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Thursday, December 27, 2018

Resolutions and all that crap

Another year post-BC. Another Pink October, Thanksgiving and Christmas have passed, all well-enjoyed. The night terrors about recurrence have ceased for now. 

My Pink October fits of the past years have fizzled - it simply takes too much energy to manifest the hate for the endless beautification of breast cancer in this country. I want to spend my valuable time on other things. 

So much of the past 4.5 years was consumed with IT. Diagnosis. Chemo. Surgery. Radiation. Grinding chemo side effects that never fully abate, despite the application of every single remedy Google can find, pharmaceutical and otherwise. Dread and joy cycling constantly, wavering between absolute ecstasy of living and the fear of a painful, early death. Plastic drain tubes where where my fine C-cups used to sit, under some jagged 70+ surgical staples. Those incisions, raw and ragged where the tubes exit the armpits. Every motion feels as if a lit cigar is being applied to those wounds. Sleep is impossible. Crying with my husband as he dutifully strips the drains, day after day. The bizarre, new lightness to my chest that leaves me wobbly and clumsy. Radiation time - that is supposed to be EASY AND PAIN FREE. Oh, you may get a slight sunburn is all. Yes indeed! It's more accurate to state that you most definitely will get a 2nd degree burn that is super fucking painful and will take years to heal. Tamoxifen last but not least, which may keep you alive and recurrence free, or do absolutely nothing whatsoever. It will assuredly cause you to gain 40+ pounds and experience joint aches of an 80 year old. 

Crushing and utter upheaval of our lives - financial, family, friends, mental and physical health, marital, spiritual - no molecule will escape the Big C's reign of terror. Thanks to chemo, I miss out on the crowd-pleasing fun of going through menopause, a tiny mercy. 

So here we are, on the cusp of yet another new year - 51, post-menopausal and stuck in a dead-end front desk job that requires absolutely nothing from me. Don't misunderstand - it's a great job in most ways. It's nothing short of a gift to have had it. It pays well and has outstanding benefits. There's tons of laughter and zero hard work involved. 

Still. The idea of a new year sparks the imagination. Opportunities, possibilities. Perhaps something that better suits my new normal. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Welcome to My Nightmare

Pink Sands of Suck
Anniversaries instill a renewed appreciation. A spouse, a home, a job, good friends, loving pets - small fortunes, all. I am lucky enough to have enjoyed a long uneventful stretch of cancerless good health - nearly 4 years of it, closer to that magic number 5.   

We plan a beach getaway for our 28th wedding anniversary and in the interim stay busy with the home projects that were postponed due to cancer. Things are getting done, the house is looking great.  

The Pink Monster (fears of recurrence, new cancer, metastatic, cancer cancer freaking cancer, etc.) stays away during daylight hours. I've worked relentlessly on its exorcism from my thoughts, dreams and life.  

Monsters are notoriously ill-mannered and love to crash parties, always in the dark. So while on holiday, our feet scrubbed clean by pristine sand, basking in the perfect carefree beach days, collecting shells and watching sunsets, my monster comes at night. It brings dreams of vast gloomy medical centers, menacing white-coats, the taste of chemotherapy, needles needles needles, tumors sprouting out of control, and fear galore. All claws and teeth, it chases me till dawn.  

What to do with you, little monster?  All my running never grows the distance between us. I'm so tired of trying to escape you. 

As you pounce, I spin with your velocity and embrace you. Your needle claws rest on my flat chest, where the scars are strong and you cannot pierce my bright, beating heart. I pull you in tighter, your scaly hide familiar and cool. We are so very close, you and I. We've been through many things together. Monstrous things, you might say.  Things that could give a girl nightmares. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

I'm a Pink Peace Princess

October again.

Time for so many  wonderful things -  the slow lowering of boiling tropical heat to merely intolerable, the earlier fall of darkness and some not so wonderful like BREAST CANCER AWARENESS month.

I am drowning in the pink - there is no safe place to land my eyeballs. Pizza boxes, pencils to car commercials and my very favorite, cancer-causing plastic things at the Dollar Store.  

Some find it very reassuring - these pink slogans, events and seeming hope. Just because my safe little world has been shattered, why ruin it for others?   

This month, I won't endlessly squawk that everyone is aware of breast cancer already, it does not necessarily matter what you do to prevent it, that it can and frequently does strike people regardless of age, diet and constitution. And I PINKy swear not to preach snarkily that your life-saving mammogram may be utterly worthless if you have dense breast tissue. No railing about how my yearly mammograms, especially the last one 3 months prior to my diagnosis failed me, and showed absolutely nothing suspicious. How no one ever mentioned that an ultrasound would be needed to find anything. 

You will be proud of me this October. I'm only going to engage in a few worthy battles for my METS sisters. Let's start now! The very prestigious Moffitt Cancer Center proudly posted a social media pic showing large pink, sexy bras festooned with ribbons, bows and shaggy scraps of used paper. These monstrosities were purportedly hung inside the very treatment facility where suffering, sick women in all stages of treatment could marvel at them. 

You might ask, WELL, what about the ladies that have endured disfiguring and life-altering breast surgery?  Perhaps even a double mastectomy? The ones that are not pursuing recon and will never NEED a bra again?   

Yes, what about them indeed, Moffitt?  

Moffitt says that it was part of some pseudo-self-esteem exercise and that the bras were actually made by patients facing reconstruction. What a really awful arts and crafts idea, but okay then, if I'm the patient, here is my bra: BLACK and of scratchy, cheap itchy wool. The underside facing my chest has thumbtacks in it that needle me constantly. I'd like it to have lots of splotches of red, bloody paint. And those preposterously large molded cups should be filled with sadness and anger. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Finally a gift that does not suck

I am all DONE with that dreaded menopause. 

Yep, apparently chemo hastened it and also, masked all symptoms. A silver lining of sorts. The gift that keeps on giving perhaps is developing some taste. 

Gift #1: It's over!

Gift #2: Now I know the real reason for the crazy, unexplained weight gain. Knowledge is power. 

Gift #3: Since in America, post-menopausal women over 50 are for the most part socially invisible and irrelevant, it's time to become as eccentric and weird as I want. Look out!

My pre-breast cancer personality would be obsessing, bitching and creating drama about getting older and fatter and grayer, blah blah blah. Getting all nostalgic for my former life, body and everything else.

Breast Cancer bequeaths another present right away - awareness and instant ability to be present in the moment, to appreciate the fragility of life and the blessings you have. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Bitch is Back. Again.

Scary pic circa October 2014, about Round 3 of Chemo. Just look at the forced grin, steroidal moon-face and those medication-dulled eyes. Good times!

Reminders are everywhere. Scars, those hidden and some impossible to conceal.

Lingering depression and the terror of recurrence. For a long time post-acute treatment I'm unable to mount the mere thought of a comeback. Mourning my old life keeps me paralyzed, along with that torn hamstring.

Departing slowly is the sad, stiff, achy, clutzy, obese girl. She can squat, she can move, she can Plank. Her core, formerly rotten and weak, is slowly morphing into something else. She can do things that she used to do before the Terrible Tumor Twins moved in. Things she thought would never be within her abilities again. 

Also for the first time since the Twins' eviction, she has gainful, full-time employment. It's zero stress, fun and easy, and pays remarkably well with excellent benefits. It fell into her lap like a comforting blanket, unexpected and at the best possible moment.

I'm learning the importance of taking things slow. Savoring the journey vs. the race to the destination.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


The cancer may be gone, but its destruction continues. The trauma of diagnosis, chemo, radiation and medication decimate me, body and soul. My 50 pound weight gain, lost mobility and joint pain make me miserable and clumsy. Sleep is fragmented, energy zero. 

My first attempt at getting in shape in 2015 results in a torn hamstring that does not heal. The pain is enormous and constant, the limb weak so I tear another compensating muscle. A cane is required to simply walk and the next 6 months are spent icing, wrapping, elevating and limping along.  

It's a dark time. There is temptation to give up. Obese people understand this - when even getting up out of a chair is difficult and painful, what's the point? Maybe better to just bring on the fried chicken, if this is my life now. Perhaps one day some cute fireman will cut down a wall to remove my 700 pound corpse, still clutching dead chicken bones. 

That tiny spark of my battered spirit though...she's a feisty bitch that never gives up on me even though I've done so in every meaningful way. 

Since I feel like Zero, where better to begin? That leg protests immediately. It aches, my moves are clumsy and unbalanced, with limited range of motion. Pilates Core for Beginners is incredibly difficult, because my core is rotten. I continue. 

The leg stops aching and the tightness eases so I add short, low impact cardio and small weights. Mobility, balance and endurance improve. Within a month, my clothes are looser and my joints no longer ache. When rising from a sitting position, the stiffness and stone-like muscle lock are gone. 

Yesterday was a rest day - was tempted to workout because already my day does not feel right without it. I didn't though. No reason to rush it.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Goodbye Girl

I was born with an overabundant love of nostalgia. Goodbyes have never been easy.

Saying goodbye to my old job circa 2014 was crushing, and not just because of breast cancer, and all its charms. That apocalyptic, scary as all hell diagnosis and the ensuing frenetic medical carnival. The feeling that the universe was crapping on me...why? I'd been a pretty good person overall.   

It was nice to catch up with my old Boss yesterday. It was even nicer to learn that he finally is closing up shop next month. 

Maybe he took the advice which I bark during my last day in the office, despite being so destroyed from the first chemo it's difficult to form coherent thought.  Look outside, I say. Since you need not work, wouldn't you rather be outside enjoying this magnificent day vs. being hunched over that freaking desk? Which is where my replacement will one day find your corpse, hunched over in earnest and forevermore. Because you really never know how many days you have left.

Fast forward to our call today. It is good to hear his voice, to know his family is well. Instead of the sadness for my old life, there is only peace and contentment, and looking forward with hope.