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  1. It’s Like Having Bulimia Without All the Fun Binge Eating

    September 20, 2013 by Girl Number 2

    The good news is that my meds appear to be working and most of my tumors are shrinking. The bad news is that these same meds make me nauseous. I spend my mornings getting up every 15 – 30 minutes to throw up. The rest of the day is better, but certain foods or smells can set me off at any time. I imagine this is what being pregnant is like. It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t already have teeth anxiety. All I can think about is how this must be bad for my teeth enamel. Do I brush my teeth right after to get the acid off? Or should I wait because if I brush my teeth right after, it’ll brush the enamel off? Does anyone know?

    My hair finally got thin enough that it was time to shave. I crossed all my fingers and toes and ended up with no weird birthmarks and a pretty nicely shaped head. I was happy with how it turned out. It’s growing in well, except for the path the radiation took. There’s a stretch of my head that looks like I’m trying to pull off a reverse Mohawk. There’s also this perfect circle on the back of my head that grows in darker and faster than anything else because it was blocked from any radiation. It looks bizarre. I’m going to shave the whole thing again and then let it grow back in. Hopefully the radiation-affected areas will grow in better the second time. I’m nervous it won’t grow back and I’ll have weird hair forever. What’s the use in having a nicely shaped head if your hair is weird? Please cross all of your fingers and toes for me.

    photo-5

    My eyesight and concentration have improved enough that I’ve started reading again. I burned through Reconstructing Amelia, The Tenth of December, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, and Pastoralia. All but the first book were by George Saunders and excellent. Amelia was a fun, light read, but the writing left a bit to be desired. I’d recommend it as a beach read. I recommend all of the Saunders’ works for any location. Reading makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something during these days where I’m a SAHC (stay at home cancer patient). My other big daily accomplishment: watching the West Wing. I’m already up to season 3. I think it’s a good viewing choice because all the characters are so motivated and work so hard it makes me feel like I’m a part of something important…till the credits roll and I remember I’m sitting on the couch in my pj’s.

    the-west-wing

     

    After watching the summer pass me by, I feel ready to get back to living. The weather has been remarkably gorgeous – especially for summer in Chicago – and I feel like I haven’t taken advantage of it. I still have yet to ride my bike. It’s time I took the next step from the couch and pj’s to my bike and the out of doors. I’m feeling really motivated and optimistic right now. That’s probably because today is a good day. The problem is that tomorrow I could be throwing up six or seven times again. I just never know. This is the major factor that keeps me from going back to work. On days like today, I feel totally ready. But just yesterday I threw up in my car (in a bag, like a pro). I should mention here that I was driving on Lake Shore Drive when this happened. This may be more dangerous than texting and driving (eh, probably not). I didn’t spill a drop outside the puke bag. Then I pulled into Walgreens, got out and tossed it in the trash like a candy wrapper, and went inside to pick up more anti-nausea drugs (I take three).

    ew.

    Next Tuesday I have gamma knife surgery (this will be my second time). It’s pretty amazing. They kill cancer cells by zapping them with lasers. The worst part of the whole ordeal is that they have to screw a mask onto your skull and it’s swollen and painful for a while after. The surgery itself is a piece of cake. I slept through the last one. Of course, I was on sedatives, so that helped. I’m starting to feel like I’m going to come out of all of this cancer free but addicted to narcotics. GIVE ME MY MORPHINE!!

    photo-6

     

    Hopefully, two days after the surgery I’ll be able to start a new treatment plan called bio chemotherapy. It’s a mixed bag of five different drugs – three chemo drugs and two immunotherapy drugs. It’s intense and I have to be hospitalized while I take it. The worst part about that (besides the inevitable side effects – your standard vomiting, diarrhea, head aches, pain) is the hospital food. It’s as bad as your imagination is telling you it is. Thankfully, it’s not my first time to this rodeo and I know about the secret binder that holds all of the local takeout menus that the nurses use.

    There are tumors in my body that aren’t responding to my current treatment. The CT scan confirmed this, but I already knew based on this hockey puck sized tumor on my left side boob. I’m basically pulling a Total Recall tri-boob situation. Except that my third boob is purple, scabby and gross.

    photo-7

     

    Aren’t you glad I included a photo? It’s actually bigger now. I know what you’re thinking, “just surgically remove that sucker.” I wish we could. But it’s too risky on a cancer patient. What we’re hoping is that my new course of treatment will shrink it down to nothingness. My left boob is tired of having to carry the weight of this hanger-on and it’s getting harder and harder to wear a bra.

    I should probably take the time to mention that it’s been a year since my diagnosis. I’m thankful for everyday. There have definitely been ups and downs, but still being alive trumps everything. Thanks you everyone for your kind thoughts and prayers and support. I’ve been able to make it this far because I’ve got so many wonderful people in my life backing me up. There really is no way to express my gratitude enough. Just know that all of your words, prayers and gifts have not been in vain. They have made a huge difference in my life. Now let’s kick this cancer business once and for all.


  2. I’m a SAHM with No Kids

    June 5, 2013 by Girl Number 2

    I am beginning to suspect that having cancer is a lot like having kids. Right? It totally takes over your life. It’s exhausting. There’s no taking a break. There’s no grabbing your coat and walking out the front door. I mean, you can, but the kids are still there demanding your attention when the police drag you back.

    Granted, there are many good things about having kids and there’s really nothing good about having cancer.* I never said it was a perfect metaphor.

    My mom friends often worry that they no longer have anything to talk about but their kids – that’s how I feel about the cancer. I don’t have the energy to keep up with things like current events. And when I do, my contribution is basically, “new pope, huh?” NPR is knocking down my door. My days consist of doctor’s appointments and Netflix (and I’m a decade too late to talk to people about the show, Alias). I’m on disability, so I’m not working. Basically, I’m a SAHM with no kids.

    Alias

    I’d like to be one of those people that gets way into researching cancer stuff and becomes some expert on cancer nutrition or dealing with cancer in your 30s, but that sounds so dull to me. Or I’d be like those SAHMs who have these amazing blogs about parenting or home crafts. But, as we’ve already established, I don’t have kids and bless my heart, I’m no good at DIY. I don’t want to research anything. I don’t even want to cook recipes from cancer cookbooks. I want to eat them, but I don’t want to plan, shop or cook. Really it just turns out I’m lazy.

    I have no boundaries talking about cancer and my body. It’s all I have to talk about anymore, so I can’t really be picky. I’m gonna be that person that people roll their eyes at because every sentence I write and speak has to do with cancer. I can’t help it. I recognize it, but it’s impossible to change until I get more going on with my life again. Until then, you can also expect more Instagram photos of me in hospital gowns at doctor’s appointments.

    I do need somewhere to direct my attention while I’m not working. I have no idea what to do, but I can only nap and watch Netflix so much. On days I feel well, I want to work, but I can’t pop in and pop out of the office. I don’t know how long this cancer fight is going to go on. I can’t make too much money and collect my disability, so even if I was able to do something like freelance write again, it would be minimal. What do I do with myself? Any ideas?

    *I did lose 30 pounds and people have given me a lot of cool gifts, so I guess there have been some perks to this whole cancer thing.

     


  3. Guys, it’s Getting Tough

    February 26, 2013 by Girl Number 2

    I haven’t blogged in a while – mostly because, well, it’s hard. For a long time, my fingers were swollen and very painful, so typing was trying. And, to top it off, my concentration is wonky, so it’s easier to watch old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer than it is to blog.

    Everything is hard these days. I can’t even pee without turning on the faucet and talking my bladder into it. My tumors have come back, so I have side effects from the treatment AND pain from tumors. All of this makes me terrible company, so I don’t do that much socially and now I’m lonely. If it sounds like I am complaining – I totally am. Hey – I can only be strong for so long before I fold up into the fetal position. You try having a tumor in your butt muscle that makes it feel like you’ve been doing buns of steel workout videos – but just for one cheek.

    The worst thing is if I can’t sleep. So far, that hasn’t been a problem except on a couple occasions where pain kept me up. This makes me very grumpy. I mean, I’m trying my best to sleep through this whole cancer thing.

    Things have gotten bad enough that I’m now on Zoloft and I’m going to see someone. Of course, now that I’m on Zoloft, I don’t feel the need as much to see someone, but I’m going to anyways. I know it’ll be good for me. The Zoloft also helps me to keep from crying every time someone asks me how I’m doing. I have very little motivation to do anything outside of exist, which is actually a full-time job these days.

    In the MRI that the insurance company is telling me isn’t covered, they found 10 baby tumors. So I now have brain disease and have to get whole brain radiation. In trying not to focus on the whole tumor part, I’m instead obsessing about losing my hair. I’m somewhat okay with it, even though I cried when they told me it would happen and I’ve been growing out my hair for a year. But, I’m secretly hoping it’ll grow in better, like with some curl or something. And I look good with short hair. Fingers crossed I don’t have a weird head. I promise to post pictures.

    Although it gets tough at times – like right now, I’m still fighting. It’s weird to fight your body for your life. But I am determined to win – even if it means I have to pay all those darn medical bills.

     

     


  4. Listerabellum XII: Sandwiches

    November 22, 2012 by the tall one

    the listerabellum is the small but very active section of my brain that does nothing but make [mostly worthless] lists all day.  today’s topic from the listerabellum: sandwiches.  specifically, my favorite sandwiches in my hometown of springfield, mo.  because nothing follows a moving, but still funny and also very well written, post about the pain and turmoil of living with cancer like a good sandwich list [i hate myself].

    417 magazine has a sandwich category in its “best of springfield” thing every year.  but i just think i am a better judge of food [and everything] than 417.

    1.  the avocado turkey at the dugout. house smoked turkey breast, cheddar, swiss and pepperjack cheeses, lettuce, tomato, onion and avocado [it comes with chipolte mayo, but i leave that off because mayonnaise and all its cousins are gross].  smoked turkey with THREE KINDS OF CHEESE and avocado?!?  it’s the best thing.

    2.  the mushroom grill panini at the aviary cafe and creperie.  sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, arugula and herbed cream cheese on locally baked sourdough bread.  i work at this particular restaurant and i eat this at least once a week [who am i kidding, every dayshift i work]. you can add avocado to this one too.  i highly suggest adding avocado to everything any time the option is presented to you.

    3.  the rebecca at the rebecca grille.  chicken salad with lettuce, tomato, red onion, cucumbers, parmesan and house made sweet onion dressing on toasted foccacia bread. i know, i know, chicken salad has mayonnaise in it and i have a little diatribe against mayonnaise above.  this sandwich is so damn good, i can’t even tell there is mayo in it.  the sweet onion dressing hides it.

    4. [my version of] the elizabeth taylor at mama jean’s natural market. fantastic tuna salad [made with veganese which is, i guess, a cousin of mayonnaise but just tastes like olive oil to me], tomato, spinach and provolone, buuuuut i  have them make it on rustic italian bread instead of honey oat [or whatever grainy, less-delicious-looking bread it's supposed to be on] and i add onions and balsamic reduction.  so good.  my favorite sandwich used to be the tuscan grilled cheese which someone evil* [autumn] decided to remove from the panini menu.  it was fresh buffalo mozzarella, spinach, tomatoes, red onion and balsamic reduction on chibatta and it was the best sandwich ever. if you are at the location on campbell and you buy mozzarella from dave, steve and natalie will still make this for you.

     

    i tried to think of a fifth sandwich that wasn’t a slightly lesser sandwich from one of the restaurants above and i can’t.  those are the four best sandwiches in town.  honorable mention goes to the turkey and provolone on spinach and feta foccacia bread from sisters in thyme on commercial street.  this one is totally customizable so it is hard to officially add to a best of list, but their bread in phenomenal.  they make it in house and make great sweet treats too.  go check them out.

    you may have noticed that all of the sandwiches are on grilled or toasted bread.  that is because i do not like raw toast.  you may also have noticed that none of these sandwiches include red meat.  yea, full disclosure, i don’t eat red meat. so, this list is a rather me-specific list, but really, most of my posts are fairly me-specific.  that is how blogging works.  duh.

     

    she clearly is having the mushroom grill panini at the aviary.

     

    *autumn is actually a lovely person and a friend of mine.  but i decided to take this sandwich removal as a personal insult.  because i’m an adult.

     


  5. My Body is a Cage

    November 16, 2012 by Girl Number 2

    Now that the Arcade Fire song is stuck in your head, you may as well start off watching this awesome video-song mash-up because you were already thinking “man, that song always makes me think of Sergio Leone movies” and this is just way too good:

    Seriously. Watch this. Soooo good. I even just watched it again.

    Since that’s out of the way, I thought it was about time to talk about all the weird things that you have to deal with when your body decides to grow a bunch of tumors. It starts of with, “weird, I’ve got lumps and bruises. One even looks like a third nipple.”

    After two months of growth, things begin to feel a little less superficial and a little more, “welp, my arm is in constant pain and I’m thinking of just having it removed.” Also, my weird third nipple tumor looks more like this purple starfish:

    Gross, right? On my side-boob.

    I take a lot of pain meds, which usually helps everything but my bowels. If you’ve ever had to be on pain pills or had friends who were addicted to them, you know it goes hand in hand with a bottle of laxatives. I’ve traded my nightcap of bourbon for milk of magnesia.

    The other problem with pain pills is that you build up a tolerance for them and have to take more. This means more laxatives. I’m constantly numbing pain and trying to poop.

    I’ve been mostly managing, but last Friday night, I hit that point where the pain in my arm was too much (my self-diagnosis is that one of the tumors is pressing on a nerve sending constant pain down my arm and numbing my fingers…my fingers have been numb for weeks). I would fall asleep for maybe 30 minutes to an hour before I would shift in my sleep and wake to what felt like that scene in 127 Hours where he has to cut through the nerve (spoiler alert. Also…I’m aware that his thing was worse).

    There's a GIF for the nerve scene - but I don't want anyone fainting and hurting themselves. So, we'll go with this one instead for funsies.

    My days are now completely determined by my body. My decisions made by the minute. Do I leave the apartment today? How much can I push myself before I’m in the restaurant bathroom throwing up? Can I make it down the stairs to check the mail? Is my vision too strained to watch a subtitled movie on Netflix? (Unfortunately…yes. So annoying. Also – feel free to leave good Netflix or Hulu+ movie / show recommendations in the comments. I’m almost finished watching the whole internet).

    People try to make plans with me but everything is always up in the air til the last minute. I never know how I’m going to feel. I need my own version of the bat signal to light up when I’m feeling like a normal person.

    I haven’t worked in over a month. I keep fanaticizing about going back (this is how you know you like your job). The days I feel good and do normal things are incredible. They usually end with me exhausted, but totally worth it. I really want to add “going to the office” to my normal things. Or even working from home. You guys, my job is awesome. I miss it.

    Last Tuesday night I started treatment. I’m taking a drug called Zelboraf. I stalked UPS to get it because those babies cost more than $10,500 and I am not letting them slip through my fingers. I should probably note here that thanks to insurance and assistance from the drug company, my portion of the ten grand is only $20. You have no idea what a relief that is. Sure, it’ll sky rocket when I have to meet my deductible again, but not all the way up to ten grand. I’m hoping no one in the neighborhood catches on that my packages have that much street worth.

    I’m hoping I respond to these drugs like a rock star and manage to escape a lot of the side effects. But if I don’t, here’s what I get to look forward to (I’ll leave out the major ones that are more rare – like organ problems, heart problems, other kinds of skin cancer and whatnot. You know, the “stop taking this drug immediately” stuff. That stuff is terrifying). I’ll stick to the “most common side effects of Zelboraf” list:

    • Joint pain
    • Rash
    • Hair loss
    • Tiredness
    • Sunburn or sun sensitivity
    • Nausea
    • Itching
    • Warts

     

    Basically, I’m going to be so sexy.

    In case you were wondering, here are the things I’m dealing with now, just from the tumors:

    • Tiredness
    • Achiness
    • Severe left arm pain
    • Foggy headedness
    • Blurred vision
    • Nausea / throwing up
    • Abdominal discomfort
    • Charlie horses / toes spasms
    • Dry mouth
    • Everything tastes bad or off (this is sooooo annoying)

     

    So, really…trading some of these symptoms for side effects won’t be too bad. Although, since I’ve started treatment, my vision has gotten a little worse, I have major foggy-headedness and I knelt down to pick something up and realized my joints ain’t so strong anymore. Getting up was hard! It reminds me of the time I fell skiing when I’d just had a knee injury – making it hard to get up (that and being out of shape). And a guy stood and watched me struggle but never once lent a hand. Just looked at me like I was a dork (I was). Thankfully, my mom was with me at the store and helped me up since she’s not a jerk that thinks he’s so cool because he sits in his little booth running the ski lift all day. What are you doing with your life now, ski jerk!?!

    The thing I worry about most (besides the big stuff….like dying or finding tumors in my next brain scan or going too long without pooping) is that I’ll have a reaction where I won’t be able to take these meds. I have other options, but I really want to build on what I’ve already started. Everyday I wake up and evaluate everything my body does. Is my heart rate high? Is this heavy breathing from the fluid on my lung or does it feel different? Is my skin itchy because the weather changed or is it the meds? Am I dizzy or just clumsy? Did I poop today?

     

     

     


  6. Cue Dramatic Music

    October 22, 2012 by Girl Number 2

    Thankfully, I have had years of movie watching to prepare me for dealing with having a serious illness. If I had not just watched 50/50 this year, how would I have known to have the “if this is too much for you and need to bail, that’s okay” talk with my boyfriend? Scott and I only started dating “officially” in, well, January. We were friends for years before dated, but that’s still a pretty young relationship to jump into cancerland. We don’t even fart in front of each other yet (not that I ever plan to).

    How do you make it okay for someone to leave if they need to? Especially when you just moved in together? I wouldn’t want him to leave – I love him. But also – because I love him – I don’t want him to feel obligated to give up time and happiness to walk down such an unknown path with me. I wouldn’t want him to stay because it’s easier and less assholey than if he left. Thankfully, Scott isn’t like c*nt girlfriend in the movie who stays out of obligation and ends up cheating on and abandoning Joseph Gordon Levitt (spoiler alert!). He’s all in. The music swelled, he kissed me and assured me that there was nowhere he wanted to be but with me. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

    Also, I flashed him some side-boob.* It never hurts to stack the odds.

    (*this blog is rated PG…while my mom and dad are reading).
    What a babe, AMIRITE?!

     

    I don’t think the reality of having cancer has quite hit me yet – mostly because I’m not sitting on an Adirondack chair on a new England beach wearing a straw hat, Jackie-o sunglasses and linen pants as my loved ones and their children play happily around me and I have a serene yet somewhat sad expression on my face observing so much life and hope while facing the idea of my own mortality. Someone will come over to me – my mom, maybe — and ask if I’m tired and want to go in. But I’ll smile softly and say, “not yet. I just want to sit here a little longer.”

    Am I the wind beneath *your* wings? eh? EH? Anyone???

    I’m also gearing up for the “I’m fucking mad that this is happening to me. Why me?!” dramatic scene that gets real but ends with a funny line from the friend I’m breaking down in front of like, “oh grow up, so you have cancer – I haven’t had an orgasm in five years” because topics like orgasms are shocking and funny in those scenes. “What?!” I say, laughing and crying at the same time, “is that true? Why didn’t you tell me things were so bad? I would have ordered you a vibrator from Amazon. You know that’s the top-selling item they have!” “I don’t know. You were going through so much. I didn’t want to burden you with my problems,” she’d say. Except that none of my friends would go five years without an orgasm, so I don’t know who the hell this lady is.

    I do know one thing for sure, though, that if things take a shocking turn for the worst and my days become numbered, I want my end to be like the series finale of Dawson’s Creek where Jen lies dying of a heart condition and everyone comes to say their goodbyes (Spoiler alert..from the NINETIES). I don’t have a daughter, so Lola (my yorkie-poo) will have to fit that role. I’ll film a video for her and pick the perfect person to take care of her when I’m gone. Sarah Mclachlan will be playing in the background (I don’t remember if this is the case in the show, but it seems appropriate. Plus, people will cry more because of all of those sad dog rescue commercials). I’ll be near the beach, of course, because that’s always where these things happen. And my friends will come in and we’ll make jokes about death and get teary-eyed and opt to be strong and graceful. Also – I really want my hair to look like Michelle Williams’ in that episode.

    Michelle Williams - best thing to come out of Dawson's Creek.

    I also really want Dawson by my side doing this:

    Don’t worry, guys, I’m not really thinking about “the end”. Well, except when my mom talks about being encouraged by all of these stories where people in my condition are given six months to live – but they’re still alive eight years later. “It’s good because we won’t be thrown by a bombshell like that if we getthat kind of news!” she says. Which is true. Except that it never actually occurred to me until then that dying was even on the table….so…er…okay.

    Much to my surprise (after all my hard living from ages 27-31), it turns out I’m really healthy except for the cancer. All the experts seem to agree that this sets me up really well for fighting off this shit. That’s a positive note to end on, right?

    s'all good, guys.


  7. Listerabellum XI: Restaurant Etiquette

    October 20, 2012 by the tall one

    the listerabellum is the small but very active section of my brain that does nothing but make [mostly worthless] lists all day.  today’s topic from the listerabellum: restaurant etiquette for patrons, or, how to tell if you are a complete fuckwit when it comes to dining in public.

    1.  do you interrupt your server while he or she is either answering your question or just generally giving you useful information?*

    2.  do you absolutely avoid making eye contact?

    3.  do you correct your server condescendingly when you are actually wrong and your server is right (it is his/her job, ya know)?**

    4.  do you pull your silverware out of your napkin without unrolling it to avoid using the napkin?

    5.  do you leave:  gum, used kleenexes, outside trash (wrapping paper etc) on the table?

    6.  do you stare awkwardly without assisting when your server is trying to set down your plate but your glass/phone/silverware/commemorative civil war lantern etc is in the way?***

    7.  do you snap your fingers/wave your arms/stand up and “holler” at your server?

    8.  do you stare blankly when your server asks if you need anything else after delivering your food only to flag him/her down thirty seconds later to DEMAND ketchup/more ice/less “crunchy” salt/a bowl full of lemons while rolling your eyes and acting inconvenienced and exasperated?

    9.  do you painfully explain your two-hundred year family history to your sever before telling him or her your drink order when the restaurant is totally full with a 45 minute wait period?

    10.  do you show up right when the (small, locally owned, not-chain) restaurant opens at 8 in the morning and then pay for your coffee with a hundred dollar bill?****

    11.  do you order something that has an ingredient you are not familiar with (listed on the menu), not ask what it is and then get mad when it turns out to be something you don’t want?

    12.  do you ignore the menu/chef’s suggestions on a temperature or preparation and then get upset when you don’t like it the way you special ordered it?

    13.  do you tip less than 20% when you’ve received good service?

    if you answered in the affirmative to any of these questions, congratulations, you are a fuckwit and your server cringes every time you walk in the door.

    "i hate all these fucking fuckwits."

    *”our soup of the day is a soy mushroom with spin—” “what is your soup of the day?”

    **”we only like sweet reds, so we’ll have a bottle of the chilean cabernet.”  “actually, sir, that is a dry wine, but it is excell-” *scoff noise* “i think i know more about wine than you.  we’ll have the *sweet* cab.”  that doesn’t exist, ass.

    ***that plate your server is holding, all non-nonchalantly, weighs six pounds with nothing on it and is molten hot, by the way.

    ****in small non-chain restaurants, the servers generally have to carry their own bank.  they carry a max of about $50.  in the mornings, there may not be a manager there, so there is probably no possible way for them to break your $100 without going to an atm and wiping out their bank for the entire shift.

     


  8. listerabellum x: how to be a good friend, or actually, a less bad person in general.

    October 14, 2012 by the tall one

    the listerabellum is the small but very active section of my brain that does nothing but make [mostly worthless] lists all day.  today’s topic from the listerabellum: how to be a good friend less bad person in general.

    1.  communicate with the people that matter to you even when something terrible isn’t happening in their lives.  i love girl #2.  like, for realz, love her.  since she moved to chicago, i have done an amazingly awful job of communicating with her outside of the douchiest forms of communication (i.e. “hearting” her posts on instagram, and the like).  and this isn’t just limited to my lack of meaningful communication with my blogmate (and one of my favorite people), this is true of myself (and most of the people i know) in general.  my co-best friend (girl kelly, who has probably been mentioned on here before a time or two) and i have crafted and sent postcards back and forth to each other for many, many years.  in the last year, i have completely stopped this less-of-a-bad-person approved practice until recently when i realized what a jerk i was being.  gk has kept it up despite my lack of response because she is, on the whole, just a glorious example of how to be a good friend.  i only speak to/see some members of my family when someone dies or gets married or i need an address to send (celebratory or sympathetic) flowers to.  that is bad.  the bottom line is, it shouldn’t take getting cancer to get you to send someone an actual letter through the mail or pick up a phone or get on a plane.  show people you care without clicking a fucking mouse.

    2.  cook food for and with friends.  getting together for a beer (or seven beers, in my friend group) is fine, but some of my very favorite get-togethers involve food.  planning a meal, going to the store, procuring supplies and cooking and eating food with a group of people you care about is great.  do it regularly.  weekly.  twice a week with two different sets of friends, whatever, but do it more often than you do now.

    3.  send real mail.  yes, yes, i talked about this in number one, but really, send actual mail.  with stamps and writing without anything that plugs in or has internet capability.  buy stamps.  make weird little collages and drawings and turn them into postcards.  buy trinkets and packing tape.  design stationary.  pick a signature “you” thing to do, but do it.  real mail is the best. USPS for the win.

    4.  call people even when you aren’t lost.  i don’t even know if this needs explaining.  i feel like the vast majority of non-business. non-doctor, non-mediacom related phone calls are directionally motivated and even those are diminishing due to fancy phones and siri.  call people occasionally just to talk to them with your mouth and listen with your ears.  i bet there is someone you love whose voice you can’t quite remember anymore.  doesn’t that make you hate yourself a little?  take preventative measures!

    5.  give presents.  they don’t have to be big or expensive.  hell, you don’t even have to buy them, you can make presents.  but give little nonsense, thoughtful gifts every once in a while.  actual things are best as opposed to giftcards (which are just disguises for money… what are you saying?  that your loved ones are WHORES?!)  and wrap those little gifts.  remember:  every time you buy a giftcard and “wrap” it in a bag, a kitten dies a horrible death.

    6. acknowledge birthdays outside of social networking.

    7.  support your friends.  your friend is deeply involved in a charity group? google it.  learn about the organization, if it sounds like something you also care about, support that cause!  if it isn’t your bag, at least now you know more about what your friend is up to.  your other friend is working on a project?  pledge to his or her kickstarter or volunteer to help with it.  your brother is making a movie?  let him smash your front living room window, rearrange your house and take your storm door off its hinges (it is still off its hinges, btw, max), see if he needs you to obtain and dye a dead cat that he won’t use in the actual film.  or some less specific example.  know what sort of things the people you care about care about and help them out if you can.

    8.  tell people what they need to hear not what they want to hear.  if someone is doing something stupid (like an aspiring male model… get it?  “doing”… no?  ok) let them know.  whether it is a possibly abusive relationship, a really bad haircut, an addiction issue or bad business venture (“investing my 401k in pagers, yo, because they’re coming back”), tell your friends when they are making mistakes.  they may not listen to you, and occasionally you may be wrong, but at least you’re being honest and giving real advice.

    9.  avoid borrowing money, but if you must, pay it back, asap.

    10. listen.  stop talking.  stop waiting for them to stop talking so you can talk.  listen!

    11.  say nice things.  this is not the opposite of number 8.  do not say fake nice things, say real nice things.  if your friend looks really pretty in her new dress, tell her (or him, we don’t judge here).  compliment people on their skills, attributes, new haircuts, talents and accomplishments.  it’ll make them feel good, even if you think they should be damn well aware of how accomplished and awesome they are*.

    12.  when your dear friend asks you to write a blog post immediately following her witty, engaging, dramatic, well-written, three-piece revelation about her recent cancer diagnosis, you write that fucking blog even though you worked until one in the morning and don’t feel very witty or engaging and…and stuff.  because, you want to be a less bad person! yea! don’t let the terrorists win!

     

     

    snuggles and hugs are also good for being a better human.

     

    *i have a ridiculously large number of insanely talented and accomplished friends, but dz has his accomplishments so nicely documented and easy to google for reference purposes, he wins the in-paragraph example link.  (he doesn’t read this anyway, so it’s ok, it won’t go to his head).

     


  9. I Have Cancer. Again.

    October 12, 2012 by Girl Number 2

    For the last fourteen years, I’ve been bringing up my history with cancer nonchalantly at places like parties and in line at the store.

    “Oh, I can’t donate plasma for cash…you know, I’ve had cancer.”

    “I see you’re buying SPF 15….yeahhh, I more of a 45+ girl.” **cough** “Cancer.”

    I was a cancer survivor after having a simple surgery and lymph node biopsy. I got to wear the t-shirt and sleep soundly at night knowing I was lucky enough to catch my melanoma early enough to walk away with just a bad-ass scar on my back.

    (This was the only photo I could find where you could see my scar…Worry not (mom), I’m at a theme party where my costume was “drunk, skanky, sorority girl.” It’s just an act).

    My scar is that darkish spot on my back

    Little did I know….there were sleeper cells hiding out, waiting for the perfect “gotcha” moment.

    HUZZAH! We’re back!

    My official diagnosis: Metastatic Melanoma. What that means:  those sleeper cells are nasty sons of bitches, growing and taking over my insides in the form of tumors. I can feel a lot of them, which is bizarre. I have a habit of playing with the ones in my neck. They aren’t too painful so long as I keep up my daily doses of morphine sulphate and anit-inflammatory meds. Thankfully, I got a sweet, little pill box to hold my meds. I mean, if you’ve got to be sick – you may as well do it in style.

    Small Pleasures

    New hat -- milking this thing for all I can get

    The big question on everyone’s mind (well, my mind) is, of course, “what now?!” I feel simultaneously like someone pushed “pause” on my life and accidentally hit the fast forward. My main priority is finding out what the best cutting edge treatment is and where. Here at CancerFest2012 headquarters, we are researching, making calls, faxing medical records and setting up appointments. All while watching old episodes of Parks and Rec and Downton Abbey).

    CancerFest Headquarters. Lola takes it very seriously.

    My medical treatment right now has been through Northwestern, which has been amazing. They have patient care in the bag. Every single person I’ve come in contact with has been kind and helpful. Plus, they have really great views.

    AMIRITE?!

    We are looking at treatment centers all over the US, though. Our current number one is MD Anderson in Houston, but we’re looking at all the big places. We are investigating current clinical trials while getting insurance approval for the most cutting edge FDA approved treatments (Yervoy and IL-2, for those interested in treatment names). I am in for a long-haul of being poked, prodded, scanned and tested. Thankfully, I’m not very squeamish or modest. I’m already used to people asking me questions like, “have you been pooping?”

    Through all of this, I’m trying to find a balance of being strong and milking this trial for all I can get. You don’t want to know how close I was to telling the parking attendant shooing us from the lot that “I have cancer! I’m just running in to get a milkshake!!” I’ve decided to leave strangers out of it, but I’m not turning down anything from family and friends. My parents are in town, so I’ve had every meal cooked for me, my apartment cleaned and my dog walked regularly (this on top of helping me with every part of this craziness). Thanks to Scott’s parents (Scott is my superhero boyfriend who is also very good-looking), I got a cute and comfortable new outfit on top of taking advantage of their wealth of medical knowledge, connections and research help.

    I do use the cancer things as an ultimate trump card… especially since my parents will be around during the whole election season. It’s worked so far – tested last night during the VP debate.

    I’m not usually one to get too sentimental, but it’s impossible after all of the outpouring of love and support that my family and I have received. It’s hard to communicate my gratitude appropriately. Nothing I type seems to be enough. I feel overwhelmed by kindness. It makes me realize how lucky I have been to meet such incredible people over the course of my life. Saying thank you deserves a blog post all to itself. All of your hearts will swell when you read about the incredible things people have done for me. You may find yourself slightly jealous, which will make you feel weird because you’re jealous of the girl with cancer.

    In conclusion, I’ve decided to lay down some simple ground rules for CancerFest2012:

    * Never apologize for sending me encouraging notes and messages (I love them all)

    * Never post ugly pictures of me of facebook (c’mon…make me look good, guys)

    * Don’t hold back telling any stories about me that makes me look good

    * Never, under ANY circumstances, apologize for complaining about normal things in life. If you were sick, I’d still complain about having to cut poop out  of my dog’s fur or that d-bag talking on his Bluetooth while ordering his coffee in line in front of me. There will always be people in the world who “have it worse”, but so what?…that doesn’t change what is affecting you right this moment. Plus – I want to commiserate. I love complaining about things.       DON’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME!!

    * Meganne (AKA: The Tall One) needs to blog again as well. I mean, we’re getting so many new followers with this whole cancer thing, we’ve got to take    advantage. This is a shared blog after all. This is easy for me to say because I’m not the one who has to write the blog post that follows CancerFest.

     


  10. They Always Give Good News Over the Phone (Part II)

    October 4, 2012 by Girl Number 2

    Scooby and the gang were still investigating the case of the mysterious lumps. After four more popped up plus some severe nausea and difficulty breathing, I was ordered a CT scan, a mammogram and another ultrasound (some of my lumps were in my boobies).

    Given that I’m still relatively young, this was my first mammogram (at 7:15am. It’s important for you to know how early I got up for this). I’ve never had my tits manhandled like that. I didn’t even know you could stretch and squish them in so many ways. At one point I even cried. Seriously, it hurt. And not in a Fifty Shades of Gray kind of way.* That was during my second round because the radiologist wanted more photos. I went straight from there to the ultrasound, which is much more relaxing. You get to lie down and they poor warm gel on you and roll the little ultrasound wand all over your boobies.

    After I got yet another radiologist to shrug and say, “dunno” at my results, I raced over to my CT scan. Thankfully the buildings are connected by a series of sky bridges. Northwestern rocks.

    For CT scans, they call you back, you change into hospital gowns and are sent to an internal waiting room where they have chilled barium drinks waiting in the flavor of your choice. Thankfully I got some advice earlier from a breast cancer survivor in the mammogram waiting room – the mochaccino and berry flavors are best. I chose berry.

    Berry Smooth...

    I have to say, drinking a liter of barium when you haven’t been able to stomach things like “bananas” and “toast” is very challenging. I thought I’d never get through it. It takes over an hour to drink those things – all for 5 minutes of scanning. I also had to get an IV put in for the dye. The nurse had trouble with my arm vein and decided to go for one in my hand. After doing some deep recon inside my hand with the needle, she told me I had leathery hands and dehydrated veins. I couldn’t understand her at first, so she kept repeating, “your hands… very leathery”.

    I finally went in for the scan. As the dye starts pumping through my veins, the nurse tells me I’ll get a metallic taste in my mouth (check), a flash of heat in my veins (check), and I’ll feel like I’m peeing myself (check). After it was over, I checked to make sure I hadn’t actually peed (I hadn’t…such a weird feeling),I changed and went home. I was in this small women’s waiting room for two hours drinking barium and getting to know the other ladies waiting to figure out their own health mysteries. It was weird to leave without saying goodbye.

    I went home exhausted and thankful that Scott had gone with me so I didn’t have to drive. I crawled into PJs and settled in to nap when the phone rang. It was my doctor. She had the results from my scan and would I mind coming in so she could discuss them with me. My heart sank a little. They always give good news over the phone.

    I arrived for my appointment and my doctor was ready to see me. I took this as a bad sign. We sat down and I could hear the mystery machine pull up. The ghost mask was about to be pulled off of the amusement park owner. Turns out all of my lumps are tumors. And there are 20 of them.

    TWENTY.

    And that’s only from scanning my chest, abdomen and pelvis. Quite a few are superficial. I have two in my butt muscles. (and I thought I just was sore from those workouts I wasn’t doing). Three on my ovaries (somewhere in the distance my mother’s hopes for a grandchild fainted). I have one in my lung…with fluid around it (That is why I’ve had trouble breathing and felt like someone was sitting on my chest. Everyone thought it was just anxiety). I have a big one in my abdomen. So, yeah, everyone…I’m not fat OR pregnant thank you very much. I’ve just got tumors. So, suck it.

    The other are all over my sides, neck, boobies, pelvis and what not.

    Here’s the good news: my blood work came back clean. And my major organs are clean too. *phew*

    The big question now is……..is it the dreaded “C” word (not that c-word)

    The C-Word

    Unfortunately, this kind of tumor growth is consistent with the spread of melanoma in the body. Annnnnnd, since I had level III melanoma back when I was a mere 19 year old, it really seems like the Occam’s razor explanation. (Would you people please stop fucking tanning already).

    However, I won’t know what I’m really dealing with until I get the results back from the biopsy. They went ahead and drained the fluid on my lung while they were in there getting the biopsy. They drained over a liter of fluid! I made them show it to me. It looked like poo-water.

    Chillin' post-biopsy / lung fluid drain in my sweet hospital gown

    I’ve only named one of the tumors so far. Larry. It’s the one on the back of my neck. I will entertain suggestions for names for the other 19. I think Bertha might be good for the big abdominal one.

     

    *I haven’t actually read Fifty Shades of Gray. I tried, but the writing was too terrible.