Cancer Slayer: Post Script

Yesterday I had surgery to remove the medi-port that was installed a year ago ahead of chemo. Since then I’ve had six rounds of chemo, multiple echocardiograms, 11 infusions of Herceptin, a lumpectomy and lymphnode takey-outy, 30 sessions of radiation, a bone density test, I don’t remember how many MRIs and blood tests and zillions of pills. But with the removal of the medi-port, I’m officially done. My surgeon Dr Superman says it’s his favorite surgery because it’s symbolic. I won’t need any more chemo because I’m going to be okay.

So, I wanted to give an update from the winner’s circle. I feel like the “finish line” was my last dose of Herceptin and this is just the clean-up, the victory lap.

My hair is growing back thick and curly (just like it was before it all came out). Unfortunately with curly hair, it tends to get WIDE before it gets long. So I’m sporting a look that’s a little bit Will Ferrell, a bit Bozo, and a helping of Madam Hooch. Ma'am_Hooch

My eyebrows are filling in a little bit, but they still need an assist from an eyebrow pencil, which I had never in my life needed to use being from the Brooke Shields brow club.

My eyelashes are another story. So pathetic. I religiously applied RevitaLash every night and little stubs began to grow…but SO slowly. The few lashes that hadn’t fallen out in the last round of chemo were thin and twisted little bastards. Attempts at mascara just emphasized the sorry situation and made it look as though spiders had crawled onto my eyelids to perish. SO, I got eyelash extensions. I really did. I lay down for two hours (and 200 dollars) while a lady used surgical glue to attach fake individual lashes to my spider legs and lash stubs. And guess what? I LOVE THEM. Worth every damn penny because I feel like a girl again. A healthy, non-cancery female woman. So there. Is it petty and vain? You bet your ass, and I’m going back to do it again in two weeks.

My medication is down to a once-daily aromatase inhibitor. Remember how I said there were no side-effects? Well, once enough built up in my system, I did start to experience some of the common ones, specifically joint pain and this numbness and stiffness in my hands. It’s annoying. It’s as if all of a sudden my body is eighty years old. I move like your grandma when she gets up from the couch to get you another cookie. A lot of pausing and strained smiles. It sucks but it’s better than the cancer coming back, am I right, folks?

Speaking of the potential return of He Who Shall Not Be Named…angy turdy tumor

…I have calmed down so much and am starting to acclimate myself to being cancer-free. It took a lot longer than I’d have thought, but I’m pleased to report I have come down from the ledge of constant fear and worry. It just took time. (and probably the Paxil helped).

So what else is new? We moved into a big house with a ginormous yard. My youngest is going to a new school and already has a new best friend and play dates and birthday party invitations. Her birthday is next month and for the first time in her life we’re hosting the party at our home in our back yard with a rented bouncy house.

Gunny is going to college full time working on a business degree and he also got his realtor license and is working hard to get things going on that front.

My older daughter is thrilled to have her own room again (she was sharing with her sister in the old apartment) and she’s raising some baby chicks named Bellatrix, Luna, Minerva and Tonks.13086632_10153616004177616_2292435789660856514_o


Me? I’m looking for a job. My hesitant stabs at healthcare type deals didn’t really amount to much. I have zero experience so I can’t blame them. I find myself applying for the kind of jobs I did before and sort of falling into some old habits that I’d hoped to leave behind. Petty concerns like a long commute or money stuff. My former field of work is small and incestuous and very competitive. I’m disheartened at how easy it was to forget about my priorities and my new-found peace of mind. So my answer is this: I’m going to focus on the future that I’ve now accepted that I’ll have. I’ll get a job, certainly, and do it to the best of my ability, but I am also going to get my degree in something that will fulfill me in the long run. I want to be a counselor–probably an end-of-life/hospice counselor. I will need a lot of school, but the years are going to go by regardless and at the end I can either have something to show for it or not. I choose school. Not finishing my BA is my only regret in life and it’s something I can actually fix! So I’m doing it!

As far as my personal life and psyche? I feel so freaking lucky. Walking my kid to school on a sunny day is just idyllic. Weeding the yard makes me inexplicably happy. We run through the sprinkler and roast marshmallows in the fire pit and make daisy chain crowns.I sleep so well in this house it feels like we were drawn to this place for a reason. I’m…HAPPY. As Allison summed it up this morning on the way to school:

“Ahhhh. I love life!”

FullSizeRender (19)

And so, I don’t think I’m going to write about cancer any more unless there is some sort of update. I’m going to take these blog posts and flesh them out and fill in the blanks and publish them as a book. Maybe people will want to read it and maybe they won’t. But it’s something I feel strongly that I need to do.

If you were here for the cancer, I appreciate your interest, love and support. We now return to our regularly scheduled blog posts about books and writing and kids and work and maybe some chickens and gardening. 🙂






Kindergarten cancer conversations

I guess maybe I thought it would be a one-and-done kind of thing. “Allison, Mommy has cancer. But the doctor will fix me.” “Okay, Mommy.” *skips off to play*

Trying on the hat my friend Shelley sent for my soon-to-be chrome dome.
Trying on the hat my friend Shelley sent for my soon-to-be chrome dome.

Well, it didn’t go quite like that. And it was just the first of many conversations. I felt like I had to warn her about my impending hair loss because I remember how freaked out I was when I was her age and my dad grew a mustache. And he wasn’t even sick. It was weird and scary and I wasn’t 100% certain he was my dad anymore with that crazy 70s ‘stache.

This is me with my purple hair. Those are wings. No, I'm not an angel, I'm a fairy. A singing fairy. I love how she got my Wonder Woman baseball cap just right.
This is me with my purple hair. Those are wings. No, I’m not an angel, I’m a fairy. A singing fairy. I love how she got my Wonder Woman baseball cap just right.

So one night I told her that the doctor is going to give me very strong medicine to kill the cancer. And we can’t see inside my boob, but we’ll know it’s working because my hair is going to fall out. And I’m probably going to look silly, but I will still need lots of cuddles. Maybe even extra cuddles. The medicine might make me feel tired and if I was too tired she can play with Daddy. But I will never be too tired for cuddles. We talked about maybe she could cut my hair (something the oncology social worker suggested) and she giggled. I reminded her that the doctors are going to fix me and I’ll be all better.

“Can we stop talking about it now?” This is what she says when she’s on overload. She taps out.

A few days later we had this conversation:

“What if the medicine doesn’t work?”
“Then we’ll try another medicine. My doctor knows all the medicines that kill cancer. That’s what he does all day every day–kill cancer.”
“But what if none of the medicines work?”

“Then we’ll cut off both my boobs and when we go to the beach I won’t have to wear a shirt!”

That made her laugh.

One day she came home from school and she told me that she was crying at school about the cancer. And her classmates Savannah and Claire made her feel better. (Do you even have to be a parent to feel absolutely crushed by that? By her tiny little blonde tears in the school cafeteria? Ugh.)

The next day she brought this home. It’s a get well note from her friend Claire. from Claire

Friday night I was putting her to bed. On weekends she likes to “camp out” on the floor of my office. It’s hard to remember when it was a good time to sleep on the floor, but she loves it. She’s got a Doc McStuffins sleeping bag and a Disney Princess lantern.

“Good night, sweetie. I’ll see you in the morning.”
She bursts out crying.
“What’s the matter?!”
“I’m worried about your boob thing!”
“Honey, remember I told you I’m going to get medicine and I’ll be better.”
She grabs me and squeezes me as tight as she can.
“I wish you never had cancer!”

Gaming with Kids: Crawl, Walk, Game


Last week marked the debut of my new column at It’s called Crawl, Walk, Game, and it’s all about my experiences gaming with my youngest child. I’ve had great feedback so far, so give it a read, won’t you? Next week I’ll be writing about educational apps from Duck, Duck, Moose, and in June we’re going to investigate “screentime.” How much is my kid really getting, how much is too much, and how–if necessary–to cut back.

Check out the first article, “Backstory” and let me know what you think!

Care and Feeding of a Small Tyrant

Save Ferris? Save Grandma!

Because I was cracking myself up writing this, I am sharing some excerpts from the three-page document I wrote for my mother on the Care and Feeding of Baby Trixie.

“If she points at the freezer she wants a popsicle. “Arcle” means popsicle, but it also means bicycle and motorcycle. If she’s pointing at the TV and yells “arcle” it means she wants to watch the “Things with Wheels” episode of Barney.”

“Put her iPad on the charger after breakfast so you don’t forget. Bedtime is a freaking nightmare if her “game” is out of charge.”

“She’s usually ravenous as soon as she gets home. She may eat a second dinner if everyone else eats later. She may eat all of her food, say “all done” (which means she wants out of the high chair) and then steal your food too.”

“She does enjoy pooping in the tub, so watch her if she looks like she’s thinking hard. The bubbles create good cover for stealth turds, so beware!”

“Her go-to shows on Netflix are Barney and Yo Gabba Gabba. “Bahney” and “Yo Baba”. There are many episodes of Barney that she enjoys. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out which one she wants. “Ammals” is most likely the “Jungle Friends” one. “Song” is the live Barney show, which is horrendous. Sometimes you just have to scroll through Recently Watched and wait for her to stop screaming. Rarely she will start hollering for “babies” which I found out the hard way means “Rugrats”.”

My husband and I are off on our belated honeymoon tomorrow–a cruise to the Western Caribbean–and my mom is on Toddler Patrol for a whole week. Wish her luck!

5 Signs You Watch Too Much Children’s TV

The sound of Barney's voice makes you want to open a vein.
You can no longer just dance. You must "dancey dance."
Gooble no longer makes you think of a sad sex toy.
You want to smack Tolee for being a whiny bitch.
Diego is starting to look hot.

A Slice of Heaven in Seattle—Mother’s Day Giveaway!

If you follow me on Twitter–and if you don’t good lord what are you doing with your free time?! –you know that I am a fan of Gene Juarez salons and spas. I like them because they’re fancy enough to make going there feel like a special occasion, but not so fancy you feel the frosty chill of snobbery.

Last weekend I was treated to the titular slice of heaven. (btw dudes, ‘titular’ has nothing to do with boobies). I received the Be Relaxed spa package at the Redmond Gene Juarez which includes a 60-minute massage and a classic pedicure.

Be Relaxed
Working full-time (in the second-most stressful job in the country!), commuting 2 hours a day and raising 2 teenagers plus a toddler while my husband is deployed overseas makes Trixie… tense. Trixie likes massages; they are a rare and fabulous treat that I suggest all friends and family members gift me for every holiday in the future.  My masseuse/massage person/savior (?) was Trish. After I was settled comfortably on the massage table she said “Let’s talk job descriptions” and I thought, oh crap she’s gonna want me to chit-chat and tell her about my job stress. But no. Next she said, “Your job is to lie there, breathe, and relax. My job is to lift you.” And she did. I don’t know what Trish’s background is or what, if any spiritual bent she has, but I know this: she is a healer. I have not been that relaxed since February 2006 (first trip to Maui). After the massage, I had a Swiss Shower which pretty much soaked in the relaxation and also conditioned the hell out of my hair.  Going back into the changing room, I glanced at myself in the mirror—wet hair, not a speck of make-up –and for a moment I looked 12 years old. THAT’s how relaxed I was!

Next up was the classic pedicure. There’s all sorts of clipping and smoothing and filing and polishing…but I was basically zoned out in bliss land. When it was over my feet were soft and my toes painted a gorgeous Essie shade called “Mink Muffs” (You can giggle; I did.)

My toes are trendy!

I left Gene Juarez feeling relaxed, pampered and pretty. What better gift to give your mom, wife, sister, aunt, grandmother or egg donor this Mother’s Day?

Your Turn
The good folks at Gene Juarez are offering some great deals for Mother’s Day:

  • Receive a $15 Bonus Gift Card and exclusive offers when you purchase a gift card of $160 or more online.
  • Receive a Custom GJ Weekend Tote when you purchase a gift care of $160 or more.
A Trixieland Giveaway
They have also very generously donated a treat for YOU, dear reader.  A gift card good for the very same Be Relaxed spa package I just told you about plus the weekender tote with great Identity1 hair products! What mom wouldn’t love to open this present on Mother’s Day?

How can you acquire such a treasure? Leave a comment on this blog post and tell me why you need to relax. (And the first person who links to Frankie Goes to Hollywood is disqualified!) Please remember that Gene Juarez is a local Seattle area establishment, so if you (or your intended giftee) live in California or Hong Kong you should probably send your mom flowers instead.

Good luck!!

After the Quake

It’s been ten years since the Nisqually Earthquake. Aka that big ass quake that broke the Viaduct and busted a lot of old brick shit in Pioneer Square. Aka the scariest day of my life.

It was a normal day at work. I was a copywriter at Sierra On-Line and the creative team (8 zillion designer dudes plus me) was in a conference room on the 4th floor on a conf call with some coworkers in San Francisco. The building shook once, hard. I thought it was a sonic boom. Then shit started to shake, we ducked under the heavy table and our Creative Director –a real doucheball– hollers into the speakerphone “uh, guyths, we’re having an earthquake”. But of course the line had gone dead and the power had gone out.

We’d had mild quakes before, but just when this one should have been winding down, it went into overdrive and shook harder.

They say that Post Traumatic Stress is triggered when you believe your life is in danger. Doesn’t matter if it’s a fact; you just have to believe it. At that moment the thought that I would never see my children again pushed me over the edge. I didn’t scream or flail. I stayed relatively calm. But for the next month or so, I startled easily, cried for no reason, and had panic attacks.

It was the most frightened I have ever been, and I have experienced some scary shit in my life including my daughter going missing after school one day, being robbed at gunpoint, and a sexual assault on the subway.

So, on this ten year anniversary, I’d like to say “Fuck you, Nisqually.”

The Calculus of Family

There are a lot of people in my family. I mean a LOT. My parents started out with two kids, completely average. They divorced and both remarried, but didn’t have any more children. No “second batch” if you will.  Fast forward a large number of years and you have some pretty impressive and/or alarming numbers:

I have three children and two step-children (that I’ve never met).

My husband has three children, two step-children, and an ex-stepchild. (Do you divorce step-children when you divorce a spouse? I don’t know.)

My son has no full siblings, but he has two half sisters that he lives with and with whom his relationship is anything but “half”. He also has a half brother and half sister that he’s never met and most likely never will. Oh yeah, and a step brother and step sister he hasn’t met yet.

My daughter has no full siblings, but three half-sibs: two brothers and a sister. She’s also got a step-brother and step-sister she’s never met.

My youngest daughter has two half sisters and two half brothers. Are my son’s half siblings any relation to her? How about my older daughter’s newborn half-brother? Anything besides her half-sister’s half-brother? Sissy’s Daddy’s new baby?

My husband has a full sister, two half-sisters, three step sisters and a step brother. When my mom remarried, I gained a step sister and a step brother. I never met the step brother, and now that my mom is widowed, are they still related to me in any way?

Come to think of it my dad’s new wife has a daughter in Thailand. Who has a baby. So I guess I have a Thai step sister and niece?

It all looks so Jerry Springer when I write it out, but my family is not comprised of bed-hopping hillbilly cousin-humpers. All it takes is a divorce and a remarriage to start the exponential expansion of halfs and steps. And what of half-siblings? For example my son has a half-sister who lives across the country and he’ll probably never meet her. The only connection he has to her is they share a father. But he has two half-sisters that he lives with and who he held within hours of their birth. Who he fights with and plays with and loves. Should both kinds of sisters be deemed ‘half’?

If blood is so important what of adoption? I wasn’t married to my son’s father, but when he was three years old I married a man with whom I had a daughter and who adopted my boy. For all practical and emotional purposes they are father and son. So. My ex-husband and his new wife had a baby boy this week. This infant has zero blood connection to my son. Does my son have a baby brother? Or does he have nothing?

This is one twisty twirling family tree. I kinda want to diagram it all, but am also afraid to!

[Editor’s note: I don’t actually know what calculus is. I just like the sound of it.]

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: