07 SepCancer Dreamin’

You can squash it during the day by filling your time with busy work or mindless reading of trashy vampire novels (I admit it – I’m hooked) but you can’t stop your subconscious from haunting you at night.

I dreamed about cancer all night last night.  I’ve heard dreams don’t really last that long but in this case it sure felt like it. I even woke myself up at one point, realized it was just a bad dream and went back to sleep… only to pick up the dream again.

—-begin dream sequence—

First my friend Michael, a cancer survivor, approached and told me he was out of remission.  Cancer was back with a vengeance and he was considered terminal.  He hugged me and said he was at peace.  He had lived out his dreams and was ready.  I can still feel his hug – he’s a great hugger and the dream was that real!

Then we found out that a child in Gavin’s 2nd grade class was diagnosed.  A good portion of this part of the dream was spent waiting for this little girl to get test results and trying to explain possible outcomes to Gavin and his friends.  The waiting was horrible and finally we got the bad news.

Next it was a teenager that was somehow connected to Gavin’s favorite babysitter.  Another young person, more waiting, more bad news and more trying to help Gavin understand how unfair and precious life really was.

Finally it was my turn.  A phone call from my doctor to say that something looked suspicious from a recent physical and they were pretty sure it was cancer.  And then my alarm went off and I woke up.

—-end dream sequence—

Don’t you hate the bad dreams that stick with you after you wake up? Why is cancer haunting me?  It’s possible that September is up to it’s old tricks again, stirring up the memories…

9/18/09 – I received my cancer diagnosis from my doctor (age 37)

9/9/84 – My mother died from cancer (age 36)

I wonder at what anniversary, if ever, a cancer survivor puts the battle so far behind them that it can’t even catch them in their dreams.

30 JanAwkward – but funny!

I was recently in MA for business and got to my hotel very late due to traffic. I was tired, starving and didn’t have my presentation ready for my 8 AM meeting the next day. This particular hotel has a “Boston’s Pizza” restaurant next door and that’s about my only option for dinner. It’s typically pretty empty in there so I grabbed my laptop and walked over.

Well, it was “Trivia Night” and the place was packed! I considered going back to my room but my empty stomach talked me into staying. I found a table in the corner where I hoped I could focus and finish my work quickly. I sat down, ordered and dove in!

Not 10 minutes later I hear “Are you working again?!”. Of course it’s the host of “Live Trivia Night” and he’s determined to make the studious girl in the corner join in the festivities. I sigh and say “Yes… and I’m always working”. Undaunted, he says “Well then you won’t mind if I work across from you… all the other tables are taken”. Next thing I know, people are turning their answers into me and I’m the unofficial trivia assistant as people assume my work on the computer has something to do with verifying answers!

Casual conversation follows but I’m really pressed to get my work done. Questions like “what do you do?” and “where are you from?’ get a quick answer and then he runs off to do the next session of trivia.   I’m trying to be friendly but also trying to make a point of getting my work done.  At some point he randomly asks about how I stay healthy while on the road and I let him know that I like to run. This leads to questions about events and races and if I’m training for anything. I mentioned the upcoming Breast Cancer Marathon (http://www.breastcancermarathon.org) and he thinks that’s a pretty cool cause.

It’s all nice, polite conversation that I can easily tune in/out of as I work until, out of the blue, he asks “Why are you so supportive of breast cancer? Do you know someone that has it?”. I can’t lie and I guess I haven’t learned the right (polite) words for these types of questions yet because I changed the tone of the conversation forever by saying “yeah… me. I’m a two year survivor”. He looks down at my chest (of course), realizes that he’s looking, then back up to my face and says “I never would’ve known” (ya think? seriously?) and I say… and I’m not making this up I really said this…

“So I guess the new boob smell has worn off then”

I’ve never seen someone quite so tongue-tied in my whole life! He sort of laughed but not really and then ambled off after that and I managed to get my work done. I started laughing the minute I left the restaurant… and continued laughing through the rest of that trip. I guess people that don’t think about what they are saying, especially after staring at someone’s chest, should be prepared for whatever they get in return!

17 JanWhat’s so funny about cancer?

Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids is currently offering a program called “What make you laugh about cancer?” during the week of laughfest (www.laughfestgr.org in case you don’t have tickets to one of the many amazing venues yet!).  It’s an evening where survivors and supporters share stories about their cancer experience that made them laugh.  While some find it hard to believe there’s anything funny about cancer, this got me to thinking about my journey and the number of really hard, full-on belly laughs we had over the craziest things.  I know that laughter is supposed to have restorative qualities… to help with the emotional healing side of the process.  The more I think about it I believe that a strong (or just plain twisted) sense of humor is the key to surviving anything!

What is the tipping point that takes something from being horribly wrong to being horribly funny?  Have you ever been at the point when you thought all hope was lost?  Your flight is cancelled, your luggage is in airport purgatory somewhere, all hotels are booked and as you start to wander around looking for a place to sit and stew and just be angry at the world, the heel falls off your shoe.  And suddenly… you just laugh!  Or, at least I did when this happened to me.  And I continued to laugh at the noise I made as I trucked around O’Hare airport “slap. thump. slap. thump. slap. thump…”  (The looks I got from people were precious!)

When I first started this blog I intended to use it as a way to update my friends and family as to my medical condition so I didn’t have to repeat the news over and over again.  Then it became an outlet for the emotional roller coaster I was on.  I’m not sure when I realized that some parts of it were funny.  But I kept getting feedback from people who said they read my blog and laughed.

Is there anything about Cancer that’s funny?  On the surface – NO.  NOT ONE BIT.  But when you’re going through it and your body parts are being replaced and weird tests are being run, the effects can be downright funny.  Even hysterical.  I re-read some of my own posts last night and laughed at myself.  I can see why some of my friends think I’m just crazy.

One great laugh that came to mind was on that erupted after my bi-lateral mastectomy.  (I’ll admit that it could have had something to do with the pain meds too)  I was standing in the bathroom taking one of the first looks at my new “set”.  I was bruised, bandaged and bloody.  The drainage tubes were still in so I was carrying my “blood buckets” around in my hand.  I was horrified by the site!  I started to get a little teared up when suddenly my right implant jumped… a muscle spasm!  This lead me to wonder if I could control that… if I could now flex my breasts like Arnold.  As I’m practicing my new bar trick my cousin Steph walks in, eyes wide and asks “WHAT are you doing?!”.  In my eagerness to show her I over-flex, my implant/foob jumps up on my collar bone and my stitches start to bleed again.

She looks at me absolutely dumbfounded like “did you do that on purpose?” and we both crack up.  She’s holding gauze on my boob, reaching for medical tape or a band aid and we’re both laughing so hard we’re crying.  Horrible?  Or horribly funny?  I’m still not sure but I know it made me feel better!

I’m glad there are organizations like Gilda’s Club that are open to sharing all aspects of the Cancer journey; the good, the bad, the ugly, and especially the FUNNY.

16 Jan(Getting some) fun out of life

When we want to love, we love
When we want to kiss, we kiss
With a little petting, we’re getting
Some fun out of life

When we want to work, we work
When we wanna play, we play
In a happy setting, we’re getting
Some fun out of life

Maybe we do the right things
Maybe we do the wrong
Spending each day
Wending our way along

But when we want to sing, we sing
When we want to dance, we dance
You can do your betting, we’re getting
Some fun out of life

Maybe we do the right things
Maybe we do the wrong
Spending each day
Wending our way along

But when we want to sing, we sing
When we wanna dance, we dance
You can do your betting, we’re getting
Some fun out of life

**what are you doing today?

– Billie Holiday; but check out the version by Madeleine Peyroux!

02 JanMushing Observations

This weekend my continued quest to try new things, live like I mean it, and generally RTFO led me to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Alcan Kennels where I learned how to dog sled. I have a few observations I’d like to share from this epic adventure:

  • Observation #1:  At a musher’s cabin you shouldn’t get hurt or sick. While there are five shelves of dog medicine, carefully labeled “for paws”, “eyes”, “worms”, “ears”, etc., there is only one small box of assorted people pills carrying the label “People medecine” hastily scrawled in black sharpie.
  • Observation #2: Dogs don’t stop.  They just DON’T STOP.  Not if you fall down, not if there’s a snowmobile stopped in the middle of the trail in front of you and not even if they have diarrhea.  That’s not something I really needed to know (Or see! Or smell!).
  • Observation #3: “Gee” means go right.  “Ha” means go left.  “Whoa” means nothing at all (see observation #2).  An upcoming corner means “speed up like crazy”.  Apparently they love the corners and just can’t wait to see what’s around it.  It’s a bit like “crack the whip” when you’re behind them on the sled.
  • Observation #4: There is no noise quite like 65 sled dogs when they know you are approaching with their dinner!
  • Observation #5: The dogs are mostly really sweet (and I totally forgive the one that tried to steal the beaver mitten off my hand, but not the one that bit my elbow for no apparent reason).  They look back and “check” on you along the trail and they really respond to encouraging words.  There’s nothing like the sounds of the sled, the dogs panting and their footfalls on a quiet, snowy trail.
  • I might be hooked… just a little!

    Special thanks to Al, Joe, RJ and Jim for making this all possible.  It’s not something Gavin or I will ever forget!

    30 OctProud Mother

    Gavin found a $10 bill on the floor at the movie theater the other night. I gave him two options: he could pay me back (he owes me for some games he bought) or he could buy candy and popcorn. My friend Jim also noted that there was a fundraiser going on too and pointed toward a wishing well. Imagine my surprise when Gavin walked over the wishing well and put the $10 into it. I asked him if he knew which charity he had just given his money to and he said “breast cancer”. There was a breast cancer ribbon on the well. :-)

    I love it that he didn’t even think twice. He walked over and put the money in like it was no big deal. :-) Such a proud moment for a mom!

    09 SepIn loving memory of Mary Jane Kars

    A kick-ass athlete, friend, mom, wife… and so much more. The woman with a story, a laugh and a shoulder for everyone else to lean on. I’m thinking of you today especially and hoping that all of this activity lately around our story is something that will somehow help others. It’s not always easy to tell but it feels right to share it. I think you’d like what I’ve been up to lately!

    In loving memory of Mary Jane Kars – October 16th, 1948 – September 9, 1984.

    30 AugWhen the universe speaks…

    A few people (OK more than a few) have been on me to take my story and write a book. I like the idea of it some days but on most days it seems quite silly. My story is old news and it really isn’t that interesting.

    Friends all around me are writing books. But they have way more interesting things to write about than me and a better command of the English language as well. I don’t write so good.

    I was in a cab in Chicago back in June with a very happy cab driver. I’ve never seen such a happy cab driver! He couldn’t help himself, he HAD to share his story with me. Out of nowhere he announces “I wrote a book! I just picked up the first copies today.” and he hands me the freshly printed copy. It’s in some language I can’t read and he goes on to explain that he’s written some history of Los Angeles in his native tongue. He wasn’t living in Los Angeles and in fact had never lived in Los Angeles but chose to write and publish a book about it. Then he says to me “Who ever would believe that I would write a book!

    Is the universe trying to tell me something?

    20 JunMothra

    Sitting in a hotel room in Death Valley, CA and catching up on emails. Suddenly I feel something slam into my upper chest area and I jump up and quickly brush it off. My breathing returns to normal as I recall the large moth that was on the inside of the window earlier. It’s not a black widow or giant cockroach. Whew!

    I resume typing only to note movement under my shirt! Mothra has not been flicked off my chest but rather down into my pajamas where she is helplessly flying between the foobs, knocking against them as if to say “help! Let me out!”. But my foobs cannot hear and they certainly cannot feel the plight of the giant desert moth.

    I’ll admit I had a moment of panic but then released her to the wild. I’m quite certain she’ll never be the same… nor will the other hotel guests after seeing me run outside and lift up my pajama top, effectively flashing everyone.

    Think I’d best call it a night.

    05 JunThe Healer

    I can’t believe I didn’t write about this one sooner. While in South Beach I thought I would treat myself to an in-room, deep tissue massage. This was a very nice hotel and they set everything up for me. Sarmenza (name changed to protect me from a lawsuit) arrived on time and efficiently set up her table in the middle of my room. She was a short but strong-looking woman from somewhere in South America and I struggled a bit to understand her through her accent.

    She asked if I had any recent surgeries or areas of concern. I informed her of my recent mastectomy and reconstruction and told her that my pectorals could be fairly tight at times. She took that all in stride and asked me to undress in my bathroom and then climb up on the table face down. My first shock came when I realized she was climbing up on the table on top of me! She basically mounted me and then proceeded to use her knees to crawl up and down my body, pressing her kneecaps into my muscles. I found the experience rather odd but soon convinced myself that this was just how massages were done in South America.

    Too soon it was time to flip over and she began massaging the front. She started with my neck and then worked her way down to the pectorals. I tensed as her hands when right down the front of me between the implants. She asked “Is this all right?” And I thought she was asking about rubbing my pecs so I said yes. Imagine my surprise when her hands started working circles around my implants! I must have tensed up completely because she told me to relax and then closed her eyes and kept rubbing. I convinced myself that she was channeling healing energy to my foobs and tried to go with it.

    It gets better… as she’s rubbing my foobs she asks me if I would like to meet her later at her gym and workout together. Now I’m wondering.. was she trying to heal me or pick me up? The lure of the foobs – you can’t resist!