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:

Image result for hustle

 

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:

img_0902

FRANKEN-NIP!

img_0891.jpg

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

img_0882

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

img_0880

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.

img_0879.jpg

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.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

_________________________________________________________________

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.

_________________________________________________________________

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.

_________________________________________________________________

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.

_________________________________________________________________

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.

_________________________________________________________________

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

_________________________________________________________________

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

_________________________________________________________________

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.

_________________________________________________________________

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.)

_________________________________________________________________

 

This post was random. So is life.

 

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

From Sea to Shining Sea

Let me just start with some declarations:

  • Everyone should visit Alaska.
  • Attaching fake testicles to your car is weird.
  • Dance parties are the best parties. 

Back in December I wrote about The Best Date Ever when my dear friend’s parents took me to see Wicked and then out to eat and then told me they were buying me a trip to Alaska. BEST DATE EVER. I love these people for their generosity and for their genetic contributions to the world. So let me tell you about Alaaaaaaaaaskaaaa. The name itself is so pretty with its sibilant sounds and soft A’s. There are great names in Alaska, like the Athabaskan people who run the Kantishna Roadhouse in the interior of Denali National Park. Mom and I flew into this land of awe-inspiring landscapes and lovely words on June 10, and for the next week, we saw so many gorgeous sites and ate so many scrumptious foods and drank so many tasty beers. We flew into Anchorage at night (or what would have been night time in the Lower 48; Mom and I went six days without seeing darkness), so the next morning we “awoke with the chickens” (as my mama says), and we took the train to Seward, which is on the central, southern coast. We chugga-chugga-chooed-chooed along the coastline and saw moose, Dall sheep and bald eagles. It’s so romantic to stand on the viewing platform and breathe in the sea air and look out at the mountains and glaciers. Our tour guide was a high school student; the Anchorage Public Schools offers an intensive after-school program to juniors and seniors where they learn all about Alaskan history and ecology, etc., and there’s a competitive application process to be hired by the Alaska Railroad to lead these train tours in the summer. I forget our guide’s name, but she was a doll, and one of her projects in this course was to create a binder of Alaskan flora and fauna, and she had it on board, and it was very well-done. Such a cool program, right?

Seward was a tiny town with fantastic restaurants. Giiiiiiiiiiirl the halibut and the King crab legs! We took a boat excursion around Kenai Fjords National Park, and amidst the craggy coastline we saw humpback whales, puffins, sea otters, sea lions, bald eagles, and glaciers. The captain of our ship drove us right up in front of Holgate Glacier. When it calves (meaning when chunks of it fall off into the water), it sounds like thunder, and it litters the sea in front of it with tiny icebergs. Glaciers have a bluish tint; they look like someone took blue raspberry snowcone syrup and drizzled it over the top of them (this is because the ice can’t absorb the short, high energy blue wavelength). From Seward we took the bus north to the tiny, funky town of Talkeetna. It’s teeny but full of character. A lot of hip 20-somethings work in the restaurants and spend their free time playing in the mountains and rivers. While there, Mom and I ate at Twister Creek Restaurant at the Denali Brewing Company. So charming. We took a scenic flight and enjoyed an aerial view of the snow-covered peaks, and then we LANDED ON A GLACIER. The experience was [insert all the good adjectives]. The pilot was super hot, too. Before we boarded the 8-person prop plane, Hot Pilot asked, “Who wants to be my co-pilot?” ::my hand shoots up:: I always fall in love with my tour guides. I even fell in love with the older gentleman who drove us through Denali National Park. He was a character. A very smart, witty, well-read man who left Chicago in the early 90s to work in the tourism industry in Alaska. You could tell he loved his job, sharing stories about Alaskan history and providing information about the park. What’s great about Denali is that, unlike places like Yosemite and Yellowstone, car access is restricted. If you want to see the park, you have to take a bus, so there’s no congestion. You get a sense of being out in the wild. We saw moose, caribou, bald eagles, and GRIZZLY BEARS–two of them, but from a distance. On the last day, we went rafting (on mild rapids), and of course I thought the tour guide was just precious. He was 21, from Montana, and was having the time of his life. With great jubilance he described his summers working in Alaska: fishing, hiking, looking for geodes. We passed a hut on the river bank, and he called out in some masculine sound to alert the men within it that he was passing by (he and his buddies had created a sauna using tarp and timber). Hell of a life, right? On the train back to Anchorage we sat next to a woman who had undergone a mastectomy about a year ago, and we talked about nipple reconstruction. She recommended that I forgo getting nipples made and attached and then tattooed because it’s not uncommon for them to fall off. Instead, she suggested I just pursue a 3-D nipple tattoo. She will be travelling to Baltimore to visit the tattoo parlor of the one-and-only Vinnie Myers, the preeminent 3-D nipple tattoo artist in the country, and she got my e-mail address so that she can send me a picture of the final product. I’ll let ya know how they look. I told my plastic surgeon about this, and he said if I want to do this, then that’s OK, but he’s very good at making and tattooing nipples, and he’ll even suck some fat out of my belly during the process (sold!). Anyway, Alaska is beautiful and you should go.  

I came home for a few days but then returned to the airport to head east to The Empire State. My lovely friend April graciously gifted me a ticket so that I could come and spend some time with her and her man and baby girl at their place on Long Island. They live on the North Fork, a quaint community of mom-and-pop establishments and coastal wineries. The day I arrived, April had to work, so George and lil Miss Charlie drove me around parts of the Hamptons so that I could see how the 1% live. I was expecting to encounter all Snooty McSnootersons, but the one person we interacted with was a guy in a jeep whom George had to ask for directions. We ended up following him out of the parking lot, and this man had a fake scrotum hanging from his bumper. In the Hamptons. I loved it. But I had so many questions for him. Seriously, I would have loved to have sat down with Man Who Hangs Ball Sack from Jeep and asked:

  1. What compelled you to hang fake balls from your car? What were you trying to achieve by doing so? Were you trying to make a statement? If so, what? 
  2. Where did you get these fake balls?  
  3. Do you have a wife/girlfriend and/or children who ride in this car with you? If so, what do they say about the artificial ball sack hanging from your bumper?
  4. Has this plastic scrotum gotten you into trouble before?
  5. Wouldn’t you agree that balls are very sensitive whereas female genitalia is made to withstand much, much more trauma, so if you wanted to demonstrate your toughness it would make much more sense to hang a vagina from your car?

Anyway, there are lots of ridiculously grandiose houses in the Hamptons. April and I took the Hamptons Jitney bus into the city on Thursday, and she knew a vendor who sold delicious, cheap breakfast sandwiches near the bus stop. We had coffee with a former love-uh of mine who now works on Wall Street, and then we took the ferry to Ellis Island. When I was in elementary school, I loved this book of photos documenting children who had come through Ellis Island, and ever since then I’ve wanted to see this symbol of freedom (or doom, depending on your health and sanity). We had limited time there since we had to get back to make the bus, but seeing the Statue of Liberty, watching the short film about the immigrant experience, catching some of the ranger’s guided tour, and seeing the vast Manhattan skyline made for an exciting and educational jaunt into the New York Harbor. The rest of the trip included chillin’ on the North Fork and enjoying the ocean breeze (and eating delicious New York pizza and bagels). April, Georgie, and Char Char: thank you for your hospitality! XOXO

More exciting things: I am planning The Breast Dance Party Ever which is goin’ down on Feb. 17 at Lumen. It is going to be a fundraiser for Gateway to Hope, which is a Saint Louis organization that provides financial assistance for breast cancer patients. One of the founders works with my plastic surgeon, and he started the organization after his patient died of breast cancer because she didn’t have health insurance. I wanted to have a party to celebrate being done with all of my cancer-related nonsense, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to raise money for those in The Struggle. I cannot imagine not only having to endure cancer treatments, but not being able to pay my bills because of cancer. I mentioned this in an earlier post, but between October and April, I spent $8500 out-of-pocket on cancer, and I have good insurance. Because I was able to live expense-free with my folks, I didn’t have to worry about making ends meet, but what if I hadn’t had family nearby? or what if that family couldn’t afford to host me during my sickness? What if I had had children to support or was the main breadwinner of my family? I would have been screwed, that’s what, and that’s why Gateway to Hope exists. Last year they were able to help 227 women, and at this point in 2016, they’ve already helped 180 women. This dance party will be epic. It will be serious. It will be a serious dance party, and I can’t wait to have you all there. Many surprises are in store.

One more thing: I get my implants on July 22! I had my final expansion last week, and although you typically wait three months before installing the implants, Dr. Maclin said it was OK to do it before the school year started. On my way out of the office, when it was time to set the date for surgery, I started complaining about having to take off two weeks in September (I don’t want to run out of sick days), so Big Mac said it would be fine to do it before I went back to work. I get to end the summer with more drain bags: yaaaaaaaaaay! (no) But that’s OK, I wanna get that silicone in me and move on with my life…

…because life is gooooooooooooooooood, and it makes me want to jump for joy!

Band Names: Sibilant Sounds, Hot Pilot, Artificial Scrotum 

 

Ten Years Gone

Ten years ago on this day, I arrived in San Diego to begin a new chapter in my life. I didn’t necessarily see it as a start to a new life; it was just a new adventure. When I left my parents’ house Memorial Day weekend 2006, my mom told me, “I hope you find what you’re looking for.” I didn’t. I still haven’t. But I know I’m getting closer to it.

Here’s 26 year old me: I’m going to write her a letter.

jenny in sedona

Dear 26 year old Jenny,

I know you’re enjoying your trip out West, seeing a new and exotic landscape, so different from the green, deciduous forests of your home in Missouri. There you are in Sedona taking in all of the glory of the red rocks and the dry heat. You’ll soon see that most majestic hole in the ground, the Grand Canyon (or maybe you already have? the memory of this trip is all bunched into one amorphous, earth tone blob, like a melted Georgia O’Keefe painting). You left home because you wanted a big adventure; you wanted to not only see new sights, but to live among them. You are definitely going to get your adventure.

About a month after your arrival in sunny So Cal, an attractive, soft-spoken, Lebanese math teacher who works next door to you during summer school is going to ask you out on a date. You’re going to go to Oggi’s and drink too much beer. You’re going to talk about your favorite t.v. show, Arrested Development, and that’s his favorite show, too. You’re going to ask him about his favorite line, and he’s going to repeat Buster’s infamous words about Lucillle: “like anyone would want to R her,” and then you’re going to think you’re in love. This man will swoop you off of your feet, tell you he loves you, ask you to meet his family, and you’re going to meet his family and fall in love with them. His mother will make the most delicious kibbe and tabouli and all sorts of fresh and delicious Middle Eastern foods. His family members will party with vigor and laugh robustly. They’ll make you feel at home when your family is 1800 miles away. Soon after meeting, you’ll take his sister’s RV to Pismo Beach, and on the way home, you’ll call Mom and Dad and tell them you and this man are thinking about getting married one day.

You’ll move in with this man right away. Six months later, he’ll take you to a cabin in the Laguna Mountains, and on the first night, he’ll drive you to the top of Mount Laguna and show you the Milky Way and the Little Dipper, and you’ll actually see them. You won’t have to pretend to see them. And you’ll see a shooting star, and this man will propose to you, and you’ll say yes. And you’ll enjoy the excitement of engagement, and you’ll buy a house with this man, and you’ll establish a life in the pleasant community of Poway, CA.

However, as your wedding date gets closer, you’ll start to have some doubts about the impending nuptials. You’ll contemplate calling it off, but you’ll rationalize your decision to commit to ‘I do’ by envisioning this man’s good qualities bullet-pointed on a piece of paper. During the wedding ceremony, your father-in-law will show up late, dressed in dirty clothes, and walk down the aisle during your vows. Your guests will think he is a groundskeeper. He will sit next to your parents since he doesn’t like his wife.

Your husband will seem a bit distant during the reception and wedding night, and this will worsen on your honeymoon as you drive up the California coast. You won’t have sex, and conversation will be limited. When it’s time to leave San Francisco, you guys won’t feel like coming back home, so you’ll head east to Reno to stay with your sister-in-law. You’ll see fliers for the Mustang Ranch Brothel, and you’ll want to go, not to engage in any salacious activity, but because how often does one have the opportunity to visit a legal brothel in the middle of the desert? Your husband will become a bit nervous before you go inside, and you’ll tell him to stop acting like a little girl, and he will get really pissed. A woman (who was probably born with a Y chromosome) with a cold sore will lead your group tour of the facilities, and you’ll think, ‘What the hell do the other broads look like if a tranny with herpes is leading the tour?’ Later, back in Reno, after dinner, your husband will be drunk and passively angry, and he’ll volunteer to go to Walmart to buy you both some underwear since neither of you feel like doing laundry. He’ll be gone for a long time, and when he returns, he’ll bring back a package of floral print cotton Hanes, the ones that come a solid inch above the belly button and cover well beyond the butt cheek. And you’ll know you’ve made a mistake.

On your drive home, you’ll take the 390, which runs between the Sierra Nevadas and the White Mountains, and in the White Mountains you’ll take a detour to see the Bristlecone Pines, which are the oldest trees in the world. Although it’s not marked, THE oldest tree in the world, the Methuselah Tree, will be in this forest, and as you look around, you’ll think, “MY GOD, that could be the oldest tree in the world, and MY GOD, what have I gotten myself into?” You’ll decide to give the marriage a year.

During that year, you’ll become more convinced of your mistake in getting married. Highlights of that year will include getting pumpkin pies from Von’s on Saturday nights, splitting them in two, and each eating half. You’ll gain weight and be put on blood pressure medication. Like every year in the beautiful shit-show that is California, you’ll get a pink slip stating that your job is in jeopardy. However, unlike the past two years, the school will actually lose 10% or more of its staff because the district will have to cut millions from its budget. You’ll be fortunate enough to get another teaching position. However, the job transition will happen right when you’ve decided that the past 12 months have proven that you made a mistake in getting married, and you need to rip off the Band-Aid and get divorced. You’ll find an apartment, and start your new job. You won’t like the curriculum at the new school, you’ll feel professionally unsatisfied, and you’ll get a bad review at work. You’ve never received a bad review in your life. You’ll come home to your bland, stale apartment, lie on the floor, and sob big, sad tears that’ll dampen the dirty brown carpet, and you’ll cry so hard and so long that your head will ache and your eyes will swell and you’ll think, “What have I done? Where am I? I need to go home.”

You’ll have to take off days from work to attend the How To Get Divorced in California For Free workshops at the East County Courthouse. You’ll be joined by many living on the fringes of society, including a handful of folks from a nearby halfway house dealing with overcoming their meth addiction and/or trying to divorce a person they haven’t seen in years because they just wanted to get married to gain citizenship. There will be pounds of paperwork to sign, and it’ll be returned twice in the mail since you will have forgotten to initial page 800 column B, row A. Then, one day you’ll get a letter in the mail stating that you’re divorced, and it’ll be such a strange experience. Here’s this paper. Now it’s over. It’ll be the end of the school year, as well as your California adventure. You’ll soon be headed home.

At some point, you’ll decide to date again, and you’ll try the online thing. You’ll experience rejection for the first time. It’ll sting. You’re going to continue to make poor relationship choices. You’re going to make out with a very attractive Colombian neurologist who comes out of the bathroom at Brennan’s and starts kissing you at the bar. You’ve met him before, so you trust him to drive you home, but you don’t realize how drunk he is until he starts driving through red lights. Then, once you get close to your place, he’s going to actually stop at the light, but once it turns green, he won’t press on the gas. Why? Because he fell asleep at the wheel. You’re going to wake him up and tell him to pull into the Arby’s parking lot near your apartment. You’re going to tell him, “Look, you have to stay right here in this parking lot. Sleep here in your car.” Then, you’ll walk home, and the next morning you’ll message this doctor-of-the-brain and make sure he made it home alive. A bit later, he’ll message you back, so happy that you know his name because he doesn’t remember yours, and he’ll ask if you know where he left his car. You’ll respond with, “At Arby’s?” and he’ll write back, “What Arby’s?” and then you’ll walk down the street to Arby’s to see if his car is there, but it’s not, and you’ll relay this information to the man with the medical degree who doesn’t know where he left his car. The next morning this man will contact you again, letting you know that he found a note in the pocket of his jeans. He had, “Memento style,” written himself a reminder that he’d left his car at the Quick Trip at Gravois and Chippewa because he’d stopped there to call a cab, recognizing he was too drunk to drive himself home. Shortly after this event, he’ll leave for a fellowship at Stanford. Because he’s smart. And you’ll have to remember that you gave up the security of marriage for a life much more complicated…and exciting.

And then you’ll rack up credit card debt travelling the world and seeing all of its wonders and eventually move back in with your folks AGAIN so that you can eliminate your debt and attempt to begin a life of fiscal responsibility. Then, you’ll get cancer and that’ll be shitty, although not all the time, and you’ll get your tits chopped off and get new ones made, and you’ll be sitting in your dad’s office chair in the basement of your folks’ house, tipsy on Prosecco, crying while you reflect on the past ten years, wondering why the hell you share this information with the world, and thinking,

GOD DAMN IT. I LOVE ME. I LOVE MY MISTAKES. WHAT ELSE YOU GOT, UNIVERSE? IMMA HANDLE IT.

 

 

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

 

Hormones

Uncle George Update–>He’s keeping his leg! He’ll require surgeries and rehab, but he will be OK. Thank you for your prayers.

Jenny Update–> All the hair is coming back! Lashes, brows, head hair (even though my noggin is mainly white/grey). However, all the hair is coming back. I had to shave my legs last Friday, and I shaved my pits today. If I wanted to wear a bathing suit right now, there would have to be extra mid-section maintenance. Shaving hasn’t been part of my personal hygiene routine since November, but once those 6-7 weeks after my last chemo passed, and the last of the toxins left my system, my body said (in hyperactive speed), “What? I can produce hair now? OMG! I’ll grow leg hair, and then I’ll give you some pubes, and then I’ll get the hair to grow back in your armpits, and I’ll get that fine fuzz growing all over ya! And then…” And I want to tell my brain, “Shhhh, juuuust chill. Take a deep breath.” My natural blood pressure is high; without medication, my blood sugar levels are capricious; I sprout hair like weeds, so when I personify my brain, it is hyperactive, eager, and driven, although easily distracted. Therefore, although its intentions are good,  it becomes over-heated and misguided. My body is starting to resume its normal level of (medically regulated) chaos.

I went to see my oncologist last week (she’s so warm and genuine that I actually get a little excited to go to the hospital and see her). She was so pleased with my response to all of my treatments (chemo and surgery) that, although it’s standard protocol to keep a cancer patient’s port in for at least a year after chemo ends, she told me I could have mine removed. Therefore, it’s scheduled to come out next week (on Friday the 13th). It’s a quick procedure done under light sedation, but a heavy reminder of what I’ve been able to put behind me. Dr. K and I then discussed the next step in my treatment process: Tamoxifen. I’ll take this pill for 10 years, and its purpose is to suppress my body’s production of estrogen since I have a hormone-fed tumor. My tumor craves estrogen like I crave french fries. Unfortunately, while I take Tamoxifen, I really need to stay away from french fries. Dr. K said that the two most common side effects of T-fen are weight gain and hot flashes. I’m basically going to turn into this. She said that taking the pill doesn’t automatically cause you to gain weight, you just have to be more health-conscious. Problem is, I’m an eater. Part of my identity is my appetite; if you ask anybody with whom I’ve ever worked or socialized, he or she would say, “Oh yeah, Jenny. Funny girl. Likes to eat. Dates weird dudes.” But I need to chill out on the food. Seriously. Part of what it takes to prevent a recurrence is to maintain a healthy weight and nourish your body with nutrient-rich foods. Plus, I’m hypertensive and insulin-resistant; the effects of these health issues can be lessened through diet and exercise. I know what I need to do to lose weight and be healthier. I’m not one of those people who eats a pack of Skittles and drinks a diet Coke for breakfast and thinks, “It’s cool; I’m living a fat-free lifestyle.” I’ve always said that I don’t need a diet plan; I need hypnosis. I could earn a Ph.D. in nutrition, but you put a cupcake right in front of me, and within 60 seconds my stomach acids will be attacking it (while I lick the wrapper). Probably once a week for the past ten years I’ve told myself, “OK, let’s get healthy. You can do it,” and I’m so motivated to do it, and then that feeling passes with the whiff of a baked good. I’m pretty sure that at some point in my life I said, “The only thing that could motivate me to lose weight is if I was faced with a serious illness and I had to eat better in order to get better.” Turns out I was wrong (I ate like a horse during my Taxol treatments). BUT, now that I have started T-fen, I really, really need to embrace a healthy lifestyle, and I’ve behaved myself (nutritionally, at least) since I saw Dr. K. on April 27.

Dr. K recommended that I stay away from looking at all of the potential side-effects of T-fen because it may cause unmerited anxiety. I’ve heard people refer to it as “Tamoxifuck,” so if you know people who have had unpleasant experiences with this drug, please don’t tell me about it. I compare it to taking Accutane. I took this wonder-drug in 9th grade and never had acne again, but I know it had serious side effects for some people. All it did to harm me was cause dry skin. There is also the question of whether or not I’ll ever have a period again. All of this sprouting-hair-and-wondering-when-I’ll-get-my-period is so middle school-esque (sans the feelings of angst and misery associated with this awful stage in one’s life). I started my period in 6th grade. I was 11, but for some reason I didn’t think it was appropriate to get your period at 11 (and this is not due to a lack of education on menstruation or puberty in general; I just had my own opinions on the subject); I thought I was too young, so I figured I’d wait until I was 12 to tell my mom. I’ve never had regular periods in my life, so I didn’t have another one until four months later at the end of the school year. 6th graders went to Camp Wyman in late May, and I was just miserable there. On the last day of camp, a particularly rough day of thinking that everyone hated me and that life was terrible, I came home, sat down on the pot, looked at my underwear, and saw blood (much more than what had shed the first time). It’s one of the most memorable visions in my head. I was wearing a shirt from Benetton–black with a neon design–denim cut-offs, and blue Keds. I remember looking at that blood and thinking, “Wow, that explains so much.” I knew I had to tell my mom. Later that evening, when my parents were watching television in the den, I told my mom, “Mom, when you hear me blow on my recorder (that broke-ass plastic version of a flute that everyone gets in 5th grade), come into my room.” Being that I was a strange, hormonal nightmare during the 91-92 school year, I’m sure such an odd statement didn’t phase my mom. I went into my room, took some deep breaths, and then blew on the recorder. She didn’t come in. Once more, I blew on the recorder, but again, she was a no-show. Therefore, I Napoleon Dynamite-sighed, and, frustrated, walked down the hall AGAIN to the den. “MOM, I told you that when I blow on the recorder, I NEED you to come to my room.” She hadn’t heard the signal, and I think at that point she just walked back to my room with me, and I told her. I don’t remember her specific reaction, but I went to bed right after that, and just a few minutes later, my dad came to the doorway of my bedroom. “Hey, Jen,” he said, but I didn’t respond, feigning sleep. I was too embarrassed, and I’m sure he realized that, so he just spoke from the doorway, something to the effect of: “I just want you to know that I’m so proud of you and the woman you’ve become, and I love you.” And every time I think of this story, it makes me cry happy tears reflecting on how much I love my dad. And then more tears when I think of how he wore his pink breast cancer awareness bracelet every day after my mastectomy.

Hormones, man. Hormones. Powerful stuff.

–>Digression (but slightly connected to the middle school phase of my life). I binge-watched Silicon Valley this past week and literally LOL’ed by myself multiple times during each episode. In order to deal with the empty feeling that comes with the end of a show-binge, I usually stalk the actors’ and writers’ bios and look for interviews on YouTube. I have always been a fan of Mike Judge (writer of Silicon Valley, but also Office SpaceKing of the Hill, Beavis and Butthead, etc.) (Did you know that he has a degree in Physics?), but when I went online this evening and actually watched him give interviews and do all of his voices, I developed a hardcore, middle school-type crush on him. You have to watch this clip of him on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Wait until the end (Zach Galifinakis is on, too, and his reaction is great). I. Am. In. Love.

Band Name: Heavy Menstrual (all-female metal band)

Their Hit Song: “You Know Too Much About Me”