Archive for January, 2009

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unremarkable

January 26, 2009

I can’t seem to work out in comfort unless I can identify at least one person fatter than me in the room. I can’t explain it, but I find security in knowing that if some broad thinks to herself “Oh God, if I ever get that big, shoot me!” she’s likely staring at someone elses ass instead of mine. I know I should be trying to excersize and get stronger, but boy howdy do I hate the whole gym thing. Even my all chick gym intimidates me. So, I decided to try a bit of yoga. No mirrors there.

Feeling all triumphant, I marched into a “gentle” yoga class hoping to find some flexibility and a bit of zen. Well, during class I was trying to do my best “warrior” and felt something in my arm kind of tweak. It stung, but no big deal. I shrugged it off, finished class, and patted my little ego on the back. The next day, I feel like I pulled a muscle and it hurt to put weight on it. Eh, I’ll just give it time right? Finally, a few weeks later I have to admit that its time to see my doc. I can’t lift my right arm more than a few inches and forget about carrying anything. Dammit! I’m trying to be all healthy and shit and I hurt my arm stretching?! And now I get to go see yet another doctor because I just don’t spend enough time at Northwestern Memorial. I should get some kind of frequent customer deal. Free fro-yo in the cafeteria after your 10th office visit. Somethin. Jeez.

I suit up in my winter armor and take the train downtown to pass through those all to familliar doors. Here we go again. My doc asks his usual “how ya doin” and we review current meds etc and then the inevitable “How’d ya do it?”

“Did you fall on it?”
“No”
“What were you doing?”
“Um, stretching.”
“Stretching?”
(heavy sigh)”Yeah. I know it sounds dumb, but that’s what happened.”

I feel exceptionially stupid at this moment, but he reassures me that I probably haven’t done anything major to my limb, but that I need to go to see the ortho guys downstairs. Fab. Add one more doc to my roster. Anyone else want my cash? Get in line.

“I just had a scan on Friday of everything  but  my arms. Go figure.”
“What were the results?”
“I don’t know. I don’t have an appointment to see my doctor for results until the 28th.”
“They should be ready by now. I can get them for you.”

And then he WALKED OUT THE DOOR! Wha?! Um…results NOW?! But..uh.. I’m not ready! I have to gear up for scan results and prepare myself and go to my safe happy place and all that crap. And I’m going to get them here and NOW?! Whaaaaaaaaaaa? OK. dontfreakdontdreakdontfreak. I’m FREAKING.

Whats left of my internal organs leaped into my throat as I heard him turn the knob. I must have looked completely mental, because he actual chuckled a bit. CHUCKLED. Chuckling. What does chuckling MEAN?!

“Here. I’ll let you read it.”

I jumped to the bottom of the page. The report in almost English is always there, in all caps for some reason.

“UNREMARKABLE SCAN OF THE ABDOMEN, CHEST AND PELVIS….”

Oh. My. God.
UNREMARKABLE.
What a bizarre choice of words for something so incredibly meaningful to me in this instant. But I’ve learned to root for that otherwise banal adjective.
UNREMARKABLE.

Oh, and those two rascally dots on my liver?
“…ALMOST COMPLETE RESOLUTION OF THE PREVIOUSLY NOTED LOW DENSITY LESIONS ON THE LIVER.” Holy cripes! They’re almost gone! Huzzah! Hooray! Wicked awesome!

“This is certainly good news….”
I didn’t hear the rest. I probably should have been listening but all I could think about is UNREMARKABLE.
My body is almost completely free from any signs of cancer. I want to text everyone I’ve ever met in my life and share my good news. And, of course, my stupid phone is out of juice. Note to self: send stern email to Motorola regarding the very short life of the standard battery on the Q. Nevermind. I’m going to get some serious happy on. I smiled the entire train ride home.

And I feel pretty damn remarkable, thank you very much.

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Inauguration Inspiriation

January 20, 2009

“I’m lucky to be alive.” These words are uttered in the shadows of car wrecks, outside of burning buildings, and in ER’s all across the world. However, it struck me today that I don’t often invoke these words enough in light of joyous occasions. Why is it that I don’t praise a higher being while holding a glass of wine on a lakeside dock, hugging my nieces after a community theatre performance or while smelling the rosemary simmering in a juicy pot roast? On a day like today, I am inspired to give thanks. Today, I can look out my frosted window at the grey snow and know that the 12 degree temps will not stop me should I choose to run errands or visit friends. Today, while my fingers sting with each stroke of the keys, while my hair sheds on every surface, while I anxiously await the results of my latest CT scan; I celebrate the fact that I can share my experience with others with the ease of a typewriter made to broadcast small voices to the greater world.

President Obama said on the eve of his election, “as we breathe, we hope…” and I find those words so important to the ongoing challenge I face with a heartbreaking disease. Every day that I breathe, I must find a way to look beyond the side effects and discover what I can do. I want desperately to continue to help my family with their feelings of anger and sadness and refuse to accept any form of pity. I pledge to find it in myself everyday to rise above any obstacles that cancer or treatment may hand me and join the masses of the healthy and the strong in saying, “Yes, I can.”

We are called by our new leader to service and charity in our communities, but I see my personal challenge in a different light. I marvel at my fellow cancer patients, who decorate hospital rooms for holidays, who sport hats on the subway that say “FUCK CANCER”, and who crack jokes about their bald heads. I believe our first and foremost call to action is to kick this goddamn disease in its weak ass and give those 5 year survival rates the double bending quad middle finger. Along the way, I should relish everyday that I am not hooked up to an IV and support those who are. Every one of us saddled with the effects of tumors and chemo and radiation need to find it in ourselves between every barf to lift our heads to the sky and say “not today motherfucker, you will not get me today.” We must focus, meditate, or pray to find that steely calm that lets us get out of that hospital bed and take a lap around the floor tethered to an IV. Today, some higher being gave us the gift of another sunrise and dammit we better make something of it.

Just as our forefathers struggled and died for freedom, our dearest family and friends have been taken by cancer. For those who have volunteered for clinical trials and endured the earliest incarnations of chemotherapy so that we may have a longer and more dignified life, we must be grateful and strong. My doctors sometimes worry that I don’t “get it” because I don’t wring my hands or shake my fist at how unfair it all is, and I certainly don’t sport watery eyes of fear. Oh, I get it. Trust me. I do. I realize that five years ago, doctors would not have even bothered to operate on me, but sent me directly into palliative care. I know that I will likely deal with reoccurrences throughout my life. But dammit, I’m here right now and I am going to find some freakin joy in it every day.

I saw women and men of color weep today as a man who might have been refused service in a restaurant just 40 years ago, was sworn in as the leader of the free world. I can only imagine Rev. Joseph Lowery’s  thoughts as his voice trembled only for a moment before “when black doesn’t have to be in the back”. I saw an enviable delight in Yo Yo Ma’s face as he played before a nation filled with hope. We cannot let this feeling of possibility pass as the days go on. Please, channel what you feel in your heart today and find a way to make a difference, however small, to anyone in pain. Volunteer your time and skills to a support center, join a fundraising event team, or simply click “donate now” on standup2cancer.org. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me when friends and family brought me dinner, watched movies with me, or just sat on the couch and listened. Even those of us in treatment can visit, email, call, or even text those who are watching their pre-meds drip or recovering on a couch at home. We can all help one another, even in some small way, while we conquer this disease.

I owe my life to the research and technology that has developed in just the last five years. Let’s channel the momentum of today and inspire new drugs, more gentle treatments, and a long overdue cure. We have seen that great change, in both medicine and society, is possible in a relatively short amount of time. I am confident that something as trivial as a nosebleed will never hold me back. I have, and will continue to shove Kleenex up my nose, make the coffee, check my email and move on with my day, even if I have a schnoz full of tissue. My body may lag behind my brain a bit, but my spirit will drag them both into each new day. I am lucky to be alive.