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Monday, November 14, 2016

Crossing Lombard

Another Fall and another free trip to San Francisco. How did I get so lucky?

Oh yea, breast cancer. I'm participating in a focus group regarding that fun fact, along with another group of survivors. We shall be wandering all over the town, and hope to have a revival concert with his OCG (Original Chinatown Guys). They loved his air guitar (sitar?) last year. 

My recovery is going well, stable, no hint of any recurrence or issues. Every single day without a trip to Florida Cancer Specialists, Phlebotomy and/or the terrifying imaging scans is a true, remarkable and blessed thing. I never want to lose this feeling - that life is indeed very short, and exactly what you make of it. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Going back to Cali

Yassss!  Genentech invited me back for its 2016 patient panel in San Fran. 

It is awesome on so many levels--another chance to make a contribution, to see The Perjeta Posse,  enjoy free travel and seeing one of the most amazing places on this Earth for the second time. To stick it to BC.  

We like a certain boutique hotel, old and charming in Union Square. It is so fine to snuggle in the cool Pacific air lulled to sleep by the dim cacophony of street noise and trolleys. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Cake for No Reason

Fall is so teasing in Florida. 

Mondays pre-cancer, you'd never, ever find me home on a fine October morning. Instead of enjoying the end of months of boiling temperatures, I'd be at my tiny desk, dutifully cranking out reams of hatred by 8:15. After all, nothing good happens over the weekend when you work in family law. Every Monday held another avalanche of strife and strife requires legal interventions. Lots and lots of them.

What a treat to sleep in and have nothing on your schedule. To leisurely hang around the house with no rushed, frantic motions. The freelance project is nearly done. No court deadlines, no hideous stacks of paper to sling, no horrid stress. 

I'm grateful for the lovely weather and the means to enjoy it.  No chemo today! Sometimes you forget. My life is utterly changed from my dx date in 2014. And it's good. 

So just for the hell of it, and really for no reason at all, a freshly frosted carrot cake now chills in the fridge. Mikey likes his cake cold, when the frosting is just slightly crunchy. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Creating a Void

Today I am inspired to create a beautiful, clean and functional nest. This necessitates shopping at Home Goods and finally canning those teflon pans in favor of stainless. 

The first rule of Feng Shui is clearing clutter, items that are not serving you, or that carry any negative energy. The plastic cooking utensils are off to Goodwill, along with an old crock pot that reminds me of an evil person. Two garbage bags are filled with old packing papers and the like, that have been taking up space for years. The tiny bathroom closet is organized, the old clothing is in my trunk, and already it feels lighter.

Donated many pots-all Teflon coated and probably cancer-causing. Funny how I thought we needed so much cookware for just two people. 

Having a small house, and it being Florida, we don't use the big oven much, and that is where the pots were kept. Always had trouble organizing them, moving them in the Fall, and forget the lids. 

The oven is clear and the vintage Pyrex is now organized neatly in an upper cabinet. 

Let the baking begin!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Do not tell me about your friend

Yeeeeeep.Another Pinktober, another inappropriate asshole.

Please do not tell me of your friend, unless she is a BC asskickin', NO RECURRENCE having, cured bitch.

WHY do people tell me horrible stories?

Friday, here she comes. She's a firm client, and so, to tell her to fuck off means no job for me. So instead, I listen...her friend got BC at 31, now she's 48 and GUESS WHAT?! Yeeeeep, mets to liver, bone, etc. All of if is disclosed, in graphic, horrific detail. 

Please please please. Do not tell us about your friend, mom, aunt, sister, whatever - if it involves bad news, a recurrence and/or mets. It really does not HELP us. All it does it inspire nightmares and unpleasant thoughts. WTF?  

I hate people. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Pinktober Promises

Fall is here. Instead of instantly igniting into flames upon walking outdoors, one sort of just smolders. Florida, a Baltic 89 degrees and nearly October.

With it, comes a still new, but creeping dread. Until the end of my days on this planet, every October is going to be an adventure in rage, apathy, disgust and awful things that I don’t want to be reminded of. Get’s time for Breast! Cancer! Awareness! Month!

What does awareness really mean? Not what it should – a cure, not for one particular kind of BC, or for early-stagers only – the cure for Stage IV mets patients too. Instead, until Halloween, we will be relentlessly pounded to purchase all things PINK and with RIBBONS-keychains, food, cars, clothing, jewelry, every single piece of it under the guise of altruistic venture. Early detection saves lives! Mammograms! Buy this and save more lives!  Blah, blah, blah.  

I found my own tumors 4 months after having yet another “clean” mammogram, one in a long string of them, faithfully endured under the belief in Pinktober Promises. Not one medical doctor - GP or GYN, ever advised more extensive tests, despite my very dense breast tissue. Not one ever mentioned that it was even possible the magnificent mammogram could miss my large, multi-focal tumors. 

What a day it was. The shiny expensive mammogram machine. The nurse musing that it looked like a cyst. How everything changed the second that ultrasound was applied. Grim medical faces and terms. Talk of “masses”.  The sound of the core biopsy needle like a nail gun. 

Nor can I forget how my Oncologist shrugged her shoulders at my shock, primarily, that useless mammogram. It happens all the time, she says, not even bothering to look up from her prescription pad.

So, it takes a great deal of self-discipline and control, an ability and desire to be the bigger person when some half-wit gushes at me about something about BC awareness, a race, a benefit, a sale. They have shiny pink faces and hopeful pink hearts.  Always, always, it’s someone that has never had cancer doing the gushing. They think Pinktober is terrific and helpful. They want to believe it will never happen to them.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Cabin Fever

It's setting in!

Can't wait to get to Stoney Acre and see the gang. This year we can ride bikes again at Bangor City Forest (could not last year as I was too assaulted from treatment), hike all over creation and generally be Southern Redneck nuisances. 

God, I love Maine.

The camp is old but sturdy as the granite boulders that surround it. When they were blasting Route 1A to make it wider, they indeed dynamited the cabin right off its foundation. But Mike and his father reset it and it has been solid ever since.

Last year we washed all the linens, pillows, quilts, towels, etc., and sealed it up nice and tidy in storage bins. Mouse and spider proof, with dryer sheets. That's the trick to a successful, clean camp - plastic and dryer sheets. Everything else is likewise packed in plastic, from utensils to toiletries.

Mikey did a hard target clean up of the ancient kindling and newspaper pile by the fireplace, aka, Mouseville. Sorry little rat've been evicted.

The weather is excellent there, vs. the fires of hell here. There's lots of work to do, as always, but mostly it's going to be time to relax and enjoy. Cook out and snuggle in flannel. Enjoy friends and campfires, starry skies, eating lobster rolls at Eagles Nest on Rt. 9 and searching for sea glass at Schoodic. Taking photos of the weird beauty of abandoned homes and cemeteries. 

I will be posting lots of pics of the experience this year, and maybe some videos as well, since I've been feeling so good. Stay tuned for Maine 2016!

Cones of Uncertainty

All this falling down, getting back up and trying to return to a quasi-normal life. Should I bother?

A former colleague died a few days ago, from BC metastasized.  Today another's sister is just entering Hospice after 8 years of this shit. 

Those wonderful statistics tell us that 30% of women diagnosed with BC will, at some point, become Stage IV (incurable). 

I'm working out, losing weight, staying positive, planning many things for the future. Surprising, lucrative things are developing career-wise. Purpose has returned and along with it, that precious sense of well-being. Vacation is in a week - nothing but wonderful things on the horizon, right?

Meanwhile, there's a tropical system churning away in the Gulf. Round yet ragged, just like the terrible tumor twins. Alive with potential and red pulsing destruction. 

Luckily, a front will sweep through and take it away before it can grow into a monster. We should be all clear in a few days and come through the storm pretty much intact.

I hate how nearly everything reminds me of cancer.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Downtown with the Tamoxifen slinger

When you take Tamoxifen, twice yearly visits are required at your oncologist's office. I hate it. It's the waiting for the other shoe to drop. One that is full of cancer.

Luckily, that day is not here for me, at least not yet, and hopefully will never be. Being in the 5-year cycle of watching sucks. Every appointment is torture--this place smells like cancer. Flashbacks and anxiety. 

As an added bonus, Candy has reached her all-time highest weight ever. Sadly, no prize.

Sue the Badass has retired. I miss her gruff, kind face. She had her own run in with a life-threatening disease and understood. Meanwhile, cancer remains as lucrative as ever and the waiting room is packed. This really pisses me off. There a a few slack-faced employees that inspire hatred on sight. They work in the finance department. Naturally.

Along the way home, we drive by my old office. It's empty and up for lease. Then we go by the new one just for the hell of it. I feel like an outsider and too fat to stop in. I don't have cause to be downtown much these days, and it's changed so much in the last 2 years. Progress, like entropy, cannot be stopped.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Stepping back

I'm fixated on the 80's and maybe a little stuck in the past. That was a good decade filled with health, wealth and youth. Time is such a cruel master. It would be nice to turn it back. 

About that - did you recognize Jon Bon Jovi in those Direct TV spots? Why is this necessary? All that Slippery When Wet dollars gone? Circa 1988, I'm actually asking my hairdresser to give me the Bon Jovi. Jon's exquisite locks are just a memory now. Looks like he works out though. 

Speaking of fitness and the 80's, one of the hottest workouts back then was step aerobics. I loved those step classes. The fat just melted away, replaced by lean, strong muscle. 

Step faded out, as all fitness fads do. I quit the gym and it's been downhill ever since. The breast cancer thing just escalated the entropy, along with Tamoxifen and Lexapro. 

The hamstring still bothers me - it feels weak and vulnerable. I overdid it again at the gym. Two more weeks of subsequent inactivity. Why can't I get my shit together? It used to be so easy.

There is something to be said for going back to basics. Thinking back over what used to work for me vs. what does not. My gym membership is great but I hate it-the classes are overcrowded, there are no women-only gyms near me, and driving is a hassle.

Bought a step on Ebay for 15 bucks, and a step aerobics dvd. This overweight, physically weak thing is getting old. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Dollar Store Mojo

It’s been a long and difficult journey from diagnosis, treatment and post-cancer recovery, a road trip laden with bad things-a sudden life-threatening sickness, strange foreign places and people, unfamiliar beds and that painful longing for home.

Blog-wise, it’s been a period of total absence of creativity and passion. My torn hamstring had me hamstrung (ha!) as did the subsequent tear to the front leg muscle. Walking, bending, stretching, sitting – all of it, for the past 2 months, has been painful, difficult or impossible, and frustrating.

So, imagine my wonder this week at the inexplicable return of my Mojo. It’s just...back. I feel strong, capable, mentally with it for the first time in, well...years. It’s hard to describe it really.

That bitch has been gone a long time and as bitches are wont to do, quit that shit when I needed her most. Left me alone in that ruin of poison, scars and burning, financial chaos, uncertainty and complete destruction of life as I knew it. She’s spirit mostly, but her powers are tangible and legendary. She’s all white light and pure, healing protection. We’ve been through so much together. Always, she saves me. Her absence leaves an oily, seductive void which never stops pulling. In my damaged shell-shocked state, I rage. Where did she go?

My mother used to have one of those dime-store pictures on the kitchen wall. It hung beside the 70’s green behemoth of a fridge, on the wall beside the jalousie windows. You know the one – it’s still popular and sold at any Dollar Tree. Footprints.

In 1977, though too young to know what a platitude is, I still resent that picture. It seemed silly that some poor soul survived whatever horrors only because a divine power was really there, carrying them through the very worst parts.

Now, and maybe for the first time, I understand that stupid picture. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Anything but that

Did a good job of disguising my fear. 

My friend has had a continued elevated high white blood cell count. She goes today to her very first consult at the very same practice that treats me. Oncology for beginners.

Thing is, it could be a whole host of other conditions, none as bad as cancer. And I’m really sure it’s one of those that’s causing her counts to be off.  Still.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Sunday

Spring is very difficult emotionally - all our tribe is gone now, and with them, those rites of Easter. My grandmother's house, small and blazing hot inside, but cooled on the porch by fans and shade. She, short and shriveled with sharp, lively brown eyes, handing us Easter baskets. Unsweetened, lemony iced tea. Buckets of cool perfect potato salad, fresh corn on the cob, crispy iceberg salad with Seven Seas Zesty Italian Dressing. The smell of well water on the roses and orange blossoms from Proctor Road. Cold beer, a reward after cutting the large yard. Knotty cypress paneling in the cool, dark living room. My father, grilling steak on hot charcoal on the 1950's pinkish leggo-log BBQ, in his silly shorts and Cuban shirt. The smell of charred meat floating in the air. A feeling of abundance and peace. The hellishly hot days of summer are near, but at Easter, it's always perfect at Grandma's house. It's safe here. 

My grandmother died in 1999 and my father in 2009.

Since then, Easter and spring have lost the magic. My memories are abundant and fierce but as you can probably guess, are no substitute. Not even close. 

Gimpin into spring

Have you wondered maybe, where in the hell I've been? 

Yeah, my usual pace has been interrupted. 

Thanks to PIYO, but really more to my general state of damage, disuse and neglect, I injured my hamstring. These are tricky, strange injuries that can mess up your year.

If you've never had the pleasure yourself, well...just don't. It really, really, really hurts. Not only does it hurt, but it's actually difficult to walk. Or to move the leg at all much. My gait is stiff. Watching me walk nowadays is like seeing a short, overweight, slow-witted, arthritic Frankenstein with a flat chest and very bad attitude. 

It maybe is a good thing that the injury occurred during my attempts to get back into shape. At least I was trying. Now I know - you must break them down before youbuild them up. And this is not going to stop that. Once I get some improvement, it's back to gentle NON-INJURING exercise. No more over-doing it. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

What a difference a Year makes

There is a Seinfeld episode where Jerry asks, “I don’t want to be responsible. Whenever something goes wrong, they ask, ‘Who is responsible?’ I don’t want to be that person!”

Yesterday, the stomach flu grips me. After pulling an all-nighter, I’m in the shower, preparing my dumb ass for work. In my former pre-cancer life, phoning in sick just was never a good option – sure I could, but not without lots of consequences – tons more work piling up, stress about being out and working much harder upon return to catch up on the hamster wheel of family law shenanigans. It’s a vicious cycle of stupid. For years I will work while sick.

It’s obvious now of course, that this is not the best idea for supporting the body as it tries to heal. But old habits are hard to break. After my scalding shower, Mike gives me the side eye and orders me back to bed. My mouth opens automatically to protest with my old, familiar rant about work ethics and how much I’m needed, only to realize that...well, that’s no longer true. I’m like a nice accessory. It’s good to have me around, but not absolutely necessary to complete the outfit.  

And I’ve never been happier to be so utterly non-essential.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Listen to your Ass

Okay, Okay, last post about my aching ass issues.

You will be proud of me today. Working on a side project at my office, closing out old files. The files are voluminous and very heavy. Despite my obeying all the rules of ergonomics and taking it slower than usual, after only 2 hours, I am forced to burn a time-out. My back begins to spasm in a very pissed off kinda way, warning me to stop. 

And I do stop, go home and rest it on the heating pad, ignoring impulses to lift laundry baskets and other such chores. 

I perform some simple, gentle stretches for a back in spasm. And they work! It feels so much the better, though my paycheck is not. It's a good reminder - pay attention to your body and what it's telling you. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

A return to my new normal...sans Mets fears for now

One last thing about today, lest you consider me FIXATED. I am.

My massage therapist exclaims that my left hip area is "kinda fucked up". Okay then, if that's your medical opinion. 

She works me for 90 minutes straight and all along I feel the spasms, tweaks and shooting pains. But, it's a good pain. 

By the end, I leave able to walk normally and feeling so much better. PIYO, BYE BYE O! Listen to me, fellow old farts - do not try to do hard stuff at first. You will end up hurting yourself.

Arthritis-ridden, overweight and giddy with delight

So. My onco  eyes me thoughtfully for about 1 second before telling me she thinks that my hip pain and other joint pains are due to my recent 20 pound weight gain, inactivity and chemo/age-induced arthritis. And maybe those plank poses didn't help. 

She will see me in 4 months and expects me to be 10 pounds lighter then. I want to please her by being a size 4 but we'll take it slow. Less Sake, more walkie. 

No scans for now. Need to start walking, taking Glucosamine and taking off the weight. Off to get a massage on the sore parts and exercising. Getting old is great.

Huge ass, huge problems

Last night I break out my massage ball and work the butt muscle (yes I have one) and left hip. Instantly, relief. Could my symptoms have been the ill-timed, overzealous attempt at all those planks and down dogs with PIYO? 

Maybe. It does feel better today. 

Or, maybe it's just because my ass is so large now. And not in that good J-Lo way. Don't judge me bitches, I'm working on it. 

Last night after my self-ass therapy, we watch Grease Live, which was good fun. Mike is impressed again with my useless knowledge of song lyrics. 

I can still remma lemma lemma di diggity dig de dog with the best of them. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Never thought I'd be hoping FOR arthritis

See my onco tomorrow for my maintenance appt. It gets stepped down gradually, but I need to go for 5 years. Now it is down to twice a year only. I hate going there for obvious reasons.

Anyway, need to report my first mets scare to her, which will result in concerned doctor face and bone scan at the least, a PET scan at the most. Oh, that stooopid song....I DON'T want to meet the Mets. And that fucking WAITING again for results. Sadness, despair, fear. Thought it was over.

It probably is not Mets. There is that Tamoxifen thing. Had a hard fall on that hip and it has always been stiff. Possible injured it doing Yoga. It could be simple old arthritis. Or bursitis, a pinched nerve, a pulled muscle. My foot bones hurt, as do my knee joints, and they have ever since chemo. is really unlikely. But. 

A wise BC pal told me never to fear scans--they are impartial and our friend. After all, Scans do not make cancer, they just show it. Simple. If it is there, then it's there already, and maybe has been all along your supposed cure. Bone mets are very treatable and usually respond well to meds. You can live for decades with them being held in remission, a pretty normal life. This is what they say. And better to find them soon, to start the eviction.

It's a bad time to be out of Xanax.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pain and the art of not freaking out

Cancer survivorship is a tricky thing. 

It’s about a year and a half from diagnosis. We’ve rebuilt our lives.  The hair has grown back. The port is gone. The radiation burn has healed. My right arm nearly has full range of motion. I have a part-time, zero-stress job I love, started two blogs and am pursuing creative work that never would have occurred prior to my illness. Finances are improving. There’s so much to be grateful for. I made it. 

So my first Mets scare is not welcome, but I knew it would happen. Mets: slang for metastasized cancer, i.e., a cancer that has spread from the primary site to another. All cancer survivors endure this. From now on, anything – a cough, any pain, muscle spasm, or ingrown hair has the ability to send us to dark places. 

Fear not my chickas!  I do NOT believe my symptoms are related to Mets. Since the bones are a common place for breast cancer to travel, you can understand my initial terror at my aching joints and low back. However, after calming down, doing research, and thinking it through, it’s almost certainly being caused by Tamoxifen. Tamoxifen’s very nature causes joint and bone stiffness and pain, and it is notorious for this side effect. The tops of my feet, ankles, knees, hips, and finger joints all feel stiff, to the point it’s largely affecting my quality of life. Tamoxifen is also at least partly responsible for the weight gain. 

Tamoxifen’s patent expired some years ago, so now only generics are available. And these manufacturers all use different fillers.  Oh, but your doctor will not even know this, and the pharmacy won’t tell you either. Sometimes changing manufacturers helps, but then other side effects can develop from their fillers. 

So today I begin a trial separation from Tamoxifen, which may lead to an eventual divorce. 

I see the Oncologist for my maintenance checkup next week. Meanwhile, Tamoxifen and I are on a break. She’s going to have to convince me that I really need it, otherwise, it’s over - because just like Carly Simon, I haven't got time for the pain. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Proper Sequencing of Suck

My blog is under construction! Since I had zero blogging knowledge prior to my tumors appearing, the actual Year of Suck has not been posted sequentially. Prepare yourselves for the full, f-worded-filled tale, as it's being corrected to layout 2014 in all its chemo/cancer-laden glories, from beginning to end. 

The posts are from my actual diaries, thus the name of this blog. And it's gonna get ugly, before it gets better. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Blahdy Blahdy Blah

Years ago, I worked alongside a white-trash, crusty, super-smart legal secretary. Let's call her Kathy. 

Kathy is from Arcadia, which for those who do not know the area, is the equivalent of Bradentucky. Look it up. She has frosted hair, artificial nails courtesy of the Red Barn Flea Market, and her SO was left by his wife for the trashman. No, I'm not making it up. 

Anyway, Kathy had a habit of ripping off her earphones during transcription, and letting loose with a streak of cursing that even made me pale. That really takes talent. 

As magnificent as her potty vocabulary was, it's one of her favorite non-curse phrases has never left me - "Blahdy Blahdy Blah".  That means, he won't fucking quit dictating and is giving me carpal tunnel. Blah Blah Blah, talking never stops. 

So, fast forward about 30 years or so, and I'm deciding to base my latest side gig on her prophetic words...Blahdy Blahdy Blah, I'm heading into the Voice Acting world!  Thanks to Breast Cancer, my schedule is pretty clear (hahahahaha) and allows me time to research and develop my new gig. For those that are interested, here is my new blog site: all about VO

It will chronicle the marvelous success of my fledgling career in voice over acting. 

What, did you think I was going back in to family law? 

Friday, January 8, 2016

2016: The Year of the Foob

It’s been a year and a half since cancer stopped me in my tracks and forced me to part with my breasts.

Enough time has passed to enable some real perspective. Distance is like that.

So what’s it really like after a double mastectomy? The most accurate assessment is that it’s not as I figured it would be. Because it’s important to focus on positive things, let’s consider those first. Never to need a bra again unless wearing the foobs. Never be subjected to another useless, uncomfortable mammogram. Learning that my husband loves me fiercely, with or without those lovely C-cups.

So now the not-so-positive stuff.  I miss them a lot. It’s as if (hahahaha) part of me is missing.  Getting used to the feeling of their departure has not been easy on any level. Enter the Foobs.

“Foobs” is loose slang for Fake Boobs. They can be silicone, fabric or foam. Many ladies make their very own knitted foobs. They all have benefits and drawbacks, but the main thing to know is that comfort is an elusive thing with any of them. The silicones are heavy and have the feel of real breasts, but are hot-flash inducing horrors. Manipulating them in and out of specialized bras (my bras are now and forever considered “medical devices” and covered by insurance) can be frustrating. The foobs made from lighter materials don’t have the necessary weight to properly hold most bras in place. I’m either pulling those down, and yanking the silicone ones up since they like to sink. Told you the silicone were more realistic. And if you should ever leave the house without them, be prepared for the stares of curious folks. Good news: you will easily be able scare the living shit out of them and thus stop the staring by thrusting out your bird chest proudly while making loud, disturbing animal noises. Yes I have done this, in public. No I am not proud.

The damage from surgery and radiation has altered my once limber body to a creaky, dry, tight, aching, uncomfortable ghost. This is the funny thing, because I had imagined my flat, scarred chest would bother me worst of all. But for some reason my visions of forlorn crying jags and inconsolable rants lamenting the loss of femininity never came to pass.  I’ve no doubt that my not-so-bad scars are due to Dr. Nora’s skillful hand.

It’s surprisingly non-dramatic for me to live without breasts now, just sort of a minor inconvenience. But I’m left with a compromised lymphatic system, major scarring under the skin, and a dry, radiated chest that never seems to improve. There are no functioning sweat glands in my right armpit, and no hair grows there anymore. My range of motion post treatment was nil and it was all pain, all the time. That has improved slowly, thanks to gentle yoga and pilates, still grueling and extremely difficult.

If you are wondering – yes I would still choose a double BMX again vs. a lumpectomy, even though the latest research claims that lumpectomy + radiation + chemo is just as effective.  But to me it’s a simple matter of math. Less breast tissue = less chance of local and/or distant recurrence.