Monday, December 22, 2008

I can't really think of a title for this one

I was rereading Point of Dreams this week, a wonderful novel set in Astreiant, a Renaissance-era city in an alternate Europe where women, by virtue of astrology, control all the fixed property. It's a delicate and thoughtful exercise in world-building and the authors never step outside the narrative to explain things to you, giving you credit for being clever enough to figure it out. Plus, there's a rattling good murder mystery at the heart of the plot.

I got on Google to search for a sequel. Instead, I found this obituary for Lisa A. Barnett, who with her partner Melissa Scott, created the city of Astreiant and its fascinating inhabitants.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Samantha battles breast cancer, and looks fabulous doing it

I finally watched those episodes of "Sex in the City" where Samantha is diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer. We originally got the disk from Netflix around the time I was diagnosed, and I just had a hard time seeing that particular plot line as entertainment. So, yeah, this review is about three years late.

There are two moments in this season that I truly loved. More on them in a minute. In the meantime, I have a couple of questions:

1. When Samantha is going through chemo, her mental ordeal around losing her hair is fully chronicled. But she continues to wear lung-baring tops, with nary a scar or chemo port in sight. Where, exactly, are they supposed to be sticking the drugs into her?

2. In a similar vein, we see a chemo-fied Samantha having sex with her boyfriend Smith while wearing a tiny metallic bra of the sort that Madonna probably sleeps in. How much morphine would she have to take for that thing to be comfortable over a lumpectomy scar? I'm guessing, in layman's terms, a metric buttload.

2.5. Let's back up for a second: Sex. While in chemotherapy. Heh heh heh heh heh heh. Whoo. Had me going there.

3. Finally, when Samantha's treatment is over, she whips off the bra to have more sex with Smith. Revealing. Perfect. Breasts. Um, guys? Even the hottest surgeon in Manhattan is going to leave you with a souvenir. Or two. Or four.

4. So, apparently, Samantha must have had DCIS/Stage 0, but decided to have chemotherapy rather than radiation because... the writers have never actually known someone with breast cancer?

OK, enough quibbling. The moments I loved were when Samantha uses her boyfriend to jump the line to see the hot shot oncologist, and the moment before her "inspirational speech" when she tells the committee to nix the pink ribbon cookies for the cancer fundraiser: "These women have cancer. They need more than a ****ing cookie."

THOSE moments were pretty real.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Think System...

Cancer sucks.

I just got an email from a friend who is asking all of her friends to send some positive energy to a little boy who has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.

Cancer sucks for all times.

So for you little M., we are telling that cancer to bounce. Hit the bricks, take a hike, don't let the doorknob hit you in your fucking out of control cells on the way out. You are so unwelcome tumor, that the light from Friendly won't hit you for a bazillion years.

Go. Go now. And let us not speak of this ever again.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Drinking in the Pink

Thank Jebus, October is over. I can safely return to the supermarket and not be bombarded with pleas to buy pink, eat pink, think pink, and drink pink. This Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a burden that gets more and more onerous as the years go by.

This year, along with pink drink coolers, pink ribbon faux carabiner key fobs, and pink cereal, I could buy a fifth of vodka in a bottle that sports a pink ribbon and claims that a portion of the proceeds will be donated to breast cancer research.


Funny, the vodka pictured at the link above isn't the one I saw while shopping in a market recently. Nice to know there's more than one way to give while getting hammered on "pink" martinis.

And let me just say that I was sorely tempted to respond to the checkout boy's rote question "would you like to make a donation to breast cancer research?" by whipping out my Foobs™ and declaring that perhaps I've given enough already. It's not his fault that he was instructed to ask this of every customer he spoke to while ringing up their groceries.
I would, however, like to spend a few minutes alone in a room with the genius MBA who thought that it was a good idea for all checkout people to ask that question. I'm just trying to buy some food, maybe a magazine, and I've gotta think about breast cancer? Again?? Would that genius MBA like to be reminded of some trauma he/she suffered every time he/she wants to buy a pint of ice cream and a copy of Vanity Fair?

Note to self: next year, stock up at the end of September, then send the spousal unit to the store for anything I might need in the dreaded month of boob corrosion awareness. It's amusing that our awareness ends with Hallowe'en. Trick or treat! Tricky tits!

Oh, and re that article Carny mentioned about the time it takes to get back to normal - word.

Monday, October 20, 2008

October madness

A couple weeks ago, I had an interesting conversation with an acquaintance who developed colon cancer in her 30s.

"I am kind of jealous of the ones with breast cancer," she said, "because NO ONE wants to talk about colon cancer."

We did find many things we had in common, however:

We both wish people would treat us like we've never had cancer... except when we need them to understand that we've had cancer.

We both find we've reached a broader perspective on life... you can't really call it enlightenment, because it sometimes involves wanting to smack the shit out of other people for being so stuck on the petty stuff.

And we've both made bargains with the Universe to do whatever it asks of us, anything at all, just as long as we get to see our kids reach adulthood.

And speaking of long-term survivorship, I read this article in Cure magazine last week while waiting to see my oncologist for a follow-up. It's pretty badly written, so I'll cut to the chase for you: New studies of survivors suggest that it can take years for life to go back to "normal" after cancer. Pain, fatigue and fear of reocurrence can persist even 11 years after diagnosis.

All I can say is: O RLY?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Signs of the Apocalypse No. 7

Madden NFL 09 Pink: Yes, Virginia, it's a video football game that "fights" breast cancer.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

If I had a rocket launcher...

The place where I get my mammograms done is rescheduling mine because... they've decided to stop doing diagnostic exams on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

This is the same place that sent me a form letter a few months ago announcing when my mammogram would be. Without consulting me first about what times would work for me.

So, I'm wondering what the message is? Because it feels something like this: Hey, cancer survivor. We know you are just sitting at home with your gold AmEx card flipping through the home shopping channels. Since you're not capable of doing anything worthwhile, we expect you'll be happy to come have your boob hammered flat whenever we feel like doing it. And, yeah, we have Saturday appointments... with openings sometime in 2010.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Another country heard from

"You just have to decide if you're a Tigger or an Eeyore. I think I'm clear where I stand on the great Tigger/Eeyore debate. Never lose the childlike wonder. It's just too important. It's what drives us."

Randy Pausch, 1960-2008 (pancreatic cancer)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Junior brain trapped in a Misses body

I went clothes shopping. Again. This summer has found me in a fruitless search for a cute little summery dress, some cool casual tops, and maybe a nice button down shirt or two for dressy casual.

Here's the challenge: my flat-chested temple of a body doesn't lend itself easily to this year's fashion trends. Low cut bodices that show exactly what color my fake boobs (foobs!) are won't do. And the dresses that don't have the low cut V neckline have the deep U little milkmaid style bodices with puffed sleeves that are so not flattering on fifty year old arms. And the foobs are visible in either one.

That said, I'm not ready to give up and start wearing men's T-shirts. I'm going back to my sewing machine. We've been apart for awhile, but we need to get back together and heat up the sewing room.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Why so serious?

"What doesn't kill you makes you stranger."

--Joker, "The Dark Knight"

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Schwety boobs

Oh how I hate going to the east coast in the summer. It's hot, which is bad enough, but the humidity pretty much guarantees that my strap-on boobs are going to feel worse than usual, all damp and sweaty. They have these COOLMAX® pads that lay between the plastic encased blob of femininity and my skin, but that's only so helpful since the COOLMAX® pads are covered in some space age material that doesn't breathe on its own, it has to be shot fulla holes to make it cooler. And it's all encased in a fabric boob cover, sort of like socks for tits, but the cotton they are made of NEVER cools off.
Maybe someone could invent boobs that cool, like a cooling vest only smaller and able to fit inside a bra. I bet a lot of women, and not just mastectomy mavens would like to have something chilly to strap onto their chests when it gets hot.

That's enough. I'm going to watch some opera now. Jessye Norman rocks.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Let's draw a tasteful veil across the scene

Dear sister-in-breast-cancer:

I don't know how to tell you this nicely, but discussing your vaginal dryness with me at a co-ed cocktail party? SO not a bonding experience.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"You'll have to deal with this for the rest of your life."

Dear reader, the odds are good that at some point in your middle age, your doctor will diagnose some condition and tell you, "You'll have to deal with this for the rest of your life."

Surprisingly, this means you'll have to deal with this for the rest of your life. When things break after 40, they tend to stay broken. We learn this every day, yet denial remains one of the most powerful forces in the universe, stronger Peet's coffee or the under-car suction force that attracts Frisbees and dropped keys.

I'm typing this with one very tender left hand. I had a lymphedema flare-up last week, and my knuckles and fingers are still as puffy as if I had punched a wall. Which, frankly, sounds like a good idea right about now. I don't really know what sparked the flare-up -- maybe my lymph system reacted to the touch of flu I seem to have acquired, maybe I overused my left tipping books off the library shelves at my daughter's school for the end-of-year inventory. Maybe I put too much stress on my left side doing the physical therapy for my right shoulder -- the right shoulder I strained last spring trying not to overuse my left hand.

So I've spent the past nine days doing two sets of physical therapy exercises a day, one for my shoulder, one for my arm. Plus walking my daughter to school every day -- gotta get the aerobic exercise in to control my estrogen levels. Plus having the flu. I'm telling you, it's a good thing I don't have to go to a 9 to 5 right now, because my boss would be pretty close to firing my ass. As it is, I'm behind on household projects and I haven't even started to think about prep work for my fall classes.

My husband, trying to be helpful during one of my freakouts, said, "Don't worry -- you won't have this forever."

I just about snapped his head off. Because that's what I realized last week: Yes, I will. Yes, I have lymphadema. And I'm going to have to deal with this for the rest of my life.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

I gnashed my teeth, but the truth had been spoken

I am weeping with jealousy that I did not write
this blog post. Nor did I come up with the slogan "It's a disease, not a marketing opportunity."

Curse you, Assertive Cancer Patient. Now I have to make a donation.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Shoulda Seen It Coming

Blue Shield doesn't want to pay for my screening MRI this time. They say a mammogram should be just fine, thank you. Oh, and we can certainly appeal their decision if we want to, but since I'm supposed to get screened every six months, an appeal would be pretty pointless -- by the time it was decided, it would be time for the next exam.

I'm not a big fan of the MRI, and it tends to give more false positives, with all the unnecessary stress and anxiety that implies. But I'm fucking pissed off at Blue Shield for overruling my doctor this way.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Knots n' tumors

All I wanted to do was find a new conditioner. The hair that I've managaed to grow since I finished chemo seven years ago needs some new 'product.' So I visited my favorite hair care supply store and it was suggested to me to try a product I'd never tried before. It comes in a pink bottle, has a big pink ribbon on the label. The product felt good on my hand and so I imagined one day soon being able to run my fingers through my smooth and detangled hair.

But there was a pink ribbon on the label that was totally harshing my shopping buzz. Why do I have to think about cancer when I'm buying conditioner? Or cereal? Or anything?

Maybe all I want to do is have a fabulous head of hair floating over a brain that is free of thoughts of reality, if only for a brief moment.

Pink shmink.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll got it very right this week:

So I talk to the afflicted, and almost always I say, "Please let me know if there's anything I can do." It's a thing that people say. They say, "I'm sorry for your loss," if an actual loss is involved - would that include amputations? They say, "Everything happens for a reason," and then a large bolt of lightning turns them into a mound of charcoal, and a ghostly voice says, "What have we learned from this experience?"

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cancer has made me a crankier person

Earlier this month, distinguished cancer blogger Lymphopo powerfully described the experience of revisiting the ward where she got chemo, only to have a full-blown panic attack once she got there. She concluded:

And now, even though the worst appears to be over and I'm coping extremely well, adjusting, healing, rebuilding, still, at a very deep cellular level, permanently etched in my very neurons, I remain deeply traumatized. And this buried cellular trauma can be triggered and might rise up to haunt me and debilitate me at any time. Fun, eh?

So in one sense there's healing and moving on, but another sense there's no such thing. No matter how strong or brave I try to be, reality will never be the same.

She also admitted that she was tired of writing about having been sick:

If I decide to start another blog it'll probably just be a trivial chatty little what-I-ate-for-lunch dealie, amusing for me and my dogs and a few close friends but not so much to anybody else.

I've been meaning to blog about this post since I read it, about a week ago, but I've had a hard time getting around to it. Partially because I've been busy, but also -- let's be honest here -- because I am also tired of writing about having been sick. This is the damnedest thing: I want to shut up about it, as if I can will it into nonexistence through my silence.

In physics, there's the story of Schrodinger's cat. It's supposed to illustrate the strangeness of quantum mechanics. A cat is shut up in a steel box with a device that, at some unknown point, will kill the cat. While the box is closed, the cat is, in a sense, dead and alive at the same time.

This story also beautifully illustrates what it feels like to be a cancer survivor. Everything is both fine and awful at the same time. You may be alive; you may be dead and just not know it yet. The exquisite awareness of your own mortality wears away at you, like sandpaper, leaving you exposed and irritable.

Which reminds me: Got offered the senior discount again at the health food store up the street. That's it: I'm done shopping there. They can kiss my 49-year-old...