Category: Breast Cancer

I am feeling feisty today!!!  I am not perfect yet but wow I feel like I’ve been dropped back into humanity again. 

Back to the topic at hand….  Don’t you just love the women in your life??? 

Not too long ago, I would not have dreamed of praising and rejoicing women.  I have changed so much from the woman I was five years ago who recoiled from women.  I was terrified of my mother and that led me to falsely believe that ALL women would frighten me and/or betray my trust.  It turns out that, as in most of the ideas I had five years ago, my theory couldn’t have been farther from the truth.   

This past weekend was filled with the love and healing power of women.  On Friday, my friend, Eve, from work brought me delicious food and sat with me.  I had the worst chemo fog ever this time and I have no clue if what I said throughout the evening made a bit of sense.  I do know that her being her was comforting and that we laughed and shared common experiences and emotions.  I know it felt good to let yet another woman a little closer to me.

On Saturday, the loveliest group of women came over to my house with flowers, fruit, pancakes, donuts, laughter and love.  We had a meeting in my living room and it was just joyous.  If you are in a 12-step program and have not been to a meeting in someone’s house, do it NOW!!  It is so powerful and healing and magical. 

The most incredible thing of all is that I asked those women to come over and have a meeting here.  I didn’t just reach out and ask for help; I reached out and asked WOMEN and only women to help.  And, they did! 

So, I’ve learned a little more from cancer.  I’ve learned that it is ok to ask for what I need.  I learned that when I ask, I get it.  I learned that my old ideas are just that – old ideas.  I learned that my new ideas not only don’t block me from women but my new ideas lead me to women.  I learned that women truly make the best band aids.

If you are reading this and enjoyed my weekend with me, please know that I love you from the bottom of my being.




While not a photo, that is an accurate portrayal of what I look like.  Well, minus the cape and the SKIRT.  I’m sure some women wear a skirt the day after chemo, but I’m not one of them.

Today is a mixed bag.  I’m so thrilled to have completed treatment.  I’m not feeling my worst today but not my best either.  I’m freezing, first of all.  Second of all, my brain is fried again.  I’m told I’ll get much more clarity once I start to heal and I believe it because usually right before I went back for my next treatment, I’d feel like I had a grip on my faculties again.

Last night I cried a big long cry.  I am relieved.  I am trying to really reconcile putting cancer behind me and survivor before me.  I made up my mind early on in this battle, that I would be a survivor and according to the american cancer society, one becomes a survivor at the moment of diagnosis.  It is time to say, “I had breast cancer” not “I have breast cancer”.  That feels good.

And, of course, we are right smack in the middle of the Days of Awe.  For my non-jewish friends, the Days of Awe are the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  On Rosh Hashonah G-d writes our names in the book of life.  The decision made on Rosh Hashanah can be changed during the Days of Awe by making peace with people you have harmed, giving charity and I think prayer is the third thing.  During these ten days the sky is open and G-d’s mind can be changed.  On the eve of Yom Kippur, the skies are closed and the decisions are final.

I love the Days of Awe.  I love the high holy days.  I always have.  I can think of no better time to have my last chemo.  The skies are open.  My G-d is really watching.  I can’t imagine what wonder that can bring because he has carried me all the way through last year when the skies were closed. 

I have a ton of faith these days.  I have a ton of love.  When I feel better, I can’t wait to give all of my love away to all the people who have loved me though this.

today i had my last chemo treatment!!!!  my picc line was removed.  my breasts were examined and are both fine.  today I was told my cancer is in remission!!!!  I walked out of the oncologist office and into the bathroom where I stood against the door and sobbed the long awaited cry of relief.  For the first time in a long time, I feel like I can relax my focus and breathe.  I cried hard.  I took long, healing cancer-free deep breaths.  I took a moment to actually contemplate the fact that I might actually get to survive. 

Trent and I met with my oncologist and discussed the differences in my prognosis and if I did the Taxol my cure rate would be 82%.  If I don’t do the Taxol, the cure rate is 80%.  This made my decision a little easier.  Another two percent isn’t enough to entice me into three more months of hell and a very strong possibility of permanent neuropathy.

So, I am done.  I have four weeks to recover from this chemo and then I start the Tamoxifen.  I am not going to think about that now.  I am not going to think about or write about any possible negative things that could happen.  today, i was told i am cancer-free and that my prognosis is good.  that is all that matters right now! 

For now, all I have to think about is healing.  My body has been through an awful lot.  I feel it acutely.  In another three weeks, my body can start regenerating itself.  My hair can start to grow again.  and, finally, I can start to live, really LIVE, my life again!

Here comes Rosh Hashanah!!!

Tomorrow is the start of a new year!  I’m not taking about the turning of a date.  I’m talking about renewal of body, mind, and spirit.  I’m talking about cleaning my slate with my G-d and healing relationships with the people I love most.

And, of course, I’m talking about closing the book on this past year that held both the most exquisite joy and excruciating pain.  I look back on this year and am absolutely amazed. 

Trent and I have travelled far and wide this year and hardly left Lilburn.  We got engaged.  We held onto each other for dear life and we fell madly in love over and over and over.  We have faced medical disasters and surgery and chemo.  We have proven without a shadow of a doubt that we are an unshakable, unbreakable couple.  We have also proven that together and separately both of us are committed to living sober no matter what.

Tonight I celebrated.  I bought myself a huge present that is shiny and new and will last a lifetime.  It is a reward for quitting smoking under the most grueling of circumstances   It is a commemoration of  my last chemo which is a week away.  It is an early 45th birthday present to myself.  It is an early celebration of being clean and sober for five years.

Whether you are Jewish or not, I wish you all a happy, healthy new year.  No matter what you believe, every day is the start of something new.  Enjoy it.  Celebrate Life!

I hate being bald.  The reasons why I hate being bald are so varied and the list is lengthy.  I imagine the world at large sees a cancer patient as hating being bald as a soley vanity-related issue.  By and large, they would be correct.

First of all, having to constantly wear something over the head while in public is annoying.  I hate hats to begin with but add that hatred to the pounding headaches that I get for two weeks after chemo, and you have a recipe for a mental breakdown or two.  Hats actually hurt. 

Second of all, I am of the unfortunate school of thought that hats are not meant to be worn indoors.  To me when a woman wears a hat indoors, it is an immediate fashion disaster.  Or Easter, I guess.

Finally, I have no idea how to shop for clothing anymore.  I find something I think makes a fairly adequate outfit only to realize it looks ridiculous once the coup de gras (hat) is added.

When I was growing up, kids had these crazy all night wire retainers.  I was thankfully not required to wear one of the contraptions but I remember calling them “headgear”.  In the final analysis, the most incredible Chanel suit would look like shit if it was accessorized with “headgear”.   I freely apply this principal to my current hat situation.

With all this kvetching (complaining in yiddish), I’m sure people wonder why I don’t just buy a wig and shut up already.  I wonder that myself, really.  I have considered buying a wig.  I know I’d like the feel of hair on my head but I have this overwhelming feeling that I’ll be walking around pretending to be what I’m not.  If ever there was a time to claim my identity, it is NOW. 

I’m fighting cancer and I’m bald.  I hate it.  But it is true and real.  A wig feels like a prop in a play to me.  And as much as I wish this were a play, it’s not.  It’s real life.

Please enjoy the below photo of dental headgear.  I am pleased the girl in the picture is bald!

This morning started off like all my other chemo infusions.  Laurie picked me up and took me this time and I noticed the woman in the chemo cube next to me was different (usually I see the same people all the time).  When I went to the restroom I saw her before her infusion started.  She looked quite ill.

In the middle of my second chemo, the woman was not feeling well.  The nurse who went to check on her found that she was not breathing.  She called a code blue and all of a sudden there was a flurry of activity and an onslaught of doctors and nurses.  All that separated me from the woman who stopped breathing was a thin cloth.  Some woman I don’t know who is battling cancer was beside me and for a few moments that felt like forever, she died.  Thank goodness they brought her back and she left (breathing on her own), in an ambulance. 

Lest I forget that this is a life and death battle, I have now been reminded.  I looked at that woman differently than I would have six months ago.  Today I didn’t just feel badly for her and pray for her.  Today I felt heartbroken that she cannot take the chemo she needs to kill her cancer.  I felt such unbelievable sorrow knowing that she, like me, woke up today knowing it would be a rough day and that the day turned out so very much rougher than she could have imagined.  I wondered how horrifying it would be to be come back from death only to find you are in a chemo ward and still have cancer.  She was in her seventies.  I wondered if maybe she would have wanted them to let her go.

I prayed for her.  I prayed for G-d to let her feel his presence.  I hope that wherever she went for the minutes that she escaped from cancer and chemo was beautiful and peaceful, free of sorrow, free of physical pain, and most of all, free of cancer. 

After three grueling months of cancer-related activities, I spent the past five days at work.  I returned to a different environment.  A wall was knocked out, my old cubicle was repositioned and inhabited by a new employee.  My work area was relocated and my cubicle is sooooo large and has three windows.  I have room for all my files to be at arms length and am able to spread my work out in an organized fashion.  I loved getting up every morning and getting back into the grind of going to work everyday.

I have two chemo infusions left.  I have come halfway through the journey of chemotherapy.  Of this entire four month nightmare, the chemo has been the hardest.  The mere thought of infusion number three brings immediate tears to my eyes.  Nevertheless, the show must go on and I will be at Kaiser on Wednesday for chemo.  I will lose another week of my life to chemo fog and illness.  I will pretend I am normal for the week after that and will feel anxious and dread on week three in preparation for infusion number four.

My last infusion is September 15, 2010.  I will lose another five days.  On September 21, I will start to recover from this horrible nightmare.  I cannot wait.


Today I claimed another piece of my survivorship.  I went back to work!!  It felt so deliciously normal to get up, get dressed, and drive to work.  I smiled all the way there.  I smiled all the way home.  For the first time since my battle with cancer has begun, I RECLAIMED something that cancer took from me.  Wow!

I have been thinking alot about being a cancer survivor recently.  According to my research, one is deemed a survivor from the moment of diagnosis.  I thought I knew a thing or two regarding survival before cancer.  Nothing, however, that I have ever been through has ever felt so intensely personal as this very battle. 

Cancer has taken my breast.  It has taken my hair.  It has assaulted my very femininity.  It has postponed my wedding.  It has rendered me temporarily disabled.  It has cost me and continues to cause me physical discomfort and pain.  It has given both me and the man I love nightmares.  It has shattered the comfort of normalcy that comes from doing the same thing, day in and day out, month in and month out.  It has sucked the safety from the air.

And Trent and I have fought back.  I reconstructed my breast.  Trent has looked me in the eye and told me from the bottom of his heart how beautiful he thinks I am.  Together we find moments for romance every day and in that way we reclaim my femininity.  I am back in the world of cubicles where the routine of work swirls around me like like a safety belt. 

For three months now, cancer has been kicking my ass.  It feels really good to steal a part of my life back from it.  It is going to feel even better when I look it in the eye and smile the next time I get to wash my hair.  It will feel better still when I stand before G-d and Trent and say I do.  These are things that I will do.  They are the fabric that create the quilt of my life as a breast cancer survivor.

The woman in the above picture may not be beautiful by our society’s standards but she is clearly beautiful.  Even though she is squinting, I can see the joy inside her coming through her smile.  I look at her and see someone I would like to get to know. 

Today I got dressed and went to the mall wearing a hat I had purchased from Target a few weeks ago.  As I walked through the store, I caught a glimpse of myself in a full length mirror and what I saw stopped me in my tracks.  I don’t like the way I look in that hat.  I don’t like having a huge sock running the length of my arm covering up the two ivs that are hanging out of it

I became instantly, acutely aware of myself.  I felt ridiculous.  As a kid, I always hated Halloween.   I hate costumes; they also make me feel ridiculous.  The hat I was wearing is one I would NEVER be caught dead in were it not for the fact that I am bald.  I thought being bald would change my perspective but alas, I still would rather not be caught dead in that hat.

I left the store and drove home in my car that was approximately 675 degrees farenheit.  (Life imitates art as my car turns into Dante’s Inferno amid my struggle with cancer/chemo/vanity/life.)  I turned the air conditioner to high blast and wondered why I was still so damn hot and then like a slap in the face, I got it.  All the vents are pointed just a tad off-center from my head so they DON’T MESS UP MY HAIR.  Ain’t that just a kick in the ass in the middle of August in the middle of Georgia with a bowler’s hat on?

Suddenly as I readjusted the myriad of oddly placed vents so that they blew AT ME, I realized something.  I was willing to go without adequate air conditioning or heat in an effort to protect my hair.  Now, I am willing to wear a hat that makes me feel like I should be on a stake out with Mickey Spillane to protect the world from my lack of hair.  What the fuck is wrong with that?  Or more specifically, what the fuck is RIGHT with that?

I took off the ridiculous hat.  I let the air conditioning blow through the twenty to thirty hairs on my itty bitty head.  I put on my sunglasses and looked in the mirror and you know what?  I recognized myself.  I saw a woman who, in a life and death battle, has lost her hair but retained her dignity.  Hiding my baldness does not make me beautiful. 

 It is not Halloween and I am not trying to dress up as a physically fit, cancer free supermodel right now.  It is hotter than Hades, I’m in the fight of my life and my beauty comes through my soul.   I need to look at myself the way I see the woman in the photo above.  When I see myself the way I see her, I get to redefine beauty.

So the other day I was in the bathroom monitoring my hair loss.  I looked at the back of my head and well, there’s a wishbone! 

Now I don’t believe in making wishes.  I only believe in praying.  I used to make wishes and the last wish I made came true and was just a complete and total mess.  No more golden calves for me.  I go straight to G-d now.

Having said that, I must reiterate that I have a wishbone carved into the back of my head.  I yelled for Trent.  HONEY!!  COME HERE!!  I turned around and showed him my wishbone.  We cracked up.

I am absolutely giddy from chemo.  I feel horrible.  I will spare you the symptoms.  Let’s just say I don’t feel well.  However, for some reason everything is funny.  I mean riotously funny.  I am a giggling maniac with a wishbone carved into the back of her head. 

At the Breast Center at Kaiser, they told me to do something good for my endorphins every day.  Laugh, hold hands, fall in love, snuggle my dog, spend time with dear friends, dream about buying my wedding dress.  I have cancer but I have all these free and easy endorphin rushes surrounding me.  Maybe this is why I love this darn wishbone so much.  It just forces me to lighten up, loosen up, ride the ride and get to the other side.