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”

 

 

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)

Titties 2.0 (but more like 1.5)

The past 10 days have flown by. I haven’t felt high, but considering the fact that the majority of the past 240 hours have been a blur (and the fact that a friend posted a flower on my Facebook wall and I responded to it with an emoji of a cat on a scooter) lets me know that my vicodin/valium duo has had a greater effect on me than I realized.

Surgery went well and a bit longer than expected (they rolled me away to the surgery room at about 1, and I was ready for visitors at about 8). My friend Jes is an anesthesiologist at Barnes, so she had contacted her people at Missouri Baptist to let them know when I would be there, so it was nice to have that connection to the people who would lead me into unconsciousness. I don’t remember feeling pain when I woke up, but one of my drip bags had leaked, so I was a little wet. Of course, my entourage (aunts, uncles, Mom and Dad) came into my room as soon as I had been moved from the stretcher to the bed. They only stayed for a bit, but of course Mom stayed the night. Dr. Maclin had told her many times to go home and get some rest and come back in the morning, but Dr. Maclin clearly does not know my mother. If she had been given a stern directive to leave, she would have just nodded and then snuck into the bathroom across the hallway and stayed there all night, stealthily creeping into my room when the coast was clear.

Things I enjoyed about my overnight hospital stay:

  • tasty orange jello
  • delicious scrambled eggs
  • fairly flavorful cod
  • having a catheter (my blood pressure med is a diuretic, so I’m used to peeing approximately a thousand times a night)
  • pushing a button to make pain meds course through my veins (although it never fully dulled the pain)

Things I have not enjoyed about having my boobs chopped off:

  • THESE. DAMN. DRAINS. It’s like having four ball sacks that fill up with boob juice (Boob Juice* would actually be an appropriate name for a paint color if you wanted to create a tropical-themed room. It’s the color of diluted Hawaiian punch). The right drain under my armpit (so not the ball sack part, but the actual drain tube sewn into my skin) often hurts like hell. I don’t know if it’s right by a nerve, or what, but it is NOT pleasant. One of the drains on the left side leaks at night, so there’s always a little wetness to greet me in the morning. Last Thursday was the day that the right drain hurt the worst, and I was dropping occasional “f-bombs.” It was also the day of my follow-up appointment with Dr. Maclin, so before we got out of the car, my mom suggested I think of another word to say when I was feeling intense pain (we are a non “f-bomb” family–unless it’s understandably merited–like if you just had your tits chopped off and had tubes coming out of your chest causing you severe discomfort). So, when I got into the patient room and they tried to lay me back on the table, it hurt like hell, and I yelled, “Fuck!” and I apologized to the nurse and told her that my mom didn’t want me to say that word. ::I really do strive to be a good girl:: That right drain has hurt a lot less since they removed my wound vacuum during that follow-up visit. When it was on, I had to wear this bullet proof-type vest, and it irritated the drain site. I also had to wear this Geiger counter-like contraption that powered the wound vac, so it was nice to lose some of the excessive flair around my neck.
  • Having loved ones wash my ass. I don’t think I need to elaborate on this.

Now let me tell you about my new boobs. Of course, they are under construction, and at this point I would say they’re about a B cup. AND THEY’RE HARD and a bit lumpy. I don’t even know what to compare the hardness to, but if you see me, I won’t be offended if you ask to touch them. They are filled with saline (which you would  think would be soft) and Alloderm (cadaver tissue). There is adhesive over the incision (where the nipple was), so it will be interesting to see what they will look like once the adhesive is removed (hard Frankentitties? I don’t know). During the follow-up appointment, Dr. Maclin  commented on the fact that I had a lot of breast tissue removed (’cause you know I rocked them DD’s), and they currently don’t make an implant big enough to expand to that size. Clearly I misunderstood something about that situation because there are porn stars with Triple J’s walking around, but I had taken two valium before I went in, so that could explain my confusion. However, I asked my mom about this later, and she didn’t understand this either. I’ll be back to see Mac on Tuesday, so I’ll have him elaborate then. I also get one set of drains removed on that day (hallelujah!).

And more good news (que drum roll) my pathology report finally came back this past Friday, and the margins in my left breast (where my tumor was) look great, AND in the right breast, there were (insert science words) that would have eventually become malignant, SO PRAISE BE that I opted to get a bilateral mastectomy.

My parents went out of town last night since my youngest sister is going to have a baby any minute now, so my middle sister stayed over last night. Jessi, I never imagined saying this to you, but thank you for draining my excess boob fluid and washing my ass. To honor you, here’s one of our favorite movie scenes:

 

*I think Boob Juice would be the band name resulting from this post (maybe Boob Jooce?)

Mastectomy Eve

Last time we talked I was visiting my grandparents in Pennsylvania. The trip ended with me going to the ER to make sure the swelling in my leg was not the result of a blood clot, and after an ultrasound and a $225 copay, it was determined that my swelling was just a result of chemo/cancer/being a mess. Since then I’ve begun to feel much better. My energy level is better; my skin looks better. It’s obvious that the (necessary) toxins* are leaving my system.

Last Tuesday I met with the surgeons (breast and plastic). When I was leaving the plastic surgeon’s office, he told me that my twin was coming in after me. “My twin?” I asked. She is another 36 year old breast cancer patient about a month ahead of me in the reconstruction process, and we even look alike. However, as Dr. Maclin phrased it, I am “fluffier” than her. (Really, Dr. Maclin? Was that a necessary detail?) With my permission, he gave my number to my “twin,” and we spoke on the phone last week. She couldn’t be any nicer. In fact, she texted me this evening to wish me good luck with my surgery tomorrow and to tell me that she’d be checking in on me in the next few weeks.

After meeting with Dr. Maclin, I went to see Dr. Oruwari, the breast surgeon. I asked her to clarify exactly what’s going to happen during the surgery, and I still don’t totally get it, but here’s how I would paraphrase it if I was pretending to be the doctor:

“I’m gonna cut out a football-shaped area around your nipple and then scoop out the boob meat. Then, the plastic surgeon is gonna take some cadaver tissue and some saline thingies and stuff your remaining boob skin. Then, we’re going to sew you up, and when you wake up five hours later you’ll be about half the size you are now. We’ll attach four drain bags–two on each side–to allow for the draining of excess boob juice. You’ll also have a wound vacuum to aid in the healing process since you’re post-chemo, and this wound vac will be powered by a Walkman-looking thingy that will make a constant white noise.”

I tried to watch a YouTube video of a mastectomy and reconstruction, but I couldn’t stomach it.

Another thing while visiting with the surgeons: They both encouraged me to take as much time off from work as possible. Originally, I was just going to take off a little over two weeks, but they suggested I take off more than that to allow for maximum healing. Dr. Oruwari filled in “April 7-May 23” on my Family Medical Leave paperwork. Then (forget what the surgeons said!) my mom suggested I take off the rest of the school year, and if Mama says it, I take it to heart. She was the one who suggested I consider a mastectomy, and I know it’s the right thing to do. I value her input more than anyone’s, and I know her suggestions are sound and logical. Therefore, yesterday was my last day of school for the semester. So many thoughtful students wished me well and brought me gifts; my department arranged a luncheon for  me. Many staff members throughout the building wore pink. I felt very loved.

Tomorrow I lose my breasts, and I will miss them, but I am OK with them leaving. I met them about 26 years ago, and I didn’t like them at first. When I was about 10 or 11, I performed in a tap dance recital, and I had to wear this tight top, and my little breast buds stuck out, and when I danced, they’d jiggle a little, and I felt so ashamed of having them. I remember watching the video of that performance a few years later, and I was embarrassed at the sight of a younger me walking out on stage with my arms awkwardly crossed to hide (what Bridget Everett calls) my little nippy titties. I didn’t actually wear a bra until 6th grade, and I remember wearing it to school and thinking throughout the day, “How the hell do women deal with this cotton nightmare on a daily basis? I can’t wait to get this damn thing off of me.” I grew to tolerate a bra and to appreciate my breasts. One of the d-bags I dated once told me (in his mind it was a compliment), “A girl your size usually has saggy breasts.” ::He also told me that if I exercised a little bit (he suggested Zumba) that I could become a model:: But I digress…After the reconstruction process, I really look forward to A). having permanently perky tits, and B). not having to wear a bra.

Another funny thing: A few days ago I was Facebook-stalking my plastic surgeon, and I came upon these pics of him:

At first I was all, “Oh hell no, Maclin! I know you’re not trying to operate on me with some broken hands and a concussed brain!” The funny (disturbing?) thing was, when I saw Dr. Maclin just a few days before discovering these photos, he had taken a tissue to his ear because some fluid had come out of it (I didn’t see any fluid; he just apparently felt the need to explain to me why he was taking a tissue to his ear. He also said that he’d hoped it wasn’t the result of brain trauma). At the time I just thought that he was trying to be funny, but when I saw those photos, I thought, “Shit! A brain damaged man is going to be operating on me, and I’m going to wind up with Frankentitties!” I texted the pics to my “twin,” and she was going to be seeing Dr. Maclin the next day; therefore, she’d be able to report back on whether or not he had any bruises, cuts, or concussion symptoms. Turns out the pics were just an April Fool’s joke. That Dr. Maclin! but those are the kinds of people I like: a whole lotta funny, a little bitta crazy.

I thought I’d be more emotional on the eve of my mastectomy. At this point, I just want to get it over with. Let’s chop ’em off. Let’s start the process of creating new ones. In my immediate family, we have a rally song: AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.” It gets us pumped up, and so I just want to crank this tune, put on my metal face, and head into that operating room. Give me that sedative, doc! And let’s getter done!

CRANK IT UP, YA’LL!

 

*Whenever I write I always think of band names. Wouldn’t “Necessary Toxins” be a good band name?

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!