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Rita Arens
My name is Rita Arens. I like to write. A lot. Many pages.
Recent Activity
My birthday is next week. The little angel's is in a few months. She's not little anymore -- she'll be 14. So will this blog. Everything I start to write I just select and delete. I'm not really sure what I want to say. It's a new year ... 2018. This year (next week), I will turn 44. My daughter in April will turn 14. My marriage in June will turn 17. God, the passage of time is relentless, isn't it? We've started talking about when Lily ... I always had this grand plan of doing a great outing of her identity when she turned thirteen, but I'm almost a year too late ... the little angel's name is Lily Jane Arens ... will soon be driving and have an even greater level of independence ... of even when she will graduate and leave the house ... not because we want that to happen or because we're looking forward to it, but because it is actually going to happen, and if we don't prepare for it, it will catch us by surprise. I thought I would do this great outing, but it turns out that the world moved on while I wasn't looking, and she doesn't need my help at all. I got her Twitter and her URL reserved when she was born, and now it's possible that tech is outdated for her generation. Ha! My daughter doesn't need me to shepherd her into the digital world. I thought she would, but she doesn't. Funny, considering my career trajectory. Nothing can prepare us for what comes next. I'm all over but I haven't been here in a while and I think I might in fact be the only person who still reads this blog. If that's the case, ha, Rita,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
Dear friends, family, and college buddies I haven't laid eyes on in twenty years: Boy, was 2017 amazing! Hilda joined the Peace Corps after realizing she couldn't afford community college. She's currently digging latrines in Sierra Leone, which she says is beautiful as long as you don't look at the human feces or feral dogs. We have high hopes she'll wear herself out after a year and come back to join the nursing program at a nonprofit institution of higher learning. We recently learned there are tax cuts! This is great! We're looking forward to using our return to buy a new SUV that should be able to navigate the crumbling roadways we use to commute two hours each way to a soul-killing office job that will soon be replaced by robots. In other news, Nancy made it through a round of breast cancer thanks to us learning that you can get an interest-free payment plan if you call the 800 number and tell them you have no money. You, too, could pay $35.18 a month for the next twenty years to each of ten different healthcare providers. #blessed Little Jerod has been pursuing four different sports at the age of nine. The doctors say his concussions should heal up well and he's excited to play competitive league soccer year-round as long as his games continue to start before 11 pm on school nights. He may even see ten minutes of playing time in 2018. Woot! Nancy and Alexander are looking forward to celebrating 23 years of marriage in December, when they realized they'll be making the same household income that they did in 1998 despite a 43% increase in healthcare costs. Nancy is excited her antidepressants will soon be covered under the maintenance medicine list on her high-deductible health... Continue reading
Posted Dec 20, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
"Maybe, when you're in it, you just get through it, and it seems so much scarier to everyone else," she said. "Maybe," I replied. My friend Ann put it best: When someone tells you that you have cancer, it's like you're plunged into the deep end of the pool. Nobody can see you, nobody can help you. There's water in your eyes and your ears and your nose, and there's nothing in your world but the water; you can't see or think about anything but the water. And then ... you hit the surface. Everyone around you is floating on a raft. They hand you a beer. The sun is shining, and the world is beautiful. And you think ... did that seriously just happen, that part where I almost drowned? This time last year I was unemployed, desperately hunting for my next thing. I realized I'd have to make a career pivot and reinvent myself away from the dying star that is paid journalism. All but abondoning social media after a decade of living with both ankles constantly submerged in that rushing river. Wondering who I am if none of what I worked so hard to achieve in the past means anything to the hiring managers I met with in the yawning maw of job sites into which for six months I poured four different versions of my resume? And why do I have more Twitter followers now when I never go over there? What does any of that mean? I don't know half of those people and there are more people following me on Twitter than there were in my hometown in 1992. And I know damn well none of those Twitter people listen to anything I say. It's all just Black Mirror until you start believing in... Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
"I'm scared to go back there," I said, gripping the reins more tightly in my hand. The day before the horse beneath me had too much juice. He kept trotting when I said to walk. I forgot my tight circles. And then came the cyclist out from behind on my left, and suddenly Rowyn's back legs were in the air and I was falling to the right and in my mind's eye I saw a bone breaking on the pavement below and Rowyn and Jazz taking off for the barn with my girl clinging to Jazz's back. I think I was actually more scared for her than me, and it should've been the other way around. In this scenario, I needed more help. I got off my horse and called his owner. My hands were shaking so hard I could barely operate the phone. He answered immediately. He was in the Plaza getting ready to do carriage rides. He wouldn't be back to the barn for five hours. "What do I do?" I said. "Get your act together and ride him back to the barn," he said. "You can't walk him back. Rita, you have to ride." Sometimes in your life you would like the easier method back to the barn. This was not a time I was going to get it. My girl said everything was fine, but my mothering instincts and my anxiety disorder kept projecting images of a broken back or fractured skull as we walked back, turning tight circles every 100 yards or so. I have never had a longer walk back to the barn in my life. I kept reciting a little ditty, more for me than for him: We're still friends but I'm in charge. Rita and Rowyn go back to the barn. If... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
One of the weird things about letting my girl read THE OBVIOUS GAME is that she's had more of a window than is probably good and right into my teenage years. So when I came home today from my twenty-fifth high school reunion and told her about how when my classmate driving the pick-up pulling the haybale-stacked float for the big Homecoming parade circled the town square three times and then just ... drove ... it reminded her of the sled scene in my book. Stupid, and dangerous, and totally, unfathomably fun. And when I told her about coronation and how the president of my senior class made a lovely speech and told the bored seniors how they really could do anything jumping off from the platform of our small town, she asked if it was the same coronation I wrote about in my book. And it was. It's in a new building, but nothing's changed. The names of the kids are the same last names I grew up with. The smiling parents are now my age, but they're the same. The teenagers may have new concepts in what makes facial hair fashionable for boys or formal wear appropriate for girls, but they have the same impatience for the dance I remember. I'm just on the other side now. But the ride. Sitting on a haybale on a flatbed on a float with people I've known since kindergarten or more and driving down the highway at least 45 miles an hour to a neighboring town, a neighboring bar, where the extra tables are made of plywood and the video games still take quarters ... that was like stepping into the past. Not having my husband and daughter along heightened the surreal quality because I, for once, had nowhere to be... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
I realized recently that I graduated high school the same year a coworker was born. Let's sit with that. But then I reminded myself this brilliance was recorded when I was in first grade: So it's okay, to be old. Because every generation contributes something awesome. Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
I had The Conversation with the little angel tonight. Why are we here? I grew up steeped in Lutheranism, with a hint of high school existentialism. I have raised my daughter differently than I was raised. I homeschooled religion. Partly because of the crises of organized religion. Partly because of my own disillusionment with the laws of God versus the laws of Men. Oh, parenting is hard. I want to give her the tools to make sense of the world in a world that denies climate change and the effects of quarterly returns on our ability to be humane. I want to give her something to cling to that represents what happens when our hearts cease to beat. The reality is that we will all die, someday. We don't know when or how, only that we will. The young: They can't understand that. I didn't understand that. I said to a co-worker this week that I'd borrowed a mission statement from someone whom I've forgotten: Live a life you don't need a vacation from. I've tried to do that. We cut out eating out so we could ride horses. We shifted things around so we could have adventures. We drive shitty old-model cars and live in a bank foreclosure house so we can live a life we don't need a vacation from. I believe that. This year's cancer scare taught me that it can all be over tomorrow. You could have the rug pulled out from under you at any minute. Are you ready? Do you spend your time on what matters? I don't, not entirely. I need to make more time for my art, my writing. I was good at it before I had a commute. I need to get better at it now. What do you need? Let's... Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
They say scent in the strongest tie to memory. What I will remember from this time is the scent of me. I weathered radiation treatment during a hot Missouri summer. They told me I couldn't use normal deoderant because it contains aluminum, which is akin to putting aluminum foil in the microwave when undergoing radiation treatment. This is what I smelled like: Burnt flesh Lavendar Linseed oil Aloe Musk Neosporin Aquaphor Eucerin Dead skin Sweaty polyester Wicking athletic bras Wet cotton I finished my last radiation treatment last Friday. Since then, I've shed a layer of burnt skin, brown, almost black. Underneath is the fuschia of regeneration. Skin is pretty amazing stuff. It itches. My God, it itches. I've tried not to scratch, but even the reapplication of Aquaphor after each shower has ruined at least ten tshirts and countless bras, and now with the skin so raw and new I'm not sure what I will wear to work tomorrow, when I'm sure they expect me to return anew and healed now that the treatment is over. Except it's not really over yet. The radiation is still working inside me, and will continue to work for a few weeks, shining the flashlight over the dark room to make sure no cancer lurks in the corners before we shut the door for now. Until the next mammogram. And the next mammogram will reveal a completely new me, the me that is: after. I will never smell aloe again and not think of this time. But I am relieved. It is over. For the first time since April 2017, I can look at life through eyes unclouded by breast cancer. And that's a good thing. ONWARD. Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
{Editor's Note: In the midst of Harvey, talking about anything else seems weird, but I'll forget if I don't write now, so please forgive.} There are three days of radiation left. Today was my last radiation oncology appointment until follow-ups. I apparently missed a medical oncologist appointment scheduled for today. I didn't realize they scheduled it. I was hoping to hit my out-of-pocket max before seeing her again. It will be here soon, and then the Festival of Specialists and Scans will begin, because hey, I can pretend to be Canadian for four months! Fully covered healthcare! The therapists and nurse and doctor clucked over my skin, which is fuchsia bordering on purple in places and covered in dark brown dots, as though my pores tanned darker than I ever have. I'd take a picture, but some people get queasy with such things and anyway, it's less a bid for sympathy than a seriouslyIdidn'tknowskincouldlooklikethis sort of a situation. It burns and itches on the inside and the outside, but that should fade soon. (If you really want to know, this is not me but you can see the weird red-with-brown-dots here: The doctor looked at my chart and noted how the time has flown since my diagnosis in April and I thought, well, hell, MAYBE FOR YOU BUT THIS HAS BEEN THE LONGEST SUMMER OF MY NATURAL BORN LIFE but I nodded and smiled because my husband was there and he hates drama. I like that he came with me both so I wouldn't forget what people said but also I'd avoid thoroughly embarrassing myself by going Britney all over the office with three treatments left. But oh, the tantrums I threw in my mind's eye! Then my husband pointed out oncology folks have to be up all the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
Since I've started my new job (at almost seven months in, it's almost not new anymore), I've endured an hour-long commute each way. Some days, when Beloved is in town, we carpool. Other days, when I drive myself, I've discovered Overdrive, which allows me to check audiobooks out from my library for free. I've never been much for thrillers, but I-70 is so horrifying with people going from 75 miles an hour to full stop while texting, that I've realized thrillers and biographies are about as deep as I can go while driving. Plus the cumulative fatigue from radiation makes me want to fall asleep when the traffic gets slow, so I need some action on the audiobook to keep me awake. As far as thrillers go, I've enjoyed Ruth Ware, particularly as all her audiobooks are narrated by Imogene Church, whose British accent makes both "What?" and "Stupid!" sound like the most profound words ever spoken in the English language. This last week, I also listened to AMERICAN SNIPER, the autobiography of celebrated sniper Chris Kyle, and that inspired a spirited discussion at home regarding war and the mindset required for war and my own personal existential crises triggered by war (in high school I discovered CATCH-22, the first book to truly encapsulate the way I feel about war, so that pretty much explains my perspective). I'm pretty sure we agreed to disagree, with my husband assured we'd all die if I were in charge, and I assured that if we did, it would be with a clear conscience. Prior to Ruth, I went through another of my Neil Gaiman phases. Let me recommend anything by Neil Gaiman on audiobook, because he reads all his own stuff. NEVERWHERE is particularly wonderful, and you'll never think of the London tube... Continue reading
Posted Aug 25, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
I am supposed to be at a Royals game with Doug French right now. I'm not, because in spite of the fact he's in town this week only, I had to text him while bawling in the parking of KU Cancer Center in Lee's Summit and tell him I just couldn't do it. I needed to go home. I went in to my third week of radiation expecting to be in and out in about fifteen minutes, like usual. That is not what happened. Let me preface this by saying my cancer team is made up of decent, good people. There is not a bad apple among them. That said, I think it must be very easy for people who treat lots of cases to forget that for most people they treat, this is the first time. It's a good lesson to remember in any job you do, whether you drive a school bus or operate on people's spines or manage new college graduates -- if you interact with the public, some of the people you deal with are scared or intimidated, and it's not only your job to do your job, it's also your job to monitor them and respond in kind. If you want to be really good at what you do, that is. This is a lesson I'm internalizing through this experience, and I hope it makes me a better person overall. Today after I lay down (this is the closest approximation visually I can find) and closed my eyes and listened for the beep and thought to myself that this is the second-to-last week, this will soon be over, the therapist came out and told me for the second half of treatment, the doctor would come out and draw on me for "the boost."* I did... Continue reading
Posted Aug 22, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
Two weeks down, three to go of radiation. My skin is starting to stay red all the time, like a sunburn, and I'm getting the zaps. It feels occasionally like when my inner stitches popped after my lumpectomy: minor pain like sparks just randomly in the core of my breast. Mostly, though, I've found my lifestyle isn't conducive to fatigue. Last week we had two riding lessons, a birthday dinner and the blonde fairy. Friday night I tried to use a massage gift card only to be told not until I'm done with radiation. I was tired by then, so in a weird way I was relieved to be excused from relaxation so I could go home to collapse on the couch. Today I forgot the keys to the tack box (40 minute round trip) and the swim bag (10 minute round trip). It's like when the little angel didn't sleep and I'd find my keys in the fridge. I really can't be trusted to remember things right now. Please send a butler and a driver. I decided to take a radiation vacation on my last three days of treatment just to know if the fatigue continues to build, I at least won't have to perform at work for a few days. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to collapse into the couch cushions for a few days and focus on putting this latest health bullshit behind me. That is three weeks away. Three weeks hasn't seemed this long since high school. ONWARD. Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
Today I had my first radiation treatment. When I walked into the dressing room I've been in several times before, I noticed the dirty laundry bag. (I inquired whether either I or my clothing were actually radioactive biohazards, and they assured me the linen bags were misleading and needed to be replaced.) The person who does the radiation (nurse? specialist?) led me back to the room, which she assured me was always dark and cold. There, in the middle of the floor, was a bench with the same 50 SHADES OF GREY pegs to hold onto above your head. We quickly dispensed with the niceties of the cape, and I gripped the handles and shut my eyes while the woman told me to just lie there "like a sack of potatoes" while they manuevered me into the proper position for nuclear reaction. (I don't know if that's exactly what radiation is, but hey.) Then they took about 35 X-rays while speaking to me through an intercom. They assured me they could see me and hear me via microphones and two TV monitors in case I decided to freak out. As I listened to today's line-up, "Jack and Diane" and something I feel very confident was by the Black Eyed Peas, I stared at two red lights in the ceiling, wondering if they were the lasers that would radiate me. Then I wondered if my eyes might laser shut. This morning, I didn't put on dry shampoo because the ingredient list contained aluminum, and they told me not to wear normal deoderant that works in summer because it contained aluminum and I pictured my head starting on fire. Then I wondered, while waiting there, if my shorts would actually become radioactive, which would make me sad, because they are both linen... Continue reading
Posted Aug 2, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
Yesterday I went to the radiation oncologist's office to finish what I started before I called a halt to wait for genetic testing. I'd already talked to the financial counselor (you know it's bad when they have one on staff with her own office), and they made me pee in a cup again even though I informed them it was Shark Week and really, it'd have to be a miracle, but you just never know, honey, women find themselves pregnant all the time with no knowledge of how that happened. After that, we went to the CAT scan room, which was very cold. I had my choice of three different levels of robes to put on in the dressing room, which locked with a little pool-ball keychain that I got to keep with me. I thought it was kind of cute they were going to let me pick which robe I would wear before I showed my chest to an entire room full of people. I don't remember ever having a CAT scan before. When I asked about the cause, it was "to determine my course of treatment." I had to lay down on a bench, topless, while the nurse marked me up with Sharpie and stuck some little metal BBs to my boobs. She told me to put my arms above my head and grab the pegs, which let me tell you, felt VERY 50 Shades of Gray and not in a good way. Then she covered me up because there was a dude in the sound booth or whatever, and I guess she wanted me to have some shred of dignity after showing my boobs to half of Jackson County, Missouri. After a while, the oncologist came in and verified the BBs were in the right place, and... Continue reading
Posted Jul 26, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
Hi. If it feels like it's been a long time, it has. I had blood drawn for genetic testing on June 9. The medical oncologist's nurse called me with the results this week, on July 19, six weeks later. I was told we'd have the results in two weeks, so the six weeks thing was sort of a shock. As days became weeks became months, I actually had about a three-day period in there that I forgot completely about the cancer thing. That was kind of nice, like when you wake up from a dream where a thing you want to have happen happens and you haven't realized yet it isn't true. But! They called this week, and they told me there is no BRCA mutation, which means no need for dramatic surgeries and I can continue with the original treatment plan of 22 sessions of radiation. KU Cancer Center does radiation on weekdays, so we're looking at slightly less than five weeks once things get going hopefully next week. First I have to have a CAT scan and get a tiny tattoo so they can line everything up on the daily without fear it will wash off. Fortunately, I already have two actual tattoos, so this idea doesn't freak me out. However, I never expected to be getting ink done for medical reasons, so there's that. I have considered turning it into something else when this is all over, but I'm not really into tattoos in that general area. I didn't realize how much I was stuffing my feelings down until I got the news this week. Since then, I have cried daily over long-past events like Sandy Hook and Tamir Rice. I have grown irrationally angry over small slights to my daughter. I remembered on Monday that I... Continue reading
Posted Jul 20, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
Watching my daughter watching the sun makes me reflect on the races I've run. Hers are still all out in front. Mine reflect how I was wont. Out past forty and turning the corner forget whatever I had planned. But the waves that grind pink shells to the sand also carry great ships into land. Old man in blue trunks with a metal detector hoping to find some middle class treasure; we are all here trying to recapture the first bead on the strand. They always say you're nothing without your health. I learned that this year, through their stealth, breast cancer was hiding in my body subsiding, I used to fear really big things. Now I understand-- the worst things can be held in your hand. Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
Yesterday I met with the rad oncologist (radiation AND Gwen Stefani) to tell him I wanted genetic testing before radiation. He was not super psyched and told me not to put off radiation too long. I walked out mad and sad, I admit. It's my body, dammit. Today I went to the med oncologist, who told me I'm triple negative from a hormone perspective, which means they can't prevent more cancer with drugs. Apparently (shocker) this is also fairly rare. My doc decided to break from protocol and do the testing herself. I really appreciate her and KU Med for letting me find out if I have BRCA before my radiation is scheduled to start. That is a huge weight off to have the information I need to make good decisions about treatment. Also: adulting sucks. I go on vacation next Wednesday. When I get back I should know if it's more surgery or if it's radiation, and either decision should bring the first real peace since this nightmare started in April. ONWARD. Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
The internal stitches are starting to dissolve. Day by day the skin lies flatter. My surgeon cleared me to get in bodies of water with a bandage. He said the lake of the Ozarks is particularly dirty. I laughed. I've done some research, realized it's harder to operate on radiated skin. Decided to insist on genetic testing before radiation. If I have the rare BRCA, I'll have a bilateral mastectomy. Ironically, if I did that there would be nothing to radiate. So I go with that, because with that decision I guarantee only one sucky thing has to happen, not two. Mastectomy or radiation. Not both. This week I get my radiation tattoo and find out about drugs and genetic testing. My husband is in Indianapolis. My daughter is volunteering at a retirement home. I'm 90 days into my new job. I go on vacation next week. I need this vacation. 2016 sucked. I am watching THE HANDMAID'S TALE. To some extent, I remembered that in my moments of humiliation and pain in my surgery, that mine is not such a bad story to tell. Everyone in my story acted in my best interest. I don't forget that. My story is pretty trivial, except to me. As are all of our stories. ONWARD. Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
Yesterday I cried several times at work. Big, splashy tears. It felt so strange to have my co-workers think my IV bruise was a spider bite, like life is that normal. I ended up telling a few more people because I thought I might scream. I made it through the day, and last night I stood in the shower for 45 minutes with a bar of soap gently trying to work off the dressing stuck on with dried blood like superglue. Finally it came off and I was do relieved the incision didn't start bleeding I cried again. This is a wet business, DCIS. I put a ton of Neosporin and five butterfly bandages on the gnarly incision (frankly, it makes me kind of queasy to think what is gone) and went to sleep with my arm in a pillow. I dreamt someone wanted to sell me a grand house with an inside swimming pool and I said to Greg we couldn't afford this place if one window broke because the ceilings are fifty feet high and woke at five in the morning wondering what that meant. My girl and I have clashed a bit, which has always been my biggest fear with maternal cancer. I worry I'm rising too much to her teenage criticisms, which are unfair in the way of teenage and not personal, though it feels that way. I wish I could say I'm such a big person I don't mind if challenges arise when I'm less than a week out from losing an ice cream scoop of breast tissue, but you know what? I'm not. I still feel pretty damn sorry for myself, I admit it. My doc called this morning to say there was no DCIS left in my pathology, which is way good news... Continue reading
Posted May 23, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
[Editor's Note: This is gross. Feel free to skip. However, one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. I personally know four, including me, under age 50. Get your mammos, ladies.] After the biopsy, they left a metal clip behind to sort of guide my surgeon in. Most people have an actual tumor. I don't have that. I have these invisible calcifications that only show up on a mammogram. They took some of them out in my biopsy, but what is left is scattered. Usually, women have one wire inserted in their breast prior to surgery, X marks the spot. They put the little calf pumper sleeves on me (if you haven't had surgery, they inflate one side at a time during surgery to prevent blood clots in the legs). Good stuff, but the tubes drag. Then they hooked me up to an IV. Also good stuff. We went back to radiology to get my wire inserted. I was in a chair, which they pumped up like at the salon. I offered to stand, but they said it would be awhile and also, some people pass out. They put me in a mammogram machine with a hole in the plate and shot in the burny numbing stuff, just like the biopsy. The breast care woman whose job is to be a human was there at my side as the nurse and radiologist fed in wire #1. It was very similar to how you would feed a wire through a wall, with all the jamming normally involved. A few times during the entire procedure they hit spots not numb, and I would yelp and more numbing burny stuff would be applied. More pictures. A second wire. More jamming and the pressure that indicates that right now, you might... Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
I used to have a ceramic cupcake. My sister and I got in the habit of putting our worries in the cupcake and, you know, letting the cupcake deal with it. I gave my cupcake to my girl when she needed it, so Sister Little just sent me this new one. I put cancer in it. Tomorrow I get measured so I suppose if I swell or shrink dramatically after surgery they can tell. Today I went to a big work meeting and didn't tell one person I'm out on Friday to have just a touch of breast cancer removed. Some of them know. They've been cool. If anything, it's a high level of privacy compared to the culture I used to be in so I float between various ways to interpret the people around me. So you act like it's nothing at work, so they'll take you seriously (which I very much want), and you minimize it at home so as not to scare your daughter. When do you get to acknowledge it's real? Like OMG the pink ribbon thing happened? I'm going to act like this is totally cool, yo, even though lasers are going to attempt to kill certain cells in my body every day for weeks and I'm going to have to go to work and take care of my kid and deal with my husband's travel like it's business as usual. The most unfair thing isn't the cancer. It's having to act like I don't care I have cancer. Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
This week I met with two oncologists: the medical one and the radiology one. The medical one is Russian-American and a petite woman. The radiologist one is American- American and super-tall-big guy who barely seemed to fit in the room and flipped pages and said "nowadays" a lot, like a farmer would. I don't really understand my hormone receptor results yet, but it seems like hormone-receptor drugs probably won't work for me. It seems like I'll have higher-dose radiation for 3-4 weeks instead of the 6 I was anticipating. I'll start radiation after the vacation we planned when I got my job and we thought 2016 was all we had to put behind us. By August, I should be over this obstacle. Sometimes I feel like God is plotting my life to make sure it's worth reading, because obstacles make for better books. Or that's my chosen interpretation. Otherwise, it might seem like a tough row to hoe. Better to see it as a solid plot. Next Friday is my lumpectomy. I admit I'm slightly worried about imbalance, because my rack is not all that large. Subtracting a tablespoon could make a difference. But would I really say don't take it out and get clean margins? No. I feel like a medical specimen and not a woman, I admit. My breast has become a medical ham hock, and I am just attached to it. It was not impressive to begin with, and now it is diseased. Not really looking forward to any of this but having it over. My friend Ann once gave a speech about her breast cancer being perfectly ordinary, and I get it now. Except for the bizarre and realistic ladder dreams, breast cancer feels like middle school gym class. Smelly and inconvenient and useless to my... Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
I didn't want to go on a walk after work. I didn't sleep well last night. I have an appointment with my first oncologist tomorrow. I'm scared. Beloved and the little angel made me go. As we rounded the corner and walked past where the road separates the silt pond from our neighborhood's larger lake, I saw a mama duck standing on the edge of the spillway that dumps overflow from one to the other. She was quacking frantically and staring into the hole. I made a joke about chatty ducks and we kept going. Then I turned back, because something about the tone of her quacks was something only a mother can recognize. "Guys," I said, "I think her ducklings fell down there." We went walking back, and sure enough, we could hear the ducklings chirping. I immediately started freaking out. The little angel was very calm, saying something about nature taking its course (who is this kid?) and Beloved dutifully started calling numbers. Because it's apparently Truman Day, he had no luck with the Jackson County sheriff, Lee's Summit Fire, Lee's Summit police, Animal Control or the property owners' association. However, the Lee's Summit police dispatcher kept trying Animal Control, but nobody was home. Finally, she sent us back to LSFD and they said they'd see what they could do. We hovered on the edge of the lake, watching the mama duck get more and more and more frantic. She flew down into the hole and we watched sadly, knowing ducks don't exactly have talons with which to grab their young. I was just about to give up when the association truck showed up, assessed the situation, and then left as ... OMG ... yes, that is a huge yellow fire truck, complete with three firemen and all... Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
It seems like more than one day ago I found out I've been diagnosed with Stage 0 DCIS. Yesterday, I was all, I can totally handle this. This? This is like nothing. I've always assumed I would get cancer because my mom did and this is the totally easiest cancer. This is going to be fine. I told people my biggest relief in all this was that I didn't find out I had it when I was unemployed, because my head would've exploded. I am being totally sincere in that. God made the insurance refuse to cover my mammogram until after March 15. I started my job on February 13. That is so not a coincidence. If I had found this out when I was unemployed, I'm not sure I would be in the same place mentally I am in today. Thank God for small favors, because these calcifications were totally in me a few months ago. I know they were. I just did not, at that time, know they were there. Tonight I went to see Sheryl Sandberg talk about her new book, OPTION B. It was a good talk and she's an amazing person, but at one point she said, "If you want to shut down a room, just say yesterday you got diagnosed with cancer." Yesterday I did get diagnosed with cancer. Of course I started bawling there in Unity Temple. And of course people came up during the question and answer period with stories so much more horrific than mine that I felt bad, but we've all been down the road of the Suffering Olympics and know they don't give out medals at the end. My suffering is mine and yours is yours and the poor pregnant woman whose five-year-old had died of cancer LAST MONTH... Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy
TRIGGER WARNING: GROSS STUFF Today I had one of the more bizarre experiences of my life: the stereotactic biopsy. It was ordered after a routine mammogram revealed microscopic calcifications that were not there last year. Women over 40 should have a mammogram every year for this reason, even though it is about as fun as the first level of hell to have your girls squished between two glass plates, especially when your girls are as small and difficult to squish as mine. Do it anyway, ladies. So today I took the day off work and went in. I'm going to describe it because hell, someone might benefit. You lay down on this table. They told me the table can only be lifted if you weigh less than 300 pounds, and boy, would you be surprised at how many people these days are more than 300 pounds, and then since the table can't be lifted, the doctors have to work on their knees. I'm going to assume a doctor doing a biopsy on his or her knees is a cranky doctor, and you want anyone shooting needles into your lady bits to be in a GOOD MOOD, so note to everyone, make it to 299 before the biopsy. The situation is in a stereotactic biopsy they raise the table and drop the offending area through it and smash it between two glass plates and pump it full of a numbing device that also contains some sort of ephedrine. As I lay there in a really uncomfortable position, the breast care consultant or whatever her title was put a warming blanket over me, put her arm on my back in a most comforting way and led me through a series of questions clearly designed to get me to not concentrate on the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2017 at Surrender, Dorothy