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Rita Arens
My name is Rita Arens. I like to write. A lot. Many pages.
Recent Activity
Today I had a worlds-colliding moment when a new co-worker commented on an old practice of mine, which is to say, blogging. He called it "Facebook," which is totally fair - that's one of the places my blog bleeds out to. And he complimented me on my writing. In my head, I was all: Thanks, sir; all the rest is mute. William Shakespeare Because even now, when I went to put that quote in there, I had to pop the hood up on Typepad, creaky old bitch that she is, and look at the HTML, because the WYSIWYG editor doesn't even work anymore. I'm like the old couple in The Princess Bride who give you a cure for being only partially dead but then tell you to not go in swimming for at least an hour. "Well, hidee ho! Let's take a look at that href tag!" But can I just say, wow, that felt amazing! Thank you, dude, for reading old words of mine from months ago and realizing I was a person before I came to the cube next door. I don't pay my corporate job any disservice, but it was still fun that for an amazing decade people paid me for my voice. A few weeks ago, one of the little angel's friends did THE OBVIOUS GAME for a book talk. I was driving them to whatever and heard her talking about how she chose the wig lady scene to highlight and I had this moment where I realized my daughter's best friends took my writing seriously enough to talk about it at school. Guys, I can't tell you. I just can't tell you. I have always been one to write fan letters to my favorite authors. I've never had a letter back, but I do believe... Continue reading
Posted Nov 27, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
This week, I've spent time thinking about how much my life has changed in the past decade. In 2008, I was fresh off the publication of my first book and in the heyday of blogging as a service, BaaS, if you will humor my acronyms. Oh my, how life has changed. In the time that has passed since my departure from BlogHer/SheKnows Media, I've ceased to have a professional reason to be on social media. And, to some extent, my appetite for it has decreased. I finished another novel, which will come out from InkSpell Publishing in August 2019. It will be a labor of love, in that I care more about the themes of the book and in good sentences more than in the book's commercial success. That is a departure from my first two books. In those, I truly hoped for commercial success. Now, I understand a writer's chanches of making the front table at B&N are akin to a singer's chances of winning The Voice and then having a hit single a year later - so many people I talk to think somehow this art is different from that art, and ... it's not. But that's okay. There are too many people who think making art is only relevant if that art makes a living income. I know a lot of extremely talented artists and writers. Very few are able to survive solely on their art. Most depend also on income from speaking, teaching or brand representation. We no longer live in a society where artists have landed gentry sponsors. So, why, if it is so hard to make a living at art, do we still make art? Because it's important. Rise up from your couches, oh, Americans. Break free from your must-see TV and your Facebook... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
Sign up in the left nav to get my now quarterly newsletter. 'Cuz there's news in there, seriously. Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
It must be very difficult to be the child of a blogger. It was a grand experiment, this parenting blogging thing, and we navigated it by making a lot of mistakes, trying to figure out as we went along how much of ourselves to share and where the line was between us and our babies. In SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK, I wrote a lot about the struggles of parenting. I didn't write enough about the joy. Now the parent of an amazing fourteen-year-old girl, I've waited too long to revisit what it feels like to be a mother. I've often told my daughter that she can't possibly love me more than I love her. I still believe that to be true. The love I feel for her goes beyond human love to being love. It is both intellectual and instinctual in that I wouldn't have to actually think about throwing myself in front of a bus for her. I wouldn't be able to make the choice not to. I love her too much. But it's intellectual, too, because I love her not only because she's my child, but for her intelligence, her humor, and her resilience. She's bravely survived both my husband and I losing jobs and all the financial uncertainty and sacrifice that came of that. She bore my cancer without complaint and wrote a heartbreaking poem about the experience that showed me not only her writing talent but the depth of her maturity at such a young age. She has understood the world better as a very young child than many adults do, and that understanding gives her empathy for others -- and for me -- that I don't deserve and shouldn't be able to expect from a teenager who's still growing up and going through so... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
In 2009, I left my corporate job for a job in the blogosphere. At the time, it was my dream job. We had a good run. In that time, I watched many of my contemporaries make a living from their words and then fall from the industry as the way media works changed. Now, my TIME magazine is 100 pages shorter per issue and the headlines are more dominated by the royal wedding than they are a school shooting or Hawaii being ruined by a volcano. I remember the day Osama bin Laden died. I found out on a Sunday night, around midnight. We needed to cover it. So it goes. Media has died. I half-heartedly spoon sand over it and click on the next cat video. In 2017, I re-entered corporate America. Two weeks ago, I landed back in the building I've always felt most comfortable in. The art hanging on the walls is familiar. My heels make the right noise walking across the tiles of the floor. Even the sound of the noise-canceling swoosh makes coming back seem normal and good. And the view from the 16th floor of an all-glass building made sunglasses inside seem not ridiculous. I'm back at the company where I first took heat for blogging, back when blogging was a thing. My co-workers at my last job, the first re-entry, would sigh and roll their eyes whenever I referenced the eight years I spent in media. "Oh," they'd say. "Are you talking about THAT again?" That. When blogging was a thing. Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
I met Janelle Hanchett in person backstage at BlogHer's Voices of the Year show, where she was preparing to read "We Don't Start Out With Needles in Our Arms." She was also wearing a baby at the time. We spent about five minutes debating whether or not said baby should be worn onto the stage (I was a fan of the idea in theory but, having worn a baby myself in the past, not a fan of the reality of having a baby anywhere near a microphone in a room of 3,000 people). Janelle's story is a shocker, both for its rock-bottom and for its normal. I volunteered to be on the launch team for her memoir, I'M JUST HAPPY TO BE HERE, because after putting out a book about mental illness myself, I get how scary that is. Not only are you sort of laying yourself bare as a writer, you're exposing to the Instagram world what mental illness really feels like. Janelle's story is one of addiction and recovery, but I recognized in her writing a lot of the same rage I've felt at times in my life and the same mental pain that is so severe it feels physical. What I've always admired about Janelle's writing: Her beautiful sentences. While I feel confident she could turn the mundane details of life into art, she's got some pretty compelling material to work with, and the result is truly important writing. A few of my favorite quotes: I signed my daughter out, chatted with the receptionist, held my girl's hand to the car to make sure she was safe, and all these actions felt like tiny miracles. I gave the death glare to the woman when I saw her in the parking lot, because I was sober, not Jesus.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
In 2010, I wrote a post about anorexia and Dr. Phil. Shortly after that, I wrote a response on BlogHer which seems to have been lost in the abyss. Shortly before I was laid off from SheKnows Media (which acquired BlogHer and is now being acquired by Penske Media, I transferred some of my posts to Medium on a lark. One of them was 5 Things You Should Know About Your Girlfriend With an Eating Disorder. I've said it before: It's amazing, but I have received between 3-5 emails a week since I originally wrote the article sometime between 2010 and 2016 (yes, I admit, I don't have the will to research my posts on BlogHer -- it's painful). Originally I tried to write back individually to people, and at one point I had a six-month ongoing conversation with a mom, but after a while it became too overwhelming to keep up with all of the stories. And, after all, I wrote a book about this whole thing. So I started sending back this reply to the people who write me: I get so many emails like this I put everything I know about eating disorders and recovery in a novel called THE OBVIOUS GAME. You could read it together and use it as a conversation starter. Either way it should help you understand. Good luck - there is a lot about romantic relationships and how they are affected in the book. RJBA One time prior to today someone had an adverse reaction to this response, saying I was trying to sell them a book. I pointed out that THEY wrote ME, and that was the end of it. So imagine my surprise when today, I got this: "send me an email and I will answer your questions" "Fuck you... Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
I caught a few minutes of The Voice tonight. I haven't watched it since Christina Grimmie was killed. That was a bit of a perspective-setter about fame. In this episode, Kelly Clarkson was having a moment. I assume from context clues that Alicia Keys has been nabbing all the hot young things to the extent it started to give Kelly a complex. She didn't even want to turn around for a fabulous voice because she said, "There's no way I will win," or something to that effect. Oh, Kelly, I feel you. This is not a love song. Here's the thing: Any time you try something new, put yourself out there, no matter how high you've risen in your field or in your art, isn't there always an Alicia Keys? Isn't there always someone who intimidates you because they are amazing in their own skin, in their own art, and that confidence somehow feels threatening, as though there were a finite amount of wins in the universe? Because there are not: A finite amount of wins. Kelly Clarkson is a thousand million times more successful than I am, a thousand million times richer, more talented. In that moment, though, I wanted to grab her ears and look into her eyes and tell her to levelset, my friend, because you are all that and more and you need to have a Coke and a smile and shut the fuck up. You. Are. All. That. I know, right? Getting through a career is hard. It is so hard. You get knocked down, laid off, hired again, budget cut, high expectations, no expectations, no team, huge team, quarterly dividends, what did you say, again? And then you start again. Over and over and over. A fifty-year career is no longer a fifty-year career,... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
It appears to be true that we shrink as we age. In height, I mean. And maybe our hands. I always thought when I was a child and observed my friends' mothers (not mine, so much, because mine didn't wear a lot of makeup), that I hoped I would never become one of those people who looked completely different without makeup. I fear I have become that woman, mostly because when I don't wear makeup, suddenly my features seem ... small. And I wonder ... is it just our outlook that is outsized when we're in our twenties? Does the realization that broken bones and cancer and organ shutdowns are real things cramp our ability to stand up straight? Was I really different in my twenties, was I actually taller? Did pregnancy really make my foot bones spread so much I lost height? What's happened to my pelvic floor? Holy shit, am I actually shrinking? I know my own parents are an inch or so shorter than they were when they were my age. My maternal grandmother had osteoporosis and a bit of a hump that literally robbed her of many inches. And as I grow older and face job insecurities again, it occurs to me that I'm no longer the precocious young one in the room as I spent so much of my internet-bubble youth being. I've noticed the older women get, the bigger their diamonds. I always in the past attributed it to means, but now I wonder if the diamonds just look bigger on hands that shrink with age. I look at other women's hands, because I'm at the age where I'm kind of past the diamond fuck-it point. It happens. I'm there. At this point, I look at a lot of things and wonder ... why?... Continue reading
Posted Feb 18, 2018 at Surrender, Dorothy
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