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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October is the wackest month

Well, we've nearly made it. The 30th day of Pinktober. I've been in a little bubble at an artists' colony in Florida for much of it, but made my way into civilization a couple of times, and holy fuckballs. Pink ribbon cupcakes. Pink ribbon golf. Even the newspaper was dyed pink.

The thing about this awareness stuff, is that I think we're pretty aware that breast cancer, you know, exists. We know that women get mammograms. And that's pretty much where the message stops most of the time.

What we aren't aware of, many of us, is the reality of this disease. We're aware of be-pinked triumph over death, forgetting that it's temporary (like, for all of us). Forgetting that nearly 40,000 American women a year die from this disease.

Look at Angelo Merendino's stunning photographs of his wife Jen.

We aren't aware of the insidious sexism inherent in so many pink ribbon campaigns. Save the Tatas? I'd rather we saved the women. And those guys with the motorboating...let's just say I'd like to see them try to motorboat me. I think they'd take one look and my radiation-burned, caved-in chest and run screaming from the building.

Check out PolicyMic's article, Why Breast Cancer Awareness Month is Actually a Huge Insult to Women.

We aren't aware of the creepy chemical/pharmaceutical game being played, in which companies make products that can cause cancer, and then turn around and sell you a treatment. I'm grateful to have these treatments, as they may have saved my life. But I'd also rather not have gotten cancer to begin with. We need SO MUCH MORE research into the environmental causes of cancer.

Read Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, and watch Pink Ribbons, Inc.

We're aware of breast cancer, as a thing, as a marketing campaign, but we're not aware of it as a reality. As an experience that takes over peoples' lives, as a disease that sometimes takes those lives outright. It's clear to me that the Pink Industrial Complex isn't interested in this part of the story, so it is up to us, as individuals, to make it known. I posted the other day a quote from Audre Lorde, but I think it bears repeating: "Silence has never brought us anything of worth."

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Not embarazada

 In high school Spanish, our teacher often talked about the dangers of Spanglish (ie making up words you don't know by adding Spanish suffix to an English word.) She told a story about a young woman at dinner with her future in-laws, and telling an embarrassing story. When she got to the part where she wanted to say "I was so embarrassed!" she used the word embarazada. Which actually means "pregnant." Oh snap! That story probably wasn't true, in retrospect, but I always liked it.

Because who doesn't love an embarrassing story? As long as it's about someone else. you're in luck, because I compiled a few for my post over at ABC News, about the Traumarama moments of breast cancer. Check it out here.

Warning: there is a giant picture of my face.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

A good day for flying

It was still dark when my Florida-bound plane took off this morning. This is my 5th plane trip in the last year and a half. I've had five surgeries in that time, too.

Florida is where my surgeon said to go when I was sick of doctors.

But that's not why I got on a plane this morning. I'm headed to a writing residency in New Smyrna Beach. Three weeks of writing, and I assume, sitting on the beach. I brought my bathing suit, though wearing it would be a feat of bravery I might not be quite up to.

Last night, while looking for an errant pair of flip flops in my closet, I came upon a little trunk of mementos. Some tiny art projects and letters, but mostly photos. None were from later than 2004. The ones that struck me most were from my high school graduation party.

I looked happy. More than that, I looked relieved. High school was tough for me, like it is for most people I think. I had brief moments of having friends, but those relationships often flamed out, and often I was left without a place to sit in the cafeteria. But when the photo was taken, I had graduated, and that monster had loosed its grip. I was ready to move on to exciting unknown things at college.

It was just over eleven years ago. Before  iPhones and social media and What Does the Fox Say? (We did have Star Wars Kid, however.)

Was there anyway I could have known then, what the next ten years would bring? Of course not. And as I sit here on this Airbus, (apparently the Mickey Mouse Express, based on the number of small children on board) I feel an affinity for my 18-year-old self. We have made it through the toughest thing in our lives so far. We are unaware of the beauty and love, and the shit, yet to come.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Today I learned

That I am "hyper-mobile."

hyper -prefix
1. (in medicine) denoting an abnormal excess
mobile -adj.
1. capable of moving or being moved readily.
2. quickly responding to impulses, emotions, etc., as the mind. 

It was said in reference to my joints, but it has applications elsewhere, I think.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Some threads

When I got home tonight, there was this giant box waiting for me. 

It was a box of swag from the awesome tshirt (and other stuff too) retailer Threadless! They also made this really sweet card. Tears!!

I've been a fan of Threadless for a long time, and via many christmas presents, I've  converted my family as well. My sister Lizzie once seriously considered a particular college based purely on its proximity to their headquarters. (Future engineer of America, guys.)

This was so super sweet of them to send me all this great stuff. I love everything, but most importantly, the cats approve.

Toastie enjoying the cool geometric throw blanket.

Lydia making sure all is in order with the box.

Readers, it was a rough day. My plan when I came home was to flop into bed with a bag of cookies. Then I saw the box. It didn't even matter what was just made me feel nice. Though I may still crawl into bed with my cookies, I'll definitely be dressed better.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Um, yeah.

Little red dots


Well, it's been some week. I posted a video I thought a few dozen people might see, and at last count,  it's over 300,000. I am stunned by the response the video has gotten. Thank you so much for all the support and well wishes. I'm trying to work my way through and respond to everyone. Thank you everyone for reaching out.

Part of what many have asked me after watching the video is what my status is. Am I cured? Am I in remission? Am I done with all of this?

The answer that they want, understandably, is yes. They want to hear that I'm completely healed and moving on with my life. But it's more complicated than that.

In the finale of Breaking Bad (SPOILERS YOU HAVE BEEN SO SO WARNED) there's a scene in which Walt visits Elliott and Gretchen, his very successful former business partners, to convince them to funnel the money Walt has earned cooking meth to his son, Walter, Jr. (aka Flynn...that's a whole other thing) after Walt dies. They agree, but to give himself a guarantee, he employs a little bit a terrorism, seen here.

Even after he's gone, his agents of destruction still lurk. They are unseen until it is too late. It doesn't matter, of course, if they are real snipers or just Badger and Skinny Pete with laser pointers. The threat is there, and the terror is there. Though Gretchen and Elliot have survived Walt, they know they won't be so lucky with the snipers.

I feel the same about breast cancer. Though the main players, the tumors in my breast, are dead and far away in a freezer somewhere, there is always the possibility that more are lurking, just waiting to reveal themselves. Just waiting. So sometimes something happens, an new pain, or odd symptom, and the terror rushes in. Is this it? Is this the moment? The little undertow of sadness and fear that informs my entire life becomes huge, pulling me deep under. (Did I mention I don't know how to swim?)

I'm superstitious about saying that I'm doing well, when it still feels like I'm in someone's cross-hairs.

I don't think it's a stretch to see Walt as the embodiment of cancer, with cancer's cellular action a corollary for his own activity. Think of Walt as a cell. A variable is introduced, in his case, a cancer diagnosis; in the cell's case, an environmental toxin perhaps. In the first episode, we see Walt as having the opportunity to be a vigilante hero, restoring order to society. Instead, he goes the opposite way, and decides to add chaos and destruction. Cells have the same potentiality. Some go good, others break bad, by growing in ordered patterns, or by growing out of control and becoming tumors. Some people, and some cells, like to go down in flames, and take a lot of others with them.

I have a lot of love for the antihero. I will argue for hours against Tony S. being a sociopath. Of all of these guys, like Stringer Bell, or Tony Soprano, the only one I'm afraid of is Walter White.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

New friend

Yup, that's a breast implant. Rather dreamy looking in this photo, don't you think?

Okay, some back story. I've been having an ongoing problem with a seroma (a collection of serous fluid) post surgery. And by that I mean, post mastectomy. As in, a year ago. Anyway, this seroma is the reason I've had to have drains for so long in the past. A seroma forms when there's an empty space in the body. The body does not like empty space so it fills it up with this fluid. (Is the human body a hoarder? It's not for me to say.)

Since the removal of my surgical drain last month, I've been having to go every week to the surgeon's office to have this fluid aspirated. I've tried basically everything to make this thing go away. Every supplement, nutritional thing, every pressure bandage. I tried acupuncture. Nothing worked.

After unveiling my latest seroma squelching scheme, which involved Crayola Model Magic, he suggested we try using a sample implant to fill the void, and just smoosh it down with a sports bra. So he sent me on my way with this little puppy, a 320 cc silicone implant.

It's an odd little thing. I passed it around when I got back to work, and freaked out my coworker when I gave it a tender smack, like the way I pat my dog on the rump.

It's sitting on my kitchen table now. I feel compelled to name it. Maybe because its saline cousin is currently occupying the space under my right pec muscle.

This implant is a medical device, I know. I feel like that should make me squeamish. But, I don't know, I feel a lot of affection for it. It's squishy, and fun to play with. And if I hold it just right, it reminds me of a crystal ball.

ETA: The silicon friend is in place. Very different from saline! Anyone out there have a real boob, so I can conduct a side-by-side squeeze comparison of real vs. saline vs. silicone? KTHXBYE