Tough As Nails.

16 Sep

It is late.  I am tired.  I was in bed, and on a whim, checked my messages on my phone.

And with that, another friend has cancer.

And now I’m pissed. Is this the right reaction?  What exactly is the correct response here?  Sadness? Sympathy? Compassion? I feel like any one of these would be more appropriate.  But what can I tell you, I’m just angry. I’m angry that this good, good person has to lay there without sleep, tonight and tomorrow and the next night, wondering about the tumor eating at her insides.  Wondering if it is growing, if it is treatable, if it will go away. Wondering about her family and her kids and her finances. Wondering how her life will now be changed. Because it will be.

I am pissed.

I guess I just don’t get it. We put a man on the moon, for the love of God.  We can inject botulism into your forehead and make you wrinkle-free.  I can send you a message from my phone, and like magic, through the air, you’ll get it in a second.  But Cancer? The Big C?  Sorry, no can do, amigos.  This one has us stumped.

I have no answers.  Manalive, do you know the questions I get from this blog?  People asking for my secret to good humor, to wit, to living. People I don’t know asking me what to say to their friends, their loved ones. I am now the Emily Post of cancer. Yay me.

Here is what I say – and I will say it to my friend – you fight.  You fight like a mofo.  You fight like you’ve never fought before because Sweet Jebus, this can not beat you.  It can not take who you are and what you’re made of.  You will find every ounce of courage you have and every shred of BRING IT ON attitude you can muster.

Other friends will cook for you and bring you books and encourage you.  Good for them.  I’m going to tell you to fight. Because you, my friend, are as tough as goddamn nails.

Here’s a Secret. I Don’t Want to Walk 60 Miles.

1 Sep

HELLO Readers!  I have missed you.  But apparently not enough to get me to post something in the last two weeks.  I joke, I joke.

I really can not tell you how much better I feel Minus Infection.  Being Minus Infection means Minus Nausea, Minus Headaches, Minus Constant Low-Grade Fever.  And now, FINALLY, I can blog about the Walk.  And not my surgeries. Although, looking back, those 9 fun-loving surgeries gave me a lot of food for thought, didn’t they? Alas, there will be more.  We will save that for another day.

We digress.  The walk.  My training.

Two days ago, Teammate Shannon had the perfectly glorious idea to walk 5 miles after we dropped the kiddos off at school.  What Shannon neglected to mention was the Extreme Heat Warning here in Phoenix. I thought I was going to pass out, and I am not lying.  9:30am, 5 miles, 100 degrees, and I, in my brilliance, opted for pants and a sleeved shirt.  And, of course, water was too much of a hassle to carry so I left it in the car.

Lesson learned.  So as Shannon walked at mach speed down down the Bridle Path, I ran through the sprinklers of the private lawns on Central Ave, and prayed that it would start snowing as a cosmic sign that yes, I can walk 60 miles.  It did not snow.

But I made it.  And the reality that I would be walking 60 miles hit me.  And it hit me hard.  And it said YOU MORON, WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?

60 miles is the distance, literally, from Sunnyslope High School at Dunlap and Central to the Casa Grande Mall on the I-10.  In other words, I am walking halfway to Tucson.  Let me be clear about something – the most I have ever walked in one effort is 5 miles.  And that was two days ago with Shannon.  And now I’m going to take a jaunt down to Casa Grande? And take 3 days doing this?

Enter paralyzing self-doubt.

I shared this doubt with Shannon, who in her non-abrasive, read between the lines, gentle, yet direct way, reminded me that Hello Amiga, this walk is a sacrifice.  For me, the fundraising was easy, the organization is fun, Thriller Flash Mob? Downright divine.  The walking?? Eeek.  And therein lies my sacrifice.

Enter lightbulb above my head.

True Statement: I really do not want to walk 60 miles.  At all.  But I will because I  can.  Because I have the luxury (and it IS a luxury) of walking.  I will be walking while some husband is entertaining his wife while she gets chemo.  And while a mom gets diagnosed and struggles with how much to tell her kids. And because 39,520 women will die this year from breast cancer.  Let’s bold that up.  39,520 women will die this year from breast cancer.  And thanks to research, I’m not one of them.

So yeah, I’ll walk.  I’m going to whine about the heat and the time the training takes and the blisters.  And I will continue to ask why the Phoenix walk couldn’t be in February so the training months aren’t 100+ degrees.  But I’ll walk. Because life is in the sacrifices, and amen sisters, I’ve got my life.  Time for a small sacrifice.

Post Script: I wonder if Aline, friend and inspiration, even remembers telling me this.  Aline, do you?  We were sitting at LGO years ago, both embedded in the international adoption process at this time in our lives, and both very frustrated with the paperwork, the red tape, the time the process takes, etc.  And out of your mouth came this little jewel of a thought.  I have carried this with me mentally for years – every time things get hard, actually.  Thanks for being the kind of gal who utters genius quotes off the top of your head.

Five Treasures and a Falsie.

9 Aug

I feel sort of bad for making fun of Tina’s Treasures because they are really oh-so nice in there.  But I only feel “sort of bad” because “Treasures” is really such a crazy name.  That’s a tough one to brand.

Let’s back up – Drain left me yesterday.  Nothing bittersweet about the departure.  All sweet, no bitter.

As you may or may not have noticed, I have not mentioned my plastic surgeon by name.  This is for no reason other than I am not sure he is the sort of guy that would appreciate being featured in a blog of this kind. Actually, I am quite sure he is not that sort of guy. But I have to mention that yesterday, as the clock ticked 5, 10, 15 minutes after my appointment time, I wondered what was going on as he is never late.  Turns out that my doctor was playing his new guitar in his office.  Odd, right? But on the other hand, sort of human. I guess I like that he likes music.  I looked at his assistant, and said “uhhhh, it’s not like I have a drain ready to be removed or anything.”

I went into his office and asked if he knew Freebird.  And he replied that everyone knows Freebird.  Well, yes, that was sort of the joke.  (My humor is hit or miss.  With him, it is almost always a miss.)  Anyway, Doctor Six String, his assistant (who I love) and I had a nice musical bonding moment.  Then I managed to get him away from James Taylor long enough to take out my drain. And we discussed that the next procedure would involve taking skin from another part of my body.  He said that as calmly as I might say, “let’s have chicken for dinner.” Bonding moment over.

Tina’s Treasures.  With the drain out, I was free to get my falsie.  Hoorah!

Again, the nicest people in there.  My appointment was with Jodi, and she is delightful. (My last fitting was with Nada – also delightful.)  It was actually fun.  And really, let’s think about what I’m saying here: I am in a hospital shop, in a fitting room, in front of a large mirror, staring at stitches & scars where my right breast used to be and getting fitted, at 38 years old, for a fake boob.  This should not be fun.  And yet it was.  Got myself 5 new bras that look like they came from the “I am 100 years old” catalog and the prosthesis.  And I even tried to recruit Jodi to dance Thriller with us.  She didn’t seem sold.  She will be.

Falsie and I then did a little shopping (“new” Tylie Malibu from Poor Little Rich Girl, cute magnets by the fabulous Donna Biggers, Williams Sonoma dish soap), and THEN, when I was at Luci’s for iced tea, I ran into Teammate Shannon and her kids!  Guess how she spotted me from well across the street?  My Team Hope Chest Flipped Bird bag!  (A few left, buy one now.)  So instead of doing anything on my list, I got to chat with Shannon and her girls for a bit.  And really, is there a better way to spend time?  The to-do list will always be there.  New motto.

Got home just in time, Xia found Falsie, brought it to the living room and threw it at me.  And laughed and laughed. And that, Dear Readers, is called karma.


You know you’re curious.  So here’s Falsie.

Mani Pedi.

7 Aug

I woke up with a hankering for a mani pedi.

My first instinct, was blahhhhhhh, stupid drain, nothing in my closet fits and, oh yeah, OneBoob. How do I disguise that?  I can’t wear a falsie yet, and I do, in fact, look very lopsided.  Socks?  Tissues? A scarf?  Ah well, perhaps I will get a mani pedi another day.

Then I came to my senses. Why do I need to disguise?  Ok, the drain I get because that’s just gross, but the OneBoob? What better way to raise awareness than by rocking it singular style?  And Hell-to-the-O, I want my nails done.  I am woman, hear me roar.

This sounds good in theory. But, truth, I needed a little back-up in the form of a gal pal. My roar was more of a meow with an attitude. Who do I know that’s up for this?  It took me about a nano-second to yell “Holly 001!” To which my son yelled, “I am a big tomato!” (I have no explanation for this.)

Left to her druthers, Holly would swagger into the nail place with a “What’s up, my BITCHES! Boss here has OneBoob. Anyone got a problem with this? Anyone want to stare? No. I didn’t think so.”  And with this, I would be shown to a perfect pedi chair decked in pink and diamonds.  I am a OneBoob Princess.

So Holly didn’t have to do that, but just knowing that she totally would have made me hold my head up high. Truth is, I don’t think anyone even noticed.  1 trip out in public down, 1 million more to go.

Holly, the more sensible, went with the standard buff & manicure.  Not me, I went for the bright red shellac, which has to be removed with a blow torch.  Shallac has to be dried in this weird hand machine, and as I’m sitting there, I look at the machine.  It says UV all over it.  UV??

Dudes!  UV! I am sitting with my hands basking in a freaking Cancer Box!  I alerted Holly to this madness, and we joked that perhaps we should go tanning and smoke a few ciggies when we were done.  GOOD GRIEF.  I’m worried about looking goofy with OneBoob so I let my hands simmer in a little Insta-Skin-Cancer.  Duh. Sometimes I amaze myself.

All in all, a fine day.  Thanks Holly.  You’re a big tomato.


Dance Par-tay.

6 Aug

Sometimes I lose faith in the Universe.  Doubt rears its ugly head and says, “take that, silly girl.”  And I think what will a walk do? A WALK?  Are you kidding me?  Kids are dying, people are losing their families, and women are maiming themselves as offerings to the cancer god…but don’t worry, people, because I’m going to walk. 

Yesterday was a faith-losing day. A give it up, throw in the towel sort of day.

Today is not.  Today is a kick some ass sort of day.  Get busy living or get busy dying, right?  I have stitches, a scar and weird skin folds where my right breast should be.  So what?  If I have learned anything from this, it’s that it could always be worse. Way, way worse.

This little light of mine is going to rock 60 miles.  Walking isn’t everything, but it’s something.  And I am pretty sure that everything starts with a little bit of  something.

This morning, I offered up all I had that was good to two moms who lost their kids.  And then I blared some music and had a Dance Party.  Xia and I broke it DOWN.  I spun my drain around like it was a fire baton while Xia demonstrated his expertise at Train Hip-Hop.  And while we were dancing like maniacs, I laughed in the face of 9 surgeries, a drain and some cadaver skin.

Take that, Silly Universe.  I’m going to Thriller in your face.


p.s. I would like to point out that the Reno-Tahoe Open is going on right now.  The RTO is the only PGA tournament that has a woman as a director.  That is an obscure fact.  Unless that director happens to be your FREAKING SISTER!  YOU GO, JANA!!!  See?  Not all my genes suck.

Annika & Jana

No sarcasm, not today.

5 Aug

I have no sarcasm in me today.

This morning, I found out that a friend’s 4 year old son died yesterday.  Another friend called me, a friend who has been gone all Summer, and I was excited to see her name on my caller ID.  I missed the call, and listened to the voicemail, expecting a playdate idea, a lunch, a project. Nothing in me was prepared for this news.

I sat on my bed, legs crossed, in silence and without moving for several minutes.  Then I grabbed my car keys – drain, stitches and concave hole on my chest be damned – and went to Xia’s school.  Three hours early, I took my son out of class, kissed his head, and gripped his hand.  Today, he doesn’t get to stray too far from me.

Some things are bigger than we are.  Some things show us what’s important. Some things shove so much damn perspective down your throat that you come up dry heaving and sobbing.


I Walk With One.

3 Aug

Hasta la vista, Righty.

Took the noon surgical appointment yesterday, instead of my tried-and-true 6am.  Bad call. Left a little too much time to fill. Took Xia to school (Discovery Tree, best ever), went to the grocery store, lifted too much (but we seemed a little past that point), and headed home.  Bad headache, took a few tylenol, and threw up a few times.  Not eating was not a problem.

Then John took me to the hospital to lose a breast.  Again.  How tired he must be. We sat in the corner, our “regular” seats. With the air vent on full tilt, the two TVs blaring and the other waiting room waiters chatting, I folded over in my chair and put my forehead on John’s legs in front of me. And that’s how we stayed until the nurse came to get us 30 minutes later.

I’ve got Pre-Op down, amigos. They just copy my chart from last time and off we go. Lynn, Bonnie, you are both lovely.  Thank you. Nurses rock.  Dr. C., your anesthesia is, I’m sure, the bomb.  But it’s your humanness I like the most.  When they wheeled me into the OR, I was trying very hard to be a grown-up, and said, “I don’t know why I’m crying.”  Dr. C said, “Rebecca, with what you’ve been through, I’d cry too.” Thanks Dr. C.

And then I was out.

At home, John set me up with Saltines, Susan sent pizza our way (after hosting Xia for a swim date), and Dawn dropped off ginger ale and my favorite cookies. Yum.  While I was out, Xia drew a collage of a school bus, a fire truck, a train, Dora, and the featured piece, President Obama.  Then he taped it to his bedroom door.  That made me laugh.  For those of you who know my husband, you are laughing, too.  If you had told me a few years ago that John would let a picture of a Democrat hang in our home, I would have suggested you consider a crack pipe intervention.

Today, I feel better. I am trying to ignore that Right Drain is back. Instead, I am thinking of the endless t-shirts I can make for the walk:   I Walk With ONE.   Reconstruction Zone.  I’m a Little Lopsided.  Or how about my new friend, Mastectomy Barbi, screened onto a T?  Too much?


Dear Right Implant.

31 Jul

Dear Right Implant,

This is a tough letter to write.  We have been through so much.  For 18 months, you have lived at my side, sort of.  I have treated like you my own.  But the time comes when a gal has to know when to cut her losses and call it a day. I think you and I are there.

I suppose I could take some responsibility for the demise of our relationship.  I stood when I was supposed to be laying, did a little lifting on the side, and watched HGTV when I sensed  you were more of an MTV implant.  But Right Implant, you should know that you are really quite needy.

When you fell from your perch, so to speak, I bumped you back up. When you exposed yourself to the outside air, we covered you.  Twice.  When you decided to start internally bleeding on my San Diego vacation, we made you our first priority.  When you broke out in hives, I ate Bendaryl like candy even though it made me walk into things. And last but not least, when you decided my own skin was not adequate for your needs, we offered you the skin of a perfectly lovely cadaver.

Now, really, Right Implant, I think I have done my fair share to make you comfortable.  (I hate to compare, but Left Implant didn’t need a Welcome Wagon basket to feel at home.)  And now, after 18 months, you decide to thank me with an infection.  A raging bacteria infestation that is causing your home’s temperature to rise and ache, and frankly, makes you look ugly and distorted. It’s not a good look, my friend.

Well, you’ve cut off your nose to spite your face.  This is it.  Adios Right Implant, I have had enough.  You just can’t make some implants happy.



29 Jul

Hi Readers. I took a small break from my own blog. I am sore, sore, sore, but so far, Hannibal the Cadaver Skin seems to be taking to me.

This time, my mom came into town to help.  She came out, woke up at 5am with my son, took him to school, took him to therapy, and played and played and played.  My child Never Sits Still.  Thus, neither did she.  While I laid in bed, watching 100 hours of Say Yes to the Dress, my mom took care of my life.

I have a list that is entirely too long of friends who don’t have their moms because of cancer.  This hit home when I got my friend, Narinda’s, email.  I sort of took it for granted that my mom would leave lovely San Diego and come to Hot as Hell Phoenix to help me.  I do not take it for granted any more.  Thanks Mom.

Narinda’s Email:

I was going to e-mail you earlier about your blog, I truly love reading it.  Sometimes it brings me to tears.  Cancer is near-and-dear to my heart too.  My mom passed away in January from lung cancer.  While I know you blog about breast cancer, cancer in any form is devastating to families.  So I relate to so much of what you say.  My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer on December 8, 2010 and she passed on January 9, 2011.  She only lived with it for one month (actually she probably lived with it much longer but she didn’t know) but it was an excruciating painful month.  It’s still hard to come to terms with what happened.  One month is not long enough to prepare for the news and one month is not long enough to attempt to heal and one month is not long enough to say goodbye.  So I read your blog and think about my mom and then cry.  Then I keep reading and laugh… happy tears.

Narinda and her family got one month.  ONE MONTH.  How do say everything you need to say in a month? How does your mom pass along a lifetime of memories about you to her new grandson in a month? How do you sort through and cherish your life experiences in a month? How do you digest that an integral, a necessary, part of your family will be gone in a month?

You do not.  Cancer steals people.  It steals families.  It steals memories and lifetimes, and it can do so in a month.

I am walking for Narinda.  And for her mom, who deserved so much more than a month.

Skin. Eeek.

18 Jul

Ah Peeps. Guess what??  Back under the kuh-nee-fay. (Get it? Knife?) And here’s the best part.  My surgeon is using EFFING CADAVER SKIN. Oh My Lort, as Jana used to say.

Or as my brother, Andy, said just this evening… “It puts the lotion on its skinnnn.”  Barf.

As a tribute to my brother, I have decided to name my new cadaver skin Hannibal.  When I do something stupid, I will blame Hannibal.  For example, trip and fall?  Oh Hannibal, stop screwing with my equilibrium.  Drink too much? Hannibal, you moron, you know I don’t like tequila.

But Really.

I am pretty grossed out by this.  In the spirit of denial, the American Way, I am watching The 40-Year Old Virgin, drinking a little iced tea (no beer for me this surgery eve – that didn’t work out so well last time), and trying very, very, VERY hard not to think about the person whose skin I will incorporate tomorrow.



– Bedbugs.

– Having to hang out with that weird guy on My Strange Addiction who is “married” to a doll.  Creeper.

– Clowns.

– Being allergic to Mexican food.

– Cancer.

See ya on the flip side.  Again.