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Friday, March 29, 2013

Herceptin is coming...

This was waiting for me in the chemo chair when I showed up for herceptin today. Left there by the old gods or the new?

Saturday, March 23, 2013


from Growing Up and Liking It!

When I was pretty small, maybe three, I was playing at the playground, waiting for my turn on a new exciting zip line-ish piece of equipment. When it was my turn, this other kid jumped in front of me. His mom stopped him, and scolded, "Let this little boy go first!"

She was talking about me.

Now, I admit I had that 80's borderline-unisex haircut. And it was during a phase when I refused to wear anything but sweatsuits.  So it wasn't insane that she mistook me for a boy.

But still, I was incensed. In my memory, I cried out indignantly "I'm a GIRL!" before shooting away on the zip line. I was so sure of what I was.

Breast cancer and its treatments have a way of messing with that, with your conception of who you are, with gender identity being a huge part of it. The low point was sometime in February.  I had no breasts, got no period. I still had the JP drain dangling hideously from my side. I stopped wearing head scarves and was sporting hair the length of a number one buzz. Makeup was a thing of the distant past, eyebrows were thick fuzzy new growth. I wore men's undershirts as tops, because the greasy cream I used for radiation burns ruined my real clothes.

I'm not saying I felt like a boy, just that I didn't feel like a girl. It was like I traded in my gender for a new identity, that of a sexless sick person.

Then, after 9 1/2 weeks (I know there's a joke in there somewhere) of having the drain, I convinced? guilted? my surgeon into taking it out. The same day, I got my period.

I had this weird urge to tell everyone I knew that I had finally become a woman -- again. Luckily, I resisted. (Until now, I guess.) I was super happy. Two weeks later I got another period, and it was hellishly painful like they used to always be, and though I have access to loads of good painkillers, none of that stuff works like a hot water bottle and sweatpants and Doritos. It was shitty, but after so much new shittiness, I was glad to be back with the devil I know.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Saving daylight

Fall back, spring ahead. Fall back. Spring ahead.

This time we were told to spring ahead. But I don't want to. Or I can't, or I don't know.

I'd rather fall back.

Fall back to Paris in June, when the biggest problems were indigestion and rainstorms.

Fall back to Rome in May, when I remembered how much I loved my life, and couldn't get back to it fast enough.

Fall back to unnamed, unnoticed Jersey City mornings of sleeping through the alarm, walking the dog, and eating too many pastries.

Someone in the waiting room asks,

"Are we gaining an hour or losing one?"

Losing one.

Always losing one.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A ntoe no tyops (A note on typos...)

Often, when I look back at my posts, I see lots of embarrassing typos, or times when I expressed myself unclearly, or things that are just a little weird. I've made a conscious decision to leave these little blips alone. As much as this blog is for giving updates to others, it's also my own document of this time of my life, and I want to leave in all these little mistakes and imperfections because they are kind of a part of me. They illustrate the funny way my brain is functioning, for one thing. There's also a something that gets revealed in the mistakes we make, and I want to preserve that.

Or, I'm totally lazy. Whichever.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Since U Been Gone: A dirge for a left breast

I'm pretty sure my iPod volume goes to 11. Lately I've been blasting the headphones to the point where I am definitely damaging my hearing. All the sounds go soft, and a certain percentage of the music turns to white noise.

The songs I'm sacrificing my hearing for? Break up anthems. The poppier the better.

There's something about these songs that just feels so right. Like they weren't written about asshole exes, but amputated boobs. Malignant ones at that.

Seriously, just listen to Since U Been Gone and try not to think of it as being about a mastectomy. I dare you! "Thanks to you, now I get what I want." As in, the smaller, perkier boobs of my dreams. Sweet.

And, true to break up mentality, I don't have these strong feelings about my right breast, the non-cancery one. Just that bitchy left breast, who fucking betrayed me and mutated and tried to go on a murderous rampage.

My left breast was a total dick.

In Irreplaceable Beyonce even mentions this fact, with the song starting out "To the left, to the left," like she's pointing out the offending side. I feel like I want to listen to this song on repeat the night before my exchange surgery and let the line "You must not know about me, I can have another you by tomorrow," pulse through me.

If I listen to these songs enough, maybe I'll actually start to feel it.

The problem with break up songs, is that for all the empowerment they shove down your throat, they can never escape being what they are. You can tell me with your best vibrato that you just don't give a fuck, and you're better off than ever, but in the end you still cared enough to write a song about it. The best fuck you is to never ever think about them again. An impossibility, usually.

Which inevitably leads me to the torch song. Torch songs eschew the false sense of being better off or any of that shit. They're the ones who tell the sad truth, that the one who hurt you is still the beloved and still wanted. No empowerment, just surrender.

Who would have thought that the biggest heartbreak of my life would be caused by a cellular mutation?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Seeming Good

Over the last few weeks, I've heard some variation of "You seem great!" about 800 times. It's weird. (Cognitive dissonance? Maybe...I can't quite remember what that actually is.)

What I've found is that I'm really good at seeming okay when I am profoundly un-okay.

Here are some tips for tricking passers-by into thinking that "you're doing great!":

- don't talk about the crushing uncertainty that dominates your thoughts
- avoid discussing the grosser details of your body, such as scars, plastic parts, or tubes that bridge the gap between internal and external
- don't mention how, on the eve of your 29th birthday, you worry if you'll make it to your 30th
- take your Vicodin in secret
- gloss over the infinite and minute details of your diagnosis, treatments, complications, side effects, etc

And more! For only $9.95, these secret tips can all be yours.

I guess it's mostly my fault. Because I spare people these details, most think that I'm doing just fine, and that this experience is little more than an inconvenience. I feel angry and frustrated that they can't read between the lines.

The truth is, cancer is fucking terrifying, painful, shitty...and there is no obvious end point. (Well, except the really obvious one, I guess.) What I mean is there's no moment when all this suddenly becomes okay. I know from Matt's illness that this doesn't go away. It becomes part of your life, your consciousness. So just know that although I actually don't talk about cancer all that much, there is never a moment when I'm not thinking about it.