Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Kicking Ass and Taking Names

Ever since I've been diagnosed, many people have told me stories of survival in order to encourage and support me through my treatment. I'm grateful for those stories, but the ones that really keep me fighting are the stories and experiences of my own family. Besides thinking of my brother-in-law, who passed away from lung cancer this summer, I also often have on my mind my great-aunt Betty, who passed away from breast cancer over twenty years ago.

And now, I'd like to pay tribute to my Uncle Pen, who kicked cancer's ass about ten years ago. Uncle Pen is definitely my favorite uncle. He had a pet raccoon (which he tamed himself); he caught wild turkeys and wrestled them in our family's pig pen; and he always gives me awesome deer jerky (uh, yeah, if you haven't figured it out by now, this blog is not vegetarian-friendly). He's a real-life Paul Bunyan, even to this day. And while I don't catch animals with my bare hands and kill them on the spot, I think I'm kicking cancer's ass with the same kind of spirit.

Here's me and Uncle Pen, about 30 years ago:

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sunny Days, Sweeping those Clouds Away

The weather in Vancouver has been splendid. Fifty degrees, sunny, clear blue skies. My parents, who arrived last week from Pennsylvania where the temperature is frigid and there are buckets of snow, think it's cold here. Their perception of the weather reminds me to remember--everything in context.

I'm riding a roller coaster around and around. Sometimes, I sink into an unforgiving existentialist mindset that sucks. Other times, I feel like skipping down the sidewalk, despite the sharp breaks that threaten to trip me up.

For instance, last night, I felt brave enough to pick up "The Idiot's Guide to Living with Breast Cancer" and flipped through it before going to sleep. The book has been collecting dust on my shelf for, oh, six months. As light and supportive as the authors try to make the material out to be, my mind got hooked on the fact that I was reading a handbook that included a straightforward chapter on dying and accepting death. I'm really not ready to learn this how-to. I don't feel this is my context, yet.

My situation is serious. My chart at the cancer agency says so. But I don't feel like it is. Sure, some days I feel like the biggest pile of poo ever, but I don't honestly believe that I'm going to die any time soon. I just don't. How could I? I have two of the loveliest children to ever have been born, a wonderfully caring and scary-smart/charismatic husband, family and friends who care enough to write/call/email me and say "you're not a loser!"...Yeah, I'm not going to die. I am invincible right now, in this context.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I'm a Loser, Baby

I need to fess up: life isn't all that great with radiation. Well, anyway, it seems to be getting worse.

I was told by various health care professionals that I could look forward to life not sucking as much with radiation, that it's much better than chemo. Sure, I might get a little tired and some skin irritations, but compared to chemo, it's not that bad.

I'm finding out that that's a load of crap. I'm pretty fucking tired, and because I had all these expectations that it would be better, I'm also getting kinda depressed. I'm frustrated, I'm pissy, I'm sick of it. So yeah, I feel like ass. And I feel like I failed.

The gentle side of me says, "You didn't fail. You're still fighting." But the loud side of me says, "Suck it up. It isn't as bad as chemo, stop whining. Don't be a loser. Drink more coffee and get to work." So I feel stuck and sick to my stomach that I'm so exhausted and don't want to do anything but lie in bed.

My parents were scheduled to come stay with us on March 19th, but things have gotten so bad that Dude asked me if maybe they should come earlier. Thankfully, they do want to be here as much as I need them to be here, so they are coming next Wednesday. I am thankful for their support, but still, I feel like I've failed.

Surgery has been scheduled for April 15th. While I joke about and make light of getting new boobies, I'll also admit that I'm freaked out. I mean, sure, my boobs aren't the greatest pair of jugs to have graced the planet, but still, they have been a source of pleasure for me (lovely sensory nerves) and a source of food for my kids. Aesthetically, I will have decent boobs (I hope), but what will I feel? And it's going to be weird to be nippleless for six months, until I get new ones tattooed on. Weird, weird, weird.

I'm back to where I started: cancer fucking sucks.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Oh, my aching. . .

Guess what? Things are okay. Mostly. Life is...moving on and ahead. Last week, I saw my chemo oncologist, and we got on the topic of apparently two chemo/cancer-unrelated health issues that I now have: arthritis in my lower back/pelvic region and a hernia. The ct scan I got before starting chemo way back when showed the arthritis, but no one bothered to tell me because we had bigger fish to fry. But now my back is pretty much in pain most of the time, and sometimes my legs ache. My hernia will be taken care of when they open me up in April for surgery. But just in case (in case of what?), my family doctor wants me to see the surgeon yet again on Thursday. Seeing the surgeon, as nice as she may be, isn't on my list of fun things to do. Her office is a little disorganized and a lotta stressful sitting in there. But what am I gonna do?

So this might be the last entry for a while, unless something interesting happens. From now until April, my focus is on what's on my secret priority list, which I can't talk about here because, well, it's secret.