Thursday, July 03, 2008


Part of my self-conceived goal in blogging from Valier is to keep a kind of record of what it’s like to live here that’s a bit more realistic than the slick magazine stories aimed at the wealthy. In this time of $4 gas, Montana’s distances become ever more controlling of decisions. Once a month, when my Social Security hits my credit union account in Portland, I spend a couple of days on the month’s errands in one of the adjacent county seats (each about thirty miles away) or in the closest US big city. (Lethbridge in Canada is much bigger but I’d have to struggle through customs.) So yesterday I went to Shelby, a town whose rotund optometrist mayor has made sure economics have taken priority over quality of life. The place literally stinks of diesel and sour gas, but businesses (like a contract jail and a railroad hub) locate there.

I was delighted that it was a grey day, damp and cool coastal air blown over the mountains the day before. Starting point was an early mammogram appointment at Marias Medical Clinic which I know entirely too much about because of working there as a ward clerk for five months, an experience rather like watching sausage being made. But to my delight the admitting clerk was a temporary from the billing department who was on her toes and cheerful. The x-ray tech was a young mother, also intelligent, polite about private parts (she warmed the squeezing plates with a heating pad), informed, and local. No prairie princess, she!

In fact, we were very much on the same page about a lot of things. I gave her my opinion that “breast cancer” has been commodified into an issue that hooks peoples’ feelings about sex, appearance, and feminism so intensely that we’ve entirely lost sight of the fact that cancer is a disfunction of CELLS. Normally corruptions in the DNA code are countered by scavenger cells that mop up mutations, so that any outside force on a molecular level that tends to cause DNA distortion or to weaken those clean-up systems, will cause what we call “cancer.” Cancer is a generic portmanteau term without any reference to the differences between breast duct cells gone wild and connective tissue cells that over-replicate. The former is frighteningly fast and hard to control because duct cells by nature “bloom” for pregnancy while connective tissue is slow and dense. The public, esp. women, are considered too stupid to grasp these basics and too vain to stop risking their health with implants.

When she was taking the family medical history, she saw it includes breast cancer on my mother’s side, but the causes of death for my two aunts was not cancer: it was dementia. I attribute this to ag chemicals. (They were rural.) Then we talked about Diabetes II, which is not diabetes. Diabetes is a lack of insulin. Diabetes II is metabolic dysfunction on a cell-by-cell basis: cells fail to take in and use the insulin that is available. It makes you fat. (Fat doesn’t CAUSE this, it is the RESULT.) And we agreed that the excessive and rising rate of cancer and Diabetes II in this part of Montana is probably due to ag chemicals. In her home town, very much like Valier, the town tap water cannot be drunk or used for cooking but is used for bathing, which means it is absorbed through the skin and inhaled in the shower. It won’t be long until life spans here, like those in Russia today, will be shorter and shorter. It’s sobering when a medical professional thinks this and ever more so when one considers that she feels utterly powerless to change it. For instance, there was a dish of candy in the x-ray room -- maintained by a little association of women fighting “breast cancer” who provide crucial money for the equipment and programs. A big poster of a pink ribbon loop was on the wall. They think of the candy as helping people feel better.

It will take weeks to get my old x-rays from Portland and then almost a month to send the two sets to the expert somewhere else who makes the comparison and gives a verdict.

Next I went to the laundromat to wash kitchen rugs in the Big Boy machine. One machine worked, the other one refused to end the cycle. Finally, desperate to get my rug back, I recklessly opened the front-loading door, releasing a tsunami on the floor. Judging from the floor, it wasn’t the first time. The sopping rugs are now drying out on my driveway. Probably be there a day or so. The bedding in the other machine finished cycling and I split it between two dryers. One had heat and dried, one did not. Those comforters are out on the clothesline where the sun is sterilizing them. The owners of the laundromat are hoping to sell out so they are not maintaining. (It’s called “running to failure,” a common practice on the High Line.) The building will probably be used for something other than a laundromat. People think laundromats are too much work. Then they say they are desperate for jobs.

Next stop was Pamida to get my prescriptions filled. Janet, the excellent pharmacist, was overrun with work but marched through the tasks in order without panicking. She estimated an hour’s wait so I went to the pickiup and read a book to keep from buying junk. I’m a sucker for bright plastic buckets or cat toys that they never play with. In a while I went back just in time to answer a lot of questions. Humana had been my drug provider but I never came close to meeting their deductible, so I canceled them. The government, ever resourceful, simply assigned me another, to take effect July 1. But they hadn’t changed over the mysterious database that controls all drugs. Janet got the message: “Not covered” for every strategy she tried and she is VERY resourceful.

After three calls to a help number which is always overloaded, she contacted a person who straightened it out. I only paid $3.32, but she couldn’t tell me the actual cost of the drug (metformin for Diabetes II) or what my new deductible would be, etc. We have no idea what algorythyms are being used, what secret contracts have been arranged, or who’s getting kickbacks. At least I’ve stopped getting an endless flow of fat glossy magazines from Humana, all depicting giddy seniors who have no more disease because they exercise, take drugs, and signed up for high end insurance.

Fourth stop was Albertson’s for my major medical strategy: lots of green stuff. (I mean veggies, not money.) Just emerging was Lloyd, who sold his father’s old plaster Scriver tourist trinket -- bookends showing the little Russell/Clarke/calendar-for-hunters joke about a man who has shot something from a distance and arrives to find his trophy claimed by a grizzly -- man on one bookend, dead animal and griz on the other. Lloyd sold this to an avaricious gallery for $17,000. They cast it in bronze, patined it in a hokey way (red for the shirt, blue for his pants, brown for the bear, etc.), tried to pre-sell a few castings (I doubt they had much success with anyone who knew Bob Scriver’s work since it was what he himself would call “modeling” from early in his career), and then gave the original (which was one of maybe hundreds) to the Montana Historical Society where it disappeared into their quicksand. At least the gallery managed a big fat tax credit for their donation.

Inside Albertson’s the young man who runs the dairy section was defending his work to some big store honchos from headquarters. I advised them to stock more string cheese. They wrote it down. At the checkout was a handsome man in a very white shirt with a very white t-shirt under it, vaguely military. He was a man of color, though latte rather than espresso. His nameplate was a little fancier than others, so I asked him if he were the manager. Yes. I asked if the star meant he was an exceptionally GOOD manager. This tickled him so much that he gave me a coupon good for $1 off my next batch of groceries. It wasn’t until I looked at it closely after I got home that I saw it had expired in 2007.

I got home mid-afternoon and -- as soon as I got all perishables into the refrigerator -- collapsed into a nap. This morning I discovered that I’d left the pickiup open all night with all the canned goods sitting in plain sight. No one had disturbed anything. So that’s the way it goes. Ups and downs and surprises, some of them people.


Anonymous said...

This is a rich and delightful post on small-town life, and the tribulations of modern medicine.


Anonymous said...

Two thoughts:
One, if the ag chemical business is killing you, why don't you move?
Two, if you can't afford your groceries and fuel, how can you afford high speed internet and a personal computer?

prairie mary said...

If you're proud of your opinion, why don't you sign your name?

Why should I leave my neighbors to die when by talking about it I might save them?

You are assuming that I have high speed internet -- I don't. I have a low-end personal computer because I'm a writer. Why do you have yours?

If you don't like my blog, why do you read it?

Prairie Mary