Category Archives: 365 days

What’s something worse than being told you have cancer?

One is, being told you have cancer again.

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that orange circle is a modesty patch for people that hate nipples.

I was living well with my closing in on three years from my bout with cervical cancer. I was finding my way out of the darkness that descended after that. Life was good,

I was told I had breast cancer in May. I join a group of over three and a half million women in the United States that have a history of breast cancer. That is a BIG a$$ clan.

Technically, I must admit, I am not going to be one breasted, I will be more like 1 and a 1/2 – I need to change the image above (I suppose).

The one breasted story comes from reading the amazing book Refuge by Terry Tempest Wiliams, and read this here.

The Amazon comes by way of my birth and childhood, in a city high in the mountains that help feed the Amazon river and its tributaries…

The Amazon also comes by way of my height, people associate tall women with the narrative of the Amazons from Greek mythology.

These Amazons were also reputed to be one breasted, some say because they were warrior women – this is up for debate.

I got here because women. Women put into place a series of experiences and events that allowed for me to get a mammogram that detected the mass – it is small and deep enough that no one can feel it.

This is from a letter I sent to the women who had helped me detect this early.

The whole thing feels a bit surreal. I think about what had to be in place for me to get my mammogram and it is rather miraculous and so heavily dependent on so many women that are in my life.

  • My mom for taking me along to the nurse training clinics for women’s health for the nursing students at ASU.
  • My own professional health advocacy efforts through both ASU and UofA.
  • My aunt, a survivor.
  • Rita who started a local Breast Cancer Fundraiser that was supported by the Junior League of Phoenix (JLP).
  • Kay, who wrote a grant back in 1990, through which I would be propelled to join the JLP and continue the effort.
  • Kim, whom I met through Gail (my mentor), who asked me to come help translate for Kay’s grant because I was a practicing breast cancer advocate (not an activist as someone recently referred to what I did as).
  • The many women in JLP leadership who let me continue to manage and oversee the mammograms at rummage.
  • Pam and Catherine for helping secure funding for the continued efforts of the mammograms at JLP rummage.
  • All the women and their stories who have passed through the mammograms at rummage project for the last 17 years.
  • My oncology Nurse Practitioner, whom I see for a previous cancer, that said it would be a good idea to get a mammogram back in December.

If not for the combination of the women above, I would not have found myself in the right place at the right time to detect my cancer early.

Life is still good, a bit more overwhelming than I would like, but good.

My surgery is next week.

Radiation and other will be shortly after that.

Send me good thoughts.

 

supernovas in disguise

He said the freckles on his arms
were roadmaps to the sky,
and the bruises that he carried
were supernovas in disguise.

“Stargazer”
~ Alaska Gold, Growing Light

Some days are filled with faking it to degrees you never wanted to have to fake it to.

It’s like that scene in Pretty in Pink where Margie Potts tells about how she never went to prom and something about losing her car keys… wait, let me look….

“I have this girlfriend who didn’t go to hers, and every once in a while, she gets this really terrible feeling—you know, like something is missing. She checks her purse, and then she checks her keys. She counts her kids, she goes crazy, and then she realizes that nothing is missing. She decided it was side effects from skipping the prom.” (source)

Yeah, that – only its like Oh yeah, I fucking have cancer, for the second time.

So, I set out to count my proverbial blessings and try to feel better.

Blessings:

  • My mom and aunt are not being a$$holes about this time.
  • I have a cadre of friends that are staying in touch and making me feel loved.
  • I am making sure that my choices are about how I want to manage this and not so much about how I can help others manage this go around.
  • I am working and have a job.

OK, that is all I have the energy for right now.

ANYWHO…

Jane (my tumor) is being a supernova right now, in that she is purple, like grimace or barney purple. My doctor warned me yesterday that it is most likely a moving supernova (he did not actually call it a supernova) and she will take a ride all over my breast. This should prove interesting.

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Jane Mansfield, My Champagne Supernova

Poor Jane, she looks like hell. She feels like hell. She just wants to go to bed and sleep.

Hey, maybe talking about my new (and *improved*) cancer in third person will help with resilience and shit?

Anyway, I get to take off Janes’ dressing this afternoon.  I wish it were some sexy erotic experience but it will most likely hurt like hell. I will take pictures, I probably won’t post them.

Also, I have been blessed with (up until now) really nice breasts – my whole life – I am talking good lookin’ boobies – they are symmetrical even.  Yes, I am rather vain about them too. So, here I am, facing a life with a deformed irradiated breast in the near future. I am going to be very honest and say it breaks my heart, I love my boobs whether I was skinny or fat, , tanned (guffaw)they were a source of pride. Will I be proud of them after they (the right it, really) go through some huge surgical and medical transformation? Fuck. I hate facing my vanity and feeling like I am stupid. I mean…  it is a freakin’ boob. It is not my most charming asset (or is it?). OK, now I am just trying to be funny. Which means I am feeling less freaked out by this whole experience.

Though, having your brother drop off a package of granny house dresses that our mother bought me made me feel old – because they are GRANNY DRESSES. They button up the front though, and between the surgery and the (hoped for) brachytherapy radiation,  it will be easier to wear in recovery phase. So, I guess I better pull up my granny panties (not at that stage yet, thank you baby jebus) and buck up.

Now, I want ice cream.

 

 

May I introduce you to…

“It is hard to look at the tumor and not come away with the feeling that one has encountered a powerful monster in its infancy”
~Siddhartha Mukherjee

I friend mentioned that she felt a certain disconnect to what is happening to me this time around so here is a brief update for her, for me, for the angustia inside. So, it has been one month since the first biopsy. Hmm – just realized that I had biopsies a month apart, that is crazy and will calendars never cease to amaze me with their power of recollection.

Anyway, I sit here today, with a purple right breast and my saga as a wounded Amazon continues. Except this time I am waiting to find out if there is a second mass of ye’ ol’ devil cancer in there. What has happened since I yelled cuss words at my fabulous doctor when the news was given? Well, let me tell ya…

I have seen WAY TOO MANY FUCKING DOCTORS. Some of them good, some not so much.

I sought three opinions, one of those was with a tumor board group. That was awesome, in part because it showed me that one of  the oncologists I was leaning towards made an error when we spoke. They misread my diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound report and sent me home after that first visit wondering all sorts of crazy, worrisome and untrue (at that time) shit.

I immediately got a horrible cold  (stress does that ya know, makes you sick) and wasn’t sleeping, and frankly looked like shit. The oncologist I ended up picking  ended up giving me an rx  for some meds to help me sleep. Thankfully I just needed one for that to change. They also ordered an MRI – which found something called a linear enhancement. This linear enhancement (enhancement of  what, I am still wondering) required another biopsy, which I had yesterday. No, this was not your regular biopsy, it was an MRI guided one. It was a process that must have been designed by men because it was fucking awful in so many ways. Today, my breast is a purple mess, and I can’t yet see the incision site. Today, there is a certain kind of peace though – testing is behind me – now it is about waiting for results. Results I should have by Monday.

I am trying to have a sense of humor about this, as such I have named my primary tumor Jane Mansfield. It is a dark humor kind of thing (I seem to recall that the real Jayne Mansfield was beheaded in a car accident, but it is also because I want to find the beautiful (and Jane was a beauty and no monster) in this insanity. Let me introduce you to Jane (I did this little project before I knew the name, fwiw, and there are several versions but Jane is now official) :

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Jane (not Jayne) Mansfield

 

The other craziness is that all this has come down during a revisit with faith in my familiar “theistic-agnostic-I love Our Lady” form, and it was cool until last week. A friend asked me about who was providing me with pastoral care during this, and I didn’t know what to say.  As a deacon, I was part of pastoral care, you kinda know that people have to want it. I have, after all, told that god with a capital G to fuck off since my diagnosis. I don’t feel bad about doing that. But in terms of receiving care,  I also know I don’t want to pray, especially not with anyone else. I am unsure how to proceed on this front, it feels like something I should want or need… yet, I don’t…. but I am so totally unsure of how to proceed regarding receiving pastoral care. I don’t feel the community for it, so it doesn’t make much sense.

I still have not told my perfect spawn, but what is there to tell. I did talk to a child life specialist about how to handle this and got some reassurance that I was right in waiting to tell the news and how to handle the treatment phase (e.g. everything else).

So, that is where I am at. I have a personal photo journal of this experience, which I may share at some point… but I am really going to have to want to share the pictures of my bruised body and provide evidence of my bruised ego.

 

smoke gets in their eyes – My thoughts for International Women’s Day

“Ladies who play with fire must remember that smoke gets in their eyes.”
~ Mae West

For international women’s day I am going to tell you all a story that causes me some disquiet about celebrating this particular day.

When I was back in Ecuador as an adult I visited with a friend of my fathers and his family on a trip to their cattle ranch high up in the Andes mountains. The scenery was spectacular and glorious, there is nothing like being on those mountains for me, there was wind so loud I could hear it, it swooshed by so hard my cheeks were quickly windburned. Then I sat in the grass and there were these tiny pink berries buried in the grass, a slightly sweet taste that I hadn’t forgotten after a 20 year absence. I had loved these kinds experiences on my own family ranch when I was little, and I was so grateful to be able to experience them again.

UNTIL

I saw the wife, a woman – a woman of means, take off her shoe and hit the male ranch hand, a man with far less means than the family, a man they had hired to care for the ranch while they lived in the city. She hit him because he had not been able to do something by the time we arrived. She did this in front of his wife and kids, in front of her own family, in front of me, a guest. His family and their stoic faces as she beat him about the head and shoulders are still with me today. I was horrified. The husband, my fathers friend, was mortified that she did this in front of me, but did not speak up. I did not speak up.

Considering the caste system that is in place in that part of the world, I am not sure what my speaking up would have accomplished. However, I still feel shame; shame that I did not speak up and shame that it was a woman that was behaving so atrociously.

Here is why I am sharing this story though, because women, like men, can be awful. I want to illustrate how much work there is to do in creating a world I am not led to shame because of my gender through my own behaviour and the behaviour of my fellow women.

So, I ask you today, all of you, be beholden to how you treat others, regardless of gender, regardless of caste. We all carry kindness and gentleness within us, and let us all move together in that.

quote-more-than-cleverness-we-need-kindness-and-gentleness-charlie-chaplin-49-88-52

 

not conclusions, but beginnings – 366/366

The end is nigh. The end of my doing a post for every day of the year, that is!

King Lear: Cordelia's Farewell by Edwin Austin Abbey
King Lear: Cordelia’s Farewell by Edwin Austin Abbey

Wow, and what a year has passed since I decided to take this project on. I will state, for the record, that it was hard… but had some open and well hidden rewards.

I leaned that…

  • I have things I want to say that should not be constrained by prompt questions.
  • I am sometimes bound by a failure to know how to best put into words that which is mulling in my mind.
  • I can finish something, though it is on my terms.
  • I got some great ideas about how to go about writing the novel I want to write.
  • Some people worried about the honesty of the darker moments I wrote about.
  • I know what things I should try next.
  • Many other things that have slipped my mind

Thank you to all my new friends. I will continue to write here, but at a more comfortable pace that is more dictated by my wants and thoughts and less by the daily prompts.

The very first post is here.

“In literature and in life we ultimately pursue, not conclusions, but beginnings.”
~ Sam Tanenhaus, Literature Unbound

possessions are generally diminished by possession – 365/366

What possession could I not live without?

Allegory of Fortune by Salvator Rosa
Allegory of Fortune by Salvator Rosa

There is plenty of things I don’t want to live without, but I can’t think of anything I am lucky enough to own that is so supremely important that I can’t live without it.

“Even the most beautiful scenery is no longer assured of our love after we have lived in it for three months, and some distant coast attracts our avarice: possessions are generally diminished by possession.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

the overcompensations for misery – 362/366

Am I content?

Il Contento' illustrates an episode in the Spanish picaresque novel ‚Guzman de Alfarache‘, published by Mateo Aleman in Madrid in 1599 and issued in an Italian version in 1606. In the story, the people on Earth worshipped the god Contento (god of contentment and happiness) more than any other. Jealous of this, Jupiter sent Mercury to abduct Contento and replace him with his twin brother Discontento. Elsheimer was the first artist ever to depict this story, but he deviated from the novel by turning Contento into a female goddess. On the left, Jupiter hovers in mid-air while directing Mercury, who is seen wearing his distinctive winged hat and pulling Contento above the devoted crowd. In the background, people enjoy a variety of sports and games, unaware of their imminent `discontentment?
Il Content by Adam Elsheimer

I think I am, I am feeling much more comfortable in my own skin (again),

 

“Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.”
~ Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

any answer at all – 361/366

What am I most grateful for?

That my transition from 2016 to 2017 was gentle and meaningful. I welcomed the new year with people I had only met once before and spent the first day of 2017 with friends from high school… then I stopped at the cemetery to visit my grandfather and I found a Ben’s Bells in the tree right next to his plot. So, I declared kindness to be my theme for the new year.

 

“I pray God it is the answer I want, but if not I will accept any answer at all and try to be grateful for what I had.”
~ Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon