Bullshit

I’ve been binge watching “Parenthood” for several days now. It mostly makes me laugh with relatable situations with crazy family and kids being assholes. The usual. But the last few episodes got a little too relatable. One of the fucking characters goes and gets damn breast cancer. Like, what the shit. So suddenly my mind numbing binge watching become s a freaking trial of emotional strength because I can not escape the topic. What the shit. It is October after all so everything is pink and “feel your tats”.

I hit the 3 year mark since my diagnosis this September and it’s been 2.25 years since any treatment. Yet here I am getting all emotional watching some fictional character on some stupid TV show go through some fake treatment. And I hate that it makes me this way. I hate that it makes me remember my own bullshit. I hate that there are so many scenes that I can’t stop myself from saying, out loud, “That’s not how it is. That’s wrong.” There was one episode where the character’s mother-in-law comes to help her around the house and it reminds me of all my family and friends that wanted (and most did) come over to help and it made me just as frustrated as it was making this character, because when you’re sick you want to do what you can yourself. To try and be as “normal” as possible. Thinking of that time makes me feel bad because I was shitty to people back then. I was shitty to people who just wanted to help because I was angry and wanted things to just go back to normal and they were anything but normal. I’m pretty sure my husband only survived because he’s quiet and waited for me to ask for help rather than just do things for me. Well, with the exception of offering to go get me cheeseburgers or go to the store to get me pie.

It just sucks. I don’t want to be emotional about it. I don’t want to have to get emo over some bullshit TV show episode or song. I don’t want to remember this bullshit and feel bad because I look bad and feel selfish because I didn’t worry about anyone else around me’s feelings. I didn’t have the fortitude to give a shit about how my bullshit toxic tits were screwing up life for everyone around me. I want to distance my self from it. For it to be my past that I sometimes forget even happened. Even as I sit here and watch more episodes about bullshit breast cancer and type this, my stupid husband must feel my emo rising and and has continued to crack jokes about the cat and some song and anything other than the bullshit on the TV.  Yet, here I sit, drinking wine, still watching this TV bullshit feeling all emo. Tying to ignore the stupid emotions rising. Trying to not feel shitty about some cancer bullshit that pretty much will always be bullshit, my bullshit.

Three Years

Three years ago, I walked into my doctors office for a follow up visit to make sure I had gotten in to see a breast surgeon specialist to have a bump looked at. He was my primary care physician and all I expected was a 5 to 10 minute chat asking how the appointment was, if I had gotten a mammogram and what else had been discussed. 10 minutes later I walked out with the words, “The initial biopsy results are back. It’s cancer.” Those are literally the only two sentences I remember. I don’t even remember walking out to my car or driving home. My next memory was laying in bed, still fully clothed texting the Sailor, “Biopsy’s back. I have cancer,” then staring at the wall from beneath a down comforter. He immediately text back, “I’m on my way home.” It was August at the Ocean Front in Virginia Beach and I don’t remember why I pulled the down comforter up over me from the foot of the bed. I don’t remember being hot or cold. I remember laying there staring at the wall, numb. I remember the Sailor coming into our bedroom silently taking off his clunky boots and just crawling into bed, full uniform still on, squeezing me to him and laying silently. I don’t remember much else from that day or even that weekend for that matter. August 31st will always stick in my mind as the day cancer changed my life.

Details of what followed for the next 2 years are clear in my mind as if it was just yesterday. The weeks of Kyle running up to the Pub in the middle of my shift to meet me in my car, parked on the street, to stick me in the gut with fertility hormones laughing like idiots at the thought of what it looked like from a passersby. Chemo teaching where a nurse went over ever detail of what my treatment would entail and all the possible side effects and issues. Kyle and I staring dumbfounded at the novella of printouts listing things like, “Loss of hair, loss of nails, mania, vomiting, weight loss, weight gain, neuropathy, bone pain, muscle pain, disorientation, bulging eyes, loss of taste….” Every surgery, every blood draw, every round of chemo; I could recount every detail of each one like it’s happening right now.

People say that there will come a point where it will be your past. You will feel detached from it. I can’t imagine that. I can not even fathom waking up eventually and thinking, “This is just part of my history. The past.” Cancer changed me irrevocably. My scars scream, “YOU ARE NOT THE SAME PERSON! YOU ARE DIFFERENT NOW!” every fucking day of my life. Every time I shower or change my clothes, I am accosted with a visual reminder that I am not the same. I will never be the same. On the bad days, when I’m angry and bitter, I try and tell myself that I stared the possibility of death in the face and said, “Fuck you. Not yet.” Maybe that’s dramatic because when I was actually going through the entire process I never once thought, “This could kill me.” Hindsight, though, it feels like it now.

I could have had it so much worse. I send out a silent thank you to the universe regularly that it wasn’t worse. My treatment was the best case scenario in so many ways. I mean, if you HAVE to have triple negative breast cancer, you can only hope to breeze through chemo with minimal sickness and pain. To be able to still walk in and out of your treatments, even on your bad days, on your own volition. To have textbook surgeries with little to no complications. I know it could have been infinitely worse and I really am thankful it wasn’t but, really? Fuck you cancer.

At this point I have started and stopped and restarted this post several times. That first paragraph was written through a blur of tears because that wound is the deepest and hardest to recall. That first moment in a shit ass process, because I refuse, absolutely REFUSE to call it a journey. Fuck that cliche. It’s not a fucking road trip across the country to visit your great aunt in Iowa who smells like moth balls. It’s a shitty, scary, expensive process and that first really pivotal moment, where you go from fear of the unknown, to the mind numbing truth of cancer is a knife that cuts not just to the core but, through you. There are other dates from 2015 and 2016 that I’ll never forget as well (shout out to getting married, what what!) but, August 31st changed the substance of my existence and who I am. It changed what I want out of the rest of this life I have and how I want to live it. 3 years ago on August 31st, I was told I had cancer, and I will never be the same. I will never be detached from it. I will never forget it. It will be a brick in my backpack that I’ll hoist onto my shoulders everyday until my last. I can only try to make that backpack a really cool Patagonia one that gets filled with fluffy puppies of adventure and buttery pancakes of experience to make that brick seem worth the struggle.

Boo

Now Eat Your Chemo Like a Good Cancer Patient (Original Post 05/20/16)

Yesterday I had one of many routine follow ups with my Oncologist. I will have these regular appointments for a while; at different intervals for years. Every one feels like I’m playing Russian Roulette. Will this be the time they tell me they need t run more tests? That my blood work shows markers that the cancer is still here or has come back? A sinking feeling always lurks deep in the pit of my stomach every time I sit in the exam room after the nurse leaves from taking my vitals while I wait for the Doctor to come see me. My last few follow ups had been uneventful but yesterday, was different.

My doctor came in and after the usual “How are you feeling?” and “Yes that ache/pain/weirdness is normal,” he began to discuss my tumor that was was evaluated after they took my jubblies off. It still had some live cancer cells; under 1cm but, still there. This meant that not only was my cancer of the aggressive nature but, that it was pretty resilient. The types and doses of chemo that they gave me should have killed the entire tumor based on its size. But it didn’t. Now I had the option to take chemo pills. Pills that are essentially chemo that I’d swallow. A chemical that I would ingest and that then would change its chemical make up to attack any (possibly) remaining cells floating around directly and stop them from growing as well as reducing their size. They would be a precaution. They haven’t found any cancer else where in my body but, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a rouge cell floating out there somewhere that was one of those damn resilient bitches that fended off the chemo secretly.

There was a catch though. Because of the amount of the still living cells found, I was in a grey area. Too small to be a definite yes but, enough that it made my doctor raise an eyebrow. Ultimately, it was my choice. As usual, I didn’t want to make a choice so, I asked my doc “What do you recommend?” and my lovely British Oncologist said, “I think we have one shot to cure this. You’re young. We can lower the percentage of a reoccurrence….”

So Xeloda pills it is. 2 pills, twice a day for 2 weeks on then one week off for 6 months. Six. Fucking. Months. With this precaution comes side effects. Lovely chemo side effects. Well, donkey balls on that. I was officially having a bad day while reading that list in the drug pamphlet. My lovely chemo nurse that I happened upon in the hall on my way out asked how I was. When I told her about the pills she reassured me that they list ALL possible side effects because they have to. Then she proceeded to go over what I could most likely expect; Possible dehydration (so drink a lot of water), maybe a loss of appetite, head aches, joint/muscle/body aches, dry skin, dry scaly hands and feet, red/painful/swollen/numb hands and feet, diarrhea or constipation, dizziness, tiredness, trouble sleeping, mouth and throat sores, upset stomach, stomach aches and possibly vomiting. The usual suspects with most chemo. All that sounds like a long list but, it eliminated quite a bit from the list on the pamphlet. Most importantly, she said I wouldn’t lose the short locks that I have lovingly grown back on my head (it’s very very unlikely because NOTHING is 100% in cancer med land). Bless her heart, she knows that barfing has been my biggest dread throughout all my treatment. So she offered to call me in a new prescription of a quick dissolve version of one of my previous anti-nausea meds. Just in case I was at work when a way of barftasticness swept over me, I could  pop one under my tongue and get the fastest relief.

I’m 24 hours into taking the little buggers and so far, I’ve been fine. A little bit of weirdness, not in my stomach and not quite nausea but… weirdness. At the moment, I’m chalking it up to being nervous about what’s to come. I mean, my joints already hurt like a motherfucker, to the point that if I sit for more than 5 minutes when I stand up and walk like a gimpy robot for a few minutes until the all joint juices get flowing again. How much worse could that get? Complete immobility? I’d welcome a little loss of appetite. I mean, all I do is want to stuff my face. Not having that constant urge to graze would be nice temporarily. My peripheral neuropathy just recently started to wear off so, if that returns, no biggie. Been there, done that. I’ve always had trouble sleeping and subsequently spent most of my waking hours battling tiredness. Check, check. So my biggest concerns lie with the gastrointestinal issues, shitty uncomfortable skin conditions and either shitting my pants or not being able to shit at all.

I was so close to being “done” with treatments. I got confirmation that I didn’t need radiation. SCORE! So all that I still had on my plate was my final surgery which my Plastic Surgeon assured me was way less invasive and painful than the first. Basically, I was getting ready to put this bullshit in my rearview and carry on smartly with life. Getting back to normal. Alas, I have 6 months more of bullshit in the form of oval white pills. Perhaps the coming months won’t bring pain and discomfort like I’m imagining. Here’s to hoping it’s just business as usual just with a new alarmed reminder on my phone every 12 hours reminding to eat my chemo like a good little cancer patient.

Today I Grated Cheese and Cut Off My Toenail (Original Post 04/13/16)

I always buy blocks of cheese and grate it to have fresh shredded cheese when I need it. It just seems to melt better and has a nicer texture. For the last almost 5 weeks I haven’t been able to do that. I just simply didn’t have the strength.

For the Sailor’s birthday, (2 weeks after my surgery) I wanted to make him his favorite homemade macaroni and cheese. I have a food processor with a grating blade that I pulled out to shred a block of cheese but, I couldn’t find one small integral piece. I searched every drawer, cupboard and shelf in the kitchen multiple times with no reward. At some point in the hubbub, the Sailor came in the kitchen to see what the racket was about only to find me crying at the counter staring at the block of cheese. He searched for the part as well promising to find it but, he didn’t have luck on his side either. So I sobbed and blubbered into his shoulder as he hugged me about how I couldn’t grate the fucking block of cheese because I didn’t have the arm strength yet. I couldn’t even make a simple dinner. I felt worthless in that moment. Always wanting to fix my problems, he grabbed the hand grater and offered to “be the muscle” and shred the cheese. The man who’s cooking repertoire consists literally only of a bowl of cereal, instant oatmeal packets and ramen in the as seen on TV microwave ramen cooker, offered to grate cheese for me on his birthday for his birthday dinner. I just had to tell him which side go the grater to use and how to hold the block of cheddar so that he didn’t grate his knuckles or fingers in the process.

I thought of that evening today as I stared at the block of Monterey Jack cheese that I wanted to put a portion of on my baked potato for dinner. I could hack away at it with a knife slicing off slices and cutting them into as small of pieces as I could. Or I could pull out the grater and shred it the way I really wanted so that it would melt nice and gooey and even. So out the grater came. I grated not just enough for my dinner but the rest of the block just because I could. A small victory in my recuperation.

I started off the week with 2 easy shifts at work. I was worried that my chest would start to ache or that I wouldn’t be strong enough to carry the thick heavy diner plates. Turns out, I was fine. Other than my feet hurting like a mofo, I was fine. So I picked up 3 more shifts to help me drudge myself a little out of the financial hole I have felt to perpetually be in and occupy my time while the Sailor is out at sea.

Today was my third of five shifts. My big toenails were sore. If you are not aware, my fantastic last chemo rounds turned parts of my large toe nails black and I have been just waiting for them to fall off. The one has slowly been lifting away over the weeks. It’s gross. I hate it, I hate them.

After dinner and a hot shower, I sat down to try and file them down as low as possible in the hopes that they wouldn’t continue to be irritated by being in actual socks and shoes for 6 hours at work. So I worked on the lesser of the 2 evil zombie toes trimming and filing until as much of the front lifted part was gone. Just a few millimeters really.

I set out to approach the next one to just make it match. It was gross, appearing to be attached only down near the cuticle. I can only image my scrunched, squinty, pinched looking facial expressions as i trimmed and filed and scrapped black old blood out from under the floating putrid nail. I couldn’t stop. This fucking nasty ass black nailed zombie toe had been irritating me and mocking me since December when it first showed signs of turning. Fuck this toe. I hacked and filed and scraped until I felt a ping of recognition of attachment on one side. I stared down at the lopsided nub that was once my toenail. The cuticle bed that the nail had previously been attached to but, for the last 3 to 4 months had just been floating above was soft and pink and a little wrinkly from the shower I had taken earlier. It reminded me of the infant rats we used to have to feed the python in my high school biology class. It felt almost good. The other side was still sore, but resembled a normal nail covered toe. This one looked broken, sad and a little weird but, it felt better.

I knew the last nub that was still hanging on would inevitably get caught on a blanket or sheet or my sweat pants so, I cleaned it one last time and slapped a bandaid on that bitch. I’m sitting here now wiggling that stupid rat baby toe while I smile because, it feels so much better now that I cut my toenail off. At this point, fuck wearing sandals this summer. I’m just happy my damn toe isn’t throbbing anymore.

6 Shitty Questions in 6 Shitty Months (Original Post 04/11/16)

Here are a list of 6 things that people have asked or said to me in the last 6 months that have made me want turn into the Hulk and smash shit recklessly and without abandon.*

  1. “If I were you I would…” Well you’re not me bitch so shut it. You’re not actually in this position dealing with cancer and all the shitty effects of treatment so it’s easy to say what you WOULD do when you don’t actually have to do it. (See my previous post titled That’s What You Would Do? GFYS for detailed clarification on why this one will set me off.)
  2. “How are you feeling?” Like fucking shit. I have fucking cancer. Dumb question but, I know that you’re trying to be nice so, I’ll answer generically. I’ll say something about how I’m OK blah blah while secretly thinking this is the dumbest question to ask someone who has a serious illness that is widely known to make people feel like dog shit. A much better way to be nice is to ask, “How are you doing?” It’s more general and implies you are concerned about my life as a whole and not just wanting to know how shitty I happen to be feeling at that moment.
  3. “My neighbor/friend/sister/mother died from breast cancer.” Wow. Thanks. Didn’t I just tell you that I was diagnosed with breast cancer? Way to really pump me up for the fight ahead! But, I know that you’re just trying to, again, be nice and relate. Let’s face it, who out there doesn’t know someone that has been effected by breast cancer specifically, let alone cancer as a whole. I get it but, what you don’t get is basically you’re reminding me that I have a rough, shitty, horrible battle ahead of me that yep, I could die from. I get it. I COULD DIE! You really don’t need to remind me of that in any way. Want to relate? Sure, tell me how your friend had breast cancer, just leave out the part about her dying. Unless I specifically ask, “How is she?” because then I’m asking for it. But, I won’t because I’m afraid to hear, “She died.”
  4. “Oh, you shouldn’t get XYZ. You need to talk to your doctor about ABC. It’s so much better. XYZ will totally mess you up. Oh and have you thought about that new LMNOP pill?” Thank you. Also, when did you get your PhD in Oncology? My invitation to your graduation from medical school must have gotten lost in the mail. I know, you are trying to help. You have heard about about a new drug, procedure, herb, chant that is so much better than the nasty chemo, radiation and surgeries that the doctors are currently peddling for billions in profit. I get that you are genuinely concerned and want to make sure that I have the best care with every option imaginable. Just don’t think for a hot second that I haven’t researched my illness and all the possible treatments. Your approach to the subject comes off pushy and frankly adds more anxiety than help most of the time. I already question every decision and every step of this exhausting treatment. You telling me that possibly one decision that I have already made is bad or wrong adds more angst to an already shitty situation. Ask about the treatment plan the doctors are recommending. Ask about what options they have offered me. Ask about what decisions I have already made before trampling into my personal health choices and taking your katana like words and slicing them to shreds as if you were playing Fruit Ninja.
  5. “Are you super sad out about losing your hair?” No. I always dreamed of looking like fucking Powder. Of course I’m sad asshat. At least the hair loss is temporary.
  6. “Are you excited to get new boobs?!” Are you fucking kidding me? No. I am not excited about undergoing major invasive surgery that results in a long recovery with possibilities of countless complications to amputate the two parts of me that I have never had a problem with (like my frizzy hair or my flabby gut or my flat ass) and that I considered to be my most feminine feature. I never wanted plastic surgery to enhance them and I sure as shit never wanted to get rid of them. But the fuckers attempted to murder me so, they had to go. This is not a matter to be “excited” about. With that said, the new ones will probably be a little bigger. As the Sailor says, “Go big or go home.”

So there you have it. The 6 things that have been said to me (more times than I can count) in the last 6 months that pushed the red angry button in my brain. Maybe I’m just being sensitive. Maybe I’m just a bitch. Maybe people just need to think a split second before say things on a topic so personal and scary.

*If upon reading this you find that you have been the deliverer of aforementioned statements to me, worry not! I don’t hold a grudge. And I have chemo brain so chances are I don’t exactly remember who said the words that induced the previous rant. We don’t even have to speak of this again. Truthfully, I prefer not to. Let’s move on and find new ways to irritate each other, shall we?

Today Was a Bad Day (Original Post 04/10/16)

Bad days come and go. I try and remind myself that during bad days. Today was a bad day. My bad days come more frequently now, with the cancer shit and all. My hormones have been all jacked up from being put into early menopause and now, being allowed to come out of that medically induced perpetual hot flash. Not to mention the countless chemicals that have been pumped through my body for the last 6 months. Lets top that all off with major surgery and well, I am physically and emotionally a hot fucking mess.

So, today was a bad day. I woke up to my stiff joints not wanting to move, a very regular reminder that chemo and the steroids with it, fucked me. I may have this stiff sore joint shit every time I relax and sit still for more than 5 minutes for ever. Like until I die. Awesome. So, I cried a little because it sucks.

I stubbed my toe later because the house is a class A disaster. Instead of the normal throbbing pain of a stubbed toe, it’s a prickling burning sensation that feels like my toe was actually ripped off. Another delightful reminder that chemo fucked me. Numb, asleep feeling, prickly, burning toes for, oh, the next 6 months to a year +/- a couple months. Great. So, I cried a little more.

From my disheveled seat on my dirty living room floor I looked around at the chaos. Shit piled everywhere. Stuff to sell or donate or trash. Collapsed boxes waiting to be taped together and filled with our shit. See, we’re moving at the end of this month which, I am excited about. Or I was until at last minute the good ol’ Navy decided the Sailor had to go do sailor things for them some place that is no where near here for several weeks. He will be home just in time to chuck some shit in boxes and mass exodus us to the new place. Here I was thinking I was going to help by purging shit and filling a few boxes but I could barely summon the upper body strength to pick myself off the dirty floor where I was sitting. Thanks bilateral mastectomy. Way to make me feel pretty much fucking helpless from the waist up for the last 4 weeks. I love having my chest constantly ache and having sharp nerve pains where my tits used to be. So I ugly cried. I bawled my eyes out because my house is a fucking disaster, because I don’t want to pack, because when I do try and pack it makes me feel like I have the strength of a toddler and because my husband who happens to be my best friend is out in the ocean somewhere on a stupid ship instead of here giving me the hug I so desperately needed today.

After going through kitchen crap and purging things I no longer really need, taking some pictures of the nice things and listing them online for sale, I vegged out on the couch. And I cried. Because I realize it’s Sunday and I didn’t make pancakes for the first time in weeks and at this point, that’s all it took.

Eventually I went up to take a shower. Let the hot water wash away my ridiculous sadness. FALSE. The mirror in the bathroom served as a glaring reminder that I no longer have breasts. Hard bulbous barely inflated implants under angry pink scars covered in the remnants of steri-strip adhesive (that shit is no joke) that refuses to let go of my skin stared back at me. Not to mention my round dome barely covered in velvety new hair sticking up at wonky angles from being slept on mocking me from the mirror. And I cried. Giant elephant tears mix with hot tap water as I sobbed my way though what could have been a relaxing warm wash to rid myself of sadness. Instead, I wallowed. I let the depression and sadness and anger just wash over me as much as the water from the shower head and I let the sobs wrack my body as I hiccuped in air. I cried while I scrubbed the cleansing conditioner into my new velvety hair covered scalp and while delicately scouring at the steri-strip glue (seriously, that shit is not fucking around) off my wonky chest. By the time I am out of the shower and in my room lotioning my dry jacked up body, nothing more than a few silent tears were left.

So here I sit. Feeling sorry for myself and empty of tears. I just don’t have any more at this time. Plus I’ve given myself a head ache from the last good shower cry so, now I’m irritated with myself along with my normal being irritated with every thing irritation. I’m glad I’m alone right now. I’d probably be cussing out anyone with me. That’s how I roll these days. Ugly crying right into go fuck yourself mode. Thanks cancer for bringing out the worst in me.

That’s What You Would Do? GFYS (Original Post 02/18/16)

“That’s what I would do”. I have come to loathe this short statement. It didn’t bother me until just recently. Usually I have welcomed sage insight from my elders and sympathetic advice from my peers but, when it comes to cutting my tits off, frankly I don’t want to hear “what you would do”.

See, they aren’t your tits and you don’t have to make the choice to cut them off or not so it’s easy to say what you would do when you don’t actually have to do it. Trust me when I say, when you are staring down the reality of looking in the mirror and seeing an angry set of red scars and fake bloated implants beneath said scars and no nipples, you question every angle. It is not an easy decision. It is not a flippant choice. Hearing you tell me, even with your immense sympathy and concern, in the 90 seconds it took for me to answer your question on what surgeries were my options, that you would opt for the bilateral mastectomy for sure, makes me want to spew vitriol and rage like a pissed off silverback. I know you were just meaning to comfort me, that the decision to amputate my knockers is the right one. I get it but, your flippant answer meant for comfort hurts way more than it helps.

I would not wish this situation on my enemies (I have a handful assholes I dislike with the white hot intensity of a thousand sons which isn’t healthy and I’m working on that and I still wouldn’t wish this on those fucking douche canoes)  because, it is gut wrenching and fucking permanent. A fucking permanent reminder of a disease hell bent on trying to kill me. A visual reminder that I will, for the remainder of my life, be a cancer patient; I’ll ether be a cancer patient in remission or in treatment. A reminder that one day I could have a child that I will have to explain my scars too, that I won’t even have the option to breast feed. A visual reminder that tomorrow, I might have to do this all over again without warning. That just because I’ve come through this dark bullshit to the light, I could still end up back in this dark place again and possibly die there. An angry flag of fear waving across my fucking chest. A permanent and daily fucking reminder that cancer changed my life forever.

My choice of surgery was just a matter of what kind of shitty permanent reminder that I wanted. It was not one that I took lightly. It was not a choice made in a few minutes or even a few days. It is not a choice I will ever be happy about or even comfortable with. It’s the best decision I could make at this time based on the information I had available at the time. This was what my best friend told me when I confessed I was afraid that I would always feel the decision I made was the wrong one, no matter what option I chose. It was the best thing she could have said, and I love her for it. It helped. So, next time you’re faced with talking to someone having to make this impossible choice, and you will because Breast Cancer is a wide spread fickle, all encompassing, bitch, and you start to say, “That’s what I would do,” stop.  Don’t say it, because you have no idea and I hope you live the rest of your life never knowing.