Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Birhday to Me

"The woman who stared back at me was the dreaded age between forty-five and fifty, that no-man's land of sag, oncoming wrinkle, and stealthy approach of menopause."

- Julia Jarmond in Sarah's Key, by Tatiana DeRosnay

Monday, January 23, 2012

Two Years Out

I guess I could write something...
give an update on my condition.

Let's see,
I have lymphoma. My doctor found it following last year's bone marrow biopsy.
He didn't expect to. In truth, he performed the biopsy to rule out lymphoma.
I think he was surprised, if you can surprise a oncologist.

Why has it taken so long for me to come out?
I was tired of cancer: tired of dealing with it; thinking about it; chronicling it.
Now I'm left without that option; lymphoma is incurable.
At least mine is indolent, the slow-growing kind that isn't expected to decrease my life expectancy, but won't succumb to chemo either.
I get it; neither did I.

Another positive: I feel good.
Of course I also felt good right before I discovered the breast cancer.
But I won't lose my hair this time. It's Retuxinab this time around.
Winters are tough.
Cold weather for me is like Kryptonite to Superman.

I start treatment again soon, probably next month. That's the routine now: every three months.
Will I have to continue this course for the rest of my life? Maybe.
Will I wake up one day and decide I've had enough? We'll see.
But it won't be today. I still have work to do.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Donations Not Accepted

I would like to publicly thank the countless friends who have supported me through my ordeal with breast cancer. You have cooked for my family; taken me to chemo; and cheered me on.

But recently, some of you have volunteered to become donors.
You know who you are.

Without my having to ask, and without knowing whether we were compatible, you stepped forward, ready to sacrifice unwanted lipids to my upcoming breast surgery.
How many times did I hear you say, “If your doctor needs a fat donor, I’m your woman.”

Granted, you didn't offer me a kidney, but I don't need one.
The greater consideration is: What makes you think I don’t have enough body fat to support my surgery?"
I realize that women have trouble asking for help, but believe me,
I'm good.

Still, I appreciate what you were trying to do.
Why throw it away when you could give fat to a friend in need.
It’s the ultimate in recycling.
It’s so giving,
so green.

Therefore, it is with resignation that I hereby inform you that on Tuesday, August 2nd, my plastic surgeon will be removing fat from MY OWN stomach and grafting it to my breast. In addition, Dr. M. will try to up-size, not at all similar to super-size, my existing implants, in an attempt to achieve the fullness I have lacked since cancer laid claim to my breasts in October 2009.

In other words: I am getting a tummy tuck and fuller, bigger boobs...hopefully.

Two months post-op.

Courtesy of  http://www.atuckandthat'
Two days post-op.

Suffice it to say, your willingness to contribute to my desired "C” cup (or at least an overflowing "B") has not gone unnoticed.
Not once did my own husband offer up his pound of flesh.
Perhaps this kind of gesture is one
only a woman makes.
And it takes a woman to truly appreciate it.

P.S. Dawn, thanks for the use of your photos.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

In Honor of Father's Day

In honor of Father's Day, this week's Parade Magazine discusses "What I learned from my dad."
In it, Luke Russert remembers his late father, Tim Russert, who died three years ago this weekend.
Luke calls his dad his compass and shares life lessons learned from his father.

As I think of my own father,
I am transported to his room
in a nursing home in Texas.
I think of him,
laying there,
G-Tube feeding him nutrition,
trachea assisting his breathing,
eyes wide, staring.

This is not the father of my childhood.

Daddy is strong.
He is funny.
He is the guest you invite to a party and really hope that he will show.
He's the neighbor who offers work to the kid down the street.
He is the master gardener, king of the bar-b-que brisket and great storyteller.

He is the father who assured me that God said I would be fine,
when diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009.

Today, of all days, I think of him
and want to share Daddy's optimism.

Monday, June 13, 2011

I Remember (as written Friday, June 10)

I am sitting in the chemo room...again... waiting to undergo treatment.

I am forcing myself to write before the meds kick-in and take me under.
I usually disapear this way.

Seated around me are women, most of whom are black.
They are surrounded by other women, various shades of mocha.
We are a village.
A custodian walks in to empty the trash cans.
She comments that we all look the same.
She is right; we are the original Village People.
But today, I don't feel like much of a "Macho (Wo)Man."  

I know I should be grateful. At least I'm not getting chemo.
I only need my infusion of Rituxan.
Yet being here,
having to be here, 
causes a flood of memories to overwhelm me.

I find myself fighting back tears when the chemo nurse, working on the patient across the room, has trouble accessing her port. I watch as the woman's feet flutter in an anxiety-ridden avalanche.

And I remember.

Her15th treatment doesn't diminish the nervousness that I witness.
It's a process you never get used-to; it never gets easier.
Relief is only temporarily achieved after the chemo nurse has successfully accessed the port and there is a return blood flow.

I remember.

My nurse is ready to begin. She dons her mask and pulls out the port-access kit. I kindly remind her for the second time this morning that my port has been removed. She smiles, searching for a vein instead. The one she selects is hardened, the product of last year's Adriomyocin. She tries another, but it won't give up the blood.

A second nurse is called over.
"Maurene can always get a vein." 
but the blood return is slow, which means my counts will be unreliable, possibly wasted.

I remember.

It is 11:00 a.m. now.
The Rituxan is hung, and I realize I won't be leaving the hospital before
1:00 p.m. I thought I'd waltz in, take my medicine and disappear for seven days.

This is much harder than I anticipated. Jeff is not here, and I find the loneliness unfamiliar. 

Two more villagers enter the treatment room.
I am depressed. 
I need sleep NOW!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Struggle to Break Free

I've stalled again.
I haven't written anything lately.

Maybe it's because I am struggling to hold on to this blog
while, at the same time,
writing about ANYTHING other than breast cancer.

Intellectually, I am convinced that there is life beyond breast cancer,
but I find it hard to break free.
I am forever connected to people who currently have,
or whom have had,
or who will have the disease.
Doctors no longer like to use words like "remission" - not the way you think.

Once the disease is confirmed, you either have it or you don't; you are never cured.
For the past 20 months, I have been part of a community in which I will never be alone.

Too bad.
It is sometimes easy to forget that this disease called cancer,
has a dark side.
It can be hard to recognize the dark cloud amid the blur of pink ribbons. 

Last week, I was brutally reminded that cancer is still a killer.
And no ribbon isn't going to save us.
"Until there's a cure?" - How about - "Until there's no need for a cure?"

At the end of the day,
I am convinced that there will be something worth writing about,
something beyond breast cancer.
I just have to wait until it inspires me.

Tell me, what inspires you?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tattooed Ta-tas?

I can't believe that I am rethinking my policy on getting a tattoo.

If you don't know me well,
then you might not know that I do not like tattoos.
My husband likes them, and apparently so do lots of other folks.
Until recently, I thought that ink wasn't for me.
Now I am seriously considering getting two of them -
one on each breast.

No one is more surprised about this change of heart than I am.
But last week I had a completely unexpected encounter.

I was in Houston visiting my family, when I interrupted my mother, who was getting undressed.
My brain scrambled to make sense of what I was looking at:
And if I'd stood there long enough, I'm sure I would have noticed that she had nipples too.

What did I expect?
I guess I expected hers to look like mine,
minus the mastectomy scars.
The last time I'd seen those two "additions" was November 2009.
It had been years since I'd glimpsed my mother's ta-tas,
or anyone else's for that matter.

Not everyone will agree with me, but
it IS possible to forget how they are SUPPOSED to look.

Since donating my breasts to science,
I have grown accustomed to looking at myself in the mirror each morning and thinking - that doesn't look so bad...
okay, that's not completely true.
This ripply-implant-thing is just downright weird-looking.
But ignoring that,
I love the idea of getting away with NOT having to wear a bra.
Without a bull's eye on my breast,
a sheer t-shirt has nothing to reveal:
no push-up padding, no straps, no nothing.

On the other hand,
I cannot go bra-less with the rippled implants I currently have.
So, who knows?
Once the implants are replaced,
and fat is injected to smooth-out my skin,
I might go for the tatts.

After all, I could do a lot worse,
than simply looking like my mother.

(Were you expecting a picture of something else?)