Dear Pat,

You asked me what I’ve learned from The Cancer, and it didn’t bother me in the least because after all we hadn’t seen each other in over 10 years, and if you hadn’t brought it up, The Cancer might have sat there in the booth casting its elephant shaped shadow over our conversation. It’s an interesting question, for which you may have expected a clichéd answer, but might have suspected that’s not really what you’d get from me. Sometimes people say that having The Cancer has made them appreciate life more. Well, I don’t think I had a lack of appreciation for life before, but I told you what I didn’t appreciate enough: nose hairs and eyelashes. It’s astounding how much stuff gets in your eyes without lashes to protect them, and it’s crazy how many random nasal drips you have when there are no nose hairs to keep them corralled.

I told you about being follicularly challenged, but our conversation moved on to other things, and later I didn’t really feel like I’d given you a good answer. Thinking about your question, I remembered that when I was in the middle of that summer of chemo, I was waiting at the orthodontist one day and decided to write down on tiny Post-its some things I had learned. I only found two of those, but the central theme was the same for all of them as I recall: Your life is now. Sounds strangely like a Mellencamp lyric, perhaps because it is.

At any rate, if there is one thing that I’ve learned—not from The Cancer, but from God, who allowed me to go through this process—it’s that we don’t get to pick our situation, only what we do with the moment. And there is value in every moment. I don’t mean that in a sappy “life is precious because The Cancer tried to kill me” sort of way, but in a “we need to make it count” sort of way. What I wrote on that first Post-it was this: Say the kind things you think, but don’t always communicate. Don’t waste an opportunity to show love to people.

We don’t have to do what the world considers to be something big with our lives. Sometimes the small things are really the big things. But we need to do those now, because we have no guarantee that we’ll have the opportunity or ability to do them at any other time. So, that’s the big lesson, according to me. I hope I’ve answered your question a little better this time. Thanks for making me think—I’m so glad you’re my friend.

You Say “Cancer”, I Say “La-La-La I Can’t Hear You”

We’re closing in on the second pinkest month of the year: February.  Yes, thanks to Valentine’s Day, next month will be saturated in pink and red, although thankfully, not pink ribbons.  However, if you just can’t resist the urge to add a little cancer reminder to your Valentine’s Day, I’ve got a splendid gift idea for you. 

I present for your consideration, The Pink Ribbon Snuggie.

I ask you, could there be a sexier Valentine’s Day gift?

And trendy, too, right?  I mean, everyone’s wearing a Snuggie these days.

Of course, your recipient may not have as much hair as our Snuggie model does.  In fact, she may be nearly bald, in which case may I suggest the addition of this little beauty?

A lint roller, you may recall, was a very handy tool indeed for removing the painful little dead nubbins from my nearly bald noggin.  How appropriate, then, that it come in pink ribbon flavor.

February is also the anniversary of my diagnosis, which was 3 years ago.  To look at me you’d never know, unless you know.   And therein lies the problem, because some people who know seem to have forgotten everything else they know about me.  The Cancer, it seems, has overshadowed any previous identity I had.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, that is one of the most difficult things about having the daggone cancer!  Seriously.  Being bald was a pain, but it only lasted a few months.  How many years will it take for people to stop associating me with The Cancer

Just yesterday, I ran into someone, who has seen me, repeatedly, over the past 3 years.    So she knows that I’ve been leading a normal life.  After about 3 minutes of small talk, the party in question lowers her voice into that hushed, concerned tone that people always use when they ask, “So, how is your cancer doing?  Is it still in remission?”  I tried (in vain, I’m sure) to hide my irritation, as I assured her that I’m just jim dandy fine.  “Well, I hadn’t heard anything, so I just wondered,” she said.  “That’s because there isnt anything to tell,” I replied, again, trying to hide my irritation.  Mini Me, who happened to be standing right there, just turned away to chuckle to herself.

First of all, let me just state for the record that I HATE it when people say “your cancer” like it’s a pet or a family member.  How’s your grandma?  How’s your kid?  How’s your cancer?  See what I mean?  Second of all, do I ask you about your medical issues?  “So, Opal, do you still have those hemorrhoids?  I hadn’t heard anything, so I just wondered.  You know, it’s funny, just the other day I was thinking of you, but I couldn’t remember your name, all I could remember was that you had hemorrhoids.”  And thirdly, I’ve moved on and you should, too.  For crying out loud!  Really, you know what?  I don’t even think about The Cancer at all until you ASK.  Next time, let’s just have normal conversation, okay?

So, my dear readers, how do you think I should handle these folks?  Respond, as Hubster suggested, with a vague and mysterious, “I don’t want to talk about it”?  Put my fingers in my hears and sing, “La-la-la I can’t hear you?” Or is there a better option that I’m not thinking of?

Pink Ribbon Overload: Marketing Ploy? What Makes You Say That?

IMG_0194Have you ever noticed that most pink ribbon products are geared toward women? Okay, our last entry was an obvious exception. But really, have you ever seen manly pink ribbon products? Maybe it’s just that the whole pepto pink thing doesn’t really convey the manliness that, say Craftsman is looking for in its marketing. About the closest thing I’ve seen to a pink ribbon man product are the NFL’s breast cancer awareness games this month, where we get to see big, burly football men wearing pink football accessories.  Which is kinda cool.IMG_0195

But back to the lack of pink ribbon man products.  Their conspicuous absence is probably why I have a hard time believing that most pink ribbon products are anything more than marketing. It wouldn’t really be worth it to Valvoline to go to the trouble of having pink boxes made, because the fact of the matter is, men don’t give a fat crap about breast cancer. No, really. Unless they have a loved one who’s been affected by it, or in the rare case that they have it themselves, they really don’t care.  And since some guys are just insecure enough to actually feel threatened by a pink ribbon on their razor blade package, it might cause the company to actually lose sales.  Hence why you don’t see pink ribbons plastered all over boxes of shotgun shells and cans of Skoal.  (Okay, yes, some women do use motor oil, shotgun shells, and Skoal, especially in Kentucky.  However, I doubt those are the kind of women who are going to base their buying decisions on a cutesy pink package anyway.  Just sayin’.)photo

DSC03656On the other hand, there is just a ridiculous amount of pink ribbon stuff that falls into categories that women traditionally buy, such as the pink ribbon Huggies and dishwasher soap submitted by our friend Ashlee.

Taste buds dead from chemo?  Then you’ll love the pink ribbon Hamburger Helper I found at Kmart.  And isn’t it great how it’s got that little hand mascot to remind us to do our monthly exams? 

Or if you’re a foodie like me, perhaps you’d enjoy cooking a meal from scratch using this bunch of breast cancer fungi. Our friend Tanya writes, “What’s for dinner, you ask? Why apricot chicken with mushroom cancer, um, I mean cream sauce.” 

Mmmmm!

 

Pink Ribbon Overload: All That’s Missing is a Pink Pole

(Sorry folks, the image that accompanied this post has been removed at the request of its creator, who is apparently quite sensitive about his boob fairies.)

Today’s submission comes from Ryan, who commented, “OK, this kills me. First off, is there a demand for fairy art? Secondly, is there a bigger demand for stripper-esque sexy fairies?  This is just sad and funny…” 

Well, duh, Ryan.  Didn’t you know that stripper fairy art is the new Monet?  Besides, this is way better than a painting, because you can order this in a 52″ x 52″ poster— for only $155.95.  But wait, there’s more.  Not only can you get the poster-as-big-as-your-car-hood, you can also get this design on your mouse pad, can koozie, or skateboard.  I don’t know how many times I’ve thought, “Dang!  If only I had a breast-cancer-awareness-stripper fairy skateboard!”

And you know, it says right there on the listing that “Proceeds from the sale of all “Fairies for a Cure” line go to benefit Breast Cancer Research.”  Proceeds, huh?  Okay, assuming that you do manage to sell one of these, what exactly do you mean by proceeds?  That’s pretty vague.  All the proceeds? Ten cents?  And, I see that you’ve capitalized Breast Cancer Research in an effort to add an air of legitimacy to your statement.  Nice touch.  Would you like that $156 in ones for greater tuckability?

Pink Ribbon Overload: Permanent Reminders

My friend Jody sent in these two entries, with the following comment:  “I think you should get a pink ribbon tat & navel ring to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness month!  Here are a few for you to check out!  If you don’t like these, don’t worry…they come in many different styles!”

JJF-00646_thumb You know, Jody, I was just thinking to myself the other day, “Why Self, can you believe you haven’t had a surgery, or any other sort of invasive cancer-related thing for nearly a year?  I mean, gee Self, pretty soon you might just forget you ever had The Cancer and go back to a normal life.  You know, aside from the implant, and the 10-inch long scar, and the newpple that’s made from a piece of your groin, there’s really nothing to remind you of the year you spent your summer vacation being bald and having no eyebrows.  You know, Self, your memory is pretty bad, thanks to the Tamoxifen you take every night.  How will you ever remember the summer after chemo when you only had one boob, and had to find a Foob compatible bathing suit to wear to the water park?”

 I was really worried.  I mean, gee, if there’s one thing I never want to forget, it’s the ridiculous constipation that chemo causes.  So, Jody, I was SO glad when you emailed me the pink ribbon tattoo.  Of course!  Here I was planning to get my newpple tattooed to look more natural, and all along I was missing a grand opportunity!  Why, with a pink ribbon tattoo on the noob, I’ll never forget about The Cancer.  But gee, I just don’t know.  It seems like such a waste to put all the awareness someplace where only I can enjoy it.  So, I’m thinking perhaps I’ll go for the always classy neck tattoo. 

 pink ribbon navel ringJody also suggested the navel ring.  There again, who’s gonna see it?  Hubster?  Oh Honey, trust me, he’s already aware of The Cancer.  Of course, given my penchant for the gaudy, there’s a good chance that gravity would have the Flava Flav sized ornament I’d pick stretching out my belly button, and swinging between my knees like a Focault pendulum. Still, just to be on the safe side, I think I should probably get a pink ribbon belly shirt to go along with it.   Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find one of those online though.  A tube top might work, too, but I haven’t seen one of those either.  Dang it.  Maybe the belly button ring isn’t such a good awareness tool, after all.

Josh Bell Loves Pete’s Pride Pink Ribbon Pork Fritters

Okay, not really.  I mean, Josh would probably like them, but there is no such thing.  Dang it.  Pete’s Pride is totally missing out on some mad marketing AND alliteration opportunities.

As you guys surely know by now, I’m a big nerd who gets a whole lot of amusement out of perusing the search engine terms people have used to find this blog.  Some things are to be expected, especially since we’re nearing October, like the current top three for the past 30 days: “pink ribbon cake pan”, “pink ribbon cake”, and “pink ribbon”.  But the 4th item on the list is a little puzzling to me—Richard Simmons.  Really?  Is October Richard Simmons Awareness Month, too?  Wonder what color the ribbon is for that one.  Is sequined a color?  Richard Simmons beat out the perpetual favorite “bald girlfriend” (I’m pretty sure that I really, really don’t want to know the motivation behind that one) and the believe it or not “pork fritter” is way down the list at number 8.  Pork fritter fans need not worry, however, because in the all time search engine term standings, the humble pork fritter holds 3 of the top 5 slots.

And speaking of pork fritter fans…if you’ve been keeping up on the comments, you know that our friend Nanine is a transplanted Hoosier, living in Texas, who has been searching for Pete’s Pride Pork Fritters to no avail.  Of course, since we ARE pretty high on the google results, she ended up here, and asked if I knew who makes Pete’s Pride.  I didn’t, but I do now.  I don’t know why I was even at all surprised to learn that Pete’s Pride Pork Fritters are manufactured by Al Pete Meats (recently acquired by Monogram Foods) in none other than Muncie, Indiana.   Why of course they are!  Where else?  So, Nanine, I hope this helps you in your quest.  Keep us posted—we love having an excuse to write about pork fritters. (We also love referring to ourselves in the first person plural.)

Now back to those searches.  It gives me a chuckle every time someone gets here from googling “Josh Bell poet” or some other variation.  If you recall, my old friend Josh has the distinct misfortune of sharing his name with another extremely famous Josh from Indiana.  Hence, folks looking for my friend must include poetry/poem/poet in their search.  However, like other violin-toting super villains, the fantastically famous Joshua Bell will stop at nothing in his quest to squash my dear Josh like a bug—going so far as to title one of his albums “Poeme”.  Really, can there be any other explanation for this?  So, it was especially amusing to me when some obviously determined fan of my Josh recently got here by searching “josh bell poetry or poem or poet not violinist”.   Take that, you fancy fiddler.

This weekend is the local Race for the Cure.  Yes, I’m going.  No, I’m probably not doing the survivor parade.  Wearing the pink shirt is about as much as you can expect from me.  And Thursday is the first day of October, so get those Pink Ribbon Overload pictures to me.  I’ll be starting off the month with one of my own finds and the story of how it came into my possession.  That’s right, I actually own this one, but even that’s not the whole story, so check back with me on Thursday afternoon to get the scoop.

Doctor Day-Part Two

After we left Dr Grasee’s office, we headed to Noblesville to visit Dr Birhiray at the hospital up there.  The directions his office had given me were pretty vague.  Basically, they got us to the hospital and that was about it.  Once there, we were on our own.  We went in a door near the entrance for the professional offices, thinking that might be where he was.  Rather than wander around, I stopped immediately at the information desk and asked the volunteer where I could find Dr Birhiray’s office.  In his 70s, missing a few fingers (ex-machinist, perhaps?) and laboring to breathe, the volunteer in question looked at me quizzically and said, “Beer hurray?”  Yes.  Then he asked what kind of doctor he was.  It was when I explained that he was an oncologist that the pitying looks and the unsolicited reassurance began.  All the while, I’m thinking, “Can you please just tell me how to get to where I need to be?”  Finally, our friendly volunteer gave us the absolute most convoluted directions in the world, slowly, and punctuated by many laborious breaths.  (Good thing we were early) By this point, we’d pretty much deduced that the place we needed to be was on the extreme opposite side of the hospital.  Rather than traipse all the way through, we asked the volunteer what door the office was closest to so that we could just drive around and park near the entrance.

 With that information, we drove around and parked near where we needed to be.  Sort of.  We still had a ways to go.  Having learned nothing from the previous experience, I again stopped to ask the two old ladies at the information desk where I could find Dr Birhiray’s office.  Once again, I was met with blank stares as if they’d never heard of him.  They even asked me if I was sure he had an office there and not in some other building.  I assured them I was, and they asked me what kind of doctor he is.  Here we go again.  When I said he was an oncologist, there was this strange vibe that came over my two helpers.  It was one of shock and pity.  Please.  Cancer is not getting ready to kill me, but frustration just might if I don’t find somebody who can tell me how to get where I need to go.  They give us directions to “the cancer ward” (which sounds like someplace no one ever returns from—or as Don Henley put it, you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave) and we are on our way. 

 Arriving at the end of a hallway, we come upon an entire flock of these volunteers sitting and drinking coffee, and shooting the breeze.  Apparently, there is no Hardees in Noblesville, so all the oldsters hang out in the hospital every morning “volunteering”.  Maybe it’s because there is no Hardees, or maybe it’s because at the hospital, the coffee is FREE.  I glance quickly from left to right to try to determine, without assistance, which way we need to go, but it’s too late.  “Do you need help finding something?”

 Aw crap, here we go again.

 Me: “I have an appointment with Dr Birhiray.”

Oldster #1: “Who?”

Me: “Dr Birhiray.  Oncology.”

Oldster #2: “Oh, <insert pitying looks and tone of voice> you need to go left and the cancer ward is on the left.”

(Meanwhile, some of the others cluck softly amongst themselves, no doubt about what a shame it is that I’ve got one foot in the grave.)

Me: “Okay, thanks.” (walking away)

Oldster #1: “They have really nice doctors down there.”

Chorus of Oldsters: “Uh-huh, they do.”

 As I power walked away, I could hear them murmuring amongst themselves.  I don’t know for sure what they said, but I’d guess it was something along the lines of, “That’s just so sad—dying so young!” 

 Once I found Dr B’s office, everything was normal again.  Sort of.  Instead of waiting and hour to get in, it was only about 10 minutes.  It seems that up at that office, there are fewer distractions, less interns, and things actually run on time.  Who knew?  Doesn’t make me want to go up there again and have to run the pity gauntlet, though.  So, I scheduled my next appointment back at the usual place.