40 - It's the New 80!

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Posted on my blog at http://www.oberata.com on 1/11/10
More Friction Writing by me, courtesy of Lupus. Enjoy more laughs at my expense, you lushes!

With all due respect to John Fogerty, the Old Man isn’t Down The Road. He’s actually right here, roasting weenies in my living room.

No. That’s way too cute. Indulge me a writer’s do-over, because I hate this son-of-a-bitch.

It’s more like Terminator 2 – remember? – when that slick, non-Arnold, non-kid-friendly T-1000 unit showed up. He would just inhabit your entire body in an instant, take you around, steal your motorcycle, puncture your brainstem through your eyeball with a melty steel fingerblade. You know. That guy.

Except my guy’s not leaving. He’s been here since way before my 40th birthday this past October. If you thought Sarah Connor had it bad, think about good old Robert Patrick here setting up shop in your immune system for seven years. Kicking the tires. Ripping out entire systems. Taking his freaking holiday in my skin. Stealing my spirit, joy, and the prime years of my life.

Behold, the T-1000 Squatter Series.

No wonder I’m just now looking around and asking when that whole “40 is the new 25″ thing is going to kick in.

READER WARNING: This may shock you, but at times, even I tend to MOPE. Yes, me. If you feel like you can’t handle a big analytical MOPE in the coming paragraphs, just stop here and go read Dave Barry’s 2009 in Review. It is awesome and I peed myself. In fact, people I forwarded it to have also reported peeing themselves.

But if you like your bloggish beets and yogurt, please keep reading. It’s still funny, in a Gee, Mortality, You Sure Are Funny! kind of way.


No doubt you may be sick of hearing about this dreadful disease, my circular pessimism about it, and how I’m becoming a hybrid of Jabba the Hutt, The Incredible Hulk, and Montgomery Burns. I am sorry, but the more I write, the more I become Chronically Ill Blogger Lupus Guy.

*giant collective groan*

I really don’t want to be that guy. And it’s not just because I might have to ask The Internet for a spare kidney someday.

Did you hear about the whole @drew thing? Drew Olanoff is the young, cancer-stricken guy who’s making a real splash on Twitter. In 2009 he got comedian and host of The Price Is Right Drew Carey to pony up $1.00 per follower IF Carey would reach 100,000 Twitter followers by the end of the year. In the end – through intense media publicity and Olanoff’s prolific tweeting, it looks like Carey is going to end up donating $1,000,000 for LIVESTRONG, Lance Armstrong’s popular cancer organization.

That’s the happy part of the story. But following Olanoff on Twitter is both interesting and grueling. You feel like you really get close to his situation, because he updates continually with streams like:

* DrewOlanoff: ”Off to chemo this a.m. – OMG this SUCKS!”
* DrewOlanoff: “Please, remember to follow @DrewFromTV (soon @Drew) and @LIVESTRONG – $1 for each follower up to a million (combined)”
* DrewOlanoff: ”FUCK YOU CANCER!”
* DrewOlanoff: ”I’m guilty of complaining about things that at the end of the day don’t really matter. Cancer wants to take the people who do matter away.”
* DrewOlanoff: “@chemo_babe can i give you a hug? because it would be an honor. you’re a warrior, thank you.”
* DrewOlanoff: “The substitute surgeon removed a gland instead of an organ this morning. OOPS!!” #asshole!”


I have had a lot, but I’ve never had cancer. I feel for Drew, and you can’t help admiring his persistence and strength.

But there’s another part of the whole schtick that pisses me off. It’s the confusing ownership and identity that chronic illness places on those whom it afflicts. ”IT’S MY CANCER”. ”IT’S MY LUPUS”. ”I HATE IT.”

Indeed, what place on God’s Green Earth does this pain and misery have? Do I shun it? Embrace it? Is it me? Is it seasonal? Does it come with fries, drink, and a toy?

Olanoff grapples with his disease with rage, sarcasm, and humor . . . and that’s where we connect. He even encourages followers to blame his cancer for everything by using the Twitter hashtag #iblamedrewscancerfor, e.g.: ”@cowlickprinting: #Iblamedrewscancer for my ink cartridge being empty. LOL”

But the Game in Question is the negativity and hate of your condition, because it can become indistinguishable from the self. You fight and fight and fight so hard that it becomes the object of your hate, and you lose courage. You lose strength. You lose spirit. And you don’t have to be Deepak Chopra to know that pessimism way can be detrimental to your healing.

“Familiarity breeds contempt” hits a whole new level here. Because when you talk to IT, you acknowledge IT, and it’s usually not a friendly encounter. For example, I do not greet my Lupus with a warmish, “Good morning!! Creamer in your coffee today?” Or when grab my handful (1,230 or so) of meds from my pill trough, I don’t say, “MMMMM! Thank you for this tasty treat, O Western Medicine! You have outdone yourself again!”

The opposite is also impossible: to stay enraged over pain. You will die a literal death of a broken heart. I know because I’ve attempted it recently! Even the most violent of jerks knows this.

So the real battle? Loving yourself in all your flippin’ glory while you crumble to pathetic pieces. While you make horrible choices, gain weight, vent anger wrong, and take the wrong risks . . . all in front of everyone.

Richard Rohr calls this holding the tension and wrote an mind-bending book about it called Everything Belongs.

The hardest part? Well, in practice, for the chronically ill, it means to accept what appears to be a crushing, unfair, imbalance in the universe. It means to pray to die bravely like Braveheart if it comes to that. It means to persevere like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, if it comes to that.

Yeah, I got that. Oh. Me? Oh. ME? ME?

I’m not terminal or anything. But with all the disparaging lab results lately, it feels like the airplane turbulence that gets your attention. You know, the third or fourth violent dip that has you saying, “Damn, this mofo really could go down. Do the pilots know there’s a storm out there?”

Never, ever have I been in more admiration of healthy people. When I see speed walkers, runners, healthy eaters, gym rats, yoga instructors, personally secure and well people . . . seriously . . . I just marvel. This also goes for those who are mentally whole. AWESOME JOB for taking what you’ve got and making it awesome. And if I get the chance to get back there, I’ll roll along with the old 40 is the new 25 again.

But not now. I’m too busy holding the tension! Hang on with me? At least tell me I look 40!
Tags: lupus, nephritis Add / Edit Tags


  1. SugarSnit's Avatar
    I wanted to hit *like* or something... just to let you know I'm picking up what you're putting down here. Seriously. This is gobsmackingly accurate and true and annoyingly accurate and it doesn't quite hit the grating reality of how your non-lupie (non-sick) friends can only deal with soooo much REALITY of it before they slink away and hide.