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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Overheard in NY: Cancer Edition

Infectious disease doctor: Good luck with the surgery!
Me: Thanks!
Doctor: I'd say send a picture, but I think I'd get arrested.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Almost to the postlude.

There's a part of me that always feels like a guy who narrowly missed getting hit by a bullet or a bus, and afterward looks around wildly and asks, "Did anybody SEE that?" And nobody did.

Once, about six summers ago, I was walking home from work on a breezy, perfect evening. I had on a new outfit, and was feeling pretty good. Then, as I passed the fruit shop, a homeless man hawked the loudest loogie I've ever heard, and spit on me. Right on my bare arm. Then he screamed at me, over and over, like a spell, "Cunt! Bitch! Whore!" until I walked, dumbfounded, away. There were three or four people on the street who must have seen, but they didn't say a word. I started crying and rounded the corner towards home. A block away a women asked me if I was okay, but by then it was too late to explain.

Getting my permanent implants on Monday.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Picture of Health

I've realized over the last couple of weeks that my cancer tells are becoming fewer and fewer. What ones are still left I've gotten good at covering -- my skill with the eyebrow pencil has become expert level, and my baggy (yet elegant?) shirts are doing their most to hide the lopsidedness of my chest, and most of them are high necked enough to cover my still-obvious radiation burns.

So my visage doesn't scream cancer. And as I have begun to rejoin the living at things like parties and business meetings, I sometimes get seized with an oddly terrifying thought -- do they know?

The fact of my cancer, when not being broadcast automatically, becomes a secret, and so a secret, weirdly, also a shame.

I have an kind of pathological desire to tell the truth. Not in every situation (thank god) but mostly in those where I feel lacking in some way, or when I feel I've done something wrong. I feel this need now, and have to stop myself from blurting out that "I did chemo, and that's why I forgot what state Las Vegas is in."

Post cancer, I still feel less than. Intellectually, emotionally, physically. And it's embarrassing. The sheer embarrassment of cancer is something that doesn't get talked about much, probably because for most people this pales in comparison to the death thing. (You know, death. NBD.) But there is something wildly humiliating about it all. And somehow when your humiliation is secret, it's worse. Maybe because you're afraid of getting found out? I'm not sure. But it's yet another way in which cancer can be SO MUCH like puberty. Except that with cancer, you might actually die, not just wish you could.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Overheard in NY: Cancer Edition

Nurse: Do you smoke?

Me: No.

Nurse: Use alcohol?

Me: Socially.

Nurse: Any drugs?

Me: No.

Nurse: What, no medical marijuana? You're crazy!

Angelina Rant-gelina

By now, all of you have heard about Angelina Jolie's controversial (for some reason) decision to have prophylactic mastectomies, after learning she carried the BRCA1 gene mutation. She made a difficult, personal choice -- personal being the operative word here.

If Jolie had had a genetic mutation that caused, I don't know, spleen cancer (is that a thing?), no one would be saying SHIT about prophylactic removal of the body part. In the question of a not entirely essential internal organ against a life, there is absolutely no doubt what the "correct" choice is.

But because she elected to remove her breasts, to certain segment of the population, that seems to be akin to death. To them, "her breasts or her life?" is actually a conundrum.

Some women would not make the same choice as Jolie, some would. The wonderful thing about that is that there is a choice.

Jolie is incredibly brave to share this with the world, and open herself up to such intense criticism. I received a few idiotic comments about my own prophylactic mastectomy of my right breast, and I was crushed.

A mastectomy fucking sucks. It's painful for weeks. Even when the pain is gone, there are odd sensations -- the fact of your skin being numb, having implants that move up and down every time your pec muscles flex. Then there are the endless complications -- seromas, infections, frozen shoulder, lymphedema... the list goes on and on.

And I do feel sad about my mastectomies. For a while, I went through a period of self doubt, and wasn't sure I had made the right choice to remove the healthy breast. Then I realized that every time I had a sad thought about my disappeared breasts, I was thinking about the left side. The cancer side, not the healthy side. My sadness comes from having had cancer, not from my decision.

I was going to end with a list of the awful comments made about Jolie, but there's not much point. (If you're interested, you can do a Twitter or Google search.) I get the sense that many of these people have no personal experience with cancer. And they are lucky. But so am I, and so is Jolie. Even without proper titties.

Friday, May 3, 2013


I wrote my previous post on the PATH train home from work last night. This morning, on the train again, I wrote this:

I'm under the Hudson river and reading a book that has me on the brink of tears most of the time. I am about to start a new chapter, titled Crash, when a single voice in the car raises up the first strains of Stand By Me. I think it's just someone singing along with headphones, but after the verse ends, the rest of the quartet joins in, and the song swells. It has mass, or volume, or weight. It gets so big it feels like the car we're in will burst. The man singing has a rough, mottled voice, full of velvety love, and of course, pain. It's all my power not to start sobbing. Halfway through, the train stops hard, sending all of us flying around the car, but the song just keeps on.

After that they sang Under the Boardwalk, which I don't really like, and then something else I can't remember. I thought about asking them to sing Just One Look, but they left the car. I played Ben E King on my headphones my whole walk to work, tears streaming. The sidewalk is where I cry the most these days.

Cancer Anger, or Canger

Walking home from work this evening, I was shadowing (not on purpose! Jeez) this woman with gorgeous hair. Kind of a cool brown, with expensive layers. It was in a ponytail, the kind that's meant to look casual but actually probably took several minutes of fussing to get right. She looked like a fucking Feria commercial.

I imagined what I would say to her, if I were the sort of girl who talked to strangers.

"I hope you appreciate that hair," I might grumble.

I was entertaining other possibilities when she pulled out her lighter. Which she used to light a fucking cigarette.

Fuck everyone.

(If you don't know why I hate this, then I hate YOU.)

(JK. Maybe.)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013