26 February 2009

Accumulations and the Inner Hag

I'm so glad February is just about over. The month has always been notorious for bringing out one's inner hag but this year I found it impossible to keep mine (back, hag, back!) at bay. The paleness alone was bad enough but the baldness really pushed me into the red. Whenever I look in the mirror, I see a bald pale hag who has spent too many months cringing in an icy head wind. That fresh accumulation of crow's feet!

This winter has been long and brutal for even the most resilient New Englander, enough to turn a bald pale hag into an angry bald pale hag. But that would NOT be good for the tumor, so I won't go there.

Still, I always need something to rally against and earlier this week I declared war on all forms of the word "accumulate."

Accumulating snow. The accumulation of AC chemo poison inside my body. See how the grocery bills accumulate in the form of super vitamins and Whole Foods transactions.

But then I was rifling around in my kitchen cabinets for a soup bowl and a little envelope with some painted irises on it fell onto the counter top. Inside were a bunch of GCs for Bella Sante -- an accumulation of GCs -- worth numerous spa treatments yet to be scheduled. Two of the cards were Christmas gifts from old clients from 2005 and 2006 and one was a Mother's Day present from James from 2004. They all had messages like "Pamper yourself in 2006" and "A spa day for you," etc. To be honest, I am slightly horrified that I haven't properly pampered myself since 2004. I'm not a martyr: "Oh, you know, it's all about the kids now. I could never take a day for myself. Selfish things. Woe is mama." No, I like my facials and pedicures very much. If anything, they make for a more coherent, patient mama and keep the inner hag in her place.

So on Monday afternoon, I'd already shelved what I now perceive as my silly war on the word accumulate (I kept hearing Dr. Nic's voice in my head: "It's a word for fuck's sake. Have a drink.") and dialed up Bella Sante. I was expecting to get in there sometime in March but the shitty economy offered me next day appointments starting at 9:30 a.m: Head-to-Toe Body Ritual, Blueberry Smoothie Facial, Pomegranate Peel. And since I'm pretty much back to my high energy self this week, I booked them on the spot.

Aside: "High energy" these days means not having to take a disco nap to stay up past 8 p.m.

Tues. Feb. 24, Bella Sante
For all my railing against the crappy winter, I'm thankful to be able to walk around undetected in my baldness with my fierce wig and raspberry beret. The wig just fits my pin-sized head better with a hat over it. If this were the summer, I couldn't get away with this look.

I'm so unselfconscious about my appearance that I don't even consider my baldness until I step off the elevator into Bella Sante. Shit. I can't possibly get a facial with a wig on, that would be freakish.

I sign in, go to the locker room and put on a velvet robe. I leave the wig on as I sip some cucumber-ginger water in the lounge and wait to be called for my first appointment.

A petite dark-haired woman appears in the room, "Kate?" I'm clearly the only person in the lounge. "I'm Joss. Come on back." She shakes my hand and kind of walks a few steps ahead of me.

ME: "Hey, um, psst."

(Yes, I actually said "Psst." I am becoming more freakish by the second.)

JOSS: (turns around) Mmhmm?

KATE: "Listen, I am wearing a wig. I am bald as an egg. I just wanted to let you know that so you wouldn't be freaked out when I took it off in there."

JOSS: (unfazed) That's OK.

(I have a feeling, though, that Joss would've been unfazed if I'd just told her that I had an extra leg.)

As we walk into the room. I realize I never mentioned cancer as the reason for my baldness. As far as Joss knows, I'm just some crazy bald woman in an ill-fitting wig. When we get into the room, I casually mention breast cancer and de-wig myself.

JOSS: "You can totally pull off baldness, you should just walk around like that."

(Let's not get carried away.)

I like Joss. I'm completely at ease, even when she exfoliates my bald head with some sea salt. Also, she isn't an aesthetician who peppers you with questions throughout what's supposed to be a relaxing spa treatment. There is nothing more stressful than feeling like you have to keep a conversation going when you just want to zone out. Not to mention, a full frontal exfoliation is no time for idle chit chat. I don't even like talking during manicures, though, which is why I go to the Vietnamese nail salon where nobody speaks English.

I go back and forth between the locker room and treatment room a few times in between services. Sometimes I walk out to the lounge with my wig on, other times with a turban on my head, my wig wrapped in a hand towel and stuffed into my robe pocket. This proves to be very confusing to Joss. For instance, when I'm in the turban, she walks right past me, opens the locker room door, and calls out: "Kate?"

ME: (behind her) I'm right here.

JOSS: Oh, I didn't even see you there, little towel head.

(I am certain Joss does not intentionally address me with an ethnic slur against Arabs.)

During my facial -- out of nowhere -- my appetite that has been nonexistent for several weeks returns with a vengeance. I am suddenly so starving that I am tempted to lick some of the blueberry smoothie facial mask off my face. Apparently, my appetite has accumulated over the past week as well because I can't wait to get the hell out of there and sprint to the nearest food court. On the way out, I grab a granny smith apple from the fruit bowl in the lounge and maul it in the elevator, wishing it were a rotisserie chicken. I'm still famished. A few moments later, I notice little green pieces of apple skin on the front of my scarf and coat. I pick the pieces off and eat them, one by one, as I speedwalk through the Public Garden.

Seven Songs of the Day -- 2/25/2009

Today's playlist comes courtesy of Colleen W. in Washington, DC. In her trademark fashion, Colleen never includes the what without the why. That's why we love her. If you can, try to enjoy some Positive K today. I know I did.

1. Get Up, Stand Up — Bob Marley (No iPod is complete without Bob Marley. The populist anthem of many generations.)
2. Dirt Off Your Shoulder — Jay-Z (Jigga man — this song is on President Obama’s iPod—need I say more?!)
3. I Got a Man — Positive K (Just because, I mean, whatever happened to “Positive K?” This is classic early 90’s hip hop. Up there with “Monie in the Middle.”)
4. Ain’t Nobody — Chaka Khan (Her name is Chaka — gotta love that and the double negative in the song title! Feel good, uplifting, don’t-mess-with-me soundtrack of many, many movies.)
5. Forever Young — Bob Dylan (I’m not a big Dylan fan, but the message in this one is really good. Good song for a lazy spring afternoon drive. Definitely a Sagittarius song.)
6. A Sorta Fairytale —Tori Amos (I’m a fan of any person who can play the piano like that and start a national advocacy organization for rape victims.)
7. Thunder Road — Bruce Springsteen (Favorite Bruce Springsteen song)

23 February 2009

Chemo Buddies, Substitutes and Sandwiches

9 a.m. Mon. Feb. 16, DF 10
For round 2 of the red death, we scored a window seat away from the main row; a safe haven from front desk gawkers and wandering, spaced-out chaplains. Instead of viewing patients filling out forms, we look upon blue skies and the interconnecting rooftops of JP and Brookline. It's like a Lisa Daria painting.

James and I are setting up shop with our laptops, books, mags and other articles of distraction when our chemo "neighbors" show up. They are an older couple who move in ways that suggest they've been doing this for a while. They immediately -- and mercifully -- draw the curtain. "Not that we don't like you guys," the gentlemen says from his side. "That's fine," we say from ours.

We're just glad someone took the initiative. We're still unsure of the protocol on who draws the curtain first. There are people from all over the world at the DF, and you can never be sure if hasty curtain drawing could be viewed as a sign of disrespect, like the throwing of one's shoes, for instance.

Before our neighbor's nurse can even hook the gentleman's wife up to her IV, their mini TV goes on -- it's an auditory invasion -- gameshow ding-ding-dings, the over-elocution of some Tom Bergeron-style svengali. Shit.

Happy President's Day!
It's desolate at the DF today because it's a holiday. Caroline came bounding down the stairs this morning and shouted to Paul (who was deeply involved in a granola bar and juicebox on the couch), "Happy President's Day, Paulie!"

"There's no candy or egg hunt, Caroline," Paulie responded, already jaded by the uneventfulness of this particular holiday.

I used to love President's Day. It was always the perfect long weekend to go to NYC -- inexpensive, not too crowded, Sat. afternoon cocktails at the SoHo Grande. We'd take the train down on a Friday after work, fly home on the $60 Sunday morning shuttle and then have all day Monday to recover.

But this President's Day will obviously be spent on the mainline surrounded by a bare bones hospital shift. It's almost surreal. The 10th floor is usually a beehive of activity with scurrying nurses and patients being paged, processed and prodded. The cafeteria is closed for the entire day. The pharmacy is operating on a Sunday schedule. My doctors have the day off. Even Judy, our chemo nurse isn't here today. What's even odder is the elevators are being manually operated by random security personnel because certain floors* are closed. If you don't ask someone to turn the key for your floor, the doors won't open there.

Aside: This* threw a wrench into my plan to purchase a gauzy headscarf from the Friend's Boutique on the 9th floor. But then again, a headscarf has nothing on this fantastic head piece that Gena D. sent me. I can't wait to wear it out some night soon.

Anyway, as I pointed out the inactivity around us, James wondered if I was expecting a President's Day ice cream sundae cart and puppet parade ala Caroline. Actually, I just want a banana and a Poland Spring, which luckily are on hand. And someone said they were planning on bringing in sandwiches soon. And anyone who knows James knows all he needs is a good sandwich to feel well taken care of. I'm starting to feel that way too.

The Substitute Nurse
My substitute nurse (the sub) hooks up my IV and hydration while I wait for my blood work to come back. I have to say, I'm becoming pretty agile with my chemo caddy. I take off my shoes and sort of glide around in my fleece socks -- pushing the caddy to the loo, to the kitchen area, up and down the hall -- all without causing a ruckus. I'd much rather move around than sit idle on a saline drip.

We are still waiting for my toxic stew to be mixed when my chemo buddy, Cameo, breezes into our cubby up with a pack of pink (MF pink!) playing cards and a game of UNO. She said she'd loitered a bit by the desk before some security person told her to just go on in. Apparently, she'd texted James but he was deep into a game of darts on my iPhone. This happens a lot. Either I'm zoned out on my computer or James is zoned on the iPhone. He is no doubt the rock of my shituation but I have to admit it's nice to have a pal along this morning for a good chinwag over some saltines. And it didn't take long before we were all laughing too loud and being made to feel like we were goofing off in church. It was just what I needed, though.

Aside II: Besides, someone had to drown out those MF game show sound effects. There's nothing like a game show to remind you of being home sick from school as a child. The sounds of a game show only reinforce that feeling of being sidelined.

..On the '45'
After a 10:45 a.m. turkey sandwich, we all simmer down a bit and try to remember the fundamentals of 45s, a card game we all became addicted to more than 10 years ago (and abruptly had to quit lest friendships and marriages be torn asunder.) CK first taught us how to play on a ski trip to Killington in 1997. Then Draper and Golen re-taught us a year later on the Nantucket trip. At that point, the only people we knew that had ever heard of and/or knew how to play this game were from the Merrimack Valley. Apparently, the card game was created on a Commuter Rail ride between Lowell and North Station. It was aptly named 45s because -- station to station -- it took about 45 minutes to play one full game. It was a perfect time killer, not to mention addicting and fun. I don't even like playing cards but I remember becoming a lunatic over this game. We were up in the Nantucket kitchen almost every night until 4 or 5 a.m. It got loud, it got competitive. There were cheat sheets, allegations and betrayals, all culminating with a hostile steak tip found floating in the hot tub.

James, Cam and I decide to shelve the game for today. You really need four people to play anyway.

Guess the Nurse's Hometown, Round 2
James has already begun engaging the sub in the kind of effortless banter that I could never get away: "So, do you get to take another holiday because you worked this one?"

SUB: "Yes. Time and half for the holiday plus another day off with full pay."

She is wearing Nantucket Red-colored corduroys, a white Oxford Cloth shirt and penny loafers. She has no hint of a Boston accent, though she mentions she grew up in the city. (We soon learn she means the city of Brookline). She has a 20-year-old son in private school. When we said we lived on the South Shore, she didn't say anything which not only rules out the South Shore, but the North Shore as well as there'd undoubtedly have been some "ne'er the twain shall meet" kind of comment.

When the sub leaves, I generalize: "Metro West."
JAMES: "Medfield."
CAM: "Hopkinton."

We're all on the same page. I get more specific and go with "Wellesley."

The sub returns wearing a flourescent Hazmat cape, chemical-resistant gloves and a mask. I ask who unleashed the Ebola virus. She's is unamused and tells me I've lost six pounds and need to bulk up. I mention that I've also lost two inches of height according to their measurements. And where is the damn President's Day ice cream sundae cart?

Chemo administered and completed, James starts small-talking her up again.

JAMES: "So, will you get out a little early today? Beat the traffic going home?

SUB: "I am just in Natick. There shouldn't be too much traffic on the Pike today because of the holiday."

Well, pinch my toes and call me a chimp named Travis.
We are good.

We bid the sub goodbye and stride with pride onto the elevator. We stand in smug silence for a few moments, waiting for security to turn the key so the elevator doors will open once we hit the Lobby.

Red Death: 2 down, 2 to go!

Seven Songs of the Day 2/23/2009

1. big bad world, the plain white ts
2. losing you, john butler trio
3. all at once, jack johnson
4. island in the sun, weezer
5. what would you say, dave matthews band
6. everybody’s changing, keane
7. saved, the spilled canvas

Courtesy of LK Boylan

21 February 2009

Tangled up in...

8:55 a.m. Feb. 21
My hair started coming out in massive clumps to the tune of Joe Jackson's "Different for Girls" on the radio.

The doctors told me when my hair started to hurt then I'd know it was about to fall out. I never knew hair could actually hurt, but it started to a couple of days ago. It's a strange sensation -- not "pain" so much as that dull ache you get when a ponytail's been in too tightly. I learned that it's not the hair per se that hurts but the hair follicles deep inside my insanely small head. Apparently, normal hair follicles divide every 23 to 72 hours but the Adriamycin chemo (a.k.a the red stew of death) lays waste to this natural process (among others). This junk is so toxic to your cells that your hair falls right out at the follicle. And it stings a little.

Still, short of wearing a frozen bathing cap around 24/7, or sleeping sitting up, there isn't much you can do about it. Thank God for Xanax (Mother's Little Helper, indeed.)

So, my hair has been aching for awhile now. I knew the fallout was imminent, but I was woefully unprepared for the sheer drama of it. I cut off all my hair on Monday. It was well-documented. I still can't believe how much hair came out of my head. I still can't believe there is some left in random patches on my head.

Seriously, it looked like a huge gorilla took a shower in my bathroom earlier.

One second, I'm lathering up my hair, singing along to Bob Dylan; the next, Joe Jackson's song is on and my hands and arms are like the Wolfman's. It was absolutely horrifying.

I got out of the shower, opened the bathroom door and in my best "don't panic" voice, said, "FYI, do NOT be alarmed when I come downstairs. My hair is coming out." I jumped back into the shower to get back to work. Luckily, James was able to contain the kids downstairs.

I spent at least 15 minutes pulling my hair out; it just kept coming and coming like some shitty magician's scarf. I don't think I'll ever hear Joe Jackson's voice the same again.

I spent another 15 minutes meticulously cleaning the bathroom like it was the scene of some heinous crime.

Then a radio intervention: Beth Orton's "Thinking about Tomorrow" came on. I love this song and it was perfect timing. A "so long" to my hair.

I spent another 15 minutes sitting on the floor in Caroline's Tinkerbell towel staring at my patchwork head in a shaving mirror, just breathing and looking like I have cancer.

For a moment, I was less horrified that I look like I have cancer than I was by the fact that I've gotten away with being a blonde for 16 years. My hair is very, very DARK. Holy crap.

But, as evidenced by the past six weeks on this Great Shit Coaster, things turn around quickly. My sister-in-law Paula took the kids bowling and to Friendly's. James took me to the Square Cafe for burgers and wine. In my wig. Then I was OK.

Seven Songs of the Day


1. Long Day - Matchbox 20
2. So Much to Say - Dave Matthews
3. Don't Give Up - Kate Bush & Peter Gabriel
4. Fragile - Sting
5. Green Light - John Legend
6. Just Fine - Mary J. Blige
7. It's a New Day - Wil.i.am

Courtesy of JoAnne K.

20 February 2009

War & Beast: The Irony and The WTFery

Wed. Feb. 11, Legal Seafoods

I'm sipping some Pinot Noir with Doreen, my good friend and former editor at the Globe. We're having lunch at the bar at Legal Seafoods in Braintree pondering the irony and general what-the-fuckery of this particular meeting. We haven't stopped talking long enough to order; our hands move in non-stop Italian gestures, something EB people tend to slip into involuntarily when in each other's presence. We can sense our waitress' heightening impatience but think -- especially in this case -- that horses should be held regardless of the lunch rush.

Doreen is a survivah. She gave a MF DCIS (that's "Mother Fucking Ductal Carcinoma In Situ" for the rookies) a cold hard beat down a few years ago. While her cancer was technically a Stage 0, it was no less a spooky ordeal. We talked a lot while she was undergoing radiation treatment and how she was certain her right boob was going to burn to a crisp and fall off like a piece of charred meat between the racks of a gas grill. She dealt with the bitch in the boob with her trademark humor (which I try to channel daily) and has emerged a healthier, stronger person, determined to give herself the best possible chance of never having the beast rear a single filthy cell in Righty ever again. After leaving the Globe, Doreen went to work as a VP at NECN and headed up their team for last year's Pan Mass Challenge.

Flashback: Jul. 10: Rooftop at the Colonnade

Of course, Nic, Cameo, Code Red and I rallied around Doreen's cause and attended NECN's Pan Mass Challenge fundraiser last July.

(Up on the roof: Hmmm, upon close inspection, I think I can see a little tumor sag going on in Lefty in this photo. Or it could just be very poor posture).

Anyway, it was a beautiful summer night in the city. Beneath the stars, we bought buckets of raffle tickets ---- and fetched quite a booty. Nic won a night's stay at the Parker House. I had back-to-back winnings, scoring some Red Sox tickets and a couple of GCs to Legal Seafoods. Retrieving my winnings led to some tipsy, touch-and-go maneuvering around the roof: Glass of vino in one hand, plate of appetizers in the other, I came dangerously close to knocking Billy Costa (he's very wee) into the swimming pool. Doreen stood on stage, handing out the prizes. As she handed me my GCs, she yelled into the mic: "We're going to lunch!"

Feb. 11, Legal Seafoods
So here we are having lunch 7 months later. Lunch on the GC that I won in the PMC raffle. Two Eastie girls bellying up to the bar, one Righty in remission, one Lefty with a Stage III IDC (invasive ductal carcinoma.)

But we still laugh about it and heartily. We share our MRI-freak out stories over some jasmine rice and salmon (we finally order lest we be bounced). For those unfamiliar, the "breast" MRI is worse than a regular one because you have to go into the machine face down. Then you have to ease your boobs through these giant holes (relative, of course, to one's cleavage) and smash your face into what appears to be one of those donuts you place your face in during a massage. Except you're all too aware that it's no massage.

Doreen's "freak out" came with her sudden (and irrational) realization that she was being "overtreated." She sat up and told the technician point blank, "I don't need an MRI! You people are overtreating me! I am fine! I was a stage o, etc, etc."

The technician walks out of the room. Tough Dorchester nurse walks in, which Doreen realizes is exactly what she needs right now:

NURSE: What's going on, honey?
DOREEN: (palms up in adversary) I'm being overtreated here. I don't want the MRI, I don't need the MRI, I...
NURSE: (interrupting) Honey, if Dr. K says you need it, you need it. Get in the machine.

Doreen reluctantly rolls in but not without hollering her mantra amid the banging and clanging and hammering of the MRI:



We reassure each other that these MRI people have to have seen it all. I tell Doreen about my Viking Funeral with the iPod and then of my similar freak out: The technicians had told me I couldn't use my iPod during my MRI but could avail myself of their satellite radio and headphones. Great! I suggested a little "coffee house" acoustic to calm the claustrophobic nerves. This lasted about 10 seconds. I lay face down on the table, eased Lefty and Righty into the holes and placed my head into the massage thing that's not a massage thing. Then one of the technicians snapped these massive old school donut headphones around my head like a puffy vice. Seriously, these headphones had to have been from the dawn of headphone time. In one full swoop, I jerked my left arm back and knocked the donut phones clear across the room, nearly taking out the other technician: "That's not helping."

Before we left lunch, Doreen picked up the tab and told me to put my GC away for another day. She also gave me a little box of Godiva chocolates with a heart charm on it. Of course, the heart was Valentines Day-related swag but I plopped it right into my bag of talismen. The chocolates, however, never made it out of the parking garage.

The Seven Songs of the Day -- 2/20/2009

1-Mama said Knock you Out – LL Cool J
2-Gamma Ray -- Beck
3-Anytime at all – Beatles
4-Mother’s Little Helper – Rolling Stones
5-Fix it – Ryan Adams
6-Time After Time (Annelise) – REM
7-Tonight, Tonight – Smashing Pumpkins

Courtesy of John Larroquette (presumably not this one)

18 February 2009

I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got (Except a few wigs)

My chemo brain is in full effect this week so today's post will be very light on the text and heavy on the wiggy images. Maria, Caroline and Paulie gave me the "Sinead O'Connor" the other day, chopping off all my hair and heading off chemo-induced alopecia (take THAT!) We've documented it all here in a crappy low-res slideshow along with some new looks -- some smashing, some frightening -- made possible by impending baldness. Enjoy! ( p.s. the seven songs of the day appear immediately below the slideshow)

Seven Songs of the Day 2/18/09

1. The Greatest - Cat Power
2. Gimme Shelter - the Rolling Stones
3. Wiser Time - Black Crowes
4. Stand Alone - the Cult
5. Before Tomorrow Comes - Alter Bridge
6. Raindrops + Sunshowers - Smashing Pumpkins
7. Get Free - the Vines

Courtesy of Chris Seremetis

17 February 2009

An "On Weekend" with Dining out, Wigs, Wii & and MF Chicken Vesuvio

This weekend was still very much "ON" and we took full advantage of the high energy and spirits to make four fun-filled stops on our "Fuck Cancer Tour 2009." 1. Friday night, with P, Maria, the Taylors and the always hilarious John-Paul, we headed to the new Franklin Cafe in Southie where we planted ourselves in a booth by the window and didn't move from for many, many hours. Over some comfort food and booze, we watched the crowds around us morph from "after work," to "on the prowl," to "booting on Dorchester Ave." 2. On Sat, Nic and I took the girls to Dorothy's Boutique for some serious wig shopping (there will be a longer post about that this week) and then met Cameo and BG for lunch at Amhreins. The second leg of the tour landed us back in the burbs for back-to-back early dinners with friends and kids. First stop, the Rowlette's for some quesadillas, many laughs, and Wii (and racing around on child-sized ride-on toys). James even headed out to the Banshee the next AM with Mark -- at 9 a.m.-- to watch the Italian-Irish soccer match. Sunday, we were treated to some MF Chicken Vesuvio at the Higgin's house, which we half-Italians had never heard of and will never forget again. Yum. It was nice -- as always -- to sit with Gwen in the kitchen and catch up as the kids ran amok dressed up in princess garb. Paulie refused to be pulled into that this time and was on a mission to scare up some trucks and ways to scare with dinosaur parts.

It was definitely a full weekend, a positive springboard into the treatment number two of toxic stew at the Dana today. (a longer post coming on that this week too). Maria watched the kids all day while I was at treatment and when we got back she and the kids gave me the "Sinead O'Connor" haircut. Take that chemo-induced propecia! We beat you to punch or baldness, whatever the case may be (pics coming on that). My tiny head, for whatever reason, yielded the 10+ inches for Locks of Love so that'll be shipped off today in several peoples' names.

My second chemo is hitting me a little harder just like they said it would. Just pure exhaustion. As soon as I finishing typing this, I expect to go all dog tired. But much more later. In the meantime, enjoy my crappy low res slideshow of this fantastic "ON" weekend.

The Seven Songs of the Day (appropriate ones at that)

Toxic – Brittney Spears
Smokin – Boston
Radiation Vibe – Fountains of Wayne
Born to Fight – Tracy Chapman
Mad World – Tears for Fears
Feel Good Inc. – Gorillaz
Fix You – Cold Play

Courtesy of BJ Burke (my cuz)

14 February 2009

Seven Songs of the Day

1. Bittersweet - Big Head Todd & The Monsters
2.The Resolution - Jack's Mannequin
3. MakeDamnSure - Taking Back Sunday
4. After Tonite - Justin Nozuka
5. You Got Me - One Block Radius
6. The Only Answer - Mike Doughty
7. You Look Like Rain - Morphine

Courtesy of KT

(Why, thank you)

13 February 2009

At Bin Ends with Thin Ends

(Ernie has more hair in his beard than I do on my head.)

Roots a-blazing, hairline receding, I headed out with Ernie and the boys to a wine tasting at Bin Ends in Braintree last night. It's a great discount wine retailer we recently discovered while watching a Tivo-ed Chronicle, probably while eating dinner at 5 p.m. They've got a business model identical to that of Filene's Basement. They keep marking the wines down until they're gone. (Although I don't think you could pull off hiding a bottle of wine around this place until it was $1 like you could a shirt at the Basement.) Also, you can go on their website, assemble your own case of different wines and have it shipped -- for free! -- right to your door.

Three French winemakers from the Burgundy region were in the house last night, probably wondering how they'd landed in this industrial nomansland between Konditormeister and the F1 racetrack. The crowd was a little sketchy. For instance, when Ernie's roommate asked one of the women pouring the wine if there was a tip jar, she answered, "yeah, in my bra!!" Yikes. He backed away like a cat. Some among the crowd were wine snobs or pretending to be (guy in a woolen ascot), others were there to get wasted and gorge themselves on smoked Gouda and assorted cheese tartlettes (I ate a lot of crackers and grapes), and some were there for the free vino (us). And some women -- "les skanks" -- were definitely there hoping to take one of the Frenchmen home with a bottle or two of Bourgogne.

(Ern, Jeff, and Paul B. by the bins)

"I get more wine in church!" - Jeff, on the paltry pour. He also brought his own reusable shopping bag to the event.

It was a Twitter Taste Live event which apparently meant the tasting was being broadcast worldwide online. Some poor guy named Dale was mauling a plate of canapes (unknowingly, I assume) right in front of one of the cameras, which one of the Bin End's owners noted in his speech to the entire tasting crowd about 15 minutes into the event. But Dale didn't seem to care.

We learned that there is actually white Burgundy wine, even though the region in France has become synonymous with the red (actually, vice-versa). And it was good too, but we kept going back to one of the red wine stations, dubbed "Dale's Station" because it was adjacent to the scene of the manic nosh.

We spoke to the winemaker from Nicolas Potel (which looking back I think was actually Nicolas Potel but I can't be sure because during the introduction speeches, I was too distracted thinking/laughing to myself about Paul B.'s childhood story about how his mother once packed him quail (that his father had hunted and shot) in his lunchbox. His classmates reportedly watched in horror as he nibbled away on the teeny, tiny bird legs.)

Confession: I think we also hovered around the Nicolas Potel station because the winemaker who may have been Nicolas Potel resembled a 40ish French Paul McCartney (I should've taken a pic, I know that's impossible to envision.)

Since wine is not really on my anti-cancer diet -- save a glass or three of red on the weekends -- I convinced myself it was ok to buy a $78 bottle of Volnay wine from NP and savor it. But then I talked myself out of it and went with his $20 Pinot Noir, which I actually liked better anyway. Ern took home a $7 bottle of MAN Vintners vino. I spied a bottle of Bald Hills wine on the way out but decided against toasting my imminent hair loss.

7 Songs of the Day

1) The Inlaw Josie Wales -Trey Anastasio
2) Yours to Discover -The Sadies
3) Warrior -Matisyahu
4) Changes -David Bowie
5) Life Itself -Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band
6) Handle With Care -The Traveling Wilburys
7) Who Loves The Sun -The Velvet Underground

-- Courtesy of Alex S. in SF

12 February 2009

Things that Come in the Mail

The upside to this cancer bullshit is that I'm getting a lot more snail mail these days -- a long forgotten joy. I've received cards, hilarious and heartfelt. Several CDs. People have loaned me their own tokens and charms to help ward off evil spirits and freaky cells. I also received a big picture of Patrick Dempsey's face. (I have a strange, inexplicable aversion to that guy's face, so now I have something readily available should I ever have the urge to destroy something.) Earlier this week, I got an actual six-page LETTER, two-sided on yellow legal paper, from my friend Holly. It even included some illustrations of her lifting weights with two old ladies, one of whom apparently has a massive rearend, the other of whom had BC and a double mastectomy and is now a force to be reckoned with at the gym.

Last night, I opened a card from my cousin BJ and this absolute GEM -- Nana Rie's senior T Pass -- fell out. I almost hit the floor right along with it.

And so it will be added to my growing bag of talismen which is always along for the ride.

*** 7 Songs of the Day 2/12/2009

1. Give me Love - George Harrison
2. A Few Minutes of Silence - Paul Westerberg
3. Movin' On Up - Primal Scream
4. Good Time Coming - Something Happens
5. A Life of Sundays - Waterboys
6. All Possibilities - Badly Drawn Boy
7. Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight - Beatles

-Courtesy of LPD

11 February 2009

The 7 Songs of the Day

Bittersweet Playlist, 2/11/09

1. 1234 - Feist
2. Half the World Away - Oasis
3. Your Song - Elton John
4. Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley
5. Have a Nice Day - Stereophonics
6. La Vie en Rose - Louis Armstrong
7. Somewhere Only We Know - Keane

-The Roving Lemon

The Schizo and the SW

MONDAY, Feb 2, DF 10
The social worker (SW) is not what I was expecting. 40ish, very glam and stylish. I was expecting more LL Bean fleece than Chanel silk. She's the kind of woman that makes you hyper-aware of your eyebrows and cuticles and scuffed up who-remembers-what-season-ago boots. Which is NOT good for the tumor. I dislike her instantly. The way I dislike women I see everywhere these days. Women going about their business. At the market, at gymnastics, at Starbucks and Dunkies. Women who are obliviously organized enough to throw together a nice outfit and get their hair and nails done fairly often. To me, they are a personal affront; a double-barrel middlefingered "F**k you! I'm normal and healthy and you're not." But then I don't feel that way at all. I feel like it's the way I should feel toward these women all around me. For me, it's never the why me, it's the why not me. And I wonder how pathetic and self loathing one has to be to believe that she somehow deserves to get cancer more than the next person. But then I don't feel that way at all.

The SW speaks and I'm completely disarmed. She's a lovely person who is here at the DF dealing with schizos like me who can't unball their fists. She left her office on a distant floor and stopped by my chemo-mainlining cubby to bring me a book about keeping children emotionally healthy during a parent's illness. She gives us some backpacks for the kiddos that include some Beanie Babies and magic markers. She also sits with us for quite a while and gives us some great advice on how to talk to the kids about what's going down. When I say "great advice," I mean "identical" advice to that of Amy (friend-who-happens-to-be-a-therapist), Tracy O (friend-who-happens-to-be-a-nurse, and Sarah D. (friend-who-happens-to-be-a-SW).

Aside: Granted, I'd kill for a SW like Sarah D. who would wheel your chemo IV onto the rooftop of the DF parking lot if you needed a little vitamin D (or something stronger).

Nevertheless, our SW assuages our guilt about being brutally honest and potentially frightening our kids about what's happening. Our reticence to do so is understandable; human, she says, as our primal instinct is to protect them from what's going on rather than to involve them in it.

Our SW also runs a support group for women under 40 who have the beast in the boob. I just told her I'm definitely going to attend and I'm certain James' jaw hit the floor at the fact that I don't have to be coaxed out from behind a filing cabinet to attend (or worse, join) a group activity.

I've come a long way in four weeks. I want to connect with people who are on this strange journey and/or have been. I have a rapidly growing list of people to talk to and I plan to call on all of them.

Aside II: Still not a phone person, however. Still rather email or meet face-to-face over a green tea or red wine.

Air Quotes and Divine Intervention

In speaking honestly to the kids, the SW sees a teaching moment at "a crucial stage in their emotional development," a chance to do something that will "lay the foundation for better emotional health down the line." I sense divine intervention. I can't believe I was about to fuck up my kids for life before they turned 5 and 6. I thought I'd had a few more years. The SW explains that they are totally egocentric right now at 4 and 5 and as long as their routines aren't disrupted and they feel secure within them, they won't be too affected.

The Advice, Broken Down

1. Use the words "breast cancer." First, the word "breast" makes me cringe. I don't even like saying it in a sentence: "I'm marinating a boneless chicken breast in some sesame ginger." Ew. I picture LPD (who shudders physically at the word herself) saying the word with her trademark emphasis: "Bwreast." A pursed half smile, her head cocked to the side, hell bent on grossing you out. It's not right.

2. Don't describe chemo as "medicine" because kids think medicine is supposed to make you feel well, not sick. Say "treatment." Say it will "make you tired."

3. Make it clear that you're "sad to lose your hair." While the kids will find it fun to cut your hair themselves and be involved in donating it to Locks of Love, they will be confused if you're somehow gleeful about baldness.

Aside III: Right now, I am not in the least bit sad about losing my hair. My roots are so offensive, I wish it'd all fall out right now so I could don my wig (which is quite fierce). Unfortunately, the wig won't be ready until next week due to the insane smallness of my head.

So, the convo went a little something like this: (I've bolded the "advised" words to show you what good students we are)

ME: The reason dad and I have been going into the city every day is I've got something called breast cancer that needs to be treated by a doctor.

(BTW, this statement has led to a daily question from Caroline: "Mama, how's your breast cancer doing today?" I say, "Great. It thinks it's disappearing.")

ME (con't): I have to have some treatments that are going to make me very tired and lose my hair.

CAROLINE: Like Papa!

ME: Sort of.

ME (con't) But it's only for a little while. My hair will grow back.

PAULIE: But poor Papa's hair isn't going to grow back!

ME: No, but Papa likes being bald. I will be sad to lose my hair, but it'll grow back.

CAROLINE: Will your hair be back by my birthday party? (April)

ME: Probably not, sweetie.

CAROLINE: That's ok, Mom, you can wear my Hannah Montana wig!

ME: Really? Thanks! (And I actually mean this. She's very anal with her things)

PAULIE: What about by my birthday party? (June)

ME: Yes, my hair will probably have started to grow back by then.

PAULIE: Cool. If not, you can wear my Chewbaccana mask. ("Chewbaccana" is how Paulie pronounces Chewbacca.)

ME: Awesome. Do you think I can pull off the Wookie Mullet look?

PAULIE (non-chalant): Oh yeah. Sure. Sure.

10 February 2009

Don't Call it a Comeback, It's Been Seven Days

MONDAY, Feb. 9
Exactly seven days since my first treatment. And lo and behold, I feel normal again. I was told I'd have one week "on" and one week "off" as I undergo chemo every other Monday through the Ides of March. But I doubted I'd ever feel normal again after this week of unholy fatiguery. Less than 24 hours ago, I was luggage after 42 minutes of light activity. Today, I actually attempted to take Vito for a walk around the loop (it'll come as no shock to anyone that he's the one who had to turn back).

I feel "on" again, just like they said I would. One week. Seven days. Like clockwork.

It got me thinking about that whole "changing every seven years" concept. I'm sure you've heard it here and there. For me, it's usually come up as a casual Q&A:

Q: Why the f*&$ am I breaking out like a MF teenager?!

A: Well, your hormones change every seven years, didn't you know that, etc.

I've always believed this on some level, actually all levels -- not just hormonal ones. Intervals just make sense to me: happiness, misery, mental energy, physical energy, creativity, hormones, luck, love, lust, etc.: intervals. And seven sounds like a decent odd number -- intervally speaking.

Thoughts turned to Feb. 2002 when the proverbial shit was hitting the fan all over the place. But I have to say, the time and space between then and now has been pretty fantastic for me. Things have been rolling along quite smoothly. So, it's high time to shake things up?

Apparently the guru on this whole "seven years" dillybag is a philosopher (or heathen, depending upon your perspective) named Rudolph Steiner. He wrote that "without some smattering of these [seven year] changes, it is difficult for anyone to understand the relationship of any given individual with his or her environment." Translation (I think): It's impossible to have any perspective on anything without a little sea change every now and then.

Aside: This is not going to devolve into a discussion on the mysteries of the universe. If you want to read more about Steiner and his spiritual philosophy, you can find more info here and here.

Anyway, the website I was looking at broke life down into paragraphs by age intervals (i.e. birth-age 7, 7-14, 14-21, etc.) I thought it was cool. If you're a total geek, you'll probably think it's cool too. Otherwise, please skip it. Apparently, you not only undergo emotional and mental changes every seven years, but also physical ones - all the way down to the cellular level.

Ages 35-42 (paraphrasing): A time of restlessness and a desire to share what one has gained and learned through life thus far. A time of creativity, break through and modification. (Perhaps even of the emotions, the bad habits, the DNA that turned my good cells bad and formed the Jamaican Dog Posse in my left boob).

Seven Songs for Seven Years
To pay tribute to this seven years thingy, I was going to try to do something similar to "25 Things" that by now everyone on earth has completed or has been tagged to complete. I was going to try to list my "7 songs" and ask that you do the same. But then I realized that would be a sadistic exercise even for people who don't worship the music. So, maybe a daily playlist of 7 songs, an offering up of sorts, insurance that if the times/the cells/they are a changin' that they are a changin' in our favor.

I’ll try (try!) to post a "7 Songs of the Day" playlist every day or at least attach one to the end of a longer post. It can mean something or nothing, its baseline peripatetic or dreamy. Doesn't matter. And feel free to email me yours. I’ll post with full credit (if you want it). It'll be fun. Not to mention, you never know when you'll find yourself in a giant body scanner with your arms stuck up over your head.

7 Songs of the Day

1. I’m so Tired - The Beatles
2. 15 step - Radiohead
3. Accentuate the Positive - Sir Roland Hanna & Carrie Smith
4. Things Behind the Sun - Nick Drake
5. Keep me in Mind - Little Joy
6. Violet Hill - Coldplay
7. Fugitive Kind - Paul Westerberg

P.S. to BG: It's a Nickelback-free zone. And you know I say that with only love for you.

09 February 2009

Two More Reasons Never to Check your iPhone While Driving

There could be photos like this on it.

These two beauties arrived courtesy of Dawnie. The photos, circa 1999, appear to depict TBag posing for a professional photo as a train engineer (???) But who knows. I received these pics with neither explanation nor origin. Which sort of makes them that much more awesome. I've been asking for laughs (received some killers during chemo last week) and this one definitely hit the mark. After shrieking, I believe I sheared off some landscaping hedge by the Briteway car wash on Route 53.

Still awaiting answers...

08 February 2009

Dog Tired

"The conversation had been brisk and pleasant when suddenly and simultaneously, everyone just got dog tired." - One of my all-time, favorite Far Side cartoons, which I am now living on a daily basis.

My unfamiliarity with sleepiness is well-documented. I am a certifiable spaz, an insomniac. I've been getting by on about 4-5 hours of sleep per night for as long as I can remember. The entire concept of napping has always been a joke that was way over my head. The only way I could ever (ever!) catch some midday ZZZs was via a self-induced Nyquil coma, usually brought on by some kind of heartache or moral hangover. I was aware this A/C chemo "one-two punch" promised fatigue, but this is ridiculous. Almost blindsiding. I am counting my blessings as I have had zero nausea the whole time, but every day, I get dog tired. Everything stops and I just have to lie down. Not just for a minute, but for, like, the rest of the day and possibly into the next one. It's the treatment. It's not just attacking the rogue cancer cells, but the healthy cells as well, even the excitable insomnia ones, laying waste to the little spaz inside my soul. That said, I was supposed to be at the Blarney Stone in Dorchester today, celebrating Mr. Bean's 41st birthday since he was in Australia last year for his 40th. And Code Red's 20-19th birthday as well. Good intentions: The kids were at my sister-in-law Amy's for the afternoon. I went out and bought some birthday cards, had my unwieldy eyebrows threaded by Nanda, then ran to Trader Joe's for some bananas and blueberries. The entire journey took less than 42 minutes. I was enjoying a pre-party turkey sandwich with James in the kitchen when he began eyeing me suspiciously:

"You OK?

"I'm fine. I think I just have to lie down for about 10 minutes and I'll be good to go."

But within five minutes, it was like I'd been chloroformed by a gloved villain. Two hours later, James walks into our room. It's dark outside now. I'm spread eagle in my red t-shirt that ironically reads "Fueled by Determination" (determination, my ass, but many thanks to Katie N.) LV's "chill" CD is playing on my laptop, which has somehow sandwiched itself around my left leg like some kind of live trap. I'd also apparently lit some Molton Brown candelas as evidenced by the overwhelming aroma of Moroccan eucalyptus. James blows out the candles and says he's going to pick up the kids. Then I fall back to sleep again.

So...Happy, happy birthday to Mr. Bean and Code Red! I was sorry to miss you today! I did, however, raise a toast to you somewhere deep in REM-sleep that for whatever reason involved a dream about the Alpine Slide.

05 February 2009

Rolling on the Drip and a Possible Viking Funeral

7 a.m, Mon, Feb 2:
Caroline's curly head appears bedside. "Oh, mommy, are you SO nervous today? I am sooo nervous!" She scurries up and down the hallway then jumps into Paulie's bed with the same questions. At first, I'm trying figure out who let the MF cat out of the bag that I was starting chemo today. But, after a few more words -- "Phil," "shadow," and "will someone PLEASE just turn on the news already!" -- I realize her neurosis is Ground Hog Day-related and has nothing at all to do with chemo. Thankfully.

I hear the kids shuffling down the stairs. Caroline is drilling Paulie on the profound importance of the shadow sighting this morning. "Do you want spring or not, Paulie? It could be six more weeks of this messy, messy winter."

"Spring, Caroline! I already told you that twice," Paulie says, getting exasperated.

We all are. And the wintry mix outside isn't helping.

I find myself hoping against hope that the little Punxsutawney rodent won't see his shadow and will be forced to keep his prickly little head above ground with the rest of us who don't have the luxury of hibernating the next six weeks.

10: 30 a.m: Dana 10/Infusion
Judy, my chemo nurse, gingerly places the IV into the vein on my left hand and strings a bag of clear fluid over the top of my stand. She explains that I need some hydration before I can handle the "one-two punch" of the chemo, the Adriamycin-Cytoxan, the A/C, the poison.

I can already feel myself ballooning up like one of those gluttonous little shits from "Charlie the Chocolate Factory" as the sea-salty solution seeps into my bloodstream.

Judy explains to James and me and that it's going to be about 30 minutes: Do we want to watch TV? No. Grab a snack from the kitchen? No. Some coffee or tea? No. Water or juice? No. Can I re-adjust your recliner? No, I'm fine. Or would you prefer a bed? We're ok, thanks. Are you sure I can't put the TV on for you?

I'm having a spot of deja-vu from my nuclear medicine scan last week. Daytime television: Bonnie Hunt + Divorce Court = NOT good for the tumor. And I'm really wishing I hadn't reread DFW's essay on the cruise ship industry last month right about now. We have our laptops, iPhones, holistic cancer books and some mags. We're good.

As Judy rechecks my tubes and IVs, I notice James' checking out Judy from head to toe. "I'll be back in a half," she trills, and heads off to the nurse's station to start mixing my toxic stew.

I know what is coming next.

James leans over and whispers, "So, where do you think Judy is from?"

James and I have this strange ability, one that comes and goes like a foreign language with inebriation. For whatever reason, we can identify the migrations of provincial people among neighborhoods, inner cities and the Greater Boston area. Or sometimes not at all. Anyway, it's a game we play.

JAMES: I'm going with West Roxbury or Marshfield.

Good guesses, I concur.

ME: I'll say either Canton or Norwood, or maybe Needham, but just as a dark horse.

He shakes his head, somewhat impressed.

He starts reading some emails. I start reading a fact sheet on the potential side effects of A/C chemo: May cause leukemia (bitchen); heart failure (hmmm); spontaneous, potentially-fatal rupturing of spleen (holy shit!!!)

Just then, we're distracted by a 20-ish brown-haired woman with a wee nose ring. She's skulking around our curtained cubby, looking lost and a bit unstable on her feet.

"Mind if I sit down," she asks?

"NO! We don't mind!" We both bust out; I quickly kick out a rolling stool, a trick I learned from James on day one.

She settles onto the stool without missing a beat (or fainting) and extends her hand to me. "I'm Elle," she breathes.

ME: Hi, I'm Kate. Are you ok?
ELLE: Yes, I'm the Chaplain here. I just wanted to see if you wanted to talk.
ME: About?
ELLE: About that (points to my IV)
ME: Chemo?
(Shakes head, smiling at me).
ME: Do you know something that we don't know? Is my spleen about to fatally rupture?
ELLE: Whaaat?

Aside: Elle sort of reminds me of a woman from graduate school who used to write poems about how God lived in the space between her radius and ulna.

ELLE: (kicking off with a leading question) So, do you guys have any religious beliefs?

James and I admit we're both lapsed Catholics, but very much believe in God. James goes back to tapping on his Blackberry; I start yapping about how I want to provide a spiritual and moral compass for my children but can't in good faith go back to....then Judy mercifully returns with her three vials of red death.

ELLE: Kate, would you like me to sit with you through your treatment this morning?
ME: We're all set, Elle, thanks, though. If we need last rites or anything, we'll page you.

Elle smiles, nods, and shuffles along.

JAMES: That girl is going to be up.your.ass. everytime you're here.

I appoint James as "Chaplain bouncer" just in case. I love talking to people -- all kinds of people -- but there is a time and place to have certain conversations and this was neither the time nor the place. I decided Elle was well meaning but hadn't yet mastered that art of reading people. Sounds familiar.


JUDY: ( gloving up) "Who was that, the social worker?
ME: No, the Chaplain.
JUDY: Oh, that's a nice service, isn't it?

Yes. Of course. And there's that word "service" again. Now I am deep into DFW territory with no way out. I'm really wishing I hadn't reread that damn essay. Now I have no choice but to address it here:

Aside II: The essay is called "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never do Again." It was about the instant gratification of the luxury cruise industry but I've seen enough parallels lately to be concerned. For instance, in a scene in his essay, DFW insists on carrying his own duffel bag over the polite protests of a porter only to feel guilty about it later realizing the porter probably faced a real shitstorm over it. Throughout the course of the trip, DFW begins to realize that despite all of the protocol geared toward his pleasure, all he could feel was despair. These people couldn't care less about his comfort or even if he fell overboard. They were just doing their jobs.

Major Disclaimer:DFW also suffered from suicidal depression and took his own life a few months ago. We won't go down this road. I will say, though, that I've concluded the polar opposite experience exists here at DF - their compassion is legit; their aim is true. They want to help and heal. And they're certainly not expecting tips or props (or deportation on a bad day).

For instance...

Flashback to Jan 30. Nuclear Medicine scan

A man named "Oz" (short for Oswald) and an IV nurse Wendy are trying to help me unhinge Lefty from my bra that was jammed on a piece of thread in my sweater. I couldn't get my left arm out myself without my IV needle reaming out all of the veins in my forearm. This is an unpleasant, somewhat embarrassing scenario for all of us, but they're insisting on helping me. Finally, I'm able dislodge the thread from the sweater (and all of us from this medical menage-a-trois) and, even though my arm bleeds a bit, it's clear we're all relieved.

But that was nothing compared to what happened next!

I'd been pleasantly surprised to learn I could listen to my iPod during my 40 minute PET scan -- so much so, I'd even passed on the Xanax (I'd also learned the scanner was open-ended and less likely to cause a complete claustrophobic meltdown). But then Oz dropped a bomb: I had to hold my arms over my head and couldn't fiddle with the iPod -- at all -- during the screening. I had to remain completely still. What? Just a few days prior, I'd cleaned up my old playlists and had nothing prepared.

"WHAT," I said to Oz? "Do you know how much SHIT I have on this thing? You should have that 'no changing songs' item on the prep list. It should be right up there with the 'no food or drink 12 hours beforehand.'" I was probably delirious from my fasting, but I was still panicked about being unleashed into a musical wilderness of sorts with Lord knows what kind of lyrical baggage: Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake, and Good God -- Kidzbop!! Oz looked at me, not with pity but understanding, as he set me into the scanner, pushing me off onto some half-assed Viking funeral, my arms bound in gnarled headphones over my head.

Then he flashed me the a peace sign and stepped out of the room to radiate my blood vessels.

Thankfully the iPod gods were somewhat with me:

Playlist: Songs for a PET Scan:

"What's a Sweetheart Like you Doing in a Dump Like This" - Bob Dylan ( Talk to me, Bob)
"I Just Want to be OK Today - Ingrid Michaelson (me too, woman)
"Columbia" - Oasis (Gotta love Oasis. They have the perfect answer for those of us who struggle daily with the question 'How are you feeling': "I can't tell you the way I feel because the way I feel is oh so new to me."
"This is Love" - Goerge Harrison "Little things that will change you forever
may appear from way out of the blue Making fools of everybody who don't understand
This is love." (W0w)
"The Further I Slide" - Badly Drawn Boy

Needless to day, I survived it and got a new playlist to boot. On the way out, Oz hands me a card that says I've had radiation today -- just in case I should wander into a high security area and find myself surrounded my armored guards. Dude, you're nuclear.

Flashforward to 1:30, Feb 2 Dana 10/Infusion

JUDY: (dismantling my A/C chemo apparatus) So, Kathryn, you'll be peeing orange for the rest of the day.

KATE: That's nothing compared to my radioactive urine from last week.

JUDY: (laughs) So, do you guys have a long ride home today?

JAMES: No, just about 20 minutes.

* It's Go time *

ME: Hey, Jude (yes, I called her hey Jude) Where do you live?

JUDY: Norwood, born and raised. I still live there. All my kids went to school there etc.

Ding ding ding.

James and I make brief eye contact and I'm thinking that I should’ve made it more interesting. My stairway runner should certainly be installed this weekend. I picture Caroline and Paulie having a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the stop of the steps for Vito, who will finally be able to make it all the way to the top of the steps without backsliding on his belly.

Next installment: We're off to meet with the social worker who is going to teach us how to go against every fiber of our being and tell our kids the truth about what's going on.

03 February 2009

On Nana Rie Bling and Talismen that Cannot be Diliuted

Just days after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my friend KT met me for a tea downtown before one of my genetic tests. She asked me point blank: "You're not going to start wearing pink now, are you?"

I laughed out loud at the sentiment. "What do you think?!"

Aside: I do NOT have the BRAC1 or the BRAC 2 gene, much to the surprise of the docs.

My friend, Doreen, a breast cancer survivor and fellow Eastie girl cut from the same cloth, phoned a week later threatening bodily harm should the pink ribbon materialize on my bosom or on any area within a one-foot radius.

I don't care for the color pink in general (except on my daughter, of course, and other wee ones) and the irony is not lost on me that the flagship color of breast cancer awareness is -- what do you know?

I mean zero disrepect to the pink ribbons and those who wear them. First, you have to wear what works for you, what makes you feel positive and strong on your journey. Second, there is NO doubt that the pink ribbon's uber-success in raising awareness has led to numerous fundraisers and one, two or three-day walks that many of us have participated in. Because of the pink, the BC coffers overfloweth with cash-money, research funds and expertise. The pink is probably one of the biggest reasons why I have a better chance of surviving breast cancer today. So, I give thanks to the pink.

But with great success, comes ubiquity.

(Hence, LPD and I beating feet out of a North Scituate surplus store after a rapid succession of Susan G. Komen and other related BC commercials)

And when something becomes ubiquitous, it becomes generic. And when something becomes generic, it begins to no longer mean anything. The whole sentiment becomes diluted.

Anyhooters, with one in 8 women projected to get breast cancer at some point in their lives, each illness, life situation and journey will be far too unique and personal to fall under one symbol. People will find their own inspirations and talismen to get them through the battle.

That's why the Nana Rie bling (NRB) among other things, is working for me. And not just for me, but for my cousins who also have their own arsenal of NRB to draw upon for strength. My Aunt JoJo (their mom) was recently diagnosed with MF lung cancer. So, we're all wearing NRB in solidarity, and on Facebook, of course. (BTW, those who never met JoJo in person, she is the artist who hand painted my kids' "Make way for Ducklings" table and chairs that everyone raves about when they come over.)

If you don't know the story of Nana Rie yet, it bears repeating: Our Nana Rie was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 37, back in the 40s when it was a death sentence. She had a double mastectomy and went on to die at 81, in perfect health, after being hit by a car on her way home from a dance class. She took that disease DOWN, wearing her funky hats and pins and beads and necklaces the whole time. Holding onto a piece of her strength and fighting spirit can only make you stronger -- or at least give you a funky-ass baseline along the way.

Aside II: The only ribbon I will wear is the turquoise one, which represents ovarian cancer for my sister-in-law. Nobody has any idea what the turquoise stands for (yet) and people are always asking me about it. Caroline wears her turquoise ribbon as a barrette and says it's for "My Auntie Paula." I usually answer: it's for ovarian cancer, do you know the symptoms? Well, there aren't really any (asides bloating, but c'mon), they whisper. Cue Icicle Works: "Whisper to a Scream."

That said, I share my sack o' talismen that accompanied me to the Dana for my first 1-2 punch of chemo yesterday AM.

-Nana Rie bling: Her rhinestone heart pin that comes with me anywhere.
-A strength stone from my Aunt Joanne.
-Caroline and Paul's artwork, including an envelope Carrie addressed to me that says "Kate Jackson, I love you."
-Uncle Paul's (the orginal Boulos) cross passed along by Paula (he was a brother at Stonehill College who passed away a few years ago. We all loved him.)
-A metal from Majagoria from the Dell'Olio's that I'm wearing on a beaded charm bracelet.
- A necklace that James got me from a street vendor in Positano (right after 9/11) as a reminder that we'll return there during better days.
-I'm sure the bag will continue to grow throughout the journey.

Since I'm wearing as much as this stuff as I am carrying, James has begun referring to me as George Clinton, King of Funk.

That said, please stay tuned for tomorrow's installment (if I'm still upright): "Drip, Drip, Drip goes the Chemo." I'm feeling good today after yesterday's infusion. They told me my bad days will likely be Wed and Thurs, possibly starting later today because of my small size, aka "the boney cheese hater size," if you will.

Pointy note: I never meant for the PU to become a blog about cancer. But that's where we're at right now. And hopefully we will in a different place next year at this time. Thanks for sticking around in the interim. I appreciate you all. xo KJ

01 February 2009

Last Suppahs (with hair) and Other Gatherings

Tomorrow I start mainlining chemo at the DF and will continue to do so through June. So, we kicked off our "Fuck Cancer 2009" tour (many thanks for the lid, Cameo) this past week. For a few days, I suspended my fascist vegan, no caffeine, no alcohol, no gluten, no meat, no dairy nunnish existence and got down to celebrating my last days with hair and high energy (for a while) with people I love.

James and I stay out past 11 p.m. at Tosca Caffe with P and Maria

Burds among burds at Strawberry Fair.

Mr. Bean's fireside dinner in the burbs.

Snack and story time at Paulie's school.

"I'm NOT a inspiration, I'm stoned on anti-anxiety meds."

Slainte! January Suppah Club@Rustic Kitchen

Cam at age 8: "I loved to hop up on the can at my grandmother's house. Splash on a little Jean Nate and scratch my back with a monkey paw."

Lizard Lounge (at Papa Razzi): Liz and I raise a toast with pomegranate martinis, aka the Fuck Cancertini. Pomegranate is a very potent anti-cancer fruit.

My favorite girl along for the lunch.

And another favorite girl along for the gelato! LPD gathers energy for surplus shopping.

Escape from the Japanese suburban danceclub! Jacksons/Nortons/Drinans score a table among the clusterfuck at Burton's.

Katie, Gena and I: "balls deep" in the anti-cancer booze.