Category Archives: Our Crazy Beautiful World

The Big C: Season 2 – Cathy Fights Cancer with a Continuous Smile

As I mentioned in my first blog about The Big C, I’ve been amazed by the unwavering ability of Cathy, played by Laurie Linney, to keep up appearances—I do not know of anyone who is so positively positive, kind to others, and able to maintain a continuous smile under the best circumstances, let alone while dying of stage 4 melanoma.

Has Stage 4 Melanoma Ever Looked Like This Much Fun?


Season 1 left me hanging, as Cathy, lying in a hospital bed was about to begin the process of receiving a series of toxic and frightening treatments that offered little promise of treating her fatal form of cancer. Yet, as I mentioned, she was all sweetness and smiles, not at all the kind of demeanor I imagine I would exhibit under her circumstances—I would be bitchy, pissed, and terrified shitless. Minor irritations like a skin rash drive me nuts.

So, here I am almost finished with the second season, and Cathy has not missed a beat. In fact, she has even opted to participate in a clinical trial, where she can’t wait for the side effects to appear as a sign that the poison assaulting her body is also killing her melanoma—loss of fingernails and hair, extreme nausea, burns on her body, just to name a few. And of course, when her nails do start to fall out, she is all smiles, a fount of pure optimism—maybe the treatment (poison) is working–YIPPEE! Now, if my fingernails were falling out, I’d be fucking freaking—I’m attached to my body parts, however small or seemingly insignificant they may seem compared to fatal forms of cancer.

I think her husband, Paul, played by the adorable Oliver Platt, must have caught Cathy’s propensity toward optimism and perpetual glee, or perhaps he was just born easy-going. He certainly takes getting fired from his job just when the medical bills are rolling in and he is forced to deal with the infamously callous American health care system with grace.

So, another season of The Big C leaves me certain I have no aptitude for grace under pressure when it comes to serious illnesses. Cathy is like the “Super Woman of Cancer,” who is always thinking of others even when her nails are falling out, her head feels it’s been in a vice, her ass is sore from shots, or she’s just been blasted by a cancer fighting cocktail. She even takes a job as swim coach at the high school where she’s taught school while going through her clinical trial and tribulations.

The woman is raising the bar, but is she really someone who any real person dealing with the issues of cancer or any serious illness can relate to?

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The Big C: A Few Thoughts

Sexy With Cancer? HMM

I just finished watching Season 1 of Showtime’s “The Big C.” It has been kind of a blast to watch, not what one would expect as the season opens with Cathy, played by a glowing, lovely, and not skinny (thank God) Laura Linney chatting with her oncologist about her situation – she has stage four melanoma, a certain death sentence. But, somehow Cathy is able to maintain more than a stiff upper lip and look absolutely blissful and radiant as she, at the season’s beginning, refrains from telling anyone of her condition and tries to deal. She faces decisions about treatment (at first she opts out), the meaning of her life, including her relationship with her husband, played by the sometimes adorable and often exasperating Oliver Platt, her relationship with her son, who is experiencing a rough hormonal shift into the world of narcissistic adolescence. Her homeless brother is in the picture along with a very sexy affair with the star of “Luther,” played by Idris Elba.

Cathy brings up some of my issues

I can’t wait to continue with Season 2, but here are some of the issues the show brings up – I know I would absolutely collapse under the pressure of that kind of diagnosis and would find it utterly impossible to endure my prognosis of a painful and inevitable death, with a radiant smile that never leaves my face. Cathy makes me get that I’m a coward, a big baby, and would be no fun at all if melanoma was thrown into the mix of the usual stuff of life such as, concerns about aging, sore joints, bills, the world of work and earning a living, and just the grit of life. She is just a better woman, as well as a YOUNGER woman than I.

One way I know this to be true is last week I went to my doctor with what appears to be a skin cancer on my chest and had a biopsy. The doctor’s office called me on Friday to say they got the results, but I didn’t get the message until Saturday – so I got worried and went from A to Z. My mind took me immediately to stage 4 of something fatal, and it wasn’t as fun as Cathy’s stage 4. I won’t ever look like Lora Linney no matter what stage I’m in. Most likely I just have the common and treatable kind of skin cancer that if caught early can be treated and eradicated. My skin cancer does not look like a melanoma so I should chill out, but unlike Cathy, I like to share my concerns with friends and update them on every little bit of news. I don’t just smile through my trials, however trivial, or at whatever magnitude they fall on the emotional Richter scale.

Are women going to feel pressure to be sexy and fight cancer at the same time?

And, Cathy seems to have some things to smile about even with stage 4 melanoma – she has health insurance and a hot young doctor who falls for her, she gets to have a luscious affair with the guy she meets while teaching school – the guy who plays Luther. She even splurges for a full bikini wax for the first time and runs off to the Bahamas to show off her bikini. Although she is estranged from her husband, he still adores her and intends to stick around when she comes clean about the cancer. She is still looking really good and money is no problem.

I don’t know what Season 2 will bring, but I can’t wait. The first season leaves us with a cliff hanger – there is Cathy in her hospital bed with her husband holding her hand, about to receive a brutal cancer treatment that is akin to life threatening torture and offers her little return on investment. But Cathy, so very unlike me, is still smiling that beatific and almost saintly smile, her cheeks are pink, and she is ready to fight and determined to no longer go gently into that good night.

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Maya Angelou Emailed Me Today

My grandmother and my uncle experienced circumstances that would break your heart. When they went to vote, they were asked impossible questions like, “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” When they couldn’t answer, they couldn’t vote.

Maya Angelou

Okay, she didn’t email this only to me, but I was still moved to see, “Dear Kartika.” The email came from info.barackobama from Maya Angelou into my email box. The email came from the heart and soul of Maya Angelou.

I would be honored to have Maya Angelou think of me as “dear.” I love Maya Angelou for many reasons – reading her memoir changed my life and the lives of millions of readers who have been inspired by her courage, talent, and the work she has done on behalf of women, minorities and so many people throughout the world who have no voice.

Maya is not afraid to “speak truth to power.” Because I’m a registered Democrat, she asked me to vote for Barack Obama. Here is her message:

Dear Kartika,

I am not writing to you as a black voter, or a woman voter, or as a voter who is over 70 years old and six feet tall. I am writing to you as a representative of this great country — as an American.

It is your job to vote. It is your responsibility, your right, and your privilege. You may be pretty or plain, heavy or thin, gay or straight, poor or rich.

But remember this: In an election, every voice is equally powerful — don’t underestimate your vote. Voting is the great equalizer.

Your vote might make the difference. Don’t fool around with this: You can vote early in Iowa, so find your early vote polling location and do it now.

Once you’ve done that, make sure your friends know exactly where they can vote early, too.

As a country, we can scarcely perceive the magnitude of our progress.

My grandmother and my uncle experienced circumstances that would break your heart. When they went to vote, they were asked impossible questions like, “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” When they couldn’t answer, they couldn’t vote.

I once debated with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. about whether an African American would ever be elected president. He believed it would happen within the next 40 years at the time — I believed it would never happen within my lifetime.

I have never been happier to have been proven wrong.

And since President Barack Obama’s historic election, we’ve moved forward in courageous and beautiful ways. More students can afford college, and more families have access to affordable health insurance. Women have greater opportunities to get equal pay for equal work.

Yet as Rev. King wrote, “All progress is precarious.”

So don’t sit on the sidelines. Don’t hesitate. Don’t have any regrets. Vote.

You don’t have to wait until Election Day. Voting has already begun in Iowa — so go, rise up, and cast your ballot early:

http://my.barackobama.com/Find-Your-Early-Vote-Location

And make sure everyone in your life knows where they can vote early, too:

http://my.barackobama.com/Help-Your-Friends-Vote-Early

Your vote is not only important. It’s imperative.

Thank you,

Dr. Maya Angelou

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