Sunday, January 8, 2012

Introducing: my bod, my temple

I did it, yo! I carved out a new blog and I think I just peed a little from happiness and a great big ending.

It's all about starving the c-dawg with writing and good food and I hope you'll join me in saying goodbye to wiifm cancer and hello to:

my bod, my temple

I'll share tons of shizz with you there as I keep on give'n er and promise to give you the biz on all things cancer arse-kicking related.

Will you join me?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Don't call us, we'll call you

I had a shiny moment with my onc this week. Dr. A felt me up one last time, told me she was going on sabbatical in February for six months (did I break her?) and then said, "We'll call you in 2016."

I think I peed a little from my schoolgirl excitement and then I stood up, thanked her, shook her hand, thanked her again and hugged the hell out of her. She grinned, I grinned and then we parted for four years.

Before I left, though, I asked her a stoopid question that's been floating around my bean for awhile.

"Does having chemo also kill all the run of the mill cold and flu viruses for awhile? Cuz I have not been sick for over a year."

"No, you're likely just washing your hands more since having chemo."

Part of me thought, fuck you, I'm doing more than washing my paws. The other part thought, holy shit, my onc knows nothing about the lengths I've gone to to transform myself and give cancer the swift kick to the ballz it needed. And she doesn't really care.

I still love her, but it made me realize that I was experiencing another ending and a little beginning.

So I'm working on starting a new blog and will let you all know about the unicorns and narwhals I plan to post about when I get it all sewed up and running.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: I hardly knew ye

I started the year tit-deep in radiation burns, planning a trip to PS, and trying on a month of detox to set my bod up for the double cut. Returning to work felt like a gift (for reals), Hawaii with my entire family still something I squeeze with delight and miss constantly, and marking a year of daily juicing a victory.

With the new girls in place to round out the last 12 months and eight vials of blood taken last week to test my health and finally turn the knob on genetic testing, I can safely say I'm done with hospitals and needles for awhile.

I'm proud of some shit. I kicked the chemical habit in my house. We all drastically reduced our meat and alcohol consumption and most of us said goodbye to dairy for pretty much forever. No one is a true blue vegan or gluten-free baking goddess. Not even Kris Carr could make me like Aloe Vera juice. But I'm putting some interesting things down my gullet and making progress in some areas.

Nutrition been's complicated. Feeding my girls good things has been complicated. Trying to figure out what level everything should be for me and for Pete has been complicated. I'm almost ready to stop focusing on that for awhile. That is, after I get a little 21-day adventure cleanse out of the way in January.
2012 is about working on my fitness and writing. Everything else takes a backseat. The good habits continue, to be sure, but don't get any more mindshare than they do. I feel like as much as I focused on my bod this year, I didn't really get to push it to its limits. And I need to. And as much as I wrote in 2011, I need to do double time. It's the thing that keeps me sane and present and alone and I love that.

So, off I go to a new year's eve party at the only place I ever truly want to be: with my family. That karaoke machine isn't gonna sing itself, right?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It's the most wonderful time of the year

Yes, malls are tres terrible. The quality of Christmas chocolate is a crime. And jesus, there are women being set on fire in Brooklyn elevators. Life is messy and there's no Freddie Mercury to make us feel a little better about it all.

And yet...

Man, I love December. For the promise of a new year just days away. Starting over. I covet January like nobody's business and nothing can make me feel bad about that.

To the cancer babes, Trish, Freddie and Susan, who will forever share my milestones and continue to be braver and look much better than I ever will. We will all have a bonanza year. Mark my words.

To Sharon, Shirley, Ashlyn, Pam and Carmela, who are knee-deep in cancer shit, I cheerlead you every day. The desperate guilt I feel for getting my respite now is only tempered by the fact that we all know respites can end at a moment's notice.

To my mom, who keeps pushing me forward in the line - you're next, Carissa, go! - I can't ever express what it means to have a person in my life who puts up with my shitty moods, sharp tongue, and impatience to be my agent, my friend and the person I least want to let down.

To my girls. Who are as impatient and foul-tempered as I am and still manage to be pretty sweet, funny and interesting to grow up with. You're both the reason I'm taking guitar lessons and joining a running clinic and juicing every day and trying to live a purposeful life.

To Pete, who grabbed my hand and dragged me outside for walks when I felt like dying. I chose to see myself as you did and managed to avoid the mirror and pictures of myself to keep the illusion alive. You never made me feel sick and you've been unendingly patient with my dark moments, even though they were about my fear of leaving you alone and that must have scared you shitless. Whatever I say can never be enough.

And to the friends and co-workers who surprised me with their caring, the bazillion messages, presents and genuine interest in my cancer bullshit... even the ones who were uneasy with it all. You made it feel less freaky and lonely. Which is really what any of us with the c-dawg are trying to feel every day.

You are all the reason I'm straining against my leash to get this fucking year over with so I can do, say, learn and become oh so many new and sparkly things in 2012. Bon appetit!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Onward and boobward

No, I'll never get tired of the titty puns.

I'm feeling quite chestally perky lately. Maybe it's because I'm a bra owner again. Maybe I'm actually kind of pleased with how les girls look in les sweaters. It all has a way of lulling a girl into thinking this was all an elaborate ruse to begin life again in a new way.

Problem is, despite the high, I still feel like I have a shitload of work to do. Sometimes I feel like I haven't made any lasting changes at all. Like I'm some cancer survivor hack going through the motions but still doing the same garbage I did before.

I read something yesterday that said people have a much easier time relating to a cancer patient than a cancer survivor. To see the obvious sick, the treatments we've all seen movies about, the medical merry-go-round. It's all familiar, even if you can't actually know what it's like to lose your eyelashes or get a gazillion IVs until it happens to you. But understanding what it's like to be in recovery or remission, no matter how temporary, leaves most feeling a bit blank. If I had a buck for every "aren't you glad to be getting back to normal again?!" I'd have gold-plated nipples.

I understand, though. It's like telling someone who's parent died, "well, he/she was old, it was her time" or telling someone with any disease, "My mother/aunt/neighbour/babysitter died from that!" We're all looking for the right words to say in awkward moments. We're all a little alien when it comes to truly relating to each other.

So this survivor thing is interesting. I think about death a lot. Woody Allen a lot. But I also think about the loveliness of life more. I speak my mind more. I'm both less and more patient with everything. But I still get nervous about stupid shit. I still curse slow drivers. I still get ticked when I can't get 10 minutes to read the paper, write a blog, file my nails, or do all those other things women without children can lord over me. I still feel paralyzed in my job sometimes. I still wonder what it's like to nurse baby zebras back to life on a wildlife ranch in Tanzania rather than actually do it. I'm not bucket-listing it all over the place.

And that makes me think I have a shitload more work to do. But 2012 is right around the corner, and although I don't know if I'm going to live through that year (be it cancer or beer truck accident), I do know I'm more than likely to make it to December 31. So I'll make a few more plans and ride this perky wave a little longer.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The adventure of les girls

Installation complete. Click continue.

On Tuesday I scrubbed myself raw with a surgical sponge and donned gown and paper slippers once again to get my boobs cut open once again. Reclining on my hospital bed in the holding pen, listening to the sounds of various razors stopping and starting on hairy chests, abdomens and legs and patients telling their health histories to nurses and then again to surgical staff, I was definitely less nervous than I was in February. I felt pretty proud of the champ I'd been post-op up to that point in my life - nary a bad reaction to anaesthetic big and small. Yep, quick recovery all around for this girl, so let's get this party started.

When young Dr. T showed up in his scrubs, he was even relaxed, joking about all the old blind people getting a peek inside my curtain and then not remembering a bloody thing anyhow because of all the drugs in the place. He whisked his little sharpies around my chest to mark the cut and fold lines and I barely sat back down again before the sides of my bed were lifted and I was told I was next.

Instead of going to holding hallway #2, I was wheeled right past all the other pre-op sheep and got into a traffic jam in the beautiful, light-filled, high-cielinged hallway leading to the operating rooms. It might be a disgusting bloody mess, but I was without glasses by that point, so blind to the details. I think I caught a glimpse of Dr. T sitting at one of the computer kiosks along one wall - likely looking up some last minute techniques on

We got jammed behind another bed and that nurse said to my nurse, "look at your client, all perky and looking around! My client refuses to open her eyes, poor thing." I narrowed my eyes to get a look at the lady, but only saw a grey-haired fuzzy image of a person curled up on her bed. My operating room was at the end and it was beautiful. All gigantic lights and buzzing hospital staff - all completely focused on me. I even had a student. "Do you mind if I observe, Mrs. McCart?" Very civilized, despite the fact that my teeth were chattering by this point.

My anaesthesiologist introduced herself and I was mildly disappointed it wasn't the tiny, efficient man who did me last time. He was good. Completely painless. This one jabbed into my hand and I felt the gush of the fluid as it entered my vein - like a faucet sputtering. The oxygen mask went over my face, but instead of emitting a calming stream of air, it was stagnant, and I was breathing in and out my own CO2. Before I had a chance to protest, I was out.

When I woke up, my heart was racing. I was in the initial "watch her closely" phase, so drifted in and out of consciousness without guilt as I listened to the nurses talk about bad television. When I finally got to my post-op recovery spot, I knew I had to perk up but my heart wouldn't settle down. Every time I reached for my water or turned my head on the pillow, it was like getting a jolt to my chest. And my nurse was concerned. Instead of being able to let me go home in an hour, she stayed with me for the next five hours, once giving me morphine in my arm, once ondansetron (my old chemo dance drug) after I asked for the fish and chip tray once too many times, and then, when I keep drifting in and out of it, administered two bags of liquid food when Dr. T checked in by phone and said I must be dehydrated.

When my heart rate finally slipped below 100 and I had gotten up to pee without losing my saltines, they fairly kicked me out of the joint, in the sweetest way possible. But not before mentioning, in an offhand way, "it says on your chart they gave you epinephrine while you were under... that might account for your elevated heart rate."

Really? You think adrenaline might elevate my fucking heart rate? So did I go too far under? Did my notoriously low blood pressure drop my heart rate too low when they were mid-cut? I'll ask Dr. T when I see him next week. But I'm not impressed. My post-op rep is in tatters.

In the meantime, les girls are here. Don't get all excited. I'm still the son of a nipple-less goat, and these puppies do not look anything close to a beautiful set, but they're slightly less cartoonishly high than what I had before. They're slightly larger and a tad softer, and they're attempting to fold under a little at the bottom, like a normal breast. Dr. T did the best job he could with the left one especially, considering the massively radiated/tight skin and long mastectomy scar, and the right would never pass as normal, even to Mr. Magoo, but it's done.

I may have a moment someday when I weep over the fact that I'll never have normal looking breasts again, but for now, as I come off the T3s, say goodbye to the toilet hugging from my post-op day and the drug haze the couple of days following, I feel another closure. And it is good.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Don't label me, bro

As I move ever closer to the eve of my surgery and my new role as "fake boob girl part deux: the legend of curly's gold", I think about the labels that cancer slaps on a person (sick, dying, diseased, fragile, bald) and how, from the days of shunning the ubiquitous Club Monaco sweatshirts of my junior-high youth, I effing hate labels.

I know it's not very fergilicious of me to not want to tote around a bag that yells Coach!! And some of the wellness babes I look up to would likely think I was a puss for not wearing my "vegans do it better" t-shirt. But I'm pretty okay with that. Even if I decided to never eat another egg or fairy-thin slip of prosciutto again, I would not, could not don the label.

I don't want to be part of any tribe other than the one that lets me read, think, watch, say, eat and do what I want. I'm figuring out this stuff for me and my family, and although I know the community aspect is important, it makes me wary. This is why I love Victoria. Your neighbours will help you out without a moment's hesitation but ultimately, they stay out of yo bidness. Like all the best parts of a small and big city wrapped up in a lovely package.

So yeah, I'm looking for like-mindedness, and people on a similarly questioning path, but I ain't wearing no damn Club Monaco sweatshirt, y'all.