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.

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 the charms that go with it. That apocalyptic, scary as shit diagnosis out of the literal blue and the ensuing frenetic medical carnival. The feeling that the universe was shitting on me for some reason that I could never fathom. I'd been a pretty good person overall - in my opinion, there were many, truly evil, awful people that deserved truckloads of all kinds of cancer (all of which are still alive of course, with nary a health care in the world).

But back to my point. See, I truly loved my job.

Yesterday during a temp gig, a call came in - guess who?  My old boss from my last job pre-BC!  

It was nice to catch up. It was even nicer to learn that he finally is closing up shop next month. 

Maybe he took the advice which I bark at him, chapter and verse, between gritted teeth when we say goodbye in 2014. Despite my sad state, so emotionally decimated and nauseated from the first chemo it's difficult to form coherent thought or even walk, I tell him to look outside at the beautiful day and that maybe, since he is beyond financially secure, it would be better to be enjoying life vs. being hunched over that fucking keyboard all day. Which is where some other future assistant will one day find his corpse, on some other fine day just like this one, hunched over for in earnest and forevermore. Because you really never know, how many days you have left.

It is good to hear his voice, to know his family is well. Instead of the sadness I imagined feeling for my old life, there is only peace and contentment, and looking forward with hope. We had a good run, didn't we? I'm proud of the quality of our teamwork.

 Happy retirement, Boss.

Downward Dog Days of Summer

No, this woman in the pic is NOT me. Yet. 

About a year ago, when trying to get in shape too quickly, I suffered a debilitating hamstring tear and knee pull. Probably I should have gone to the doctor, but my hatred of all things medical prevented such. And, it did heal on its own. After a very, very, very long  and pain-filled year. Still not 100%, but it is improving with my new exercise routine.

Yes!!! I'm finally back at it. This time, it's different - I'm using my head and going very slowly. It helps that it's so bloody blazing hot outside that any outdoor activity such as bike riding is off till November. I'm stuck inside the a/c with my Acacia subscription and free Youtube videos, both of which are awesome.

Acacia is through Amazon Prime Channels - it's $6.99 a month and worth it. Loads of beginner, low impact, short videos to get me going. Youtube has Jessica Smith TV and she's likewise got tons of short, easy to do, beginner programs. I'm walking, stretching, doing cardio and push-ups for the first time in years. Well I did one push-up, but you have to begin somewhere, right? 

Also, after that hamstring tear, a few things are apparent. It's not 1988 and I'm not in my twenties - no longer can I whip myself into shape in a week. I'm done with overdoing it and getting nowhere except on a crutch. Best to focus on what I can do right now, and build upon it slowly. A lifestyle change, not a quick fix. You know the rest.

Anyways, last night was a Kathy Smith 30 minute interval video with weights and cardio and I'm feeling the pain, which is well-earned and better than any cookie ever tasted.