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A letter to my dead father

15493702_10154200408392616_561183206823462963_oDear Dad,

Intellectually, I knew you were mortal. And your health hasn’t been good for several years. It all started to go to shit when you slipped on the stairs and broke your leg. After that was a 5-way heart bypass. You never really came back from that. Though your scars healed and your cardiologist said your heart was working well, you never got over the deep fatigue. Your wobbly gait we thought was related to recovering from surgery. But years went by and it didn’t get better. I got you a cane. A couple years later you finally gave into my nagging and let me take you to a neurologist. He diagnosed Parkinsons. But the meds didn’t work and I took you to your sister-in-law’s funeral in a wheelchair. I found another doctor who diagnosed you with Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. Too much cerebral-spinal fluid made you walk funny. They did a spinal tap, drained off some fluid and YOU COULD WALK. But it didn’t last. The long-term solution was a stent in your head to drain off the brain juice and send it south to be absorbed in your abdomen. It worked for a while, but when the surgeon went to adjust the flow of the valve, it was a faulty unit. Cue another surgery. This one never seemed to stick and you gave up. I fought you and nagged you. I bought you pill organizers, picked up your prescriptions and took you to doctors. You’d read bullshit on the internet and decide your blood pressure pills were the enemy.

15590573_10154198386327616_5815468724728848277_nThe last time I took you to the doctor I told you that if you wanted to try to stay healthy, I would help and encourage you. But if you wanted to watch CNN and eat ice cream and not take your meds, then it was your body and your choice, and I’d respect it. I guess I was trying to scare you, but you took me at my word. Even your doctor sort of shrugged.

And yet. You didn’t seem to believe you’d die. And though I thought it was weird, I guess I really didn’t believe it either. I’d laugh when you’d say “If something happens to me…” I laughed out loud when you told me you didn’t want me to be interred in California with the rest of the family because it would be too far to visit.

1936043_123191917615_4334045_nOn Thanksgiving you arrived ninety minutes late. Your driving was so erratic someone had to take over for the rest of the trip. And yet. You said, “I think I’m going to give up driving in about a year.” I was worried and upset. I made some snotty remark–a “joke” that was meant to admonish, not be funny. “I’m sorry we were late, Bear,” you said, sheepishly. “It’s okay, Dad. You were two hours late last Thanksgiving.” I said it without humor.

It was the last time I saw you before the stroke.

You’ve been gone five months and here’s what I’ve learned:

  • I am stronger than I thought. I kept my shit together while others were losing theirs.
  • There are some friends that will drop everything to fly to your side when your dad is dying. I have two of them, and I can never adequately express my thanks to them for just being with me–you wouldn’t be at all surprised at who they are.
  • The arrangements after death are not a burden; they’re a blessing. I always thought I’d retire to my bed and curl in a ball and let others handle what needed handling. Staying busy kept me upright.
  • There was–for me–a phase of grief that was mostly role-playing. I behaved like a grieving daughter would based on books I’ve read and movies I’ve seen. I wasn’t aware I was doing this until suddenly it was Spring, and you’d been gone an entire season. And then the actual grief hit.
  • I cherish the night I spent in the ICU with you. You had a big black hole in your brain from the strokes, but I think you know I was there, holding your hand. Did you hear Segovia playing in the dark? That was me.
  • On some level–alligator brain?–I guess I thought you’d come back. Of course I knew that’s not the way it works but I found myself sobbing–FINALLY–in my grief counselor’s office, saying “I just want my dad back. He’s been gone a really long time and it seems like he should be back by now.”

chemo suite

  • I am weaker than I thought. I am fifty years old and I know now that you were my rock. I could always depend on you. To tell me a stupid joke, to call me “Hair Bear,” to say “sneak-sneak” when you went through a yellow light. To rescue me if my car broke down, or drive me to the ER when I had a panic attack. To be proud of me no matter the idiotic shit I got into. To always treat me as a full human with strength and agency–even when I was a little girl. I counted on you, and now you’re gone and I’m afraid. There’s no you to run to, or call, or hug, and I don’t feel safe.
  • I feel very conflicted about your legacy. I don’t have to work, and can afford travel and private school…and in that way my life is “better.” But you had to die first. So while I’m so grateful, and I realize you weren’t going to live forever, it’s still hard to draw much joy from the freedom and privilege you left me. I wasn’t expecting that.
  • It gives me peace to take your ashes places you loved and places you had on your bucket list. Besides finishing raising Allie, it’s pretty much my only purpose in life.
  • Sometimes I listen to your voicemails and they mostly make me smile instead of cry. But I don’t think I can ever listen to the last one. The 5 am call I slept through. You were at the hospital and scared and you started to cry and said “I just wanted to hear your voice.”
  • Now that you’re gone you’ve become young again. In my memory and in my dreams you are tall and strong with dark hair and a ready grin. Nothing hurts, and you are full of puns, curiosity and joie de vivre.

me and sweet dad

Anyway, Dad. I miss you every day and I still can’t quite accept that I’ll never see you again. It turns out that you were my favorite person on earth.

Love always,

Christa

 

 

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How a lame comment and a case of mistaken identity torpedoed my job search

I didn’t always say everything that popped into my head. When I went to Kindergarten, the school realized I could already read like a third-grader (though I couldn’t tie my shoes), so after two weeks I was put in first grade. Where I became the smallest, youngest child in the class with the bonus of being the freak kid that skipped Kindergarten. I learned quickly not to draw any more attention to myself and keep my mouth shut. I was horribly shy.

As I got older I would crack wise among my friends because I felt comfortable with them. Around new people though—or the popular kids—I absolutely shut down. If we went to high school together and were friends, you’d know I was brash and funny and have a gross sense of humor. If we didn’t hang out at all you’d think I was shy and quiet.

I went to sleep-away college for exactly one year. Lived in the dorms, went to keggers, smoked weed, etc. I discovered that if I drank beer I got comfortable enough to be funny and charming. But I was still very shy sober.

Eventually I grew the fuck up and was comfortable with myself and didn’t need to be loaded to let my personality out of the cage. I was uncaged, all the time. I still had a filter, but not so you’d notice. Which has gotten me into mild amounts of trouble now and again. I am the person who is uttering the filthiest joke she’s ever told precisely when the big boss comes around the corner.

I’ve written jokes on my blog that have gotten me in trouble at work. Like I thought I’d be fired kind of trouble.

I’ve had phone conversations in what I thought was the privacy of my office that got me reported to HR. Let’s just say the convo involved lube.

Speaking of my office, I used to have a post-it about 5 feet 10 inches up my door frame that said, “You must be this tall to ride”.

My boss once asked me to stop using the F-bomb on Twitter, and though I could have written around my favorite expletive, I resented the censorship, and threw in a stealth “fuck” whenever I thought I could get away with it.

I never attacked anyone personally, though I threw shade at my company’s competition quite often—I thought that was loyalty.

Anyway, I always got away with it. My colleagues kept things professional, and I always pushed the boundaries. It was my thing. It was what I brought to the table.

Now, I’m still outspoken and I like to tweet hate toward the so-called POTUS, and retweet clever take-downs of politicians I think suck. But I’m also almost fifty years old now, a breast cancer survivor, mother of three, and Girl Scout troop leader. I mean, I’m mellow. Partially because I’ve seen outspoken women on social media get targeted for more trouble than I’m willing to bring on my family.

So. That’s the backstory. Semi-bad girl gone good (or just old).

Last week, I applied for a Community Manager position for a popular and family-friendly game franchise. We weren’t to the point of scheduling interviews, but my resume was in the hands of the hiring manager. Here’s a moment where I’m going to toot my own horn which is uncomfortable but fuck it: The community managers that you are familiar with now were influenced—whether they know it or not—by myself and my colleagues at Xbox. I’m not saying, Gore-like, that I invented the Internet, but the practices and policies and programs that we started were copied and built on by those who came after us. There’s a book coming out next month that profiles me as a pioneer in community management.

All this is to point out that I know what I’m doing when it comes to engaging a community and making sure people stay safe, have fun, and buy stuff.

I’m feeling optimistic about this possible job because my resume is in the right hands (half the battle) and people will vouch for my work. People whose opinions matter.

So when I got a message from the hiring manager saying that their team had found a photo of me online that was a “deal breaker,” and that my “brand was too mature,” I was stunned. I asked about the photo and discovered that it’s this photo that killed my chances at an amazing job.

NOT TRIXIE

THIS IS NOT ME.

This isn’t a picture of me. Let me repeat that: I am not the woman in this photo. She’s a burlesque dancer that a member of the community I helped manage thought looked like me. We both have curly hair and I admit there’s a slight likeness.  But I’m not a burlesque dancer, and I’ve never posed in lingerie. Folks, I had an 8 1/2 pound baby at 22. Unless that lady has stretch marks, I can prove this isn’t me.

I messaged the hiring manager back that the photo isn’t me, and included a link to the 2011 blog post where I pointed this out. I also—maybe stupidly—said “I respect your decision.” Because even if that photo of Not-Me didn’t exist, there were still ten years of social media posts that are snarky and foul-mouthed, novels filled with sex and violence, and that gross sense of humor.

The hiring manager never responded, not even to acknowledge that the photo wasn’t of me. But I think we can all agree, that door is closed forever. And I would have kicked ass at that job.

So already stung from that situation and running on very little sleep due to the altitude in Mexico City where I was doing freelance work, I was surfing LinkedIn and saw that a recruiter (at a company where I’d interviewed unsuccessfully for a marketing writer job, but was scheduled to talk about their open community manager position) posted about the Marketing Writer job that I’d just been told they were “going with another candidate.” Why are they recruiting for this position if they’d already chosen someone? I thought, still upset about the other thing. So, feeling a bit hurt, but meaning to be funny since I had a phone call about the open position scheduled for the day I returned from Mexico, I post:

“But I thought…nevermind. Lol. [peace sign]”

Now, was this unprofessional? Certainly. Do I wish I hadn’t done it? Sure. I thought the recruiter and I had a level of familiarity and similar sense of humor. And even if she thought it was lame, she’d just brush it off.

Well. On Monday (as I turned my phone back on when we landed at LAX), I have an email from the recruiter saying how disappointed she was in my LinkedIn post (which she deleted, along with un-friending me!), and that if I had questions about the decision, I should have asked her during our scheduled phone call, which she was now cancelling. I mean, it was stupid, no doubt, but your average LinkedIn browser wouldn’t know wtf that post was about, so I feel like there was a bit of overreaction on her part.

Look, I know there’s no guarantee I would have been offered either of those jobs. I’ve had ten “final onsite” interviews at nine companies and all have turned me down. So, I’m not having the best luck. But it makes me wonder: Are these other companies doing a Google image search and making the same mistake that REDACTED made? Am I oblivious to something weird I’m doing in interviews? Am I bursting out non-sequitur weirdness akin to that LinkedIn post?

Anyway, I lost out on two opportunities thanks to being too relaxed in my communications and…someone else’s tits.

8 Reasons to Self Publish (and 3 Reasons NOT to)

My Castle Heart Publications

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Many of you have been coming to me with book dreams in hand, wanting to know my tips for how to get published.

I’ve posted quite a few resources here, but if you truly want to create a physical book that you can hold in your hands, here’s the one question you need to answer first:

Do you want to traditionally publish or self publish?

I spent years weighing the pros and cons of both, finally choosing self publishing. Does that mean I recommend self publishing to everyone? Hardly.

Here are my crib notes from years of research and my own experience. If you’ve published your own book and want to weigh in, by all means, add your nuggets of knowledge in the comments below.

Here are my top 8 reasons to self publish (and 3 reasons not to).

Please note that these tips are specific to publishing a children’s picture book…

View original post 1,840 more words

Now accepting new clients

We took a couple-few years off to write novels (and were pretty prolific), but we’re ready to get back in the game. You need words? We got ’em. Words to describe your product or service…

Source: Now accepting new clients

Breast Cancer, one year later

A year ago today I got a life-changing phone call. I had infiltrating ductal carcinoma: breast cancer. It’s sort of a sad anniversary. I feel in a way as if I lost a year of my life (along with my hair, a chunk of boob, my fertility, and a few lymph nodes). But at the same time I gained so much knowledge. I know now how much I am loved. I know I can handle anything. I know I’m a survivor. I know now precisely what is important to me: My family. My health. My peace of mind. And what’s not: Stuff. Appearance. Impressing strangers. Being “cool.”

The parameters of “success” have changed drastically for me. If I’ve got my family, my health, and peace of mind, I’m good. No matter what I’m wearing, what I’m driving, what’s in my bank account or on my business card.

So thank you, cancer, for the clarity.

To update on medical matters:

  • I have three Herceptin infusions left, and then I’m done! I’m assuming I can get my port taken out, and that will be a huge deal for me.  Already planning a new tattoo to cover the scar.
  • I have had two injections of the estrogen-blocker thus far without any side effects. They were one-month doses. Today, I think Dr. Cap will bump me up to a three-month dose.
  • The daily pill I take to keep estrogen-hungry cancer from coming back is tiny and without side effects. So that’s awesome!
  • I’m supposed to have my annual mammogram this month, but I’m hoping since I just had a breast MRI in January (completely clear, btw!) I can get away with skipping it. Probably won’t fly, but worth a shot.
  • My  hair has come back as thick as before and is starting to curl. My husband loves my short hair and thinks I should keep it this way. I’m more curious to see what happens as it grows, but I’m not ruling out cutting it later.
  • My eyebrows and eyelashes are starting to fill in. I never lost them completely, but they were thin and scraggly AF.
  • I’m feeling normal and healthy. Not sick or weak at all. This seems like a miracle to me. Science is fucking awesome.12772035_10153449574902616_7427532228197249375_o

This still counts as “medical,” but I think it’s pretty important. I have a history of depression, starting in college and off and on throughout my twenties. I sort of figured (or at least convinced myself) I had “grown out of it.” But cancer kinda threw me for a loop. A month ago, I admitted to Dr. Cap that I thought I might be depressed again. That I expected when treatment was over that I would spring up ready to kick ass and take names. “But I still feel broken,” I said, as a tear rolled down my cheek. (Poor Dr. Cap, he’s the only one I ever cry in front of!) He asked me if I felt like hurting myself. “Not today,” I admitted. He told me that depression with cancer is not unusual at all and prescribed Paxil and put in an urgent referral for their shrink. The shrink’s office called two days later to tell me that they don’t take my insurance. [Just want to say here that that’s basically the worst thing you can do to a person who’s depressed: tell them they aren’t “right” and give them work to do (finding a new shrink)]. I still haven’t found a shrink, but…

I’ve been on antidepressants for a month and I feel like I’ve been living in a cave and finally found my way out into the sunlight. I’ve begun actively looking for a new job, I socialized with old friends, I’ve been going to the gym five days a week, and my husband and I just signed the lease for a house on a half-acre after living in an apartment for over a decade. Did I mention science is awesome?

Anyway, I’m feeling like a billion bucks. Like so great I think I’m grateful to Turdy the Tumor, because I can’t help thinking that that little cancery fucker led me here, to this good place with my family, my health, and peace of mind.

The Existential Job Search

I’ve been meaning for months now to write a post about how similar cancer and pregnancy are. Basically, your body isn’t your own, people are amazingly supportive, there is a ton of literature and personal stories of friends and acquaintances to take place of statistics and the unknowable. I was going to be much more in-depth and humorous, but that’s the gist of it. (Maybe I’ll get it right in the book. Should I do a book?)

My final point in the cancer-is-a-baby-you-never-asked-for theory–and the one that’s especially relevant for me now–is overestimating the “after.” When I was vastly pregnant with my youngest spawn I remember looking at thin people in magazines and on TV and thinking “as soon as I drop this load of baby I’m gonna squeeze my ass into that there miniskirt and drink five margaritas and DANCE!” etc. During chemo and surgery and radiation I had a lot of similar thoughts about how I was going to bound up out of this “sickness” and just be ON FIRE FOR LIFE! So full of energy and appetite and enthusiasm! Unstoppable!

Well, those notions were just as unrealistic as the post-baby ones. Six years later I have yet to squeeze into that there miniskirt (and at this point I think my miniskirt days are done even if I were svelte).

hit by a busI have been stuck in an existential quagmire. Thinking about what’s next and if anything is next. What I’m trying to say is that it’s hard to plan for an uncertain future. Yes, yes, I know “any of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow!” but honestly, when you say that to me it’s as if you’re dismissing my actual legitimate concerns. Here’s a cold, hard, fact: There’s a 30% chance that I’ll be dead in five years. That’s not me being a pessimist; that’s reality.

Now, I’m doing everything I need to do to be in the 70% on this. I’m still getting Herceptin infusions every three weeks through April, and I’ll be on hormone therapy (aromatase inhibitors) until 2021, and of course I’ll have annual mammograms.

But cancer is a sneaky, persistent little fucker, and if it feels like coming back, it’s going to.

So, I can live with that. But it’s hard to LIVE with that. It’s difficult to make long-term plans under that kind of cloud. For instance, I would like to go back to school. I’m 15 credits short of completing my bachelor’s degree and it’s something that I regret not finishing. BUT, what I’d really like to do is get a degree in something healthcare-related and that would require many many more credits than 15. But here’s the thing: How much money and effort and time I’d be studying and ignoring my family am I willing to spend if I only get five years? Or four? Or three?

But if I’m in the 70%, what if five years goes by and I’m cancer-free but I’m still at square one on that degree because I was too scared and worried to start something I might not be able to finish?

I’m having trouble bouncing back from this cancer business. Physically, my complaints are few: My armpit is still numb from surgery. My right boob is noticeably smaller than my left (both surgery and radiation contributed to this). I have scars and a medi-port. My eyebrows and eyelashes are sparse. Chemo brain hasn’t abated much. Luckily, I’m a writer, so when I can’t for the life of me come up with “calves” I improvise “shin butts.” My hair is coming in pretty well and I think it says “unfortunate haircut” more than “cancer” now.

Emotionally/psychologically? I’m having a rough time. Crippled with indecision, angst, and weltschmerz based on an unknowable future I turn to Samuel Beckett.

Samuel Beckett

“I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

So, I’m taking baby steps back into the World, and I hope the World will welcome me.

 

 

The magic of letting go

Yes, I’m one of those annoying people that read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I started tidying (which should be called “throwing out”) on January 1, and while I don’t think my life has changed much, I’ve definitely learned some things.

First of all, I am sort of bulimic when it comes to possessions. I acquire and hoard (the binge) for a decade and then I purge things in a giant “fuck this shit” explosion. In my last purgesplosion I threw away a lifetime’s worth of journals and all of my school yearbooks. If you are a writer you will understand the exquisite pain that haunts me about that decision.

The ten or so years in between binge and purge are very, very cluttered. So. January 1 rolls around and I’m going to get started. I begin with the sock drawer. A giant sock drawer that contains a universe of socks: athletic socks, knee highs, fuzzy socks with lotion cooked in, socks with capes, socks that haven’t seen their mate in years. A lot of fucking socks.

So here’s the thing with the KonMari method: you hold each object in your hand and if it “sparks joy” you can keep it. Otherwise, out it goes. This can be a tough call. Because what might at first register as “joy” is really something else. It might be “But so-and-so GAVE me those,” or “But I might want to wear those in a Halloween costume one day.” That’s not joy; that’s rationalization. Unless I owned both socks, they were still in good shape, and they made me happy to put them on my feet, they went in the giant black trash bag.

After socks I did underwear. I folded them reverently and precisely until two madcap drawers of crazy became one small drawer of peace and order.

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Shirts were next. I went from this

 

IMG_4431to this.

IMG_4432Now every shirt I put on gives me that “Hey, this looks and feels good” spark. I’m not wearing also-ran black t-shirts, I’m wearing the good black t-shirts that feel just right.

But I’ll be honest, some of those shirts were really hard to get rid of. In particular my Xbox and GamerchiX garb that I’ve been hoarding for sentimental reasons even though I left Microsoft over five years ago. Here is where what is magic and different about Marie Kondo’s book comes in. I was able to tell those shirts and hoodies “Thank you. You represent an important part of my life and accomplishments that made me proud.” No, I didn’t say it out loud because I felt a bit silly. But it allowed me to acknowledge how I felt about these inanimate objects and release them.

shirt and chucks with Rock Kills Kid

GamerchiX shirt PLUS orange Chucks. RIP.

I had some of the same trouble with shoes.

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Does anyone really need 11 pairs of Chuck Taylors?

My orange Chucks that I bought for the Tokyo Game Show. These cheapo little black flats from American Eagle Outfitters that I wore all over Paris and Versailles. It made me sad to let them go, but I feel so much lighter with just what I need and love. 

me and my flats in Versailles

Me and Mom and my little black flats at Versailles.

I was really proud of myself, and moved onto books with enthusiasm. Ms. Kondo says to do all books at once, but honestly my living room floor isn’t large enough. So, I did one bookshelf. Yep, just one. And it took ALL DAMN DAY.

IMG_4452Why? Because I’m a unapologetic and life-long bookworm. I’ve purged many many books over the years, and I’ve read almost exclusively on Kindle since, well, the OG Kindle debuted in 2007. But the paper-and-ink volumes that I’ve held onto have meaning to me. They represent more than a job or a trip. They are my parallel selves, my possible me’s. The alternate Christa that learns Latin for instance, or writes profiles for the New Yorker (still my dream job!).

IMG_4455Or the me that becomes a professor of folklore and mythology. These books here? Joseph Campbell’s Masks of God series? They represent a future that never took place. But it was a dream that I–at the time a poor single mother attending college on a Pell Grant–was so excited about that I spent money I should have used for food or diapers on these four paperbacks. Joseph Campbell represented this dream and I held onto his complete works for far longer than I needed to. As you may have guessed, I didn’t even read most of them. I was determined to at the very least hang onto my Campbell. I sat on the floor surrounded by these books and sulked. I mourned that woman I never became. That career that didn’t happen. Because that’s really what I was afraid of letting go. In the end I hung onto books that can’t be replicated in e-ink: art books, image-heavy references like atlases, and books that are works of art unto themselves like these children’s books from 1907.

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I mean, those endpapers! *swoon*

Anyway, at the end of a long painful dusty day I got a jam-packed, double-parked bookcase down to two simple shelves. I found interesting bookmarks. The funniest was a letter to me from the Friends of John Kerry and the saddest was a train ticket stub for a friend that killed himself.

Most importantly, of course, I offloaded a bunch of books that had become both physical and emotional baggage and turned it into cash at Half-Price Books.

Which I spent on more books.

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Breast Cancer: The End.

It is done.

What began with a lump almost one year ago is finally over.

From the diagnosis

Turdy the tumor ultrasound

Darth Turdy

Through six rounds of chemotherapy

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Rocking the chrome dome during Round 3

Surgery on my breast and lymphnodes

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Damn you, cancer!

and 30 doses of radiation,

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this blog has been a place for me to collect my thoughts, sort out how I felt about what was happening to me, document the experience for the future, and sort of inadvertently–though in the end most importantly–help fellow cancer patients feel they weren’t alone.

I went from this:

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1st dose chemo. May 5, 1015

To this:

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Today. December 30, 2015

Thank you for going along for the ride. Thank you for not turning away from the ugly realities of scars and chemo shits, peeling nipples and weakness, doubt, and flat-out terror. You kept me going, readers.

What’s next?

First, the end is not the end. The day after my final dose of radiation, I was back at the hospital for an echocardiogram. I’ve got Herceptin infusions every three weeks until May. I’ll start a five-year hormone therapy treatment mid-January, and in the interim I’ll have a bone-density test and another MRI on the “good” boob. I’ll have diagnostic-level mammograms for the next three years. I told my daughter all this isn’t fighting cancer because the cancer is gone. It’s more like treatment that says “…And STAY OUT!”

IMG_4398Because of all this ongoing…stuff, it’s been sort of hard for me to call this “the end.” Then I received a fancy bottle of champagne from my dear friend Sara. I mean, how could you NOT celebrate with this? So I decided to stick a pin in this moment and create a milestone. This is the end of one journey. I made it. And now it’s behind me.

There WILL be a celebration. I’m still figuring out the details. Is it selfish to throw yourself a I Kicked Cancer’s Ass party? Would anyone show up? I want to celebrate it being over of course, but I also want to celebrate the friends and family and even strangers who made it easier.

 

Radiation – End of Days

I haven’t been very good about updating during radiation. The fact is, for the first three weeks, everything was gravy. I got up in the morning, got the kid off to school, read the paper, did the crossword, played games on my phone for a while, then drove the hospital, got zapped, drove home. NBD.

Then, suddenly, after the 16th session, I noticed that I had a wound under my boob. Turns out that poor area–that hadn’t seen sunlight in decades–was the first to get burned. And I, unknowingly, was scratching it in my sleep. I’d actually scratched myself raw before I noticed it. That’s when daily wound care with Nurse Rad started.

After the underboob, the armpit went, and finally the nipple. I tell ya, you haven’t lived until you’ve had your nipple skin peel off. It’s gross to look at, and it’s REALLY painful. It’s Vicodin painful. Here’s some grody photos I took along the way. I tried not to make them too “booby.”

rads underboob

Underboob.

Rads -side and under

Side and underboob. Burnt and starting to peel. The purple marker is where they drew lines for the “boost” portion of treatment.

rads neck and side

Burnt and peeling sideboob, shoulder, and neck. The neck/shoulder business is from radiating the lymph nodes. Those guys got five more zaps than my boob did, because that’s the area the cancer is most likely to recur.

Anyway, I was pretty proud of myself for being so tough about radiation, but it turns out I just hadn’t really been tested yet. I was tired as fuck. I’d go to radiation, get my wounds soaked and salved and wrapped, then I’d go Christmas shopping for a while and finally come home and collapse. I often fell asleep before dinner.

My conclusion about radiation: It’s true what they say. Your skin will burn and then peel and you will be massively tired.

I have one session left. I’m smiling, and healing.

The Magic Words

Complete Remission.

Hooray, right? When did this happen?! Oh wow!

The Boss

Here’s the thing: I posted those two magical words on Facebook over a week ago. And one of my friends commented “I can’t wait for the triumphant blog post.” So, I’ve been waiting to feel triumphant and have come to the conclusion that…it ain’t gonna happen.

See, I was apparently in complete remission as soon as my surgeon took out those little cancer chunks back in October. But no one told me. See, I’m not a doctor obviously, and this is my first–and hopefully only–cancer rodeo. But I’ve read a lot and I’m a very active patient. I pay attention and I follow up and I ask questions. So the key phrases the search engine in my brain was looking for when Dr. Superman called me with pathology results were: “No evidence of disease” or “remission.” I knew enough to understand that “cured” was off the table. That’s not a word you use with cancer.

So, I didn’t hear those words and I freaked out. I had a meeting with Buffy the Cancer Slayer and still, those words were missing. And in all subseqent meetings with every person on this superfun cancer “team.”

Did I ask “Am I in remission?” No, I guess I didn’t. I’m fairly certain I’ve asked “Is there any more cancer in me?” and have been told that we have no reason to think so. No evidence. No evidence of disease, right? Only no one strung those three words together.

So, the last time I was in for my Herceptin infusion I saw Dr. Captain America and I asked him this question:

“So…do I HAVE cancer or did I used to have cancer? Am I an ex-cancer person?”

He replies. “Ex. You’re in complete remission.”

Well, halle-fuckin-lujah! But could no one have SAID that like maybe two months ago?!

Words are important. And I’m thrilled to hear those magical words and to repeat them to all the friends and supporters who care about what happens to me. And I’ve tried really hard over the last week and half or so to shed the frustration and focus on the outcome. I don’t have cancer anymore! Hooray!!!!!

But, gosh, the last couple months of my life would have been different if Dr Supe had just said “remission” when he called me that day. I was ready to hear it. I was ready to celebrate. And I kinda feel like I got ripped off.

 

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