Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Newly Born Woman

She refuses life nothing.  Her tongue doesn't hold back but holds forth, doesn't keep in but keeps on enabling.  Where the wonder of being several and turmoil is expressed, she does not protect herself against these unknown feminines; she surprises herself at seeing, being, pleasuring in her gift of changeability.  I am spacious singing Flesh:  onto which is grafted no one knows which I--which masculine or feminine, more or less human but above all living, because changing I.  
 Helene Cixous    

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My ROOMMATE was the film student, not me

Eleanor Rose turned two last Wednesday.  I'm commemorating it here with some digital goodness that we captured over the weekend.  More photos of our fun can be seen here, although I still need to snag the pics from Lori that she took at Nori's wading pool party.  Let's start with a movie.  I think I tried too hard to channel Sofia Coppola, but hopefully you won't get too dizzy.  Below you can watch Nori blow out her candle all by herself.  You're welcome (for sparing you from listening to us sing).

I had chemo (herceptin) on her birthday, so Ian brought the girls and some lunch to my appointment.  One of my favorite nurses made the girls balloons out of nitrile gloves.  A glove balloon is shown below, with the card from Azalea and a page of the raddest book in the universe.

This weekend we had too much fun, and I don't have enough energy to recount it.  Hopefully you'll forgive me if I jack up the cuteness quotient.  The two pictures below really do say 1,000 words.  Try to hear all of them.

And finally, a movie of us enjoying a break from the midwestern heat wave with one of Eleanor's new toys.  Only Ian could make bubbles a little gross.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I got my sunset

Lori took the girls
I had a date at the lake 
With Ian on Sat.

The day was pretty
The heat was ridiculous
On the pontoon boat

Snack and supper was
Vegetarian bean dip
Before it went "splat"

After the boat ride
We beheld the sunset from
Our camp on the lake

As the sun faded
The moisture made the sky pink
Orange and purple

I took a deep breath
Another and another
Sans interruptions

It has been too long
I smiled and felt peaceful when
I got my sunset

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I'm not crying

What is with me lately?  It might be my ovaries awakening from my 55-year-old chemo body into my renewed 30-year-old body, but I'm a tad bit sensitive.  However, my sensitivity doesn't feel hormonal, so I'm trying to pinpoint another cause.  The stress of a "normal" life while still having skin pain, arm pain, boyish short hair, etc. is certainly a culprit.  And I think it's highly likely that I have not yet processed this whole cancer thing yet.

For example, the other night I was writing some notes in my Wonder Woman notebook and I had to flip back to reference a previous page.  I was intrigued by what I found on that previous page, and I just kept flipping back and back and back until the beginning on the notebook, which started just after the cancer diagnosis.  The page that got me and jerked out some tears was dated Oct. 27, 2010.  It is almost entirely in my brother's handwriting--the cause of my undoing.  He detailed some of my goings-on:

10:30 pm  lethargic, nervous, drowsy.  Going to try to sleep.  Tummy hurts.
9:30 am 1 prochlor, 1 vitamin, 2 tylenol, 1 vitamin D
12:47 pm 1 ondansetron, 2 tylenol
6:30 pm  1 ondansetron, 2 tylenol

On the next page are some questions for Dr. Oncologist, in my own handwriting.  One question is, "On major fatigue days, I nap twice and can't do much of anything.  Is that okay?"  Doesn't that just make you want to reach into the past and give me a cuddle?  It kind of breaks my heart.  I had to stop reading.  I kind of can't believe I experienced that.  And the rest of it, too.  

The other example of my sensitivity-slash-need to process the whole cancer thing happened at work.  Before my diagnosis, my boss had planned to host a seminar series in June 2011.  So in January, between chemotherapies, I invited Heidi Goodrich-Blair.  She is an outstanding scientist in the field of microbial interactions and symbioses.  In June she visited, and I was her host.  I packed her schedule with all sorts of exciting meetings with excellent scientists, both at our center and at the university in town.  When the visit was over we embraced, said our thank yous and goodbyes, and I felt like crying.  It was supposed to be this professional, non-emotional work thing, and I felt like crying.  Why?  Because although I had gotten to visit with her, I didn't really get to sit down and talk with her about science?  Because I realized that she represented all of the wonderful people and things and places that were Grad School, and I missed all of them?  Because I realized that cancer had changed me, both professionally and personally, from the person she once knew, and that disappointed me?

The trick to these emotional things, I think, is that I am getting so deeply engaged with my normal life that I am not taking the time to Release these emotional things.  I eagerly bounce from work to kids to friends to family to chores with scarcely a moment for myself.  And I'm not mad at myself, because I think this is a natural response to not doing jack___ for 7-ish months.  The current lifestyle, however, urges me to deny the tears.

"For your information there's an inflammation in my tear gland."  (If this is your first introduction to the Flight of the Conchords I highly, highly recommend that you check 'em out.  Hilarious.)

But seriously, now I think it's time to work some Heather time into the schedule.  To just go sit and watch a sunset somewhere, savoring every dip of that orange globe towards the endless midwestern horizon.

Where should I go, now that my dad no longer lives in the best sunset-viewing house in the universe?  I'm taking suggestions.                    

Monday, July 11, 2011

Beautiful survivors

Maybe you've already heard, but former first lady Betty Ford passed away last Friday.  She overcame some remarkable difficulties in her lifetime, including breast cancer and drug addiction.  She founded a center to help people overcome their addictions.  This of course is an excellent contribution to society, but I am naturally drawn to her courage in the face of breast cancer.  She was a model for how high to hold your head during and after breast cancer treatment.

Another beautiful survivor I recently encountered is Matuschka.  She became famous in 1993 when her self-portrait appeared on the cover of the New York Times magazine.

Isn't she amazing?  Apparently this was a highly controversial photograph, and I am interested in reading more about the controversy because I don't see any place for controversy.  I see nothing but beauty.  Clearly I am biased.  I'm guessing that the "damaged" part of her body is just more than most people want to see.  I'd be interested in hearing what you think.

I was pleasantly surprised by her choice of wearing white.  If it were me, and it might be someday because it would be fun to replicate this photoshoot, my instinct would have been to wear red.  Red isn't even my color, but it would be dramatic and angry and representative of how I felt for a long time.  In contrast, I love that the white dress represents purity despite the damage.  The slim, angular dress adds an element of sexiness, and the flowing scarf invokes femininity.  Yep, red would have been totally wrong for this image.  I guess that's why I'm not an artist.        

The whole article published with the above image is an interesting presentation of the status of breast cancer awareness up to 1994.  One of main things I took away from it is how very personal breast cancer is:  all of the main supporters of awareness and research have been touched by breast cancer.  Tom Harkin, still a senator of this great state, was the champion of a huge increase in funding for breast cancer research in the 90's.  It seems that he was driven by the loss of two sisters to the disease.  This blog and I are certainly an example of breast cancer awareness driven by personal experience.  I suppose this is not surprising, because people care about what they know about.  I think I just never thought about it before.

Cheers to you survivors and supporters out there!  You are all beautiful!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Columbia is lovelia

Has anyone ever told you how therapeutic it is to just to get out of town?  Or even out of state?  Add to that the joy that comes from spending uninterrupted days with one's precious daughters.  Plus the delight of visiting old friends and getting to know their babies.  It was just what the doctor ordered, even if it wasn't quite enough time away.  There will be other long weekends.  

Matt and Martha are the best hosts ever, and even the triplets were gracious enough to share a bathroom with us.  M&M cooked and cleaned, cleaned and cooked, and even stayed up late to watch a movie with me one night.  Fortunately our families are pretty much on the same schedule, so the visit was very smooth despite all of the childcare being performed.  Activities included going to the library storytime, playing in the kiddie pool on the patio, walking around downtown and a bit on campus, and walking around the neighborhood.  On Sunday we took nearly the whole day off from cooking by eating lunch downtown and ordering Shakespeare's pizza for dinner (Pat, it is indeed delicious, although I was more impressed by Sparky's ice cream.  Two words:  peach cobbler).  In short, I was pleasantly surprised by Columbia, MO.  Some photos are posted below, but click here to view more photos from our trip.  Oh, and on the way home I bought ~4 dozen Missouri peaches from a roadside stand.  I am literally speechless just remembering the juice dribbling down my chin as the rosy flesh burst between my jaws.  That's right, those peaches are already gone.  They were well-loved.  

My sinuses are feeling great, although I didn't realize it until my in-laws asked me about it the other day.  Yet another example of me taking my renewed normal life for granted.  Anyway, I was never very congested even with my sinus infections, but I do think that the nasal steroids are improving the situation.  I do seem to be getting more air up in there, and Dr. Ear Nose and Throat said that air is key to improving the sinus situation.  I therefore think I am in the midst of a modest sinus victory.