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Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Series of Moments



A day of appointments. Plastic surgeon in the morning. His waiting room is full of children under five, who he's previously stitched up in the ER.

"Em, you're the oldest person here," he calls on the way into a room.

(That never happens, by the way.)

When it's my turn, he looks at my skin and is pleased. I ask about one more fat graft, just to be sure, and he says yes. Then we talk tissue expanders, but because I'm me, I ask about a new still-in-clinical trial option. Patient controlled, that fills up by tiny puffs of CO2, rather than big gulps of saline. I will have over ten surgeries under my belt by the time I'm done, if I go this route. 

I ask him if I was being crazy. "I mean I know I'm crazy, generally. But am I crazy to try for implant again?"

"No," he says. So kindly. "Whatever decision you make is the right decision for right now. If this is what you want at 11 am on a Thursday, then it's right. Tomorrow you may change your mind, and that will be right. That will be right, but your earlier decision won't have been wrong."

I don't cry then but I cry now as I write it out.

We are just a series of moments.

Next I head downtown to the cancer center, where I go back to being the youngest by decades. I squeeze next to someone's oxygen tank. A woman named Sylvia is leaving the office and calls to the staff "See you next year!" and sounds happy, and sure. Insensitively sure, I think, considering where we are. 

The hospital's been redone, so now the lobby looks like some kind of too bright hotel. There are glittery, modern crystal chandeliers. It looks like it was decorated by someone with an orange tan and matching shoes. Despite the upgrades, the vending machines only have soda in them.

Lately my brain feel soft, like an unboiled egg. They can do that now -- unboil an egg. That means something important. If they could unboil, could that unscramble? Unbreak? An Italian doctor claims he is ready to perform full body transplants. Just let him know when you're ready.

The Hudson is full of ice floes this winter, and sometimes it feels like end times. Every once in a while I experience an event as if I were from the future, looking back for a catalyst for the end of the world. Not the catalyst, maybe, just the warning sign. The canary.

We think a lot about the end of the world, but it happens every day. When someone dies, it's the end of their world. Why is the end of all of us any more tragic than the end of one of us?

I see the psychiatrist about reducing my antidepressant, then my oncologist. She asks me how I am, and I say "Better than last time," and she smiles.

I ask her what she thought of the Oscars, and she says, "Now that's an interesting question." She says she'll write me a script to see The Theory of Everything (or was it The Imitation Game?), gives me a hug, and walks out the door. I hear her say "What's next?" to her PA before the door closes.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Life, or something like it, post cancer

There’s a phrase that was tossed around a lit class I took once: the long 18th century. It refers to the fact that, in the West, the influence of this century stretches longer than its 100 years. The ideas that defined it were percolating in the 17th century and continued into the 19th.
Though I’m now 30, I am still experiencing what I call my long 28th year.
Twenty-eight was my age when I received a diagnosis of breast cancer. I was 28 when my breasts were removed, 28 when I did chemo, 28 when I finished radiation. That was in 2012. But it is so not over.

Friday, February 27, 2015

5 Myths About Clinical Trials that Just Won't Go Away


In December, I traveled to Washington, D.C., and had a pleasant visit with a friend I hadn’t seen in several months. I drank a lemonade while we filled each other in on the latest news, hair styles, and our holiday festivities. Between sips I gave her my arm. She took my blood, and then injected me with an experimental cancer vaccine. [Record scratch.]
Okay, so the friend was a research nurse, and our meeting place was Sibley Memorial Hospital, where I’m participating in an immunotherapy clinical trial for a vaccine to prevent my breast cancer from recurring.
Read the rest here.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Effexor and YOU

Top three activities to avoid while you're trying to stop an antidepressant (trust me):

- Assemble ikea furniture


- Take a web analytics course, or do anything involved with technolomagy.


- Walk, or attempt any sort of movement


Postludes