Monday, March 25, 2013

Head Cold

Last week I got nabbed by the mean, mean queen of all badass head/chest colds. It started with a cough. Luckily, I was quickly able to shift my initial diagnosis from lung cancer to common cold with the onset of copious sneezing and head congestion. I’m entering week two of abject misery and I’m pissed because this week is little boy’s 12th magnificent birthday and all he wants is to have a special day at home, just him and mom and brownies and ice cream {because he says we’re two peas in a pod} and the day afterwards is the year anniversary of my bilateral mastectomy. Has it been that long and has it only been that long at the very same time and does it really need to be commemorated by falling on Good Friday? An ordinary, day would be just fine for me, not that good friday has any meaning... I think it's not good because school's closed. I’m pissed because I need to be feeling good for both of these milestones. So instead of appreciating my larger health, or that I’ve not been sick all winter, I’m starting to wallow.

I’m coughing so badly, I expect to choke on my own lung and suffocate to death any time now. The other day I was walking to the car to pick up aforementioned almost 12-year-old when I started coughing so badly I threw up into the street... just a little. But then I had to stop twice on the driveway to puke and when I thought I was safely in my car I had to open the door to let loose the rest. At that moment, I realized, damn, I don’t chew enough, gotta work on that. Since then, I get to look out any of my living room, dining room or bedroom windows and see my own vomit splattered on my driveway, screaming at me to get out there with the hose, but that’s just not happening, I’m protesting. There is just no dignity in this situation, or the sounds I make coughing and blowing my nose all day, there just isn’t. I’ve coughed myself into vomiting several times since then and I really do think that whoever invented the garbage disposal should have a saint named after them. I vomit with ease, and efficiency, right into the disposal and vroom, it's gone. I’m an expert, seriously, it’s not a bit traumatic for me, it’s a skill like any other although I doubt it will help my resume any.

Meanwhile, I’ve been invited to be on local t.v. to promote my upcoming arts and crafts event. If there’s anything worse than vomiting on your own driveway, I think it would be being interviewed on t.v. Of course, maybe I could go there to throw up, and then I wouldn’t have to worry about being asked back. I haven’t responded yet, I’m a little too horrified, even though I dislike being a terrible coward. I'm awkward, un-photogenic and prone to babble on my best of days and these are not my best of days. I get very nervous when there are camera’s and/or microphones around. Recording a voicemail message, now that is traumatic.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Beards and Boobs

The other day an acquaintence, newly divorced, but happily dating a bearded man posted a placard on facebook that read “I love beards as much as men love boobs”. To be clear, I was not offended in the least by this, I was amused and I posted back “I don’t like beards, so hopefully there’s a man out there who doesn’t like boobs.” To which a male friend of hers posted “not likely...”

That simple comment pushed a button I didn’t realize was looming so large and I burst into tears. My reaction really surprised me but I guess it validated my worst fears. I chose not to get reconstruction because it’s so invasive, I’d been through enough, you don’t get your real boobs back and I felt secure that I was more than the sum of my body parts, that my breasts didn’t define me, but all it took was one prick on facebook to disintigrate me. I should have left it at that, but I wrote back that I thought he was mean, he’d made me cry, and that I’d lost my breasts to cancer and that many women are just not well-endowed in that regard, are our boobs really our only value? I wanted to say, I hope you’ve got a really big dick or you should shut the fuck up. But I refrained, really no point.

He wrote back that he’d not intended to be mean but what followed was equally prickish and condescending. Some people are just douchbags I guess. I’m ashamed to admit how much one lousy comment touched a nerve so deeply and colored my whole day grey. A few hours later I got notification that another charming man had also posted “.... unlikely”.

I've been feeling miserable the last couple of days, the empress of all head colds has seized me hostage. Little boy loves holidays and on St. Patricks Day, even though just at home, he wore a green shirt, shiny green shamrock bead necklace I got him and his green top hat. Next day, he went to school in his shamrock socks and beads. Last year on St. P's day, we made Shamrock Shakes. Minty green milkshakes with whipped cream and shaved chocolate on top, a recipe I'd found in the newspaper, and while I got the ingredients and he's asked over and over when we're making them, I just haven't been able to summon the energy. I feel soooooo guilty about it, great parent I am, not only don't we go on enriching outings every weekend, I can't even manage a green milkshake. I'd been napping and coughing on the couch all afternoon and as we were going up to bed little boy said "mom, you are so special, even when you're sick, you're smiling and so nice to be around." I told him that surprised me because I felt so mopey and hadn't made his shamrock shake and he hugged me and said even though I was sick, I didn't seem mopey at all, I'm always all smiley. I told him he's the reason I'm always smiling, he liked that. I have got to learn to lighten up on myself, stop seeing all my inadequacies, understand that there are different kinds of families, I wasn't able to build the fun, nuclear family I'd have liked, but we are still a family, and my kids are thriving and kind and confident, I have a little human that can express love and appreciation in this way, this remarkable way and I'd like to say it's the best medicine, but at this point, I really need some cough medicine.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fish in a Barrel

I think my insurance company is trying to harass me into leaving or trick me into letting them kick me out. After returning all the forms which came with my “random” selection to have my coverage re-verified. I am on a treadmill getting a new fat envelope each week asking for more and more useless information. It’s not just a matter of figuring out and completing the forms, they all need something that requires time and effort -- my doctor’s signature, notarization, some time consuming task that makes me want to rip the paper to bits, but then they win.

I was mid-way through the form that asked me questions such as “do you smoke or use tobacco products?” “NO” “If you begin smoking do you agree to immediately join a smoking cessation program? WTF? If you hit yourself over the head with a cast iron frying pan, do you promise not to do that again? {o.k., I made that one up} How much do you weigh? If you gain more than 10 pounds... All needing my physicians signature. While still working on this form, the next fat envelope arrives, five more pages of Renewal Certification Forms all with ridiculously short deadlines. Paperwork is my nemesis, I hate it, I loose it, I rarely understand it because I read questions too literally. I can hear trees dying in vain to make the paper for these copious forms and instead of paying for my blood transfusions, they’re paying for paper and ink and postage and some person to send, read and file this nonsense. Not that I begrudge anyone their employment, but surely they could be put to better use.

I understand I’m an expensive subscriber, but that’s what makes the system work, right? I’m incredibly grateful to you healthy people who’s premiums are subsidizing my care, but it they kick me out, you’re not getting a refund and they’re already making a hefty profit, so I’d really like to just pay my premiums on time and in peace like everyone else.

Now that my tenant has moved out and baseball season has started for the tall one, I’m sans childcare for little dude while I go to work on Saturday’s. When I’ve brought him to the studio in the past, he loves it there... for five minutes, and then comes the chorus of “I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, when are we leaving?” Time and people march forward and yesterday, I had a Fez wearing assistant who had “one of the best day’s ever” and was a really big help, for real. He taped a sign to his fez that said “this fez is not for sale, but it IS really cool!” He sat in the chair of power, the tall director’s chair at the counter and rang up sales all by himself. He seems to be a good merchandiser too, he was constantly straightening up the sock monkeys so they were maximum cute and making sure everything had signs and were priced. It was sweet and lovely and he can’t wait to come back, which he will, like it or not, every other saturday, but like is so much better than the alternative.

The tall one has been between sports and has not gone back to his usual posse because it seems they spend their weekends driving in circles, looking for something to do {never finding it} and smoking pot and drinking, sound familiar? That's how I spent my high school years, but I was too dumb to realize how boring and stupid it was. My son is smarter than I was, he thinks it’s idiotic, and since he’s between teams, sans girlfriend and straight edge, he’s hanging out with the senior girls. What’s so wonderful about his school is that everyone mixes, it’s not just the theater kids, or the jocks, or the brainiacs... it’s one big group. The artsy kids and the valedictorian all hang out together.

We all know about the circle of life, but what I love are all the circles within life and all of the symmetry. When we moved to our road, our beloved street 15 years ago, G was two years old and two houses down was a family with a like-aged daughter. The mom and I clicked immediately and we spent night and day together with the kids, our maniacal toddlers. Our kids were as different as can be, but we have become family in every sense of the word. The girl is a couple of months older, so she’s a year up in school but as our families are family, they’ve always been in contact, and now we live directly across the street, so they can't really avoid each other if they wanted to. He’s all sports and she’s all theater but they are like siblings in that way when you’ve known someone your whole life. In middle school they drifted apart as always seems to happen when kids become either boys or a girls, but the past few years, while they don’t hang out, they’ve become the best of friends on the sly, texting, confiding, getting girl/boy advice from one another and walking home from the bus together. Now, all of a sudden, he’s become besties with her whole gang because girls are more fun... they play board games and watch movies, and talk and laugh their heads off. He’s even rediscovered the girl next door, "you know X is really cool" duh, it took him 10 years to figure that out despite knowing her since they were 3. So just as they'll start leaving for college, their relationships have come full circle and it's a beautiful thing.

When I have a room full of boys, which doesn't happen much any more, there has to be sports on T.V. and they sit there texting other people instead of talking to each other. Last night I had 3 boys and 15 girls over and while discreetly hiding in the kitchen, I heard such different sounds than I’m used to. Girls laugh, a lot. They are hilarious, I wish I could morph back in time and hang out with these girls, some of them knit, I never learned to knit and I think you've got to learn that shit young. And as far as my son is concerned, while I don’t think he’s looking for a girlfriend, if he wanted one, it’d be like shooting fish in a barrel, that is one lucky guy.

My ex has a girlfriend. I’ve suspected this for some time, well, since he moved out really, because you never saw a wedding ring fly off a finger faster and moving out was really the only thing I’ve ever seen him stay on task with. I was going to leave mine on out of respect until he moved out, or we were officially divorced, but his was off within 24-hours of us deciding to split. Then there’s his steadfast refusal since day one to ever have the kids on a Friday night, which really is so unfair. It surprised me though since I really believed in my heart, now I realize, rationalized in my heart, that he just didn’t want to be in a relationship, didn't need it, didn't crave it, wasn't capable of it. He showed no interest in me, or my life or meeting my friends, refused to introduce me to anyone at his job, even though he’s been there forever. I never even saw his office, I used to ask to, and offered to host dinner parties so I could meet his friends from work, but he wasn’t interested and I eventually gave up. I used to ask if people ever socialized, went for dinner, had parties, because I’d love to meet them. He wasn’t interested in sitting at the same table for dinner or going out or being a “we” in any sense. I thought it was him and now I realize it was me. He just didn’t want to share with me... didn’t want to be companions with me... didn’t want to show affection or interest in me, didn't want to work on the relationship with me. If I was watching a movie or show on t.v. I'd invite him to join me, he always said "no thanks." If I sat on the couch next to him, he'd leave pretty quickly, to get something from the kitchen or use the bathroom and when he returned, he'd sit at the other end of the couch. Death by a thousand cuts. And how lucky is he? Gets out just in time to start dating with a clear conscience. A mere few months later and he'd be stuck picking up the slack for a wife with cancer.

He’s a tall, white male in upper management at a large corporation, he’s involved with someone from work... shooting fish in a barrel. I knew this would probably be the case, I know it was the case many years ago, and have always suspected it has at times been the case since, but didn’t want to be the controlling shrew he seemed conditioned to view women, or “wives” as, and I respected his autonomy so didn’t ask questions. Even the kids started to point out his absences. “Mom, it doesn’t take 3 hours to go get coffee.” But I figured, nah, he's not interested in relationships, if he was, he could have one with me. And still we're as friendly as can be, discussing the kids, while I enable his life and work like a dog, to keep my family in good shape. I've not asked questions and while his answers always sound so truthful, I know they're not, I've only caught him in out and out lies a few times, and I wasn't even looking, so you figure, for each time an unpleasant truth landed in my lap... there must have been so many swimming under the surface. And he always, always seems like the most honest guy in the world. I guess I just wonder why life seems so easy for some people and so difficult for others. I don't know how to make my life work, I try so hard, It's such a specific goal, but I don't know how, I just don't know how to make it all work, how to make the pieces fall into place.

I can’t find my barrel anywhere, I don’t think there is one, or maybe I don't have the energy or tenacity to find it, and I don’t quite think I have the same power rifle these two do. Nor do I really have time for a relationship, I have my kids all the time, sans Wed. night and every other weekend, weekends being Saturday to Monday morning {and I begrudge not a split-second I’m with them}. I’m self-employed which is non-stop, especially when you’re coming off a hiatus, even more so, when so much time has to be spent in doctor’s offices and I’m depleted from treatment and while they can try to “cure” you of cancer, they don’t tell you that you’ll never be the same.

My life is beautiful, my life is grand, but it’s hard being single in this complicated world, more so when you’ve lived with someone for so long, even if they didn’t talk to you. My longing for that soft shoulder to lean on and that person to laugh with makes my heart hurt and it’s not like I lost that when the marriage ended, I’ve been longing for it for years {and years}. I got no fish in my barrel, that should be a country song. I guess no one gets everything in life and really, right now, the goal is simply to have a life. I have so much, maybe wanting more is just greedy and tempting fate.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Naturopath to Nowhere

I finally had my long-awaited appointment with the Naturopath who is also an M.D., which was my next step in my quest for a cancer-free fate. A very nice man in a beautiful, brick-walled office who could do little more than refer me to a Naturopath in Connecticut who works with cancer patients. He said, in general, having had cancer, I should make sure I have mid-to high levels of vitamin D {mine are low even with a supplement}, and take green tea extract and most importantly 30-40g of Melatonin each night as it’s a powerful antioxidant with cancer fighting properties. It makes “some” people sleepy, but I should adjust fairly quickly. I mentioned picking some up at Whole Foods and he said he really didn't trust Whole Foods products and I should get if from a place he recommends that I can click through to from his website.

Only later did it occur to me, that if Whole Foods supplements, which is a large part of what they’re known for, weren’t up to par, we’d have heard about it... it would be scandalous and some intrepid reporter would have broken the story. Fuck! Does that mean he wants me to click through to his place of choice because he has a vested interest, like kickbacks from purchases made through his site? Oh, I hope not, but it does make my usually naive self wonder.

Grocery shopping a week later at, yes, Whole Foods, I remembered the Melatonin but couldn’t remember the recommended dosage, so upon seeing that it comes in either 1g or 3g, I figured the doc had recommended 3-4g, but being cautious, I figured I’d start with one.

I’m a lifelong insomniac. I can take an Ambien and be wide awake... I can take two Ambien and still take awhile to fall asleep and wake up a few times during the night. I took 1g of Melatonin that night and my eyes rolled back in my head and the next thing I know I’m hitting the snooze button for the third time on a school day. Luckily, there was a divine intervention in the form of a cat puking on my bed right next to me which served to knock me out of my coma and drag myself out of bed. Deities are so creative in their methods, an alternative to cat barf, however, to assist my emergence from coma would have been preferred, but I’m not looking the gift cat in the mouth {especially since it just barfed}, it did serve it’s purpose.

Later that day, I looked at the notes the doctor wrote to realize that he had, in fact, told me to take not 3-4g of Melatonin, but 30-40g. What the hell?! If I had taken 30g of Melatonin my kids would have been calling 911 in the morning, there’s no way, I could have woken up from that or functioned for the next month. I’m still groggy and making stupid mistakes, one after another even several days later.

I’m sorry, but it can’t be good to put that much of anything in your body and then it occurred to me that Naturopaths want to drug you as much as regular doctors, they just want to do it with “natural” substances and not pharmaceuticals, but would 30g of Melatonin, or an excessive amount of anything not have their own host of complications?

Maybe you can’t fix the game either way. Maybe I just have to eat healthy, exercise, be happy and live my life as best I can. Maybe there’s no magic bullet or if there is I’d be so large I’d choke on it. Cause of death: magic bullet {while cancer-free}.

A week later, the Naturopath/MD called me regarding the bloodwork he ran, he rechecked my Ferritin level. After my oncologist ruled out hereditary hemochromatosis, he dropped the ball and never mentioned it again and I decided to go into denial about it. “You’re Ferritin level is really high, I want to run an RNA test”, “I already had that test, it’s negative, do you have any idea what would cause my Ferritin to be so high?” and in a perplexed and very human voice he says, “no, but it’s really, really bad.” He had no ideas or suggestions, but offered to research it a bit, but as he had never heard of my type of breast cancer in the first place and if I’d listened to him about the Melatonin, I’d be in a coma instead of having this conversation, I said thanks, but I’ll just go pester my oncologist about it. OK, he said, that’s probably a good idea.

Ever feel like you’re walking in circles?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Beware of Grannies with Coffee

I’ve been seeing a sweet man for the past few months. Someone I knew peripherally, and ran into just as I was finishing up radiation. It was the most unexpected and lovely thing at a time I really needed it. Ultimately though, it didn’t work out. Something sweet and simple, turned  fraught and difficult and complicated and as I was pretty sure we were both feeling the same way, I asked him to coffee this morning to tell him that I thought we were better as friends, it’s disrespectful, I think, to leave things just dangling until they fade away, and it devalues what you had even if it didn’t work out, but I admit, I was a little nervous. Well, you never saw a more genuine smile or happy man than this one, upon hearing what I had to say. For a minute I thought, well, sheesh, look a little disappointed, but of course, then I would have felt terrible and I never want anyone to fake it. How perfect that we were both feeling the same thing at the same time and able to talk about it honestly, and I know, that I have a new, close, friend for life, someone I genuinely care about, who’s company I truly enjoy and who I think feels the same of me. It would have been grand to have something more, but we all know things don’t always click or work out the way we would like.

We met today at my local café, the one I patronize often, but rarely sit at, so I figure I’ve accrued table points. We sat talking for a long time, friend talk, happy talk. Despite being done with my tea, we were firmly entrenched in our spot, I had an an empty chair covered in my briefcase, bag, bread, coat, and we were deep in conversation. I shouldn’t have been twirling my empty cup around, that was a dead giveaway that I was done with it, because a little old lady approached. One bad ass, little old lady, who wanted a table, and wanted it now. That woman kicked our ass, and you better believe, she’s still probably sitting in our spot. She looked like the quintessential sweet old lady, oh how looks can be deceiving, cunning and steely will, sadly, are invisible. White hair, hunched shoulders, heavy coat and handbag dangling from crooked elbow. She was balancing a plate with a muffin in one hand, and a cup of coffee filled to the literal brim in the other, just begging to spill and she says “excuse me, are you finished, were you about to leave?” I said, “well, um, uh, we weren’t really.” The table-coveting warrior, just stood there, staring, tenuous coffee, more tenuous by the second, “well, yes, actually, we were just about to leave.” We didn't look anywhere near about to leave.

Damn, that was one fine play. I thought, well, if I were sitting on a bus, I would have automatically gotten up and given my seat without a second thought, so I’m wondering does this age hierarchy work in all situations? When are you old enough to just demand what you want and how much younger does someone else have to be for you to expect them to give way. If she was 70 and I’m 50, does that mean that next time I’m at the café and there’s no seat for me, I can encroach on and shame a 30-year old into giving it up? I will point out that she was alone and there was room at the communal table. Why did she pick our table... there were other malingerer’s, chatters, did I blow it by twirling my empty cup around? Am I a terrible person for how begrudgingly I gave it up? I guess once you get a table, it’s not a given you’re going to keep it. Take nothing for granted, not even your temporary table, things may be more temporary than you think.