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?

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.

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.

Breath Cancer

As you guys know, I like to keep tabs on the Google search engine terms that land people on my blog.  It’s not that I’m all about the marketing or anything like that.  I’m not sitting around trying to figure out what keywords to use in order to generate the maximum amount of traffic.  Although, I do get immense pleasure out of being high up on the search results for Pete’s Pride Pork Fritters, and have been known to work a pork fritter reference randomly into just about any post.  This serves a dual purpose, by both bolstering my Pete’s Pride position on Google, and allowing an atrocious amount of alliteration.  Heh heh.  I am nothing if not and incorrigible word nerd.  But at least as amusing to me as the Pete’s Pride Pork Fritter thing, (score!  I just snuck in another one!) are some of the bizarre phrases that people Google in order to end up here. 

 Included on the list of recent searches was one for “breath cancer black rollerskates”.  Breath.  Cancer.  Now I’m not sure if this was merely a typo, or perhaps this person has a speech impediment.  I figure, I write like I talk, so why shouldn’t they, right?  Ah, but I suppose in that case they would have searched for “breath canther black roller thkates”.  So, okay, maybe that’s not what was going on with this one.  Maybe they really were searching for breath cancer roller skates (in black, please, because if breath cancer could be seen, it would most certainly be black or at least very very dark green).

 I’ve never heard of breath cancer before, but I’m by no means an expert on such things.  And, if it exists, why it sure would explain the halitosis some folks have.  Oh, snap, do you think my dog has breath cancer?  I bet there’s a special day for that, too.  National Canine Breath Cancer Survivors Day—a holiday that’s as much for those of us who have survived an encounter with our dog’s breath, as it is for the furry survivors themselves. You know, I seem to remember seeing breast cancer awareness kitty litter—how ironic would it be if that were Canine Breath Cancer awareness kitty litter?  Huh? That’d be a whole lot like lung cancer awareness Marlboros.  Maybe that’s why I’ve never seen it.

Where’s My Donut?

My girl Tanya sent me an email yesterday to let me know about the National Cancer Survivors Day—this Sunday!  So, I’m thinking, “As a breast cancer survivor, I already get to claim the entire month of October, so another day seems kind of greedy.  But gee, Cancer Survivor’s Day does sound mighty fun.  Especially if it involves free pedicures, lattes and donuts.  Which I’m sure it does, because otherwise what would be the point, right?  And I can overlook the having The Cancer waved in front of my face one more time, as long as there’s caffeine and sugar and hot pink nail polish.”

 So, I went to the official website for this thing.  And this is what I read:

“National Cancer Survivors Day is held annually in hundreds of communities throughout the world on the first Sunday in June. It is a symbolic event to demonstrate that life after a cancer diagnosis can be a reality.”

 Huh?  So, are they saying this isn’t for the survivors, it’s for everyone else so they can know we survived?  Is that really necessary?  I mean, do people think that you’re diagnosed and immediately drop dead?  What kind of made-up-after-the-fact holiday is that, anyway?  It’s like the Kwanzaa of disease days or something.  And where’s my donut?  I survived the filth-flarnin’ cancer, dadgummit, if you’re gonna have a day for me there’d better be a big fat wad of glazed, yeasty goodness at this deal.  My tolerance for being exploited for somebody’s do-gooder efforts is directly proportional to the amount of free coffee available, and the availability of a pedicure, chair massage, or some other form of pampering. 

 But, I see that this is a “symbolic” event.  I’m not sure that I understand that, but I think it means that while there isn’t anything free, there are plenty of items available for purchase, including a stylish visor.  (Think of it as your survivor colors—you know, like The Diablos or Hell’s Angels, only instead of looking scary and tough, you look like a dork wearing a hat that says “Woo hoo! I got The Cancer!”)  There are also these spiffy magnetic flag pole things for your car that look suspiciously like the little flags your car wears when you’re part of a funeral procession.  (Yes, really.)  And I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe it’s not that they figure, “Well, you did have The Cancer, so you know it’s just a matter of time before you need this thing for your funeral.”  Maybe it’s because, like reusable water bottles, having your own funeral flag is the hipster thing to do.  So when the flagman comes around, you can say, “Thanks, but I brought my own.”

It’s Like Deja Vu

Wow.  Okay, so apparently Feedburner has lost its mind.  Those of you who subscribe to the email list probably thought I’d reached new heights of slothfulness when you got an email yesterday containing a post from February.  You were thinking, “Dang, Moody, if you’re going to try to recycle some old post, the least you could do is pick one that was more than 3 months old.  That way, you know, you might have a chance of passing it off as new material.  Or perhaps if you’re too lazy to actually write, you should consider plagarism.  Sure it’s intellectual theft, but we don’t care if you regurgitate someone else’s work as long as we have something new to read.”

 Alas, I did not try to Jedi Mind-trick you into thinking I’d posted something new Wednesday.  And have no idea where that feed has been spending its time since February.  The Bermuda Triangle?  Area 51?  Walmart? 

 *************

 About that old post…um, yeah, I didn’t go.  I know, I know.  I got you all worked up with that poll and everything, and then I just couldn’t make myself do it.  Even Hubster was like, “Don’t go—why should you burn a whole day on that?”  That was all the enabling I needed to blow it off.  I’m pretty easy to enable.  Sorry.  I guess if you want to know about the wisdom circle, you’re going to have to go to one of those things yourself.  What was that?  You say you don’t want to actually have to go participate and try to keep a straight face all stinkin’ day when you could be sitting at Starbucks or yard saling?  Yeah, well, me neither, so I guess that’s one juice box worth of wisdom we’ll never have.   Amazingly enough, the absence of this knowledge doesn’t make me feel the least bit incomplete.  Shocking, I know.

 ************

 Note to Union Hospital: While it didn’t bother me in the least (in fact, it gave me blog material), some more sensitive types might get a little freaked out by being asked if they have a living will prior to a routine, non-invasive procedure like my recent ultrasound.  I realize that you have your standard battery of questions, but seriously—living will? 

 Of course, it’s not the first time I’ve been asked that.  You know, when you have a surgery, they ask you stuff like that just in case they somehow scramble your brain in the process of making your newpple.  “Gee, we’re sorry that your wife is now a vegetable, Mr Foodie, but we did have to harvest tissue for the nipple from somewhere, and since your wife obviously doesn’t use her cerebral cortex much, we thought that was as good a place as any.”

 And, we are talking about me, here, she for whom everything is a blog post.  So, you know, they really could be concerned that I might not make it out of there alive, and I’d still be taking mental notes for a later entry.  But, some folks are kind of sensitive to that whole brain death thing.  So, Union Hospital, you might want to re-think the necessity of some of those questions.  Just sayin’.