Posts Tagged ‘happymaking’

I just got a nice email from my undergraduate adviser, who closed: “Take care, be strong, and defeat this.” This actually made me get misty-eyed for a minute.

Along similar lines, when I told our local epistemologist of my situation, he said, “Courage,” only in French, which is courage. You know – the exact same thing, only French-inflected. Sometimes I think about that when I am frightened and it actually does hearten me, even though it is so silly.

One colleague remarked my penchant for gallows humor is a rare talent, and he’s glad to see it’s not going to waste. I am glad that someone appreciates this, because oncology nurses never seem to.

I also love it when people get specific when they ask if there’s anything they can do. (I like to do this, too, because it sounds more sincere and is itself more helpful than a mere “If you need anything.”) I’ve had an offer to borrow someone’s cat, to be given bubble bath, tabloid magazines (that was Uncle Tommy), mary jane, or gin at three in the morning. I’ve had people offer to drive me around, cook for me, go to the grocery store for me. All in all everyone has been very nice to me lately and I’m sincerely grateful and pleased.


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Ever since the diagnosis last week, I have been at pains to be kept stimulated and amused. My boyfriend, J, has been extremely helpful in this regard. The day after my initial diagnosis he drove an hour and 45 minutes each way to the Museum of Miniature Houses, six rooms of teeny tiny food and furniture and bedding and oh my goodness it was amazing. Every time I start freaking out I just visualize a 2 cm diameter soup tureen and feel much more serene.

Another thing that has brought me joy lately is walking my dad’s law partner’s dog, London. London is a very fair golden retreiver – she is almost white, and so so beautiful. Whenever I walk London people want to be my friend – yesterday in the park some guy started telling us everything we ever wanted to know about Vizslas, his breed of choice, and small children crowded up against her to pat her silky head. London is so friendly and gentle and beautiful that she is well worth sneezing for a few hours. I am already thinking about who I know in Bloomington who might let me walk their dog.

Yesterday J and I also went to a batting cage, which was fun although not, I think, a remarkably efficient use of $10. I hadn’t hit a ball in years though, so I had fun and I got a couple of okay hits. J is trying to practice hitting left-handed because those are the rules on his softball team, and he did very well.

Lots of other things have given me joy lately: old episodes of How I Met Your Mother, harmonizing on “Birdhouse in Your Soul” in the car, our wonderful Easter picnic. In fact I think I have crammed an unusual amount of joy into the last week since I found out I have cancer, and I hope this will continue to be the case.

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Hi. Do me a favor, go examine your breasts. Yes, even if you’re under 40 – I am 23 and I was diagnosed last week. Yes, even if you have no family history of breast cancer – I don’t either. Yes, even if you’re a dude – men get breast cancer too. Just go do this thing for me. I’ll wait.

Did you find anything? I hope not, but if you did, go to the doctor and make him or her give you a breast exam. Maybe they will tell you it is just a cyst. If this happens, you do not get to let the matter slip from your mind and start thinking about cupcakes instead. You need to keep an eye on your situation in case there are any changes, and you need to follow up.

It’s been over a week since I received my initial diagnosis, and most of the news since then has been good. I have stage 2 invading ductal breast cancer, the most common kind. I am starting chemo in a week or two, and after chemo I’ll have surgery (don’t know yet what kind) and then probably a little radiation, just for good measure.

People keep asking me if I have questions. I already asked the only one that really matters – am I going to die – and the answer was no. Then I asked a bunch of questions that don’t matter. Then I ran out of questions, but still they keep asking me. So the other day when someone at the hospital asked me whether I had any questions about radiation therapy, I asked with a perfectly straight face, “Approximately what percent of patients develop super powers as a result of this treatment?”

The nurse smiled faintly – a very cancer-hospital type of smile – and said she couldn’t make any guarantees. My father said, “I’m afraid, honey, that we’ve already discovered your genetic mutation.” I am Cancer Lass! with the proportional cancer of a much older woman!

Anyway. I have no doctor appointments, MRIs, PET scans, bloodwork, biopsies, or Irish dance classes scheduled for today, so I’m going to go romp in the sunshine. You should too.

Put on some sunscreen.

And examine your damn breasts.

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