Why Am I Here?

“Why am I here?”

 You would not believe how many times I say this these days.  No, I don’t mean that I’m getting all philosophical on you.  I’m talking I get somewhere and really don’t know why I’m there.  This happens almost every time I go to the garage.  My garage is where I keep glassware, canning supplies, and other kitchen related items that I don’t have room for in the house.  It’s also the home of our two big freezers.  So I go to the garage at least once a day.  And nearly every time, as soon as I step inside I say, usually out loud, “Why am I here?”  The garage sits about 20 feet from the house, which apparently makes for just long enough of a walk for me to acquire amnesia these days.  The problem is not that the required information doesn’t stick.  Oh, it’s in there, but good luck retrieving it!  Usually, within a minute or so of asking myself why I’m there, and after the application of much concentration, I’m able to remember why I came.  But not always.

 I try to warn people that I don’t remember things, but they don’t seem to get it.  They say things like, “I’m the same way!”  Ha, ha—no, you’re really not.  Thanks to tamoxifen, I just lose information in my brain somewhere.  It’s like my brain is the junk drawer of my body or something.  Sure, what I need is in there somewhere, but I’ve got to mentally dig through a bunch of twine, pencils, scotch tape, and a nut cracker to find it. 

 Two weeks ago I was driving into town to take Mini Me to piano lesson.  In a deviation from the normal routine, I was planning to run by Goodwill before hand and drop off some items.  So, we ride into town, pass the turn to piano, and head for the Goodwill.  Except as we approached the intersection where I’d need to turn, I suddenly did not know what I needed to do.  “Do I need to turn here?  I don’t remember where I’m going. Where am I going? Think, think, stupid brain, where am I going?”  Tick tock tick tock.  Finally, at the last second I remembered, “Oh yeah, Goodwill,” and made the left turn.  Then last weekend, I was getting ready to open a can of tuna.  I carried the tuna over to the drawer where the can opener is kept, but when I got there I just stared at the contents of the drawer.  “What am I looking for?  I need…something.  I must need it out of this drawer since I opened it.  What am I doing?  Uh…opening a can.  And what’s the tool I need for that?  Uh…”   Really, it should not take so much effort to remember that you need a can opener to open the can you are holding in your hand.

 Either of those things ever happened to you?  Probably not, unless you’re on tamoxifen.  They never used to happen to me, either.  Thankfully I have both a sense of humor and a supportive spouse.  A big reason why I‘m able to laugh at these incidents is because I cling to the assumption that once I’m off of tamoxifen, everything will go back to normal.  But it’s not all bad anyway, because like I said I have a supportive spouse.  Hubster has been great about recognizing that the tamoxifen has caused memory recall issues for me.  So, what’s he gonna do, get mad?  No, because I can’t help it, right?  I’m not forgetful because I’m an insensitive and self-absorbed lout who is too wrapped up in herself to remember to pick up Hubster’s toothpaste at Walmart.  Nope, it’s the drug’s fault–I’m handicapped!  And while I would never, ever exploit this, it does offer a certain advantage for those times when I am just an insensitive, self-absorbed lout who got too distracted by a new bottle of nail polish to remember the toothepaste.

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The Pink Mafia

There haven’t been too many haters show up here.  Except for Jamie, the person who told us all that we were collectively lame and needed to “get real” because we made fun of breast cancer Barbie.  Funny, I haven’t heard a peep out of ol’ whatsherface since I explained that I’ve got a 10 inch scar across my chest that gives me the right to dis’ BC Barbie all the livelong day.  Of course, it could be that she was just so disgusted by our fun that she’s never come back.  But I like to think that it was the verbal beat-down  she got that silenced her.  Take that, fun sucker.

 Sometimes, I write things that I know might provoke those humor vigilantes out there.  Of course, I do enjoy a certain amount of immunity.  You know, one of the perks of having The Cancer is the immunity you gain.  I think this may be rooted in the pity people feel, which would probably annoy me if I really thought about it, but I don’t.  I just enjoy the benefit. 

 In real life, the Cancer Immunity was way more powerful when I was bald.  Shoot!  You can get away with just about anything when it’s obvious you’ve got The Cancer.  If I were smart, I would have robbed a bank or held up Starbucks.  Chemo brain would have ensured that I forgot where I left the getaway car, and I’d have had to run away on foot.  Sure, I’d be easy to spot—you don’t see too many bald women running around with big bags of money slung over their shoulder (like a continental soldier)—but gee, can you see me getting arrested like that?  No way!  They’d feel too sorry for me. 

 But these days, I don’t get much protection from The Cancer Immunity, because it’s not obvious to the random person I run into.  Dang it.  I don’t want The Cancer, but I want Cancer Immunity forever.  I do get a little bit of that when I blog though, since the blog started because of The Cancer and I continue to talk a lot about The Cancer.  However, there is one fear that always looms over me when I post snarky things about breast cancer awareness: the fear of getting hated on by The Komen. 

 So, the other day when I got an email from Mildred Jones* with the subject line “Susan G Komen for the Cure” my mind flew immediately to all the smart-alecky things I’ve ever written about the pink ribbon, survivor walks, etc.  Oh crap.  It’s the Pink Mafia.  I’m in trouble now.  They’re gonna bring that pink ribbon cement truck over here and make me some new shoes to go swimming in. 

 I must just have a guilty conscience.  All Mildred really wanted was to see if I was planning to be a team captain at the Race for the Cure in October.  Guess she hasn’t read my blog after all. 

 *Not her real name, because like I said, I don’t want to anger The Komen.  Nothing to see here, Komen.  Move along.

Well, You Must Have Done Something

Believe it or not, I don’t always blog everything right away.  Some stories, for whatever reason, just need to age a bit before they’re ready to be told.  Or is that fester?  I guess it depends upon the subject matter.  So, in spite of the fact that I actually do have a newer story, you’re going to get an older one.  Because I’m feeling like telling it now.

 About a year and a half or so ago, when my hair was short enough that it was pretty obvious that I’d recently finished chemo, Susie and I went to a dinner together.  This particular dinner was a fundraiser for the local Right to Life association, which another friend of ours is heavily involved in.

 We were seated at a table with our friend and a few other people.  Introductions were made and our friend told the folks at our table that I was a breast cancer survivor.  They asked me some questions about my treatment, and we made some general small talk before the meal.  No big deal.  Dinner was served, and our friend got up to introduce the guest speaker.  The speaker’s claim to fame was that she was Malcolm X’s dog groomer’s niece.  Or maybe she was the uncle’s 3rd cousin’s step-daughter of another famous figure of the civil rights movement.  (Something like that.  I don’t remember exactly—chemo brain, you know.)  And she’d had an abortion when she was younger.

 So, there we sat as this lady spoke about all the reasons why it’s a bad idea to have an abortion.  All the things you’d expect to hear were in there, spoken about and projected in a Power Point presentation containing neatly arranged bulleted lists.  And all was well until she got to the part where she announced that a big reason not to have an abortion was because it causes breast cancer.

 Yeah, she really did say that.  And lest any of us not hear her right, there it was on that bulleted list.  So meanwhile, there I sit trying to keep my cool, feeling as if there is now this ginormous spotlight shining down on me, thinking, “Great, now all these folks at my table are saying to themselves, ‘Oh, so THAT’S why she got The Cancer.’”  That’s just fabulous lady, thanks a lot.  Hey, how about next time you make up some random scary thing to try to make your point you pick another malady?  Like maybe The Gout or The Hammer Toe.  Cancer girls have got enough stress already.

 Gee, if only breast cancer prevention were that easy, right?  Don’t want cancer, don’t have an abortion.  And, seriously, that was what this lady was saying—if you have an abortion, you will get breast cancer.  Of course, the fact that she didn’t have breast cancer, and therefore disproved her own theory, seemed to completely elude her.  Which somehow didn’t surprise me in the least.

 Sure, it doesn’t make any sense, but you know how that goes—if you say it enough, or if, God forbid, it ends up on the internet, then some people will start to believe it.  You know, we cancer girls already have to put up with our share of “well, what did you do that caused this” crap.  Do you smoke?  Do you wear deodorant?  What do you eat?  We get all those ignorant questions and more.  Do we really need to have the abortion question thrown in there, too?  Or worse yet, not the spoken question, but the unspoken assumption? 

 Listen up—I didn’t DO anything to cause The Cancer.  My friend Tanya didn’t DO anything to get The Cancer.  My girls Nina and Shirley didn’t somehow bring The Cancer on themselves.  Folks, it just IS.  Some things don’t have easy explanations.  You know, I wish there were a list of things to avoid that if adhered to, would guarantee you’ll never get The Cancer.  Avoid circus peanuts, abortions, tobacco, and Hot Pockets and you’ll always be cancer-free.  Make sure to eat three rum-soaked raisins, do yoga, wear garments made of a 50/50 blend of organic cotton and hemp, and drink a half cup of garlic steeped in hot vinegar every day and you’ll be invincible. 

 But there’s not a list like that.  And that’s why it’s important to get your mammos and do those self-exams.  A Hot Pocket-free life won’t save you, but vigilance just might.

If I Only Had a Brain…I Could Think of a Snappy Title

I just realized that it’s been almost two weeks since the last time I posted.  A reader (Hi Theresa!) emailed me and asked if I was doing okay, and I thought “Well, that’s odd, it hasn’t been that long since I posted.”  Then I checked.  Yikes.  I guess it has been a while.  As usual, part of this is because life keeps rolling on, whether a girl has something to write about or not.  And sometimes I just don’t have much to say.  But it would be dishonest to say that either one of those was the case this time. 

 The truth is, I’ve been struggling.  I think that I have Tamoxifen to thank for this.  But knowing the cause doesn’t necessarily diminish the problem, and for the past week or so I’ve just been in a really crappy state of mind.  I do the things I have to do, but anything above that requires a conscious decision to suck it up and do it whether I want to or not.  Which I don’t.  And you can’t make me.  So there. 

 Now, I don’t want those of you that I’ve been around in the past week to think I was totally trying to fake you out.  I’m still up for joking around and chit-chatting.  But, I just have this underlying dullness of brain and general lethargy going on, and it seems to be getting gradually worse.  I’m starting to think that Tamoxifen is making me depressed.

 I hate to even say that.  It’s sounds so “wah wah wah wah waah”.  And trust me, I’m totally the least sympathetic person you know when it comes to stuff like this, and I’d be the first one to tell me to suck it up.  I think that’s part of why it’s getting to me so much—because it’s making me feel totally not like myself, and I’m about up to here with The Cancer and it’s accompanying meds trying to steal my identity!

 You guys have heard me gripe about the Tamoxifen before.  I believe it’s responsible for the fact that I can’t remember squat.  Chemo made me feel fuzzy headed, but I had about 5 months between chemo and Tamoxifen, and I noticed this persistent short term memory thing after I started the Tamoxifen.  I can handle the memory thing.  It’s kind of amusing to me, and I’ve learned to write most everything down—which works great since I’m a compulsive list maker anyway.  Really.  It bothers Hubster more than it does me.  But it’s discouraging to me that it affects my vocabulary—I’m trying to write, for crying out loud!  How am I ever going to get a book deal if I can’t even beat my 12 year old at Quiddler anymore?

 And this mood thing is really making me fed up, and considering that I have to take Tamoxifen for 5 years I’m beginning to wonder if there will be anything left of me by the time I’m done.  Can any of my cancer girls out there relate?  Do you feel like you’ve got a starving brain sucker on top of your head 24/7?  Have you been through this and can tell me that it’s only temporary?  Or do I need to go see the wizard and ask for a brain?

Another Visit with Dr Beer-Hurray

Picture taken on my previous visit in November.

Picture taken on my previous visit in November.

I had my quarterly appointment with Dr Birhiray last week.  Believe it or not, I actually look forward to this even though the minimum wait time is an hour and I have to be both weighed and have a blood draw.  The blood draw is getting to be progressively more difficult, because I only have one usable side, and that side’s kind of worn out at this point.  Last time, after the arm was a great big FAIL, they actually had to use a little chemo needle in order to draw blood out of my hand.  It was great!  As soon as she finished, I said, “Thank you ma’am, may I have another?”  She told me, no, that I’d have to wait until next time, and I pouted all the way home.  That’s how much fun it was. 

 So, anywho, in spite of all that, I still look forward to my appointments with Dr B.  Part of this is because he’s just plain fun, which is a very good quality for an oncologist, especially for MY oncologist.  And part of it is because he actually reads my blog, and he mentions it every time I visit—so, he’s totally speaking my love language.  Awesome. 

 Occasionally, Dr B has other doctors following him around the office.  I’ve never figured out if they’re full-fledged doctors, or doctors-in-progress, or what exactly it is that they’re doing.  Perhaps they’re learning how to be a good oncologist, in which case they’re in the right place.  At any rate, other than the fact that they get to see my boobs (and really, is there anyone in the medical community who hasn’t seen them at this point anyway?) they don’t really have any bearing on my visit.  This visit was one of those times that Dr B had a tag-along. 

 I don’t remember his name, except that it started with an O….OompaLoompa, Obadiah, something like that.  So, anyway, Dr B comes in and introduces Dr Oklahoma, then proceeds to ask me how I’ve been doing, if I have any questions or concerns, etc.  In the meantime, Dr Okinawa is standing off to the side perusing a stack of papers, which I assumed might have something to do with my medical history.  Finally Dr B says, “We’ve been reading about you.” At which point I look over at Dr Okey-Dokey who is chuckling as he shows me what is actually in his hand—print-outs of my blog.   Since I’m nothing if not narcissistic, that totally works for me, and I decide right then and there that I like this Dr Odometer, even if he is the eleventy-seventh stranger to see my boobs in the past 2 years.

 As it turns out, the post they’ve printed off is not the current one, but the one from January 14th.  I said to Dr Oleo, “That’s not the latest post.  You’ll have to check out the current one later.”  I also told him I’d be blogging about him—so Dr Onomatopoeia, if you’re out there, it was nice meeting you—sorry I don’t remember your name, it’s that memory thing we talked about, you know.  Maybe Dr B needs to put me on Ritalin after all. 

 Then, in one of the most amusing moments of my visit, (second only to the raging fun I had being weighed) Dr B starts talking about my blog and refers to my “cancer journey”.  I bust out laughing, and tell him he needs to read the latest blog post.

******

Some of you may remember the posts from this past July when my nephew’s best friend was killed in a motorcycle accident.  At the time, I wrote two entries chronicling the events of that week.  I’ll be adding the final installment of that story after the first two, dated the same week.  If you care to read it, you’ll find it here.

Looking for Hair Tongs in All the Wrong Places

And now it’s time for another look at those crazy search engine terms.  You know, the ones people are apparently googling that somehow cause them to end up here.  I wasn’t planning to write about them again so soon, but they’ve just been so doggone funny lately, that I had made a mental note to write about it in the near future.  But not quite yet.

That is, until I glanced at them this morning.  And when I saw that someone had gotten to my blog by searching the phrase “how to blow dry hair after mastectomy” I thought to myself, “Okay, that’s it, I’ve got to blog this today.  Pray tell, o searcher of this phrase, are you wondering how to go about blow drying your copious chest hair?  Has Tom Selleck had a recent mastectomy? Just curious.

And then there’s this gem: “does richard simmons have breast implant”  Gee, I know I’ve got Richard Simmons hair, but I never realized I was going to have a boob just like his, too.  Yay me.  I draw the line at sequined tank tops and stripey short-shorts, however.  So, if you ever see me looking like this, it’s time for an intervention.

Believe it or not, we haven’t had a pork fritter search in about 5 days.  We have, however, had a search for the Spelterville Inn, which is almost the same thing since, as everyone knows, it’s home of the tenderloin the size of Rhode Island.

Then there are the cryptic phrases, “bald people doomed” and “tiny hair tongs”.  Gee, I don’t even know what to say about those two, except to wonder if the tongs are for grasping tiny hair, or if they are actually made of hair.  Are the tongs tiny, or are they normal sized but constructed from tiny hairs.  And finally, was the author really searching for tweezers?  Perhaps she has chemo brain and can’t remember what they’re called.  “What are those things that you use to pluck your eyebrows?  I can’t think of what they’re called, but they look like tiny tongs…” 

Of course, on any given day, some lame-o ends up here after searching for things like “swim suite show boob no top” or “bathing suit boobs” or “little boobs water park”.  Okay, first of all, you pervs, the least you could do is learn to freakin’ spell suit.  As in swim SUIT.  Not suite.  Which is an entirely different thing altogether.  Second of all, I bet you were about 31 flavors of disappointed when you got here and saw that the closest thing I had to a boob shot was a picture of a fake boob with a face.  Serves you right.  I hope your search for water park boobs landed you right smack on this entry, where the sight of Gertrude and Margaret in mastectomy suits left you blinded, and scarred for life.

Boats, Blogs, & Dr Beer-hurray

Had an appointment with Dr Birhiray Tuesday.  No big deal.  Just a check-up.  I always look forward to seeing Dr B, though.  He’s my fav.

While we were waiting to get in to see Dr B, a lady came into the waiting room, and struck up a conversation with me.  She was dressed in a pink sweatshirt, and pink hat, and she carried a pink bag.  It was no great shock, then, when her conversation was all about breast cancer stuff.  “Are you involved with any support groups?” she asked.  I told her that I was not, and added that I wasn’t from Indy, and that I live over by Terre Haute.  I figured that would put a damper on her recruitment efforts.  I was wrong.  “Have you ever heard of the Indy Oars?” she said.  I had not.  She then proceeds to explain to me that they’re a rowing team of BC survivors who row a big pink dragon boat. (Really?  You say a PINK boat?  Well, I never would have guessed.)  “They practice Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays up in Geist—you should check it out.”  I’m thinking, lady, I just told you I live over an hour away.  You know exactly where I’m coming from, because you told me that you’re originally from Terre Haute yourself.  Last time I checked, gas wasn’t free—even for survivors.  In other words: Are you nuts?

Not that I’m hatin’ on the Indy SurviveOars, as they’re actually called.  I think it sounds like fun.  You know, they even have a drummer to keep everybody paddling in unison.  I’m thinking I’d want that job—you know like in Ben Hur?  BATTLE SPEED! Bom–bom, bom–bom, ATTACK SPEED! Bom-bom, bom-bom, RAMMING SPEED! Bom-bom-bom-bom-bom-bom…  What?  You say there’s no ramming in dragon boat racing?  Well…fsssst….I don’t want to do it then.  Here I was thinking it was going to be like a cross between canoeing and demolition derby, in a big pink boat.  Dang it.

But, hey, at least she didn’t flash me.

Eventually I got called back to have my vitals taken.  This includes the requisite blood samples and the dreaded weigh-in.  Happily, Dr Birhiray’s Scales of Doom weighed me at a dainty 8 pounds lighter than my previous visit.  Woo hoo!  Go me!  Of course, my previous visit was 3 months ago, so it’s not like the weight is just flying off of me or anything.  But, I’ll take what I can get.

The first thing Dr B asked me about was my blog.  Seems he’s not the one that’s been googling his name after all, although he said his wife might have done it.  He had not actually been to my newish home here on WordPress, as he noted when Hubster pulled it up on his laptop for Dr B’s perusal.  He got a kick out of the fact that he has his own category, but he quickly clicked from there over to Dr Schmidt’s category to see what I had to say about him.  Yeah, that’s right, while everybody is wasting away out in the waiting area, Dr B is in the exam room with me & Hubster reading my blog and cackling.  I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it either, since I’d spent my time in purgatory, too. 

We did actually talk medical stuff.  Shoot, he even did a full-fledged physical exam which only happens, like once a year.  I told him about the memory loss issue.  Bear in mind that he’s never surprised by anything I say, and he always has an option for dealing with it.  This time, he told me that if the memory loss/lack of focus thing was really bad, it could be treated with Ritalin.  “Ritalin?” I said, and then started laughing.  “No, I’m serious” he said in his Nigerian accent.  “I know, I just think it’s funny.”  And you know, I have been feeling a little ADD.  But in the end, I told him I didn’t think another prescription was necessary.  It’s not like I forget how to get home or anything.  Besides, the stories I have to tell about my little amnesia episodes are pretty great.

And really, Ritalin is a stimulant, so I’m thinking I can self-medicate with caffeine if I need to.  You hear that, Honey?  Those iced caramellas with the whipped cream on top aren’t over-priced luxuries—they’re therapy.