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 to pencils to car commercials and my very favorite, cancer-causing plastic crap at the Dollar Store. It's on every advertisement, radio station and other media. 

And to be fair, I get it. Some find it very reassuring to see all these pink slogans, events and seeming hope. I remember what that was like and I miss it. And just because my safe little world has been shattered, why go around shattering others? In this increasingly sad, toxic cesspool we call humanity, who does not crave a little safety and comfort?  

I will not point out angrily and endlessly that everyone is aware of fucking breast cancer already, that 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 I think, 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 shitty arts and crafts idea, but okay then, if I'm the patient, here is my bra:  All 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. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Post Apocalyptic and Really Messy

Vacation at Camp. It's been a yearly thing since  1995. Along the way, we've missed a few years and not fully enjoyed others due to illness, water troubles, financial strife, career worries and The Great Red Squirrel Invasion of '09. Hey, I was not always this totally enlightened by cancer person. You know the stuff. Yours may differ somewhat, but it's what comprises any life - the mundane, the brutal, the tiny moments of joy and wonder. And this year is no different.

We are native Floridians, the Mikester and I. He was born in the hospital less than 5 miles up the road. As such, hurricanes and stormy weather are in our DNA. And, we have been so shockingly lucky, for all our 50+ years. We endure decades of close calls - endless watches and warnings and seasons. We lose trees, fencing and experience minor damages to our home and property, but nothing like the Homewrecking Hurricane Whore Irma.

She's a pro-slut. Like any vagabond whore, she wanders about aimlessly for a period of time, slinking about and flirting with our emotions. She seems to be choosing her target with a slow malice. Finally, she just decides to hump the entire state of Florida (and parts of others too, on her way out of town). The bitch is insatiable, wanton with her heated destruction. She destroys lives, homes and entire landscapes. Power is out for days, weeks, a month in some places.

AND, she decides to hone her slut radar more or less on our city while we are 1700 miles north, with our home unboarded, unattended and our kitties tended by a petsitter. Our home is left open, vulnerable and ripe for screwing.

Irma reminds me of my "cousin" (by marriage only), Mona. More about her in my other book, which I swear is upcoming. Anyway, all you need to know of her now is: lying, scheming, skanky whore that steals the first love of my life, the first boy I will ever kiss, thus forever destroying my ability to trust my own gender.

It all works out for us though, because we are lucky in life to many degrees. So yeah, an enormous tree, already dry-humped by Tropical Storm Gabrielle in 2001, falls onto Mikey's shed, destroying our yard completely but sparing our house. 20 more feet West and we'd be now living in the RV, fighting with the insurance company and reconstructing our home. I DO want those marble countertops, but not like that.

Anyway. The thing is, just when you want to give up on humans and search for an escape hatch from this shit storm of humanity - life can surprise you in wonderful and unexpected ways.

One neighbor boards our house. Another takes in our furbabies. Many others police our home, send us pictures and videos, and report the situation with daily updates.

Upon our return, our new neighbor helps Mike fix his roof, and cut the tree. Moonpie Marty does chainsaw duty. During the storm, Davin boards and unboards the house. Kaylin, Sandy and Brian take in our kitties and keep them safe during the storm. They throw out our bad food and make it all better.

 Everyone is safe, although pummeled. We are going to be okay.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Less is so much More

Birthday at Camp, circa 2007
Like everything else, our Maine trips are different post BC. 

Back in the 2000's, we contend with my frantic work life and my father's downward health spiral. Every year it's harder to relax, unwind and enjoy the fleeting moments of magic that surround our patch of the woods.  I am always in a state of readiness and connected to my work/father via cell phone. The last few years of his life there is no pleasure in our time away - just wary insomnia and mounting dread at returning to the hamster wheel of elder care and stressful work.

This is a work year at camp - already gone is most of the useless, broken and/or otherwise non-essential things. Before it was ours, the cabin was first host to Auntie Irene's hoarding problem, then to my father-in-law's similar issues. There are ratty chairs and nasty old blankets, decades of old newspapers, and dust from the 1970's on every rafter. It had been neglected and allowed to molder, a home to spiders of unbelievable size and asshole red squirrels with personality disorders. We spend years cleaning it out, donating items, sprucing it up, patching the holes. It's been re-roofed and painted, decorated in a lodge/log cabin theme. 

Anyway, it's more of a fun work trip since most of the biohazard work is done - a new bed and futon, finally getting up in the loft and digging out those few treasures that can be sold on Ebay - anyone need a bedpan?

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. This is something that eluded me for decades, despite my insatiable devouring of books on the subject. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Bitch is Back. Again.

These are some scary pics circa October 2014, about Round 3 of Chemo. Just look at the forced grins, steroidal moon-face and those medication-dulled eyes. 

Good times!

Reminders are everywhere. Scars, of course - hidden and those 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 fucking 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. Ever.

Oh! 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. It's fun to feel the fat fall away, along with that depression and fear. 

For the first time since my diagnosis, this feels like home.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


The last month has been painful and cathartic. 

The cancer may be gone, but its hurricane of destruction continues. The trauma of diagnosis, chemo, radiation and medication decimate me, body and soul. By 2017, I've gained 50 pounds, lost mobility and have constant pain in my joints.  The weight makes me miserable and clumsy. Sleep is fragmented, energy zero. 

Naturally, I overdo it immediately with my first attempt at getting in shape in 2015. This results in a torn hamstring that does not heal properly for a year. The pain is enormous and constant, the limb weak. I tear another compensating muscle in the front of the leg. A cane is now required to simply walk and the next 6 months are spent icing, wrapping and elevating and gimping. You may have guessed, this results in weight gain, depression and hopelessness. 

It's a dark time and there's a temptation to give up having any semblance of my old, healthy body. Obese people understand this - when even getting up out of a chair is difficult and painful, what's the point? Fuck it, bring on the fried chicken. Maybe this is just the way my life will be from now on. 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. She's pretty pissed, and also, I'm tired of being miserable. The leg is as healed as it's going to get. 

Since I feel like Zero, where better to begin? That leg protests immediately. It hurts to move, I cannot keep up with the instructor. My moves are clumsy and unbalanced, with limited range of motion. This makes me want to stop, cry, to order a pizza. Instead, I continue with careful attention and at my own pace. The leg aches 24/7, but in a good way. Pilates Core for Beginners is incredibly difficult, because my core is rotten. I continue. 

After the first week, 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 - and I was tempted to workout because already my day does not feel right without it. I didn't though. No reason to rush it.