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!

 

Making Up for Lost Time

Been having a lot of fun. Went harder this past month than I have in quite a while. Adventures in Alaska, New York, Arkansas* (from the mountains/ to the prairies/ to the oceans/ white with fooooooooam!) (I had to Google that last bit). Lotta food/lotta dranks. For a few days there I felt 23 again. The Blonde Brigade sans Janelle went to see Streets of Laredo at Off Broadway, and it was a free show on a Wednesday night; there were maybe a dozen people there, so I felt really bad for the band (I have a problem with feeling bad for people). After the show the band members came and socialized with the audience, and we invited them to go do karaoke with us. They seemed pretty enthusiastic about it, but alas, they never showed up. Instead, this dude Justin, who had just moved to The Lou for a Urology fellowship, was at the show and seemed to take a-liking to Caron, so he came with us. I sang Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight” as well as Digital Underground’s “Humpty Dance.” Digression–> I’ve always wanted to karaoke The Doors’ “Back Door Man” because it’s so not what you would expect. I have this whole fantasy in my head where I grab the microphone, and the crowd’s expecting me to sing, like, something by Journey or the Dixie Chicks, but instead, that gritty, hard guitar build-up to full drums and organ gets going, and I’m all “OOOOOH YEAH, I’M YO BACK DOOR MAN!” and I’m doing the Jim Morrison gyrate, swingin’ that microphone around like a big dick. #imateacher #iteachyourkids Then I exit the stage and slap some douchey guy on the ass and yell, “Buy me a drink, bitch!” (Geez, I just don’t understand why you’re still single, Jen.) Anywho…When it became obvious that the Streets of Laredo band members were not coming to sing with us, I suggested we get pancakes at Uncle Bill’s. I ate all of mine and half of Caron’s. Got home at about 2, and thought, “Ya know, being childless is kinda great” #infertility. Two nights later I went and saw The Black Lips with Ron, and when the show was over, I thought I’d ask them if they wanted to go do karaoke with us. I walked back into their dressing room because there was no one there to stop me, and I asked if they wanted to go sing karaoke with us. The lead singer shook my hand and said they were actually planning on going bowling; the guitar player asked me if I had any Adderol. Then their manager came in and kicked me out. Now I kinda have a complex because I’ve been rejected by two bands in one week. Oh well.

Last time we talked I mentioned that I had made a friend on the train in Alaska; we bonded over the fact that we’ve both had mastectomies. She was encouraging me to pursue 3D nipple tattoos (as opposed to having surgery to get nips created and attached), and not long after her Alaska trip she was going to be visiting Vinnie Myers, the preeminent nipple tattoo artist whose studio is in Baltimore. She said she’d send me pics, and she did. They look great! So real! But I still think I’ll go with the nipple surgery (because Big Mac said he’d remove a little belly fat during the process). However, I haven’t completely ruled out the 3D tattoo possibility (Meet with Vinnie; get some nips; eat some crabcakes, see Edgar Allen Poe’s house. It could be a fun weekend). Speaking of fun…I get my implants on Friday! This surgery will be much less intense than the mastectomy. They’ll open me back up, scoop out the expansion material, and put in dat silicone. I’ll stay in the hospital one night and I’ll have two drains for a week, but I won’t have the same level of pain as I did with the mastectomy. The part that I dread the most is having to sleep on my back. Back-sleeping is the worst. You know what else is the worst? HOT FLASHES (#Tamoxifen). Yowza. I think I’ll be wearing nothing but tank tops for the next 10 years. And my hair: my hair is totally grey. AND it’s wavy/curly which is SO not attractive. I dislike the curl more than the grey. Yesterday I got out of the shower and ran my fingers through the sides of my wet hair so that it would stand out (because you may as well have fun with the fact that you have the ability to look like Grandpa Munster). My mascara was dripping, and I started to laugh. I looked just like a lemur. I ran downstairs, bugged out my eyes, and shouted to my sister, “Dude. What animal do I look like?” and she laughed. “You look like a lemur.” This was me:

I’m debating what I’ll do with my hair. I like it short, and I don’t mind the grey, but as my locks grow, so do my concerns. If I don’t tame my wispy side hair, I end up looking like an unkempt old man. I was always Jenny With the Good Hair, so I’m having to adjust to life with terrible tresses. I’m probably going to have to make an appointment with my girl Erin at the Drew Henry Salon before too long. (“Heeeeeeeey Erin, I was bald for a while, but I currently look like Paulie from The Sopranos. Help. A. Girl. Out.”) In other cancer-related news, I was watching t.v. last week when my right foot grazed my left foot and I felt a funny sensation: my left big toenail fell off! Taxol, one of the chemo drugs I took, is really hard on the nails, so I’m lucky that I lost only one.

In Arkansas I had a moment that I knew would eventually happen. I walked into a restaurant and saw a man who was going through chemo (bald head, no brows or lashes, faint dark circles around his eyes), and I was overcome with a sense of camaraderie and a desire to hug him. I wanted to rush over to him and give him a big squeeze and buy him a beer and tell him, “I feel you, bro. I FEEL YOU,” but I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable. Plus, I once had a student with Alopecia who wrote about how people always thought she had cancer, so I remembered this and played it cool.

Stay hydrated, ya’ll. It’s hot as hell out there!

For your listening enjoyment: 

*Northern Arkansas is beautiful. Ozarkland. I revisited Crystal Bridges Art Museum, which was built to display the Walton’s collection of American art. There are so many great pieces in their collection, and the space itself is my favorite of any museum I’ve ever visited. Plus, Eureka Springs is a quaint, trippy little town with good food (and an amazing blood orange margarita). I highly recommend a weekend jaunt.

Band Name: The Basic Bitches (We’d wear yoga pants and Uggs and drink Pumpkin Lattes but perform hard punk tunes and not shave our armpits.) #irony

Questions, Statements, and Numbers

For a variety of reasons, I would recommend that you not get cancer. One of those reasons is that it is expensive. Since my diagnosis at the beginning of October, I have paid about $8500 out of pocket (and I have good insurance). Every time I see a specialist, it costs $50. During AC chemo treatments, I would often get sick and have a low-grade fever and have to go to Urgent Care, and that’s expensive. There was an ER visit in PA, and that was expensive. My mammogram was expensive, and there were two large bills from my insurance company. Chemotherapy drugs are expensive. Without looking back at the bill, I think it cost my insurance company about $10,000 for chemo in about a two month span. A year ago I moved in with my folks so that I could pay off my credit cards and save for a down payment on a house. There has been no saving. My credit card debt is almost gone (it should have been gone by now, but Cancer is a money-sucking monster that feasts not only on your physical and mental well-being, but on your checking account as well). Yesterday evening, a realtor called me. I met her about a year ago when I went to an open house (for funsies–I love going to open houses and looking at display homes). I remember her telling me that she would contact me in a year (when I was planning on being ready to buy), and sure enough, one trip around the sun, and the phone rings. “Hello, Jenny, this is (I don’t remember her name); are you ready to start looking into home ownership?” And my response, “No, sorry, not at this time. I had to pay to have cancer, so I’m not in a financial position to consider buying right now.” And then she felt bad.

Questions:

  • Should I buy or rent?
  • If I buy, should it be a condo?
  • Is it better to invest in real estate or use my money to travel?

Statements:

  • I wish I was wealthier so that I could easily come up with a down-payment for a house.
  • I wish I could buy a house AND travel the world.
  • My intuition tells me that I value travel more than real estate.
  • I wonder if my intuition is being irresponsible.
  • Being wealthy is better than not being wealthy.
  • I prefer to spend money rather than save it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my next move. If I was patient, I would just stay at my folks’ house and continue to save money and chip away at my student loan debt. Digression–> I SO wish I could go back in time and tell my 22-year old self, “Jenny, do not go to a private university to get a teaching credential/Masters in teaching. Just go to UMSL. Also, DON’T take out loans for living expenses while you’re going to school for your teaching credential so that you can live with your best friend in a cute apartment and then not save any of the remaining money but instead spend it on God-knows-what.” Oh well, c’est la vie. It was a wonderful two years. 22-24 was my prime (and it really was a cute apartment).

Let’s talk about my “boobs.” They are hard, scarred, bulbous protrusions that are growing on a weekly basis. I’m basically reliving 1991-1994 on my chest in a matter of six weeks. The whole process is pretty fascinating. I go in once a week and Big Mac and Lil D (Dr. Maclin and Nurse Debbie) grab the Expansion Bucket, arrange a still life of tools on a tray and begin the quick process of injecting me with saline. They take a magnet to note exactly where the tap is under the skin, mark it with a blue marker, numb the spot using a spray, take a big ol’ needle filled with saline and gently puuuuuuuush, and then voila! Attach two little round band-aids (they look like nipples on the tops of my boobs), and I’m out. When I came out of surgery I was an A cup, and now I’m about a large B. Although my original intention was to go back to rockin’ them D’s, I’m going to expand to a C. *I should mention that Dr. Mac does not use letters to describe breast sizes; he uses numbers: 1, 2, 3, and 4. Essentially, A, B, C, and D. I will end this process at a 3 (1st is the worst, 2nd is the best, 3rd is the one with the hairy nips. My nipples will be created using skin near the mons pubis, so there’s a slight chance that a random pube may pop up on my nipple. But no worries, Dr. Mac says, it can be lasered off (??!!!??). Mac recommended size 3 because it can be pretty hard on the tissue to stretch to a 4, and plus, having smaller boobs makes you look smaller, and it’s easier to buy clothes. I’ll have to wait 3 months after my last expansion before I can get my implants. This gives the skin and muscle time to adjust. Therefore, implants will be installed in September, and Mac said I’ll need two weeks of recovery (so there goes my sick days for next year). Digression–> I’m currently on a six week medical leave, but I’m not being paid for 3 weeks of that since I used up all my sick days this year.

Statement:

  • If you’re going to get cancer and you don’t make a ton of money, you should either be married/committed to someone who can pick up the financial slack or have a solid enough relationship with your parents that you can live with them (rent free).

Three months after getting implants, I can get my nips. This is a long surgery since they’re taking my skin, creating nipples, then making minute little stitches to attach them (no Franken-nips). It’s like arts and crafts time for Buffalo Bill. Luckily, this surgery will fall in December, so the two weeks recovery time will happen over Winter break (all I want for Christmas are my two pink nips). At some point, I’ll have the nips tattooed, but I’m not sure when this will happen.

*******

Here’s my current crazy idea (but unlike most of them, it’s not expensive, so it’s feasible). Firstly, my friend Julie and I follow The Alison Show on Instagram. It’s this woman (Alison) who throws parties for a living, and she has these incredible dance parties that women pay to attend. Alison is the uninhibited-type who likes dancing (with vigor and purpose), and so Julie introduced me to her on IG because I remind her of Alison (or Alison reminds her of me. My first exposure to T.A.S. was when Julie tagged me in a video of Alison’s where she is pregnant and enthusiastically dancing to Salt n’ Peppa’s “Push It” wearing a custom-made pink kimono. Julie wrote, “Is this you?”). The other day Julie texted me and was all, “Jenny, you need to do what Alison does!” and it got me thinking. I’ve contemplated having a ‘I’m Done with Chemo and the Worst of It’ party, and I’ve also thought of ways that I can give back to those who are battling breast cancer (this disease is too common). If I have an all-girl dance party where I charge a minimal admission fee (all proceeds go to breast cancer research), would you come? I would open it to the public, promote it, and it would be three hours of non-stop booty-shakin’. I would try to get donations and make it as fabulous as possible, but it may just be my 15-year old iPod and Bose speaker with some Costco Cookies. Either way, it would be a helluva good time and contribute to a good cause.

Please feel free to share your two-cents on the buy vs. rent dilemma.

Band Names: Hard and Scarred, Expansion Bucket

 

Life is Unfair (Duh)

My godfather, Uncle George, was in a motorcycle accident this past weekend. He has always loved riding motorcycles, and I love seeing faded old pictures of him back in his (how my Mom phrases it) “old hippie dog days” sitting on his bike, wearing a long braid and a full beard. When he retired, he bought a Harley, and his greatest pleasure in life, besides being with his granddaughter, is riding his Hog. This past weekend, he was at a stop sign, and a young driver (she’d had her permit for two weeks) somehow lost control of her car and jumped the median and ran into him, mangling his leg. The doctors will make their final assessment tomorrow about whether or not to amputate. After hearing the news yesterday about the potential loss of his limb, he (understandably) was not in the mood for visitors, so I haven’t been able to see him and show him some love. He has always been such a wonderful uncle to me. He consistently goes out of his way to support, encourage, and motivate me. He is a patient, kind, gentle, hardworking man. Please pray for him (or send good vibes/thoughts/juju). Let waves of positivity find themselves in his hospital room.

——————–

GAWD DAMN IT! I DID NOT intend on the message of this post being so damn palpably real for me right now! Blast! I just lost my Internet connection as well as the rest of this essay. ANGER. ANGER. ANGER. Ok, I will start over. Because life is unfair.

Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts. Take Two, aaaaaaand ACTION:

My youngest sister welcomed little Ella Jean into the world this past weekend. She is just a little doll baby, and my sis and bro-in-law are just in awe of her. She is especially miraculous since her parents had to endure the emotional and financial strife of In Vitro Fertilization. Last year I had a student who was a bit of a sociopath, and she got pregnant. After she turned in her two-sentence “essay” that said something to the effect of “having five in my mom,” I remember thinking: “REALLY, bitch? Really? YOU and your fertile, wicked womb can so easily bring a child into this world, and my sister has to spend thousands of dollars and shed thousands of tears to bring a child into a stable, loving home?” Digression–> I wish I would have asked Knocked-Up Sociopath if she meant A) five fingers in my mom or B) five inches of dick in my mom. Another digression–>  I think that one of the hallmarks of a good teacher is accepting the fact that some kids are douchebags (A very witty colleague once said that there is a class of students known as the doucheouisie). BUT even those kids deserve the best education possible. Little Susie Brown-Noser and Little Johnnie Dickhole both deserve my best pedagogical efforts. I really do wish the best for K.U.S., and I hope she has a good life and is a good mother.

Life is unfair, but it has to be unfair. The world needs balance. If there was only one element, we’d be at an uncomfortable tilt at all times. Remember in ninth grade English class when you read Friar Lawrence’s soliloquy in Act 2, Scene 3 in Romeo and Juliet? (I’m sure you’re nodding your head ‘yes’). While tending to his garden, he says,

The gray-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night,
Checkering the eastern clouds with streaks of light,
And fleckled darkness like a drunkard reels
From forth day’s path and Titan’s fiery wheels.
Now, ere the sun advance his burning eye,
The day to cheer and night’s dank dew to dry,
I must upfill this osier cage of ours
With baleful weeds and precious-juicèd flowers.
The earth, that’s nature’s mother, is her tomb.
What is her burying, grave that is her womb.
And from her womb children of divers kind
We sucking on her natural bosom find,
Many for many virtues excellent,
None but for some and yet all different.
Oh, mickle is the powerful grace that lies
In herbs, plants, stones, and their true qualities.
For naught so vile that on the earth doth live
But to the earth some special good doth give.
Nor aught so good but, strained from that fair use
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse.
Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied,
And vice sometime by action dignified.

If you need Sparknotes, that’s OK:

The smiling morning is replacing the frowning night. Darkness is stumbling out of the sun’s path like a drunk man. Now, before the sun comes up and burns away the dew, I have to fill this basket of mine with poisonous weeds and medicinal flowers. The Earth is nature’s mother and also nature’s tomb. Plants are born out of the Earth, and they are buried in the Earth when they die. From the Earth’s womb, many different sorts of plants and animals come forth, and the Earth provides her children with many excellent forms of nourishment. Everything nature creates has some special property, and each one is different. Herbs, plants, and stones possess great power. There is nothing on Earth that is so evil that it does not provide the earth with some special quality. And there is nothing that does not turn bad if it’s put to the wrong use and abused. Virtue turns to vice if it’s misused. Vice sometimes becomes virtue through the right activity.

As Forrest Gump coined, “shit happens.” Sometimes you’re 35 and get breast cancer and you have to get your tits chopped off and your hair grows back grey after chemo. But that experience reminds you of how blessed you are in terms of the loved ones in your life. Sometimes the best musicians die (while Nickelback continues to perform), but then epic Prince dance parties happen all over the world.

I leave you with one of my favorite poems. It is from Edgar Lee Masters’ 1915 Spoon River Anthology, a collection of poems told from the perspective of fictional characters buried in the town’s cemetery.

“Lucinda Matlock”

I went to the dances at Chandlerville,
And played snap-out at Winchester.
One time we changed partners,
Driving home in the moonlight of middle June,
And then I found Davis.
We were married and lived together for seventy years,
Enjoying, working, raising the twelve children,
Eight of whom we lost
Ere I had reached the age of sixty.
I spun, I wove, I kept the house, I nursed the sick,
I made the garden, and for holiday
Rambled over the fields where sang the larks,
And by Spoon River gathering many a shell,
And many a flower and medicinal weed —
Shouting to the wooded hills, singing to the green valleys.
At ninety-six I had lived enough, that is all,
And passed to a sweet repose.
What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,
Anger, discontent and drooping hopes?
Degenerate sons and daughters,
Life is too strong for you —
It takes life to love Life.

 

It takes life to love Life. ♥

*Potential band names: “Old Hippie Dog Days” (would be a jam band) or “Little Johnny Dickhole” (punk)

A Glamorous Trifecta

Here’s me just chillin’ at my grandparents’ house:

How lucky am I to be 36 and able to spend spring break with my grandparents? (or to have a spring break?) I am not, however, lucky to look like this hairless wombat. My grandpa told me that if he saw me out in public, he probably wouldn’t recognize me. It’s amazing how much a lack of brows and lashes affects your appearance. My right brow has two hairs, but the left side still has a decent amount (about a quarter of its usual quantity). There are a few lashes on each side. Plus, my T zone and the skin over my eyes is so dry that it constantly flakes (even with frequent applications of heavy duty moisturizer), and this also alters my overall look. (My three year old niece asked me, “Why do you have dots on your face?” in reference to the dusting of white flesh flakes that cover the central portion of my visage). My hair is coming back in soft little tufts, but this creates an unkempt, patchy look. A smooth, bald head looks better. Another chemo struggle that has reached its apex is my fingernails. Throughout my Taxol treatments, my nails have gradually thinned and yellowed, and now they are infected. A few days ago, I noticed the middle fingernail on my right hand STUNK. I’ve been feeling especially poisoned this last week, and the smell of decaying flesh coming from my own middle digit seemed a slap in the face. Mom and I went to an urgent care, and the nurse gave me some antibiotics. If those don’t work, she said, then we’ll know it’s a fungal infection. (90’s kids–>) Remember that scene in the movie The Witches when they all take off their wigs and gloves and expose their bald heads and gnarly hands? That’s what I look like:

 

She may have better brows, but my dental situation is much better than what this witch is dealing with. However, my teeth and gums are sensitive right now. My left leg and arm are slightly swollen. My ears itch. My nasal cavity is dry and produces big, bloody boogers. I get hot flashes. Girl, you a mess.

Apart from my medical struggles, I’m enjoying my time in Eighty Four, PA visiting the grandparents. Last night at dinner, Grandpa (a.k.a. PawPaw) asked me if Nicki Minaj had butt implants. This was after he told me that Kim Kardashian’s butt was just TOO big.

Tomorrow we’ll visit Sarris Candy, a place that has captured my imagination since 1983. In one room there is a castle made of chocolate and candy that changes with the seasons, and in another area there is an exhibit of nearly life-sized stuffed animals: a bear, a giraffe, maybe a rhino, sometimes a lion. I’ll have my Holden Caufield-in-the-Natural-History-Museum moment, and then I’ll eat a Candyman’s Dream: chocolate ice cream, hot fudge, and maple walnuts. I luuuuuuurve maple walnuts. Sick, chubby, and hairless: a glamorous trifecta that is my current life status.

 

 

Thank You

I am beyond grateful today. So many people have shown me love and support through kind words, gestures, flowers, and food. The past five and a half months have been made so much easier because of the love and support I’ve received from friends, family, and strangers. I am blessed. I tried to express my gratitude in a video, but this was the outcome:

I’ll stick to the written word for now.

Here I am wrapping up my last round of chemo…and ringing that bell!

The Struggle

I maxed out today. My thoughts are scrambled and my limbs are weak. The chemo that is killing my tumor is poisoning my brain and weakening my body, and I can’t keep my straights thought. See what I mean?

I cried at work. Intermittent periods of tears and frustration followed by blank stares. Started in the department lounge. Took it to the bathroom. Moved it to the grade-level principal’s office. Finished at lunch. Got the hell outta work and drove to Chick Fil A for a diet lemonade. Came home and…and…what the hell have I been doing for the past two hours? See what I mean?

I literally can’t even.

And it has taken me, like, 20 minutes to write this. I’m stuck on the phrase “intermittent periods of tears and frustration followed by blank stares.” Will the reader know that I mean I’m delivering the blank stares, not receiving them? Words are hard right now, and so are thoughts.

I think my current life situation is best-symbolized by my right eyebrow. There are nine hairs just holdin’ on for dear life/just strugglin’ so hard. Things fall apart; the brows cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon my face.

OK, so now it’s been about an hour since I started this post. Praise the lord that this week is short and that next week is spring break AND THAT THIS WEDNESDAY IS MY LAST CHEMO. Just one more round of poison. I think that’s why I’m so emotionally drained today–> because the end is so near. When I was 10 I was on the swim team (I never liked sports), and at one of the meets I had to swim a long distance. I gave up at the very end/just stopped swimming. And cried. In the middle of the pool. I don’t want to do that this time. I want to keep swimming.

30 more hours

1 more chemo

9 eyebrows

Surely some revelation is at hand.