12 days and counting

Friday, January 30, 2009

It's only 12 days until I get boobs, again. This isn't like the first time I got boobs, when I was about 14 years old (late bloomer), praying to God every night (still a believer back then) to give me boobs--any boobs--so the junior high ridicule would stop (it didn't). I stared at my flat chest in the full-length mirror in the bathroom, rub the small nubs and do some ritualistic chant after my Christian prayer. Eventually, I got boobs, but dammit, for all that anxiety and work and concentration, all I ended up with were barely-B's? Well, beggars can't be choosers, so they say. But this time, I get some choice.

I met with my plastic surgeon a week and a bit ago. She took a look at what I gots, and she said that full B/small C cup would probably be the way to go. For some reason, I felt bashful and didn't pipe up that perhaps I wanted to go up a size or so...I thought, heck, she's the expert, she knows best. So she showed me a saline implant that would be about my size, and I said, "Looks good to me." I don't know why I felt like I didn't have a say in this; it wasn't the way the doc was acting or anything. I think it was just some weird thing of mine. I didn't even talk about what kind of nipples I would like (mental note: remember to tell her I like them pointy when I go in for the surgery).

Anyway, I agonized over this for a good part of the morning after my appointment. I kept thinking, "What's wrong with you, girl? It's now or never...get the big boobies you want, dammit!" So I sheepishly sent the doc this email from my iPhone:

Hello Dr. __:

I was just in to see you this morning concerning my surgery scheduled for February 11th. You had talked about giving me saline implants to make me a full B/small C cup. I was giving this some more thought, and I was wondering if I could get more volume to make me a full/bigger C/small D? I just keep hearing my girlfriends say in my head, "Go for the gusto!" so I thought maybe now's not the time to be bashful, especially since I know very well that you only live once.


A few days later, I got this reply:

No problem. Dr. ___ has ordered you bigger implants.
Ms. Assistant

So I'm like, great, big boobs! But a part of me was a little weirded out that the size of my boobs was just decided over email, just like that. Oh well.

And here's some other weirdness...I thought of how Chloe and Mylo have gotten used to see my nippleless chest, with the big scars and mottled tissue. I think it's kind of cool how that's their normative view of the female body, but I guess I'm just going to go back to being the stereotype in less than two weeks. As much as I enjoy the radical feminist notion that I had a chance to subvert the female body ideal, I pretty much have grown up with that ideal and desire to achieve it if I am able to. That admission makes me kind of sick, but I have to acknowledge that. But I'm still grateful in a way that I exposed my children to my body images issues rather than hid it from them, and that we were able to communicate about it. Chloe still asks me now and then if my boobs feel better or if they still hurt (her words), and we talk about it.

I just read a really good book called Lopsided: How Having Breast Cancer Can Be Really Distracting. I think there's this new trend in cancer memoirs to talk frankly about how one deals with the pain and self-pity rather than giving life advice on how to buck up and accept the journey. I found this book to be humorous and heartbreaking, and it really spoke to my experience.

Another book I'm reading is Lymphedema: A Breast Cancer Patient's Guide to Recovery and Healing. It's useful in its clear explanation of the illness, and gives great advice on self-massage and exercises to help clear out some of the lymph. Even Dude is reading it so he can see how to give me a massage. Fun for the whole family!

So I think I need serious makeover. DH said to me the other morning, "Now that your hair is getting longer, you should do something stylish with it." It's not as mean as it sounds; he was saying, like treat myself to a salon appointment or something. But I don't know. I'm tired. And I guess I'll have to buy new clothes and bras when I get the new tatas. That's exciting!

So FUCK YOU CANCER, Brandy's almost back in town.

Stopped Reading "It's Not About the Bike"

Monday, January 19, 2009

I put down Armstrong's book late last week.

At the moment, I couldn't explain myself, but the reading was very unsettling.

I quit about 100 pages in, not long after the beginning of chapter five "Conversations with Cancer."

Armstrong and I went through the same treatment for testicular cancer: bleomycin, etoposide and cisplatin.

Here's how he (and his ghost writer) describe the drugs that comprised our treatment: "...they were so toxic that the nurses wore radioactive protection when handling them."

Reading that line triggered memories of plastics gloves over soft white flesh as I received slow, ten-minute injections of bleo, memories of the chemical cocktail arriving every session via a large, clear plastic bag. I recall how, to ensure I was receiving the right meds on the right day, nurses would ask my name, type of cancer and date of birth before each round. Nurses new to me were always a little startled at my age.

The nurses kept strict notes. Down to the minute the injections began.

I never asked about the toxicity of my meds, though one surgeon, hoping to convince me to go with a proposed invasive surgery, told me that the long-term side effects of chemotherapy is just now being discovered. Doctors say the darndest things...

It took me about six days to figure why Armstrong's book started to bother me. I realized it was a line I read on page 13.

This line: "...testicular cancer was a rare disease - only about 7,000 cases occur annually in the U.S."

Something about being part of such a small club bothered me, about being stricken with something rare. But I couldn't tell why, at least not for a few days. I always knew the numbers of those with the disease was small.

Then I started to unravel. I've recently acknowledged the severity of what I went through, in no small part through the pushing of my therapist.

The shock wasn't the number. I already knew that. It wasn't that I was part of small circle of people. I knew that too.

What was shocking, for the first time, is that the things that have become normal to me -- the memories, the scars, the mutilation, the tests, the questions, the fear with every pain near my genitalia, constant thoughts about cancer, cancer, cancer-- uh, it shocked me to realize that what has become normal to me isn't so for most other young men.

That my worry about setting up another blood test soon, because it felt like it had been too long, is a worry Matt and Armando don't have. That this wasn't just a rite of passage, like hazing in boy scouts or drinking in college.

That nearly two years later, none of this will go away. ever.

That in fact my experience and my thoughts are exclusive to a small group.

Reading, a year and a half later, that I am part of a minority of young men stricken with this disease...it didn't make any sense. It doesn't.

None what so ever.

It's not a poor me sentiment. Far from it.

Am I making sense?

The only way for me to move forward through this trauma is to rationalize it as "normal." As a survivor, I accepted the situation without questions and moved forward accepting what is, unwilling to look back on what was.

Now I am looking back and am frankly shocked at where I am.

no more beef with Lance Armstrong

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

i have to admit it on this blog: throughout the course of my cancer-survivorship, I stayed away from all things Lance Armstrong.
I wasn't interested in hearing about a super-star athlete and his triumphant journey from the face of death back to his bicycle seat. I openly question the amount of money going to his foundation and count myself as part of the anti-pink people who wonder aloud about the money going to maintain cancer foundations versus actual research.
I could not relate to a man with the resources at Armstrong's disposal when I got sick. I still can't.
Sorry, I didn't meet anyway at the clinic that dated Sheryl Crow.
But my therapist, an avid cyclist, has referred to Armstrong's book, "It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life," quite a few times since our sessions began.
So a few weeks ago, I found myself in the $1 bookstore in downtown Burbank.
I found Armstrong's book on the shelf. Last night, I finished the first section of Bolano's 2666.
This morning I decided to read Armstrong instead of move forward with Bolano. Out of curiosity, I suppose.
I found this passage on page 3:
"I've read that I flew up the hills and mountains of France. But you don't fly up a hill. You struggle slowly and painfully, and maybe, if you work very hard, you get to the top ahead of everybody else.
Cancer is like that, too."
Damn. Damn that's real.
Writing is like that. Playing an instrument is like that. And chemotherapy was very much like that.
I am always surprised by peoples reactions to my treatment and the attitude I took during those two and a half months of chemotherapy.
There was nothing heroic about my actions.
It was what you do to survive. Everyone in the clinic had the same attitude.
In fact, some more so than others.
I'll never forget that old guy with lung cancer. He didn't like to take his chemo. sitting down, so he'd hang his meds on a mobile I.V. stand and wheel around the clinic. A few times he checked on me.
That man is one of my heros. I can relate to him. Not Armstrong.
But that doesn't mean I can't learn from Armstrong's book.


Friday, January 9, 2009

I am not fluent in Spanish but I just understood a part of myself from the word, Chiquitita. I feel so much like a small baby chicken...slowing and blindly moving around...looking for a way to survive. I recently got two more unpopular reports about my chronic health problem -Cancer. More unpopular - because the reports were not good but they were not horrible. I just don't want to accept them. Cheep, cheep, cheep

Feeling like a little chick gives me the opportunity to shut off most of my human emotions and just keep my head to the ground looking for survival seeds. Chickens don't share, don't care, don't laugh and don't cry. The "don't list" is endless. And I can escape from my reality for a while. Sometimes when I get overloaded and overburdened I look for a way to empty my mind...being a chick might be it!

Chiquitita .....the title of a song from "Mam ma Mia". I truly suggest that you buy the DVD movie that offers the option of singing along with the movie or singing after the movie is over. I can tell you it broke through my down trodden manner and cheered me up. Music can do that! Basically what appeals to me is that inside each of us is that small child who still has needs. "Chiquitita, tell me what's wrong." I have always wanted someone to ask me that and now with all the constant medical diagnosis..........I do need to tell someone what is wrong. God bless our new President and his family. amf


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

It came out of my mouth.
I was talking about other survivors.
but I used the word victim.
All at once I was surprised, embarrassed, angry and disappointed.
It came about during my third visit with my therapist (a discussion for another blog entry).
In someways, it didn't come as a surprise. Whenever i feel a pain in my genital area, I sense fear. I am afraid it will be cancer. For a long time, i was afraid to touch my testicle. Afraid i would find something. Doctors warn of the two percent chance that my testicle will develop cancer.
Then there are the warnings of health complications from chemo as i get older. The likelihood that my asthma will get worse because of the bleo. the unknown side effects that accompany the growing legion of young folks who fight cancer.
Then there is the sense of waiting for the five year mark to celebrate passage out of treatment.
And the question of whether or not I will be able to have kids. The question of how the chemicals affected my fertility.
All of this hangs over my head, weighing me down; unconsciously causing me to question if I am healthy.
Silently thinking of myself as damaged goods. and never sharing it with anyone.
During treatment, I never, ever allowed myself to think this way; to worry. I couldn't. I was operating on a survival instinct. Day to day, appointment to appointment. With a clear goal = finishing treatment with my health.
But since then i've experienced these thoughts I once forbid.
It is good to discover this. to get it out. now I must address it.
My therapist said i should learn the difference between victim and survivor.