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Monday, December 30, 2013

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A life less shitty

Okay, last quote from Middlemarch, I promise:

"Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."

I always felt if something was wrong for someone I love, I had to fix it completely. That there must be something that I could do to reverse the wrong thing. That if I could say just the perfect thing or give the perfect present, the sadness and hurt could be wiped away. I think others feel this way too sometimes. Sometimes, if they don't know the perfect thing to say, they don't say anything at all.

I guess its our narcissm that contributes to this. Our belief that we are powerful enough, important enough, to fix broken things just by wishing it. By getting some small thing right, we can fix everything. And become heroes, I guess, having commited "historic acts."

The thing that it has taken me my whole life to learn, and is so beautifully stated above, is that it doesn't work that way. The world is built on a few grand gestures, yes,  but also a million small ones. 

I think people feel overwhelmed sometimes by the largeness of everything, and how difficult it is to stand out. There are a thousand, or maybe a million, people in the world who are identical or very similar to me. The point that Eliot makes here is that it's fine. Not standing out is not a failure. Your talents can be put good use, and you can help many people in your own quiet way. And it means something.

Don't try to do it all. Instead, just do something.

If someone you know is going through someone rough, don't task yourself with fixing it, or even making it better. Just try to make it a little less shitty. Mom's dog died? Give her a hug. Neighbor lost his job? Buy him a cup of coffee. Friend's got cancer? Take her to a movie.  

The phone calls, the chocolate bars, the visits -- these make the difference between someone powering through and scraping by. 

This is my goal for 2014: Make things less shitty.     

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


On this night five years ago, I laid in my childhood bed wih the man who would be my husband. The house was cold; we spooned for warmth. In my ear, he whispered, "What if I have cancer?"

"I really don't think you have to worry about that," I said emphatically, turning to face him. He's only 27. It will really be okay. Biopsy just means looking and seeing what it is. Not necessarily cancer. Just looking at the lump in his throat as a precaution.

So imagine my shock, when four days later he got a somewhat roundabout diagnosis. "It looks like a lymphoma," the doctor said. But I digress. 

I am thinking about this night, Christmas Eve, five years ago.

That night I lay there so sure what life did not have I store for us. I'd checked in with my intuition. No disturbance detected. Later I would question myself. Why hadn't I known? Then later when it was my turn, I did sort of know.  But I digress.

I sit here in a darkened car, five years since that night. The end of the calendar year but already the beginning of the solar year. Reaching the end of the decade that I was supposed to be young and beautiful, though most of the time I did not feel that, and most of the time I should have. It wasn't until the last year or so that I began to be old.

I know now that nothing is impossible. That night five years ago, I thought things could be impossible. Then in July of 2012, I thought the same. I thought the statistics would protect me. It swings both ways, that. It's freeing and crushing.

Nothing is impossible. 

Tonight's eve is cold with a bit of snow. I light a candle with an expensive and satisfying match, and my dog leans against me in bed. Tonight's eve, I have hair again, but still no breasts. I think of the next eve, the next ten, and remember what I have learned: nothing is impossible.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Left out

So, I went on MSNBC today. I had a whole plan for an angry rant which didn't happen, unfortunately. But I did do something that I was proud of. Probably no one even noticed, but it was a big deal to me.

I was getting dressed, and obsessing about which colors you are and are not supposed to wear on tv (side note: the advice is to avoid white, black, and neutrals...uhh, that's my whole wardrobe). I hadn't yet put in my prosthetic, and when I looked down at my chest, I reminded myself to put it in. Would that be funny, I thought, if I forgot to wear it today of all days?

Then I thought again. What would happen? Nothing. I wouldn't have to explain anything to anyone. I as there in my capacity as cancer girl, so isn't it expected that part of me would be, um, abbreviated?

And then I thought about why I wear it in the first place. Is it to make others comfortable? To prevent unwanted questions? To blend in?

In Audre Lorde's The Cancer Journals, she brings up a powerful image. One of angry, single breasted women converging on some government office, demanding justice. Being single breasted is not "nice," and that was her point.

So I left it out. I brought it in my purse in case I panicked, but I didn't. Truthfully, I don't know if anyone even noticed.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


I was just looking at my blog stats, and noticed someone came across this by using the search terms "xoxo breast supplement japan." Because why not?


Would have been more appropriate during radiation, but the heart wants what the heart wants.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Truth, from George Eliot

"We have all got to exert ourselves a little to keep sane, and call things by the same name as other people call them."

- Geroge Eliot, through the immaculate vessel that is Mrs. Cadwallader.

Still reading Middlemarch. There's something about an 800 page book that's grounding. Like, "I don't have TIME for your foolishness. I'm planning cottages with Dorothea."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


This past Saturday was the one year anniversary of the end of chemo.

In preparation, or perhaps, remembrance, my body reverted back to my chemo state in a few small ways. I had a strange, metallic taste in my mouth for about a week. My joints throbbed, for no reason. My hair hurt. Hurting hair is an odd sensation, I think unique to chemo. Before it falls out, your hair hurts. Like when it's been pulled very hard, and aches afterward. That achey feeling comes just before the fall.

I breathed sharply with all of these. It's so easy to be transported back to then. And why was it even happening? Was it my body remembering and mourning, or simply acting out the role it learned last year this time? I think our cells do remember things, independent from our brains.

One year since finishing. I don't know where I thought I'd be, but I don't think it was here. Here, with a possible clinical trial and a new try at reconstruction. Here, not finished. Here, still feeling near the start.

But I have come a ways, maybe. When Pancho went badly lame this weekend, and I kissed and coddled him. I wondered if he knew that now he could let go a little. I could take care of him again. My stout-hearted and dependable boy. He was my most attentive caretaker, carefully sniffing my incisions after surgeries, scaring off all strangers, friend or foe, on our walks. Now I am cooking him dinner and ordering takeout for me and Matt. Pancho eats everything except the string beans, which he carefully spits out on the floor. I don't think it's anthropomorphizing too much to say that he feels he can ease off the intense care-taking. And so often, when that happens, the little pains we have been ignoring make themselves known. Hence his sad little kneecap, dislocated and staying that way for the time being.

Sad as I am to see my little one in pain, I know he will get better. And his faith that I will too, that I have already started, is fortifying. Sometimes you need someone to remind you that can, in fact, get out of bed again.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Okay, so I got this letter.

This is actually the second notice. It was so skeevy looking that I thought the first one was a scam. But apparently it's real. The purpose of the letter was to get me to implicate someone else (an errant delivery truck, or trolls, or whatever the fuck) as being responsible for paying for one of my ER surgeries from over the summer. This company who sent the letter was hired by my insurance company to find out WHO THE FUCK IS RESPONSIBLE HERE and get some of Insurance Co's $$ back.

Excuse me, what? You want to know who's responsible for this? Because you're sick of dealing with it, paying for it? Well have at it. Start with this list of nearly 100 beauty products that contain the known carcinogen cocamide diethanolamine, according to the Center for Environmental Health.

That's one single carcinogen, in almost 100 beauty products.

It's completely gross that I had to explain to this random company that yes, I was being treated for cancer, and no, there is no individual they can sue to recoup some cash. What I didn't include in my explanation of the surgery, and wish I would have:

In attempt to avoid having one of these ER surgeries, I had an in-office procedure in which my incision was re-opened, skin was sliced away, and the wound was restitched while I was awake. No anesthesia. No valium. No bottle of hooch, no knocking me over the head with a brick. Just me and some pranayama. Many of the nerves in my chest were severed during my mastectomy, so I felt very little. However, whether you feel pain from a trauma or not, your body sends wave after wave of adrenaline. My body was telling me to run the fuck out of that office. But I didn't flinch.

So, you wanna go, insurance dipshits? Pretty sure I've got more staying power.

Oh the indignity.

I got "sirred" for the first time today. As in, "What can I get you, sir?"

End transmission.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


I want to send this to my insurance company.

Also I just want them to accept that I will continue to cost them a shit load of money. $499,614* billed and counting.

* That's what was billed. They don't actually pay anywhere near that much. But I'll be damned if I ain't worth it.

Monday, December 2, 2013


Instead of cooking dinner tonight, I went in the bathroom and did very dramatic makeup to the left side of my face only. One of these puppies made an appearance:

Yes, those are sparkle lashes.

I listened to Stevie Nicks's Landslide on repeat the whole time.

I feel this is an important thing for people to know about me. I wish I could blame this on chemo brain somehow, but it's just me, ridiculous me.

ETA I further put off cooking dinner in favor of stomping around and obsessively cleaning the windows (again!) with rags made form my cut up radiation tshirts. End of chemo anniversary on Saturday. Paging Dr. Freud...