Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Love Letter

I made white bean and kale soup for the second time in two weeks, and all I could think about was how much more delicious it would be with bacon, braised in the pot first, then pouring in the delicious veggies, spices, broth – all getting mixed up and infused with bacon grease, bacon butter. And, so, what am I to do?
Dear Bacon,
I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately. Missing you, wanting you, tasting you. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of you. I long for the good ole days. I know my white bean and kale soup would be much more delicious with you in it, my simple bar of dark chocolate would be much more amazing with some crunchy bits of bacon, and my spinach salad just isn’t the same without bacon and your best friend bleu cheese. And then there is my hankering for oysters with salty bacon. You are the perfect accompaniment to so many things. Too many to list here. Your qualities are endless. Even my turkey burgers seem to miss that special something, and I know it’s you. What about the bacon jam from the food truck in Seattle that I never even got to truly appreciate? Bacon lollis from founding farmers. Pork belly from Woodberry Kitchen. Summer corn soup with bacon, BLTs! Oh, this is disastrous.

I am trying to go on without you. But, know that my stomach is empty. You are loved by so many, and will go on happily without me. As for me, life will never taste the same.

With adoration and deep regret,

p. s. maybe I'll make an exception every now and again. you might not be good for the heart, but you're soo good for the soul. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ahhh. Out of the Woods.

It's kind of cool when you feel like crap, because then when you don't anymore, it's like the skies part, sunshine floods in, and I feel weightless. Although maybe that's because I am weightless these days – literally. My fourth treatment was a week ago, and today, I feel AMAZING.

Folks have been asking me how I feel, and I say most of the time that I feel fabulous. And, mostly, that's true. But, it does seem that the drugs are catching up with me, just a little. There is a laundry list of side effects from chemotherapy, but I, my friends, have only about 3. One is balding. I have about 5 eyelashes left, and those little shits better not even think of letting go. The other is a shooting pain in my arm that radiates from my monster vein that gets shot up with a 5-hour IV drip every three weeks. The vein is getting inflamed from the toxicity of the medicine. The vast majority of patients who receive chemotherapy have a "mediport" implanted into their chest wall, where the medicine is injected into. My veins are so giant and juicy that they can just shoot em up outright. Awesome. It makes my whole arm hurt, kind of a lot. And, my fingertips get tingly sometimes, accompanied by a weak grip. I hate when Jon twists on NJ's bottle tops so tightly that I can't open them.

But that's not really the part that makes me feel the worst. It's the stinkin Neulasta, which Jon has been giving me. I think he enjoys it. Clearly, he's the sick one here. Days 4 and 5 after my treatments are getting fairly brutal. It's hard to go to work, to think, to get out of bed. But, I know it's good for me to get up and go in spite of it all. It's never hard to play with NJ though. She always makes me feel better.

Time stopped nearly 3 months ago, and now it seems to be back to its normal flying pace. Days seem different though. More palpable, sweet and long.

4 down, 2 to go. Can't wait til those little bitches don't get to stick me anymore, even though I will miss them bitches. I've sort of fallen in love with them. We laugh so hard. Yesterday, when I went in for my CBC check-up, I apologized to one of the gals when we were catching up before I went in to see Marina, my main nurse. "Sorry if I stink," I said. "It's hard to remember to take showers when you have no hair anywhere on your body to remind you. Thank God Jon brought me back some perfume from France." She said no one had ever told her that before, and then we were embarrassing ourselves in the waiting room, laughing hysterically.

Also when I was sitting there, I picked up a book that was on the shelf. I liked it – a guided journal for cancer patients to write their way through treatment. That's what I'm doing, right? Only now I'll write forever and ever after it's all said and done. And by that I mean until I'm like 100. After this crap, I better live for at least another 60. I'm fairly certain that I will. So, in the journal there was an entire section on anger. I would have nothing to write in that section, I thought. That is one emotion that I haven't had. I am not angry, nor have I been at any point during this whole ordeal. Maybe that will come later. But, I don't think so. I feel grateful

It is so rare that something happens in your life that unequivocally changes it, forever. And, so changes you, too. Nothing good comes out of anything easy. Nothing of real value, I mean. Growth, change, transformation, love, appreciation, humility, compassion, passion itself, truth, knowledge. I feel like an entirely new chamber in my brain has opened. Something has opened. Is that crazy? This life is new, and inspired. And, how can that NOT be a blessing. The best blessing ever. (Besides NJ, and Jon, and I could go on here, but I won't right now, but also the next thing.)

And, by the way, my tumor is GONE :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Things We Pass On

Think positive! Positive is supposed to be a good thing. A positive attitude will take you places, I'm sure – and so I try to have one. But, positive has begun to have a weird connotation for me these days. Positive for breast cancer, positive for triple negative (ok, well that one's confusing), positive for the BRCA1 genetic mutation. Yes, it seems that I am a mutant.

My parents passed on to me many things. Some beautiful, some cursed. They blessed me with an abundance of mostly unconditional love, some fierce loyalty and stubbornness that has its privileges, a  sometimes too thoughtful mind, an understated sense of style, a simple but profound respect for the natural world, compassion and kindness, and cursed me with a lineage of alcoholics, a bloody Irish middle-class work ethic (this is a curse, trust me), and an ancestry of inbreeding Ashkenazi Jews that apparently has made its way into my DNA.

Most people who test positive for the BRCA1 genetic mutation have had a history of breast or ovarian cancer in their family. But, it seems I am an unwilling pioneer. My mother's mother died nearly at my age from what was thought at the time to be liver cancer, but I have my doubts. Ovarian cancer is notoriously sneaky, and I have a suspicion that her liver cancer may have begun in her ovaries.

And, so things are different now, yet again, more complicated. In the beginning, it seemed we were headed down that "easy" road where I could pop in for surgery, get my melted lump taken away for good, and save what's left. This is more tricky, indeed.

Before I knew my test results, I was prepared to do what needed to be done no matter what, to give myself the best possible chances of a full recovery, a full life – my gorgeous life – and so I will do the unthinkable, but not so unthinkable now. Just the next step on a road that is getting shorter by the day.

Sometimes I still think maybe they got the results wrong. All of them. And, I think of my beautiful, sweet baby girl, all grown up and taking a test like this some day, worried, wishing they were wrong, too. But, knowledge is power, and NJ will be armed and dangerous.

The tireless advocate Lillie Shockney at Johns Hopkins told me, before she even knew about my test results, that there would be a cure by the time my daughter ever has to worry about this, God forbid. I believe Lillie. In fact, I would walk through fire if Lillie was leading the way. I think that woman knows something the rest of us don't. She might be magic.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dimanche, en Francais (Sunday, in French)

Jon is coming home. I got this book for NJ, before we even knew Jon would be going to France. This is how she knows where her papa is. She loves it because there are pictures of cats. It's darling.


I love this song, and that this show is at the Fox in Atlanta. It's not a great video, mostly because of the drunk people talking and you can't even really see the band and the seats could be better, but the sound is pretty good. Exactly how it would be if you were there. And everyone around you is gettin down (just like the girl in the video, bottom right...she is having a really good time). My second-favorite show ever was at the Fox in Atlanta – String Cheese Incident. I can't go into details, but it was one of the more fun nights – ever – and I think I fell over from dancing so hard. Yeah, one of those nights. Pretty awesome. Jennifer Nettles is a badass.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Come Back Christmas

I love the sparkle in the house and want to keep the tree all year long. The lights on Main Street driving into town always lift any heaviness, and I'll be sad to see them go. My sister is back in Seattle, and I wish she were here. Pretty Frances came to visit from San Diego, with her mama Anne. They brought treats and made a delicious lunch. Everyone really was home for the holidays.

Jon left for France today, and the house seems so quiet, but peaceful. I think he took the Tivo remote with him. I miss him terribly, already.

NJ was the most precious when she saw the tree on Christmas morning. She gets sweeter by the day.

We went to Johns Hopkins again about two weeks ago, and the woman at the front desk at the Avon Breast Center asked me if I had any children. Of course I told her about NJ, and she said that I should have a boy too. I told her I'd like to; Jon would for sure. And she said to me that God will bless my womb. Give it a few years, she said. But, God has already blessed my womb.

I do wonder what the future holds. It is quite uncertain, but exciting. I have a feeling that 2011 is going to be exceptional and amazing.