September 29, 2011
you know, you chug along putting days, weeks, years behind you. and working at finally putting all sorts of new things in front of you. and then your buried self comes and embarrassingly bitch-slaps you in public.
i am considered a 5 and a 1/2 year survivor now. and you’d think that 5 1/2 years later, i could handle 2 different friends being diagnosed with 2 different kinds of cancer. handle the truly genuine wanting to put warm arms around each to say ‘you’ll be ok’ or i hope you’ll be ok’ or ‘i’m ok with you being mad at not being ok. ‘ and i do have things to share and am willing to share. and being able to share and support and comfort and inspire to ask the right questions or understand how to refocus and laser in on their coming battle – these are all things i have now to offer. because i have been there. at the beginning of the road. and it wasn’t pretty.
then today i had my annual gyn appointment in soho. i love my gyn. she found the lump that was waiting for anyone to discover it. she’s something special. and i know that her wife is going through post-treatment also – and i am honored that at my appointment, she talks to me and we discuss the journey that her family is taking – in many ways a much more complicated journey than mine – and i love to be able to be the one to listen for her and to her. her wife and i share an oncologist and a surgeon. so listen i do and i try to indicate in my supportive but honest words the marker posts of a future well-past the time they are at now – the now where you’re still seeing your awful chemo just over your shoulder and pains and aches from surgeries whose scars have, quite literally, not faded yet. of being in the middle of a spouse hurting and aching and stalling out at life moving forward while children need attention and life has just become a day to day lesson in how to get through til we fall asleep tonite. hugs and smiles end my appointment and i go to spend a bit of time in a ny wander..one of my favorite things. i think…i’ll go to the apple store because my itouch battery doesn’t hold much of a charge anymore and see what there is to see.
my name is called by one of the perky young techs and a woman runs a diagnostic on my itouch and tells me my battery is fine but my software is kaflooey and not in sync somehow which is mucking up my battery retention and she’d like to reset the unit. huh? ok. it’s busy. i’m distracted. i wait. my itouch comes back and it’s………….reset. literally. wiped clean of all of my games, photos, and apps. she shows me how to sign on to my apps account and i download a few of the games. and i realize that in reloading the games, my battery has once again plunged. so this wasn’t the solution. another tech is called and while i wait for the 2nd tech, i open a game and realize …it’s gone. the scores are gone. all gone.
tech2 walks up to me and i look up at his relatively-sweet 25-years-or-so face and promptly burst into tears. “they’re gone. …she didn’t tell me she’d be wiping out all the game scores. they’re gone”, i stammer with tears running down my face. “your GAME scores”? he looks utterly confused. i stutter: “almost 6 years of game scores …from when i waited through chemo and surgeries and scans and now they’re gone.” i really wonder if the words chemo, surgeries and scans had ever, until that moment, been uttered in this palace of the future. my sweet tech2 had a look that translated into ‘what does this have to do with computers’ on his face. and i realized that something very very deep down inside had reached up through the comforting and the coaching and the moving forward and bitch-slapped me – just, i think, to let me know that it could.
April 13, 2010
no great essay today. just reports of an ok day – saw my breast surgeon (gee, last time i used the word breast in a blog post, i got no less than 8 dirty spams [thank you word press for your spam filters] and found out that at least 5 hits on that entry were because someone was searching wordpress blogs for the word ‘breasts’!). 4.5 years since i was diagnosed, we’re down to a pretty quick 15 minute routine of ‘hold your arms like this above your head…now down at your waist’ and prodding fingers under my arms and a few quick questions about what meds i take now, etc. i even like it that she’s starting to not remember so much about me — ‘you have a son, right?” “daughter” because it means that a whole lot of time has passed since i spent a whole lot of time in her offices and under her care. sadly, there’s an army of diagnosed women filling behind my experiences.
then on to a lunch with one of my dearest oldest new york city friends whom i have not seen in about 13 years. he moved to l.a. long ago and has had his own medical struggles and yet here we both were, lunching in manhattan together and holding hands with big cheshire grins on our faces. we were best buddies back in the day: singing at the same clubs and always on the phone with each other sharing our audition and gig adventures as well as a few ups and downs in the life of a performing new york artist back in the 80’s. he famously showed up to save my butt when i was living for a short time with a roommate found through a roommate finder’s service and the woman turned out to be the most royally fucked-up human i’d met in a long time. she owned a mean cat who would sit in my closet and claw the bottoms of all my dresses (she denied this so i guess it was me going in and shredding up my own hems). she announced that she had an std (ewwwwwwwwwww) from her ‘jew boyfriend’ (uh-oh) and after that disastrous relationship ended, she’d fall asleep on her bed with a cigarette burning in her mouth having drunk too much or snorted too much cocaine or, my personal favorite, she left for a week to visit someone and left 1/2-filled chinese food containers out in the kitchen and on her bed. when i decided enough was enough, she started threatening me and my dear dear friend – a really big and imposing guy who happens to be sweet as a pussycat (not the kind who claws your dresses) came to get me at 1am and told her in no uncertain terms that she wouldn’t be so lucky if *he* started threatening her and then helped me haul boxes of my stuff down the stairs (5th floor walkup) to a waiting cab and i bunked on his sofa for 2-3 months til i finally found my own 1st brooklyn home in brooklyn heights. sitting across from each other today, i was reminded of how dear he is to me.
it really was an ok day.
December 11, 2009
so many ideas flit through my head over the day and i thought i’d be posting about my day yesterday – a trying day of my now-yearly mri. in a way, this is about that. at 4 years out, i’m in a twice a year mode with my radiologist. in june i have a bilateral mammogram and bilateral sonogram and then in december an mri with contrast dye. in sorting out the things that you don’t mind/can handle and the things that drive you crazy, i’ve settled on being unable to handle nausea and hating needles…specifically iv’s. i was adamant that i didn’t want a port put in before my chemo and had all my chemos iv’d through my left hand. the result being that i have about 2 veins left that anyone can find to put an iv in when needed..and am not allowed needle sticks nor blood pressure readings on the right side because the surgeon took so many lymph nodes out and i have dealt with mild lymphadema (but under control). all of this is a leadup to the dreaded mri in december. i have the most amazing and compassionate radiologist – she had better be because she’s completely out of network for my insurance. however, the ‘regular’ nurses really have trouble finding veins in my arms/hand so i have a dance. i go to my surgeon’s office on 34th street at nyu cancer center and her nurse puts in the iv. they check the blood return, and then tape that sucker down and wrap me up in a gauze bandage. coat slung over my shoulders, i hail a cab and bump up to east 84th street to my radiologist’s office. (and, yes, this is the one appointment my darling hubby still comes on with me…nice to have him there to distract me.) then i wait in the office – last year for an hour and this year for about 10 minutes only, and then on to the mri. last year was awful – took even the super-talented ex-oncology nurse 3 tries to get an iv in. but this year took only twice and i was much calmer in general. in fact, no tears. i tend to have emotional flashbacks at the iv experience and this year, i will pat myself on the back (now that the iv is out and the mri done) to say that i did not cry. i had about 2 minutes of panic while in the mri machine but forced myself to think about something else (the panic was about the ‘what if’s’ and not the being in the machine…even though i don’t love that..at least i’m laying on my belly and head toward the front.) haven’t gotten the full report back but she told me that the quick look looked ok.
after that long-winded setup, what i really wanted to write about was the waiting room. my husband took his customary chair in the corner of this estrogen-heavy waiting room – lots of woman’s magazines and he was the only guy. there were 3 women there. i figured out that they were waiting for a friend who was in the back having a procedure. they were the epitome of the upper east side socialite women-of-a-certain-age. one dressed in workout gear – she had very apparent face work done ..her cheeks seemed to be a different age than other parts of her face. one in stilletto-heeled ‘jungle’ ankle booties, cream apres-ski pants and perpetually blond hair. the third very petite and chewing gum. yes, i was quietly judgemental. it’s hard not to be and anyone who says different is simply lying. i’m sure people make judgements when they see me. to some i’m too fussy or too dressed and to these women, i didn’t even rate on that style scale. ok. but their talk was particuarly vacuous – it was clear that they operated in a small privileged social circle.
when i got out of the mri procedure and came out dressed to wait in the waiting room, they were still there. a few minutes later their friend came out of the back – i’m pretty sure she had a biopsy done and was obviously cradling one side which was probably painful and had obviously already been through some treatments…her hair was at her shoulders but very thin and she looked fragile. they were so there for her. they knew her and they were going to take care of her. she went into the back for a few minutes and i looked over to them and said: “it’s good she has you as her friends…i wish her all the best.” and even though they wouldn’t ever have socialized with me in the real world nor i with them, they smiled at me and we were just 4 women standing there all in the same or potentially the same boat. we all understood each other completely for a few minutes.