to ask if I will be interested in going to Wortham Center to see a “Dance Salad” presenting dancers from the English National Ballet, L’Opera National de Paris, the Royal Danish Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet, among others. I immediately decided that since I was dieting, I needed to eat that dance salad that night instead of going to the Lutheran mass. Jaime agreed to accompany me, since I am the one who got brain cancer and had to come to MD Anderson anyway. The spectacle was amazing. Jaime’s favorite pieces were “Rencontre” by two dancers from L’Opera National de Paris, an enchanting “Existence” with music by Arvo Part, and “A Million Kisses to My Skin” by the English National Ballet following the complete Bach Piano Concerto #1. I enjoyed those too, but I fell in love with Company Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui/Toneelhuis. They presented a long piece, “From Origine and Myth,” that was very theatrical. The Ensemble Micrologus, which specializes in Medieval music, played the music with songs employing medieval instruments, one of which was used for the first time ever that night. The organizer of the “Dance Salad Program” who Mim introduced to me in the Intermission, was excited about having the premiere of that medieval instrument.

While talking about that particular piece, I figured that I might had been the only one who noticed that all the songs were in mozarabic Spanish, love songs that expressed the longing for the lost land, Sepharat, and a lover. The songs were the same type Sephardic Jews still sing today. The dance was a modern interpretation of how pain, religious feelings, love, and longing might have been expressed by means of body, sound, and language in the late Middle Age (after 1492). Every movement was perfectly coordinated not only with the music, but with the sound of an incredible amount of bracelets that one of the female dancers was wearing, the sound of two tall sticks used by a male dancer to draw all kinds of figures while dancing (a cross, a triangle, parallel lines, etc.), the cracking noise of the head against the floor of a male dancer who accompanied the very sephardic looking ballerina (the one wearing bracelets), and another female dancer whose hair reached her feet, entangled within her toes, while creating extremely difficult movements without producing almost any sound at all. Each dancer produced slow movements that suggested images that I have seen in iconographic representations (Jesus, or any Christian martyr, Mari Magdalene, a penitent whore, the muted woman with lips and sex shut, a Jewish princess who enslaves a lover who follows her around, Melibea with her long hair...). Many narratives were possible, opened for interpretation, but the dance embedded the public within a complex atmosphere created by sound, image, narration and movement.

I cannot talk to you about every dance I saw, they were all amazing. Min and Brian invited us to join them after the show. They were playing in a cocktail for the dancers and all the contributors, but I was so tired that I felt as if I had been dancing as well all night long. So, we head back home to fall asleep while counting dancers.


Crónicas de un cerebro enfermo XVI.

Monday, April 6, 2009.

I slept excellently last night. Smelling the breeze by the sea and using the aroma-therapeutic creams, body wash and eye mask that Mai gave me helped me sleep like a baby, and wake up relax and ready to go to the hospital without feeling any stress. We woke up at 4:45 AM because we had a blood work appointment at MD Anderson at 6:30 AM. Sonia drove us to the hospital. We left Porter at 5:15 AM and arrived to the hospital around 6:15. At 7 AM, we were all having breakfast at the cafeteria, while waiting to have our 9:00 AM appointment with Dr. Levin. Sonia and Jaime accompanied me, and Sonia was remembering the exact place were she and Rosemarie were seated when the doctor announced us last year that the MRI showed that the surgery was so successful that Dr. Prabhu was able to remove the whole tumor. This time around we were a feeling more confident, but I was still a little worried that I might have to head into more chemotherapy or radiation as other patients usually do. The doctor came and told us that he had both a good and a bad news. The good one first: the tumor has not grown. Bad news: I have to follow up one more year of MRI every three months, another year of MRI every four months, and, after that, I will continue having an MRI every six months for ever. I also have to come back to MD Anderson once a year to continue monitoring my blood and MRI results. In case of reoccurrence, which happens for every 1 in 100 people, 7 years after the surgery, I might have to take radiation therapy. I am confident that I am among those 99 people who will live happily ever after.

The doctor made me a neurological evaluation, while Jaime and Sonia were trying to answer them in their minds. They thought the exercises were difficult, but they were happy to pass. I passed them too. Dr. Levin noticed, though, that when he asked me to relax my legs, it was impossible for me to relax. I was relaxing, I swear. It’s just that I forgot that since I am lifting weights, and I inherited my father’s capability to make muscles easily in that part of the body, my legs feel like stone, which means that I recovered all the leg muscles I lost while I was hospitalized last year. I wish I could say the same about the rest of my body. After having my neurological test, I took out of my purse my own list of questions, and… my doctor was able to pass the test too! I informed him that I gained 30 pounds while taking Temodar (oral chemotherapy). He looked into my record and corroborated my story. He told me that It is the first time one of his patients gain weight. Lucky me! This is one of the possible side effects (severe weight gain), and I hit the lottery. Other patients vomit all day long, have constipation problems, and lose hair. I think gaining weight was better than those three. “Can I diet?” I asked. He told me that I should because my weight gain is also raising my sugar levels putting me in a pre-diabetic stage, even though, as I told, him, I have followed a vegetarian diet. He told me that I have to cut the fruits, all kind of bread and sugars, and eat more protein and vegetables. I eat protein and vegetables, but I have to eat more of them. I eat bread, which I shouldn’t, and avoid sugar. In any case, I have to consult a dietitian as soon as I arrive home so that I can lose those thirty pounds in order to stabilize my sugar avoiding becoming a diabetic. In other words, going to Gold Gym every day have kept good leg muscles but is never going to be enough for me. The doctor told me that I can drive again, since I have not had a seizure within a year. That’s good news for Carla. I can drive her to all the parties she might want to go to.

After seeing Dr. Levin, I had my Psychological test. The one I call “brain torture.” This time around it was not that terrible for me. The bad news is that I will have to contact the doctor tomorrow to obtain the results and come back to the hospital to pick up all the MRI CDs. They are going to put everything in MD Anderson records. Sonia, Jaime and I went to La Madelaine for lunch. The food was great.

Crónicas de un cerebro enfermo XV.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I did not feel too good in the morning. The long trip, the emotions and the fact that I am going to the hospital tomorrow stressed me out. I woke up with a headache and vomiting. I have to learn how to cry because I bottle all my emotions inside, and end up taking it all out the next day in the worst way, and have to add fake tear droplets into my eyes. Fortunately, Mai brought me aroma therapy cream, lotion, body wash, eyes mask, and gave me a massage. It is great to have such a thoughtful and resourceful daughter in law. Sebastian, as Danilo used to do at that age, got upset because his mother was doing to me the same massages that he thought were just for her little son. I guess Mai has to enjoy this now, because at age 13 and 19, Carla and Danilo feel relieved whenever I have something else to do to keep me away from them. I got better immediately.

That same Sunday morning we were able to listen to Brian’s music at The Woodland’s Art Festival. Brian’s band dedicated a song to Jaime and I. There were so many beautiful things to buy, especially wooden and glass sculptures, that I wanted to buy them all. I thank God that I am living in an apartment and not in the huge house we had in Pittsburgh. Living in a small island with limited space makes me think twice about everything I buy. As my friend Sonia will say: “If I buy a pin, I will need to get rid of a pencil.” In our case, our limited space is filled with many books, computers, old music records, and food. I have to get rid of old books we have read whenever we buy new ones. That’s called cultural recycling. If the book I read and enjoy has nothing to do with the courses I teach at the university, I take them to Libreria Magica, were they sell books at very low prices. They also give me books for Carla and Danilo in exchange for my own books. Sometimes students ask me where to find a particular rare book, and I can tell them that they can find a copy for a very low price in that book store. Of course, when it comes to buying a new book, I go to La Tertulia or find it in Amazon. Fortunately, they were not selling books in that fair. I love art but it’s almost impossible to carry such big things in a suitcase.

After going to The Woodland’s Art Festival, we went to Galveston. Sebastian fell in love with the sea and I told him that he definitely needs to go to Puerto Rico so that he can enjoy playing with Danilo’s swords and Japanese figurines, and swim at the beach and pool with Carla. After going to the beach, we went to eat at Kemah. We were starving. Fortunately, Sebastian was focused on his Gameboy when we passed close to roller coasters. We found a nice seafood restaurant were I ate craw fish soup and patties. This food is served here and New Orleans. From all the festivals and music around this area, one will get the feeling that we are either in Fat Tuesday or Mardi Grass during the Eastern week. This Texans eat… We asked for just one pudding topped with brandy, share it between 5 people, and were thinking that only Fred Flinestone would be able to eat such a dessert by himself. Upon going back to the parking lot, Sebastian saw the roller coasters and Pablo accompanied him to take some rides. It was easy to convince him that some of the rides will take his food out of his stomach. So, he got into a few of those machines and we were soon ready to go back to Porter, Texas, were Brian and Sonia live.

Crónicas de un cerebro enfermo XIV.

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

I arrived to Houston, Texas, on Saturday, April 6. We were in the same flight that Carla’s social teacher (Giselle) and classmate (Brandon) took. Their whole family moved to Houston. Indeed, many Puerto Ricans have moved to Texas since there are many jobs in the medical and business fields. I don’t think there will be bacalaitos and alcapurrias any time soon, but as the economy worsen and the flaw keeps going, I will not doubt to see a Puerto Rican parade in Houston within 7 years or so.

Sonia Turner picked us up at the airport and took us to a jazz concert right a way. Her husband is a musician and his band was playing at the Old Oil Times Fair at Humble, Texas. This is a small town that got rich when oil was discovered there, but it declined as they used all the oil available in the area. George Bush Airport is right now the main job resource in the area. People arrive there to go to MD Anderson, the best Cancer Center in the world, and to study at colleges such as Rice and the University of Houston (MD Anderson is part of this University). Now, they make concerts and sell art craft in the Old Oil Times Fair both to remember “the old good days” and make some money through other means. There is oil drilling all over Texas, but Humble is a metaphor of what will follow if the oil dries up. Perhaps, college education, art craft, music, and medical treatment, along with finding ecologically friendly energy resources is the more human way to get out of the economical and ecological mess we are living in right now. It is ironical that this town named the airport in honor of George Bush, the president and father of a president, whose family wealth came out of oil: the beginning and end of Humble’s wealth.

We arrived too late to listen to Brian Turner’s music, but we heard other musicians and met with old friends that I met last year: Joy, whose son has survived brain cancer for over 10 years, and Min, whose daughter began brain cancer treatment around the same time my tumor was discovered. We had lunch at Humble Café, and met there with Pablo, my stepson, Mai, my daughter in law, and Sebastian, our grandchild. They moved to Dallas two months ago, and came here to spend two days together with Jaime and I. They stayed with us at Sonia’s and Brian’s home. I have not seen them since five years ago. Jaime saw them in Ohio around three years ago. Sebastian is in Kindergarten and turned 6 the second of April. He is a very impressive kid and likes the exact things that my own 19-year-old likes: Japanese cartoons, swords, computers, and of course, at this age, all kinds of dinosaurs. I told him that I lost their phone numbers because my original cell was stolen, and he was able to enter the names, last names, and phone numbers of Pablo and Mai, while complaining that he is a big boy now and does not have his own cell phone yet. He found out very quickly how to take photos with my cell, which has a whole key board as a computer do. He even got into the web using my cell, and played brain games. Since Sebastian has never seen the sea, Pablo planned to go the next day to Galveston, so that he can swim a little. We are joining them to enjoy this first experience together.

Crónicas de un cerebro enfermo XIII.

January 22, 2009.

I am writing to inform you that there is not much medical information available to share with you at this moment because I convinced my doctors to postpone the M.R.I., mammography and ultrasound so that I could spend Christmas at home, away from hospitals. I finally had my MRI, the mammography and an ultra sound during January 12th and 13th, right after Carla’s birthday. She was born on January 11th like Eugenio María de Hostos, but I named her Carla rather than María Eugenia. “Carla” means “womanly strong” and I thought that a little more than education (“La educación de la mujer”) is needed to succeed in this world as a woman. Between Carla’s birthday, and all the medical exams, I cannot provide you yet with any medical facts, but I can share with you a little something about my own perceptions of my progress.

First of all, I am now able to walk in an exercise machine while moving my arms up and down for about 40 minutes. I am also lifting weight for around 20 minutes. This is an incredible feat for someone who did not have any reflex in both her legs only one year ago. My coordination is now perfect, something remarkable given the neurological condition usually caused by brain tumors and surgery. I thank God every day for each of the steps of this long ladder of recovery. My biggest accomplishment is having recovered my ability to read relatively fast without headaches or eye’s problems. Last summer I struggled to reread all the books and articles for the class I was due to teach during the first semester of the year 2008-2009, since I could not remember anything or understand my own class notes. The memory came back in the process of reading everything as if it were the first time.

Have you had the chance to read a book for the first time more than once? The joy of the first reading of a book does not compare with further re-readings that are done for the professional and analytical purpose of a college course. This time around, I saw things that I did not noticed the tenth time I read those same books for different classes. I no longer see the brain tumor and surgery as an impediment, but as an experience that re-opened my eyes, shifting my perception of things that were already too common or familiar to be pleasurable. Pain, in other words, makes the path to joy and pleasure.

So happy I was with the newly recovered joy of reading, that I carried Nuestra señora de la noche (Our Lady of the Night) to read at the hospital (Auxilio Mutuo) while waiting for the mammography and ultrasound. Now, for those who have not read this novel, let’s just say that a lady wandering around in the middle of the night is most probably not a virgin. I don’t want to spoil your first reading because you might not enjoy, like me, the pleasure of reading everything for the first time more than once. God forbids that you have to have a brain tumor to enjoy such a pleasure! In any case, the novel captured my attention in such a way that I forgot were I was, and started living in the world of Isabel la Negra without even noticing that I was seated in front of a nun and an “old lady of the day time” who were probably offended by both the title of the book and my facial expressions while enjoying its reading.

Now, Jaime, Daniel Torres and Leo Cabranes, know most of my stories regarding this matter. I have told them what had happened to me before when someone mis-interpreted my face while I was reading at the library. Daniel thought that the best reading is a mis-reading, while Leo suggested that the guy who thought I was flirting with, probably found himself very lucky to find the “Lady of the Bus” (Sonia Braga) available in the most private space of a library. Jaime saw my suffering face while reading in a train, and wrote a poem describing the pain of reading Morirás lejos, by José Emilio Pacheco. Let’s just say that the less strange thing that had happened to me was that, while reading La Celestina in a Greyhound Bus, a woman who looked like an old prostitute approached me to let me know that she wanted to read what I was reading. When I told her that my book was in Spanish, she still asked me to share with her the story. Now, imagine this: it was like telling the story of Celestina to her contemporary version. Her eyes lighted up with the drama, and she even added her own questions and commentaries with the authority of someone who knew first hand how to walk the streets for a living.

This time around I hit the jackpot again! I guess the title of the book, and the fact that I was fully enjoying it while even forgetting that I was wearing a front opened shirt while waiting for the medical procedure, was enough to make the nun, and the old lady in front of me, belief that my short hair definitely meant that I was about to enter into a Magdalene House as a penitent whore. The nun was properly wearing her habit, the old woman covered her opened shirt with a long sleeve sweater, and there I was, exposing my upper body self while reading Mayra Santos’ story about Isabel la Negra, Our Lady of the Night. What can I tell you? I am now carrying a little medal of Virgin Mary, along with the booklet about the joys of virginity that the nun gave me before leaving the waiting room to start her medical procedure. Hers was surely longer than mine, since she needed to take off her habit before been violated by a mammography and an ultrasound. But I belief she enjoyed her pain her own way. She might be even happier for trying to save me from my sinful path. I dressed up fast to continue reading Our Lady of the Night, while carrying the booklet about virginity in the back pocket of my jeans. The medal of Virgin Mary is still hanging on my cell phone. Thanks God for the pleasure of reading!

Love,

Carmen R3

Crónicas de un cerebro enfermo XII.

8 de octubre de 2008
Yesterday, I had the last chemotherapy of this month. Since I have refused to read anything about the side effects of those pills in order to avoid having symptoms as a result of my all powerful hypochondria, I have been enjoying this month’s surprise. It was not very pleasant to take pills to stop nausea, having nausea anyway, and then spend all day long trying to avoid flushing the $7,000 chemotherapeutic pills down the drain. I am glad to tell you that my efforts were a success, thanks to limiting my daily intake to my kindergarten favorite food: hot corn meal and mash potatoes. I love those stuffs! Besides, I couldn’t stand the smell of Spanish paella, Italian pasta, German steak tartar, Arabic rice, grape leafs or hummus. Carla, Jaime, and Danilo had to eat all those disgusting things very fast so that I could keep my delightful and healthy pills in the stomach. This family suffered a lot this week! Even the cat had an extra amount of tuna!

Well, I am exaggerating, as usual. I did other things as well. I gave an exam to my suffering students and called the managers of MD Anderson (where I had the surgery) and Centro Médico (where I had the chirurgical-biopsy). They were all victims of my stomach temper this week. Centro Médico is charging me an incredible amount of dollars for two implants; that’s right: two implants. Those who know me well can testify that I will be glad to donate my natural ones to whoever is willing to accept them. Needless to say that a biopsy of a brain tumor doesn’t require two implants of any source. The manager tried to charge for the two implants anyway arguing that the nurses probably used the wrong word and were referring to two screws instead. I contained myself; I didn’t say “screw you,” I swear. Instead, I said in my most polite tone: if that were the case, my brain would have exploded during the first MRI taken one month after the biopsy and I am just a ghost who is going to suit you for screwing my brain to death! The problem was solved, or so they said.

My call to MD Anderson was even scarier. I started explaining the manager that I have received a letter which is probably a prank. An idiot is asking me to provide him my social security number so that he can defend me from a thief who has stolen the identities of MD Anderson cancer patients through the hospital’s computer. Hello, I told the manager, first, I have not provided my social security number to the hospital but my health plan group number. Second, how can an intruder obtain it from your computer and a lawyer needs to ask me for it? The manager informed me that, unfortunately, the letter was badly written but was not a prank. Someone, indeed, stole our personal data from MD Anderson’s computers. That’s why they hired this smart lawyer to defend us from identity theft. I told the manager that even though I have checked my credit report and found nothing strange in it, they shall provide me another lawyer who could think more logically than a cancer patient with a hole were her brain tumor used to be! I am supposed to be receiving a call from a new lawyer very soon. I hope they contact me while I am not in chemotherapy.

All kinds of crooks are flourishing during these days of economical turmoil. The easiest targets are, of curse, brain cancer patients that are supposed to be severely disabled, too sick to complain. I might get tired fighting, but I have to do it anyway. There are no regulations to control cybernetic thefts, health care fraud, and the regular crooks of Wallstreet, the Capitol, and the global mess we are living in. God bless the free and deregulated market, I love these stomach pains!

Crónicas de un cerebro enfermo XI.



27 de julio de 2008

Queridos amigos:

Hace tiempo que no me comunico con ustedes. En primer lugar, debo decirles que el MRI de mayo demostró que mi cabeza sigue andando bien y por lo tanto, puedo empezar a enseñar en la UPR en agosto, cuando me toca un segundo MRI. Tengo cita en Diciembre en MD Anderson, Texas. Entre tanto, ya tuve una defensa de tesis en julio, corregí otra que se defenderá en septiembre y también metí toda la información de mis clases del primer semestre del 2008-09 en “Black Board”.

Mi hermano Gami, que reside en Boston, vino a visitarme en julio. No había podido venir a verme porque recién comenzaba en un nuevo trabajo cuando me dio el soponcio aquel. Al poco tiempo de haber llegado se antojó de hacer pasteles. Tuvimos que hacer unos cuantos de camarones porque para evitar consumir hormonas, sólo como vegetales, frutas, mariscos y pescados. El resto de la familia y amigos se comieron los pasteles de cerdo. Quedaron riquísimos pero Gami no me mete en este embeleco nunca jamás. Es más fácil escribir un libro que hacer 60 pasteles. De pastelera me habría muerto hace tiempo… Llevé a Gami y a mi hija Carla a quedarse con mi mamá y mi papá en la playa de Añasco, pero me volví inmediatamente a casa porque no puedo tomar mucho sol cuando tomo las pastillas de la quimio. Fuimos también a visitar a mi tía Tati (María Magdalena) y al cumpleaños del hijo de mi prima Carmen Julia. Casi todas mis primas del lado Rabell se llaman Carmen como mi abuela, María del Carmen. El otro nombre me viene de la otra abuela: Rita Verónica. El segundo nombre de mis primas es siempre el de sus otras abuelas. Esto es casi Cien años de Soledad. En todo caso, en julio estaban muchas Cármenes de fiesta.

Daniel Torres pasó también por casa pero lo vi muy poco porque vive en el siglo XX sin celular y es difícil encontrarlo. Cuando uno se la pasa de un lado para otro con esperas indefinidas, el celular es la mejor forma de comunicarse. Pude ver a dos amigas que estaban enseñando en verano en la UPR, a Grisel Maduro (que enseña en New Jersey) y a Asima (que enseña en Philli), gracias a este diminuto invento que camina con uno a cuestas.

Nos visitaron también Brian Turner y Sonia Sepúlveda, los amigos con quienes estuve viviendo después de mi operación en Texas. Anduvimos con Rose Marie por el Viejo San Juan y también por Río Piedras, almorzando en El Nilo, con Alan Bernier, Norma y sus nenes. En casa, vimos en mi computadora las fotos que tomamos en casa de los Turner en Texas, sobre todo las de la nena, Ana Belle, que me ayudaba a ver los “flash cards” para recuperar las palabras y le encantaba sentarse conmigo frente a la computadora mientras yo les escribía a ustedes aquellas cartas texanas. Se nos fue mi tan querida ayudante de tres años, pero volveremos a comunicarnos en algún momento con este angelito que ya terminó su misión en la tierra.

Volviendo a la tierra, Danilo se fue a España unas semanas antes de la visita de Gami. Suena de lo más contento con las clases y nos hemos reído bastante con sus ocurrencias en el español. Nos comunicamos unas cuantas veces con mensajes escritos a través del celular. Me preguntó, por ejemplo, si alguna vez habíamos ido con él al Valle de los Caídos. Le expliqué que fuimos en el 2001 pero él y Carla salieron arrancando de inmediato de sólo poner un pie en la entrada de la basílica. Me respondió que fue la misma sensación que había experimentado esta vez y se atrevió a agregar una personificación: “Esta basílica grita, llora y sangra”. Mucho menos poética que el hijo, le contesté que muchos presos políticos de la izquierda republicana habían muerto construyendo esto por mandato del c-br-n de Franco. Danilo me contestó con un vocablo que ya hemos acogido como parte de la Real Academia Española de la Familia Giordano Rabell: “Lo sé, por eso mismo es tan TERROROSA”. “Terror”, “horror” y hasta “error”, “oro”, “rosa” y “osa”, son palabras que se quedan cortas para expresar esa “cosa”. Las palabras y las cosas no son tan transparentes. Quiero pensar que los profesores de español de la UPR interpretarán esto como un caso de influencia gongorina. Por otro lado, aunque el propósito de estas clases era practicar la gramática y escritura del español, a él parece que le ha entusiasmado bastante la clase de “Arte y arquitectura musulmana, cristiana y judía de Toledo” y también la de “Folklore ibérico”. Anduvo en excursiones por Córdova, Granada, Segovia y Madrid.

La Carla llegó ayer de la República Dominicana, donde anduvo en una misión ayudando en la construcción de una iglesia en Higuey junto a los jóvenes de una iglesia luterana de California y un grupo de jóvenes de la Union Church de San Juan (Rita Viera Bernier, Mariel Viera Bernier, Casey La Veccia y Troy Field). Por pura casualidad, les tocó viajar a la República en el mismo vuelo que tomó al padre Darío quien inmediatamente les dio varios teléfonos por si tuvieran algún percance o necesitaran alguna ayuda. Todo salió bien, aunque Carla llegó totalmente tostada, a pesar de que usaba gafas y protector solar. Le encantó la comida dominicana y también la gente de Higuey. Todas las tardes, al finalizar el trabajo de construcción, jugaron pelota, baloncesto y soccer con los muchachos de Higuey. También fueron a la iglesia el domingo y después los llevaron a la playa a nadar y bucear. Pueden ver las fotos de Carla Giordano en Facebook si le piden ser sus amigos, pero les advierto que tiene más de 500 fotos y dice Daniel Torres que ella lo lleva por el camino de la amargura mandándole tantos tatuajes, mordidas, zombies y todas las boberías del caso. Como a Carla le robaron en la escuela el celular, el i-pod y también la cámara, no la dejé llevar a la República Dominicana ni el nuevo celular ni el i-pod para que se pusiera a hablar en español con los dominicanos y ayudara a traducir del inglés al español y viceversa. Con todo y eso, me llamó usando una computadora de un ciber-café y me pidió que le explicara a algunos de los demás padres que en lugar de estar llamando todos los días a sus hijos al hotel, se metieran en el blog de la red donde podían obtener la información diariamente: http://www.zionanaheim.org/blog/. No sé si de verdad estaba tan preocupada por las interrupciones de los padres del descanso de los trabajadores que tenían que madrugar todos los días y trabajar de sol a sol, o nos estaba dando una reprimenda a nosotros, que no llamamos nunca al hotel, como tampoco llamaos a Danilo por teléfono a Toledo. Seguimos el blog diariamente y siempre vimos a Carla muy contenta en las fotos.

Jaime y yo aprovechamos la ausencia de Danilo y Carla para ver muchas películas, ir a buenos restaurantes, descansar y dar una vueltita por Hormigueros. Me gustó mucho este pueblito. Nunca lo había visitado. Es muy limpio y tiene una basílica menor de la Virgen de Moserrate (negra, como debe ser) y por supuesto, allí se puede estar sin que las piedras “griten, lloren o sangren”.

Cuando llegue Danilo Mañana, empieza la cuenta regresiva para pasar al trabajo y comenzar las clases en la UPR (para Danilo y para mi) y en Robinson School (en el caso de Carla). Disfruten lo que queda de este veranito.

Un gran abrazo a todos,

Carmen Rita

Brain Tumors: Oligodendroglioma





These are the chronicles of a brain cancer patient with a tumor (oligodendroglioma 3) in the left temporal lobe that controls language. I wrote them for my friends, with the pervert illusion that words could stop the dispersion of the broken splinters in the mirror of memory.

Brain Tumors

Symptoms and Treatments

Brain Tumor
Most Common Symptoms

• Frequent headaches (reported by 50% of patients)

• Blurry vision

• Nausea and/or vomiting

• Personality or cognitive changes


Other symptoms
that are site-specific:

• Seizures

• Speech impairment

• Weakness

• Numbness on one side

• Problems with coordination, balance or mobility



Left Temporal lobe

• Language comprehension
• Behavior
• Memory
• Hearing
• Emotions

Two Types of Cells That Make Up the Nervous System

• Neurons send and receive nerve messages

• Glial cells (neuroglia) surround the neurons.
– Oligodendrocytes
– Astrocytes
– Ependymal cells
– Microglia
– Satellite cells



Oligodendroglioma

• Oligodendrocytes are cells that make myelin, a fatty substance that forms a protective sheath around nerve cells.


• Oligodendrogliomas

– Occurs frequently in the frontal or temporal lobes
– Can be classified as low or high grade
– Common among men and women; 3% of brain tumors mostly affect people in their 20s-40-s, but can occur in children
– More common in men than women
– Accounts for slightly less than three percent of all brain tumors
– May be associated with 1p or 19q chromosomal losses
– Half of patients with oligodendrogliomas are still alive after five years



Diagnosis

• CT scan
A CT (computerized tomography) scanner is a special kind of X-ray machine. Instead of sending out a single X-ray through your body as with ordinary X-rays, several beams are sent simultaneously from different angles.

• MRI (Magnetic Resonance Image)
MR imaging uses a powerful magnetic field, radio frequency pulses and a computer to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bone and virtually all other internal body structures. The images can then be examined on a computer monitor, printed or copied to CD. MRI does not use ionizing radiation (x-rays).

• Biopsy
A surgical procedure in which a small sample of tissue is taken from the tumor and examined under a microscope. The purpose of a biopsy is to diagnose a tumor; to find out its type and grade.



Treatment

• Surgery

• Radiation therapy

• Chemotherapy

Preparation for Awake Craneotomy: FIDUCIAL
A Silent Movie of the Brain (FMRI)

• MRI creating a three-dimentional image of the brain while listening to 7 stories and imagining these situations without moving or speaking.

• MRI creating a three-dimentional image of the brain while listening to math problems and solving them without moving or speaking.


Awake Craneotomy

• The skull is opened while the patient is under anesthesia
• The patient is awakened
• Using the three-dimensional MRI of the Brain as a guiding map, the surgeon touches with a tool the surrounding areas of the tumor that might affect speech or math skills while another doctor and a linguist or translator involve the patient in language drills and math exercises.
• The surgeon determines which parts of the tumor can be removed without affecting the math or language skills of the patient. If a patient cannot speak or do math while a specific point of the surrounding area of the tumor is touched, the surgeon determines not to extract that particular area.
• Once the map of the tumor that will be extracted is completed, the surgeon starts the surgery while the patient continues speaking non stop.
• Upon finishing the surgery, the patient is put again under anesthesia, the skull is covered and the tissue is neatly put back to “normal.”


And you Get a Cool New Hair Style!





WORKS CITED

“Brain Tumor Basics.” 2009. Brain Tumors. The University of
Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. March 16, 2009.
http://www.mdanderson.org/diseases/braincancer/

Burmett, Sarah, Alastair J. Munro & John Pillinger.
“What is a CT scanner?” 2008. Netdoctor.co.uk. March 14, 2009.
http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/health_advice/examinations/ctgeneral.htm

Mc Lean, Radha. The Essential Guide to Brain Tumors. Ed.
Edythe Vassall. San Francisco: National Brain Tumor
Foundation, 2007.

“Temporal Lobe Damage.” 2009. Merck Manuals. March 16,
2009.
http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec06/ch082/ch082b.html

“What is MRI of the Body?” August 20, 2008. Radiology Info.
March 16, 2009.
http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=bodymr

Crónicas de un cerebro enfermo X.








17 de mayo de 2008.

Queridos amigos:

Ha sido un poco larga mi ausencia. Tan larga como la longaniza que les escribo ahora. He estado trabajando en diferentes canales a la vez, lo cual es algo difícil cuando se está un poco chalada de la cabeza. Las preparaciones de las graduaciones de mis dos hijos, Danilo y Carla, tuvieron prioridad entre abril y mayo. Aunque me siento mucho mejor, quería asegurarme de que todos sus ropajes estaban listos con anticipación. Si tuviera que andar de hospitales por alguna emergencia, Jaime probablemente sufriría un infarto de tener que ocuparse solo de la compra de la vestimenta de Carla (sin comentarios). Danilo no es un problema porque, como le ha dado con ir contra el “establishment”, decidió que no se pone un “tuxedo” para el “prom” ni aunque le paguen (para pingüinos ya es suficiente con la película de Batman y las de Disney). Le comunicó lo más feliz a sus maestros que él se iba a poner el mismo gabán negro que había empleado como vestimenta formal cuando fungió el verano pasado de congresista de embuste en Washington DC. Si fue suficiente para el Congreso, que se lo aguante el Hotel San Juan. Para algo sirvió el embeleco aquel del verano pasado: Danilo hace lo que le viene en gana y también se registrará para votar por Obama ahora que quizás Puerto Rico cuente en las primarias.

Volviendo al tema, no había visto nunca tanto embeleco escolar: ceremonias de premiación de deportistas, de premiación académica, “class day”, “senior prom”, “baccalaurete” (llamado por los estudiantes “el bacalao”, por aquello de reírse un poco de tanta ceremonia) y por último, las graduaciones. Pareciera que las escuelas, en solidaridad con la mala economía de Puerto Rico y Estados Unidos, hubiesen decidido que había que estimular la compra y venta local para ayudar a salir rápidamente de la recesión. Con todo y eso, me llamó la atención que las tiendas no estuvieran tan atestadas como de costumbre, aún cuando fui de compras unas dos semanas antes del susodicho Día de las Madres, cuando aquello de “porque madre es una sola y a ti, te encontré en la calle”, produce un arrebato generalizado de mater(ialidad) comercial.

Debo confesarles que no me llevo demasiado bien con las graduaciones y por lo tanto, encuentro siempre una excusa para olvidarlas, aún antes de tener problemas de memoria y no tuviera ningún tumor cerebral. Asistí a la de la Escuela Superior por varias razones: me tocó escribir el libreto, y también diseñar la vestimenta de todas las piruetas que tuvimos que hacer recitando, bailando, actuando, etc. Todavía algunas compañeras de clase no me perdonan haberlas hecho usar los trajecitos aquellos y peor aún, haber recitado descalzas en el entonces muy acreditado y super bótate “Centro de Convenciones”, ahora demolido para darle paso a una ventana al mar. Yo casi lo demolí 29 años antes, pero por otras razones: aquello de graduarse en un lugar frente al mar donde no había ni una ventanita para verlo, y aguantando el calor imposible de una toga de tafeta y un birrete, era claustrofóbico. Qué horror arquitectónico! No lo echaremos de menos. No sé como a Rubén Blades, Willie Colón, El Gran Combo, La Sonora Ponceña y Wilfredo Vargas y sus Beduinos (las orquestas de nuestro Prom), no se les ocurrió alborotar todos a la vez a ver si, milagrosamente, se caían las paredes de aquel oscuro pasadizo, tal como hicieron los israelitas cuando derrumbaron los muros de Jericó a trompetazo limpio.

De las graduaciones universitarias, poco puedo acordarme y no porque la lectura hubiese calentado mi cerebro. A la de la UPR no fui por no desfilar con mis compañeros de Ciencias Naturales, donde sólo bien pocos gatos éramos huelguistas y nos había tocado la labor diaria de llenar los salones de “peos químicos” (sí, para algo sirvió estudiar química y matemáticas) para que los estudiantes no se quedaran en los salones. Con todo y eso, se quedaban en las clases oliendo peos (para los amigos españoles y chilenos, “pedos”). No me arrepiento, la mayoría son médicos y deben estar agradecidos de haberse acostumbrado a los malos olores sin poner malas caras ni decir “fo”.

A la graduación de doctorado de SUNY-Stony Brook no fui porque acabando de defender la tesis (parí el último capítulo de la tesis y a Danilo simultáneamente), me fui en el mismo avión con Rafael Acevedo a Puerto Rico con el propósito de enseñarle el bebé a la familia. Rafa hizo la tesis con mi marido Jaime y la defendió el mismo día que yo. Había vestido al nene de “poeta”, con un “turtle neck”negro y un “jardinerito” de lo más elegante. Durante la defensa, le tocó a Jaime y a Rafa la difícil tarea de cambiarle el pañal al niño porque, obviamente, yo no podía entrar con la criaturita a la defensa. Al terminar, encontré a Danilo con el pecherín en la espalda, una cruz en el pecho y un olorcito que ni les cuento. Me cambiaron al poeta por un “cruzado”. Quién sabe si ellos fueron la causa de que Danilo viva todavía en la Edad Media y, además, ande con una cruz en el pecho, cosa que no recuerdo en ningún miembro de la familia.

Demás está decirles que una vez en Puerto Rico, se me olvidó que tenía graduación y me quedé lo más feliz de playa en playa y “visitando altares” para mostrar a aquel niño que hubiese podido parecer, al menos, poeta, si Jaime Giordano y Rafael Acevedo hubiesen tenido alguna idea de la difícil vestimenta de un bebé. Menos mal que no lo llevé ese día con la vestimenta de jinete, porque le hubiesen puesto los pantalones de camisa de mangas largas. Como pueden imaginar, esos eran los días en que una podía disfrazar al pobre niño. Ahora ni se deja poner el disfraz de pingüino, aunque se lo pida el rector de la escuela.

Tampoco asistí a la graduación del doctorado de Columbia. Jaime me había comprado el esperpento aquel pero, una vez más, el color azul de aquella toga en pleno junio, me llevó directamente a la playa, olvidando que debía ir a cocinarme de calor en Nueva York, donde las graduaciones las hacen al aire libre, entre la vieja y la nueva biblioteca, cuyo edificio de reminiscencias grecolatinas posee un friso con los nombres de Sócrates, Platón, Esquilo, etc, y las graduandas tienen siempre que treparse un día antes a añadir unos pancartas con los nombres de Marie de France, María de Zayas, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, para recordarle al mundo que las intelectuales existen. Además de que me encontraba en Puerto Rico (enseñando a Marie de France, Zayas y Sor Juana, precisamente), el sólo pensar que la traviesa de Carla se me fuera a trepar también en aquel Partenón bibliotecario para colgarse peligrosamente del pancarta en pleno friso, me paraba los pelos de puntas. Quienes conocieron a Carla en esos años, se acordarán de su inclinación a treparse por todas partes. Hasta en las clases de “Adanza”, donde había un letrero que decía que las madres debían dejar a las niñas solas en la clase, me pidieron a mí que asistiera porque la niña caminaba por encima del preciso lugar donde debía sujetarse para realizar sus movimientos de bailarina. Duró tres meses en las clases de danza porque no pude más con tanto susto. Creo que aquella maestra vio el cielo abierto… Carla no dejó sus costumbres. Por si no lo sabían, la nena de Beatriz Sotomayor dio su primera pirueta de gimnasta en los pasamanos de las escaleras de El Monte Sur, cuando ella vino a traerme su tesis sobre Olivia Sabuco (fui lectora de la defensa). Por poco nos morimos de susto. Beatriz tuvo la intuición de que su niña debía estudiar gimnasia. Yo agarré a Carla por el brazo y la llevé al apartamento de inmediato, donde Danilo me sugirió que en lugar de andar escondiendo las cosas para que Carla no anduviera trepándose, quizás debíamos dejarla que viviera trepada de árbol en árbol como los monos. Debido a que mi familia tiende a ser muy alta, lo de la gimnasia no era una opción posible. Con dos piernas y dos brazos rotos (la última vez utilizando la máquina elíptica de Gold Gym con los brazos para abajo y los pies para arriba), Carla dejó eventualmente su interés por las alturas y las brincaderas. Ahora que se gradúa de sexto grado, está de lo más juiciosa y sólo salta para tratar de encestar una pelota muy de vez en cuando en un partido de baloncesto (encestó diez veces para un total de 20 puntos). Menos mal que hay otras niñas más brincotonas y pudieron llegar primeras en el torneo de Baldwin, segundas en el torneo de Weslian y el de Robinson y terceras en todos los colegios. Pude asistir sólo a dos partidos para evitar el alboroto y el cansancio. Le tocó a Jaime andar de un lado para otro.

Ahora me toca asistir a las graduaciones de estos niños traviesos y no puedo poner la excusa de que me da mucho calor y mejor me voy a la playa. No debo tomar mucho sol por la quimo y la cicatriz de la cabeza, que cada vez se nota menos. Espero que ninguna actividad dure más de dos horas porque todavía me canso con cierta facilidad. He estado muy bien de salud. Este mes he podido incluso asistir al gimnasio durante la quimo. Sin embargo, he estado con algunos problemas de memoria: se me volvieron a olvidar algunas palabras. Esta vez, sin embargo, no sé si esto es producto de la quimioterapia o de un circuito cerebral causado por el colmo de tanto embeleco de graduación. Menos mal, Danilo entra este año a la UPR-Río Piedras. Se va en junio y julio a Toledo (España) a reconectarse con el castellano sin poder hablar una sola palabra de inglés. Pensaba irse a estudiar a Estados Unidos, pero justo este año se anunció un nuevo programa de arqueología dentro del bachillerato en antropología, de modo que ya no tiene ninguna razón para no hacer el bachillerato en PR. Como parte de este programa, tendrá que irse de intercambio en su tercer año. Se puede ir a dos de las universidades americanas que lo aceptaron, sólo que pagando lo que se paga en PR; es decir, prácticamente nada. Como ven, gracias a Dios, todo ha salido mucho mejor de lo que hubiésemos imaginado.

El 26 de mayo tengo mi primer MRI (después de la operación y tratamiento de quimo) en Auxilio Mutuo. Cancelé mi cita de mayo en MD Anderson (Houston, Texas) para no perderme los embelecos de mis hijos. Confío en que todo salga bien para poder seguir el mismo protocolo de tratamiento en PR hasta diciembre, cuando sí espero volver a Texas a realizar una inmensa batería de exámenes de todo tipo. Es probable que vuelva a la UPR en agosto. Será mi propio examen cognoscitivo antes de que me examinen en Texas.

Para terminar esta longaniza, anoche despertamos a las 2:00 AM con un ruido atronador causado por un accidente de auto. Un joven borracho que iba volando, al percatarse de que un badén podía fastidiarle las llantas, frenó de repente e impactó mi Nissan (el que usa Jaime) y tres autos más. Casi me muero de risa cuando vi el auto hecho torta. Tres de los autos son pérdida total, incluyendo el mío. Curiosamente, cuatro patrullas de policías aparecieron de inmediato, todos los dueños despertamos con el ruido y bajamos de inmediato, el joven borracho estaba muerto de susto dentro de la patrulla y los dueños de los autos chocados estábamos de lo más tranquilos; yo porque de todos modos no puedo manejar en dos años y con un solo auto es suficiente. Me parece que los otros tres dueños también estaban locos por salir de un auto cuando la gasolina está tan baratita y no mucha gente que compre carros usados va a comprarlos en lo que valen. De modo que aquello era casi celebración.

El borracho estaba vivo, el seguro tendrá que deshacerse de la chatarra, porque lo que quedó está imposible, y la loquita de Carla estaba inventando irse a España con el dinero que nos dé el seguro. Me eché a reír y empecé a dictarle datos para que ella hiciera los cálculos. La última vez (2004) nos salió el viaje en $14,000. Un Nissan nuevo vale más o menos eso mismo. Este Nissan no era nuevo, tenía 33,000 millas y tenía 8 años. La nena hizo la matemática y salió del embeleco de inmediato. Podemos, querida hija, comprar muchos litros de helado Häagen Dazs en lugar de gasolina. Es una buena idea para contribuir a salir rápidamente de la recesión eliminando tanto carro demás y gasto excesivo de gasolina. Qué inteligencia la de este borracho. Ojalá le quiten la licencia, no sea que mate a nadie en otra ocasión. Por lo demás, serán cuatro autos menos frente a la Avenida Hostos. Los árboles y la acera se ven más bonitos sin tanto auto enfrente, pero tengo un poquito de miedo de andar por ahí, al menos los viernes en la noche.

Como ven, todo va mejor que nunca en el mejor de los mundos posibles!

Saludos a todos,

CR3 (No soy Cándida, qué va…)