Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Nobody can say they weren't warned...
Although my country will likely maintain studied ambiguity over the next few days, or even weeks... there is little doubt what has happened.
Since the beginning of the current civil war in Syria, Israel made it very clear that at the first sign that Assad's regime was losing control of its weapons arsenals, or that they were facilitating weapons transfers to their Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, our armed forces would not hesitate to attack.
Over the past few weeks as the situation in Syria has started to circle the drain, the IDF home front command quietly moved several Iron Dome anti-missile batteries to the north of the country.
When the press picked up on the movement of the batteries, the government insisted that it was just a routine rotation of the systems... but anyone paying attention knew it was a pre-emptive measure in advance of a pre-emotive measure.
Something was about to happen.
This morning several international media outlets reported that Lebanon was claiming to have tracked Israeli Air Force jets overhead.
Yeah, that had to mean something.
Sure enough, now Syria is reporting that IAF jets have bombed a 'research facility' outside Damascus. More reliable sources are reporting that it was, in fact, a weapons convoy headed for Lebanon.
I'm sure there will be lots of hand-wringing at the UN over this breach of Syria's sovereignty.
Good. Let 'em scream and carry on all they want. Nobody can say they weren't warned.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
The Bogeyman Hiding in the Shower
Like many men, I've spent much of my adult life simultaneously fascinated by breasts, and relieved beyond measure that I don't have them.
Just hearing horror stories about routine mammograms, and thinking about the growing list of friends who have struggled, and sometimes lost the battle, with breast cancer, is enough to make me thank G-d every morning for making me a man.
Oh sure, on some level I know as well as anyone that there's a little footnote on breast cancer brochures and websites that mentions that men can get it too. But since the overwhelming majority of breast cancer cases you hear/read about are women... this particular scourge is largely thought of as a 'women's cancer', like its ovarian and uterine cousins.
Most men I know (myself included) support breast cancer fund raisers for one or more of the following reasons:
- Because someone they know has had breast cancer
- Because it is considered trendy/enlightened in most circles for a man to support such a 'women's issue'
- Because a spouse or girlfriend is actively supporting it (i.e. earning 'brownie points')
- Because not only is the little pink ribbon on your shirt a total chick magnet, but it also allows a guy to shamelessly slip the word breast into a conversation (often several times!), he is having with a new female conquest without getting slapped.
Well, I'm here to tell you that there is another reason for a man to support Breast Cancer research: To paraphrase an old saying, it's all fun and games until you feel a lump in the shower.
While taking a shower recently, I was soaping up my pits as I usually do... but because the bar of soap was getting a tad thin (and I was too lazy to get out of the nice warm shower to get a fresh one), I had to take a little extra care to get the whole area nice and sudsy.
That's when I noticed a lump about halfway between my armpit and 'pec'. On a woman this would be that lovely spot that swells just beyond the right border of a bikini top's fabric.
At first I thought the little scrap of soap I'd been trying to use must have doubled up on me, and that was what my fingers had felt. But a second pass put paid to that theory. There was something there, all right... and it was about the size of a cocktail olive.
Right there in the shower I suddenly understood the barely contained terror that informed women live with every day of their adult lives. Standing there with the water streaming unfelt over my numb body, I tried to muster a list of all the information I possessed about what might be dancing there under my fingers. And a short list it was.
Some of you may not know this, but it turns out I didn't go to medical school. So I got out of the shower, dried off, and then spent several hours surfing the health and medical web sites finding out just how little I really knew about what it might mean to find a cocktail olive in one's armpit.
After nearly three hours of sitting on my little secret and scaring myself spitless with what I was finding on the web, I called up a buddy of mine who actually did go to medical school (and who, from what I had heard, is a damn fine surgeon).
He listened intently to what I described, asked a few professional questions, and told me to be at his office at 10:30 the following morning... he'd squeeze me in. I was there at 10:00.
At 11:20 he finally waved me into his examination room.
Now, there are ups and downs to having a drinking buddy who is also one of your health professionals.
On the plus side, there is none of the professional intimidation one sometimes feels when under the care of a stranger there in the reflected glare of a half dozen framed diplomas, degrees and certifications.
But on the down side, when someone you've swilled wine and beer with is poking and prodding something that might turn out to be a death sentence, it's surprisingly hard to keep up your end of the friendly banter.
I might add that whether you know the doctor personally or not, it is devilishly difficult to decipher the taciturn grunts, 'hmmmms' and barely audible 'there' you might hear during the exam. Simply put; Whether you know the doc well or not, you're gonna have to wait for the end of the exam before you get the news.
The interim news was encouraging. He said that the odds of these things being cancerous in men is relatively low. Surprisingly, as someone who occasionally buys a lottery ticket, long odds did nothing to assuage my fears... and I told him as much.
He assured me that we wouldn't be leaving anything to chance and that he would be scheduling me for his next surgery day (a week hence) so he could remove it and have it biopsied.
The delay, he explained, was partly because he was already overbooked for that week's surgery, and partly because he wanted me on antibiotics for at least a few days before the surgery because he suspected that at least part of the swelling around the lump was some kind of infection..
Those next few days forever elevated the whole breast cancer thing from a theoretical cause I raise money for in order to show how evolved I am, to the kind of bogeyman that will always be lurking in the dark corners of my sleep, waiting to pounce.
After what seemed like roughly a decade, the day of the surgery finally rolled around and I presented myself for my day of reckoning.
My friend was very businesslike, and seemed genuinely puzzled by my anxiety. He assured me that the most painful part of the surgery would be the sting of the local anesthetic as it was injected (he wasn't kidding!).
When I tried to explain that I was okay with pain… but that the specter of what he might find when he started cutting had kept me from having a decent night's sleep since we had last spoken, he got an expression on his face similar to the way my dog looks at me when I try to explain my feelings to her; good natured, head tilting confusion.
Here's where the disconnect exists between medical professionals and laymen:
If we come to you with a symptom that WEBMD.com says might possibly be cancer, unless you emphatically state that there is absolutely zero chance that our symptom is cancer, everything else you say to us sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher (cue 'wawawa' trombone noises).
Once the surgery was completed and I was suitably sutured and bandaged, I became fairly sure I hadn't drawn a breath in 15 minutes… and was feeling decidedly light-headed from the lack of oxygen. So with the last wisp of CO2 in my lungs I managed to squeak out what I hoped was a casual-sounding, "So, what do you think?".
My buddy the surgeon looked at me blankly and said, "About what?"
As my consciousness circled the drain I managed to say, "Um, about whatever you took out of my armpit". Is it cancer?"
At that point I think my friend's face showed more annoyance than comprehension… but that could just be the glare from the bright white light I was seeing from the end of a long tunnel. He shook his head and said, "Oh, I thought we discussed this. Just as I suspected it was an infected sebaceous cyst. I'll send it out for biopsy, but I can already tell you that everything looks fine. There was never anything to worry about."
At that point I think I must have started breathing again because, well, I didn't die right there on his table (duh!). But I also knew with certainty that no shower would ever be the same for me. No matter the long odds and slightly foolish feeling that I'd made too big a deal of this incident… I knew that I would be living the rest of my life like a death row prisoner who has been given a last minute reprieve by the governor. In short; like every woman who performs her self exam each month and steps from the shower with another 30 days of life to live.
If you are still reading this (and I hope you are), please give generously to support breast cancer research.
And if you are a man, please kiss your wife / mother / daughter for no apparent reason for the incredible courage and personal fortitude they have to show throughout their lives in the face of this decimating disease.
Friday, January 25, 2013
A new family record!
This may suggest to some readers the paucity of material I've had to work with lately, but I'm proud to report to the remaining faithful readers that a new record has been set here at chez treppenwitz:
Thirteen single, unmatched socks in one load of the kids' clean laundry... and not one pair!
Forget about looking for an explanation. It will only lead to the kind of frustration that makes parents old before their time.
Tuesday, January 08, 2013
What an awkwardly worded denial!
In the wake of securing the nomination for US Secretary of Defense, Hagel insisted that "there is not a shred of evidence that I am anti-Israel". [source]
If you think about it, that's an odd way of denying a charge. Not nearly as convincing as, say, an affirmative defense.
For instance, I doubt you'd feel comfortable leaving your kids in the care of a babysitter who insisted that "there is not a shred of evidence that I am a child molester".
I'm just saying...
Thursday, January 03, 2013
A Pet Peeve
There do no exist enough swear words in the English language to allow me to express my antipathy towards clothing manufacturers who only make men's pants with inseams measured in even numbered inches (which is pretty much all of them).
I have a 33" inseam and have basically three choices:
- Buy pants with a 34" inseam and have them hemmed.
- Buy pants with a 32" inseam and feel like a math nerd at a frat party.
- Buy really high end slacks with unfinished hems and have them tailored.
Just once I'd like to be able to walk into a store, buy a pair of pants off the rack, and walk out wearing them without looking like a homeless person or a geek!
Tuesday, January 01, 2013
A familiar beginning
Those who make a big deal of the beginning of the new year tend to romanticize it with visions of the classic night clubs peopled with the cream of society, swilling champagne and kissing to the strains of Auld Lang Syne.
And I'm sure there are people whose new year experience closely approximates this.
But midnight Israel time found most of our household already asleep (after all, January 1st is a school/work day), and the few stragglers were doing dishes, finishing homework or reading.
At some point in the wee hours of the morning our nine year old shuffled down to our bedroom and announced his presence with the question, "Ima, I told you that you have to bake a cake for school tomorrow... Did you do it?".
To which my groggy wife muttered, "Oh crap", into her pillow.
Thanks to the seven hour difference, we watched the ball drop in Times Square while we ate our breakfast, and drank our coffee with the smell of freshly baked cake (destined for a combined third grade class birthday celebration) wafting from the oven.
For us, the new secular year arrived quietly and was 'celebrated' in a most familiar and pleasant way... like any other day.