Off My Chest

Kicking cancer's ass and beyond

Archive for the tag “blog”

New Address, Better Me

Moving day boxes

In the process of moving, most everything one owns goes into boxes. My least favorite answer to “where in the heck is my fill-in-the-blank?” is “in a box”.  All of my books are (ulch) in-a-box and I had nothing to read after moving from one side of the state to the other. Thankfully, I was able to borrow a few novels so that I had something – anything – to read. Some of them were old friends I was well acquainted with and some were books I might never have read on my own. I usually read detective and adventure novels – fiction that distracts. I have joked and said that I didn’t want enlightenment, just entertainment. The book that fate placed in my hands was “Eat Pray Love”, written by Elizabeth Gilbert. I swear she and I must be related somewhere way back. She has never attended a family reunion, but I’m sure she will one day. Obviously, quite a few other people feel the same exact way, hence the popularity of her book and the movie that followed.

I was never big on “find yourself” books or “self-improvement” books. I always felt that they were expensive self-discipline wrapped in a pretty cover. I make myself do all kinds of things that I don’t necessarily feel like doing at the time – without a book. I make my bed, take out the trash, oh and let’s not forget the never ending chore of laundry. I manage to do all of this without some book reassuring me that I am

A.  A good person if I don’t accomplish these chores

B.  One that tells me how to do these chores

C. One that slams me for not wanting to do these chores.

I try to be understanding and compassionate. So far, I have managed to keep from killing anyone in traffic or in line at the grocery store, even when they clearly have more than 10 items in the express line.

At any rate, I started reading “Eat Pray Love” because I didn’t many other options. I began the book expecting proselytizing, complete boredom, or cavities in my teeth from too much sweetness and light. Much to my surprise, the introduction was so conversational that I almost forgot that I was reading…. so I kept reading. I felt as if an old friend had sent me a letter. I enjoyed every delicious adjective and beautifully worded description. I adore Italy, having traveled there with my parents as a child. I was completely enchanted by the scenery, the warm, liltingly spoken people, and the glorious food while I was there. My new friend, Elizabeth Gilbert, liked all the same things I did and I ate up the pages like a sumptuous meal. Then I got to page 65.

Excerpted from “Eat Pray Love”;

“Moreover, I have boundary issues with men. Or maybe that’s not fair to say. To have issues with boundaries, one must have boundaries in the first place, right? But I disappear into the person I love. I am the permeable membrane. If I love you, you can have everything. You can have my time, my devotion, my ass, my money, my family, my dog, my dog’s money, my dog’s time – everything. If I love you, I will carry for you all your pain, I will assume for you all your debts (in every definition of the word), I will protect you from your own insecurity, I will project upon you all sorts of good qualities that you have never actually cultivated in yourself and I will buy Christmas presents for your entire family. I will give you a sun check and a rain check. I will give you all this and more, until I get so exhausted and depleted that the only way I can recover my energy is by becoming infatuated with someone else”.


I would like to add here, that rather than becoming infatuated with someone else, I would talk and talk and talk to which-ever-him it was and we would resolve that we would try again, and I would be filled with new resolve – again, and the object of my affections would become attracted again, and the cycle would start all over again. I couldn’t understand how such seemingly different people would all end up treating me with the same lack of regard, sometimes even cruelty, never mind treating me as a priority. I did know however that the common denominator was … me.

I was more concerned with that specific someone else’s opinion of me than my own opinion of me. Someone else loving me meant that I was worthy of love. The only value I had was that which someone else determined and bestowed upon me. Everything I did was for someone else’s approval… to get a good grade on the girlfriend report card.

Fortunately for me, I have managed to be a good friend to my good friends. I was rescued by my best friend when she came for a visit. She saw the awful reality of the situation. She asked me questions that in answering, forced me to see what was really going on. Only by enumerating for her, the step by step diminishment of my own self-esteem was I able to see what had happened.I was re-introduced to my self by someone who loved me and I was compelled to re-examine me.

You know what happened? I think I kind of like me.  I think I need to treat myself as I would one of my close friends. I think I need to love me. Not in that condescending I-am-wonderful-and-divine-even-when-I’m-acting-like-a-jackass” kind of way. I mean that I need to be nicer to and more respectful of me.I need to acknowledge my victories, not just my failures.  My favorite line of any song ever is “…and in the end only kindness matters”, and I am going to apply that to me too.This is emphatically NOT a blame game. If I am to have a bit of credit for improving, even if it is my opinion of my own self, I must accept responsibility for needing that change.

Now, that is Off My Chest.




 Platitude Free Zone

Ok, so apparently having breast cancer is not a bad enough diagnosis for some people. They have to come up with all kinds of diseases, symptoms, and scenarios that are much worse than mine are and tell me all about them. Really? My double-mastectomy-requiring-cancer isn’t awful enough for you? Really? The fact that I have to endure radiation treatment 5 days a week for at least 5 weeks isn’t horrible enough for you? Really? The fact that I have to undergo extremely painful treatments from my Plastic Surgery Team every week (that make me feel as if I’ve been in a car wreck every week) can’t stop you from telling me how it could be worse? Really? The fact that I must have more surgery to avoid being left with only sad scarred empty spaces on my chest where my breasts USED to be is not tragic enough for you? Really?

Well, let me get something Off My Chest (besides my breasts and yes, double entendre intended).  I have been told that I am dealing with all of this pretty well. Actually, I have been told that I am dealing with all of this REALLY well. Maybe too well… because it seems that because I joke about fighting cancer, it might mean that I don’t feel pain/fear/mortality. BUZZZZZZ – wrong answer. I do want to be viewed as a person, not only as a patient for sure, but for the time being, I am both. Have some sensitivity people!

There is NO comparison between having a Breast Augmentation, which is a choice, and a Double-Damn-Mastectomy-with-Reconstruction. Partially because of the NO CHOICE thingy and partially because the surgeries are VERY different.The other difference would be the big death threat hanging over your head as these things tend to do. Being able to have reconstruction is a wonderful thing, don’t get me wrong, but it is a REPAIR of damage caused by disease, not a cosmetic procedure that I chose because I wanted bigger breasts. I see nothing wrong – repeat – nothing wrong – with elective cosmetic surgery, but that is not what is going on in my world.

I hope that I don’t have terrible side effects from Radiation Treatment (3rd degree burns for example) and I really-truly-honestly do not want a laundry list of everything bad that can happen to me. I already know, trust me. My Dr. has to tell me – by law.

As I have already HAD the double mastectomy, I am completely not interested in hearing about the miracle cure/different surgery/different Dr. that someone thinks would have been a better choice. What am I supposed to do? Go and ask for my cancer ridden breast back so I can try your recommended treatment? Really? Hard to believe, but this conversation actually took place. Really!  I made the best choice for me and that choice has already been implemented. Sheesh, it’s not that hard to figure out.

I ESPECIALLY do not want to know how my situation could be worse than it already is. I do not want to hear how lucky I am that it isn’t X, Y, or Z. Please don’t tell me that this is part of God’s plan or that it’s “All good”. I don’t want to hear about the lady down the street who has it so much worse than I do. When my son was just a baby in 1st grade, his arm was broken in an accident. Some nitwit told him that the lady down the street had leukemia which is so much more serious and that he was lucky by comparison. Really? As sad as the neighbor’s circumstances were, they certainly did not make his poor little broken arm hurt less.  I am also fairly tired of the phrase “pain for beauty”. This again implies choice. Nobody chooses to have cancer. That is where all this came from. Cancer. Not some quest for beauty. No choosing was involved here. I did NOT choose to have this battle except by refusing to lie down and do nothing.

One last thing (unless I think of something else).  Please. Please. If someone tells you they have cancer or whatever other dread disease, take a second. Don’t mouth some platitude just to have something to say. Stunned silence is ok. That’s how most of us felt when we were first told. Hugs are good.Tears can be a bit tricky, but those are real so that’s ok too. But don’t blurt out “that’s the kind they can fix, right?”, or “you’ll be ok” or “you’ll be fine”.  Try really hard not to make it about you and your fears. I am doing my best to deal with all of my own fear right now and probably can’t handle yours. DO tell me “I’m so sorry” or that “this sucks” or that “I am there for you” or “we’ll kill this rat-bastard” or something along those lines. Fixable, ok, and fine? Fixable still means cancer, and so far for me, always means painful with dodgy outcomes.  I may OR  I may not be ok. It depends on what your definition of ok is. What the hell does fine mean? It usually means that those jeans DO make your ass look too big and someone says they look fine because otherwise they are likely to die immediately and in a great deal of pain. Which they richly deserve.

Now that’s off my chest, have a nice day.

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Kudos To Kashi – NOT

I was so impressed by this… for a little minute

Not everything in this blog will be about my health or lack thereof. Some of it will be just to get it Off My Chest.

I saw a notice in the grocery store the other day posted by Kashi. It was an apology and an explanation to their customers. The notice explained that they had discovered that some of the suppliers from whom they bought ingredients for their products were using GMOs. Therefore, they were pulling the effected products from the shelves until they could solve this horrible problem. I thought, “KUDOS TO KASHI! What a responsible thing to do!” Instead of being caught out like some wretchedly self-interested, dirty, money grubbing politician, they said “There is a problem here. We are accepting full responsibility for it, informing you of it, and pulling the product from the shelves to protect you from this low down sneaky supplier.”

All of this was an affirmation that I was buying products from a company that was one of the few “good guys” left. I had been persuaded by their commercials that they really did go to the ends of the earth to find delicious AND healthy ingredients that they would caringly make into food for me and my family. I, like a huge number of other people, willingly paid a good deal more for Kashi products, based on the idea that their products were a better tasting organic choice than other companies offered. I believed that I could have a serving of convenience with my organic food. They had dozens of tasty looking products that were no trouble to make  and a great healthy choice.

After seeing this communique, I went out of my way to pick up a few other Kashi products, both to reward them for their good behavior and to help sustain them through, what I thought would be tough times – because they took the high road. Since then, they have, without any changes, put the same product back on the shelves. They posted a video on social media “starring” some lady who was obviously and poorly reading from cue cards. The boiled down version is that they have some foods that are organic and GMO free and the rest are not. The consumer comments in response to that, showed very clearly, that those who viewed it were something less than placated. They then had their GM do a video. His performance seemed to be just that, a performance. While wearing a giant phony smile, he sniveled about there not being enough organic foods available for them to buy so they had to resort to non-organic and GMO ingredients, and that things would be better by 2014. There was some sanctimonious protesting that every product was well within USDA guidelines. USDA guidelines?! Oh, well I feel much safe now… We all totally trust our government these days, right?

Millions of us switched to organic foods because we didn’t trust the food supply regulated by the USDA in the first place. It had become corrupted by too many ingredients we couldn’t pronounce. Too many things sounded like a laboratory experiment rather than a farm harvest. Some sounded like they didn’t even come from this planet. The companies that made these products had become an invisible they, not someone we knew and trusted so we started buying from the little upstarts that had a new idea. The new idea was to go back to the old ideas – back to the basics of our great grandparents. Kashi was one of these companies. It seems, however that they have fallen away from the original mission. When Kashi published these videos, they accomplished exactly the opposite of their intended goal. They shone a spot light on a company that seemed far more interested in ass-covering than anything else. They became, through their own actions, a corporation to whom we were dollar signs rather than people. Kashi has become the Tiger Woods of the organic market. Because they portrayed themselves as the “Good Guys” that we could all look up to and trust, when they failed us, the backlash was instant and is becoming monumental. It seems they have fallen – far and hard. It will be interesting to see what happens next. I, for one, will be buying someone else’s Seven Whole Grains because I no longer believe them true to their mission.

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Day of reckoning

So when we were both up and getting ready to face the day and he said, “Honey, I think you have a lump in your right breast. I felt it last night.” Just like that my whole world changed. Forever and irrevocably, my everything was changed by those (oh hang on a second, have to count them, ok 15, the count is 15)  15 words. For a split second I just stood there and breathed and then I quickly told him that it must be my glands. They swell and recede like the tides with my cycle and because I am not overly endowed it’s pretty noticeable. Somewhere deep inside though, I knew differently. He accepted my hopeful explanation, kissed me goodbye, and left for work. I took a shower, felt around half-heartedly and haphazardly, found the lump, told myself that “of course it’s glands” and got on with my day.

I have absolutely no idea what I did that day, or the next or even the next for that matter. I can tell you that I kept checking… and that lump went nowhere. It stuck around like the old acquaintance from college that just comes to stay “for a couple of weeks till they get on their feet” and then doesn’t leave. They stay for a long time. Until you ask for some money. Then they find some other softhearted idiot to leach off of and go away muttering indignantly.

Even HIS head isn’t buried…

A couple of weeks of this and even an ostrich would have known that it was indeed a lump that was indeed going nowhere. No matter how many times I checked, the damn thing was still there. I actually talked to myself out loud in the shower. “You have to face this. This is real. You have to do something about this, you big coward.”

I have always talked to myself. Even as a child I would walk into a room and then have no idea what I went in there to do/get/see. Alzheimer‘s, if I should develop it, will be familiar ground, I tell you. So I learned to “speak the mission out loud” to at least have a better shot at remembering it. I regarded people that had the same pencil in school for two days running with awe. I could barely keep track of me, never mind possessions. I discussed this habit of talking to myself with myself and concluded after a spirited debate the following. Talking to myself is ok. Even arguing with myself is ok – unless I lose the argument. If I can’t even convince me of my point of view, well then there is no hope for me.

I gave myself two days to “deal” and got on the phone looking for help and answers. I told no one. I did not cry.

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