The “little c” chronicles, Part 21: Pop goes the world.

Holy shit, y’all, I don’t even know where to start.

ETA: OMG. Love Tank just texted me to tell me that I accidentally wrote "2023" instead of "2024" in this blog post. I'm letting it stand as proof that THIS YEAR HAS KICKED MY ASS (and perhaps quite a few of my brain cells). You can make the appropriate date edits in your mind . . . unless yours is functioning like mine is.

2023 has been . . . A LOT.

Let me rephrase that: 2023 has been a Grand-Canyon-sized, festering cesspool of bloody, butthole-burning diarrhea.

With maggots.

And chitlins.

As I suppose is evident in the fact that it’s taken me until almost the end of April to tell y’all about it.

The nutshell is this: 2023 started—and remained—so full of craptasm that I vowed to start the whole year over on February 29.

And although it’s lightened up a little, it hasn’t become the mountain of fuzziness and bliss I was hoping for. Yet here I am, feeling stronger and free-er of fucks, and I suppose that’s something to celebrate.

Because this blog is largely (supposed to be) about my cancer diagnosis, I’ll start by saying that I’m fine; I feel good, I have almost enough hair for the kind of half-ass ponytail you see on small toddlers, and the only medication that enters my bloodstream is Tylenol on occasion. As a bonus, I’ve dropped nearly 15 pounds with absolutely zero effort, thanks to the fact that nobody’s pumping me full of steroids. (This has motivated me to put in some effort to start getting back into shape—but so far, that effort has only extended as far as buying myself new HOKAs. But I digress.)

Aside from that, however, things pretty much started descending into the toilet the second week of January.

Buckle up, y’all. This is going to be a long one.

The ER from hell

Having spent nearly a month recovering from the December 12 reconstruction of my boobs, I was all set to return to work on January 10. The previous week, I’d been stricken ALL the way down with a dreadful bug which, despite the intensity with which it kicked my ass, refused to be identified as either the ‘Rona or the flu (I was 547% sure it had to be one of the two, because surely a mere cold wouldn’t be trying to kill me like this shit was . . . yet as miserable as I was in the week following celebration of the new year, COVID tests turned up nothing, and multiple thermometers returned only double-digit results).

Finally, on Sunday night, January 7, my mom called to check on me . . . and when I told her it seemed like I might live after all, she asked if I felt well enough to take her to the emergency room the next day.

When I tell you that set off ALL my alarm bells, I mean all the cathedrals, boxing rings, and middle school bell choirs in the world couldn’t compare to the jangling that suddenly arose from the depths of my psyche.

This is a woman who, several years ago, HAD A STROKE in the middle of hosting her bridge club—but because duty (in the form of coffee, dessert, and a few more bids) called, she kept right on keepin’ on, one hand curled in upon itself and useless, until the party ended—at which point, she allowed one of the ladies to drive her to Urgent Care. (Now. In her defense, she didn’t learn until much later that it had likely been a stroke; she was sent away from the Urgent Care facility with a shrug, as the hand had returned to normal by the time she was examined, and it wasn’t until a year or so later that she mentioned it to her doctor, who identified it as a small stroke. But still. HER HAND STOPPED WORKING and she kept right on refilling water glasses, y’all.)

This is a woman who, a couple of years ago, passed clean out in the middle of making breakfast in her apartment for me and my children; she paused mid-scramble and walked from her stove over to her sofa, complaining of fatigue and saying she needed to sit down for a second—and the next thing we knew, she was out like a light and unresponsive. She came to as I was rushing over to shake her, and insisted she was fine and did not need to see a doctor. A couple of minutes later, I looked over and she was drenched with sweat, soaking the front of her housedress. At that point, I INSISTED on taking her to the ER, and STILL she argued, until I threatened to knock her unconscious AGAIN and drag her there by her feet if she didn’t cooperate. She finally agreed, and spent a night in the hospital for observation, but ultimately the doctors blamed all the drama on new medication she’d been prescribed.

Oh, how I digress, but you get the point, which is that aside from twice-yearly routine visits to her primary care doctor, my mom generally refuses medical intervention. However, her back pain—which had been so bad for the previous month that she’d spent most of our twice-weekly visits lying supine on her sofa (and Christmas Day lying supine on ours)—had reached a point where she was ASKING to go to the ER. So needless to say, I was shook.

Of course I offered to come get her right then and there, but she insisted that she didn’t want to go until morning—and not FIRST thing in the morning, either, but rather, sometime around, say, 10.

I arrived to pick her up at 10 a.m. sharp the next morning and, because the hospital closest to us doesn’t have the BEST reputation, I took her to the hospital where I had gotten most of my cancer treatments, figuring ain’t no party like a Level 1 trauma center to set an old lady right.

As it turned out, everyone else, young and old, had the same idea; the hospital was so full that the old lady ended up sitting (well, LYING) IN A HALLWAY for a day and a half, while they pumped her full of pain killers and occasionally wheeled her away for various tests and scans. The good news was that her bed was at least close to the unit’s restroom, so she didn’t have far to shuffle when she had to go. In addition, we made great friends with the guy occupying the gurney on the other side of the hall (who’d come in the day before we had, because his blood pressure was through the roof), and his girlfriend (who worked at the hospital and stopped in periodically to check on him). Nice people.

Aside from that, though, it pretty much sucked. I slept in a chair at the foot of her bed (although she tried to convince me first to go home and sleep, and then to share the bed with her), and procured a toothbrush and toothpaste from our nurse the next morning, in order to avoid singeing my oncologist’s eyebrows off with my breath at that day’s previously-scheduled check-up appointment (which was right across the street, so I guess there was ONE advantage of choosing the hospital I did).

As it turned out, that wouldn’t be the only time that day I’d see him. Later that afternoon, after I’d returned to the foot of my mom’s hallway bed, I saw him walking down the ER corridor in our direction. “Oh, hey,” I thought. “There’s Dr. Cool-and-Calm.”

And then he coolly, calmly, stopped at my mom’s bed and said, “They sent me to see Nadine.”

Everything in me went cold.

I listened numbly as he told us that the scan results had come back, and shown a mass in her rectum, along with multiple lesions in her bones. She refused a biopsy, however, because she didn’t want any sort of treatment.

Within a couple of hours, the ER started to clear out a bit, and my mom scored an individual ER bay, with a door that shut and everything — which was a great relief to me, because after the news we’d gotten, I had started to feel like everything was too bright, too open, too raw, too exposed, TOO MUCH. I was looking forward to huddling up in a dark, quiet room with the door shut for a little while.

My mother, however, had other plans: despite multiple attempts made (by me and a couple of different nurses) to dim the lights, she wanted all the lights on full blast and the door left open. So that’s how we lived for just a couple more hours before she was finally moved into an actual hospital room, with a recliner for guests, a private bathroom and a window to the outside.

It felt like a five-star resort.

There we stayed for another night and most of the next day, while the doctors coordinated a care plan. Since she didn’t want any sort of treatment — she told anyone who asked, and a couple of people who didn’t, that she just wanted “to be kept comfortable” — she was fitted for a back brace (which we never actually ended up receiving), hooked up with a walker, prescribed pain meds (which was an ordeal; she staunchly refused multiple painkillers, insisting that she didn’t want anything habit-forming, but PFFFFFFed and rolled her eyes whenever anyone suggested Tylenol, complaining that it didn’t work for her . . . finally, she agreed to try Tramadol, not realizing it was an opioid (that nurse was pretty clever in how she presented it), and she said it worked well, so do you think I was about to open my trap and tell her the truth?), and sent home on Wednesday evening.

Home, sweet home

After getting her fed and tucked into her own bed at last, I went home myself for the first time in two days, to shower and sleep in preparation for meeting the home hospice nurse at my mom’s apartment on Thursday. She was lovely; she gave us a run-through of how everything would work, set up weekly visits (my mom was cranky about that, because she didn’t feel like she needed a weekly cadence just yet, but the nurse said that was the minimum), and went on her way with a promise to be in touch soon.

In the meantime, my oncologist friend, Dr. Awesome Pants (whom I’ve known since middle school), had texted to check on MY health and, when she found out everything that was going on with my mom, offered to be my mom’s doctor (see? AWESOME PANTS). So we scrambled to get her set up with Dr. Pants as a patient, and then set up a telehealth appointment (because Dr. Pants is in a different city) for Friday morning.

Friday morning, I showed up at my mom’s apartment bright and early, fresh from a glorious night’s sleep in my own bed, and cheerfully wielding breakfast from Starbucks (bacon-gruyere egg bites and cinnamon dolce lattes for all!). Once my mom had eaten some breakfast, she decided that since she had time, she wanted to take a shower before the appointment with Dr. Pants. She insisted that she didn’t need me to help her, or even to sit in the bathroom — she just wanted someone there “in case.” So I sat in the living room (only steps away from the bathroom; it’s a small apartment), and she left the bathroom door open so I could listen for trouble.

As she shuffled from her bedroom to her bathroom using only her cane, I chided her: “WHY aren’t you using your WALKER?”

“I don’t like the walker,” she grumbled. “It gets in the way.”

“Do I need to take your cane away?” I threatened.

Then she got mad.

“NO!” she snapped. “You are NOT going to take my cane away — it helps me BETTER than the walker.”

As she disappeared into the bathroom, I called out, “OK, but if you fall, THE CANE GOES.”

Well. Guess what happened?

Oh, it didn’t happen in that instant. She made it through the shower just fine, if a bit noisily (I heard the hollow thumps of what I’m assuming were elbows against the sides of the fiberglass shower insert, the wet squeeeeeege of maybe a shoulder or butt cheek sliding against shower wall, and a couple of verbal grunts, signaling what I figured was some breakthrough back pain). When I finally heard the curt croik! of the shower valve as she turned off the water, I opened my mouth to say, “You take the loudest showers I’ve ever heard!” when suddenly there was a loud CLANG followed by a huge THUMP.

I jumped up and darted to the bathroom, where I found her on the floor, curled up on her side.

Upon stepping out of the shower, she’d grabbed the bar of her towel rack to steady herself — something she apparently did EVERY time she took a shower — and it had given way.

Based on the odd, bony protrusion on the side of her that I could see, I should have realized she’d broken her hip — but I’d never before seen my mother lying naked on a bathroom floor, so I didn’t have a baseline for that scenario. I tried briefly to help her up, but even the slightest movement caused her so much pain that I gave up and, per instructions from our hospice visit day before, called the hospice nurse (the idea there is that if the goal is for the patient to remain at home, calling 911 is not going to be conducive, because it’s going result in a hospital). She offered two options: she could arrange for hospice workers to come and get my mom back into her bed and make her comfortable (i.e., drug her up) — which would hasten the inevitable, because at that point we knew she’d broken SOMETHING (we thought it was her leg), and leaving it untreated would result in rapid decline — OR we could call 911 and get her to the hospital.

She recommended the latter, saying that the first option was more for people who were REALLLLLLLY close to the end, and she didn’t think my mom was there yet.

So I hung up with the hospice nurse, carefully popped a nightgown over my mom’s head, and called 911; the paramedics arrived and, because my mom’s apartment is so small, they were unable to get the gurney even close to the bathroom, so they positioned it at the end of the hallway and, after loading her up with pain killers to make movement bearable, rolled her onto a blanket and pulled her, sled-style, down the hallway to hoist her onto the gurney.

The paramedic asked me which hospital I preferred. I gave him a brief (inasmuch as I’m capable of brevity) history of our past few days and said I DID NOT want her to wind up spending another two days in an ER hallway, and he said I could likely avoid that by taking her to the ER I’d eschewed (in favor of the “better” hospital) the first time around.

And I thought, what the heck? If all they needed to do was set her leg (which, again, was what we thought was broken) in a cast, that hospital would probably work as well as any other. So we took a short trek to the closest hospital this time . . .

The beginning of the end

And from there, it ALL kinda went to hell.

Nothing to do with the hospital itself; I have no complaints about the care she received there, and it turned out to be the best decision I could have made (more on that later); but once we got there, I would not spend a full day in my own home for nearly a month — and my sweet mama would never return to her little apartment again.

To speed this up a little, let’s itemize:

Day 1 (Friday): Here we go again. We arrived at the ER, where my mom was immediately given a room (HOORAY) and some X-rays. The ER doctor confirmed that the hip was broken; however, given the cancer diagnosis (and location), he wasn’t sure whether or not they’d be able to repair the hip.

So we settled in to wait for an answer to that question, while we listened to another patient down the hall yelling, “GO AWAY! I don’t KNOW the Godfather! It is NOT OK!” (From what I could tell, there was police involvement there, but I’m not quite sure what was going on; only that there was a lot of yelling about “The Godfather” and about tearing down the Wailing Wall.)

Eventually, she was moved to a hospital room, where she was visited by an orthopedic surgeon, who informed her that surgery WAS possible, and recommended she go through with it so she’d be able to move without pain (up to that point, it had been too painful to even raise the head of her bed, so she’d been lying flat on her back for hours). Miraculously, she agreed (she’d previously said that even if surgery DID turn out to be an option, she wasn’t doing it), and it was scheduled for the following day.

Day 2 (Saturday): Surgery day. The miracles continued: despite having a strict DNR in place, my mom agreed to suspend it during surgery (so that if something happened while she was on the table, life-saving measures could be taken).

As it turns out, though, the surgery went well; it was quick (about 40 minutes), and I spent most of it in the waiting room, talking to two lovely women who’d driven up from Texas (one because her father had fallen and broken HIS hip, and was having surgery—and the other for moral support). They’d brought TONS of snacks (so immediately, I knew they were my people), which they generously offered to share (I politely declined; y’all know I had my OWN snacks), and during our chat, I learned from one of them that the surgeon who was operating on both my mother and her father — the one who’d convinced my mom to have the surgery — was the sports medicine director for my kids’ school district (I later learned from my wrestling kid that he’s a wiz at stopping nosebleeds during meets)! But I digress. Point is, the surgery was fast and easy, and my mom was moved back to her room within no time, so I joined her up there and watched her snooze until my own bedtime, when I tiptoed out to go home and sleep.

Day 3 (Sunday): Things going downhill. I got a call from a nurse at 1:40 a.m., saying that my mom had been moved to the cardiac unit of the hospital, because they couldn’t get her heart rate down. I should have headed back to the hospital immediately, but I waited until about 8 to show up . . . at which point all hell had broken loose.

When I arrived, she was awake and PISSED TF OFF . . . and was not making a helluva lotta sense.

She was yelling at the nurse and threatening to sue the hospital, insisting that there had been a fire in the next room, but nobody had called the Fire Department; instead, they’d cleaned up the room to hide the evidence (which she’d somehow seen them do, even though the fire had been next door; in addition, she kept pointing at the painting on the wall—some generic, “soothing” framed hospital art—as more evidence of the fire). Further, she said that the nurse had confessed to her that he’d set the fire, and that he’d said something to her about how “those white people up on the hill think they know everything.” (It should be mentioned at this point that the nurse himself was a white people.)

Y’all. WTF.

My mother, despite her ripe old age (93) had NEV-UR had ANY cognitive issues before this moment; Sister was sharp as a tack, and had better memory and executive functioning than MY (middle-aged) ass. The nurse in question kind of shrugged at me, like, “Old ladies, amirite?” But I explained that she had previously shown ZERO signs of cognitive decline, and asked what else could be causing the current shit show (his theory: effects of the general anesthesia from the surgery). Eventually, she calmed down (the rest of the day passed with occasional reprises of confusing conversation, but far less agitation) — which was good, because her mental confusion soon took second fiddle to a new issue: low hemoglobin. So the bag of heart medication dangling from her IV pole was joined by two new blood bag buddies.

Days 4-5 (Monday-Tuesday): The hits kept coming, in the form of an elevated white count (the culprit: a UTI), elevated blood calcium levels (which I didn’t even know was a thing), and horrible constipation. So more treatments were piled on: antibiotics for the UTI, pills for the blood calcium, and an aggressive laxative regimen (with threats of a suppository) for the constipation. In addition, the Physical and Occupational therapists came to try to get her sitting up and moving, which increased her pain, so the whole “Don’t give me narcotics, but take your Tylenol and shove it” dance began anew.

The one bit of comic relief in that whole scenario was that while she was in the cardiac unit, she had the LOUDEST and most hilarious roommate!

Her name was Donna, and she was in a boat similar to Nadine’s; she’d come to the hospital for a reason I forget now, but had suddenly begun having chest tightness. She’d thought it was a heart attack, but scans showed a malignant mass on her lungs. Like Nadine, she was eschewing treatment, and like Nadine, she was pretty calm about it. LOUD. But calm. She eventually left the hospital for a nursing home, where she’d live out the rest of her life, however long it may be — but she was hoping to make it to her birthday in April.

All of this I know because once all her visitors had left for the day (between her children and grandchildren, she had a party going on most of the time), she’d take the opportunity to start calling people on the phone to keep them (LOUDLY) updated on her situation.

I also know that on the day she left the hospital for the nursing home, she took a banner poop, because when the nurse came in and asked when her last BM had been, she practically YELLED: “They didn’t tell you? I just shat Uranus! They had to cut it up with a knife to get it to flush!”

Y’all know that right there made me love her even more.

But what really bonded us was her obsession with the song 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. The first evening we spent in that room, I sat eavesdropping (hardly a challenge, given Donna’s normal decibel level) on a conversation she was having with her daughter and son-in-law, while my mom dozed. I can’t recall how it came up, but she asked them if they remembered the song. As she (LOUDLY) tried to recall who’d sung the song (she thought it was Paul McCartney), I peeped around the curtain separating her bed from my mom’s, and answered: “It was Paul Simon, with back-up vocals by Phoebe Snow, Patti Austin, and Valerie Simpson.” (The song itself I can take or leave, but that back-up roster is an all-star line-up of my GURRRRRRRLZ.)

Eventually, she looked up the lyrics on her phone, and read them aloud to her family, while I sang along in my head. And from that point on, she mentioned the song to every new visitor who came to see her. And bless her heart, she always gave me credit for helping her remember who sang it (though she seemed wholly unimpressed with the back-up roster knowledge I’d dropped; she didn’t mention them ONCE).

But as usual, I digress. The point is, the days in the cardiac unit were chock full of new discoveries about things going wrong in my mother’s body, and attempts to balance “keeping her comfortable” with remedying what we could. And, of course, chock full of Donna’s musical proclivities and bowel shenanigans.

Day 6-7 (Wednesday-Thursday): Movin’ on up (or down, as the case may be). At long last, Nadine’s heart rate issues were under control, and she was moved back down to the unit where she’d originally been sent immediately following her surgery. While she was still being treated for the blood calcium, the constipation, and the UTI, she’d at least cut out the IV meds she was getting for the heart issues. From there, then, it was a matter of seeing what could be done from a physical and occupational therapy perspective in order to determine next steps (i.e., whether she’d do a stint in rehab and then return home, or end up following Donna to a skilled nursing facility).

Unfortunately, that whole endeavor turned out to be kind of a bust: without sufficient pain meds, she’d refuse to cooperate (because PAIN); but WITH sufficient pain meds, she’d be unable to cooperate (because she’d be asleep).

In addition, around this time, she developed a Kennedy ulcer — which again, I didn’t know was a thing, but it was a sure sign that things weren’t looking good. So in the end, the recommendation was to get her into a skilled nursing facility following her hospital stay.

Days 8-9 (Friday and Saturday): The search begins. Once we had a go-forward plan, we were visited by a kind hospital social worker, who provided a list of area nursing homes. My job was to look it over, do a little research (I was told that if I was interested in touring any of them, I should drop by unexpectedly instead of making an appointment, to get a clearer sense of how the place really operates), and come back with a list of top choices, at which point he would do some checking to see which of my choices had available beds. By the time I’d picked up my younger dude from school on the afternoon of Day 8 (Friday), I had already received a call from one of the nursing homes on the list. I was told that they did have availability, that they were ready to receive my mom immediately, and that a full month’s payment was required up front, at a rate of $325 per day for a shared room (she told me the only way for my mom to have a private room would be to “buy out” the other bed by paying double the cost).

As I had done NO research on ANY facilities at that point, I asked how long I could have to give it some thought, and she said taking the weekend would be fine.

I’d normally have spent Day 9 on a whirlwind nursing home tour, but I was utterly exhausted (physically, mentally, and emotionally) by the whole scene. So instead, after a quick visit to the hospital (during which I was able to call the social work team and ask if any of the facilities on the list offered private rooms (because if y’all think I’M a misanthrope, you didn’t know Nadine; she was the antisocial mother dough, whereas I am but a standoffish loaf) — and I was told NO), I joined my family on a day trip to the John Brown museum in Osawatomie, KS (with a stop in Fort Scott for books and ice cream on the way home) to celebrate Love Tank’s birthday.

It was a lovely respite.

Day 10: I believe in miracles. I showed back up at the hospital bright and early on Sunday, with the idea that I’d hang out with my mom for a bit, do a little online nursing home research from her room, and then spend a few hours popping around town for some surprise facility visits before returning to the hospital to work out a final decision.

Shortly after I arrived that morning, though, another social worker came to visit — a different one from the one who’d provided the original list of nursing homes, because apparently, that guy had the day off. She was up to speed on our case, and had a NEW list — narrowed down to the facilities that currently had open beds — to share with me. I thanked her (this was going to make my research much easier!), we chatted a bit, and she confirmed that most, if not all, of the places on the list would require my mom to have a roommate, agreeing that it wasn’t a desirable situation, especially at the cost per day (all of the places had comparable rates).

But then.

Then, she said there was ONE other option, but it might be kind of a long shot . . .

Seems there was a hospice house affiliated with the hospital, and located on the hospital campus. It only had eight beds, and tended to stay pretty full, and she wasn’t sure if my mom would qualify for admission (since it was a hospice facility, she’d have to meet more intense criteria), BUT:

  1. It had private rooms, and
  2. It would be covered by Medicare, and therefore would cost us nothing out of pocket.

I figured that even with all the caveats, it was worth a try! (My mom was hesitant, because she was under the impression that hospice facilities deny their patients any food, and she didn’t want to starve to death — but the social worker assured her that was NOT the case, and that she’d be able to eat whenever she wanted.) So the kind social worker stepped away to call the facility and see if she could get someone to come and do an assessment on my mom. She returned a few minutes later and said she’d reached the nurse practitioner who ran the place — who was still at home, but who would stop by my mom’s room on her way into work and visit with us.


I am here to tell you that by 3:00 that afternoon, my mom was settled into the hospice facility, and let me talk about it: she had a huge, lovely (and above all, PRIVATE) room equipped with a private bathroom, a fold-out couch for overnight guests, a recliner, an ottoman, a TV, and a small table with two chairs. In addition, there was a full kitchen and dining area outside her room, along with a living room area, complete with fireplace.

ALL. FOR. FREE. (And only about 7 minutes from my house.)

I was stunned silent (and more than a little verklempt), not only by the sheer loveliness of the facility (and the people there), but by the way it all worked out! Once again, I’d been given a chance to glimpse the Universe’s long game:

Had we not had the horrible experience of spending a day and a half in an ER hallway at an overcrowded hospital (or had that hospital not been overcrowded as, we were told, a result of icy weather causing people to get injured in multiple ways), I wouldn’t have chosen the hospital I did for the subsequent ER visit, which means I’d never have learned about this hospice facility.

Had I actually undertaken my nursing home research in a more timely manner, I’d likely have already chosen a place (I like to get difficult decisions made as quickly as possible) and started the ball rolling by the time the second social worker showed up, which means I’d never have learned about this hospice facility.

Had the timing of this whole ordeal been off by even one day, we may have never even encountered that second social worker, which means I’d never have learned about this hospice facility (because the first guy sure didn’t tell me). Not to mention the fact that the room my mom ended up in may have been occupied, and she wouldn’t have gotten in.

Of course it would have been ideal to stick with Plan A, where my mom could have spent her last days in her own apartment with in-home hospice care. But if that plan had to go down the crapper, this was the best possible Plan B I can imagine.

And here, my friends, is where I’m going to stop for now. Typically, I’m not a fan of two-part episodes, but this one is already WAY too long, and we haven’t even gotten through January; we’ve got a LONG way to go!

So in order to make this story a little more digestible, I’ll pause on the cookin’ for now, and be back later in the week with Part (2)2.

The “little c” chronicles, Part 19: Comin’ outta the dark.

Ew. I don’t even like that song (although Gloria Estefan is one of those people I think I’d like if I knew her—not as much as I think I’d like Dolly Parton, but still). But for some reason, I can’t start typing until I’ve come up with a title. So let’s let this one be a working title, and see if I land on something else by the time I’m done (in which case I’ll have to delete this paragraph . . . but I digress).

YOU GUYS. I am getting SO CLOSE to being done with treatment. In 2023 alone, I have leapt through a bunch of flaming hoops:

  • Chemo infusions — DONE in January.
  • Mastectomy — DONE in February.
  • Radiation — DONE (THANK GAWWWWWD) in May.
  • Immunotherapy — DONE in August.
  • Chemo pills — ONE WEEK LEFT, BABY.

OK, technically, each “cycle” of the oral chemo involves two weeks of daily pill popping, and one week of popping nothing, so if you want to get official, my last cycle will be done in TWO weeks, but the last group of pills will take their plunge down my esophagus in about a week.

In addition, now that I’m largely healed from the horrors of radiation, I’ve been meeting regularly with my plastic surgeon, who’s been slowly refilling the expander in my right boob (which he’d UNfilled prior to radiation, to get it out of the way of the hell beams), so I’m mostly symmetrical now! He says he may do one more fill in November during my consult for my December 12 reconstruction surgery, but otherwise, I won’t see him again for a couple of months.

As for Dr. Cool and Calm (the oncologist), he’s kind of cooling our relationship, too. I had a three-week follow-up with him after my immunotherapy ended, and now he doesn’t want to see me again for a whole MONTH (after which he’s talking maybe THREE months before we meet again).

In different circumstances, I would feel unloved, but in THESE circumstances, I can’t say I mind being ghosted a little.

I HAVE rekindled the flame with my favorite occupational therapist, because following the radiation, I was starting to experience diminished range of motion AND a bit of lymphedema on my left side (not in my arm, but in my torso just below my armpit, which resulted in the consistent sensation of smuggling a hamster under there. So I’m working weekly with her on increasing range of motion and lymphatic flow, which hurts a little, but there are no needles involved, so SCORE.

Really, my only complaint at this point is joint pain (in both knees, and in one elbow—it’s the elbow pain that’s kicking my ass) which can be a side effect of the chemo pills I’m on. So my hope is that it will dissipate once I’m done with the pills, because I’ve just rejoined the Y, and am trying to start running again (which has been . . . damn unpretty and kind of unpleasant, but I haven’t given up).

(My elder son is trying to get me into weightlifting, too, and I’m proud to announce that I can bench . . .

. . . wait for it . . .

FIFTY POUNDS, Baby. Awwww, yehhhhh. Next stop: Hillbilly Havoc.)

And in other good news: at some point, I should be getting my port removed! Not gonna lie; I’ve been a little nervous that once the immunotherapy infusions were over, Dr. Cool and Calm was going to recommend leaving the port in for awhile, on a “just in case” basis. I’ve already heard plenty of stories about people keeping their ports in for months or even YEARS following chemo, and I just kind of figured that since I scored a pretty aggressive form of cancer, I’d be walking around with a circular bump in my chest kind of indefinitely. Which would be fine, I mean it doesn’t HURT or anything—but it would also be a little deflating as well, y’know?

So when the time came to meet with Dr. CaC last week, I was prepared to negotiate: if he thought I had a 70% chance or better of making it at least 2 years without a recurrence, I wanted the port out. If not, I’d leave it in (and go home and cry a lot and eat a shit ton of candy corn)—but then if I DID make it the two years, and there was no sign of recurrence at that point, I wanted it out ASAP. However, when it finally came up at our last visit, the conversation went something like this:

Dr. C: So yeah, it looks like you’re almost done with everything [in terms of treatment].

Me: Yep!

Dr. C: And your reconstruction is in December?

Me: Yep!

Dr. C: And your port? Is that coming out?

Me [girding my loins for the negotiations to come]: Well, I was going to ask YOU about that. Do you have a recommendation?

Dr. C: I mean . . . yeah, you’re done with it, so let’s get it out.

Me: [Ungirding loins and suppressing a slightly teary urge to make out with him] OK.

Unfortunately, the plastic surgeon isn’t going to remove it (I was hoping it could just be yoinked during the reconstruction—like a two (or three, since there will be two new boobies?) for one special), so Dr. CaC is going to put in an order with the oncology surgeon who installed the port, and the surgeon’s office should be calling me to schedule a date for port removal, sometime after I’m done with the chemo pills. Although it might be pushing it, I’d really like to get THAT done before the end of 2023 as well, because free surgery is DA BOMB.

S0, anyway. Wow. The end of this tunnel is in sight, man. A year ago, I was bald, browless, occasionally nauseated, and making jokes about being Powder for Halloween, and now, here I am, rocking my Mrs. Roper vibe (which would make for an EXCELLENT Halloween costume, but my stubborn littler dude, WHO IS SEVEN, has already decided he does NOT want to Trick or Treat this year, because he’s getting too old for it . . . WHO EVEN IS HE??? It’s like he was born 67 years old. Buuuuuut I digress).

Be it ever so humble . . .

And what will have changed (other than my hairdo) when I pop out into the light? Still figuring that out. In the meantime, I look for clues—which, so far, seem to be leading me in the direction of my hometown past.

Story time!

Several weeks ago, I ran across a post in a Topeka History Facebook group; the poster uploaded a series of old photographs of Black Topekans in the 1920s and 30s, and asked the group if anyone could help identify the people therein. Although I no longer even try to pretend I’m a spring chicken, the photos were a little before my time. So I figured I’d ask my mother, because she an even older-ass chicken than I am, and—having grown up in an era when Topeka was pretty damn segregated—tends to be familiar with most of the OG Black Topeka families.

(This used to drive me NUTS as a teenager; for one thing, my parents literally had hundreds of eyes on me most of the time, so I couldn’t get away with ANYTHING. Case in point: once, when I was learning to drive, I talked my brother (13 years my senior), who was visiting from St. Louis, into taking me out to practice after school . . . and before we even got back home, someone had reported to my parents that they’d seen me driving a car with a BOY in it (why that someone had recognized ME but not MY BROTHER, I dunno, but even WORSE was the fact that my parents didn’t even think about the possibility that my brother might be the “boy” in the car, so they were loaded for bear when we got home). So I just grew up assuming that any Black Topekan my parents’ age or older was part of their intricate spy network. When I became an adult, it became kind of charming to have a total stranger look at me and exclaim, “You’re Teeny’s daughter!” or “You look JUST LIKE your mother!” but during that precious, pimply time in life when you spend half your waking hours wanting the earth to suck you right down into a hole where you can bathe in all your solitary emo, that shit can be unsettling AF. But I digress.)

Being me, I got distracted by all the things, and forgot to show my mom the photos for a couple of weeks. But then, during our weekly Sunday breakfast a few weeks ago, I finally remembered to fire up my iPad and pull them up for her. As she scrolled through them, she said that some of the faces looked familiar, but no names were coming to mind.

Suddenly, she stopped on a photo of two men in bellhop uniforms.

“That’s LaVae!” she said.

She’d found her (maternal) uncle. She continued to scroll, and found a second photo of him by himself, which delighted the hell out of her.

(And I must say that although I’d already looked through the photos a couple of times myself, it wasn’t until my mom identified her mother’s brother in two of them that I looked at those particular photos and found it incredible that his face hadn’t looked familiar to me. He looks basically like a man version of my maternal grandmother (whom I’ve never met, as she passed away a decade and a half before I came along, but my mom has always kept a couple of pictures of her prominently displayed). But I digress. Again. Surprise.)

I went into the comments on the Facebook post to offer up identification of my great uncle, and saw that the original poster had added an additional comment, to say that the whole collection of photos is owned by the Denver Art Museum.


As luck would have it, I was boarding a plane to Denver THE VERY NEXT DAY, to attend the annual two-day “IRL” conference my (Denver-based) company floofs up every year, to corral us all from our remote locations and bring us into each other’s faces.

So now, in addition to gaining insights and inspiration from C-suite executive keynotes and getting up close and personal with the chin hairs and nose pores of people I’d previously only seen through a Zoom filter, I had a mission: visit the Denver Art Museum in search of my ancestor.

I did some Google searching, and found a web page dedicated to the photos . . . but I was unable to determine, from that information, whether the photos were actually on display in the museum. I did, however, learn that the photos had been purchased by the museum at an auction in New York City, and that apparently nobody AT the museum had any idea who any of the people in the photos were. So I figured if I was going to go to the museum in search of the photos, I should try to talk to someone there, to ID my great uncle (and to let them know there’s an old lady in Kansas who could tell them more of his story).

I’ll skip to the end of that story: I ditched lunch on the last day of the conference to hoof it over to the museum, but I did not get to lay eyes on the collection, or knowledge on the collection curator; however, the person with whom I spoke was very kind and helpful, and I walked away with contact information for both the curator and the Denver Art Museum photography department (and also with about $75 worth of overpriced art museum gift shop trinkets to take home to my family), so the trip wasn’t an entire bust.

And there’s MORE.

On the final night of the conference, all thousand or so of us were bussed to a fancy event venue for a party featuring roughly a million food stations (heavy hors-d’oeuvres, basically, but you know your girl managed to get miserably full on itty bitty tacos and mozzarella balls), an open bar, and a live band.

In other words, a bit of overstimulation for Yours Truly, who’s REALLY been leaning into the perqs of remote work.

So by about 9 p.m., after what felt like 172 conversations with 172 amazing people, I was ready to call it. I saw that the busses that had brung us were parked outside the venue and waiting to shuttle people back to the hotel (at 20-minute intervals, the sign said), so I boarded the first one in line (a different one from the one I’d ridden TO the party), and sank gratefully into the seat right behind the driver.

A couple of other people had already boarded, so as we waited for takeoff, I struck up a (173rd) conversation with the man across the aisle from me.

It didn’t take long for the topic to turn to tried and true, “Where are you from?” Typically, when this question comes up, I always answer, “Kansas City,” because I figure people from other parts of the country will be far more familiar with that than they will be with the suburb half an hour south of Kansas City where I ACTUALLY live.

However, when I said, “Kansas City,” the man seated BEHIND the man I was talking to piped up and said he lives in the suburb where I live!

So naturally, he became part of the conversation: I learned what part of town he lives in, where his kids go to school (plus what sports the younger one plays, and what the college-aged one is studying) . . . and then I started to feel like I was sounding kind of stalker-ish with my line of questioning, so I pulled back a little and asked him how long he’d lived in our little town.

“Thirteen years,” he answered, and then asked, “How about you? Is that where you grew up, or . . . ?”

“Oh, NO,” I responded. “I grew up in TOPEKA.” And I was just about to launch into my schpiel about how I’d left Topeka at age 18 for college in Atlanta, and was determined NEVER TO GO BACK TO KANSAS—until a dozen years later, when I went back to Kansas . . .

. . . but I didn’t get a chance to, because at that point, the BUS DRIVER (who by then had started the engine and had us en route back to the hotel) piped up and said, “Excuse me—I hate to interrupt, but did you say Topeka? I have family from Topeka!”

Long story (involving more stalker-ish conversation) short, turns out one of my mom’s closest friends (who’s lived in Seattle since before I was born, but I’ve known her my whole life, as she makes frequent visits “back home”; she’s met Love Tank and my kids, and once sent my elder kid $20 because she was impressed with his eight-year-old grasp of politics (hint: he was eight years old in 2016) . . . but I digress) IS THIS GUY’S GREAT AUNT.

I got his name and contact information to pass along to her, all while the jaw of the dude I’d ORIGINALLY started talking to dropped closer and closer to the floor of the bus.

That guy may very well think I’m some sort of sorceress now.

And the truth is, it was all kind of magical . . . but at that point, I was too exhausted to fully process it. But one thing that occurred to me as I drifted off to sleep that night was that the “Serendipity” theme of that day’s C-suite keynote speech had been spot-on.

And as if all this weren’t enough, my Topeka past continued to nudge me in the days following my return from the conference.

One thing many of you know about me is that I look at real estate listings for fun and relaxation. I regularly “window shop” for vacation homes in Bella Vista, AR (because I think Northwest Arkansas is really pretty, but mostly because my ideal vacation home would be a relatively short drive from where I live, which would allow for impromptu Friday-night decisions to head there for the weekend—and there aren’t many other pretty places that are easily driveable from here . . . but LAWD, the digression), as well as for houses in Colorado, New England, and all along the California coast (you know, in case I ever become rich enough to afford a private jet), and in my own metro area (it’s no secret that I dream of extra bedrooms, a finished basement, and a pool)—and if you tell me you’re house hunting somewhere, by golly, I will (virtually) join you in the search and send you links.

I keep a running tally of houses I like that are currently up for sale, so that if I suddenly come into a lot of money, I’ll be ready to jump.

I LOVE this shit.

So much, in fact, that when I’m desperate for new inventory to check out, I’ll even occasionally check out the listings in Topeka (the fun there is to see the homes I could afford in Topeka, as opposed to what I can afford in the Kansas City metro; I could be MUCH BOUGIER in Topeka) . . .

. . . which is what I was doing one day, when I saw a house in the “NEW” listings (I always sort by “Newest listings”) that I recognized as the childhood home of someone I knew in high school. I checked it out on the map, and sure enough, it was her house! At that point, I thought little of it (I mean, her parents probably haven’t lived there for years), and kept on scrolling . . . but then three houses down the list was ANOTHER house that used to belong to (the parents of) someone ELSE I knew in high school!

Both in the same neighborhood, both brand new on the market.

What THAT means, I have no clue, but I’m sure as hell feeling in touch with my Topeka roots these days!

Big thoughts, big dreams, and a big brown Mercedes sedan . . .

What I’m trying to get a clearer handle on these days, though, is my future; I would love to get some serendipitous glimpses of THAT now that I’m popping my whole head above the cancer treatment waters in which I’ve been eyebrow deep for the past year and a half.

So far, the crystal ball is murky, but one decision I have recently made is that my future MUST include a little old man who drives a Mercedes (and I think Love Tank will be willing to go along with this vision, because a couple of years ago, when he was desperately seeking a new car (his car engine having burst into flames on the highway), he DID check out some Mercedes models, unable as he was to find ANY new inventory for more practical, family-oriented vehicles; he eventually found and bought a hybrid Honda Accord, but there is definitely an Old Mercedes Man brewing in his soul).

Here’s what happened:

Fall-ish weather is upon us now, and after the insanely torturous late-summer temps we’ve been suffering, an 80-degree day holds a bit of a thrill. So Love Tank, who was working from home yesterday, popped into my office and invited me to go out and grab some lunch.

And although I am all kindsa behind on all kindsa projects, I figured why not? Working at home, I don’t get out much, so a quick dash out into the sunshine might do me some good.

So we headed to a cute little Mediterranean chain about 25 minutes away (if you’re in the area (or near Wichita), check out Meddy’s; huge servings of gloriously salty grub at a reasonable price) in search of lamb and hummus.

As we headed back, we noticed a (BEAUTIFUL) vintage convertible Mercedes stuck at a left-turn light, with flashers on. We pulled up alongside and asked the driver (also vintage) if he’d like a push. He said that he lived just around the corner (to the left) and about four houses down the block, and it sure would be nice to be able to call the tow truck from his own driveway. So we parked in a nearby lot and headed back over to shove him on home.

As we cautiously crossed a couple of lanes of busy midday traffic on foot, Love Tank suddenly cursed and sprinted ahead, just as another car started frantically honking. I assumed we were about to be mown down, so I started running, too, without a clear understanding of what was going on—but once my wits and my powers of observation caught up with me, I saw that the Mercedes was rolling BACKWARDS toward the car stopped behind it (the one that was honking), and that Love Tank had darted between the two cars to brace himself against the back of the Mercedes (cursing the low-tread loafers he’d chosen to wear that day) and avert a tragedy.

I feebly reached for the back right corner of the Mercedes to try to help—but in reality, it was Love Tank who saved the day (not to mention his own THIGHS, which would have suffered a greater tragedy than anyone’s bumper, had he not been able to stop the car from rolling).

Once traffic had cleared around us (and we’d assured multiple drivers-by that we were fine and didn’t need help . . . people really are lovely for the most part), we began (both behind the bumper this time) to push. (One man pulled up behind us at this point, and volunteered to push the Mercedes with his car, to relieve us of our duties, but we politely refused, fearing the damage it might cause to one or both cars—and while the other car was nothing to write home about, this Mercedes was too pretty to take that risk. But I digress.)

As we pushed, I started to think, “OK, old man, TURN! Turn the wheel! Start turning! Go LEFT!” and wondering why he wasn’t obeying my mind commands—but then he called out that the steering wheel had called it quits, and was locked up. So now there was no other choice but to stay put and call the tow truck from there.

The man stepped over to a shaded patch of grass on the other side of the street, and began trying to contact a tow truck, while Love Tank and I stayed standing behind the car, figuring that two people standing in the middle of the street would be a more obvious signal to folks that something was up and they should steer around the Mercedes.

As we stood guard (grateful once again for the glorious weather), ANOTHER old man, driving a newer model Mercedes, pulled up alongside the older Mercedes (into the diagonal-stripey area that separated the left turn lane from the straight-bound lanes) to ask if we needed help. We explained the situation, made some small talk, and he chose to stick around as well.

Y’all, I cannot tell you how quickly I fell completely in love with these two old Mercedes men. They were incredibly funny, sweet, and kind. As we chatted, Mercedes Man 1 good-naturedly told us that RIIIIIIIGHT before his car went kaput, he’d driven past a lady who’d called out, “Beautiful car!” and he’d responded, “Thanks! It’s 50 years old, and still runs great!”

10 seconds later, that car made a liar out of him.

(As we stood by the car talking, multiple other people drove by and complimented the car; I (jokingly) advised Mercedes man to STOP RESPONDING, lest he jinx himself even more.)

Eventually, Love Tank and I decided it would be OK to head off, since Mercedes Man 1 now had a buddy to wait with him for the tow truck—but as we drove away, I snagged a pic of my two new boyfs (whom I’ll likely never see again, but we’ll always have the Left Turn Lane of Love):


. . . and who knows? If I’m lucky, then maybe 30 or so years from now, I’ll have my own Old Mercedes Man to love. Fingers crossed!

Pull up to my bumper, baby . . .

From there, Love Tank and I headed toward home, secure in the knowledge that we’d been and met good humans, and that life rewards kindness accordingly.


As we passed a nursery on our way home, Love Tank asked if I had enough time (what with those work projects pressing) to stop by and check out the mums, knowing I’ve been wanting to get some. (EVERY DAMN FALL, I tell myself I’m going to plant mums in front of our house, and every damn fall goes right by mum-less; however, this fall, we’ve procured one of those signs announcing that an occupant of our house attends a particular high school and participates in extracurricular activities at said school—and wouldn’t THAT look cute surrounded by a bed of gorgeous red mums?) I figured why not? An extra 15 minutes or so away from my desk wasn’t going to make a huge difference in what I’d be able to accomplish for the day, right?

We walked around a bit, and I found plenty of mums, but I hadn’t measured the flower bed where I want to put them, and so wasn’t sure exactly what size I needed. Meanwhile, Love Tank started scoping out shrubs to plant beneath the pull-down projector screen on the back of our house, but didn’t find anything he loved. We then remembered yet ANOTHER nursery we’d visited this past spring and liked, and thought maybe we’d give up for the time being, and visit that one after work, to check out THEIR shrub/mum offerings. We headed to the parking lot, and as we sat in our car, looking up the other place on Love Tank’s phone to try to remember what it was called, we were jolted by a big THUMP! and looked to see that another car in the lot had backed into us.

Love Tank turned off the car and opened the door, preparing to get out and talk to the driver of the bumper car, survey the damage, etc.—but Ms. Bump-up-the-jam had OTHER plans, and kept right on driving toward the parking lot exit. Thinking (naively) that maybe she didn’t realize she’d hit us (which even in that moment seemed unlikely, given the force of the THUMP), I began frantically honking the horn, thinking that would cause her to look around and notice Love Tank, who by this time had begun chasing after her on foot.

(Later, when our cooler heads kicked in, Love Tank wondered why he hadn’t just started the car and gone after her on wheels, and I wondered why, instead of continuing to honk even after it was obvious she was deliberately running the hell away, I didn’t grab my phone and take a photo of her license plate. But alas, we all learn hard truths about how we handle a crisis when we’re IN a crisis . . . )

As Love Tank continued to sprint after Hit-and-run Hattie, who was now hightailing it down the street and away from the scene (he said another driver who’d seen what happened even pulled up alongside her on the street, rolled down their window, and called out that she’d hit another car back in the nursery parking lot, but she kept right on rolling, made a right turn away from that car, and hit the gas), and I stepped out of our car to survey the damage, a kind man in a black truck rolled up to me and offered to go after her, but I’d been so focused my honk-tastic efforts, I’d failed to even take note of what kind of car she was driving, so I had very little info that could identify her.

Finally, Love Tank came back, and we discussed what to do. On the one hand, the damage to our car was not HORRIBLE (we may have even let it go, had she stopped), and it would eat up a significant chunk of our time to file a police report and all . . . but on the other, she fuckin’ RAN. She KNEW she’d hit us, and she RAN. Fuck her in the damn eye.

So we called the police (during his sprint, Love Tank HAD made note of the make of the car and the license plate), and then drove to the police station to file the report. The cops could not have been nicer, and we’re pretty sure they thought we were kind of silly for reporting what basically amounted to a few scratches (noticeable scratches, but not “now my bumper is headed for the scrap yard” scratches), but again: that bitch fuckin’ RAN. And I’m petty enough to want her to pay for that shit, even if it’s just a ticket (that she can afford—she drives a Beemer).

Anyway, after that, we headed home, sweaty and annoyed, and I did get back to work in time to catch my last meeting of the day: a happy hour to wrap up my employer’s HBCU week. (I did not make myself a DRANK for the occasion, thirsty as I was from the salty Mediterranean food and an afternoon spent mostly standing around in the sun for one reason or another—but it was still a nice way to decompress.) As for all the work I didn’t get done, I shoved it all off to Monday, which is going to make Monday suck ass, but by the time we got home on Friday, I was in no mood to try and crank out work.

I guess the bright side to this “No good deed goes unpunished” tale can be found by imagining how much angrier we’d have been if Love Tank already owned that Mercedes (and in the fact that Love Tank got like a whole week’s workout taken care of in just one afternoon).

Stop, drop, and roll

But the hits keep coming! Today (Saturday), feelin’ accomplished, because before lunchtime even rolled around, I’d (a) almost completed a blog post, (b) planned the menu and made the grocery list for this week’s dinners, AND (c) planned the elder dude’s lunches for the week (as I’m given to understand MANY young fellows this age do, he has become protein obsessed, and he expressed a desire to take chicken and rice meals for his lunch, so each week I figure out a couple of different recipes, and cook up a mess o’ chicken and rice at the beginning of the week, for him to parcel out into the meal prep containers I bought for the occasion—y’all know how I LOVE containers . . . but I am so digressy-pants), I hopped astride my motorcycle at around 1:30, and rode alongside Love Tank to that other nursery we never did make it to last night.

At one point in our journey, we had to make a u-turn, and as I gritted my teeth and looped around (I love riding my motorcycle, but leaning into curves still make me nervous), I glanced toward my left handlebar, where my phone holder is attached . . .

. . . JUUUUUUUUUUST in time to see that my phone was dangling precariously half-out of its case (the phone holder was still gripping the case just fine—but the case was giving up its hold on the phone). In the 1.7 seconds it took me to gasp and reach for it, it gave all the way up and dove on out of the case to the ground.

As Love Tank sped ahead, I cursed a bunch, zipped into the first parking lot I saw, parked my bike, and ran back to try to retrieve my phone from the street before someone ran over it.

I was too late.

Sucker looks like the Trouble Man movie poster on steroids.

By the time I had the phone in hand, Love Tank had realized I was no longer behind him, parked his own bike in the NEXT parking lot, and walked back to find out what was going on. The sight of both my phone and my face told him everything he needed to know.

From there, we stopped off at a Thai place for a late lunch that didn’t taste very good (what it lacked in salt, it made up for in excessive spiciness), and then home, where I am still cussing to myself about that damn phone.

So now I have heartburn, no phone, a scratched car, and perhaps (who knows?) a pitted OTHER car, because I just drove through a hailstorm to drop my elder child to meet a friend for dinner and a movie.

And the weekend is only half over! At the rate I’m going, Suck-ass Monday may come as a stark relief.

Anyway, as usual, if you’re still reading, I love you. If you’re not, I probably love you too, just for trying.

Wish me luck getting through Sunday!

The “little c” chronicles, Part 18: What a difference a year makes.

Y’all thought I gave up on this blog, didn’t ya? In fact, I did not; rather, I have just been doing ALL! THE! THINGS! that make up Summer With Children . . . and, OK, a few things that don’t. But more on that later.

As far as my health is concerned, I feel . . . NORMAL. Which is actually fantastic, from my perspective, because how long has it been since I’ve felt like a regular person? But I’m experiencing very few side effects from the chemo pills, so I’m not nauseated, my hair is coming back (which is a blessing and a curse, because I’m now at a stage where if I put on a muumuu and some chunky jewelry, I could easily be mistaken for Mrs. Roper), and although I can still get wiped out after a LOT of activity, the fatigue from radiation has dissipated enough that I’ve actually re-joined the Y with the intention of trying to start running again, for the first time in more than a year. Which ain’t gonna be pretty, but on the bright side, I won’t have to worry about my boobs bouncing around.

And speaking of THOSE bad boys . . . I’m still rocking only one, because my skin is still healing from radiation, but this week, I’m hoping to get the other expander filled and achieve some symmetry.

And speaking of radiation . . .

HOLY TWERKING JESUS WITH A UNIBROW, that business TURNED ON ME like you would not believe.

As you may recall, the last time I posted, I was sailing through radiation with relative ease. I’d show up every morning at 8, many times in time to have a pleasant conversation with the dude whose appointment was just ahead of mine (unfortunately for HIM, his radiation required a full bladder, so when he came out and made a beeline for the bathroom, I knew it was my turn). Then I’d don my little gown, grab a wintergreen Life Saver from the candy dish at the desk, head into the treatment room, and lie, listening to whatever music they piped in for the day (usually late-70s to early 00s), and by the time I’d finished my mint, it was time to go. In short, the treatments were quick and cozy, and I was experiencing no pain or peeling.


Oh, I made it through the last treatment (during which, instead of the usual vintage pop, the techs piped in Pomp and Circumstance) relatively OK; earlier that week, I’d started peeling a TINY bit, and experiencing a wee bit of discomfort, but all of it was easily ignorable with the least bit of distraction (and we all know my life is replete with distractions), so when I met with the radiologist after my final zap, I told him all was well.

He warned me that it likely wouldn’t stay this way—that it would, in fact, get worse before it got better. And he told me that if the pain got too bad, I should call him and he’d prescribe pain meds.

And I thought, “Psssshhhhhht! Whatever.”

I mean, after my surgery, I’d gotten by just fine on Tylenol, and hadn’t bothered with any of the hard core meds (read: opioids) I’d been prescribed—so although I didn’t say it aloud to the radiologist, I was all, “Um, if I can get through a double mastectomy without pain meds, I THINK I can handle radiation pain.”

(Just cocky AF, y’all.)







It . . . was shocking. I’ve told anyone who’ll listen that it was easily the WORST part of this whole “adventure.” Worse than chemo, worse than surgery . . . worse than being forced to listen to “We Built This City” over and over again for 48 hours straight (which has NOT been a part of my cancer treatment, thank God, but it’s on par with being poisoned and cut open).

Not only was I in PAIN! PAIN! PAIN! that required me to be as still as humanly possible in order to manage it, but my skin went through every stage of grief and did two laps through each circle of hell. It turned black. It turned scaly. It peeled off, revealing bright red, raw, sticky, occasionally bloody skin underneath. THAT tightened up and scabbed over. And through it all was just never-ending pain. But finally, after more than two weeks of this business (and after I’d developed a ridiculously expensive ointment-and-bandages habit), I woke up one morning and, while I still felt some discomfort, the abject pain was gone and the skin was starting to look a little less like I passed out for six hours on a bed of hot coals.

I know that everyone’s experience with cancer treatment is different, and I have tried to keep that in mind when people (typically people whose loved ones have just been diagnosed) have asked me for any wisdom about having cancer. But let me tell you what, the next time someone asks, I’m going to say this: Above all, do whatever is necessary to stay alive, but if there is any possible way you can avoid radiation (say, by having a mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy—an option I was initially offered, before the discovery of that rogue malignant lymph node), DO THAT SHIT. It could save you a world of pain.

Or, you could just be less of a dumb ass than I was, and TAKE THE PAIN MEDS. But I did not, because every day I was convinced that tomorrow would be the day it all started to turn around.

That day ended up taking almost three weeks of pure misery.

But on the bright side, if someone ever threatens me with a flaming machete that squirts lye and hot sauce, I’ma be like, “COME AT ME, BRO. I’VE BEEN THROUGH WORSE.”

But I digress.

Getting back to the boobs: the news there is that my reconstruction surgery (which entails replacing my current expanders with actual implants) is scheduled for December. And the good news is that, because I long ago met my out-of-pocket maximum for this year, the installation of them new boobies will be 100% covered by insurance. Merry TITSmas to me!

Papa, I don’t think I said I love you near enough

In NON-medical news, I have just come back from a trip which, last year, went extremely differently for me: the trek to fetch my elder dude from a week-long sleep-away camp in Minnesota.

Like last year, Love Tank drove solo to Minnesota to drop the boy at camp, while I stayed at home with Dude the Younger, and then all three of us piled ourselves in the car a week later, to pick up our missing piece.

Unlike last year, however, I was not completely freaking out for the roughly 36-hour trip.

You see, last year, the day we set off to pick up the kid from camp was the day AFTER I got the news that I had cancer.

More precisely, it was the day after I got ONLY the news that I had cancer; I was given no other information, about what stage, what (if any) the treatment plan was, what my chances were . . . NUTHIN’. All I knew was that I had cancer—and an appointment with an oncology surgeon in A WEEEEEEK.

So last year when I made the Minnesota trip, I was not entirely sure it wouldn’t be the last time I’d pick up my kid from camp. The last time I’d go Minnesota for ANY reason. Hell, the last time I’d take a trip ANYWHERE.

I recall very little about last year’s trip, aside from a few snippets:

  • Meeting a woman in the hotel (over continental breakfast), a Minnesota native who’d traveled back to the area from her new(-ish) home in Florida, to spread her late husband’s ashes;
  • My elder son’s sadness about leaving camp (which, when you’re holding back tears of your own, is not easy to handle, but I remember being also weirdly happy, because he’d clearly had a great time);
  • Getting stuck in traffic, in the rain, and driving (SLOWWWWWLY) past a semi truck in the median, engulfed in sky-high flames (later, once I figured it’d have hit the news cycle, I frantically Googled to find out if the driver had survived—which s/he had, and which brought me a rather astonishing (and bawly) level of relief, considering it wasn’t anyone I loved or even knew); and
  • Love Tank at some point having to turn off Dan Fogelberg, because damn that deep-feelings-crooning bastard for bringing us both close to tears with “Leader of the Band.”

Aside from these snippets, most of my memory of that trip centers on the feeling of having taken a lot of things my life for granted.

Kansas, she says, is the name of the star

And I mean, to be honest, hell, I’m 53, so in a few weeks’ time, I won’t recall much about this year’s trip, either, except that the vibe was totally different, because rather than freaked the [BLEEEEEEEEEP] out about all the things I’ve taken for granted, I just felt supremely . . . I don’t know what.

Grateful, to be sure, and fortunate, of course, but mostly I just felt really . . . “HUH. WOW.”

Like, suddenly everything was made utterly fascinating by the fact that at this exact time last year, I had no idea if I’d still be around by now to see/experience it. So all the things I saw/experienced on this trip became small miracles: wind turbines, fish tacos, my younger kid’s teeth, hotel soap, Aretha Franklin’s version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Raisin Bran, my older kid’s hair, rest stop bathrooms, chocolate shakes, hungry alpacas, air conditioning, Love Tank’s arm freckles . . . everything.

And while most of these are things I’ve experienced on the regular over the past year, it was like I’d just gotten hurled through a tornado and deposited in Oz, where everything was suddenly in technicolor.

So basically, Oz was just me tripping balls about a bunch of things that have been part of my life all along.

(Side note: was I the only kid who thought Dorothy should have clocked Glinda in the face when she found out she had ALWAYS had the ability to get back home, and didn’t have to go through all that flying monkey shit?)

At any rate, I think what it all boils down to is that at least one mystery is now solved: last year, I wondered if I’d still be here right now . . .

. . . and look at me, motherfuckers. HERE I AM. Pass me the Raisin Bran. That shit is amazing.

So what’s next?

Well. I’m not actually officially done with treatment yet; I still have a couple more rounds of immunotherapy to go, and will continue taking the chemo pills through September, and of course I still have to get my new boobs. But then, I dunno. I mean, as much as I’m aware that this is not likely to be my last rodeo with cancer, I kind of feel like things have officially been un-paused, and I can start planning things again, instead of just taking things day by day.

So to start: next year, we’re talking about sending BOTH boys to Minnesota for camp; Boy the Elder as a camper for one week, and a CIT for the next, and Boy the Younger as a camper during his brother’s CIT stint.

We’ll see what I’m tripping balls about THEN.

Great God in Heaven, you know I love you

In the meantime, you may be wondering what I’ve been up to since we last spoke. The answer is, like, EVERYTHING. But if I had to throw a theme on it, I’d say the recurring narrative has been about spending time with awesome-ass people.

To start, WAYYYYYYYYY back in April, I finally hit the runway with a group of phenomenal folx to raise money for Bra Couture KC!

It was so much fun. And so nerve wracking. But fun.

The day started at around noon, when the models gathered at the event site for lunch. We spent the afternoon noshing, chatting, rehearsing, and napping (OK, maybe that part was just me, but you throw me in a room full of recliners, I’m going to do what I do best) while we took turns cycling through hair and makeup (my makeup artist—who put more makeup on me for one night than I’ve worn in the last 25 years combined—pulled out a trick I thought had died with the popularity of Kajagoogoo: once she had all my makeup on, she blasted me in the face with aerosol hairspray to “set” it).

All the while, we were pampered like royalty: as we ate lunch, we were greeted by a couple of last year’s models, who’d come bearing CRAZY-generous gift bags for each of us, containing clothing, jewelry, beauty products, wine (and concomitant tumblers), restaurant gift certificates, winery gift certificates . . . swag for DAYS. In addition, each of us got a quick click session with a professional photographer once we were runway ready. And finally, each of us had an assigned “gopher” (who was assigned to one or two other models as well) to make sure we had what we needed: tissues, water, help getting dressed, you name it. Mine showed me pictures of her son with his adorable girlfriend, and told me the most amazing story about how she ended up adopting him from a gal she’d tapped to be an egg donor (but the gal ended up being like, “Hey, you want this baby I’ve already made instead?”) . . . but I digress.

Showtime was at 8 p.m., so by around 7, we were all dolled up, dressed, and gathered backstage. My runway debut was in the second half of the show, so I had a lot of time to cool my jets—during which jewels started leaping from my outfit like rats from a sinking ship.

Holy shit.

Enter my wonderful gopher, who saw me trying frantically to glue the jewels back onto my outfit (using glue from an “emergency kit” thoughtfully brought backstage for wardrobe malfunctions and other dramas), and enlisted a team of assistants, who banded together to re-jewel me while I stood, deep breathing, with my arms out like Jesus on the cross.

Eventually, my turn on the runway came, my song (Vehicle by Ides of March) started, and y’all. I DID NOT DIE.

Neither did I generate much money (my bra went for the least amount of money—$4,500, whereas another bra went for like $30,000), but I did come away with an understanding I didn’t have before about how the whole thing works . . .

The people aren’t actually bidding on the BRAS, per se—in fact, most winning bidders gift them back to the models—but on the “packages” that come WITH the bras.

And until I walked out on that stage, I had no idea what my package was going to be.

Turns out, it was kinda pud compared to some of the others (trips to the Amalfi Coast, Chiefs season tickets, etc.), BUT I figure that’s fair, since I only invited two people to the event (whereas other models booked party buses for their attendees).

By 11:30 p.m., I was dragging my ass out of there to make the 40-minute drive home, shower away all the floof (well, most of it, anyway; it was a couple more days before I was fully glitter-free), and drop into bed.

Overall, I’m glad I did it (and simultaneously glad it’s over), and am looking forward to seeing how I can stay involved in this event (BEHIND the scenes) in years to come. For one thing, my fellow models (SUCH AMAZING PEOPLE) and I are going to have some big shoes to fill in terms of coming up with good swag bags for NEXT year’s models. And if you’ve ever been to a birthday party for one of my children, you know how passionate I am about goody bags, so this business is right up my alley—although I don’t suppose Play-doh and monster masks would be appropriate in this case . . .

Ah, well. I have time to give it more thought. In the meantime, here are a few photos from the event (do you see what I mean about the glitter?):

Summer, summer, summer . . . it’s like a merry-go-round . . .

Approximately five minutes after the Bra Couture show, summer came in hot, loudly singing cuckoo. School ended, and then a whole new schedule got into full swing:

  • Boy the Elder started a summer Driver’s Ed class, which not only tested the limits of my blood pressure medication, but required daily drop-off and pick-up throughout the month of June. The good news is that he passed with flying colors, and I can now ride as his passenger while breathing somewhat normally. And because he’s my social kid, this summer has also involved near-daily activities with friends, so OF COURSE he gets to drive every time I drop him off or pick him up from a friend’s house. Which I suppose is good practice for both of us (driving practice for him; Zen practice for ME).
  • Boy the Younger started summer day camp, where Love Tank drops him off in the morning, and I pick him up in the afternoon. The good news THERE is that he is still IN camp (last year, he got booted a week before the end, for choosing violence as a solution to a kid who wouldn’t stop bugging him), and seems to like it (which is hard for me to imagine, since he spends all day outside in these apocalyptic temps)! In a couple of weeks, it’ll be over, and he’ll be at home all day errday for a full week before school starts, but at least I won’t have to worry about packing his lunch (which requires remembering to re-freeze his lunchbox ice pack every night), and where he left his water bottle. Small favors.

In the midst of all that whirl, Love Tank and I managed to sneak away for a quick anniversary trip, to celebrate our 20th. Our original plan was to whiz down to Northwest Arkansas on our motorcycles. However, we neglected to OK this plan with Mother Nature, so she planned both triple-digit temperatures and thunderstorms for that weekend, which kind of put the kibosh on the motorcycle-riding part of the plan. And that part of the plan was going to be the fun part for Love Tank (I think Bella Vista, AR is pretty and charming, but he’s ambivalent about it, so the location was strictly for MY happy, and the means of transportation was what was going to make it worthwhile for him—along with my sparkling company, of course). So we pivoted and decided to hop in the car and check out Sioux Falls, SD . . .

. . . which was . . .

. . . not exactly what we expected.

We booked an AirBnB (again, MY thing; Love Tank tends to prefer hotels) that was fine overall, but the thermostat was set at damn SEVENTY-EIGHT DEGREES—with a sticker next to it that said, “Please do not adjust.”

And the bedrooms were upstairs, where it was even WARMER . . .

. . . so basically, we were sleeping in a sauna.

We did manage a decent anniversary dinner, at one of those Brazilian steakhouses, where we both discovered that steak and gorgonzola are a magical combination. But we completely overindulged, to the point that we were both miserable by the time we returned to our sauna for the night.

The next morning, we got up and walked downtown for breakfast, choosing a cute fast-casual place I’d found online. He got an omelette, and I got scrambled eggs with avocado toast . . .

. . . and not only was it all rather bland, but the eggs were weirdly JUICY. Like, sitting in PUDDLES juicy.

Mildly squicked by the puddle-eggs (but fed and caffeinated), we headed out to see some of the pretty nature areas we’d found online . . .

. . . only to find that they were either not as pretty as the pictures, OR much smaller than we’d anticipated. So with that part of the day over more quickly than we thought, we hit a small museum downtown . . .

. . . which was not so much a MUSEUM as it was a largely empty historical building. With some dolls, an old timey car, and a taxidermied bison in it.

After that, we headed back to the sauna to rest a little, and then walked back downtown for dinner at another place we’d found online. By this time, we weren’t expecting much, but as it turns out, we were pleasantly surprised! The restaurant was adorable (with bejeweled wallpaper!), our server was charming and wonderful, and our dinner (Love Tank got a bison steak, and I, still gun-shy from our overindulgence-induced misery the night before, opted for a chicken caesar) was delish, as was the dessert (the key lime pie was on point).

After dinner, we decided to stroll around the downtown area (which was quaint and cute) in search of souvenirs for the boys, and there was this glorious moment when I thought, “Maybe this anniversary trip isn’t a complete bust after all . . . “



Then, shortly thereafter, I shat my pants.

YeeeeeeeUP, that’s right; I was just standing there, looking at a display of those cute blank books you buy and then end up leaving blank because they’re too cute to use (or maybe that’s just me), when suddenly I lost control of my bowels.

Diarrhea is one of the side effects of the chemo pills I’m on (and the only side effect I’m experiencing), but it’s not frequent, and it’s totally unpredictable; there’s no warning churning, burbling, or cramping, just a sudden, er . . . release.

For the most part, it’s been manageable, because again, it’s infrequent, AND I work at home, so when it hits, I’m usually close to all the supplies and amenities I need to get my life together.

This time, I was in a cute little bathroom-less boutique in downtown Sioux Falls, a 15-minute walk from our AirBnB.

I walked over to Love Tank (who was checking out the stuffed animals) and said, “We need to go.”

He looked at me with a mixture of curiosity and concern, and asked, “Are you getting tired?”

“Nope,” I replied.

“Feeling sick?” he asked.


“Need to go to the bathroom?”

“Too late.”

To his credit, though he was a little taken aback by this news, he laughed WITH me, not AT me (I must say, the walk home was pretty entertaining, although both of us wondered if I caused a (literal) stink in the shop), and so far, he’s still married to me.


We arrived back at home in time to celebrate July 4th as we typically do (nothing fancy, just some hot dogs, chips, and low-key fireworks with neighbors), and the next day, the offspring and I took off for our annual trip to Texas to visit family people.

That’s always a good time, because mostly we just sit around in people’s houses and gab while they feed us.

After a few days of THAT, we headed back home, and had three days of downtime before Boy the Elder headed to camp.

Once Love Tank had dropped him off and returned home, I took off for a couple of days in nearby LFK (Lawrence Fucking Kansas), home to both Kansas University and a couple of my childhood friends, because a THIRD childhood friend swooped in from out of state for a quick visit. She rented an AirBnB, and over the course of about 2.5 days, those friends and I enjoyed:

  • Three dinners (two fancy, one pizza)
  • One sleepover
  • One breakfast
  • Some shopping
  • A LOT of fancy cheese
  • Some deep, ugly laughs (you know what I’m talking about, where you can’t breathe, your face is leaking, and you know there’s blackmail fodder if anyone whips out a camera, but you’re helpless to stop it)
  • Some regular laughs
  • Some tears
  • Some bat sightings
  • A rousing sing-along to The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and
  • Gloriously poop-free pants (musta been all that cheese)

Then, I returned home, simultaneously exhausted and renewed, and three days after THAT, we left for Minnesota to pick up the boy from camp. Arrived home yesterday, and here I am, FINALLY catching y’all up on my life.

Now I’m going to bed.

As always, THANK you for hangin’ in with me! Maybe we can meet up at the Regal Beagle soon. I’ll wear my best muumuu.

The “little c” chronicles, Part 15: Carry on.

Hey, y’all, it’s my birthday! First one I’ve had without boobs in a few decades—and I gotta say, I don’t mind it. Who knew? I said in an earlier post that I wouldn’t go flat because it would throw off my boobs-to-belly balance, but I’m actually discovering that even with a little middle-aged “love” around my mid-section, I still kinda like being flat-chested.

Granted, these days, there’s still a little discomfort involved (not PAIN, exactly—at least not most of the time—but a weird numbness over the whole area between my clavicle and the bottom end of my breastbone, extending into my left armpit and down the back of my left arm to my elbow, all of which CAN get a little achy if I go all day without Tylenol) and, due to continued swelling in my left armpit (where lymph nodes were removed during surgery), I cannot successfully sleep on my left side for very long—but I gotta say, I don’t miss those suckers nearly as much as I thought I would.

Honestly, the physical “accoutrements” it’s been (emotionally) hardest to lose during this whole affair have been my eyebrows and eyelashes—which, along with my hair, are coming back, baby! (Interestingly, while I’m thrilled by the return of my eyebrows—watch out, kids, Mama’s facial expressions are back!—I’m so-so on the hair; I’m at that weird re-growth stage right now where it’s kind of unclear whether I’m intentionally trying out a Sinead O’Connor vibe, or growing my hair back after a health-related loss. It’s kind of like that stage of pregnancy where people don’t know whether you’ve just been hitting the Taco Bell drive-thru a little too often, or if you are, in fact, expecting. But I digress. Point is, the look I have going on now is slightly more confusing—and decidedly less interesting—than being bald.)

But before I go down another random rabbit hole, I do have a WEE bit of “next steps” information to share. I say a WEE bit because most of it is currently up in the air a bit, due to a bunch of moving parts. I’ll try to explain my understanding of this whole situation as well as I can, but it’s confusing as hell, so if you walk away dizzy, just know you’re not alone.

So a couple of weeks after my surgery, I had A LOT of appointments with A LOT of specialists to outline my treatment going forward—and here were my takeaways:

  • The lymphedema specialist needed my surgical drains removed (alas, I did not make my goal of getting them out a week post-surgery, so I still had them in when I met with her) before she could work with me on exercises to improve my range of motion.
  • The oncologist needed to know my radiation plan/schedule before deciding when and how to administer the oral chemo I’ll be taking for the foreseeable future (but he also said he’d be waiting until I’ve recovered a little more fully from surgery, so there was “no rush” to start the meds).
  • The plastic surgeon ALSO needed to know my radiation plan/schedule before deciding when and how to fill up my boob expanders (because my right boob, if filled, could get in the way of the beams trying to zap my left side, where the tumor was, BUT the left boob should be filled as much as possible BEFORE radiation starts, because the radiation would make the skin more resistant to stretching with the fills).
  • The radiologist—whom we thought was the linchpin in this whole operation, but apparently not—needed all kindsa stuff from the other specialists:
    • The plastic surgeon’s plan for filling up my boobs so that he can perform a radiation simulation in order to determine my radiation plan and schedule (which will take a couple of weeks after the simulation is done)
    • The lymphedema specialist to help me improve my range of motion so I’ll be able to get my left arm behind my head (which I can do, but it’s NOT comfortable) for the aforementioned simulation (and, of course, the radiation treatments themselves)
    • Precisely 32.7 ml of blood from an axolotl named Cleophus
    • And BTW, ALL of this needs to be done in time for me to start radiation treatments within three months post-surgery.

It’s all giving “Who’s on First?”

Nonetheless, so far I’ve made some—though minimal—progress towards achieving this goal:

  1. I got my drains out (HALLELUJAH—or, as my littler dude says, “Hoo-RAY! Pa-TOWW! Wa-ka-ka-kahhh!” . . . no idea where that came from, but I love it and it’s kind of my new thing) exactly two weeks after my surgery.
  2. I’m still working at home on the range of motion exercises they occupational therapist sent home from the hospital with me . . .
  3. . . . in the hope of being able to break dance when I see the lymphedema specialist in a few days, so she’ll be impressed with my progress.
  4. . . . and also (because why the hell not?) to be able to do pinup-girl poses when the plastic surgeon starts filling up my boobs (ALSO in a few days).

. . . and of course, I’m continuing the immunotherapy treatments every three weeks.

So that’s the news I have in terms of my continuing treatment plan.

Nothing equals the splendor

In other “Carry on” news, last weekend I attended another youth symphony concert for my elder dude. Y’all may recall that at the last concert, I waxed rhapsodic about their rendition of Rhapsody in Blue—but for THIS concert, they went in a whole different direction, and I was equally enraptured.

This time, the guest performer was Mark Wood (and the Mark Wood Experience), who joined them to bust out orchestral renditions of classic 70s and 80s rock hits.

And YOU KNOW this here Topeka girl belted out every word of this number! I mean, I repreSENT, you know’m sayin’?

. . . and, by the way, so does my son, who played most of this show IN PAIN, which of course twangs my guilt strings a little.

About a month previous, the kid went bowling with a friend and came away with a sore wrist. Like the good parent I am, I let his initial complaints float by, figuring it would eventually get better.

It didn’t.

A couple of weeks later, when he was still complaining of pain, I chalked it up to the P.E. class bowling unit they’d just finished, coupled with his participation in his brother’s bowling birthday party (obviously BOWLING is the problem here; I mean, it’s a well-known fact that BOWLING = PAIN, right?).

A week or so after THAT, however, when he was still complaining about the pain, I promised to make him an appointment with his doctor.

Which I of course forgot.

Then, in the middle of the Saturday afternoon rehearsal immediately preceding his Saturday night Tribute to Old Farts (like Yours Truly) concert, he texted: “Hey, did you ever make me a doctor’s appointment?”

Which was his way of saying, “MY. WRIST. STILL. HURTS. Why don’t you love me?” (That may be the guilt talking, but I mean, what was the point of asking me that, in that particular moment, other than to point out my failures as a parent?) And because of all the extra cello playing (a Friday evening rehearsal, and a Saturday morning private lesson happened previous to the Saturday afternoon rehearsal wherein he subtly questioned my fitness as a mother), he was starting to suffer from this particular nugget of neglect.

Love Tank, however, came to the rescue by whizzing to the nearest CVS to pick up a wrist brace, and running that—and some ibuprofen—up to the rehearsal venue. He spoke with both the kid and the conductor, and all agreed that if the pain got bad during the concert, the kid should stop playing, in order to avoid exacerbating a potential medical issue.

However, although he said his wrist started hurting really badly after the first song his group played (I saw him grab it a couple of times, when the musicians stood to bask in the applause), my boy decided the show must go on—plus, he was concerned about confusing the cellists around him by suddenly stopping his own show—so he dug in and kicked ass.

As a reward, I treated him to a FOUR-HOUR Urgent Care experience the next day. He got an x-ray (which showed no abnormalities), a splint, and instructions to rest the wrist for five days—which got him out of a week’s worth of P.E. and orchestra activities, so it was practically like a tropical vacation!

At any rate, I gotta say, I am consistently blown away by the collective talent of this group of baby musicians. And the fact that my dude is among them is pure magic to my soul.

Take a look, it’s in a book

The other magic for my soul (which, as you may recall, was in need of a little salve after the semi-crappy news that came out of my biopsy results) has been—of all things—reading cancer-related memoirs.

When last I left you, I was about to start (re)reading this book, thinking a little levity around the subject of cancer might be just what I needed.

And sure enough, it was.

While I recalled having enjoyed this book when I first read it, I suspected (correctly) that it would, as the kids say, “hit different” now that I’m going through this shit myself. I got some genuine LOL moments out of it this time—including a couple of . . . well, not ROFL moments, per se, but some definite UL (ugly laughing—I’m making it a thing if it isn’t already) moments. Sister was HILARIOUS. If you (as many of you claim) enjoy reading this blog, I think you’ll REALLY like Lopsided. Give it a try if you’re so inclined.

From there, I didn’t really INTEND to continue reading memoirs about cancer, but—thanks to the Amazon algorithm which, because I ordered Lopsided, was like, “Oh, so I see you’re into true stories about people who died of cancer! Gurl, we gotchu!”—I stumbled across this book, which sucked me all the way in with its crazy-ass premise:

A medical emergency forces a brilliant Harvard oncologist to reveal that she has been hiding her advanced breast cancer for a decade. Her husband—also an oncologist—must set aside his anger and feelings of betrayal so that he can care for her during her final year of life.

I mean, what in the entire fuck, right? So once I was done with Lopsided, I bought In Sickness and dove right in—to discover that the Amazon synopsis was only the first of many times I’d mutter, “What in the entire fuck?” in response to this book.

Here’s what I’ll say: The writing is good (engaging, descriptive, flows well), and I did find the story fascinating (for a lot of reasons). However, if you are a person who has a zero-tolerance policy for questionable decision-making (and many of the people I love most are such people—you know who you are), WALK AWAY. You will have no patience with this narrator, and will end up chucking this book across the room—or worse, you’ll hate it so much you’ll make your own questionable decisions, and end up setting your expensive new curtains on fire trying to incinerate this bad boy.

IF, however, you’re someone (like me) who delights in armchair psychology (but who does not actually STUDY psychology, in which case you’d probably find the narrator’s (and his wife’s) behavior utterly predictable from a DSM perspective), you might be fascinated by this book (as I was). You’ll walk away with more questions than answers—but the food for thought will keep you burping for days.

Now that my gas has subsided, I’ve picked up this book. (“Yo, wanna read about MORE cancer?” Amazon said. “OK,” I replied.) I’m not very far into it, but my impressions thus far are:

  • The author wrote this book (which grew out of a blog) because she felt like what was missing from a lot of cancer stories was humor; and OK, maybe expecting this book to rise to the level of Lopsided humor isn’t quite fair—but so far, I’m not getting a ton of chuckles.
  • Also, I’ve already come across a couple of instances where she kind of seems to contradict herself. It could be that she needed a better editor, or it could be that these contradictions are part of her particular brand of humor, and I’m missing some subtle tongue-in-cheekiness, but twice so far, I’ve been like, “Wait, but three pages ago, you said . . . “
  • ALL that said, I’ve already encountered a couple of passages in the book that make me feel like this person and I should be total best friends, because we appear to share a brain (or a right hemisphere, anyway). On the one hand, this tells me I’m not the thought unicorn I’d like to be, but on the other, so much “OMG, SAMESIES!” that I’m starting to wonder if it would be weird to reach out to this person and invite her to drinks (leaving aside the fact that she lives on the west coast).

OK, who knew this blog post was going to turn into a BOOK CLUB? (I do think after I finish this book, though, I’m going back to thriller fiction or Amish romance or something; I’ve had enough cancer for now.)

At any rate, my boys (who are out fetching me a birthday cake—you know I’m the weirdo who, although I delight in making homemade birthday cakes for my offspring, LOVES LOVES LOVES storebought cake) will be back soon, and then there’ll be dinner (take-out of my choice—Hoo-RAY! Pa-TOWW! Wa-ka-ka-kahhh!), so I’m going to wrap this up now. But I’ll share more after the upcoming week’s doctor visits, and as always, thanks for hanging in!

Y’all are all the present a gal could ask for.

The fucking asshole “c” chronicles, Part 14: Welp, shit.

So I’m sitting here in my sky-high bed, drinking a Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce latte left on my porch by an equally dolce friend (it is DELICIOUS; I didn’t think I liked Starbucks, but I am seriously considering Door Dashing eight more gallons of this stuff), and even though it’s only been a coupla days since my last update, I figure now is as good a time as any to give y’all the updates I have right now.

They’re not great. Not THE WORST, but not great.

So yesterday morning, I had back-to-back post-op follow-up (my, that was dash-tastic) appointments at the oncology surgeon’s office, and the plastic surgeon’s office.

The good news is that the surgical sites look good—no infection, not much bruising, healing nicely, etc.

The bad news is that my hope of little to no cancer in the primary tumor was stomped to a pulp. Not only was the tumor the same size it had been before I started the Red Devil treatments (you may recall that towards the end of the Taxol treatments, an ultrasound indicated the tumor had shrunk by about 30% . . . but damn if that piece of shit hasn’t stayed the same size since then) but also—and here’s the real smack to the face with a cast iron skillet—the biopsy showed that more than 75% of it was cancerous .(I mean, I was prepared for them to find a little cancer still mucking around in there—but more than 75%? Holy shit.)

There was some other good news, too: The first bit, of course, being that my margins were clear (meaning no cancer cells were found at the outer edge of the tissue removed—i.e., they “got it all” during surgery and I won’t have to go back for a second surgery to have more tissue removed, because GAH, that would suck ass). Also, I mentioned in the last post that 2 lymph nodes had shown malignancy during surgery, and that 10 had been removed altogether. So the other good news is that NONE of the other eight nodes removed showed any malignancy.

So technically, I’m now “cancer free”—and of course, I’ll be doing all the things (radiation, continued immunotherapy, and—I’m sure, although I haven’t met with my oncologist yet—more chemo) in order to try and stay that way, but this cancer means BUSINESS, y’all. It took the ubiquitous “B-E AGGRESSIVE” cheer a LITTLE too seriously in high school.

And although I KNOW I’m not an oncologist (or ANY kind of medical professional, despite the fact that I sometimes list myself as Dr. Blackwell just for kicks when we renew our membership to the local art museum), what this looks like to me is that MY cancer told THE RED DEVIL to go right on back to hell.

From where I’m sitting, it appears that the most powerful cancer treatment on the market right now DID NOT WORK for me, and those last 12 weeks of treatment were basically for nothing. OK, technically, I don’t KNOW that (because for all I know, the Red Devil kept the tumor from GROWING), but I mean, WHAT IN THE ENTIRE FUCK?

Plus, there were other things in the pathology report that I had to Google to understand (things like tumor necrosis)—but the understanding I came away with was basically, “You in danger, Girl.”

(Again: take all of this with the knowledge that nobody with an actual medical degree has said these things to me, but, I mean . . . in the absence (so far) of any official indication otherwise, what else is there to think?)

Entitlement is a bitch

So I spent most of yesterday bawling and eating Thin Mints.

I’d like to say that I woke up TODAY with a renewed determination to kick this sucker’s ass . . . but that’s not exactly true.

What I did wake up with was the realization (which is not exactly NEW—it’s just coming from a new angle) that I’m not exactly accustomed to shit not working out the way I want it to. This past week, I’ve been watching “Shrinking” on Apple TV (I know some critics don’t like it, but I love it so much I could kiss it, I mean my boyfriend Jason Segel AND Harrison Ford in the same show (which makes me wonder if Segel TOTALLY plotzed when he knew he’d be working with Han Solo, because he’s pretty much the EXACT demographic of someone who would)? SPECTACULAR). And (no spoilers here) there’s a character in it whose mantra is “Everything goes my way.”

And, well . . . I’m pretty much that person, too. I mean, not EVERYTHING goes my way:

Do I own a vacation home on the California coast? NO.

Do I have the same metabolism I did 30 years ago? NO.

Am I Sheila E.? NO.

But overall, things DO tend to work out the way I want them to, and I’ve had this rather amazing life, wherein I’ve been able to do and experience things a lot of gals from Topeka, KS, have not, and have the amazing luck to know and be loved by so many of THEEEEEE most spectacular people (I mean, not Sheila E., but otherwise . . . ). Plus, despite a relative lack of ambition and/or direction, I have somehow landed in a life replete with ease, comfort, and privilege (I don’t wonder how I’m going to pay my medical bills, keep my lights on, or feed my children—hell, I just registered my older kid for sleep-away camp in Minnesota this summer). And I can only attribute that to some kind of crazy, lifelong good fortune, which (perhaps UNfortunately) has nurtured a huge sense of entitlement in me.

So the fact that yesterday didn’t bring “Hooray! Everything’s working out great!” news threw me for a bit of a loop.

(That amazing attitude y’all keep praising me for throughout this mess? Yeah, that has pretty much come from the fact that I assumed things would work out better at this point than they have.)

So what now (personally, I mean, not medically)?

Well. I don’t know. But when I first got diagnosed, there were three things I wanted out of this experience (aside, of course, from SURVIVAL):

  1. A clearer sense of priority in my life
  2. A determination to spend more time doing things that make me happy
  3. Something to write about.

I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at 2 and 3, but #1 still eludes me at times; like I still find myself telling my sweet-faced, beloved (and OK, sometimes annoying) children to go away when they pop into my office to ask me something while I’m trying to work (I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but the huge disadvantage of 100% remote work are snow days and professional days). I still find myself foisting off friends who offer to come bring me coffee or just hang out with me because I don’t feel like my house is clean enough (y’all know ’bout me and cleaning). Or I find myself reluctant to join Love Tank for an after-dinner movie date on the sofa, because if I do, I won’t get my laundry folded.

So maybe this is an opportunity to lean more into #1 and start telling my job, my vacuum cleaner, and my laundry to go fuck themselves. (Well, OK, we all know that’s not going to happen, because all three of them DO provide me a great deal of satisfaction in their own ways (plus my job provides me both subsidy for, and the means to pay, my medical bills, AND the fees for that summer camp) . . . but maybe they can be a little lower on the list than the people I love.)

In the meantime, I decided I could use a little irreverence, so last night I downloaded (for free, thanks to all the digital credits I’ve racked up on Amazon) a book I read years ago, by an amazing person I met once.

Here’s the unnecessarily long and winding story to go with that:

Many, many years ago, I lived in Oakland, CA. During part of that time, I dated a dude I’d known (but never dated) in high school, who happened to live in San Jose. Eventually, he dumped me (like a WEEK before my BIRTHDAY, for the love—although I gotta say I kinda deserved it (the dumping, not the timing thereof), because I wasn’t the best girlfriend . . . I mean, I didn’t cheat on him, or boil his bunny or anything, but remember, I’m the entitlement queen, so it wasn’t the most equitable relationship), but we remained friendly, and called or emailed one another periodically, just to say hello and for proof of life. We even had dinner, once, when he was in Oakland for work or somesuch.

And all was pretty OK.

One day, though, I called him to say hello, and he told me he couldn’t really talk to me anymore, because he had a girlfriend who wasn’t cool with it. Even emails were a no-go, he said, because she read his emails over his shoulder.

And I was DONE.

One thing to know about me is that I do NOT cotton to jealousy (of the romantic variety, I mean; I get plenty jealous of people who own vacation homes). And quite honestly, I’m flummoxed by people who (a) openly admit to operating according to a partner’s jealousy, and (b) expect me to understand and be OK with that.

I mean, OF COURSE I get that one’s partner is one’s top priority (unless there’s laundry to be folded). So sure, tell me you have to cancel drinks because your partner just scored surprise tickets to monster trucks. Bring me a t-shirt and I’ll reimburse you. If your partner’s mom broke a wrist and needs help around the house, by all means ditch our spa day and go give her dog a bath! Or if Friday night is your regular Pizza and PJs date night with your person, turn me ALL the way down for the movie premiere of “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” I’m golden.

But miss me with anything smelling of “I’d LOVE to, but [INSERT NAME OF CONTROLLING PARTNER HERE] HATES it when I . . . ” (I mean, again, let’s be reasonable, here; if I invite you to play Russian Roulette, move permanently to Dubai, or have sex with me, I can see where your partner might have issues. But if it boils down to not wanting you to hang out with me (y’know, doing NORMAL stuff) because of jealousy? Or even TALK to me on the phone? Get TF outta here.)

And for my part, I am NOT the jealous type, either. (For one thing, I think I’m pretty damn awesome (see? entitlement), so if you’d REALLY rather be with someone else, knock yourself out; I think less of your taste now, so I’ll happily send you on your way. For another thing, while of course I DON’T want a partner to cheat on me, I want it to be because HE CHOOSES NOT TO—not because I’m monitoring his life in order to deprive him of any opportunity to do so. But I digress.) Which is a good thing, because a full 92.7% of Love Tank’s closest friends are women, so we’d never make it if I had jealousy issues. Or if HE did, because—as you may have guessed by now—that business is a non-starter for me. Anyway, where was I?

Oh, yes. So at this point, I’m DONE with the ex, because he is legit expecting me to understand that we can no longer stay in touch because his girlfriend won’t allow it.

Moving on.

Awhile later, another friend of mine from high school and his wife relocated to Oakland from the east coast. As one does when faced with the opportunity to have regular contact with good friends, I pretty much figured we had all the time in the world to hang out, so I think we saw each other ONE TIME, at a party in my apartment (at which EVERY straight man in attendance fell madly in love with my friend’s wife because she is . . . but I digress), before I ended up deciding to leave Oakland and move to Philadelphia.

In preparation for my move, I had put some of my furniture up for sale on Craigslist (remember that?), and so was awaiting calls from futon seekers across the East Bay. If you know me, you know I feel very little obligation to answer the phone just because it rings, and am just as likely to let it go to voicemail if I’m in the middle of something, or heck, if I just don’t feel like talking. However, at that point in my life, I didn’t want to miss out on any potential buyers by failing to pick up the phone, so I was answering every call if I was at home . . .

. . . which is how one evening I picked up the phone and heard a feeble, “Hey . . . ” from my damn ex (whom YOU KNOW would otherwise have gone deep into the voicemail void and never returned, because I can hold a grudge like nobody’s business) on the other end of the line. Even though I was still mad that he’d ditched me, I talked to him long enough to tell him I was moving across the country in a couple of weeks (take THAT, you weak-ass, friendship-nuking bastard!). He asked if there was any sort of goodbye party planned, and I (truthfully) said no; I said that several friends had mentioned taking me out to a goodbye dinner, but so far nobody had gone as far as to suggest a date or time.

He suggested a date and time to take me out to dinner himself.

I caved and agreed (so much for that grudge)—and then another friend (who’d been pissed at this guy for dumping me in the first place) suggested we make that dinner my OFFICIAL good-bye gathering for EVERYONE, to thwart any potential plans Dude might have for some romantic moment with me before I left—which I doubted he had, but I went along with this plan, and started calling people to invite them to dinner on the date and time I’d set up with my ex (I did tell him about it, though—I mean I’m not THAT much of an asshole—and he didn’t seem to mind).

Among the people I invited were my east coast defector friend and his wife, who were disappointed to find out I was leaving. “We wanted to introduce you to our friend Meredith,” they said, “because we think you guys would love each other.”

I told ’em to bring Meredith along to the goodbye dinner—and, true to their prediction, I DID love her. She was so amazing and hilarious and fun . . . and she gifted me with one of the most satisfying moments of my life . . .

We were all at a long table in the restaurant, and she was sitting next to me, while my ex sat across from us. At one point, she leaned over and whispered in my ear (gesturing with her eyeballs toward my ex): “OK, is that dude your boyfriend?”

“No,” I whispered back, not bothering to explain the whole situation.

“Really?” she replied, “Because he is giving you THE MOST LOVING LOOKS—like he is REALLY going to miss you, if you know what I mean.”


After that, I did explain to her that he was my ex, and she said, “Ahhhh, that explains it.”

But that moment cemented my love for her to a point that I almost didn’t want to move away from the opportunity to become besties with this spectacular person.

Sadly, I never kept in touch with her or anything—but because I kept in occasional touch with my friends who’d introduced me to her, I knew she’d developed cancer, and written a memoir about it, so I bought it and read it when it came out.

I also knew when she died.

I don’t remember a ton about the book (and I can’t even FIND my hard copy now), but I remember liking it quite a bit, and even though I had NO IDEA that a decade hence, I’d find myself in a similar situation, I remember appreciating the fact that it wasn’t some Chicken Soup for the Soul-type inspirational tome, but rather a funny, sarcastic, and irreverent take on what—let’s face it—is a shitty situation. I will be the first to admit that I’ve found some nuggets of gold in this pile of shit (all of you being one big shit-coated nugget, and I mean that in the best way), but I think what I maybe need now are not inspirational memes involving footprints or inner wolves, or—God forbid—the word “warrior,” but rather someone (even a dead someone) to sit in the shit with me, acknowledge that it is indeed shit, and make me laugh at the same time.

Yesterday and the day before, the weather here was great (upper 50s/low 60s), and on each of those mornings, I woke up thinking I’d get out of the house and take an afternoon walk. On the first of those days, I ended up hanging out in bed, talking on the phone to a friend for three hours instead, and on the second, I ended up again in bed, wallowing in self-pity because things didn’t exactly go my way at my doctor visits yesterday.

Today, it’s cold again, so I’m not even going to try to go outside. I think instead, I’ll hang out in bed, eat some more Girl Scout cookies, fire up my Kindle app, and start my new/old book.

Thanks, as always, for hangin’ in.

P.S. I initially titled this post “The asshole ‘c’ chronicles,” but it occurred to me that y’all could take that the wrong way and think the cancer had spread to my butthole or something—and that is NOT the case (small favors), so I added the ‘fucking’ for clarification.

The (even) little(r) “c” chronicles, Part 13: The boobs have left the building.

GAH, sorry sorry sorry, y’all, for taking so long to post an update! (Believe me, I heard about it from more than one of ya.)

But most of you already know the big news: On February 15, I underwent a double mastectomy, with kinda-sorta reconstruction (after the oncology surgeon did her thang, the plastic surgeon came in and placed expanders where my breast tissue used to be; in a year or so, the expanders will be replaced with permanent implants).

The news I have to share from that (so far) is a mixed bag: while I was still way down deep in General Anesthesia Wonderland, the oncology surgeon told Love Tank that she hadn’t SEEN any remaining cancer in the primary tumor (but of course, she didn’t slice it up and put it under a microscope, so this is by no means official news—just official HOPE, because after all the chemo was done, I was still able to feel the tumor, so I just assumed that meant there was still cancer in it, and it turns out that’s not NECESSARILY the case).

So that’s the good news.

The bad news is that she did find malignancy in two lymph nodes. She said she yoinked (although she didn’t use that term, I think it fits) out about ten lymph nodes, and of course the hope is that the additional ones will NOT show any cancer . . .

. . . but I’m still not happy about those two. I knew at the start of chemo, of course, that there was cancer in ONE, and my assumption (although i didn’t have the wherewithal to confirm with her after the surgery—you know they give you some damn good drugs when you get parts of you removed) is that the one we already knew about is one of the two in question, and it somehow convinced a buddy to go rogue with it. But I’m not sure; maybe the chemo worked on that one, and two OTHERS went rogue—who knows?

At any rate, what this says to me is that this business is on the move, and trying to reach out and touch some shit, which is NOT COOL.

What does that mean in terms of treatment, though? Not sure at this point. We will know more, of course, once the biopsy results come back from the tissue removed during surgery.

What it MAY mean is more chemo. (Blecccch.)

Since the surgery has revealed that there wasn’t a complete response to the chemo treatments I’ve already done (i.e., the cancer was not 100% gone), it’s possible I could end up doing oral chemo treatments now. OR I could possibly just continue the immunotherapy treatments I’ve been doing every three weeks for the next several months (which was already the plan). One thing I know is that whatever happens will be in addition to radiation, which was ALSO already the plan.

At any rate, again, I won’t know anything for sure until my one-week post-surgery follow-up appointment on Wednesday.

So until then, that’s all the REAL medical news I have.

Should I stay or should I go now?

Other than that, what I can tell you is that I have discovered something about myself. I think there are two kinds of people: those who CANNOT WAIT to get TF out of the hospital (to the point of going AMA if they have to), and those who are like, “Nuh-uh, mofos, I’m staying here as long as I can!”

And I somehow appear to be a little of both.

I knew going in that I’d be staying a night, but not really knowing what to expect (having only experienced two outpatient surgeries in my life previous to this), I didn’t have feelings about it either way.

Before I went in, though, a couple of people encouraged me to make them keep me in the hospital as long as possible (one shared an anecdote about an acquaintance who’d insisted on staying a second night after her lumpectomy, because even after that surgery, which was significantly less invasive than what I was having done, she didn’t feel well enough to leave the hospital after one night). I took it under advisement, of course, but since I HAAAAAAAAATE having an IV hanging out in my body (when I gave birth to my second baby, they stuck it in my wrist (*shudder*), and I was so skeeved out by it that the nurse took pity on me, cut the toe end off a hospital-issue grippy sock, and slid it over my wrist to hide the IV from my tender eyeballs), I assumed I’d be one of the “Get me TF outta here” types.

That is, until I woke up from surgery.

I’m about to digress, here, but here’s a thing I find amusing: in my life, I’ve had three surgeries involving general anesthesia:

  1. A tubal ligation after my second kid (thanks to which I discovered that general anesthesia makes me nauseated, which was a HUGE disappointment to me, because as much as I LOVE to sleep, I thought general anesthesia would be nothing but hearts, unicorns, and puppy butts for me . . . but I digress even further);
  2. The surgery to place my port for chemo treatments, and
  3. The removal of my boobs.

. . . and the last thing I remember before two out of those three surgeries (the latter two—before each of which I had the good sense to ask for anti-nausea meds in conjunction with the general anesthesia, so I did get more of the puppy-butt experience) is saying something along the lines of, “Yeah, you’re right” to a medical professional.

When I got my port placed, the last thing I remember is being on a gurney, watching the ceiling whizz by as I was wheeled to the operating room, and the anesthesia nurse saying, “You should start to feel the meds kicking in . . . .” After a second or two, I replied, “Oh, yeah, I DO feel that!”

. . . and that was all she wrote. Next thing I knew, I was waking up, my chest hurt, and someone was offering me ice chips.

This time, I actually made it all the way INTO the OR (which was fascinating: first of all, it looked a lot more like an auto shop than I’d anticipated, with stuff hanging on walls, and multiple tables around, AND it was far more colorful than the ones they show on TV, which are always white white white; basically, the one thing my Imagination OR and my Reality OR had in common were the hella bright lights . . . but holy cow, I’m never going to get to my point at this rate). The nurses wheeled my gurney up against the operating table, and helped me scoot myself onto the table. One of the nurses placed my pillow back underneath my head, and as I reached up to adjust it, she said, “Go ahead and fix that however makes you comfortable; I know the operating table isn’t the most comfortable . . . ” I replied, “Yeah, you’re right about that . . . ”

. . . and the next thing I knew, I was waking up, my chest hurt, and someone was telling me it was time to take me up to my hospital room.

So what this all comes down to is that apparently I am extremely agreeable right before I pass out.

Unlike the port placement surgery, though, waking up this time was much more of an ordeal. I can remember snippets of waking up and interacting with people:

  • I remember a nice man waking me up to let me know he was wheeling me up to my room, and warning me about the bumps I’d feel as he rolled me across the elevator threshold.
  • I remember the nice man announcing we’d made it to my room, and that at that point I struggled to open my eyes long enough to see if I had a private room, or if I was stuck with a roommate (the latter of which would certainly have influenced my desire to get out of the hospital—y’all know mama loves her alone time—but hallelujah, I had a private room).
  • I remember expressing, eyes closed, to the nurse who’d be in charge of my in-room care that I needed to pee (whether she asked, or I volunteered that information, I can’t tell ya)—but when she asked if I felt able to stand up and walk to the restroom, I very distinctly replied, “NUH-UH.”
  • She then asked if I was ready for pain medication, and I replied (eyes still closed), “UH-HUH.”
  • I remember seeing Love Tank sitting on the sofa next to my hospital bed, and trying SO HARD to wake up and talk to him, but my eyes kept drifting shut again and I’d tumble back down to the bottom of Knocked Out Mountain.

A full THREE HOURS later, I woke up to Love Tank smiling and very sweetly saying “Hi, Baby . . . ” in greeting. And also to a KILLER urge to pee, since once I’d told the nurse I wasn’t walking to the bathroom, she went on ahead and let me roll back down the mountain with my full bladder.

Love Tank called her in, and she helped me sit upright, stand up, and walk to the bathroom and HOLY MUTHA, I am here to tell y’all that I have never been so stunned by pain as I was in those moments. When I leaned forward slightly to lower my tush onto the toilet, the pain smacked so hard, I swear I hallucinated a little bit, got hit with a wave of nausea, and called out something like, “HOH-SHHYAGRHHHHHHT” through gritted teeth.

Once I was back in bed, I was thirsty as hell, but swore off liquids for the rest of my life, because I never wanted to have to use the restroom again.

The nurses were great about keeping me on top of my pain meds, though, and I discovered that if I lay supine and mostly still, the pain wasn’t so bad. If I had to sit up, though, CRAP ON A CRACKER IN THE MOONLIGHT, that shit hurt.

So once Love Tank had left to head home and see about our kids—and more importantly to take care of our poor, old-ass dog, who is having trouble walking these days (making it an act of Congress to get him outside to do his business, and Love Tank seems to be the most influential Representative in this household)—I lay comfortably on my back and called/texted people who’d asked to be kept in the loop.

It was during some of those conversations that I told people I didn’t think there was any way I’d be ready to return home the next day, because of the crazy pain. Besides, being in the hospital wasn’t so bad (except for the peeing); I had a bunch of TV channels at my disposal, a bed that would do a good deal of the work of sitting up FOR me, AND I’d been able to order a tasty dinner (and a fancy one—my mashed potatoes came with a flower on top!).

(I later realized I’d fallen victim to that phenomenon wherein that first hospital meal you have after not having eaten for almost an entire day is AMAAAAAZING . . . but then once you’re not starving anymore, the food’s not so great; happened to me when I had my first kid, too. But I digress.)

Later, thanks to the glorious combination of Percocet and Valium, I drifted off into a blissful slumber. SO blissful, in fact, that my ass forgot all about my current circumstances, and I instinctively tried to roll onto my side (which is how I normally sleep) . . . and LORD, hammercy, the HOH-SHHYAGRHHHHHHT pain yanked me right on up out of that bliss.

Once I was awake, I discovered I was STARVING (despite the glorious dinner), so I fished around in a balloon-adorned bag of goodies sent by a friend who for some reason loves me more than I can fathom (I mean, I’m not saying I’m not lovable, but this woman consistently shows me pure, unadulterated adoration, and I am not sure what I’ve done to earn it), and fished out a Twix bar, which I schlurped down at lightning speed. A few minutes later, the nurse came in to check my vitals, and I confessed I’d just finished a (literal) midnight snack fulla sugar. She offered me a list of other snacks she could bring me. 10 minutes later, I was eating the most delicious dry turkey sandwich I’d ever had (see what I mean about starvation and hospital food?), and chasing it with a Peppermint Patty from my goody bag.

The next morning, however, the hospital food magic ended (thanks to that midnight snack). When it came time for breakfast (I chose a cheese omelette, sausage, and breakfast potatoes), I discovered everything was kind of blecchy (the sausage was OK, and the coffee didn’t taste good, but it was HOT, which was pleasant, but otherwise . . . ). Same thing happened at lunch. But by that time, although I was still in some pain, I was able to sit up, walk, and make it to the restroom without assistance from the nurse, and without speaking in tongues. Plus, they’d removed my IPC devices, which I’d actually found oddly comforting—like a perpetual leg massage.

So it was time to go.

Technically, we had until midnight to vacate the premises, but once I’d received visits from both surgeons, a couple of surgical residents, and the occupational therapist, there wasn’t really much of a reason to hang around, other than the opportunity to spend time with Love Tank away from our children. (Hey, don’t knock it; it’s quiet, you can wear comfortable clothes (by then I’d changed out of the hospital gown and into my own attire under the supervision of the occupational therapist), you can watch movies, and if you’re on a high enough floor, you get a decent view.) So at around 2 p.m. (once the movie ended), I told the nurse I was ready to blow that popsicle stand.

By 3:30 or so, I was at home in my own bed. None of the people I’d talked to the night before could believe it, based on how much pain I’d been in when we’d spoken, and I think they thought I was trying to be a damn hero, but really, I’d just started wanting to be in a place where I wouldn’t have to think about getting up and going anywhere in the near future.

There’s no place like home

So here I am, four days post-surgery, and not doing too badly. Still spending a shit ton of time in bed, but I’m reaching a point where that’s at least 52% just because I wanna.

(Side note: five days before my surgery, we FINALLY received delivery of the new bedroom furniture we ordered in NOVEMBER . . .

. . . and y’all. The bed is SO DAMN HIGH UP IN THE AIR that we’ve put step stools on either side of that bad boy—partially to make it easier for our little one to climb up (the top of the bed comes up to his shoulder), but I’m not gonna lie: those stools also make it a lot easier for US to climb into bed ourselves (and we’re no Shorty McShort-shorts; I’m 5’7″ and Love tank is 6’1″)!

So while getting in and out of bed is a little extra challenging due to current circumstances, I am managing pretty well up here.)

Since arriving home from the hospital, I’ve been managing the pain pretty well with Tylenol, Gabapentin (for nerve pain), and Valium (to help relax the pectoral muscles that are probably still wondering WTF just happened). In fact, today I made it 12 hours without taking anything at all! (That’s actually a problem, because I’m supposed to be taking antibiotics 4 times a day, but I still consider it good news that I was able to forget about my pain meds all day.)

Still, this experience is not without its share of drama.

First of all, there’s the weirdness of, well . . . having no boobs (the expanders are in, but not really filled). Yesterday, I was finally allowed to shower (although really, after the two Silkwood showers I was required to take the night before and the morning of surgery, I didn’t feel too gross), and I was not sure if I’d be able to look in the mirror once I got all the dressings removed. I braved it, though, and while it was certainly a bit of a shock to look at my chest, the bigger shock (perhaps because I’ve only really had boobs for the past 20 years or so; before that, I was pretty flat-chested—and while I no longer have the nipples I had back then, a flat-chested me was not a wholly unfamiliar sight) was my ARMPITS. Unlike my flat-chested days of yore, these days I’m graced with that wonderful armpit fat that comes with middle-aged weight gain. And without boobs to balance that out, I basically have bigger tits in my armpits now than I do on my chest. But the weirdest part is that THEY ARE LARGELY NUMB. The right one has a little feeling, but the left one (also the side where the tumor and nodes were removed) has zip. Zilch. Nada. Putting deodorant on after that shower was a TRIP, y’all.

I’m not sure how long the numbness will continue, but I’m hoping to get some answers at my follow-ups this coming week.

Second of all, GAHHHH, the DRAINS. SO GROSS. I’ll spare you the details, but I have four of them (cradled snugly in one of three shirts I now own with drain pockets), and my most fervent wish right now is to be able to get them removed when I go back to the plastic surgeon for my one-week follow-up—but at this point, I’m not holding out much hope, because there are certain milestones I have to meet for that to happen, and it ain’t lookin’ good (at least not for two of them). So wish me luck on that.

Otherwise, though, I think all the thoughts, positive vibes, and magic love dust y’all have sent my way have worked spectacularly, because I feel better than I ever thought possible right now. And as a bonus, my blood pressure is normal again! Since this whole ball of wax began, my blood pressure—which was always perfect—has been practically in outer space! I used to actually LIKE getting my blood pressure taken (much like I liked the IPC devices; I guess being squeezed makes me happy), but since all the cancer-related doctor visits began, I’ve HATED it, because even when the cuff doesn’t hurt my arm (which it usually does now), the reading hurts my soul. Sometimes it’s so high that the nurse will take it again until s/he gets a lower reading; and if it’s a nurse unfamiliar with me, s/he’ll ask if I’m on blood pressure meds.

In short, it sucks.

So I’ve basically learned to not even look at the machine when my blood pressure’s being taken—and I stuck with that strategy while I was in the hospital after my surgery. But for some reason, when she took my blood pressure the final time before my release, the nurse announced it aloud . . .

. . . and it was NORMAL.


I wanted to kiss her right in the face. But I realized that that would probably hurt worse than the sitting up and twisting (especially if she was into it and chose to embrace me in response), so I kept my cool.

But it felt like winning the lottery.

So thank you, all, for all the good vibes. They’ve worked in ways I didn’t expect!

Bye Bye, Boobies

So the only thing left to share at this point are the things that prevented me from updating this blog before now—or, in other words, How My Boobs and I Spent Our Last Days Together.

Basically, January thru early March of EVERY year are kind of nuts (because EVERYONE in my household has a birthday during that time), but this year in particular, there was a lot going on.

Sadly, Love Tank’s birthday was kind of a bust this year, because it occurred three days after my last chemo treatment. And while—thanks to my friend Dr. Awesome Pants, who gave me a better strategy for managing my nausea meds—I had an easier time of it after that last treatment (even managing to eat regular food during the days following the treatment), I still wasn’t feeling like a par-TAY, so basically he got a handful of dumb gifts —the most amusing of which were custom Lego figurines I ordered of the two of us; I chose bald head attachments for both of us (because wouldn’t that be cute), but that didn’t actually turn out as expected . . . .

Ring Toss, anyone?

. . . but I digress. The point is that while Love Tank had a low-key birthday, we pulled out a few stops for the littler dude’s birthday. On his ACTUAL birthday, school was closed for a snow day, but we still had an engagement at the high school to see the older kid’s orchestra concert. But when the weekend came, it was party time!

Unlike his older brother, this kid has never really had any big birthday parties. When he was wee, we decided NOT to set the big-party precedent we’d set for our first child (who had TWO first birthday parties (one for friends and one for family), because we couldn’t fit everyone into our house at once), so his first few birthday parties were just two or three kids at our house. When he turned 4, we invited a few more kids to a party at the library, but we made all the choices: whom to invite, the party venue, and the party activities. Then the pandemic hit, and there were no parties to speak of (other than our immediate family, inside our house) for a couple of years.

But this year, he had his first “real” party, where he chose the venue/activity (bowling), and the guest list (which was far shorter than the number of kids the party package allowed, so we ended up with a whole free lane for our older kid and his girlfriend to have to themselves). I wasn’t generous enough to share control of the SWAG bags, because COME ON I AM SO GOOD AT THEM, and he’d just ruin it. But he didn’t seem to mind—largely because he didn’t even know there were any SWAG bags until the day of the party. But I digress.

Point is, we hosted our first “real” kid birthday party in YEARS—and then the next day we hosted a Super Bowl party for the older kid and a handful of his friends, and YOU KNOW your girl had the menu planned like two weeks in advance, right? I even brought my dad’s beautiful (and, I recently learned, STOLEN) chafing dish out of retirement for the occasion!

Then, a mere couple of days later, your girl had to show up in the kid’s classroom to be the ACTIVITY parent for the class Valentine’s Day party!

I mean. Y’all know me. I am ALWAYS about the food. So when the older kid was in elementary school, I’d make a beeline for every class party sign-up sheet to get dibs on bringing the snacks. (A couple of times, someone beat me to it, and I had to settle for the drinks, but still—refreshments have ALWAYS been my jam.) Although things are different now that the younger one is in school (unlike the previous sign-up lists, which were LONG and included items like plates, napkins, and other auxiliary supplies, the sign-ups now include only three opportunities—snacks, drinks, or an activity—and ONLY the parents who sign up to provide one of those three things are allowed to come to the party), I’m still the snack-tastic person I’ve always been.

So imagine the GLORY when I got to the littler dude’s classroom sign-up list in time to call dibs on the snacks . . . and the HORROR when I asked him if he had any ideas about what snacks I could bring, and he took one look at the sign-up list (which I still stupidly had up on my computer) and declared he’d like me to do the ACTIVITY instead.

“Oh, babe, that’s not really Mommy’s thing,” I tried feebly. But he just kept repeating, “CRAAAAFT” over and over again (under the part where it says “Activity,” the parenthetical suggestion is a craft or game, and curse that little bastard’s ability to read).

So by golly, for love of a little boy, I signed up for the craft.

(Later that day, Love Tank took a look at the sign up list, and found it curious enough to see my name listed under “Activity” that he CALLED me from work, thinking there had been a mistake, especially since the food slot was still wide open.)

So basically, for the last week in January, and the first two weeks of February, I was busy planning, researching, purchasing, sorting, preparing, and packaging items for a birthday party, a Super Bowl party, Valentine’s Day craft kits, AND a Valentine’s Day game (because once I figured out the craft, I got concerned that we’d have time leftover after it was done, and I don’t have the improv skills to fill dead air with a bunch of first graders).

And y’all, it all actually WORKED OUT. Four of the five kids invited to the birthday party were able to make it, and although TWO HOURS of bowling is a long time for first graders (so we had some issues with boredom and kids running amok), nobody got lost, and there were no injuries.

Because of how the past three years have gone, we’re a little out of practice at the hosting game, so not all the Super Bowl food turned out exactly as planned: the BBQ meatballs were a little dry, the sandwich trays I ordered were sub-par, and the Jell-O cookies I tried to make in red and yellow to represent KC Chiefs colors turned out more MAUVE and yellow, and they came out WAYYYYYY too sweet—but overall, I managed to pull off a decent spread without too much stress, I think the kids had fun, and the Chiefs won, which is what counts.

The best part, though, was that the Valentine’s Day activities (about which I was the MOST nervous) actually went FINE! Most of the kids seemed to really like the love bugs we made!

Plus, despite the fact that the craft involved sharp cocktail picks, there were no casualties— and we even had time leftover after the craft to play the BINGO games I created! Unfortunately, I learned too late that the BINGO prizes I distributed to the kids who won—boxes of old-school candy hearts—did not taste good at all (at least according to MY kid, who scored a leftover box) . . . so there MAY have been tears about THAT, but by that time, the kids were at home, where their parents could deal with their disappointment.

I’m chalking all of this up as a WIN.

On Valentine’s Day evening, we returned to the school for an uneventful parent-teacher conference (which, again, if you know this kid, is ALSO a win), then had a late Valentine’s Day take-out dinner . . .

. . . and then the next day, I had my boobs cut off.

But I’d like to think they got a good send-off.

And speaking of send-offs, if you’re curious about the rat drama, four out of the ten babies have found new homes, and we’re keeping two more of them ourselves. But we’re still in search of homes for the remaining four. So now that I’m through surgery, maybe y’all could direct some of those powerful vibes towards ridding our home of some rodents.

Then you can shoot those vibes right back in my direction for the next steps to come, because we’re not finished yet! But I’ll tell you what—having this part done is an INCREDIBLE relief (which may have something to do with my back-to-normal blood pressure), and I couldn’t have made it this far without y’all. So as always, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.

(Thank-you rats are available upon request.)

The “little c” chronicles, Part 9: Feelings . . . whoa, whoa, whoa . . .

Look at me, throwing another post up so soon after the last one! Part of this is because I have a little bit of kinda-sorta news. The other, of course, is just because I feel like talkin’.

The News

The news—or, more like an updatey clarification—is that I talked to Dr. Cool-and-Calm at last week’s visit about the ultrasound results. While I took the 30% reduction in tumor size to be good news, technically I didn’t know how it stacked up against the results most people get in my situation. Should I expect closer to a 50% reduction in tumor size, based on the fact that I was nearly halfway through treatment when the ultrasound was performed? Or is the expectation that the next round of treatment, being more powerful, will result in faster, more significant zapping of the little bastard?

Dr. CaC described my progress (i.e., the degree of shrinkage) as “moderate.” He seemed satisfied with it, but I guess I was right about it not being Jesus-toast miraculous. He also seems to have a lot of faith in the next phase of chemo drugs, though; I asked him what the goal was for that phase in terms of tumor reduction, and he said, “Gone.” I asked if that was even a possibility, and he said it was, in fact, possible (HOW possible, I dunno), and mentioned that these were the strongest chemo drugs on the market for breast cancer.

Which has the effect of being both hope-ifyng and horrifying.

Another interesting tidbit that came out of this discussion, however, was that I’m no longer QUITE as worried about how the second-phase chemo drugs will affect my heart. As many of you know, three members of my family of origin (my dad, my brother, and one of my two sisters) died of heart attacks (in 1996, 1999, and 2005, respectively). So when I started reading up about the possibility of cardiotoxicity from these particular drugs, I became more than a little nervous—and I shared those concerns with Dr. CaC. He asked some questions about the health of the aforementioned family members (dad: healthy weight, unhealthy habits, died at age 68; brother: healthy weight, (mostly) healthy habits, died at age 41; sister: unhealthy weight, (mostly) unhealthy habits, died at age 51), and calmly explained that the chemo drugs don’t affect the arteries, but rather the heart muscle itself—and reminded me that the echocardiogram had shown my heart function to be good. If the same is not true of my arteries, well, that’s on me (and Taco Bell), but if that’s the case, the chemo drugs aren’t likely to make that part worse.

So that was a bit of a relief. The new pain in my ass is that I can’t seem to get a handle on my potassium levels. When I first started seeing Dr. CaC, he advised me that my potassium was low, and that I should start eating bananas. I like bananas, but feared I wouldn’t if I had to eat them every day, so in addition to the bananas (which I scarfed down occasionally), I got potassium supplements, and started taking them daily, along with all the other things. Still, every week, he’d tell me my potassium was low, and ask if I was eating bananas. I’d say not DAILY, but that I was taking potassium supplements in lieu of that. Finally, he told me I should double up on the supplements. So I did. STILL LOW. Now he’s advised me to triple them. Which makes me glad I opted for the supplements, because if I’d put all my faith in the consumption of bananas, I’d be up to like 12 a day now.

In other news, I have started receiving Neupogen shots, to boost my white blood cell count. My count had been dancing around on both sides of the “low” threshold for a few weeks, but finally started to show a steady decline, so now, on the day following my chemo treatment, I get jabbed with some juice to give my bone marrow a little zhuzh. I was told I might experience bone pain as a side effect—and that starting Claritin ASAP would help—but since I’m still working (and it’s hard enough staying on top of my to-dos as it is, what with a 2.5 to 3-day work week), I was hesitant to take anything that was gonna make me sleepy (and EVERYTHING makes me sleepy—always has (even the “non-drowsy” versions of certain medications); hell, I use ibuprofen as a sleep aid) unless I REALLY needed it. I’m happy to report that so far I haven’t; I’m not experiencing any pain at all. Cross your fingers this continues, because if I have to start popping Claritin on the regular, I’ma be REALLY interesting in Zoom meetings.

Other than these small updates, though—and the fact that I just had my LAAAAST Phase 1 treatment, woo-hoo!—things are the same. I’m feeling the cumulative effects of the chemo a little more these past couple of weeks—tiring out more easily, and having fewer days per week (like one and a half, as opposed to two or three) when I feel mostly normal—but I’m still largely able to function like something resembling a regular human most days.

You can’t always get whatcha want . . .

The WORST news, really, to come out of the past week is that I DON’T GET MY BLACKLIGHT CLEANING WEEK.

When I first met with the nurse practitioner in Dr. CaC’s office for my “chemo education” prior to starting treatment, I was given the information that if all went according to plan (i.e., assuming I didn’t have to delay or switch treatments because of some other health issue), my second phase of treatment would begin two days before Thanksgiving. Because Thanksgiving is (as many of you know) my favorite holiday (I mean, all you do is hang out with people you love, EAT, and take naps (and, OK, watch or play football if you want, but I’m all about the naps); how is that not the best holiday ever?), I was pretty bummed about that, but the NP said that I’d probably still be feeling OK a couple of days after treatment, and quipped that I’d also be full of steroids, so I’d be hungry for that gravy-coated stuffing!

(These days, however, most things to eat kinda gross me out—nothing tastes right, to a point where nearly everything is off-putting—so even when I AM hungry, I often don’t want to eat . . . or, conversely, ALL I want to eat is the ONE thing that I don’t find disgusting in that moment, so I’ll wind up eating, like, three fried eggs, or a thing of fries, or a bunch of fun-sized Almond Joys as an entire meal. About those arteries . . . )

But I digress. Point is, imagine my surprise, upon leaving last week’s chemo appointment—and stopping, as usual, by the desk on my way out to pick up the schedule for my next round of treatment-related appointments (consisting of the day-before blood draw, the oncologist visit, the chemo infusion, and now the day-after marrow zhuzh)—to see that my first Phase 2 appointments were already booked . . .

. . . for the week BEFORE Thanksgiving—AKA the week I’d planned (and already arranged!) to take off work so that I could scrub the shit out of all the goddamn things in my house.

I expressed my surprise to the kind scheduler, and she asked me if I’d like her to push that treatment back a week, so I wouldn’t have to go to the trouble of rearranging my time off work—but that seemed a little ridiculous even for ME, I mean, who prioritizes a houseful of sparkling commodes over their own health? And besides, if this whole venture took a turn for the worse, I didn’t want to have to wonder if sticking with the scheduled treatment plan (instead of delaying it a week in the name of achieving lickable baseboards) would have made a difference.

Still, not gonna lie, I was pretty upset.

In fact, when Love Tank came to pick me up from that treatment, he took one look at me and asked what was wrong.

And—hand to Tupac, y’all—when I started telling him about it, I legit started bawling.

In the three-plus months of living in this whole ordeal, I have not cried about ANY(related)THING at ANY POINT (aside, of course, from the initial diagnosis, and the week that followed, wherein I had NO information whatsoever, and so went full-on doom-and-gloom and started thinking about which Earth, Wind & Fire songs I wanted played at my funeral) . . . until THIS.

Love Tank, in typical fashion, tried to come up with a way to help: “Make a list of what you want done,” he said [ed. note: NOT because he doesn’t know how to clean, but to make sure he knew which cleaning projects I cared about most], “and [Elder Boy] and I can do them.”

And I suppose that’s not a bad idea . . . but y’all don’t know how GENUINELY excited I was about Clean Freak Week. It wasn’t just about the resulting clean house (which LAWD knows would be nice, because I have been letting A LOT of my routine chores slide with the idea that I’d get to catch up on ALL of it in a couple of weeks), but also (maybe even moreso) about the cleaning itself.

I like to clean! I had a daily schedule all written up (wherein I was planning to devote 4-5 hours per day to this project) for that week! I already had a bunch of anticipatory cleaning supplies chilling in my Amazon cart!


I was looking forward to this like it was a week in Aruba . . . and now I’m going to have to trade my (figurative) snorkel for a pleather recliner and an IV pole.

This shit is SO not fair.

I make no apologies for being this ridic . . . but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize that I am.

(In my defense, though, I will also say that in addition to making me feel happier and more relaxed, having a clean house also gives me the ability to be the kind of parent I want to be: the kind who mostly says YES to last-minute sleepover requests.

I DID NOT have those kind of parents (Lord, a sleepover request in my house either involved my birthday or a three-week lead time; all I wanted, just once, was to come home from school on a Friday and be like, “Can Lisa spend the night tonight?” and have some hope of a YES)—and while becoming a parent myself has given me FAR more empathy for my own “no sleepover” parents (I mean, nothing ruins the bliss of a Friday night plan for pantsless drinking and a Freaks & Geeks binge on the couch like a boy begging to have [insert Bestie of the Week here] spend the night), I still take great pleasure in being able to (frequently, but admittedly not as often as I’d like) be the parent I wish I’d had.

And it REALLLLY helps me to be that kind of parent when saying YES doesn’t involve a last-minute scramble to scrub bathrooms/clean the floors/rid the fridge of any unintentional science experiments/de-crust the dog bowls/etc.

Here’s a thing about me: my ultimate goal in life—pathetic as it may be—is to have my house in such a state that if someone dropped by unexpectedly, I wouldn’t feel the need to apologize for anything or strategically place myself in a position to hide something gross (like, say, awkwardly leaning against a wall to hide the five-inch, oddly-brown, dried rivulet of Great Dane spit flung onto it weeks ago during a vigorous head shake).

So back in January of this year, thanks to remote work, I started cleaning during my lunch hour every day (I’ve always eaten at my desk, anyway, and having unfettered access to my own kitchen all day makes that even easier). I started with a single DEEEEEP cleaning task every day, and eventually was able to move on to daily maintenance, so that by a couple of months in, I was ready for surprise visitors. And I didn’t really get any—but what I DID get was the glory of being able to say YES to more sleepovers, because I didn’t have to worry about some sweet kid getting buried under a dog-hair tumbleweed if he slept on the living room floor, or getting his feet stuck to the kitchen floor, or being rushed to the ER with E. coli because he needed to use the bathroom. I Swiffered the hardwoods daily, vacuumed daily, and cleaned the fridge, bathrooms and other areas weekly, so the most I’d have to do to be sleepover-ready would be to maybe load the dishwasher or scoop up the littler dude’s Magnatile mansion or most recent art happening from the living room floor. And buy snacks, of course. There must always be snacks.

So there were a couple of glorious months in there when I was a happy, relaxed, “YES” mom.

And now they’re over. A HUUUUUUUUGE summer project at work, coupled with the mid-summer whirl of doctor appointments and the late-summer chemo kick-off (i.e., shorter work weeks) means that I fell further and further behind—and then kind of gave up entirely—on my daily lunchtime cleaning regimen. Which I was able to let go with the idea that I’d get caught up between now and the start of the next chemo phase . . .

But now that’s all gone to shit.

So last Sunday, when my older son asked if he could invite his girlfriend—whom I like quite a bit for someone I’ve only met twice—to carve pumpkins with us on Sunday evening, I damn near plotzed, thinking about how gross our house was; not gonna lie, I was relieved when she couldn’t come.)

Deep Thoughts . . . by Auntie Fester
(I’m going a little dark, here, people.)

I suppose you could argue that my blubbering over the loss of my cleaning week goes a little deeper than bathroom grout grime . . . and you’d probably be right.

In fact, I’ve heard from a couple of friends this week, who’ve expressed something along the lines of, “You seem to be handling this well, and staying really positive, which is GREAT—but if you’re ever NOT doing those things, that’s OK, too.”

And of course, if there were ever a time for a mofo to fall apart emotionally, this would be, conceivably, one of the best ones. So I’ve been getting a lot of “Yeah, but how are you REALLY?” vibes from more than a few people, who stand ready to throw down an inflatable mattress to break my fall if I start to topple . . .

. . . but so far, I’m still upright . . .

. . . which has gotten me thinking about how I have always been this person—the person who handles BIG, AWFUL THINGS (to reiterate: dad, brother, sister) with stoicism and grace. The thing is, it’s the little things—things that other people pretty much move past after a glass of wine and an evening of self-pity—that knock me on my ass emotionally.

The death of someone I love? Oh, it sucks, don’t get me wrong, but as corny as it is, I kind of buy into the cliché about how grief is a prime indicator of having loved well—so I can lean into that and somehow feel a nugget of good fortune in the midst of it, because ultimately, it means I got to have some amazing people in my life.

A BREAKUP, on the other hand? I mean, I haven’t experienced one in decades now, but those suckers (well, some of them, anyway—you know, the ones that weren’t MY idea) were sheer and utter TORTURE for me, even in cases where I knew it would happen eventually. I mean, was I really going to spend the rest of my life with the under-toothed stoner dude who scavenged clothes from garbage bins and whose wardrobe included a single, flowered footy sock (because the bin in which he’d found it hadn’t included its mate) that he wore regularly with a sock that didn’t match?

NO; however, when he and his footy merrily staggered off in another direction, I called in sick to work and curled up in my bed for DAYYYYYS, forcing friends to come and knock on my door to check on me, since I wasn’t answering my phone.

And then I wallowed in misery (I worked, but I wallowed) for a few more months (prompting both casual acquaintances AND MY EX to be like, “hey, have you lost weight?”), until I fled town (yes, permanently) to escape it.

(On a related note, know who I think are the most bad-ass people in the world?


More specifically, teenagers who fall all the way down deep into love, and then—after the breakup—are forced to see their exes EVERY DAMN DAY at school. Forced (if, God forbid, there’s a set seating chart) to stare at the bear-shaped birthmark behind their ex’s left ear all through Biology. Forced to see their ex laughing with friends at lunch like everything is fine. Forced to find out from that snarky bitch Brianna in gym class that their ex has asked someone else to Homecoming.

How do they do that shit?

I mean, I know this happens to adults as well; some adults have to continue seeing their exes at work, or church, or backstage at the community theater production of The Crucible, and still others have to co-parent in difficult situations.

But they’re adults, not kids with whirling hormones and fragile first-love baby hearts!

Plus, adults have some modicum of control over their lives, so if it gets unbearable they can find new jobs, or churches, or seek out a new group of thespians. (Doesn’t work as well with the co-parenting issue, but at the very least they can avoid co-parenting with John Proctor.) Or in some cases, they can even—ahem—skip town. Teenagers, on the other hand, typically have nothing but (a) new love, or (b) graduation to save them from the torture of everyday ex sightings.)

But as usual, I digress. The point is, I’ve always been the person who can handle an impaling far better than I can handle a paper cut. And while a psychologist could probably come up with a bucket full of reasons for that, here’s what I think:

For me, when the worst, most shitty thing happens, well . . . the worst, most shitty thing has happened. And I’m sitting right in the middle of it. And there’s nothing to do but survive it. But when SEMI-shitty things happen, there’s always a way they can get worse—which gives my brain plenty of fodder to torment me with the possibilities—and therein lies the misery.

The death of someone I love means I’ll never see that person again, which is horrible, yes—but it’s OVER; a breakup, on the other hand, means I MIGHT have to see that person again, WITH SOMEONE ELSE, even, and then I’ll fall apart all over again.

A bad day at work (bearing in mind that MY bad work days don’t involve lives lost or anything, so again, I’m aware I’m being slightly unreasonable) keeps me up all night, because what if I get fired?

A stupid fight with Love Tank clenches my gut all day because what if we end up divorced (see breakup notes above)?

Accidentally saying something that offends someone at a party wrecks my soul, because what if I’m actually a total loser who never even deserved friends in the first place, and everyone has been waiting for this moment for years so they’d have an excuse to cut me out of their lives entirely?

You get the idea. And of course, any one of these situations could result in me living in a van by the river, surviving on Slim Jims (which I don’t even like) and ramen, and cuddling an empty KFC bucket outfitted with a Sharpie-drawn face and paper-towel-roll limbs as my only friend.

And there’s no statute of limitations on this, yo; my brain hangs on to these things FOREVER, so with every SEMI-shitty thing that happens, I remain convinced that at any moment, I could suffer some sort of KFC-bucket consequences, even if it happened 17 years ago.

Having cancer, though, basically plants me smack dab in the middle of my “worst case” scenario. It is HARD, don’t get me wrong, and I’m not always Little Mary Sunshine about it—and yes, it could certainly get worse in SOME ways (the Red Devil looms). But at the risk of being macabre, the WORST possible outcome (which, for the record, I DO NOT expect to happen) is going to be much harder for those people who love me a lot than it is for ME, isn’t it? (Unless they’re people like me, who prefer the impaling, I guess . . . ) If it DOES happen, I won’t be the one suffering. (Of course the mere thought of leaving my babies motherless and sad breaks my heart into 54.5 million pieces, and . . . I can’t really stay in that head space for too long, or I WILL topple over emotionally. But ultimately, again, I’m not the one who’s going to have to LIVE for days/weeks/months/years with that pain. They are.) So in essence, I am, once again, sitting in the middle of what, for ME, is the worst thing that could happen. And this is kinda my comfort zone.

It may be whack. But here we are. Now. Let’s lighten this bitch up a little, shall we?

That was Halloween, that was Halloween . . .

So in lighter news, we just wrapped up a damn good Halloween! For those of you who don’t know, Love Tank goes a little cray decorating our front yard and garage for Trick or Treaters.

This year’s masterpiece.

We don’t get Trick-or-Treaters in droves—like what you see in movies, where the whole neighborhood is deeply invested in Halloween, and hordes of kids are traipsing up and down the street amongst the swirling leaves, collecting candy from every house—rather, we mostly get them in moderate trickles; however, this year, Love Tank launched a brilliant marketing strategy: he put a sign down at the end of our street, pointing the way to our home haunt, like people do when they’re having garage sales.

It worked! Still no hordes, but we got quite a bit more business!

My Halloween thing is to make homemade cinnamon rolls. It started years ago, before we had kids, on a particularly frigid Hallows Eve. I thought it would be nice to be able to invite grown-ups we knew (neighbors, and friends of ours who were driving over to see Love Tank’s masterpiece) inside to warm up with the rolls and some hot cider while their kids traipsed around outside, checking out the scene.

And somehow it turned into a thing. (A thing which has morphed over the years, as our kids have come along: I used to wait around inside the house for Love Tank (who hung outside with the candy) to send people in for treats, but once it became necessary for Love Tank and me to tag-team Trick-or-Treating duties of our own, I started distributing my goodies outside, either before the ToT-ing began, or afterwards, when it was my turn to sit outside and man the candy bucket while Love Tank prowled the streets, towing a kid in search of full-sized Milky Ways.)

I have skipped the cinnamon roll tradition ONCE in the 17 years we’ve lived here: the year I totaled my car at the outset of October, and then went down with the flu shortly before Halloween, which meant I had used too much PTO to be able to afford my usual day off work to make my rolls (each batch of 18 takes me 2+ hours, and back in those days, I made two or three batches). Since then, however, I’ve held strong—and heck if I was going to be brought down by little c THIS Halloween!

So although my best customers (now basically down to my favorite neighbors and my kids) didn’t expect them this year, I did crank out a batch. (There was no hot cider, though; since (a) I never drank it, (b) I never got as many takers on it as I did for the rolls, (c) my husband and elder son prefer it cold, anyway, and (d) temps were in the 60s on Halloween night, I just bought a gallon of cider (for TEN BUCKS—WTF???) and left it in the fridge for my dudes—no heating or spicing.) I distributed some of the rolls to neighbors, and sent a bunch away with my older kid, who spent the evening hanging out with friends at one of their houses . . .

. . . which left just enough for me to eat one and, what with my taste buds being wonky, find it unenjoyable, and therefore let my kids eat the remaining four (which I’d normally hoard for myself).

I did do a little Trick or Treating—about one and a half hours’ worth—with my little guy and another family and it was lovely, but HOO-WEE, it wiped me the EFF out, and afterwards, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck.

Still, I was beyond grateful that Halloween fell on a Monday this year; usually, I’d hate that (it means the festivities tend to shut down early, since kids have school), but with my Tuesday treatment schedule, Mondays are my best days, so this year’s timing worked out marvelously.

Oh! And if you’re wondering, I didn’t end up going with any of the costume ideas I considered; after having gone with the family to the elementary school Trunk or Treat the week before, and then showing up at the school on my “bad” day (Friday) for BOTH the costume parade in the morning, and the class party in the afternoon (for which I’d signed up to be the Snack Mom), and then carving pumpkins on Sunday, knowing that cinnamon rolls and Trick or Treating (PLUS my weekly blood draw) were still to come on Monday, I decided I’d get plenty of Halloween this year without a costume.

Now I can start planning Countdown-to-Christmas calendars for the boys—which is the pain in the ass we choose in lieu of Elf on a Shelf.

I got a brand new pair o’ ro-odents, they brought some brand new pee . . .

Apologies to Melanie for the lyrical liberties, but in other good news, we got new cute baby rats over the weekend! (We considered a couple of degus for a change, but ended up going with the tried and true once again, with the plan of researching degu care for next time.) Names (which we have) and photos (which we don’t, because they are some hidey little muhfuggers, and we’re giving them time to adjust) to come in the next blog post.

In the meantime, THANK YOU as always for stickin’ in. As we roll into the season of gratitude and love, my good fortune in knowing y’all is not lost on me.

The “little c” chronicles, Part 7: You betta WERK

So this week’s theme is partially around my 9 to 5, which I haven’t mentioned much up to this point . . . but also around me achieving my 5th grade dream of being a runway model.

Oh, wait, no. That was 6th grade. In 5th grade, I still wanted to be a Solid Gold dancer.

BUT more on that later.

First, a few health-related updates:

I just got treatment 9 out of 12 for round 1 (and good news: the blissful Benadryl nap came back!), and so far, so good healthwise . . .

. . . . except for the fact that a couple of weeks ago, I finally started experiencing neuropathy in my hands and feet. There I was, blithely traipsing around at the local Renaissance Festival, and I realized my toes were numb.

I’d experienced this before; a couple of years ago, at the beginning of the pandemic, I was out for a solo run, and my feet went numb. I panicked; WTF was happening??? The good news was that because of it, I allowed myself no breaks; I was afraid of what would happen if I stopped running (would the numbness start to spread up my legs? would my legs stop working altogether, leaving me collapsed and forced to call Love Tank to come rescue me with a wheel barrow (since I was on a trail, not a sidewalk)? but I digress). When I made it home, I mentioned it via text to my pre-pandemic running buddy, and she told me it was because my shoes (which, as a matter of fact, were new) were tied too tightly. Which turned out to be true.

SO, when my toes started to tingle at the Ren Fest, I stopped and loosened the laces on my (new) sneakers, hoping that would solve the issue.

It didn’t.

At my next visit to my oncologist, Dr. Cool-and-Calm, then, I told him the neuropathy was finally beginning to set in (he’d asked me about it every week previous, and I was always like, “Nope!”), and I wanted to nip it in the bud, to try to prevent it from becoming permanent, so he ended up prescribing Gabapentin, which has alleviated the symptoms nearly entirely . . .

. . . HOWEVER, I mentioned it to my oncologist FRIEND yesterday over lunch, and she said that I still needed to be careful and report worsening symptoms to Dr. Cool-and-Calm, because the Gabapentin does alleviate symptoms, but does not actually stop or reverse nerve damage. To help with that, she suggested adding Vitamin B6 to my current pillsy cocktail, which already consists of iron supplements, Vitamin C, potassium supplements, daily Zofran (I discovered a few weeks ago that one a day keeps the nausea at bay), and, of course, the Gabapentin.

I’m gonna need a bigger throat.
(If that didn’t conjure an image of Roy Scheider at sea for you, I’m not sure we can be friends).

Not a HUGE health update, but I thought I’d mention it in case (God forbid) this information should come in handy for one of y’all.

Now, onto the stuff that’s not useful for anyone, but might be entertaining for some . . .

Workin’ 9 tew 5 . . .

I haven’t talked much about my job in these posts, but I should mention here that I work (in a 100% remote position, hallelujah) with some phenomenal-ass people. From the moment I told my boss and team the news, I’ve had tremendous support. In fact, I just got a NEW supervisor, who started about a month ago, and who let me know almost immediately that her primary expectation of me was to take care of myself. And my team has jumped in like the flackin’ superheroes they are, to make sure I’m adequately covered when I’m out of the office.

So my initial agreed-upon work arrangement was to take Tuesdays off for treatment (although often, since I tend to feel GREAT on Tuesdays prior to treatment, I’ll jump online in the morning, and get a few things done before I head to the hospital for the poisoning, which is usually scheduled for around 10 or 11 a.m.), plough through Wednesday and Thursday (sometimes knocking off a little early on Thursday afternoon, when I feel myself starting to swirl the drain), and then take Friday off to rest, since that tends to be my worst day.

HOWEVER. Since my previous supervisor left in May, I and a coworker have been taking the lead on aspects of a HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE project (involving a million moving parts and people) in the absence of a senior manager for our team.

So up to this point, I’ve basically been giving up (at least part of each of) my Fridays to the cause (while Love Tank and my elder son look askance at me, clacking away at my keyboard on Friday mornings: “Aren’t you supposed to be OFF on Fridays??”)

But now that the project has launched (it flew into the wind at the end of September), I’ve taken the last two Fridays off to lie face down in my bed and feel sorry for myself, as God and FMLA intended . . . and it has been GLORIOUS. You know. Aside from the fatigue and mild nausea.

Once I begin getting treatments at 21-day intervals with new meds (starting the week of Thanksgiving), I’m going to have to figure out what my new FMLA arrangement looks like. My guess is that I’ll be taking a WEEK or so off at a time, as opposed to the scattered half-weeks I’ve been taking, which should work out fine; my arrangement allows for 5 days every two weeks, and I’m anticipating taking about a week every THREE weeks . . . but we’ll see what the Red Devil brings. (Not gonna lie; I’m scared of that mofo, y’all.)

Life! Life! Tell it like it is . . .

In the meantime, though, I’m still truckin’ through this treatment without a tremendous amount of disruption to my normal life. (I mean. Aside from the baldness, the mild nausea and fatigue, and the ever-dwindling number of fucks I have to give.) This past weekend, we walked a 5K on Saturday morning, and treated ourselves to breakfast afterwards (well, Love Tank and I did; the kids got donuts prior to the walk, and they weren’t even interested in pancakes, gee, darn). Then we got our older dude all trussed up and hauled our cookies to a golf club on Saturday evening to embarrass the shit out of him while we and a bunch of our fellow parents took photos of him, his date, and his group of friends prior to their homecoming dance. After that, since we deserve ALL the foody delights, we treated ourselves (and our younger son this time) to dinner at a small Cuban joint, while our elder dude, no doubt incredibly relieved to get away from us, jumped into the car of the (masochistic) parent who’d offered to drive all the kids to dinner at an Italian joint and then to the dance. (Love Tank was the masochist who stepped up to pick him up from his girlfriend’s house, where he’d been invited to hang out after the dance until the Pumpkin Hour.)

So, you know . . . life don’t stop the show.

Monday, bloody Monday (Redux) . . .

In fact, last Monday, life gave us a bit of a HORROR show. Our home phone (even though 75% of my household members have cell phones, we still have a landline, because I’m old and it makes me feel safe and warm) rang, and it was the younger dude’s school. He’d injured himself at recess, I was told, and he was bleeding, but he was refusing to let the nurse look at the cut (if you know him, you ain’t shocked), so they wondered if I could come try to get him calmed down enough for him to let someone take a look.

Thanks to the glory of remote work, I was there within about 10 minutes, and after a lovely chat with my elder dude’s former 3rd grade teacher (who is not-so-secretly my favorite of his former teachers; he never had a bad one (well, OK, there was this one long-term SUB I wanted to kick in the tooth), but this one is an extra-magical, glitter-shitting unicorn . . . but I digress), I walked into the nurse’s office to discover that the situation was a LITTLE worse than I’d initially thought.

This was the side the head wound was on (he’s holding a paper towel on it in this photo); however, he somehow managed to get his other side nearly equally covered in blood.

All the nurse and his teacher kept saying was, “You should have seen him before we got him cleaned up!” Apparently dude looked like Carrie at the prom, with blood rivulets running down his face, and dripping from his elbow.

Although the cut appeared small, the amount of blood it generated, and the fact that he was unable to remember what happened (which resulted in an extra little horror show in the form of grainy playground camera footage that showed him conking his bean on a zipline beam, then tumbling OFF the zipline into a crumpled heap on the ground, where he lay motionless for several seconds; it’s a damn good thing I already knew how that movie ended before I watched it) alarmed the nurse sufficiently enough that she suggested getting him to a doctor, predicting he’d take a staple to the head before this was all over.

Luckily, Love Tank was nearby when I called to share the news, so he met me at home, and the three of us went to the ER at the local children’s hospital (as recommended by his pediatrician, whom we called first), two of us sporting fresh boy blood (did I mention I was wearing a NEW white sweater?).

NOT so luckily, we waited for 3.5 hours in the waiting room (during which I dashed to a different, grown-up hospital for my weekly Monday blood draw and back, and also dashed to the children’s hospital cafeteria to get a container of pepperoni and crackers for the boy, who hadn’t had lunch), and another half hour to see a doctor once we finally got a bed.

In the end, he didn’t get a staple (by that time, the wound was scabbed over, and his hair and clothing were crisp with dried blood), but the doctor did seem rather surprised that the wound was so small (both he and the nurse searched the rest of the scalp for an additional laceration, thinking the tiny one we’d presented couldn’t possibly be responsible for the bucket’s worth of dried blood coating the boy’s hair and clothing), and did order us to limit his activity (and eliminate screens) for 72 hours, and to wake him up during the night that night.

By the time we’d been discharged, we had JUUUUUUUUUUUUST enough time (with a little speeding and a friendly wind) to make it to the boy’s parent-teacher conference—no time to go home and change, or anything—so the three of us squealed back into the elementary school parking lot with two of us still wearing all the blood. Good times.

But I’ll bet any teachers or administrators who don’t know what happened, and who saw us that night, ain’t about to mess with OUR asses!

After that, Love Tank went off to his Monday night teaching gig, dropping the elder boy at his Monday night orchestra rehearsal on the way, which just left me and the little dude to find dinner (I told him he could have whatever he wanted; he chose Sonic) and wash off the blood. By the time I got him into the tub after dinner, the kid smelled like a bucket of rusty pennies. But by the time we got him all hosed and sudsed, he was basically back to normal (enough to be HIGHLY resentful of those 72-hour screen and activity restrictions, the enforcement of which turned out to be way more difficult than getting the blood out of our clothing).

Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it

So I haven’t mentioned this thus far in the blog, because (a) there was a lot more medical information to impart, and (b) it wasn’t official yet—but now the rubber has met the road.

On Sunday this past weekend, I attended a kick-off meeting for Bra Couture KC—I’m going to be a model for the 2023 event.

When I first announced my diagnosis, my (stay with me, here) husband’s dad’s cousin’s wife (let’s call her Bad-ass Fam Lady, or BFL for short), who is just about the most delightful person you could meet (and I know A LOT of delights), sent me a message.

That in itself was nothing new; she is a staunch advocate for Black lives, LGBTQIA issues, and reproductive rights, and, knowing I care deeply about these issues as well, is always trying to make me be a better person by letting me know of events where I can get my ass out into the street and fight for these causes. I say TRYING, because while I always INTEND to show up, my inherent sense of laziness and sloth tends to take over. This past Mother’s Day, for example, BFL let me know of a reproductive rights rally she’d be attending. My elder boy, when I told him I thought I would attend, was like, “MOM. You’re going to an ABORTION RIGHTS protest on MOTHER’S DAY? Isn’t that a little messed up?” and I told him it was actually kind of perfect, because there are a lot of different voices and stories that need to be represented. My story is that I adore my children more than cheese, and I absolutely LOOOOOVE being their mom. Wouldn’t trade it. But they’re also expensive and smelly and annoying and difficult, and parenthood is NOT for everyone (in fact, it wouldn’t have worked out NEARLY as well for ME had I started that journey even 10 years earlier)—and when people are deprived of the choice about whether or not to have a baby, it can work out badly for the parent(s) and the child(ren). And frankly, Mother’s Day is not a bad time to get that message across. “That’s fair,” he agreed, “but is that REEEEALLLY how you want to spend your Mother’s Day?” Nonetheless, Love Tank and I made plans to ride to the event on our motorcycles (easier parking). We left early to get breakfast first . . . and then, once we were full of omelette and the day had started getting hotter, we decided to eschew the potential heat strokes and go back home. But I digress.

The point is, BFL doesn’t give up on me; if she’s not sending me information about protest events, she sends me photos of fun merch to buy in support of a particular cause, photos of her sweet grandkids making protest SIGNS, or pics of her in her RBG Halloween costume.

This lady is legit.

And when she read about my diagnosis, she sent me a care package of fun goodies, including THEEEEE most amazing earrings that took me right back to 1983 (not that I’d want to BE 13 again, but the part of my psyche that still remembers that part of my life was utterly SQUEEEEEEE).

In addition to the fun gifts, she sent me a message (the one I mentioned a million paragraphs ago, before all the digressions), saying she’d like to nominate me to be part of the Bra Couture KC event. She attended the event as the guest of one of last year’s models, and really enjoyed it. So she sent a kind, way-too-complimentary email to the event organizer to offer up my name (after getting my permission, of course).

So here I am, a couple of months later, having just met an amazing group of people who are going to hit the runway along with me, wearing a specially-designed “creation.” (They don’t really call them bras, because (a) sometimes they’re corsets or some other type of garment, and (b) there are now men who participate in the event, and so far I don’t believe any of them has chosen to wear a bra. Plus, whereas the fundraising event used to benefit underinsured/uninsured patients with breast cancer, it’s now been expanded to include patients with all types of cancer. And while breast cancer does not preclude men, expanding the scope to different cancers certainly includes a lot more of them.)

I’m also given to understand next year’s event will be different from past events in a number of other ways. For one thing, we were told at the kick-off meeting that in the past, designers would do their thing and design the bras, then deliver them, and THEN each model would be matched with a bra—er, creation. THIS year, however, each model will be matched with a DESIGNER, and partner with that person on the creation.

And they want us to think outside the box.

Which, honestly, should be NO problem for my fellow models. At the meeting, we went around the room and told our stories, and mine was BORING, y’all, compared to what some—nay, MOST—of these people have survived! By the end of the meeting, I had SO MANY questions about all of their fascinating lives and experiences, but we’d already run an hour longer than we were supposed to, so I’ll have to save most of them for later. A few of these people have gone on to create their own foundations to raise awareness and money to help other people going through the same thing . . . and all I’m raising is this lousy blog. But I digress.

Point is, my box-busting thinking starts NOW (I will meet my designer next month), so if you have ideas, share them. Otherwise, you KNOW I’m going with skulls (which could send the wrong message about cancer . . . ).

As always, I love you for being here, and for sticking it out this long, both with ME, and this blog post.

You’re a superstar. Yes, that’s what you are—you know it!

The “little c” chronicles, Part 6: Small surprises

Hey, there! Been awhile, huh? As I said in the last post, I’ve always anticipated a point when all the early-stage whirly-whirl that immediately followed the diagnosis would slow down, and I’d reach a point where I didn’t have much news to share.

And that point is kind of now, in terms of any new medical developments.

Absent any tests, scans, or results thereof, the only things I have to report are minor things (mostly weirdnesses) that count more as anecdotal babble than medical updates:

  • I’m halfway done with Round 1! I’ve now undergone 6 out of 12 weekly treatments, after which I’ll get a short break, and then start treatments at 21-day intervals for the following 12 weeks.

  • I can crack my knuckles again. If you’re one of the folx who have known me for decades, you might remember my constant cracking. And due to my own special brand of weirdness, for most of my life I took particular pleasure in being able to crack all of my base knuckles and middle knuckles in one “popping” (not ALL AT ONCE, Lawd, no; I mean one at a time with no “holdouts” that failed to emit a satisfying POP sound).

    But as I’ve grown older, particularly within the past 5 years or so, I’ve found that not only are what I used to call “perfect pops” a thing of the past, but more often than not, most of my knuckles won’t pop at all; I squeeze, and I get all PAIN, no pop.

    It’s probably been a good thing, really, because it’s broken me of the habit . . . mostly. I still give it a shot every now and then . . .

    . . . which is how I discovered, sometime over the past couple of weeks, that the boys are back in business! Now my knuckles crack with ease . . . and I’ve even experienced the heady (er, knuckly) rush of a perfect pop or two! It’s like being 15 again (although I’m not sure I really want that in ANY way other than this . . . and maybe pant size)!

  • Steroids are a helluva drug. As you may recall, my weekly chemo treatments for this first round are on Tuesdays. And typically, even though I sleep through most of the treatment (thanks to the Benadryl they give me beforehand), and then take another nap after I get back home (BECAUSE I CAN), I have no issues going back to sleep at bedtime.

And, OK, I still don’t have any issues going to SLEEP at bedtime . . . but for the past two Tuesdays, I have been popping back awake after an hour or two, and then staying awake ALL NIGHT LONG, thinking deeply about ALL THE THINGS, and feeling AMAAAAAZING. Like, “I could go for a run right now!” amazing (except I don’t, because it’s like 2 a.m.). Then I generally fall back asleep an hour or two before I have to wake up for the day.

I’m attributing this new midnight mania to the steroids they pump into me just prior to treatment. I guess my body’s decided to take advantage of them. So far, I don’t mind it (because I’m always in a great mood as I’m coming up with profound philosophical wisdom in my head all night), but eventually it might start to make me kind of a wreck on Wednesdays.

  • Alas, the once-sweet Benadryl is no longer a helluva drug. In counterpoint to the late-night euphoria provided by the steroids, I have also been experiencing bummer Benadryl naps. Previously, I’d knock out immediately and, aside from a few trips to the loo (after some experimentation with other areas of the chemo ward, I’m discovering the Bathroom Bay is my favorite), enjoy blissful oblivion for most of the treatment, typically waking about half an hour before time for Love Tank to take me back home. However, the other thing that’s been happening for the past two Tuesdays is that while I still sleep through most of the treatment once the Benadryl kicks in, the sleep is restless and wiggly. I get a lot of restless leg going on, which makes me flip and flop around in my recliner, because it’s hard to get comfortable. And the sleep itself is not so much the bliss of yore, but rather a kind of groggy anxiety.

I guess everything’s a trade-off.

At any rate, as I said, no real new medical news to report.

So instead, I’ve been focused on getting my blog moved over to this new domain, kindly purchased for me by Love Tank, who coined the moniker for me when I shaved my head.

Bonus content: The Story Behind the Name

Many, many years ago, when my life was full to overflowing with a small house I'd bought myself, an office-based day job, a coffee shop side gig, and a spoiled dog, I joined an online message board, sponsored by Petsmart, to talk with other dog people about my dog, Ezra, and the awesomeness of dogs in general. 

Per common practice on the site, my user name was Ezra's Mom (I mean, some people went rogue and called themselves ONLY by their dog's name, and sometimes people with multiple dogs would actually be bold and eschew the de rigueur naming convention so as not to play favorites, but for the most part, the only variations to the practice were for dog DADS—or for British people, who used "Mum" instead of "Mom" . . . but I digress). 

As I spent more time on the site and developed my first little cyber friendships, people on the message board began abbreviating my name, referring to me as EM. 

At some point during that time, my sister became pregnant, AND I WAS THRILLED. And because by that time, I'd developed some pretty solid friendships on the message board (some of us sent each other Christmas gifts!) I shared the news there and, knowing I was from Kansas, some clever cyber friend asked, "So can we call you AUNTIE EM now?" 

I loved it more than cheese.

So, when I decided to branch out and join another message board (this time without a single focus, such as dogs, but more just a space for super-smart, liberal nerdy types to showcase their oddity and intellect), guess what I chose for my user name? AUNTIE EM! 

And it was that user name that first captured the attention of Love Tank, who was lurking in the corners of the site. He thought perhaps I shared his enthusiasm for the Oz books by L. Frank Baum (and I had no such proclivity—which he learned the hard way when he tried name-dropping some of the more obscure book characters to woo me (see? oddity and intellect), and I had no idea what he was talking about—but somehow I snagged him anyway). 

Occasionally, over the years, Love Tank will still refer to me as Auntie Em; however, now that Ezra (that weird-ass dog) is long gone, and my sister's children are adults, I have a new "Auntie" moniker to roll with, at least for now. 

Ya gotta admit, it works.

Who loves ya, Baby?

Ohhh, yeah, so it’s probably obvious by now (especially for those of you who saw Love Tank’s post on Facebook a couple of weeks ago) that I am in full-on Kojak mode.

I’d gotten to a point where my clothing, pillow, and anywhere I lay my head to rest became instantly adorned with multiple strands of my hair. Love Tank joked that if I were suspected of a crime and the Fuzz needed DNA evidence to bring me down, all they’d have to do to get a sample would be to walk behind me for half a block in a mild wind.

Same, I guess, if someone wanted to put a spell or curse on me. But I digress.

Point is, my hair had begun falling out at an alarming rate—running fingers through it would get you a handful of it (“How does that not HURT you?” Love Tank wondered aloud), and a BRUSH? A brush would get you enough to knit a small dog sweater.

So I decided it was time for the hair to go — because of the rate at which my scalp seemed to be setting it free, yes — but more specifically because it needed washing, and there was no scenario in which I could imagine that happening without me winding up mostly bald, anyway: if I kept my weekly blow-out appointment, the force of the dryer would likely blow 70% of my hair off my head and directly into the face of the poor, innocent lady in the next chair—and if I were to try to wash it myself, the mere attempt to detangle my wet tresses in the shower would result in a drain full of Cousin Itt and a foggy mirror full of Gollum:

So a couple of weeks ago, after an uneventful dinner at home, my little family and I had a low-key Mama-shearing party. My older son had been QUITE eager to be the one to shave my head when the time came, and I was fine with that, but Love Tank astutely (and privately) pointed out that if I thought I might cry, I shouldn’t let the boy do it, because making his mother cry would only make him feel awful (and y’all remember age 14—there is no shortage of things to feel awful about, with those kind of hormones whipping around). So Love Tank ended up doing most of the honors.

Both of my younger dudes did, however, get to chop off quite a bit of the length before the shearing began in earnest. (Amazing how the YOUNGER-younger dude enjoyed participating in chopping my hair off, since HE’s the one who burst into tears when I told him, earlier in the day, that we were going to get to shave my hair off after dinner!)

Somewhat surprisingly, I did not cry, and I gotta say, I’m not mad at the results!

“Dude, you are going to be in SO MUCH TROUBLE when she sobers up . . . ” (I kid! Sadly, I haven’t had a drink since starting chemo. Sigh.)
Headed out for post-shearing shakes in my debut statement earrings from Kenya.

I’m pleased to announce that my bare scalp did not reveal any weird lumps, dents, or ripples—just a mole I already knew about, and a small scar I’d forgotten about, from stitches when I was a kid. So I don’t half mind being bald! It eliminates all the sturm und drang around trying to shower without ruining my blowout, and I can pretty much walk out the door to anywhere without having to check and see if I need to wrangle my hair first. I just rock a ball cap (because Love Tank, who has a few years of baldness experience on me, reminds me I need sun protection) or go straight-up Mr. Ms. Clean, as I have decided head wraps aren’t for me—and thanks to the deluge of statement earrings that have flowed my way from people I love, I think I’m kinda rockin’ this shit.

One thing that HAS been a bit surprising is the fact that my hair keeps growing back! I guess I thought that shaving it would somehow signal to my follicles that it was OK to just go ahead and give up production—BUT IT HAS NOT, so I still have to take an electric shaver to my pate every once in awhile, to get my Kojak back.

Hoops and dangles and bling! Oh, my!

No matter what complaints I may have about this whole adventure (eat my shorts, Benadryl), I can never, EVER complain that I’ve felt unloved! So many of you have sent messages and other goodies that have been carrying my heart and ass through this business in a way that leaves me—not gonna lie—feeling kind of arrogant about the number of amazing people who like me, but also humbled and grateful.

And when I said I wanted statement earrings, Y’ALL UNDERSTOOD THE ASSIGNMENT:

The ONLY earrings on this rack that I owned prior to diagnosis are the silver hoops at the top left.

And that’s not even ALL of them! I just bought this rack a couple of days ago, and it was basically inadequate from jump (good thing it was only 10 bucks). But at the very least, this will give my little dude—who gets to choose my earrings for outings (so far, he’s partial to the Kenyan ones at bottom left, the orange tasselly ones at bottom right, and the black stars on the bottom row)—a little more visibility to most of the options, which were previously jumbled up in a basket.

So thank you, accessory patrons, for hooking (yuk yuk) a bald gal up! Y’all are magical.

Costume Conundrum

NOW all I have to do is figure out how to parlay my new look into a Halloween costume! I mean, the options are legion:

  • Uncle Fester (of course)
  • Mr. Clean
  • Kojak
  • Daddy Warbucks
  • Yul Brynner
  • Sinead O’Connor
  • Shel Silverstein
  • Captain Picard
  • Caillou (although that could get me murdered, annoying little bastard that HE is)
  • Bull from Night Court

One friend pointed out that I could don a bike helmet, spend a few hours in the sun, and go as George from Alien Nation (which I kinda love) . . .

. . . however, thanks to another friend, who sent a couple pairs of funky sunglasses (in addition to a deluge of earrings) to complement my new look, I quite accidentally stumbled upon the best costume of all . . .

When the package with the sunglasses arrived, my elder dude brought them up to me in bed (I’ve been fortunate thus far to only have spent a couple of (baaaaad) days confined to the bed—but that doesn’t mean I don’t take advantage of this situation to camp out up there on most evenings after work). I unwrapped them and donned a pair, and instantly both of my kids cracked the F up. Having not seen myself yet, I picked up my phone, turned the camera on, and flipped it to get a glimpse of what I looked like . . . and what to my wondering eyes should appear but (where are my old-school Sesame Street people?) a Bip Bippadotta backup singer!

No, not the pink Mahna Mahna cow creatures—these guys.


I’m not going to go quitting my day job or anything, but I think I have a halfway decent side gig possibility, here.

Anyway, that’s what’s up for now: rockin’ the clean dome, settling into a groove with the treatments, and counting the days until November 1, when I’ll get my last Round 1 chemo treatment, and then commence a short break before starting the second chemo round. Is it weird that I’m planning a week off work during that time—to clean my house? I’m legit SO EXCITED about it. Those dog hair tumbleweeds behind the fridge are going DOWN.

As always, thank you for being here! It means more than you know.

The “little c” chronicles, Part 5: The times, they are a-changin’

So I thought this would be the (or, at the very least, the first appreciable) point in this ride where I’d stop having much to say. The mad whirl through all the kick-off procedures, subsequent procedures, phone calls, doctor visits, and emotional adjustments has slowed significantly, and now I should be settling into a kind of groove where every week would pretty much be the same, right?

Heh. Wrong. But more on that later. First . . .

This week’s news

News #1: Good Lookin’ Innards
The CT and bone scans apparently came out clear!


Clear of cancer metastasis, anyway; turns out I have some cysts here and there (some of which I knew about, some of which are fun new friends), and some “degenerative change” in my feet. But aside from benign internal lumps and old feet, the report showed nothing concerning! And as a bonus, it showed that my “nipples appear symmetric.”

Y’all know how I feel about symmetry, and that I’m a weirdo, so I’ll admit I took a little bit of pride in that.

Also, as I predicted, since there was no horrible news, I did not receive any “early warning” phone calls (which has thus far been the case; each time there’s been bad news, I’ve received a phone call earlier than I was even expecting results, based on the timeline I was given after the procedure). In fact, I didn’t receive any phone calls at all. Still haven’t. What I did receive were imaging reports through my online patient portal (which I may have begun obsessively checking roughly 17 minutes after the CT and bone scans were over) . . . I read them, and they seemed like decent news, but I am a not a doctor—nor do I play one on TV—so I relied A LOT on Google to parse those reports, and thereby found a couple of things that gave me pause:

  1. Renal cysts. These bad boys are a prime example of why one shouldn’t Google in the midst of a health crisis, because they fit under the category of Things That Are Most Likely Nothing But Then Again Could Take You Down Tomorrow. And the deeper you get down those Google rabbit holes, the faster your head spins.
  2. A “single tiny focus of marked activity” on one of my ribs during the bone scan. The report stated outright that it was likely “an artifact of radio tracer contamination,” (in other words, a drop of the nuclear goo that leaked onto the OUTSIDE of me during the process of getting it INSIDE me)—but also mentioned that it “may represent a focus of osseous metastatic disease.” (Again—Could Be Nothing, Could Be Imminent Doom.)

At this point, I gotta give a shout out to one of my middle school besties (whom we’ll call Dr. Awesome Pants unless she chooses to be otherwise identified), who grew out of her awkward years and into a career as an oncologist (I grew, too, and have a career, too, but somehow I’m still in my awkward phase). Thanks to the magic of the internet, we reconnected over a decade ago, and although we haven’t seen each other since one heady lunch we had when our kids were wee (and one of mine did not yet exist), we’re still connected through Facebook. And when she learned about my news (likely through Facebook, but to be honest, I never asked; coulda been a mutual friend, a prophetic dream, or a mystical semaphore), she contacted me with a bunch of experty questions. Through that conversation, she learned about the (then) upcoming CT and bone scans, and lovingly pestered me thereafter until I had results.

When I finally got them, I mentioned to her that they seemed like good news, but there were those couple of things. She asked me to send her screenshots of the reports so that she could try to reassure me. So I took her up on it, and she DID reassure me that this did, in fact, look like good news!

I expected to have the good news confirmed on Tuesday, during my pre-chemo visit with Dr. Cool-and-Calm, but it turned out he hadn’t received the reports yet. So technically, since my fancy doctor friend is not actually MY fancy doctor, I suppose the good news isn’t official—but again, typically when there’s bad news, there’s a phone call.

I’ve never been so delighted to feel so ignored.

News #2: Genetic Glory
The OTHER good news in recent days is that my genetic test results came back, and—WOO HOO!—”NO wonky BRCA gene, Baby!

When I received the report in the mail, the letter lied and said I’d been given the results by phone (which I had not, and still haven’t), but any anger or annoyance I could have mustered up about that little business was instantly swept away by the whoosh of relief I felt.

I’m still not 100% clear on how (or IF) this news may change my surgery options. In the beginning (before any other testing or scanning was done), I was told my choices, after chemo, would be either:

  • a lumpectomy with radiation, or
  • a mastectomy

. . . and that there wasn’t much difference between them in terms of the chance for recurrence, UNLESS it turned out I had the BRCA gene mutation (in which case a mastectomy would probably be the smarter move). At that point, however, we thought the cancer was ONLY in the breast; since the cancer has now been found in the rogue lymph node (which is becoming enough of a recurring character that perhaps IT needs a name . . . I’m taking suggestions), I’ve now been told that I’ll likely end up having radiation no matter what (so if I was leaning toward the mastectomy in order to avoid radiation, I shouldn’t count on that). So on balance, the positive lymph node and the negative BRCA test may just be a wash. In that case, I guess at this point I’ll just focus on hoping the chemo works as well as possible, and figure out what to carve out or cut off when I get to that bridge.

In the meantime, though, I’m taking great comfort in the fact that I have not unwittingly passed down a mutant bad-boob gene to my children. While it’s true that both of my children are (birth-assigned) boys, the gene could manifest in them as another type of cancer—or as breast cancer, since men can get that, too—and would put them at higher risk of cancer in general. In addition, the gene could pass through them to their own daughters (or sons). So just knowing I’m NOT the Typhoid Mary (er . . . Breast Cancer Bonnie?) in this situation is a tremendous relief in itself.

Anyway, that’s the news for this week. Now comes the babble . . .

Chemo Treatment #3: More like a (dirty) TRICKment

My third Chemo Tuesday started out with two breakfasts. Under orders to eat before each treatment, I made myself a bowl of oatmeal at home and scarfed it down, not realizing that when Love Tank came downstairs to drive me to my treatment, he was going to say, “I’m hungry. Are you hungry? Do you want to pick up food on the way?”

I mean. When you’re talkin’ to ME, “Do you want to pick up food on the way?” basically qualifies as a rhetorical question.

So I ate a second breakfast on the way, thinking the snacks and lunch I’d packed to bring along were probably going to go uneaten.

My third chemo treatment, however, “hit different,” as the kids say. It started out as usual: a visit with Dr. CaC (the only surprise there being—as I mentioned—that he hadn’t yet seen my CT and bone scan results), followed by my choice of empty recliners for the duration of treatment.

Again, I chose the area closest to the bathrooms, except this time, there was only one person sitting in the Bathroom Bay. I merrily commented that for a second there, I thought I was going to have the whole section to myself—but the man sitting there didn’t respond, so I figured he’d probably thought the same thing, and was disappointed by my intrusion upon his solitude. So I shut my flap and sat down, because I’m all about respecting a person’s solitude—or at least their desire to NOT make small talk with a stranger.

The nurse came over to start getting me hooked up, and mentioned that once the pharmacy delivered the goods, they’d start me on the pre-meds and Benadryl. Soon, another nurse arrived and said, “OK, we’re going to get you started on the Benadryl.”

“Oh,” I said. “I thought the pre-meds came first.”

She replied, “Sometimes we start with the pre-meds, sometimes with the Benadryl.”

And that was fine by me . . . until the guy next to me suddenly struck up a conversation RIIIIIIIIIIIGHT as they hooked me up to the Benadryl.

His story was fascinating: five years ago, he got laid off from his job. Faced with losing his health insurance (let’s take a moment of WTF here to contemplate how ridiculous it is that health care is tied so closely to employment in this country . . . and now back to our program), he decided to get a thorough check under the hood, so he did all the testing he was due for at his age—including a colonoscopy, whereby he found out he had stage 4 colon cancer.

The cancer had metastasized to his liver, so he underwent resections of both his liver and his colon. When I met him, he was on his fourth round of chemo (the five years since his diagnosis had involved periods of remission, the longest being 1.5 years). “You never really get used to it,” he said. But he did acknowledge how amazing it was for him to be sitting there five years after a diagnosis like that.

I’m sure there were more interesting details to his story, but in the middle of our conversation, the Benadryl started kicking in. As we talked, I found it harder and harder to say words like “remission” and “radiation,” and eventually just had to come clean:

“I’mmmm shorrrrrry; I know my shpeech iz startn ta slurrrrr. I feela Bennndrill kickin’ innn. I mightt fallaschleep onnn ya.”

The last thing I recall clearly is him telling me that he doesn’t let them give him Benadryl prior to treatment. “I hated it,” he said.

I recall thinking, as I drifted off to sleep, that that was a good reminder to self-advocate; which for me means not only SAYING no, but even being aware that I CAN say no in certain situations! Mind you, I got no plans to give up the Benadryl—Mama loves a good nap—but honestly, before that point, it wouldn’t have even occurred to me to TRY.

But I digress.

The point is that next thing I knew, I was waking up (having previously been woken up briefly, asked for my birthdate, and informed that I was being started on the Taxol drip) with a DEEP, GNAWING HUNGER—I mean, the cartoon kind, where every sentient being appears before you as a juicy roasted chicken. I sat up, dug into my bag, and ate every bit of the lunch I’d brought (a turkey sandwich, two string cheeses, and a container of watermelon chunks) before polishing off the tin of almonds and the bag of dark chocolate açaí blueberry balls I’d brought for snacks. Then I had nothing left to eat, but I was still hungry, so I chewed my way through half a pack of gum I found in my purse (it was leftover from my last dental appointment, when I realized I’d forgotten to brush my teeth before I left the house (I mean, I brushed that DAY, but I always brush right before heading to the appointment), and so stopped at CVS for a pack of minty freshness to chew en route).

And that was only the beginning. When, Love Tank came to pick me up and take me home, he asked if I was hungry and YES, I WAS. So I ate another lunch when I got home.

Then I ate dinner.

Then I went to bed, but woke up starving at around 11 p.m., so I ate a “midnight snack.”

Then I lay back down to try and sleep . . . and immediately my esophagus was ablaze with horrible heartburn (and I’ve never experienced heartburn IN LIFE outside of being super pregnant, therefore we don’t stock any sort of heartburn relief in this house). So there wasn’t much sleep to be had after the snack, but I dutifully got up to start my day at 6 a.m. on Wednesday . . .

. . . and the fun continued! I was hungry, hungry, hungry—but everything I ate made the heartburn worse and, as a bonus, made me feel like puking.

This was not how Wednesdays were supposed to go! Wednesdays were supposed to be primarily OK, with maybe a little weirdness (like, mild achiness or a teench of nausea that could be willed away by finding something else to focus on). Not like this gastrointestinal freak show!

Ultimately, I stopped trying to eat anything, took a couple of naps during the day, and managed to will my way to school pick-up time for the littler dude. But once he was safely home with his afternoon snack, I gave up on the rest of the day. Crawled into bed, canceled our weekly Wednesday dinner with my mom (which phone call resulted in a lecture from her—once I’d described the WWE-level smackdown happening within me between the insatiable hunger and the heartburn/nausea double-team that resulted anytime I tried to eat anything—about how I didn’t need to be eating too much anyway, because I don’t want to put on weight . . . moms, amirite?), and passed TF out.

When I woke up later that evening, the hits kept coming with another double-team disaster: a splitting headache (that laughed in the face of ibuprofen) coupled with deep-deep-DEEEEP muscle aches in my neck and shoulders.

Now basically pinned to the mat by this whole gang of WWE characters (because the heartburn and the nausea didn’t leave the ring when the headache and muscle aches arrived, oh, no, they did not), I was in no way able to get comfortable enough to fall back asleep, so I lay there for two hours, trying to deep breathe my way through it (while my kids periodically came into the room to show me stuff or ask what I was doing; eventually I became unable to maintain any semblance of a brave face, and so started responding (in a whisper, and without even opening my eyes), “Just trying not to puke.”)

They left me alone after that.

(The rule in our house, as it applies to our dogs, is that whoever (a) witnesses the dog puking, or (b) first discovers the pool of puke cleans it up, so I’m pretty sure my children didn’t want any part of seeing me puke (which, FTR, I never did), for fear the rule extended to me, too. Because unlike the dogs, who can’t rat them out when they pretend they didn’t even NOTICE the steaming pool of dog urp smack dab in the middle of the living room carpet, I’m a far more reliable witness.)

Thursday morning, the head and muscle aches were gone, but the gastro issues were still here to play. I made it halfway through the day at work (largely thanks to a pack of peppermint gum I received as part of a glorious care package from a friend I’ve known since first grade; I’m not typically a gum person, but despite having brushed my teeth, and having had nothing to eat or drink aside from little sips of water, I had a HORRIBLE taste in my mouth—so I plucked the pack from the pile of snacks on the kitchen island, and popped a piece in . . . and lo and behold, the nausea calmed TF down a little)—but eventually I gave up, made my apologies to my team, and crawled back into bed until it was time to pick up the little dude from school.

Thursday evening, when I felt the Ache Twins coming back to the party, I nearly cried; but the good news was that by that time, the heartburn was gone, and the nausea (thanks to the fact that I’d finally broken into the prescription nausea meds I’d been given for home use, and they were finally starting to kick in) was down to a dull roar.

Friday, the clouds finally began to break. I managed to eat some things (a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, a bowl of white rice for lunch) with no dire repercussions, and so started weaning myself off the nausea meds (because while I appreciated them when I needed them, they made me BURRRRRRRRRP like a sweaty drunk guy with three-day-old stubble; I was frequently emitting lip-rippling blasts like Predator with a bullhorn). In addition, I actually managed to accomplish some things at work for the first time since Monday. (My arrangement with my employer was to have Tuesdays off for treatment, and then possibly Fridays off, depending on how I felt, because up to this point, Fridays had been my “worst” days. But no previous Friday had ever brought anything near the misery I felt on Wednesday and Thursday of last week, and since that misery forced me to bail on work early both days, I went ahead and worked on Friday morning.)

My kids had a half day of school that day, and once they were both home (one by bus, one by mom), I took them out to pick up their lunch. Then I took a nap—more by choice than by absolute necessity—and as I drifted off, I recalled how a friend of mine once described the day after a 54-hour migraine:

. . . the best day ever . . . my dogs and husband are hilarious, the gym is a paradise, the QuickTrip parking lot is a delightful puzzle, the people at Ace Hardware are my best friends, every song on the radio is my favorite.

-my friend Mimi

In that moment, now that the abject horror of the past two days was starting to lift, I felt a soul-deep understanding of that feeling, that complete and abiding love for all the light-filled beings in the world once you come back into it from the darkened basement hovel in which you’ve been living for a couple of days. And that kind of day-after sunshine ain’t a bad antidote to the dark.

By the long weekend, although I wasn’t feeling 100%, I managed to make it to a movie (The Invitation), to a friend’s backyard for food and a firepit (most hilarious part: a “drum circle” consisting of my two children—and, at one point, my friend’s husband—channeling Tito Puente with plastic buckets), and also made it out for a motorcycle ride to try out a new Cuban place with Love Tank (my litmus test is always the Cuban sandwich, and this one was created according to spec (roast pork, ham, mustard, Swiss cheese, and dill pickles—that’s it!—no fancy aioli or pickle relish, and ya gotta PRESS it; don’t put it on some artisan French roll, dammit), but the cheese left a little bit to be desired; it was like the Velveeta version of Swiss).

Chemo Tuesday #4 Begins

So as I wrap this up, I’m back in the chair for treatment #4, a little terrified of what’s to come. On the bright side, I guess I now know I can survive whatever hell comes (I mean, not that I WANT to, but I can). And if nothing else, this past week was a lesson in giving myself permission to say NO when I needed to (or hell, just WANTED to, because what—someone’s going to argue with the bullhorn-burping cancer chick?). Oddly, though, I’m discovering that while I’m embracing the power to say NO to whatever the flupp I want, I also feel like there are more occasions when I want to say YES, because of that niggling need to do all the things I feel up to doing (even things that seem small and seemingly insignificant, like going to Target with Love Tank to check out the Halloween stuff)! It’s a weird place to be, but I’m rolling with it.

And thank you, as always, for rolling alongside.