Sunday, February 13, 2005


When I was in college I took psych and abnormal psych. This was back in the late seventies, so were still discussing Freud. (Do they discuss Freud anymore except for his historical value?) One of the psychological explanations for why people become junkies was that it took someone who had a problem-filled, complicated life, and simplified everything down to one all-important problem: 'Where do I get my next fix?' I always had trouble with that. The lives of alcoholics and drug addicts didn't seem to me to have traded a whole bunch of problems for one problem, but instead to have traded a whole bunch of problems for a whole bunch of other problems. But there is a way in which maybe an addiction organizes their life.

Cancer organizes my life. Christopher Davis had a link to counting spoons that illustrates an aspect of that (although I have a lot more energy than Christine Miserandino.) I started thinking about the way cancer organizes my life and how there are aspects of that I haven't worked through when Adam sent me a wonderful email about the blog. I emailed him back and told him jokingly that I didn't know what I was going to do in May when the cancer was gone.

Well I do know what I'm going to do, I'm doing some writing related traveling, but that's beside the point. When I finish my chemo, I'll still feel puny for awhile, but I'll have to start re-organizing my life. And while there are a lot of disadvantages to Hodgkins, there are a lot of advantages, too. My life is so important! Life and death decisions are being made ever couple of weeks! Everything has this lurid dramatic light on it! I have cancer! People are super nice to me! I get to pick the restaurants! I have control of the remote!

It gives me a little empathy for the people who develop Factitious Disorders. Factitious Disorder is a psychiatric disorder where people feign illness by drinking household cleaners, giving themselves infected abscesses, and a whole host of other ruses. Turns out there is are people who have claimed that their wife and unborn child had been killed in a car accident to get into psychiatric hospitals. People who have something called Munchausen by Internet where they join internet support groups for illnesses and problems they don't have.

I hope to give it all up as soon as possible. The nausea and the fatigue, I'll be able to give that up. But it's going to be hard to let go of the feeling that I should somehow be privileged. And that all you readers should be paying attention to whether or not I took a nap today. (The answer? Not yet, it's only 9:30 in the morning. But I'll keep you posted.)

I still want you all to keep reading. Just don't cut me any slack, okay?


Blogger Greg van Eekhout said...

Okay, no slack. Come May, I'll be as hard on you as ever. You'll be like, "Jesus, why's this guy so hard on me? What'd I ever do to this guy? For Chrissakes, I gave him a Diet Pepsi during our one-on-one conference at Viable Paradise! Why does he hate me??? WHY WON'T HE CUT ME SOME SLACK???"

And then I'll start to feel bad and ask if you if you've napped.

February 13, 2005 10:30 AM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

I don't think anyone here thinks you've been sipping Drano on the sly, Maureen. But we'll slap you silly on occasion if you need it...

February 13, 2005 12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm always the last to know and the most surprised.

I didn't know! I didn't know! Damn. The hell with slack, can I just send you all kinds of good wishes and thoughts and stuff?


February 13, 2005 1:08 PM  
Blogger Ted said...

Yeah, factitious disorder is one of a interesting group of conditions. There are those people who deliberately fake symptoms so they can, for example, use the hospital as a hotel (they're known as malingerers, which I think is a great word). And then there's conversion disorder, where the symptoms are psychogenic but there's no conscious intention. Apparently the symptoms can correlate with the degree of medical sophistication of the patient. My sister has seen patients who exhibit paralysis that doesn't correspond to any actual anatomic pathways.

February 13, 2005 2:05 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Ted, did you see the New Yorker article on the increasing commoness of accusing women of Munchausen by proxie? Much of it seems to correlate with women who have sick children who are persistent and perhaps obnoxious in their attempts to see that their children are attended to. A lawyer I know here in Ohio has defended three women of Munchausen by Proxie.

But to me, the most interesting ones are the people who aren't concious of their need to be 'sick'.

February 13, 2005 3:06 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

La Cadigan, you, as always, may do whatever you chose.

What does not fuck around with a diva.

(How are you? How's your mom? Has she thwarted any break-ins lately?)

February 13, 2005 3:07 PM  
Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

Have I been cutting you too much slack?

By the way, happy birthday. It is today, isn't it?

February 13, 2005 4:47 PM  
Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

Okay, I see that you made a birthday post a bit farther down.

By the way, cancer has totally failed to organize =my= life.

February 13, 2005 5:02 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Greg F, you obviously have an inferior form of cancer.

February 13, 2005 5:52 PM  
Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

It's a type =you'll= never get!

February 13, 2005 10:52 PM  
Blogger Ellen Datlow said...

Greg, I'm sorry to hear that you too have cancer. Good luck and I hope everything is back to normal quickly.

February 14, 2005 12:08 AM  
Blogger Ted said...

That sounds like an interesting article, Maureen. I'll have to look up that issue of The New Yorker.

February 14, 2005 1:19 AM  
Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

Hi, Ellen. Yes, Maureen and I were diagnosed with our respective malignancies a few weeks apart last fall. She was one of the few people I told about it at the time, and a couple weeks after my diagnosis she called up and said, "Guess what? I've got lymphoma!" We formed a support group, the Cool SF Writers with Cancer, which we hope no one else gets to join.

Since Maureen's treatment modality made the question of general knowledge moot (when your hair falls out, everyone knows what's going on), she Came Out before I did. (I kept things to myself for a few months -- no publisher will sign a two-book contract if they think you're going to die the next year -- but after the nasty surgery was over and tests suggested that the doctors may have got it all, I became less concerned.) Since chemo and surgery lie at opposite ends of a spectrum -- one is drawn out, while the other lands on you all at once -- we get to compare notes with a kind of horrified fascination.

Ted: the New Yorker article is indeed very interesting, if rather grim.

February 14, 2005 10:25 AM  
Blogger David Moles said...

Factitious Disorder is a psychiatric disorder where people feign illness by drinking household cleaners, giving themselves infected abscesses, and a whole host of other ruses.That's a heck of a ruse. I should've put my abscess on Ebay.

February 14, 2005 5:44 PM  
Blogger Ellen Datlow said...

Oy! Sorry you've had to go through surgery but very relieved that it appears to have been successful at eradicating the cancer.

February 14, 2005 7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greg F: Damn. Good thoughts and wishes from me, too. Hang in there.

Maureen: The only thing my mother is thwarting these days is me. Evicted by her landlady on short notice in August, she has been living in our living room ever since. We are working hard to get her re-settled in quarters of her own and have had to throw ourselves on the mercy of Social Services. Progress has been very, very s-s-s-l-l-l-o-o-o-o-w-w-w. The horror. She is mad, of course, but not in a very useful or pleasant way. Someday I will look back on this and laugh until my medication kicks in.

February 15, 2005 7:36 PM  

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