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.