No More Weak-Ass Sh*t

I was at the gym earlier this week with my trainer (who is excellent and skilled and kind and lovely). We were in the midst of some squats with the bar and some (light — don’t be too impressed) weights and she asked me if I thought the workout was harder than the previous week. Immediately I thought I was slacking and that’s why she had asked me. But she said that she had increased the weights and wanted to know if I had noticed. I hadn’t.

Hot damn, I thought. I’m getting stronger and I didn’t even know it. It’s amazing how fast it’s happening. Two months ago I remember doing a workout with her. I looked in the mirror. I was bald and wearing nothing on my head because it got hot in the gym and by that time I really didn’t give a shit. That I had no eyebrows or eyelashes didn’t enhance my look, although I had drawn some eyebrows on with pencil. Anyhow, I spotted my reflection and the person (or should I say freak? — read my last post if you don’t get it) looking back at me was somebody else. Somebody pale and skinny who didn’t look strong. Ew, I thought. No like. Naturally, owing to my honey badger tendencies, I ignored the weak-ass spectre in the mirror and kept working out. It’s only temporary, babe, as my friend Susan Plum always put it.

I looked at myself during my workout this Monday. Night and day. I may have extremely short and ashy hair but it’s thick and it’s mine. The eyebrows and eyelashes have completely grown in. Sometimes I even leave the house without any make-up on, which is something I didn’t do for months. Although admittedly most days I lavish every single top eyelash with mascara because I am so damn happy to have lashes again that this ritual has taken on new significance.

Back to the gym. It’s Wednesday. Time for another training session. I spot a man doing suspended leg raises, you know the kind where you hang from a thing with your arms on pads and bring your legs up at a 90 degree angle to get a really good ab crunch. “Good Lord,” I thought.  No way I could do that. About thirty minutes later, however, that’s exactly what I was doing, but only because I am a good soldier who follows orders. It made me feel pretty badass.

The best thing was when my trainer told me that some gym buddy of hers had said “you know that lady you were training? She is really strong.” And then she told him about all the bull shit I had been through and his response was “you’re fucking kidding me.” She promises me that she didn’t make this story up but even if she did it totally worked because I felt very motivated. And did I mention badass? She told another one of her clients about me, a doctor, whose response was “poor girl.” She just looked at him and said “she is not a poor girl.”

I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t mind peeling off my long-sleeved shirt once it starts getting too hot because then I can watch my muscles. It’s just so damn nice to have some again because the chemo makes you atrophy like the deuce. Nasty shit that it is.

The curve is steeper than I figured it would be, which is a nice surprise. I’m literally stronger every week. I can open heavy doors that I struggled with a month ago. Fold down those jump seats on the tube without that telltale twinge in my pecks. Lift each of my children up above my head until my arms are straight.

So do me a favour won’t you? Don’t tell me to be careful or to take it easy. And don’t ask if my trainer is specially qualified to train “someone like me.” I know what I’m doing and I am not going to hurt myself. I am not, however, going to take it easy. I am going to do workouts that are hard and that make me feel tired by the end of the day. I am going to do the last repetition because she is standing there telling me to do it even when I start to shake. I’m going to get my ass kicked at the gym and then the next day I am going to enjoy the burn of that lactic acid build-up. Because that’s how I like it.

I don’t want to feel special and I don’t want a special assessment. I don’t want to be strong “for a person who just went through surgery, chemo and radiation.” I just want to be strong, period.

No more weak-ass shit.

My Latest WTF Moment

It’s sort of difficult running into people who haven’t seen me since I had long wavy hair and didn’t know I had cancer. When they recognise me (and it registers) I feel somewhat apologetic at the shock and horror they experience.

Then the usual happens. After the initial surprise wears off, they ask when I found out and how I am doing and tell me I look great, which is true, of course, so I smile and thank them. Ha ha.

Once in a while I get a slightly “different” response. The latest happened just the other day, in fact. I ran into a lady I hadn’t seen (well I had seen her but from afar and she hadn’t really seen me) since last fall. Let’s call her LB for short.

After LB and I exchanged pleasantries, she touched the side of my head and said “I wanted to ask you about this haircut!” Um, yeah. Je suis très chic, dontcha know. I explained that the haircut was not my choice and then the shock and awe part happened. It happened and happened and kept on happening and there were gestures and hands clapped over the mouth and lots of “Jesuses” and even a few “fucks” thrown in for good measure. And grunts and groans. And a “but you were so healthy!” It really went on for a while. It was like watching a broken fountain: the water just came out in fits and spurts and kind of all over the place. I just stood there waiting for it to be over.

She threw in a “we thought you were making a political statement!” I considered this. Hmm. This might have been a keen assumption had I also been sporting an eyebrow piercing or a fresh tat or had I been (at that moment) worshiping the devil, cultivating armpit braids or ripping up a picture of the Pope or something of that nature. But there I was, sitting cross-legged in my premium denim (no I won’t name names cuz then you will just have to run out and buy the same jeans) and a purple J Crew merino wool sweater (don’t care if you buy that) and flats. And I was wearing my diamond studs and mascara and shit. Let’s just say I wasn’t exactly channeling Sinead or a Nazi skinhead.

“Nope,” I said. Not a political statement. The malfunctioning fountain was interrupted by the speaker to whom we were supposed to be listening and as we turned our attention that way a warm wave of relief enveloped me. Saved at last. (Although during the speaker’s comments there were a few sputters and snorts, but they didn’t really rise to the level of what I consider to be verbal communication.)

Naturally LB wasn’t done with me. The questions started again the instant the speaker had finished. The pièce de résistance was when she looked at me and exclaimed “but I don’t understand; you have eyebrows and eyelashes!” “Yes,” I said. “They grew back. I didn’t have them six weeks ago.”

“Oh my God!” She cried. “What did you do? (imagine the crescendo building….) You must have looked like… a FREAK!”

Really? [Insert stupid Beavis and Butthead breathing noises and nervous laughter here.]

What did I do? Well I wore make-up. And then it was over and the shit grew back. And now here I am, for crying out loud. All freaky five feet nine (okay so maybe eight and a half) inches of me.

I’ve looked back at pictures of myself without eyebrows and eyelashes and hair and I do in fact look pretty weird without make-up on. But that is sort of besides the point, isn’t it, people?

Two excellent thoughts occurred to me during this episode:

No. 1: Thank God I didn’t run into LB while I had no eyebrows or eyelashes, the sight of which might have led to a water show that far outsputtered the one I witnessed.

No. 2: Boy will this be fun to blog about.

Luckily I have a sense of humour and am comfortable with my physical appearance. But here’s a little tip in case you aren’t sure: if you see someone who looks odd because they are bald and/or pale and/or have no eyelashes or eyebrows or you find out that at one time they didn’t have them because they had CANCER and had to have CHEMOTHERAPY for fuck’s sake, don’t say they look, or must have looked, like a freak.

Only am allowed to say that. It’s like people being allowed to make ethnic jokes about their own ethnicity.

At the end of the day I am really proud of my self-restraint. I could say a whole lot of other absolutely hilarious shit about LB now and make some truly witty ironic comments but because I am classy I don’t want to identify her.

Now if you’ll excuse me it’s Friday night and I have to get my freak on.

My Hero

So the other day I was at a cookout in Bass River with my two kids and about a zillion other kids aged from two to maybe sixteen. I haven’t been wearing a scarf or anything else on my head stateside because now that I am sporting a crew cut I figure what the hell.

You see where this is headed (so to speak), don’t you?

So I am sitting on a lawn chair minding my own business and nursing a small glass of some sort of citrusy gin and elderflower liqueur situation when I overhear a young boy, maybe about four or five, say “hey you see that bald lady over there? She looks like a boy.” Of course I start laughing, because you have to love how honest children are. And a much older girl (at least twelve maybe older) looks contrite and apologizes to me. “Oh it’s fine,” I say.

Well it was fine with me but my younger daughter, Charlotte, hears the whole thing and marches over to me and says “you have some hair. I’m going to tell that boy.” Then she launches into a jaunty rendition of Mama Odie’s “Dig A Little Deeper” (“it don’t matter what you look like; don’t matter what you wear…”) from The Princess and the Frog, which is a quality animated film with decent music if you haven’t seen it. Really. ‘Bout time they had Disney flick set in New Orleans with a Cajun firefly.

After at least an hour or maybe even longer, in the midst of dinner, Charlotte decides to find that boy and tell him that in fact her mother has some hair. “What did he say?” I ask. “He said strike one, strike two, strike three.” Which makes no sense. Whatever. Lends no credence to the little blighter’s assertion that I resemble the opposite sex. Just wait until he sees me after my upcoming boob inflation on August 16. Ha. How do you like me NOW?

Anyhow the point of my story, as you may have guessed, is that my kid stuck up for me. How cool is that? My five-year-old child witnessed an event that made her feel uneasy and that she knew could have hurt my feelings and not only did she leap to my defence but she also performed a little musical number to make me feel better. Thus restoring balance to the universe.

Charlotte has a deeply developed sense of empathy. And this is not a new thing. When she was two and a half on her first day of nursery school, she watched one father leave after settling his son in. Immediately upon the father’s departure, the son started to cry. Charlotte turned to me and said “I don’t like that dad’s behaviour.”

Empathy = killer. Most of us could use a little extra, hmm?


Roasted Armpit with a Side of Impatience

So my vacay is going pretty well and I feel great. Except for one thing.

My armpit really hurts.

My skin is healing up all nicely from the radiation but for some reason (maybe because it is an ARMPIT), there is a spot in my axilla that got rubbed raw. And it really hurts. Reminds me of one of those hot spots that our dog used to get on her bum after chewing her fur a little too vigorously to address a persistent itch. Yes, I know. Gross. I’ll refrain from photographic evidence since you all are still reeling from the super attractive thumb pics.

The rest of the area that got blasted just looks like a healing sunburn.  Sort of dry and brownish/pink. But not too awful.

Now, I realise that in the grand scheme of things this is not that big of a deal. But it is kind of pissing me off because I’ve had enough and it is cramping my style. That and the fact that my stupid thumbnail still refuses fall off. I am keen to get it off so that I can race to the nearest CVS (that’s an American pharmacy for you non-US readers) and buy me some ultra classy Lee press-on nails. Maybe with an American flag on them so that I can be patriotic and shit while I am on this side of the pond. Oh and so that I can do dishes again (not).

But enough kvetching about my leftover symptoms. Let’s talk about the good news. The good news is that my hair is growing back industrial strength. And my little head is so fuzzy that people have been rubbing it (yes, even people I don’t know that well) because it is apparently so irresistible.

It’s sort of like when you are pregnant and people feel entitled to come up and touch your tummy. I hope that in some months time when I have the final iteration of my newbs, people aren’t going to come up and cop a feel (unless of course they’ve been invited).

My eyebrows grew back so fast that I don’t even need pencil anymore. Here let me attach a photo so you can see for yourself. I will also reattach that lovely one that I took on July 13 so that you can see what a difference a few weeks makes. Both photos are with no make-up.

BEFORE (I look rather like a raw chicken, no?):


AFTER (five minutes ago):

I even have eyelashes although they are still shorties. I bought some duty-free crap on the plane over here that is supposed to make your lashes grow longer, stronger, darker and curlier. It is probably just snake oil but I had so much fun buying it I don’t care. Plus it is French. Ooh la la. If it works I am planning to put it on my upper lip as well so that I can have a nice long curly black moustache for my post-treatment new look. Just kidding.

There are some places where hair just isn’t welcome. No hair zones. Too bad you can’t pick and choose where you want it to grow back. It’s a cruel joke that after months of having smooth and kissable bare legs I will need to shave soon. Ah well.


Salt ‘N’ Pepper Chia Pet

If you are American and of a certain age and owned a television and/or visited a K-Mart growing up then you will remember the oh-so-wonderful (and giftable) Chia Pet. Here, let me refresh your recollection: click on this.

I am thinking about going to one of those make your own pottery places and doing up a head to resemble myself and then putting some seeds on that sucker and filling it up with water. Because I have been feeling sort of Chia Pet-like these past few days. But instead of green, it’s salt ‘n’ pepper chia. And it isn’t nearly as fast. I just spent the better part of an hour scrutinising my scalp to try to determine whether the itty bitty fuzzy regrowth I see is predominantly white. Under overhead lights it looks white. But in the magnifying mirror there appears to be a lot of pepper mixed in, thank God. We’ll see how it looks in a few weeks.

One extremely troublesome wrinkle is that there doesn’t seem to be any regrowth to speak of in the middle of my head. I hope it is just growing at a different pace. Because a hairdo approximating male-pattern baldness (no offence to those who suffer from it) is not the post-cancer treatment look of my dreams.

In other news I counted my eyebrows and eyelashes today, which persist in falling out five weeks after my last chemo treatment. I guess they are on their own schedule. Oh sorry — I only did the right side on which there are fourteen eyelashes — wait, make that thirteen. Dang. And twenty-four eyebrows. Trust me; this is not a lot. Drawing on the eyebrows with pencil has become sort of a daily experiment. I change it up a little every time. Not really on purpose but because I am still not used to it. One day I may just do Bozo the Clown or Bert from Sesame Street.

The benefit to all of this is that I hope to do a chemo makeover “how to” video pretty soon. I have to get on it before everything grows back. I have never done a video so expect really low budget (like it might just be me trying to film on my iPhone while applying eyeliner to myself in bad lighting) but the point is to get it up so that other women who might like a little guidance can have a look at some techniques from a real live cancer patient. Or at least it might provide a good laugh.

Meanwhile let me lay it out there for you. The “before” pic. This is what I look like right now without a single bit of make-up on. It’s dark so you can’t see my chia regrowth. Strange, hmmm? I can’t even remember what I looked like without examining pre-chemo photos. But I know it’s still me in there somewhere. Killing it.



Zero Plus Seven

Here we are seven days after my last chemotherapy treatment. I figure I have about another week or so of current side effects settling down and maybe a few new ones popping up and then I am on the downhill road to recovery from that mess.

Right now I am experiencing one of my least favourite, yet still manageable, symptoms. Pain under my finger nails. It makes it hard to do things with my hands, like open bottle caps and fire handguns and such. It is an annoying reminder that my body is still processing the last of the poison.

But to know that this is it, the last time, is truly a great feeling. I figure in a few days some dermatological nonsense will pop out somewhere and following that I will be pretty much home free.

Just in the nick of time too. My remaining eyebrows and lashes are getting pretty lonely and they would like to invite their friends to come back and play. I have given up on mascara and now just do eyeliner right in the lash line so I don’t look too much like my eighty-three-year-old father (sorry, Dad, you still look good, but I am forty-three years your junior and female and it isn’t the look I’m going for).

That and I fill in the holes in my eyebrows with an eyebrow pencil, which I have never previously had to do. Hell, I didn’t even own an eyebrow pencil before. I’m getting pretty good at it but it isn’t a skill I’d like to continue to hone. Some people say that post chemo their lashes and brows never really came back as thick as they were before. With my luck that will happen yet I will grow back a raging moustache and side burns and some industrial leg hair.  Attractive.

Wanna hear the latest thing? My dermatologist wants to biopsy the shingles scar on my head. Just in case. She said she isn’t thrilled with how it has healed. Really? Give a girl a break. I have been on chemo and it was a really nasty scab… so it’s still a bit discoloured. Geez. But okay cut me again. That and I am having a dark mole on my right forearm removed and biopsied. If that fucker even thinks about coming back abnormal I am going to go postal.

In other news we made a delicious recipe from The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen tonight. A Mediterranean salad with lentils, cucumber, red pepper, mint, parsley, a little feta and some other exciting ingredients. That and some super fresh melt-in-your-mouth halibut from the mean fishmonger (see All Dressed Up and No Place To Go if you aren’t familiar with the mean fishmonger). The last time Agnieszka (our nanny) was there though they smiled at her (both of them!) and she didn’t even have to work for it. We might get to the point where we take bets on what mood they will be in on any given day.

Smile or no smile I have been eating more fish. And I need to eat still more. Including the oily varieties that are crammed with Omega 3 fatty acids and come in tins and are quite fishy. I need to embrace the mackerel and the sardine. And I can actually handle that, though no one else may be able to handle my killer breath after such a repast. Aw, well. Not all of me can be sexy all the time.

Tomorrow morning I have my CT scan and tattoos (yes they make little tattoos like freckles so they know where to line up the machine every time) for my radiation. That ought to be a barrel of laughs. Maybe I will have them do some extra tattoos while they are at it. Submit your proposals now for what it should say on the back of my head before it’s too late and my hair has grown back. (I was thinking in terms of Leave My Fucking Shingles Scar Alone or something equally catchy).

Well, I have to get into that third Hunger Games book now and eat a piece of dark chocolate for medicinal purposes. Have a good night.

‘Twas the Night Before (Last) Chemo

Wow. Here I am. And this is it. Last chemo tomorrow morning. I have to say the whole thing has gone so fast it makes my head spin. I’m really not sure what to be thinking right now.


Here is a picture of what I look like now with absolutely not a trace of make-up on. It is not particularly pretty. Losing the eyebrows and eyelashes isn’t a good look. But I think I may soon do a post on how to glamify when one looks like this. So here it is. At least I have some colour in my cheeks.

I spent my day shopping for an appropriate farewell to chemo (read: final fuck you to any random cancer cells floating around) outfit. I have a couple of contenders and will make the final determination tomorrow morning. But I think I know what I’m going with. One day I have to do a post on hi/lo fashion. You know, high being the expensive stuff and low being the cheaper stuff. I like to mix and match. Good shoes, but cheap t-shirt, and so forth.

Tomorrow we are definitely going for low. British low in honour of the recent Diamond Jubilee celebrating Her Majesty’s sixty years on the throne. I bought everything at Top Shop. If you don’t know what Top Shop is, it’s sort of like the British H&M. If you don’t know what H&M is, you are probably one of my parents or similarly aged relatives. This is okay. You can always Google it.

Maybe I should just go naked and paint my body with a big Union Jack. I mean everything in this place has been “Jubileed.” There was a chick on the tube this afternoon with pink, press-on Union Jack finger nails. But I have to admit I kind of liked them. She only did the thumb and ring fingers, so it was understated tacky. Just my thing. I bet you could get a Union Jack merkin in Soho. If you still don’t know what a merkin is you have to read Vag Toupee immediately.

Back to the white elephant in the room.

So, what is the meaning of last chemo? After tomorrow’s potion wears off, no more poison coursing through my veins, which is good and bad. Good because the side effects will eventually start to wear off and I will start feeling normal again. Bad because then it is up to my body to repair any bad cells. Although I will be on Tamoxifen (endocrine therapy) for five years starting in a couple of weeks, so my body will still have some help fighting this SOB, just in case.

I had chemotherapy because I needed it. So it is good that I did it. But damn, are there things that I will not miss. Let me list some of them for you here, so that I can simultaneously remind myself and share with you what they are:

Thrush (in mouth) going on about four times now, queasiness, taste bud changes, metallic taste in mouth, skin rashes, dry skin, breaking out, bloody nose, runny nose, bloody other places that I won’t go into detail about, pink urine from the red doxorubicin, loss of hair on head, and now, finally, eyebrows and eyelashes (starting to go I’m afraid), night sweats, shingles outbreak on back of head, pain under finger nails, brown spots under finger nails, pain in bones, pain in joints, fatigue, steroids (fast heartbeat, trouble sleeping, “irascible” behaviour according to close relatives), constipation, yucky bitter-tasting anti-nausea meds, being on so many meds generally, skin tenderness (so bad at times it hurt to be touched), discolouration (hyper-pigmentation) of skin, particularly knuckles, old-looking, dry, peeling and wizened hands, and the portacath that is now living under my skin (gross).

Yeah, WHATEVER. Is that all you can throw at me? That shit is child’s play. I went to Paris last weekend for crying out loud. And walked all over creation. And stayed out late. And drank champagne. And ate escargots. So I can handle all of those stupid side effects and other crap if it means I killed it. I bet there isn’t even anything left to kill in there. There probably hasn’t been for weeks now, if there ever was. So there. Take THAT, you microscopic pieces of you-know-what.

Excuse me. Now that that’s done, here are the things that I liked about chemo: the superb and attentive staff at the LOC chemo suite, having visitors during treatments, having reflexology during treatments, cheering up other patients, white leather adjustable Dr. Evil chairs, my chemo outfits and umm, let’s see, oh yeah, NUKING cancer. Chemo may be draconian and there may be new drugs coming out soon that target cancer cells and meanwhile do not harm good cells, but for now this is it and it is effective. So.

Now I have to read a chapter or two of the second book in the Hunger Games series and then get some sleep. Tomorrow is my farewell to chemo party.

Do you think anyone will bring a cupcake with the number eight on it?

Kids Say the Damnedest Things

Yesterday I had the best day. I accompanied my five-year-old and her grade on a field trip to the American School’s very large park in north London where the kids watered, raked, weeded and played until they were dirtier than dirt. I was the official class chaperone.

The weather held and was terrific. A cool breeze at first and some light haze but that burned off, giving way to a peach of a sunshine and a nice, dry, warm day.

On days like that (when I have something in the morning, or in this case, all day, at the school), I hop on the morning bus with my younger daughter. There’s space, so why not? My daughter was so excited that I was coming she was positively quivering with energy. And couldn’t suppress a smile to end all smiles. Those are some of the best things. That delight and excitement in a young child, especially when it is due to your very presence.

Being outdoors with the pre-K (called K1 at ASL) and their teachers was one of the highlights of my year. I loved observing and getting to know some of the other children in my daughter’s class and the other K1 class and it was wonderful to spend some QT (quality time, come on) with the teachers as well, particularly since the end of the school year is upon us and soon they will be teaching new little persons.

But one of the best parts was experiencing the funny things kids say. They are just so honest and there isn’t a lot of psycho-drama. Around noon I found myself eating lunch in a small group of girls. One girl looked at me (I had on a leopard print scarf — of course I did) and remarked “why are you bald?” I thought it was interesting that she assumed I was bald under the scarf. How did she know there wasn’t hair under there?  I thought about my response. Being careful, because this wasn’t my kid. “Well, I had to take medicine that made my hair fall out,” I responded. “Why would you want to do that?” The kid asked. “Exactly,” I thought.

So excellent. And a very good point.

After the gardening, snacks, lunch, nature walks and play ground time were all over, and after the bus ride back to school, during which my kid almost dozed off, so exhausted was she from the rigours of the day, we re-entered the classroom. I hung out and observed the kids do their thing, including practicing for a big concert that’s happening tomorrow morning. Guess I’ll be back on that school bus real soon…

The teachers put on some special music at the very end of the day and the kids started to dance. I got into it with the class and the teachers and shook my thang. I love to dance and i am not afraid of making an ass of myself in front of little (or big) people. So I did the twist and boogied and shimmied away with them. The kids found this hilarious and were laughing and dancing with me.

That’s when Charlotte announced cheerfully: “my mom can’t shake her boobs anymore.” Oh yeah? Just wait Char, they’ll be bouncing again one day. Not much, but a little. Let me just finish killing it and then we can get to the fun bouncy part of this adventure.

Kids say the damnedest things. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Party Dress and Party Hair

I was thinking back today to my thirtieth birthday party in Manhattan. It seems like ages ago. Bill and I were working as M&A associates at large NY law firms at the time and we hadn’t any kids. We decided to have a small party in our 800 (on a good day) square foot apartment on 26th Street and Sixth Avenue. Back when the Chelsea Flea Market was just across the street, now long since displaced by another high-rise apartment building.

Here I sit ten years later, faced with trying to decide what to wear to my fortieth birthday party this evening (celebrated a week late so it wouldn’t be two days after chemo). For the past couple of days I have half-heartedly shopped for dresses but for some reason I just haven’t been in a shopping mood. I ain’t feeling it.

That doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to my party. Au contraire. I am totally in a party mood. We are dining at an Italian restaurant (Zafferano) in Knightsbridge. We’ve hired the private dining room in the wine cellar for a small group.

Anyhow, in weighing my “hair” and dress options for tonight I couldn’t help but think back ten years ago to that thirtieth birthday. To a younger, different, cancer-free me. I love any excuse to dress up, so I took the long brunette extensions I had used for my wedding up-do (you realise that those Oscar-worthy do’s involve extensions don’t you? No one has that much hair…) and had a hairdresser create a high, slicked-back ponytail for the occasion.

I wore a knee-length beige, slightly see-through, ruched Diane Von Furstenberg dress with spaghetti straps. I might still have it somewhere. That and a groovy vintage gold-tone necklace from a secondhand shop on 23rd Street. I know I still have the extensions, but that concept wouldn’t work out so well at present, would it?

So what should I wear? An old dress or a new dress (and if new time is running out… the party is in fewer than four hours)? If old what will still look good? There are a number of dresses from before but I haven’t tested them all with my “interim set.” And what about the matter of my head? Do I go bald and beautiful or scarf it or maybe try the little black hat with a flower? Or should I bring Gabriella (read Cold Cap: From Rapunzel to Rambo if you don’t know Gabriella) as my second date?

Decisions, decisions. Whatever I choose I will let you know. I really need a killer ensemble.

Because I plan to party hard tonight.


Why I’m Lucky

Yeah, I know. This is a loaded title. There are just too many ways and too many things I can think of. But I am going to start with a couple of ideas and maybe soon there will need to be a part deux, trois and even quatre.

I am tolerating the Taxol pretty well. For you newcomers or those who just, ahem, haven’t been keeping up to speed (tsssk tsssk), that is the chemo drug that I am currently on. Sure, I have a couple of irritating little side effects, but nothing the honey badger can’t handle. One of them is zits (or as the English like to say, “spots” which is what I thought one found on a dalmatian). Yes. I broke out. Ridiculous. Hair loss, then a break out. My young and gorgeous gal pal and fellow survivor pointed out to me at lunch the other day that it’s like going through puberty in reverse. Throw in that I had to give up my boobs and that something else (if you catch my drift) hasn’t shown up in a while and she’s really got a point.

So I decided I didn’t need to be dealing with that bullshit (the pimples, people) and went straight to the dermatologist (okay full disclosure I also had some irritating little rashies developing on my hands and head… so it was a multi-purpose visit) who promptly put me on something to curtail that unwanted effect. It’s working. Part of feeling good is looking good, right? Balk if you will, but to me this is important. To the dermatologist too. Which is why I love her.

When you think about it, it is not at all surprising that one might erupt on the outside given what’s going on on the inside of one’s bod at the moment, no? No.

So what else? Bone pain. Not bad, just a little. Not enough for me to run out and buy the cane (read Countdown if this isn’t ringing a bell) but enough to remind me I have bones and they hurt. Just the legs so far. I don’t even need Tylenol (sorry Brits — Paracetamol). Just a little homeopathic stuff and I can deal. In fact I’ll pop one right now… excuse me. There.

And for some reason it hurts under my finger nails, especially my right thumb. I took off my fingernail polish yesterday to investigate and lo and behold there was some brown discolouration under there. I had read that this could happen. In fact your entire nail can fall off. (Ew!)

Oh — sorry. I am rambling and you are confused. This is where the “why I am lucky” part comes in, in case you were wondering what the hell the title was about since all I have done thus far is bitch about insignificant side effects. I’m getting there…

Today I visited the nail salon to get a polish change on my fingernails and a pedicure. I wanted to see if there was more brown discolouration under my toenails and get new polish on all the nails to strengthen and protect them. I do a lot with my hands (cook, mow the lawn (really), give my kids a bath, you name it), so it is pretty annoying to feel weakness and vulnerability in that area.

So I was chatting to the aesthetician about all of this when I noticed a woman watching me and slowly approaching. Call her Greta. I would say she was about sixty-five. Short white hair, blue eyes, one eye completely dilated. Attractive.

Turns out she was a fellow breast cancer survivor and had heard me talking about it.

She was about six months out from treatment, having gone through a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. But unlike me, she did not have an easy breezy time of it. She ended up in the hospital for three weeks during chemo because her white blood cell count didn’t rise as it should have despite her having had immune booster shots (as I do) after every treatment. Her right eye was dilated because she had developed a serious infection in that eye and they were now watching it closely — the outcome unclear. She had a prosthetic breast and hadn’t had a reconstruction because her body couldn’t tolerate it after chemo. She had had a hell of a time. But there she was, out and about, standing before me. Dealing. And she was lovely.

She was also both empathetic and encouraging, without any preachiness or gloom, unlike previous “mentors” I may have unwittingly had (see Assaulted at the Global Festival: Things Not to Say to a Cancer Patient for that story). She didn’t tell me how I was going to feel or prescribe anything except courage, basically. I really liked her. I hope I see here there again.

She made me feel like I am having a cake walk. Just an inconvenience. Just a few months out of my year so that I can kill this piece of crap and get on with my life, thank you very much.

I’m not Job, sitting on that dung heap. No sir. I’ve had way too easy a time of it.

I’m lucky.