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Saturday, July 27, 2013

I don't know what to call my un-breasts!

Right now I'm reading How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. It's a completely delicious book. For some reason Vanity Fair called it "the British version of Bossypants" which is not true nod kind of a stupid thing to say. But for however un-like Bossypants it is, it's great. Case in point: there is a chapter called "I Don't Know What to Call My Breasts!" (The chapter headings have this swoopy 70's sex ed pamphlet font that I'm swooning over.)

In this section, she goes through the list of terms for breasts and dismisses each for this or that reason. Here are a couple I like:

"'Breasts' are bad news. Much like vaginas, breasts exist to be examined by doctors and get cancer..." Ah, so true. To bad it's not called titty cancer. That would be so much more manageable, wouldn't it? Which leads into:

"'Tits' seems nicely down to earth for day-to-day use -- "Give me a Kit-Kat, I've just banged my tit on the door" -- but struggles to make a satisfactory transition to nighttime use, where it seems a little brusque." Only a Brit would worry about seeming brusque while referring to an erogenous zone.

Of course, she's totally right. There's no great word for the mammaries. Jugs, tatas, bazongas...there's no right way to go. Someone I went to school with was once discouraged from using the word 'breasts' in a poetry class, and was offered the phrase 'forward lumps' instead. (???)

So. If we've got no proper name for these, um, forward lumps, then there's sure as hell no good term for the sacks of saline I've got sewn into my chest. "Foobs" (fake boobs) is popular in the BC world, but it lacks a certain....sophistication, maybe? Boobs are funny, not smart or sexy. Foobs are funny in a painful way, like bad magicians or anything Ricky Gervais has ever made.

I suppose you could continue the portmanteau method, ending up with freasts, fatas, and fits. Fits (Fitz?) makes me think of a large German man.

I propose something new and original. Something with the melodious beauty of "cellar door." Something that communicates a rebirth. Something with a hint of sadness. Something with a silent "b."

Get busy, you wordsmiths.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The last year, in emoji

This ought to clear things up. Any questions about the last year will be answered with more emoji.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Okay/Not Okay

Okay, so we're getting into cancer anniversary territory. A year ago this week was when I first noticed the odd symptom that drew me into this world. Not a lump, but a spot of blood. And the rest, they say, is fucking history.

Coming home from herceptin today I was transported back to those increasingly worrisome days, focusing in on the day I knew something was really wrong. I had gotten a mammogram, and the tech showed me the spots that concerned her. Calcifications. "They're so tiny," I said. As if tiny meant harmless. Like snowflakes dusted across the screen. She said she would get the doctor to see what she thought.

The tinies

More mammograms, another ultrasound. Then needle biopsies of my breast and lymph node. At one point, in the dark and womb-like ultrasound room, I told the technician about Matt, and how all these activities reminded me of what happened to him. I said I was scared. Or cried it. She told me that she had had thyroid cancer in her early 30's. Now she is healthy with a five year old son. "Even if this is bad," she said, "you will be okay."

She knew of course, as did the mammogram tech, the residents that routinely poked in, and the radiologist. While the doctor performed the biopsy, the ultrasound technician squeezed my shaking hands and willed me to be still. Afterwards, the doctor showed me the mammogram images again, and explained again what concerned her. (I would later learn that the images on my mammogram were rated "BIRADS 4 - Suspicious abnormality.") She wrote down her cell phone number on a scrap of paper. "Call me anytime with questions."

The next few weeks were a blur of terror and kindnesses. The squeezed in appointments, the requirements waived, the soft voices. Wondering if I might die. My GP calling from Turks and Caicos when she heard the news. My surgeon holding my hand as I slipped under the spell of the anesthesiologist.

Over the last year the fear has waned, but the kindness has not. My oncologist still makes nipple jokes and tosses "Love ya, Em!" over her shoulder. My radiation onc tells me how tough I am, and the techs are easy and regular, and swapping cocktail recipes with me. The chemo nurses compliment my hair, and tell me not to lose any weight.

Last week, when the plastic surgeon told me to go to the ER for yet another surgery, I broke my no-crying-at-the-doctor streak. (The last time had been at my diagnosis.) After a minute of sniffling, I told him I was okay.

"No, don't be okay! I'm not okay. This is not okay. This sucks."

Ah, yes. So it does.

Friday, July 5, 2013


Job Opportunity
Full time temporary position
Seeking assistant with expertise in medical billing, first aid. Experience as a medical test subject a plus. Duties include attending all appointments, receiving all medications, and undergoing all procedures in my stead.
No vacation time.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Last year: revising novel in Rome
This year: revising mastectomy scars in New York

Yesterday: admitted to writing residency
Today: admitted to O.R.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Get Frumpy!

Come on gals, everyone is doing it! Ditch your sexy heels, throw out your lacy lingerie. We're all about mastectomy bras and orthotics round here.

Things you need for ultimate frumpitude:

- Lopsided (still, forfuck'ssake) boobs
- JP drain (outline should be visible through shirt)
- Extra 10 pounds (preferably chemo weight mixed with general laziness)
- Extremely baggy shirts that try and fail to disguise the above
- Old lady hair
- Sparse eyebrows

Seriously. I went shopping for clothes today...holy fuckballs. I haven't bought clothing in a really long time. With the exception of a couple of half priced sweaters I bought on Black Friday, I haven't spent any money on clothes since last August. It was after my mastectomy, and I still had drains. Every morning getting dressed was this really depressing game of "Which of these shirts looks hideous on you now?" The answer was all of them. So I said to myself, "Get thee to The Gap," and I bought four dark colored shirts in extra large. I also bought some things called bralets, because the name tickled me and I had never been able to wear one of those before. When I got home I packed away all my existing clothes except for a few pairs of pants. I wore this very limited wardrobe for almost an entire year. (To be completely honest, there were a couple of other button down shirts that I had previously bought for post-mastectomy life which I wore when I was unable to lift my arms above my head.)

Mercifully, one of the cats or the roomba broke our full length mirror several months ago, so for the most part I have had no idea what I've looked like.

As the hottest part of the summer begins, in NYC, in my office with no air conditioning, I've had to rethink this four shirts thing. (Actually I'm down to two shirts, since two of the original ones were long sleeved.) I looked through old stuff, and found one tank top baggy enough to hide under. I had a Gap gift card so I got a couple more XL tees without trying them on. Then I realized that I had entered the Frump Zone.

When my mom was a kid, she and her friend did this anthropological study of them moms they knew, breaking them into two categories: Hotsy Totsy Moms, and Frump Moms. Hotsy Totsy Moms wore makeup, high heels, and fancy hairstyles. Frump Moms, like my grandma according to my mom, never wore makeup, got perms so they didn't have to do their hair, and wore comfortable if ugly shoes. Check check check.

I went to the mall to see if I could improve the situation. In attempt to recapture someone else's youth, I guess, I went to Forever 21, a place where 17 year olds shop with the dream of someday wishing they were younger. I put aside my reservations aboutt heir creepy Christian agenda, and took a pile of polyblend into the dressing room. Oof. The oddly cut clothes work for skinny teenagers, but oddly lump 29 year olds, stay far away.

I should say now that, compounding my weird shape, is that I don't want to spend like ANY money. What's a girl to do?

Go to H&M, that's what.