Friday, June 26, 2015

Messages from my mirror


The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.
~St. Jerome  

Today I scheduled a follow up eye appointment for October.

As I opened up my calendar I realized that the four months would land on the day before I had my surgery, which was when my eye problems started.

In the eight months since my life was spared and my body was torn apart in order to do that... a lot has happened.

One of the things that I find most striking is that my eyes have changed. And I have been trying to figure out what it is that I have noticed.

I am not sure when I started to think my eyes looked different to me, but I recall wondering if somehow my irises had become lighter or cloudier in color. Cataracts at my age?

The crux is that they don't look happy to me, they looked pained, tired, and perhaps even scared.

I don't know that I am any of those things, but I am a very different person than I was in 2014 B.D.

That B.D. is Before Diagnosis.

This process has been hard, but the hardest part was learning to stand up for myself. Standing up to a mother and aunt that I know love me, but who felt that age gave them some sort of prize that included tearing me down... I am sure that is (was) not their intent... but as they threw things at me that I would have previously have bowed my head to and ignored but in the middle of my fight to feel whole again seemed unduly cruel coming from them. As I said, I am sure they did not mean it, but they still hurt me very deeply on a level that a doctor could not touch.

I think, perhaps, that is part of the cloudiness that I see in my eyes.

It is also navigating my health after a pretty invasive surgery, the unwanted weight gain, the change in shape, the pain, the aches... the health of my eyes included.

They are better now though, the scars left on them through repeated injury and a misdiagnosis are healing, almost gone. The burden of the change of lifestyle for them is permanent... eye drops for life, they said. Keep them moist, they said. I will, I reply.

But when I got home from my appointment today, I looked in the mirror and still saw that certain kind of cloudiness, and I hoped it was not permanent.

Then there is this.



“Behind these eyes there is a girl trapped within her pain – a girl feeling all the emotions of anger and sadness. She’s fighting for a way out.”
~ Chimnese Davids

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I do not crave Squirrel Poop!

I crave PEANUT BUTTER!!!!!!!!!

For the past 5 weeks I have consumed at least 10 jars of peanut butter. At least 10 JARS! This is crazy.




It is like one of those insane cravings that can't be sated. It has to be smooth - or as they say in peanut butter parlance - "creamy". 

Yes, I tried to curb the insatiable craving by buying a jar of the crunchy (or chunky) stuff. It merely slowed down the intake, but not enough to think it was effective. It was actually a catalyst for a dangerous turn in this craving period. I had to eat it with chocolate. Yummy combo yes, but not when you are a super dark dark chocolate lover and find that combination is heinous....so you run out and buy some crappy milk chocolate to make it palatable. And even if you return to the no sugar added creamy peanut butter your love, the taste for hints of milk chocolate remains.  So, I elevated the experience buy snagging some of  my son's Lindt's.



Only to find the creaminess of their center the absolutely perfect complement to the spoonfuls of creamy peanut butter that I have been shoveling ion my mouth.
“Who uses crunchy peanut butter?” he asked the room. “You might as well eat squirrel shit.”
~ Michael Thomas Ford, The Road Home

I am not sure about the source of the craving, but the all-knowing Google gave me the impression that this is not an isolated thing, that there are many people out there with a hankerin' for the thing I most currently consider a nectar of the gods.




There is a possibility that I am in desperate need of something that my body has been missing, much like the fierce beef carnivore I would become back in the days when I actually got my period. The interesting thing now, since I don't get a bloody period, but do get a hormonal one is that I still crave beef, just not with as fierce a drive. 

But back to peanut butter. 






It is insane, I am carrying around jars of peanut butter with me, I make runs to the grocery store when I polish a jar off. I have bought big jars, and normal jars. I eat it straight out of the jar.


My husband must think I am crazy, but even he has helped me give in to this madness by running to the store late at night to help keep me in stock.

It has to be chocolate, no bread, no jelly... just peanut butter... and lately some milk chocolate is nice (but not required).




Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Queen of my cancer domain

There is a certain nervousness and apprehension as I approach my oncology follow up visits. 

I know to expect the following;  a vaginal exam, a pap smear, and my scar gets a review. 

I never really thought I would ever blog about these things, but here I am talking all about my girly bits.
My oncology center has a pretty new office, it is fancy schmanzy. I was able to see their previous office space several years ago. I helped a colleague through their own diagnosis. The space has different kinds of patient rooms and this visit I got a room that I call a throne room. They have these modern chair-that-turns-in-to-an-exam-table-complete-with-stirrups-that-miraculously-appear things.

After being ushered in to the room by the nurse  I proclaimed that I was glad I got to get a throne room. I  sat down with royal aplomb, gestured grandly,  and proclaimed myself as queen of my own cancer.

This is the chair, with me in it... and yes, you can see my butt poking from behind that silly paper drape if you look hard enough:




Anyway, turns out that my abdomen is not lit up by my disco ball ovaries. 

My oncologist is incredible, there is a gentleness to him that is unseen in so many other physicians. All the Ob-gyn's I know consider him their go-to guy for their patients with oncology needs. I understand why.

When he examines me, there is a certain gentleness. A real look at his handiwork not in how they reflect on him, but on how they are for the patient. If you are open to the idea of therapeutic touch, I would say this doctor was born with it. 

So, as I lay on that table-formerly-a-chair, I asked him what he had done with my ovaries. He explained that he had tied them down to a ligament. He followed up by explaining that they are about 3 cm lower than where they used to be. he added that they should continue to function as long as they normally would. My ovaries were not left to roll around. Nor were they hung up on my ribs like a disco ball.  

I told him my story was better. He laughed and said he thought so too.

Cancer patients tend to develop a kind of crush on their oncologists. I can totally see that. It is not the kind of crush where you feel love. It is the kind that comes from feeling gratitude, It is pretty amazing.

I am still reflecting a lot on gratitude. It is hard to properly express gratitude to people  in this experience. Gratitude, it seems, is my lesson that is still being developed in this experience.

On The Facebook today, I came across an essay on suffering and gratitude. There was something intense to ponder  in the message. And the message was made moreso when the essay ended with this message:
I am grateful for your hair, the beauty of your eyes, your way with words, your heart that always is ready to give, your willingness to grow, your willingness to not know, the way you garden, naked, early in the morning, your love of family, your love of wine, your love of Scrabble, your glass-half-full ways, your love for your son, your belief in God, your belief in the power of poetry, your belief in the power of love, your Catholic ways, your love of your mother, your love of Mother Divine, your pale white skin, your lips, your smile, the way you love your friends, the way you love. (Source)

It appears that little piece was about a woman named Adele. I believe Adele is pictured at the bottom of the page in source link. That part, though, touched on some of the things that people comment about me or that I feel about me. In some divine sense, I want to believe that I was meant to see it. And to relish this sisterhood I share with this woman named Adele.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

TMI

 Navigating a cancer diagnosis that has a surgical intervention is pretty complicated. In the case of breast cancer  the mastectomy or lumpectomy scar is right there for you to look at, it is hard to hide from, even in a case where the patient has opted to get reconstruction. 

Girly bits, the lower ones, cancer is a little different. 

Both breast and cervical cancer are traditionally considered women's cancer (though men can and do get breast cancer). Our breasts and vagina's are the most obvious parts of what makes us women (yes, yes, yes, aside from all that inside touchy-feely kind of stuff).

I have not had breast cancer, but I used to sit on a board for an organization that served women who had breast cancer, and as such I heard a ton of stories. Women's sexuality, for many of us, are tied up in our boobs.

Are they small. Are they big. What kind of nipples. Do they sag. Do they perk. 

People we, as women, love intimately, typically love them.

I can't imagine the mental turmoil surrounding losing your breasts.

I know too well the psychological turmoil in losing your lower girly bits.

For starters, here is a pictorial cartoon like representation that I took from the ethers about what those girly bits look like. I would have used actual body parts, but really, it can be hard to tell from something like a medical school cadaver image. 

It should not be a surprise to anyone that I owned these parts. These parts are also part of what made me a girl. Aside from boobs and all that other stuff. Gender identity... I believe that is the new buzzword.


This is me, before the surgery.


So, below is a picture of me after the surgery. I had to use some fancy apps on my phone to remove those parts which I had removed. But this is all that is left inside me. Most of my vagina. And my ovaries. Everything else was taken out. My uterus - OUT. My cervix - OUT. My Fallopian Tubes - OUT. There were some other things that got taken out too; lymph nodes, tissue... but those aren't girly bits.  Oh, and you may be wondering what is up with my ovaries. For now, since I plan on asking my oncologist about them at the next meeting, I just imagine that he blinged them up and hung them on my ribs  or something once he separated them from my uterus and Fallopian tubes. I imagine that they are dangling like a disco ball for my abdominal region (what seems to have gotten big enough to play host to an CRAZY internal organ dance party).



This is me after.

But this is my trying to make light of something that is far more serious. My scar from this surgery is on my abdomen. It has not really exemplified what exactly happened to me. 
I had all those parts removed. My vagina was shortened. 
For the past 5 months, I have been terrified to think about what my new body was like. I knew and celebrated it being cancer free, but it changed. it changed in ways that make it very obvious.  
But these are things I cannot see. And because I can't see what my new vagina was like, I had created horrible images. These were courtesy of words like scar tissue and granulation that were tossed my way in my post surgical exams. 
Those are not pretty words, images of keloid and granulation in my mind as to what my new vagina looked like. I had images of puckers tough tissue reminiscent of the ears that a bullfighter cuts from a bull.  In my head, my new vagina was hideous. I was ashamed and horrified.
So, finally, after five months. I got up the courage to take a feel and see what it was like.
It wasn't hideous to the touch, there were no areas of puckered keloid tissue with granulation that I could identify. The tissue was smooth, taut, moist. Just what it should be, though missing the nose tip of a cervix.
I cried with a sense of relief.



Friday, April 17, 2015

TEDx yzpdqbil*

I have to admit, I am currently a little obsessed with TED talks.





It all started with this one talk - I think I saw it sometime in the fall of 2008;




I was floored, and moved, and thought "what a great way to put things out there".

And since this was new I kind of waited to see what it would bring. I made my mother watch it. I sent it to my friends, and have fondly referred to the talk and my reaction to it ever since.

I was not a Ted-aholic, though. I would only reach out to Ted videos when I referred to them.

But something changed.

As I was preparing to host a movie screening with panel discussion, and I could not find anyone willing to serve as master of ceremonies, I realized that the job would fall to me.

So, I began watching them to see what makes for a good speaker, what are things that are compelling, what things did I like.

I even made Squink watch them while he would take a bath, the bio-luminescence ones are super cool!

I think I am a mediocre speaker. I have some strengths, but plenty of weaknesses.

But after the event, I had the idea of a themed series of talks, something like the Ted talks I had been watching for cues.

It is possible:  https://www.ted.com/participate/organize-a-local-tedx-event

But I think the one for Phoenix is taken.

And they frown upon "themed" events.

And when I thought about it some more, I saw so many possibilities and had to chuckle at the notion that each one had at least one "rule violation".

I thought about one dealing with the many faces of cancer; from the physicians that find it, the pathologists that decipher it, the oncologists that treat it, the people who have endured it, the families of those who suffered it, the nurses who care for them, the scientists researching it.

It would be good, but it is a theme and violates the programming rules.

Then I thought about what it was like growing up as a third culture kid, and how cool it would be to get other people who grew up that way. I think my friend Doralice would have some wonderful insights, as would my friend Sparrow, and my friends Jeff and Erica. I think it would be interesting to give voice to that kind of experience. It is a bit unusual.

I have met so many interesting people, I would love to have an event to hear them talk... the Jivaro indian that had to flee his tribe because he wouldn't convert, the people who started putumayo, the circus people, the rodeo folks, singers, entrepreneurs of the ridiculous, those off grid (the hardest to organize), photographers, movie stars, cartoonists in the golden era, explorers, survivors, hedonists, narcissists, and so on.

That got me to thinking about what would happened if I was told I had to give a Ted talk...  kind of talk could I give? what would it be about?

My ideas for Ted events is large.... but the list of things I feel I would be qualified to talk about is pretty non-existent.

I suppose I could talk about how being diagnosed with cancer was life changing in some spectacularly subtle ways... or what it was like being born to a bullfighter father and an explorer mother, though that is really their stories. About being a child of divorce (booooooring).  What it was like managing a high stress pregnancy, most of which was spent on bed rest (gag me).

At this point in my life, I think I would talk about why I think vaccines are important, from a theoretical view, and cultural view, and prevention view, a mothers view, a survivors view,

What would your Ted talk be about?









*stands for examine your zipper, pretty darn quick, before I look (a childhood phrase)