Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Another Cancer Perk arrived via UPS on Monday. A chubby box stuffed with ceramic dishes bearing "made in the USA" on their darling behinds. Bright colors. Peacock. Tangerine. Scarlet. Emerald. Oooh. Ahhhh. Fiestaware!

Okay, the uninitiated might wonder how Fiestaware China (unleaded, never had it, never will) can be considered an authentic Cancer Perk. Fiestaware resists chips. Is known to survive falls from counter to kitchen floor. The darn things actually come with a 3-year-warranty for pete's sake. Another plus is that they are microwave-safe plus come in heartlifting colors. Fun to collect. Once my dish dropping became a daily routine courtesy of Aromasin (numb fingers can't grip much of anything) I decided it would make sense to invest in some hardworking-yet-inexpensive dishes. So without these clunky fingers from chemo and hormone therapy I'd never have been able to justify new dinnerware. Voila! Cancer Perk.

I'll let you know what happens when the first dish hits the hardwood floor.

Unexpected Event of the Day:
One of my favorite blogs, A Woman of Many Parts, listed this site as one of her Reads. Minerva is most kind, and I send her some California sunshine in return.
Just as soon as it stops raining.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Cancer-Free Post

Hope is where you find it, and sometimes it all depends on where you look.

A product of a mixed marriage (Dad was a Republican, Mom a Democrat), I sided with Mom in nearly all matters political. After all, when she was organizing League of Women Voter committees through kitchen table meetings and phone calls who do you think was listening to every word? Despite leaving Illinois for California I've kept an eye on current players from the home state. Back in 2004 I ordered an Obama for President 2008 sweatshirt from Cafe Express. Never, ever anticipated that he would run so early. As he would say, I had the audacity of hope.

During the past few years this sweatshirt would often bring a "yeah, wouldn't that be great" remark from strangers or even "who's Obama?" from the unenlightened few. Now when I reach for the sweatshirt I pause, knowing that I'll be stopped for political discussions. Do I have the time? Am I dressed for discourse or really beyond repair, hoping to sneak by without notice? Should I slink back into longshot candidate attire and wear my Anderson for President t-shirt instead? Get this: Obama is no longer a long-shot candidate. Mom, are you watching this?

Today, in light of the Kennedy endorsements, a reminder of the moment when the possibility of change became more than a dream. If you missed it the first time, read the words now. Powerful. Hopeful.

If you want you can order an Obama shirt off the site while you're there. Most are backordered but, unlike Cafe Express, anything purchased goes into the campaign.

Go on, get a shirt. The red ones are totally hot.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Crazymaking stuff, that Aromasin. At least for me. Everyday I've been circling nearer and nearer the surface, shedding layers of gear, hoping to break the surface. Me, a hapless scubadiver in a sea of chemicals. I stopped taking this last drug December 26 after only 26 days of a proposed 5-year-run. The side-effects are still with me although less now. Every day my brain is clearer, my thoughts more focussed, my ability to stroke through the rip-tide of a medical wonder drug more sustained. The numbness, pain and heaviness of my hands have lessoned but not enough; I'm wearing carpal tunnel wrist braces to bed. I'm starting a Fiestaware collection, always wanted one, to replace all the dishes I've dropped recently. (Did you know that these dishes are guaranteed against chipping and breakage for 3 years? Wonder if I can get a guarantee like that.)

Not sure what I'm going to do for estrogen-stoppage. Maybe I'll bail out of this part of the program completely, or return to Tamoxifen. That one was nasty, too, though, with a kind of fatigue that made me question what I was getting up everyday for, anyway. The body does need some estrogen to function, afterall. This concept of "kill the tumor by killing estrogen" might be a tad overkill if you ask me. So far no one is asking. It's been a problem.

There's a lot of good going on. Dear friend Mot is journeying out from the frozen midland of Wisconsin for a vacation in the chilled coastal territory fondly known as Northern California. We'll play tourist, have quiet time and just pal around.

February will take me to yet another oncologist in San Francisco for a treatment plan review. Afterwards, I'll be returning to my same practice (no choice there, really, thanks to our lovely health care system) but I will be seeing a different Agent of Doom. This one is older, considered a "brilliant mind" and perhaps more able to communicate directly with patients than my current young doc. Both steps are huge for me, and long overdue. Being an advocate for oneself is hella hard.

The survivor support group for women I've searched for is finally happening. We've created one for ourselves with a therapist, retired now, from Stanford. Four women with different cancer diagnoses, backgrounds and intents will gather in a cozy church parlour for love, knowledge, friendship and support. Yahoo. You would think one of our hospitals or cancer care centers on the San Francisco Peninsula would offer a support group for cancer survivors, right? We see their lips moving but nothing much happening.

At the end of February I will begin the "end" of my surgical program. I'm scheduled for DIEP reconstruction. The reality of the surgery is pumping tension directly into a few muscles along my neck. You know, the ones that make it impossible to move your head right or left? Besides worrying about the pain, 7-week recovery and whether I'll have anything at all to show for the effort except thick scars and a flat chest, I'm stressing about the kids. Joe will be home but it will be disruptive for everyone to have me unwell. Hospital time, then resting at home. More evidence to them that their mom isn't well. And yet, I want to finish this up, get as much of my real body back as I can. For me, that means flipping my finger at being "less than" and asking for "real breasts." Okay, they'll be made of tummy fat but it's my tummy fat! No implants, no silicone, no apologies. After 19 months of camisoles I'd like the discomfort of a bra again. Slipping straps. Yes, I'm more than a pair of tits. I don't have to prove it. I would like to have soft, natural breasts to fill out a sweater, bounce when I walk the dog, cushion my children's heads, and be squishy when I hug. I like to hug. Lately, I've been keeping everyone at arm's length - literally - because it hurts when the psuedo-breasts (expanders) are pressed.

So, I guess I really am ready.