Side Hustle/Side Thoughts

I went to the doctor yesterday to have a colposcopy because the pap smear I received in June showed irregular cells on my cervix. I’ve had an irregular pap smear before, but this time there were two different spots that the doctor looked at (or at which the doctor looked if you’re pretentious and don’t like ending your sentences with a preposition). I seriously doubt that I have cervical cancer, but the last time that I seriously doubted I had cancer, I ended up having a walnut-sized tumor in my left breast. If I have another type of cancer, I am going to be PISSED. Not sad, not scared, but PISSED. Again, I seriously doubt that it’s cancer, but if it is, I will have to have a hysterectomy. I don’t mind the idea of removing my uterus. It’s a member of the Useless Organ Club that meets daily in my post-menopausal body (other members include my ovaries; I picture them as two grumpy, elderly spinster twin sisters who spend their days sitting on the front porch complaining about today’s youth). However, if I have to remove my uterus, then I’ll have to miss twelve weeks of work, and I can’t afford that. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: only get cancer if you can afford it. Both my mastectomy/initial reconstruction surgery as well as my implant surgery were at no cost to me. Bill Clinton passed a bill (I love that it was good ol’ Billy to pass the Boob Bill) stating that if you have breast cancer and need reconstruction, then you get new boobs for free. It’s your consolation prize for having undergone chemo/radiation. However, the cherry on top of the reconstruction process–the nipples–is not free (because the cherry is not exactly necessary when it comes to the sundae). Insurance covered most of the nipple surgery, but I am responsible for $740 of it plus $400 for the anesthesia #creditcarddebt. I wish I had the discipline to save more money so that I could pay outright for large expenses such as these, but I enjoy going out to eat and travelling and buying stuff for my house and hosting parties and getting my hair done and buying Groupons for laser hair removal. I’m saving for retirement, so that’s good, but it’s basically negated by my student loans and credit card debt and my car loan. It’s terrible to say, but my only motivation to find a life partner at this point is to have someone to split bills with (with whom to split bills). But then I think about online dating and then credit card debt doesn’t seem so bad.

Enter The Side Hustle. I’ve been doing a lot of dog-sitting this summer. There was Libby the Shiba Inu, then Ronin the Goldendoodle, and this week there’s Frank the Labradoodle. Poor Frank has had diarrhea since Sunday evening when I started watching him. Luckily he’s a sweet boy, so when his piles of stinky, soupy stool on the dining room and/or living room floor greet me every morning, I can tolerate the clean-up process. The first morning I was here, I woke up to two piles of Frank’s diarrhea. As I was cleaning up the second pile, Frank started to shit again, so I took him outside. Because there is no fence in the backyard, I have to stay outside with the pup, and when it was time to go back inside, the door was locked. I had somehow locked the handle. Fortunately (surprisingly), I wasn’t overly angry/concerned; I was miffed. So I sat on the porch steps for a moment, sweating and contemplating my next move. I then walked around the home to see if any doors/windows were unlocked (nope). I tried the side door again to see if a miracle had occurred and the door had become unlocked (nope) (I’ll admit that I tried that three times). I could hear the trash truck on the next street, and I knew it was heading my way, so my first plan was to wait for the trash dudes to get to the house and ask them to call the non-emergency number for the police, who would then call a locksmith. The idea of knocking on the neighbor’s door and inquiring about a spare key crossed my mind at first, but I just thought it was unlikely that they’d have one, so I hesitated. Finally, I knocked on the neighbor’s door. No one home. I knocked on the other neighbor’s door, and voila! They had a key (which they kept per my friend/home-owner’s request because this had happened before). I went to PetSmart today and bought some special diet food for Frank, so hopefully (mainly for his sake), his bowels begin to stabilize and his poo begins to harden.

But the side hustle I’m currently most excited about is Hammered Grammar! (My mom came up with that name; good work, Mom.) My friend Amanda started working for The Novel Neighbor (an adorable bookstore in Webster Groves), and she is in charge of booking its new event space. I had done some professional development on writing at her previous place of employment, and it went really well and I had a blast, so when it was time to start booking events at TNN, she asked me if I was interested in teaching a writing workshop for adults. I immediately said yes, and then my eyes grew wide. “Oh my gosh,” I said, “can the course include drinking?” and Amanda said, “Of course,” and I was all, “OMG this will be so fun!” So there is the backstory. And here is my vision: Hammered Grammar is a course for adults who would like to polish their grammar/writing skills for professional and/or personal gain, but it is also a joke/storytelling event that includes drinking and spontaneous dance parties. It’s everything I want in a teaching gig: I’m allowed to drink and tell occasional R-rated jokes while providing instruction to motivated and engaged students who don’t need me to grade their papers. Ya’ll should come! Get your nerd on and do some learnin’ and drinkin’. I’m pumped! And, of course, I feel like I should know every English grammar rule in existence, so I’ve already revisited Strunk and White, and I’m currently reading Mary Norris’ Between You and Me. I sent Ms. Norris a friend request on Facebook yesterday, so let’s hope she accepts it…


 

So I think today would have been my 9-year wedding anniversary. Every July 18th I think, “Did I get married on the 18th or the 19th?” I’m pretty sure it was the 19th. Let me look on Facebook to see if anyone has wished my Aunt Brenda and Uncle George a happy anniversary (since I know I was married on their anniversary). Hold on…[*checks Facebook*] Well, nobody has posted anything on Aunt Brenda’s page, but I’m pretty sure their anniversary (and what would have been mine) is the 19th. What muddles it for me is that I got married in 2008, and that crazy ‘8’ throws me off (befuddles me). On the way home from PetSmart today I was thinking about the fact that I don’t remember my ex-husband’s birthday. I have a somewhat valid excuse because he was born in rural Lebanon where the people consider the day the birth is registered in town to be more significant than the day that one actually enters the world. He entered the world in December, but his birth was registered in January. Also, I can’t remember how old he is. I believe he is seven years older than me. My favorite memory of my ex is from 2007 when the fires overtook San Diego County; the flames literally made their way to the ocean. When our neighborhood was told to evacuate, everyone else was packing up their cars with valuables, but my husband was on our roof with a garden house, wearing a large sun hat and drinking a Corona. The other strong visual I have of The Ex is him sitting at the kitchen table in his tighty-whiteys grading Calculus tests, dipping tobacco, and listening to Black Flag. My favorite thing about him was that he could take his finger to his nose, push up on each nostril as well as the bridge, one section at a time, and white sebum would pop out of the pores (better than Biore). It’s so weird that I used to be married to him but I don’t even remember his birthday.


 

I just want to throw this out there: today, when I was leaving PetSmart, I saw a woman, probably in her early 70s, walking into Trader Joe’s, and I was so taken aback by her level of not-giving-a-fuck. She was wearing white tennis shoes and knee-high black compression socks. As a result, my eyes were immediately drawn to her lower extremities, but as I continued to look at her, my head moving upwards, I noticed her t-shirt had a large cat on it (a lifelike tabby sitting on its haunches). If I had been wearing a hat, I would have tipped it in her direction.

Keep it random. Stay cool, and remember:

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Puttin’ on the Nips

My first plan for this post was to show pics of my post-surgery breasts. Then I decided not to post pics since many people are offended by breasts. Then I decided I would include pictures and preface them with something to the effect of: “If one were to get nipple reconstruction, one would look like this…” However, I am just going to show you pics of my reconstructed breasts because I am a female mammal and this is what this group of humans looks like underneath their clothes. I have legs, arms, fingers, toes, a liver, a uterus, a spleen. I have lots of parts, and here are two of those parts:

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FRANKEN-NIP!

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It looks like Playdoh, but it’s yellow gauze.

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The only bruising I had was on my sides. I assume that’s because that’s where the blood pooled during the liposuction?

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The little bandages on my belly are where the needle went in for liposuction. Dr. Maclin then took this fat and transferred it around my implants to give the breasts a natural fullness.

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pre-nip breasts (that’s my port scar at the top of my chest); notice how at the top of the breasts there is a slightly concave area. Dr. Maclin filled this in with fat from my belly.

#carrie #stephenking #dirtypillows

I went in a few days before surgery to meet with my plastic surgeon, Dr. Maclin, and using a sheet of paper, he modeled the process of constructing a nipple from skin. He said he would basically be doing origami with my flesh. Here’s Big Mac with the paper nipple:


Even though the recovery was fairly painless, this was the longest surgery I’ve had in the breast reconstruction process. It was basically a five hour-long arts and crafts session for Dr. Maclin. Who needs Hobby Lobby when you’ve got the O.R.? Instead of glitter and Mod Podge, Mac* used my zaftig, sedated body to put his artistic and medical skills to use. During the five hour surgery, Mac took fat from my belly using liposuction, then transferred it around my implants to give my breasts as natural a look as possible. Then, he removed skin from my lower abdomen and created nipples from it (much like one creates something 3D through origami). He attached the skin using a “baseball stitch” in order to simulate the natural unevenness of an areola’s border. Lastly, he injected my port scar with some steroids to smooth it out since it was hypertrophic. (*Please note that I have the utmost respect for doctors, and in person I always address my plastic surgeon as Dr. Maclin, but to my friends and family, he’s often referred to as Maclin, Mac, Big Mac, or Dr. Titties.)

Mac is always cracking me up. When I was in the pre-op room, I asked him about the possibility of having pubes sprout from my nipples since he would be taking skin from my lower abdomen, and he said if this happened, then I could just get laser hair removal. (How funny/terrible will it be if I start having pubes sprout from my nips?) He then shared a brief anecdote about how when he was a resident, he had a “Grey’s Anatomy” experience with another resident, and she had hairy nipples, and she was embarrassed by them in their heat-of-the-moment tryst, and he was all, “I don’t even care right now!” I think that Mac is good at reading people and knowing what he can and can’t say around them/what they’ll respond to, and he knew I’d appreciate that story. Luckily, it looks like the area where he removed my skin is high enough on the abdomen that I won’t have to worry about any short and curlys growing anywhere outside of the mons pubis.

Another thing I appreciate about Mac is his use of metaphors. He has a metaphor for everything. A week after surgery I asked him if I could go swimming, and he said, “Oh heck no! You’re essentially a cheap watch: water-resistant but not waterproof.” I also appreciate how he makes me feel cared for as a person and not just as a patient. He left a note on my abdomen bandage after surgery: “461 days down, 6 to go!” During my overnight stay at the hospital, none of the nurses could read the note, but when I got home, I could read it when I stood in front of the mirror.


Let me preface this by saying that I do not condone the recreational use of opiates, but I totally get why people do heroin. The first time I received anesthesia was when I had my wisdom teeth removed, and I was so worried. Would I feel myself slip into unconsciousness? What if I woke up and felt the pain but lacked the ability to open my eyes or speak? However, I’ve come to enjoy the experience of being sedated. The anesthesiologist gives you a little something to make you feel reeeeeeaaalllll chiiiiilllll and then the next thing you know it’s six hours later and you’re in a room where you can discern some voices, but that’s about it, and then eventually you’re fully conscious and in another room with balloons and family members. It’s a real trip, man.


What I most enjoy about overnight stays in the hospital is having a catheter. I’m one of those people who has to pee about 10 times a night, so a catheter is awesome.


Before my mom left my hospital room for the night, we somehow got on the subject of Dr. Pimple Popper. Have you seen her videos? Dude. I woke up in the middle of the night in the hospital room, and for about two glorious hours I watched blackhead and lipoma extractions. I don’t do drugs, but if I did, I would probably just lie around and watch Dr. Pimple Popper all day. While I was confined to my house post-surgery I started paying attention to and posting Instagram stories, and I love hate-watching Busy Phillips’ stories. Do you follow her on IG? I can’t stand her IG stories, but I can’t stop watching them.


So June gave me not only new nips, but a new whip. After 11 years with her, my 2006 Mazda 3 threw in the towel. She had a variety of issues, and it was for her own good that I put her down, but I’ll always remember her fondly. She took me to and from California as well as up and down the Golden State coast. Many times she held me in her automobosom as I laughed, cried, screamed, and fretted. She was a good car, and she gave me six years without a car payment. In the end, I got $700 for her. I was proud of myself for buying a car without being accompanied by someone with a Y chromosome. When I bought my last car 11 years ago, I brought my dad with me. I don’t think I ever contemplated going without him. However, there was no way that as a 37-year old woman I was going to feel pressured into bringing a man with me to buy something. As I drove to the dealership, I ran through potential difficult scenarios in my head, and I’d practice my lines: “Look, asshole, just because I have a vagina and a pleasant disposition doesn’t mean I don’t know when I’m being taken advantage of!” but all of that premature anger was for naught. The salesman was great, and I got a great deal, and I love having a car with Bluetooth.


I have some serious Franken-nips right now. They’re dry, so they look crusty. I need to ask Mac if I’m allowed to put lotion on them. The stitches poke through my shirt if I’m not wearing a bra. I have no sensation in my new nips (and I never will), and they’re fairly erect right now, but they will subside within the next couple of weeks. In December I will get them tattooed, and that will complete the breast reconstruction process.


I’ve had a lot of successful surgeries in the past year and a half, and I’ve taken a lot of life-saving medicines, but what I’d really like is a pill that transforms my pre-frontal cortex, giving me the power to control my eating and spending habits. With this pill, I would maintain a BMI of 20 and save 20% of my income. But for now, I’ll continue to go out for dinner and drinks on the reg.

 

 

 

 

Death/Dry-Humping/ Depression/Dating

I can typically assess the state of my mental health by how I react to hearing New Order. I was just listening to The Clash station on Pandora and “Age of Consent” started playing, so I started crying. I can’t put my finger on what it is about that band, but it triggers something in me.

I have been in such a funk lately, and there are numerous contributing factors. Firstly, I must admit something: I sort of missing having cancer. I know, I know, that sounds crazy, but here’s why: it gave me purpose. I felt really alive when I had cancer. I also felt lethargic and ill, but I knew I was going to beat the disease; I lived in warrior mode. I woke up every day and was all, “Once more unto the breach! You goin’ down, you hormone-fed, malignant, walnut-shaped, parasitic, tumorous bitch!” or something like that. Actually, that statement reveals a lot of anger, and at the time, I was not angry; I was optimistic. Now I’m angry. In the months following chemo and surgery I was so eager to reclaim my life; I was travelling; I was planning my dance party/fundraiser. Now I’m feeling run down.

The funk started about a month and a half ago when my dear friend Brian passed away after having just been diagnosed with a rare blood disorder. His wife Anne is my lifelong best friend. They have three beautiful children. It was a devastating situation. Being at the visitation and funeral reminded me just how much of a role Brian played in my life. Almost every romantic relationship I’ve ever had was either directly or indirectly facilitated through Brian. In the presence of death, so much of my life passed before my eyes, and this spurred a low-grade existential crisis that had me evaluating my life choices and contemplating my future. But this mindset is nothing new for me. I am a chemically imbalanced seeker of meaning who is doomed to perpetual restlessness. That is my tragic flaw, and it drives me to live a life full of adventure and excitement, while at the same time never feeling like I’ve achieved enough and always wondering if I’m headed in the right direction. When I was 18 (in 1998), right after I graduated from high school, I wrote myself a letter. I sealed it and wrote “Do not open until 2008. Beware: you were in a weird mood.” I was in the same mindset as I am now. I asked myself a bunch of questions to the effect of “Are you still anxious all the time? Do you still doubt yourself all the time even though you know you’re capable of great things?” It’s funny that it’s been almost 10 years since opening the letter. Yes, Jenny from 20 years ago, you are still anxious, but not all of the time. Yes, you still doubt yourself even though you’re capable of great things (and you have done some great things).

I was born chemically imbalanced. My extended family can’t get together without someone reminiscing about my choleric infancy and childhood. My tantrums were epic. Right before sixth grade we moved from Denver to St. Louis, and this event coincided with the onset of adolescence. I went from a skinny, pretty, happy child to a swollen, pimply, moody tween. Even at 12 I was thinking, “Woe is me; my good years are behind me. I used to really be someone, but alas, that time is gone.” The good thing is that even though inner Jenny is quite emo, the outer Jenny is not. The best example of this paradox is that in middle school, or as I like to call it, “Dante’s inner-most ring of hell,” I was voted “Most Positive.” Shit, ya’ll, I should have been given an Oscar for my 8th grade performance. But I think this represents how my chemical imbalance manifested itself as I got older. The outward rage I displayed as a three year old dragging my head across the floor while screaming was turned inward in the form of depression. It was never debilitating; I was just occasionally hit by pangs of melancholia that I kept to myself. The only time I was ever clinically depressed (I was never officially diagnosed) was during my senior year of high school. The depression came out of no where. It actually started the summer before 12th grade. I found myself crying deep sobs of sadness for no apparent reason. There was no external catalyst for this behavior. It was as if on some night in July of 1997 my neurotransmitters got together and said, “Ya know what? We should fuck dis bitch up.” And they did. At the beginning of the school year I was babysitting my neighbor every afternoon, and I remember being in their house and feeling like the walls were going to cave in on me. I would come home and cry in my room. I would wake up in the middle of the night and feel panicked and nauseated. I channeled this anxiety into thinking I was pregnant (even though I had never had sex).

Yep, I was cray cray. Let me give you some background on this. In about 1994 or 1995 there was a Q and A in YM magazine (ladies, remember that magazine?) where some girl wrote, “Help! I’m pregnant, but I’ve never had sex!” That shit fucked. me. up. Ya see, my high school boyfriend (I really wish I could have met him when we were about 30) and I used to dry hump the shit out of each other in his parents’ basement. We were such good kids; we were afraid to drink or have sex because that was bad, and we were at our naughtiest when we progressed to dry-humping in our underwear. Anywho, during that time of depression and anxiety I wasn’t having my period (which now of course I know was because of the emotional strife I was experiencing), and this only exacerbated and prolonged the situation because then I thought I was pregnant (from dry-humping). It got so bad that I even told my mom that I thought I was pregnant, but I assured her that I was a virgin. I think her reaction was something to the effect of, “Riiiiiiight,” but she went to a distant drugstore and bought a pregnancy test, and sure enough—> negatory. At some point in the spring of senior year, my neurotransmitters corrected themselves, and life improved.

I am a happy person, and I like my life, but I am prone to bouts of anxiety and depression that I keep fairly well controlled and hidden (for the most part). When I was 23, I decided to do something about my inner demons, and for the past 14 years I’ve taken a light dosage of Lexapro that has staved off depression (and some of my anxiety). Unfortunately, the medication I take to ward off a recurrence of breast cancer manipulates my hormones, and the main side effects, according to my oncologist, are hot flashes, anxiety, and mood swings. I’m thinking that this has something to do with my current mental state. However, just spewing this personal information at the world has lifted my mood, so thank you for being a part of my catharsis. I need to look into strategies for fending off existential dread. I’m too easily affected by my surroundings. I need to stop taking everything so personally. I need to not let an email from an angry student calling me a fucking bitch make me question my professional life choices. I need to not let the rampant apathy of my eleventh-graders suck the life from my soul when I have plenty of students who love learning and appreciate me. Sometimes I think I’ve chosen the wrong career, but then I face the truth that it’s not the job, it’s me. There is work to be done.

During The Great Funk of 2017, I decided that perhaps finding that special someone would help me find some stability. I don’t usually find myself thinking, “Oh, I wish I had a boyfriend” (although I recently did when I had a pimple on my shoulder blade because I couldn’t reach it). I have bad reasons for wanting a mate. If I was being honest,
this is what I would advertise on the dating apps/sites: “ISO of a smart, funny, handsome, successful man to pop my back pimples (a rarity, but it happens), cook for me, rub my feet, and help me work through my periodic existential dread.” Therefore, I prolly should’t date, right? I went on four unsuccessful Tinder dates which quelled my desire to find someone, and I’m back to being content with my spinsterhood. Week of spring break, Tuesday: had coffee in the morning with a hot, swarthy man; I could tell he thought I was nice, but I could also tell he wasn’t into me. When we left, I could tell he felt obligated to say, “Maybe we could do this again,” but I knew he didn’t mean it. That night I went on a dinner date. I liked this dude’s sense of humor. He was smart and funny, and we laughed a lot. We walked down to the pinball/skeeball arcade and had a blast. I thought we totally hit it off. His birthday was a few days later, so I texted him “Happy birthday!” but there was no response. On Saturday I went on a date with a dude who was 10 years older than me, and his old ass had the temerity to have a disappointed look on his face the moment I walked into the bar. He messaged me on Tinder the next morning and said, “Thanks for coming out. I don’t think we’re a match, but good luck to you,” and I was really impressed by that gesture. I was going to remove the Tinder app from my phone when I got a message from a guy who joked about needing a baby in the next year in order to get his inheritance. I thought this was funny and promising, and when he suggested that we have brunch at my favorite bloody mary spot, I was pretty stoked. However, it turned out that he was not funny and that I was approximately 40 pounds heavier than him. Also, he ordered a virgin drink.  At that point, I was all, “Well, that’s enough Tindering for me.”

And so here I am. I broke up with a guy right before I moved to California, and I’ve always missed him. He clearly hates me (and understandably so since I broke up with him, moved to California, and got engaged to someone else six months later). Every time I try to reconnect with him (which is not often), he blows me off. I got drunk at a restaurant this past summer, and there was an Ernest Trova painting hanging on the wall. My ex was Trova’s protege, and so I thought of him and messaged him on Facebook (even though we’re not friends). I told him that I was looking at a Trova painting and thinking of him, and I asked how he was doing. His response was something to the effect of, “Is it the yellow painting?” and I responded, “yep.” That was it. I had to laugh at how pathetic that exchange was. He probably laughed too. I loved his weird sense of humor. After our second date he dropped me off at my place, and it was obvious he wanted to come in, so I told him, “OK, you can come in, just don’t date rape me,” and he thought that was hysterical, and I loved how he thought that was hysterical. One time we created part of a song to a comedic musical about the Civil War. I think it’ll be hard to find a man like that again.

Just writing this has lifted my mood. It’s time to start being proactive in overcoming my woes. I know I’ll look back on this funky month and laugh. I think that’s why I’m so drawn to dark humor. Life is tragic, but it’s also pretty great. And funny.

Haikus for Low Points

Something’s missing in my life. Maybe it’s that special someone? Last week I felt compelled to try the ol’ dating apps again.

Here are some of the gems I’ve come across while swiping left; I recognize that it’s insensitive to write facetious comments about men I’ve never met and who could potentially be wonderful people, but I had cancer*, so I feel like karma paid it forward and I’m only evening the score with this cruel, creative effort. *I will most likely use this as an excuse for the rest of my life. “Sorry, I can’t attend that meeting; I used to have cancer.” “Oh, you want me to help you move? Sorry, can’t help. Used to have cancer.” “Hey, Mom, remember when I used to have cancer…Can you bring me some ice cream?”

 

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I appreciate

Your unabashed presence,

But we will not date.

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BTK Killer?

I thought you were in prison.

I am scared of you.

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‘Douche’ is what I see.

Your nipples are really small.

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I assume that you

Are not the one in the chair.

It’s fun with the fam.

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“Bloody cat man here:

Just weirding my way through life.”

I don’t understand.

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Is that a wet suit?

I want this to be a joke.

I don’t think it is.

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Bad hombre/ombre:

Statement necklace with turtle:

Or it’s a tortoise?

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Man in plaid with dog:

That’s an interesting angle

For a profile pic.


There are actually plenty of attractive and seemingly normal men on these apps, and tomorrow I’m having coffee with one of them. Can’t help but think about this episode from Inside Amy Schumer:

 

CREATE

2016 was less than sweet, right? We lost Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, George Michael. I lost my breasts and my fertility. We gained the host of Celebrity Apprentice as president. I’m going to enjoy this last week of the year, celebrate its ending, and fully embrace 2017.

A few years back my friend Amy introduced me to a tradition of starting the new year with, not a resolution, but a word to guide my choices for the next trip around the sun. This year I choose CREATE. I like this tradition because I thrive in nebulous, creative conditions; specific tasks tend to wear me down. In 2017, I plan to:

  • Create a body that’s best prepared to combat illness and aging (I think dance classes are the only way for me to get excited about physical activity; I just got the STLCC Continuing Education catalog–which I always get excited about (ooooh: a stained glass window-making class? beginning Arabic? Bellefontaine’s Mausoleums? yaaaaas!)–and the tap dancing and ballet 101 classes sound fun.
  • Create at least one meal from The Joy of Cooking every week in the month of January (in hopes that I find the joy of cooking; so far, I only know the joy of picking out pre-made meals at Trader Joe’s).
  • Create The Breast Dance Party Ever on Feb. 17 to bring in beaucoup bucks for Gateway to Hope. You should come because A) It’s going to be a HELLUVA party and B) it’s for a good cause. You can buy your tickets/donate here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-breast-dance-party-ever-tickets-28306152464
  • Create fond memories with friends; friends are awesome. I don’t know of anything more wonderful than belly-laughing with friends.
  • Create the life that best soothes my soul and fuels my fire. This is SO NOT a S.M.A.R.T. goal, but I need to let my intuition guide me. I often ignore it, but I need to abide by it. (Do non-teacher people have to write S.M.A.R.T. goals? (specific-measurable-achievable-realistic-timely) I think they’re dumb.
  • Create a mindset that allows me to not procrastinate grading. I hate with a passion grading stacks of essays, and I must figure out a way to power through this dreaded task.
  • Create a book. I want to write a book. I need to start my frigging book.
  • Create a financial plan that allows me to enjoy life and keep my credit card balance at a minimum (no more drinking champagne cocktails at The Plaza when I have 84 cents in my checking account).
  • Create nipples. Actually, I’ll let Dr. Maclin do that.

What will your word be?

I Have No Nipples: A Sonnet

I have no nipples, just two light pink scars

That run across the length of my new breasts.

Maybe I should get tattoos of pink stars?

On silicon clouds those novas would rest.

If my whole body is the Milky Way,

That barred, spiral galaxy high above,

Then my new celestial nips, I say,

Will shine like beacons of heavenly love.

Named because it resembles creamy milk,

A substance my barren body won’t make,

The Via Lactea seems smooth like silk.

My heart is the sun, and sometimes it aches.

I’m just one of billions of galaxies.

Floating in space seeking my destiny.

 

 

Lil Dema

One of the librarians at my school suggested that I double-check my cancer-related expenses to make sure that I was not over-charged (She reads my blog, and at some point I told the world that I spent about $8500 on cancer-related expenses between October and April). I’m glad she suggested this. I contacted my insurance rep and asked her to meet with me and explain #allthebills. She came with a print-out of all of my insurance claims, and she was very kind. I was hoping that our meeting would end this way: “Oh my goodness,” she’d say, “We totally overcharged you. We’ll send you a check for $2000. Our bad.” Instead, the conversation was more like, “Yeah, the bills are right.” Damn it. So you wanna know how much it cost for me to have cancer (before insurance)?

$279,244.38

Cha-ching cha-ching!

I went back and looked at my receipts/bills, and after a few reimbursements (from an ER trip) and some re-organizing (there were some duplicate receipts), the total for my out-of-pocket expenses was $5667.22. I’ve said it before, but here’s my two-cents: only get cancer if you’re wealthy or have generous parents with whom you can live expense-free. The largest bill sent to Cigna Healthcare on my behalf was for the procedure that included my mastectomy and the baseline work for my reconstruction; it was $66,320.49. Because it’s public record AND you could look it up online AND I’m shameless AND I’ve had a few glasses of wine, I’ll tell you that I make $59, 061 a year. So, yeah.

Let’s talk about some more bullshit. I was at Panera the other day and I saw a sign advertising the St. Luke’s mammography van. I took a picture of it. It read, “This service provides 2D and 3D screening mammograms for women 40 years of age and over.” It made me a little angry. I envisioned myself driving to Wildwood Middle School on Tues., Sept. 6 between the hours of 7 -11 (that’s when they’re going to be available, FYI #checkthosetitties) and walking into the van. “Hi, I’m Jenny,” I’d say. “I had five months of chemo and I got my tits chopped off because I had breast cancer, but I was only 35. Do you scan 35-year old titties? Your sign says you don’t. Just curious BECAUSE SOME OF US YOUNGER WOMEN GET BOOB TOOMERS, TOO.” According to the Komen site, fewer than 5% of woman diagnosed with breast cancer are under 40. I wish the universe could have presented these odds to me in a different manner, perhaps in winning the lottery. But nooooo.

Here is a a conversation between my conscious self and my uterus:

Uterus: I spent 24 years menstruating, and yes, I admit that I didn’t work on a consistent basis, but talk to the old Endocrine System. It’s that bitch’s fault. If she had done her part and regulated your blood sugar levels, then my friends The Ovary Twins could have done their job and put an egg in me every month, but noooooooo #polycysticovariansyndrome. Here I am in your central cavity with nothing to do. I’ll just sit here and atrophy. As a female mammal you had one job: reproduce. But you can’t. Not without the help of science and alotta money. I’ll just sit here until you die and watch your dumb-ass bladder fill up and then drain. Fill up and then drain.

Me: Sorry, Uterus. I don’t know what to tell you. I wish I didn’t have to take Tamoxifen and become infertile. Think of your existence as permanent vacation. You no longer have to host any eggs, fertilized or unfertilized. You just get to chill.

Uterus: Yes, chill. And contemplate all that could have been. Sounds like a real friggin’ blast.

Me: Sorry?

A few months before I got cancer I remember telling my mom, “If I get to be 37 and I’m still not in a committed relationship, I think I’ll pursue non-traditional pregnancy options.” My mom said something to the effect of, “I was talking to your grandma about this, and Grandma said, “Jenny doesn’t want a husband. She just wants a baby,” and I thought, “So true, Grandma. So true.” That’s not a practical option now. I’m infertile. It would cost so much money to fertilize my frozen eggs, and I really don’t want to ask my sister to carry my fetus, and I don’t know how I’d pay a surrogate. Adoption is expensive as hell, too. My sis, her husband, and her two kids (aged 4 and 1) lived with us this summer before they closed on their new house. Living with my niece and nephew provided me with some insight into having children–>That shit’s intense. In a way, I feel a burden has been lifted from my shoulders. I wanted to have kids, but I can’t, and therefore, I don’t have to deal with a toddler who has lost her shit because I won’t take her to McDonalds to get a sundae at 9 AM. I think I just want to be the spinster aunt who misses Thanksgiving dinner because she’s attending a yoga retreat in Big Sur.

There are other pros to being infertile. I no longer feel the pressure to date. When I first started online dating a year and a half after my divorce (six years ago), I viewed it as a sociological experiment, and then it became fodder for some excellent story-telling. Then it just became depressing. Now there’s no pressure to meet a potential sperm-donor during my fertile years. My fertile years are gone. If you’re single, it’s society’s expectation that you seek out a partner, so I sometimes contemplate doing the on-line thing again, and I think of what my profile write-up would be:

Heeeeeeeey boys. Wanna meet up for a drink and see who first comes to the conclusion that it ain’t gonna work? I’m not totally sold on the idea that monogamy for non-breeders is the way to go, AND I’m infertile. 

I remember driving home from family vacation with my sister and her husband a few years ago and thinking, “I can’t wait to go home and be by myself. I can’t believe these two have to go home and be together some more. FOREVER.”  I’m a lone she-wolf. An infertile she-wolf. And I always find myself attracted to grumpy introverts whom I eventually grow to despise, so yeah, I guess it’s best to be on my own.

Speaking of being alone…I’m moving out of my folks’s house this weekend. I’m renting a cute little house in Dogtown, and I’m excited. The Cancer Days are over. But I’ll miss living with Dan and Sherry. My mom’s out of town, but Dad just made hamburgers, and we ate the patties on stale, sliced white bread. While we ate we watched a show about man-eating crocodiles in the Philippines.

My nipple-making-and-attaching surgery is scheduled for Dec. 16, but I think I’m going to switch it so that I don’t have to take all of those sick days (the 16th is the Friday before finals week. My plastic surgeon will be out of town on the 23rd, which would be the ideal surgery date). Right now I’m thinking of switching my surgery to the Friday before spring break, which is St. Patrick’s Day. HOWEVER, my new place is on the St. Patrick’s Day parade route in Dogtown, THE Irish neighborhood in St. Louis, and I really want to host a fantastic St. Patrick’s Day party. Is it wrong to postpone surgery so that I can host a party? (yes)

My implants seem to be fine. They look real, but they don’t feel real. I’m a little swollen on the left side, but that’s because I had some lymph nodes removed on that side (The Tumor Side) to assess the stage and progression of my cancer. I saw a Lymphadema specialist about a month ago, and she told me that I’ll have to wear a compression sleeve whenever I fly or drive through elevated regions #thatdemalife. I can totally see my brother-in-law giving me shit about my compression sleeve: “Whaddup, Dema?”

That’s my rapper name: Lil Dema

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s What It Sounds Like When I Pray

When I hear about people who are sick or who are struggling in some way, I feel like saying, “Thinking about you” is not enough, but I’m not confident in my prayer. What is prayer?

Consider these types of Facebook posts:

  • someone shares their uncle’s obituary
  • someone announces that he or she has a serious illness
  • someone posts a vague declaration about how he or she is struggling and needs prayer

And then all these people respond with, “Praying for you.” “Prayers going up.” And then if I write, “Thinking of you,” that seems less supportive. Some times I feel obligated to write, “praying for you,” and then at night, I think, “Well, you have to pray for him. You said you would.” So I guess prayer (as opposed to thought) is a proactive means of sending out waves of cosmic positivity. *But how can you be proactive if it’s just in your head? This is how my prayer sounds:

“God, whoever/whatever you are, (person’s name) needs to get better.” *But then I think, “Well, this is pointless. Isn’t God omniscient? Shouldn’t he already know this? And isn’t he supposed to be the definition of ‘benevolent’? I guess not if I actually have to ask him to make this person healthy again. And why am I referring to him as ‘him’? Wouldn’t it make more sense for the almighty life force to be female? Also, if prayer really does help, then what about people who don’t have friends and family? Are they screwed just because they’re socially inept? *Then I’m frustrated because I think that my prayer is worthless and I feel guilty that I “prayed” out of a sense of obligation rather than a sincere desire to support a suffering fellow human being.

Here are my thoughts:

  • I think it’s arrogant to assume that one’s god is superior over another or to deny the validity of another religion.
  • I think that the universe is under no obligation to make sense to any of us. #neiltyson
  • I think it’s arrogant/futile to attempt to understand the universe.
  • I think there is something greater than me, but I don’t know what that is, and that’s OK.
  • The last time I saw my grandpa, he had this look in his eye: a brightness/ an alertness; he was staring intently at me, and I thought, “That’s the last time I’ll see him.” And then one night a week or so later, I kept having strange dreams, so I’d wake up, and then in my conscious state I’d have these strange sensations, and then early in the morning the phone rang, and I knew it was because my grandpa had died. I think there are cosmic forces that send us messages.
    • But I don’t buy into a lot of the mediums that serve to connect us to those forces. I like The Fortune Teller bar on Cherokee. You should go (the decor includes taxidermied animals and a painting of Rasputin). Sometimes they have Tarot readers there, so one night I decided to try it. I’d always been curious, but I refrained because, even though I didn’t believe in it, I didn’t want to risk hearing something like, “You’re gonna die a terrible death,” and then have it turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Anywho, the tarot reader said something to the effect of, “You are timid and afraid to express yourself.” This experience proved to me that Tarot cards are bullshit. I think it was that morning that I had gotten a call from an ex who asked if he could take pictures of my butt, and I was all, “Sure.” Timid my ass. Also, one time when I was struggling with my life’s purpose I went to see a Reiki master/medium, and she told me that she saw me living in Europe and having servants. This could still come to fruition, so fingers crossed (I’d be nice to my servants).

 

Lists and Things

Things I Want:

  • to not have a recurrence
  • to travel to all the places
  • for my family and friends to be happy and healthy (I feel bad that I thought about this after the second bullet)
  • to be more interested in politics
  • to want to exercise
  • to want to cook
  • to want to save money
  • to look back on my life and be happy that I did what I did
  • to not care so much about what other people think
  • to be naturally hairless in all the right places
  • to not crave carbs
  • to understand the Electoral College

Things I Need:

  • to stay healthy to keep my blood pressure and blood sugar under control
  • an apartment (affordable, two bedrooms, washer/dryer hook-ups, updated kitchen)

Things I Like About My Life:

  • I’m healthy.
  • I have wonderful friends and family.
  • My job is important.
  • I have a lot of vacation time.

Things I Contemplate Doing But Shouldn’t:

  • Getting a dog (I first typed out “god”–> Freudian?)
  • On-line dating
  • Spending a lot of money on rent to have a cool place
  • Dying my hair cotton-candy pink

Things I Have Been Procrastinating:

  • Writing my long-term sub a letter of recommendation (no desire to do work-related things)
  • Writing a piece on Albrecht Durer for my Dad’s friend’s art website (turns out I’ve lost my interest in Northern Renaissance art)
  • Applying for student loan forgiveness (I’ve heard it’s an exercise in futility)

Things I Once Contemplated Doing That I’m Glad I Never Did:

  • Going to grad school for Art History
  • Getting a dog
  • Moving to Montana

Things I Once Contemplated Doing That I’m Glad I Never Did But There’s a Good Chance I’ll Eventually Do:

  • Get a dog

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Tonight I was listening to my dad and sis talk about my dad’s friend from high school. A few years ago he shot his girlfriend in the face. Five times. Then he went and hid in the woods for two days. I’m so intrigued by this man and his life. He recently wrote my dad a letter from jail asking for help. My sister is an attorney, and I listened to her two-cents on the situation. Fascinating. Terrible. I want to ask this man so many questions.

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My friend I met on the train in Alaska (the one who had a mastectomy) asked me (in an e-mail) if I ever worry about my health. She asked because she was heading to the Ob-Gyn and she worries about her ovaries (what if they turn cancerous too?) I told her that I don’t worry about it. I really don’t. What’s so weird, though, is that I worry about what others think of me. That makes no sense. My reputation over my life? The brain is so. weird. I find solace in the fact that life is risky. Going outside, getting in your car: it’s all a gamble.

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My girl Lil E moved to St. Louis from Atlanta! I’m so excited she’s here. She’s playing hooky from work on Wednesday, and I’m taking her on an adventure. Here’s my Tour de Lou itinerary I’ve created for her:

Stop #1: Parkcrest Plastic Surgery–Get a boob check-up.

*All of the following stops have been ranked #1 in their category by The Riverfront Times Readers’ Choice Poll. They’re also my favorite 🙂

Stop #2: Olympia Greek Restaurant–Dine on Grecian delights. #flamingcheese

Stop #3: Pint Size Bakery–Get a sweet treat, OR if you want ice cream, we’ll go to Ted Drew’s.

Stop #4: The Royale–Imbibe on cocktails served by hipsters.

Then, depending on what you’re up for, we could

  • Continue drinking and go to another bar.
  • Visit Forest Park: The Art Museum or the Missouri History Museum (current exhibit is The Little Black Dress: A History (I’ve seen it; it’s good. There’s also the permanent World’s Fair exhibit). See the Art Deco gem-of-a-building called The Jewel Box.
  • Visit the Cathedral Basilica which has the largest mosaic collection in the world.

*If you need some St. Louis gear, we can go to the STL Style House. Check out their site: http://stl-style.com/shop/tees

I’ll also be creating a playlist for our adventure (I’m going to brainstorm it now). One of the things I love about E is our shared random taste in music.

  • “Working Man” by Rush: Why did we like this song so much? Why is it a thing?  
  • “Badge” by Cream
  • something by Jeff Buckley
  • something from Beck’s Midnight Vultures
  • “One Way or Another” by Blondie: In college we used to joke about stalking boys. Who was that boy I liked who worked at Osama’s Coffee House: Justin? Jeremy? (tall and blonde) 
  • “Take a Picture” by Filter: I remember listening to this while we drove to Parnell , MO so I could do some research on where my Grandpa grew up.
  • “Little Queenie” by Chuck Berry: He’s a St. Louisan, and I like this song. *If I got a dog, I’d name her Queenie, and I’d sing this song to her.

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I had to see the breast (not plastic) surgeon today. Cost $50 for her to feel my implants and say, “Looks good. Any questions?” She’s great, and I get why I have to go in, but #money.

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I was under the impression that implants would feel real, but they don’t. They look real, though.

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My hair is starting to turn more ash blonde on top (as opposed to just grey). *Is there a rule for when you use ‘grey’ as opposed to ‘gray’? –> things to Google

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I booked a flight to New York in December. I’ve always wanted to see The Big Apple at Christmastime. Anybody have a wealthy friend or a family member with a fabulous place in Manhattan who wants to let my friend Emilie and me stay there? We’re really nice, and, like, conscientious guests.

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For a while there I was doing so well with my food choices, but it gradually got worse over the last couple of weeks and built to a climax this past weekend. I was staying at my friend Tanya’s while she was out of town, and I ordered a gourmet pizza (and a salad) from a restaurant near her, and I ate all of it. I had a hot flash during this mass consumption of calories, so I took off my pajamas and lay partially nude on the couch, covered in pizza grease watching Six Feet Under half hating myself half loving life. Later, I finished off a bottle of whipped cream I found in Tanya’s fridge (I bought you a new bottle, T. I also bought you a new box of Chex because I needed to eat something crunchy while watching t.v.)

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This post was random. So is life.

 

Boob Juice

Implants= in! That second reconstructive surgery was a piece of cake! I haven’t had any pain. I can tell that I have drains sewn into the sides of my torso, but they don’t hurt. The incisions along my breasts don’t hurt. I feel just fine, so it’s annoying to have to take it easy. When I woke up in the recovery room, there was a man snoring his head off, and I calmly told the nurse, “I become irrationally angry at the sound of intense snoring,” and then politely added, “Do you know when my room will be ready?” While being wheeled from recovery into my room, I chatted with one of the nurses who had recently finished chemo for breast cancer. She mentioned a 30-something pharmacist who used to work at Mo Bap who was undergoing chemo for breast cancer, and I said, “Alison ****?” And she said, “Yes!” and I said, “That’s my girl! We have the same plastic surgeon!” So many St. Louis moments during this cancer process. Turns out Alison was downstairs getting her chemo while I was having surgery, and she saw my post on Facebook about being at the hospital, so she came up and saw me in my room. Alison is lightness and goodness. Because of her type and stage of breast cancer, she had to undergo radiation and extra chemo, but she’s positive and vivacious, and I’m grateful to have met her. She’s going through this having two young kids, so PROPS to her. So many props.

Because I’m Jenny Who Shares Too Much Information, I’ll just put it out there that the worst part of this recovery was when I didn’t think to take Miralax after I got home from my one night in the hospital. Painkillers=constipation. My sis, bro-in-law and their kids live with us right now while they wait to move into their new home, and if B-I-L didn’t feel like we were family beforehand, I’m sure he does now. Thanks for giving me one of your daughter’s suppositories, Joe, and for listening to me moan on the couch about the brick-sized stool that refused to leave my body. The other struggle has been that my Tamoxifen-induced hot flashes are extra hot and flashy because I have to wear a vest-like bra. But fuh real, doh, this surgery was a breeze. Drains come out on Thursday.

I’m bored and restless and drinking wine—>

“Boob Juice”

You’re red. With a tinge of yellow. 

You flow more heavily on the right side. Is it because I’m right-handed?

Why are more people right-handed? 

The left hand is the Devil’s hand. That’s the wicked side.

That’s where the tumor grows.


Boob Juice/ A Moose Named Goose/ A Girl Who’s Loose/ Don’t Get Caught in a Noose/


Cancer/ Tiny Dancer/ A Reindeer Named Prancer/ I’m a Lancer


“The Picture My Ex-Boyfriend Made Me That You’ll See in This Video”

That picture behind me in this video/

My ex-boyfriend made that for me for my 21st birthday.

He painted a picture of the Venice Cafe where we had one of our first dates/

The columns are three-dimensional.

He made the frame from scrap wood out of a garage being torn down in his neighborhood

It hangs on the wall in what was my mom’s office before it became my convalescent chamber

I wonder if anybody will ever love me like he did. 

*Warning, if bodily fluids gross you out, don’t watch this video!