Posts Tagged ‘Genetic Mutation’

The Human Mystery

My latest mantra.

Yesterday three men shaved my groin. Just the right side, so it wasn’t like a spa treatment or anything. One was sort of attractive. The other two weren’t not-attractive, just both kind of short. All of them were wearing funny hats. And this was not a dream.

I was being prepped for an angiogram. An angiogram is a test that basically maps the vascular system of specific regions of the body. A radiologist enters your veins through your groin, hence the funny-hat-wearing aestheticians, I don’t know why I agreed to go through with the test and in fact, if the history of my health and wellness had served as any indicator I would have known going in that the outcome would be the medical equivalent of a shrugged mm-hmm-mm, which is a sing-song rendition of the phrase I-Don’t-Know.

The result of my angiogram featured such gems as “The pressures in your abdominal vena cava don’t make sense,” and “I found the portal vein in your liver, but I’m not sure I can get to it.”

“Not sure,” “doesn’t make sense,” “mm-hmm-mm.” These are the kind of test results I get a lot.

But things have started to become frightening in that way that they did for my father when he slowly started to die in the early years of the 1990’s. Hopefully, not quite as frightening, but there are certain systems that are indicating in my body that they need seeing to. But no one is quite sure how or why or where…

I know it is cliche to go here, but the truth is, I have thought a lot about our human lives.

I have considered where we exist in the universe. Not always high. Sometimes sober.

I have wondered if there is some other planet to which our bodies would be better suited (totally seriously):

  • Where the food we eat could sustain us for months rather than hours.
  • Where every breath lasts an hour instead of a few seconds.
  • Where our body temperature might fluctuate more than the mere 10 degrees that separate us from the grave.

I do not yet feel sick. I may never become sick (knock on wood, spit and spin around). I am experiencing my own body’s incorrect thinking that my DNA is sound. It is not. I have a gene – a single protein error among billions of proteins – and this error is making my body think it should do things that it shouldn’t. It did the same to my father. It did the same to my great-grandmother, my uncle, my great-uncle and his sister, my great-aunt. Unfortunately, it does not let you walk through walls (I’ve tried) or dance really well (again, I’ve tried).

This weird globe.

We are such a vulnerable little animal. Even now, at a time when we can see the meteor headed our way or know when and where the bomb will hit, or map the gene to the exact protein error, we ultimately have so little control or power.

We should be clairvoyant. We should have more answers. Fewer questions. We should be able to pacify our warriors and teach people like me the running man, but we can’t.

Maybe we live on the wrong planet. Somewhere else we might be more efficient. We might be better prepared. But we live here instead, in these bodies, on this planet, with each other and all our limitations and unknowing. In place of efficiency and understanding we have faith. I like faith. I am decidedly a fan. I think it gives us poetry and beauty and even love.

Of course it poses great dangers as well when it is bogged down by hate, fear and mistrust – I’m looking at you, James Spader in Pretty in Pink. But the loving kind, the trusting kind, the kind that hears, “mm-hmm-mm” and doesn’t fear but stands up bravely and trusts that in the end there will be more knowledge, better understanding and even a few answers because I bothered to ask the questions – bothered to have my groin shaved by a hot doctor fully awake – that is what I’m counting on now.

And maybe I’ll hope a little bit for the discovery of that alien planet where my specific genetic mutation helps me to digest ice cream like brussel sprouts, makes watching Sex and the City reruns accomplish the same thing as jogging and maybe provides a super power or two. It’s got to be out there. After all, the Universe, like the human body is vast and completely out of our realm of understanding.

So why not keep hoping?


Giving Knowlege, Inner Peace and Happiness the Finger

My friend on the subway. What?

I am mostly – fairly content. I attribute this truth primarily to the fact that I don’t have toddlers or a “real job.” But every now and then I find myself enmeshed in what most of you call “normal life” and between the stress (over deadlines), disappointment (about things not going my way), anxiety (about everything) and lack of time (to sleep and/or eat – but mostly eat) I find that my blood pressure rises, the hairs on my arms stand on end, and my pupils dilate. In other words, I get pissed off. Ok, I sometimes get pissed off even without the stress, anxiety and hunger.

The thing is about the times I get pissed off, whenever they may be, is that I also have this irritating little voice on my shoulder telling me that I don’t deserve it. Getting pissed off is for people trying to live peacefully in war-torn countries. It’s for people who have worked hard their whole lives but then end up unable to pay for cancer treatments because they got fired when they missed too much work for having cancer. It’s for Suri Cruise who so didn’t ask for that parental unit.

But me? First World problems all around. Take Monday: Walgreens called Aaron to let him know that we had forgotten to pick up some pictures we’d had developed in March. We couldn’t remember what they were. So yesterday he went into Walgreens to get them only to be informed that they had been, along with their negatives, shredded. I flipped. I was so mad I was plotting conversation points that included things like, “You must be so pleased that in your worthless life you’ve been given the opportunity to shred other people’s meaningful ones!”

I decided this morning that I’m not going to go in and say that, or any other line to anyone. Because, unlike me, that person hasa real job and potentially toddlers. This isn’t to say I’m not allowed to get pissed off. I mean, it’s all relative, right? But who do you blame when the world gets so big you start to wonder which person at Walgreen’s is responsible for my shredded negatives? And what’s my own culpability? I mean, they told me I had 24 hours to come in and get them. So someone got a little handsy and threw my photos in the shredder a few hours early. I was, after all, the one who forgot them in the first place, am still not really sure what they’re of, and definitely didn’t miss them yesterday…

A sewer pipe, like my anger, slicing through the sands of time.

When I was in college my father was dying of an unthinkable illness. So “unthinkable” in fact, it had never even been “thought.” It remains to this day unnamed, although we are getting closer to understanding its origin. But, I mean, come on! Who gets an unnamed illness besides like one person once on one single episode of House? No one. No one gets that. I remember being 21 and going out for drinks with college friends who were lamenting bad dating experiences, feeling frustrated by horrible classes, hating the cafeteria food, when all of the sudden they’d get quiet, look at me and say, “I know this is nothing compared to what you’re going through.”

It was absolutely true. No two ways about the fact that the cafeteria’s lack of mayonnaise was, as richter scales go, maybe rumbling a 0.3. But that’s the thing about life. Getting pissed off is bad for the blood pressure. It’s not so good for the digestion. But it is, as an animal, unable to distinguish between a Walgreen’s fuckup and genetic mutation. It doesn’t let you decide what will break your heart or what should make you fall down laughing.

I am over the pictures (But seriously Walgreen’s. I’ll see you in hell!) but I’m gonna let it slide that I cried for about two and a half minutes last night over them. I have a book deadline in a week and a half, company coming on Tuesday and am showing early signs of heat stroke. Maybe I needed a cry. It happens.



NPR Here I Come! And Homonym’s Suck

My Great Grandmother Mae Whatlastname and the swollen legs that I am lucky enough to have inherited. And my dad and uncle (on her lap). They don't have last names either.

Update: A few blog posts ago I wrote that I had pitched a story to NPR’s This American Life. As of last Wednesday I learned that my pitch had been chosen. The story I plan to tell effects my whole family (and as a side note, has made it imperative that I learn, once and for all, the difference between “effects” and “affects” which I tend to trade in and out at random). The story is about a genetic mutation that impacts all of us in different ways, but one of the ways it unifies us is in that it make getting insurance and life insurance a total drag.

So, yesterday I sent out an email to the family in order to get emails back from those e/affected so that the doctor who is studying us can speak to me legally. Everyone was okay except (oh crap, accept?) for one person. The one person not okay with the story, was also a little bit bitchy about not being okay. His father passed of the illness when he was very young. He, however, was lucky enough not to get the gene. He was, however, unlucky enough to get the name of the people largely a/effected. In other words, guilty by association.

His argument, although presented in such a way that made you want to slap him, was sound. All of us could run into major insurance problems should this name get out and be traced back to us. Since this is a blog about naming things (genius topic, if I do say so myself) it seems sort of remarkably appropriate that a name is at the root of the problem.

I already have a problem getting insurance so I’m a little bit indignant about the whole thing. But understanding that my problems don’t need to be everyones problems, I am going to keep the name of the family out of it. In fact, I may even move forward with the project using my married name– which is a whole `nother blog with a whole `nother series of a/effects/affectations/effectiveness/effervescence — again, about naming things.

At the end of the day, what’s truly important is that I sold a story to NPR’s This American Life. Hopefully in the process, I won’t break up the family. But if I do, did I mention that I’m gonna be on NPR?!?