Monday, June 22, 2015

We Are All The Champions #breastcancer

It blows me away how many people are cheering for me to beat breast cancer.

And though I am a terrific person and all that, I think I know why.

Trigger warning: profanity will be used in this post. Because "motherfucking" and "cancer" are words that go together like "Caitlyn Jenner" and "Vanity Fair."

Has Anybody Gone Untouched By Cancer?

I don't think so. I believe almost everyone in America, anyway, has either personally experienced cancer, or seen a loved one ravaged by this motherfucking, evil disease. Mothers, fathers, beloved grandmothers, sisters, brothers, cousins, life partners, children...  Cancer is like the schoolyard bully - everybody is secretly rooting for somebody to take this bitch down.

Challenge accepted.

People Say I Have a Great Attitude

I don't know about that. I know I have an attitude. Which is, mostly, that cancer is pissing me off. In a strange sense, I feel like Jimmy Stewart in High Noon - it was inevitable that someday, I would have to go face down the bad guys. And now, it begins [read in your best movie announcer voice].

Unlike the Hunger Games, the odds are ever in my favor. Breast cancer diagnosed as early and as small as mine has damn near a 100% cure rate. Basically, I have Cancer-Lite, a minor inconvenience (accompanied by major medical bills, but luckily, I have insurance), right?

I know I am blessed, to be living where I live, where the medical professionals are great (Go Cedars-Sinai!). To be surrounded by loving family and friends, to have a super-supportive work environment. And yet...

Wobbly Bits Happen

And I'm not just talking about "the girls" and my ass in my boudoir shoot.

I am having feels on this journey. Like when the roller coaster is cresting the first drop, and we realize it is one fucking long way down and why the hell did we think this was a good idea? Suddenly I feel I don't need to be the one who personally kicks cancer's ass, after all. Someone else, anybody else can do it, I want off this freakin' ride.

In my fantasies...

In the absence of J-Law magically taking my place, I realized I was gonna deal with this myself. I took my fears out and sat with them. Even though general anesthesia has come a long way, I realized I was afraid:
  1.  that I would be groggy and "out of it" for a week afterward, like the last time I "went under," and 
  2. That surgery would leave me scarily disfigured, and/or in serious pain.
  3. death. Because people do still die on the operating table, even if that has become extremely rare. I have too much unfinished business: book reviews to write, sexual acts I want to experience, and of course, is housework ever really done? How rude would it be of me to up and die and leave a messy apartment for my next of kin? (Even if I did finish the vacuuming and clean my toilet, beforehand.)
Even though none of my fears were realized, it is okay to be afraid, to be uncertain, to be nervous.  I am not Superwoman, and am sure I will get better acquainted with plenty of wobbly bits throughout this journey.

Whatever Gets You Through the Night - or the Doctor Appointments

For me, rocking a tiara through my treatment has worked to get me through the medical appointments and procedures with a minimum of angst. It makes people laugh, or at least smile, and I laugh, too, and that brings a lightness to the appointments. They even let me wear my tiara through my lumpectomy, under my surgical cap.

Makeup? Zilch. Kitten-chewed glasses? Check. Attempt at "Sexy Librarian Face"? Fail.
I do give myself points for the attempt, and for the ovaries to post it here.

I also decided to create a Kicking Cancer's Ass playlist, and have contacted many of the people who've been helpful on this journey for upbeat or meaningful songs to add. I've got over 350 songs so far, everything from Pharell William's Happy to Alan Parsons Project to Nina Simone to the Beatles' Good Day Sunshine.

For the nasty hot flashes that undoubtedly lie in my future, I've begun receiving fans from friends and family, some pretty and functional, others frivolous and pretty.

I think the key, at least for myself, is not expecting even Cancer-Lite to be an easy ride, but to create plans for "okay, sometimes it's gonna suck; how am I going to get through the wobbly bits?"

AND I need to examine how and in what ways I want people to help me. Because I did, I do, and I will need help.

Checking In With Ourselves

There's never a bad time to begin really "taking our own temperature," We may think that putting together a Kicking Cancer's Ass playlist sounds like a great idea... until we start working on it, and it turns out to be too much hassle for us. We might find that we don't look good in a tiara (hard to believe, but see Sexy Librarian Face fail, above).

I discovered that while I want and need to find many different avenues for family and friends to support me, sometimes I need to set a firmer boundaries as to what kind of help/plans I truly want.

Some days... I just want somebody to hold me.

Or fuck me. Or hold me, then fuck me.

Then hold me again.

This need can be only partly filled by family. (At least, in my family. YMMV.)

To all of you who have recently held me, or fucked me, or held me and fucked me, thank you. I needed that.

We each have to figure out what works for us. Sometimes we might think we want one thing, and we actually want another. Or we might change our minds, and that is okay. I found that, the night before my surgery, I wanted to see one of my favorite guys, get a hug and quickie eye-gaze from him, then spend a low key evening at home. I did get to see my guy, and had those needs met. Yet I allowed myself to be gently pressured into a family dinner afterward that was pleasant and well-intentioned, but created a lot of stress for me, and was not what I wanted. 

We all have those friends and family members who need neon signs, not gentle hints. It's okay to be blunt: I really don't want X. Or, I really do want Y, can you take charge of making it happen?

I am getting better at doing internal checks, and allowing myself to feel annoyed, or afraid, or nervous, or aroused, or gratified, whatever. Embracing all the feels. But as blunt and tactless as I can be sometimes, other times I may be a little too nice sometimes for my own good.

The reality is, when people do things for us, whether cancer is in the picture or not, they are actually doing them for themselves.  If they appear self-sacrificing, it is because they like playing the martyr. Aunt Lucy burned baked a tuna casserole "for us" because that action made her feel like she was doing something, not because we needed or wanted a tuna casserole. [Note to Universe: I will never, ever want a tuna casserole.]

We can choose whatever paths feel easiest for us, whether that includes accepting Aunt Lucy's burnt tuna casserole with a smile (and carrying it directly to the outside trash bin), or saying to a family member, "I appreciate your love and concern," while at the same time saying NO to that person accompanying us to treatments.

We don't have to wear the orange striped sweater or drink the vile cancer-curing smoothie or tolerate anything we don't truly want. Not when we are battling cancer.

Or at any other time.

Flowers are good. And Goddess Earrings by KreativeKetty

And tie-dye flowers are good.
And energy necklace.

Next Up for Me: More Appointments

I came through the surgery easily, and have had an uncomplicated, easy recovery from it. Minor pain and bruising; I was totally off pain meds within 24 hours. I am cognizant that this is not the experience for every woman or man with early stage breast cancer, and am grateful to get off easy, at least so far.

In a few weeks, I will be seeing a medical oncologist to discuss hormone blocker meds, and a radiation oncologist to get that ball rolling. And my optometrist and gyno, because it's time for those visits, too.

I See All Good People

Back to my original point. I am truly blessed by a countless number of fabulous, supportive people in my life. Family, lovers, doctors, friends, medical staff, everyone is offering me hugs, rides, massages, jokes, and love. My niece Heather even flew out from Chicago to be my bitch, as she put it.

And I know some of it is Because I Am a Beautiful and Worthy Human Being (and gosh-darn it, people like me!), and some of it is that everyone is pissed off at motherfucking, evil, bullying cancer.

I will accept all of the support, and gladly. Because when I beat cancer like a rug on a clothesline, it's going to be all of us doing it. Every little bit of support, of donation, of prayer, of reiki and lighting candles, of things like my mother donating her cancer-ridden body for medical research, of people (like me!) enrolled in the CPS-3 study, and all the researchers who are working to discover what triggers this disease, every kind and encouraging word to somebody like me, all these little pieces come together to defeat cancer.  There's a reason I don't have my mother's terminal breast cancer, but something I'm damn near guaranteed to survive.

We are kicking cancer's ass. Together. We are the champions.

Care to share about the people in your life impacted by cancer?
Have you ever had boundary issues with a "helpful" friend?
Your thoughts?