Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Whack

This all started last fall... Our company had an earth day celebration on someone on my team won the flowerpot and a box of flowers that allegedly draw butterflies.

Since I sit under the skylight (thank god, the Droids don't like the lights on in here as you can see) I was nominated to try to grow something. This is round two or three; previous efforts have yielded a bloom or two.

This sucker grows about 3-4" in height every day lately. We're scared. I think it looks a little bit Seuss-ical. The guys are threatening me with scissors. I am well aware they see it as just a giant weed. But it's a funny weed. Not that kind of funny weed ...nevermind.

Bloom dammit!!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Healing

Cancer is a strange beast. Not only for what it does to your body, but what it does to your mind.

Now that breast cancer is so much more openly discussed, women can support and educate one another and that's good. It's so helpful when dealing with all of the emotions, to know that someone really does understand how it feels to get that call, to lose your hair, and so on.

But it can also bring envy, followed by guilt. Because breast cancer can be diagnosed earlier, there is no one standard outcome once you've gotten that call. You might need a mastectomy, but you might not. I was able to have just two lumpectomies(one on each breast; I had four tumors in all).

Right out of the gate, I felt a little bit guilty, because my friend's wife was recovering from a mastectomy and she had those awful j-drains to deal with. So while I could barely lift either arm, (due to the sentinel lymph node biopsies on each side) who was I to bitch about it? Some people have the full set axial nodes removed -- everything under each armpit. As it is, I have weird lumps and craters, but no real signs of lymphedema.

The confusing and unattractive emotions can flow the other way as well. When I meet someone who "only" had surgery and radiation but no chemotherapy, I can't help but feel a flash of jealousy that she didn't have the months of stomach problems, fingernails breaking off... And the hair loss. That one's huge, obviously.

I write all of this because these same ugly feelings were triggered by news that Giuliana Rancic is being treated for breast cancer.

I have not ever really been a huge fan of hers; she's just another skinny pretty Hollywood entertainment reporter to me. I don't mean that to be as bitchy as it sound; I'm sure she's funny and loving and works hard at her career and so on.

But when I read the article that I saw yesterday I couldn't help but initially react with "pfffft. You're not having chemotherapy! You just have to lie on the table every day for six weeks. Be grateful."

It comes from me being sad that if MY mammogram had been a week or month sooner, every step of the followup and treatment would have been sooner, and maybe those cells would not have slipped out away from the main tumor and into a nearby lymph node. A week or a month probably could have made a world of difference in whether I needed to have chemotherapy.

And yet... I had a less aggressive pattern (4x3 weeks) than some who receive eight treatments, one every two weeks. I cant imagine how that would have destroyed my stomach.

And, of course, I lived.

It took longer than I wanted to feel like I was back to "normal" (for me at least... I know you're thinking that ) BUT I LIVED.

So we as fellow survivors must always remember to temper our reactions and be aware that they are affected by our own story. My chemo shouldn't be a badge of honor I use to snub someone and say "you have nothing to complain about - look what *I* went through." At the same time, people need to understand that a survivor can feel these natural emotions, and needs to deal with them in a productive manner.

I need to forgive myself for that sad envy when it crops up, and work through it to be more compassionate.

I wish for Ms. Rancic nothing but a 100% successful course of treatment. I'm tremendously sad for her that this is prolonging her struggle with infertility, and realize that this news is terrifying and devastating to her and will interrupt her entire life for a few months. She will be scared and exhausted and discouraged and hopefully her skin will tolerate the radiation fairly well and not burn too badly or get infected. It will still be a big bag of crap for her to deal with.

I honestly am happy that she doesn't need chemo, which I assume would further rob her of the ability to try to conceive, and yet I just wish I didnt have the sad asterisk of my own story ("I'm glad she won't have to have chemo LIKE I DID BECAUSE OMGZ IT SUCKED.")

And, of course, most of all, I hope she kicks cancer's ass just like I did. I hope she embraces the loving support of her family and friends, and that carries her through until her treatments are behind her, and on into the future.

We need to all be kind to one another, and support one another, and remember that this beast can ravage not only our bodies, but also our hearts and minds.

Almost two years after my fateful mammogram, I'm still healing.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Today

In the middle of running about 12 errands on the way home I noticed the sky and the trees in the cemetery.

Click, click, click; I wish I could spend an hour here. (The people here sure are nice and quiet. I could use a leeeetle peace and quiet. Maybe not this much. )

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Embracing autumn

I'm not a huge fan of autumn. Closing up my porch, putting away flip-flops for the winter... Yucky. And don't get me started on Halloween ... I have to go buy five bags of candy sometime soon.

But yesterday I made cookies. These are tiny, and have itty bitty spider candies that apparently were meant for cupcakes, because they melted on most of the cookies. Bleak. This was the only good one.

Time to start thinking about carving my pumpkins. I have kids who tell me they come to see what I've carved each year, so I hate Halloween 2% less every time that happens.

I'm thinking at least one pumpkin will be an angry bird. Or a pig.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Burning up

In Pittsburgh this past weekend, I spent most of my time kissing my sweet little niece.

I did come across a family festival though... and after dark, I wandered back to photograph the bonfire, but forgot when I heard bongo drums and saw that there were a bunch of what I will call hippies or gypsies, (I don't know really, don't mean to be ignorant, they all seemed to be barefoot with dreadlocks.) They were performing with fiery swords, rings, and so on. The air reeked of kerosene, and the first three rows arranged on the grass were all of those kids.... I'm not sure who thought this would be a great idea.

One performer wandered up near the front of the grassy "stage", held up a helium balloon, and a small flame, and then he did THIS:




That was about enough for me, but I didn't see parents saying "Ok, time to go".

Sadly, the performers did not seem successful when they attempted to pass the bucket and collect a few donations.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Pink strands

Hairdressers are adding a single pink strand for their clients this month, in return for a donation to breast cancer research.

Mine had pink strands, and also saved me a feather. I like it, it's different and not too pink ribbon-y, and I can show it more or less depending on how I mess up my hair. It's a little less red than it looks here. Hopefully it will be a conversation starter.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Most eloquent tweet for Steve Jobs

We never met, yet I stand beside members of this giant playground that you discovered for us. We use it every day, never tiring of the sand.

http://twitter.com/DiannaAgron/status/121768469883654144

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Documenting a decade

Over the summer I submitted a photo for a new exhibit at the NY State museum - it's now on display - I didn't even realize it but a friend let me know yesterday. I'm honored.

You can read more about the exhibit here.

(The photo appears in the upper right of my blog header; it's the sky and clouds reflected in one of the new World trade Center buildings. I took it in September 2007 when I was down in NYC on a business trip. )



There is a collage of photos, which you can see here, and they apparently cycle through on a large monitor alongside the collage. My name is displayed when my photo is on the monitor. I'm hoping to get there myself to see it this week but of course the week ahead is CRAZY.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

October again


'Tis October, time of a million pink ribbons. And I have a complex relationship with the pink ribbons. They're bright, loving, supportive things... but they bring up dark memories for me. People buy them and think they've done enough, and move on to other things, and sometimes when you buy a pink ribbon item NO money actually makes it to benefit breast cancer research in any way. And sometimes when I see one, I think about that phone call and the pain and the loneliness and fear. So you won't often see me wear a pink rubber bracelet. Once in a while. But sometimes I just want to FORGET ever having cancer, and all the bad stuff, and just focus on gratefully getting back to the life cancer interrupted.


But the awareness raised by the Komen group is a large part of why I got my mammogram even though I was unemployed and lonely and depressed. I went and got my annual checkup, and that probably saved my life, because my cancer had already spread one tiny evil smidge into my lymph nodes.

I am almost ready to celebrate 2 years of "being a survivor". (Veteran, is how a socially prominent woman in my area describes herself. I kind of like that.)

While I have come to realize that I consistently say "I was sick" and allude to being on chemo, and I have trouble saying "I had breast cancer treatments last year", I still try to talk to people about my experience, and say GO AND GET YOUR CHECKUP.

I came across a wonderfully funny writer on Twitter, and she created a website called Band Back Together. People write about the things that they survive, and get support and understanding from the BBT community.

I wrote a "story about myself" when I was getting ready for my television interview. Unfortunately, that tv interview seems to have hit the cutting room floor and I don't think it will air. But who knows? It's October now. It might. What I want people to get out of it is (say it with me ) GO AND GET YOUR CHECKUP.

At any rate, you can read the entire Band post here, and the title may be familiar to a few of my longtime readers. I wrote it to encourage people newly diagnosed who come to the Band looking for support. (I was most touched by the wonderful supportive comments that you will find at the bottom.)



Gotta go, time for a Komen walk.