Monday, March 31, 2014

Pushy broad

My best friend's dad used to call us "broads" when we were around 9-years old. Like "How are you broads doing today?" I thought it sounded gangster and repeated it to my parents to try it on.

"That's not a nice word to call girls or women," my mom, ever the diligent feminist, responded.

Around the same time, one of my brothers (who will not be named) called me "a witch with a capital B". There wasn't much swearing in my house, so this was pretty wicked. It fast-followed an incident at my nana's house in East Vancouver when I spouted some curse word at my brothers (likely over which show to watch on TV) and got my mouth washed out with soap. 

None of this turned me into a lady. 

I took my mother's warnings and cursed strategically, marrying it to my father's ever-faithful Irish advice to "just punch the guy" to develop a definite fight response when confronted with danger.

This has been a fun quality to hone in a skinny blonde girl who was shy around all adults growing up, and let's face it, looked like a child bride most of the time.

People thought they could mess with me, and sometimes did. And it wasn't like I got all Hulk-like and pounded muscle-heads into the ground to the amazement of on-lookers. I wasn't terribly strong, but I rarely let a cat-call or an invitation to argue or fight pass me by.

The summer I turned 13 and just before I started middle school, I went camping with my cousins and met my first real bully, who was two years older than me. She spotted me and figured I was a done deal.

"I heard you girls were calling us bitches and sluts," she spat when we ran into them at the beach. "It was you!" she pointed to me.

Any wise girl who looked like this:

Would do well to avoid a girl who looked like this:

But I couldn't resist. I stepped forward and said "yeah, it was me." 

She invited me to punch her first and even pointed to the spot where I should do it. So I did. I mustered all my brute strength, reared back and landed a great motherfucking swing on the bitch's jaw. And then it was over. She was on top of me in the sand, pummeling away, while everyone looked on. Someone finally pulled her away and I had an embarrassing shiner to start grade eight.

But here's the thing. I'd do her like that again in a heartbeat, plus that homeless guy who tried to grab my BFF on a downtown street late at night, the jerk who threw the paper at me instead of placing it on my desk in grade five and the countless assholes who have yelled shitty things to me and gotten a face full of vitriol back. 

I've gotten worse as I've gotten older, but it means I ask for what I need, I don't trust authority (it doesn't always win, Mr. Cougar Mellencamp) and I'll never take the first answer on anything. It means I'm a pain in the ass sometimes, but I won't stop. I can't stop.

Pushy broads for evah.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Posse riot

With one scan to go and the most stressful oncologist's appointment a week away, I'm assembling my posse.

During my last marriage with deranged cells, I read a shit ton of books about nutrition, meditation, exercise, disease and treatment and have a pretty excellent base for understanding what a body does leading up to, during and after cancer. In a nutshell, eating your veggies, meditating and exercising every day can prevent disease and heal you.

I tried to be truly integrative, but most of it was self-directed and often inconsistent. This time, I'll be louder and prouder, I just don't know exactly what that will look like yet.

My GP is on my unpopular list right now, but I can only give myself seconds at a time to be pissed off that she didn't send me to a dermatologist back in October when I first went to her complaining of the rash on my chest that wasn't clearing up... or again in December after the ultrasound came back clear but the rash was still there. Months wasted trying to balance persistence with bat-shit crazy.

The dermatologist was a completely different story (and blog post) but I can at least credit her with staying late the first time I saw her so she could do the biopsy right away. That whole "cutting a piece of my flesh away five seconds after injecting me with freezing" bit is water under the bridge now.

My cancer doc is excellent. She's a bit of a sociopath, and not warm and fuzzy, but she can diagnose and treat the heck out of cancer in a traditionally hardcore and thoughtful way. She's got me covered on that front.

My massage therapist was a gem. He was one of the only adults, other than Pete, to see me bald, and was no nonsense about working out the kinks from head to toe while asking me a ton of thoughtful questions. I've booked his ass already.

I dabbled in naturopathy before and loved the hour-long discovery session where I was asked about everything from my favourite cereal growing up to my relationship with my brothers. But after the session, the push of probiotics felt a little pyramid scheme. I wanted to take my doc aside and give her advice on how to be a little less stereotypically gut flora-obsessed in her treatment approach, but instead I stole her holistic cancer treatment book and never returned it.

A colleague recently reminded me that there's a non-profit called Inspire Health in B.C. that focuses on truly integrative care for cancer patients. I would rather light myself on fire than call myself a cancer patient, but I'm willing to try this. For $450, you can do a full program with them that includes classes, counselling and group sessions with other sickies. The blog fodder alone is enough to make me want to go.

As Tyra would say, I'm going H to T with this dealio while I learn all over again that eating your veggies, meditating and exercising every day can heal you.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Englishman

Two scans down, two to go. 

I had my heart scan on Thursday and got a wicked bad poke by an absent-minded tech that is now a grisly murder scene on my inner arm. The tin and saline tasted just as bad as I remember from the last time, and hard to believe, but there seemed to be even more snoring old people in the nuclear med waiting room. Being radioactive knocks the stuffing out of you.

Friday was all about the CT scan and I was there 15 minutes early and done in less than 20 from start to finish. The poke was painless, I didn't have to drink the disgusting orange contrast cocktail and the tech took a moment to look at my chart and comment on how my diagnosis sucks the big one. Bonus points for the 80-year old in the waiting room who demanded to know where I got my hair cut. I reach a certain demographic and I accept that.

Tomorrow it's about dem bones and then April 1 I get my first PET scan in Vancouver, which has nothing to do with seeing something adorable like this:

But this post is really about the strange English boy I live with.

This lad, who figured he scored marrying a 30 year old when he was 40, is likely now thinking young chicks are nothing but false advertising. With one cancer diagnosis gone and buried, a near-death experience in the ICU and now another tumour taking over our lives, it's enough already.

But here's what I love about my boyfriend: he lets me say stupid shit like "when I was in my heart scan I started thinking that living another four years would be acceptable."

Instead of talk me out of such a stupid thought, or get disturbed or sad or angry or whip out the card of anyone but him to confide in about that garbage, he poured me another glass of wine and listened. And I didn't say it to get attention or a rise or test him. I truly had that thought and I knew he would take it as it was - just a momentary thought that speaks to all the death scenarios that run through a girl's mind when her cells are misbehaving again.

And this is love.

Oh, and this is love, too:

 When an Englishman clears out a big space in the garden to let you do whatever you want with it, it's like an Italian letting you put ketchup on your pasta. We all know I'll destroy everything that's good in that soil with my half-baked planting ideas, but for some reason, this boy believes it'll all somehow turn out okay.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


When I was kid, we had a bathtub/shower combo with three knobs jutting out of the tiled wall (and wall-to-wall purple carpeting in the bathroom, but we won't go there, 1970s). The left was for hot, the right for cold. For an embarrassingly long time I thought the middle one was for decoration (there was no label on it), and I couldn't figure out how the heck to turn on the shower. When my mom gave me the option of turning on a shower for myself instead of a bath, I chose bath, bath, all the time, bath, because I refused to ask for help.

With the latest diagnosis I'm getting big wet, warm reminders that everyone just wants to help, whether they've known me for 41 years or met me last week. It runs the gamut, too, from advice, a shared story, a lasagna, a latte, a walk or just an ear at 4 in the morning. I love the gestures and I know it's not really about me but about a feeling of needing to do something useful in a terrible situation, but I'm okay with that. The problem is, I still find it difficult to accept the help. Which makes me a big fat jerk.

So I'm trying to include help as part of my House of Yes approach to life.

I'll ask for your pull to get me moved up the queue in the system and not feel like a user. I'll admit that getting dinner ready some nights over the next six months is going to be ballz after waking up from a three-hour chemo nap. I'll let you come with me to a scan and make jokes about the nurse hairdos. I'd love to have you look after my kids while I go on a date with my man while I still have my mofo hair. I'll take that decaf mocha with almond milk. I'll answer my door in the middle of a work day when you come to just give me a hug. I'll let you pay for breakfast or dinner or the trip to Vancouver, even though I can cover it.

I'll let you nudge my leg over and over again to let me know you need attention, too, and you're not one of those dogs who nudges the spot where there's cancer, you just like to bloody well nudge.

And I'll take your encouragement to write this shit (or any shit) down and use you for free editing.

It's all unbelievable that someone like me, who's generally neglectful of people, can garner such crazy warmth from friends and strangers alike. So I'll take the help and promise not to ruin it by asking you to shave my corns (if I get them), give me a sponge bath (is it 6 o'clock already?) or buy me a nose hair toupee (because you do lose that business during chemo).

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Saying yes

I've gotten very good at managing my priorities. Saying no, cutting the fat, becoming precise with how long something takes. This has served me well with a job that could take over my life if I let it. I've achieved something close to balance, but have sacrificed some spontaneity along the way.

After the shitstorm that was Friday and inviting chemo back into my life, I knew I had to find a different kind of balance. I had to say yes more if I was going to truly live. Not yes, I'll swim with sharks (yet), in that "live every day like it's your last" spirit that seems exhausting (and sure to cause hurt feelings), but yes nonetheless.

It started on Friday afternoon when I answered a phone call from a number I didn't recognize and ended up inviting a strange man into my home so I could get a free Slap Chop in exchange for a demo of an air purifier. That entire sentence sounds like someone else wrote it, but shizz, I needed to start somewhere with this opening the door business.

That one didn't turn out so well. I ended up kicking the guy out and giving him a lesson on word of mouth advertising by telling him I would be actively telling everyone I knew his company was ballz (you know I'm talking about you, Advanced Air Supply). And I didn't get the Slap Chop because I cut the demo short. Ok, so technically a yes, but with a giant dose of wtf was I thinking?

Still, it inspired me to say yes to other things this weekend.

I explored beaches I've never seen instead of just driving by for the 63,000th time.

I stopped to watch the mating rituals of birds I otherwise take for granted.

I went ghost-hunting at dusk, even though I knew it would mean nothing but nightmares for my girls. We didn't see the infamous Doris on the 7th fairway of the Victoria Golf Club, but did find the beach where her body was dumped and her husband walked into the water after murdering her. Good clean family fun.

And I took a shitload of walks with my girls instead of trying to organize everything for the coming week, trying my damnedest not to herd everyone and just look up for a change...

Friday, March 14, 2014

I am ferocitas

I woke up this morning feeling... not exactly like P. Diddy, but a bit badass. Sure, I had an oncologist appointment this morning, but I also had a new Vitamix, got a pretty good sleep, had not yet broken my Seinfeld habit chain on my calendar and... holy shit, can I compartmentalize. A bit sociopathic, really.

See, I just found out last week that the cancer is baa-aack, and although I've had moments of being bummed or downright panicked about the possibilities, I've been pretty chill about seeing and feeling that malignant little rash on my chest every morning and night. Not exactly no big deal, but no big drama. Then today arrived like any other day. I played border collie for my kids to herd them out the door and into spring break camp, and shook my hair around to try to look like Tilda Swinton. No dice, but still a bloody good colour.

When I saw my old oncologist again, striding into the room, shaking my hand like we were about to do a business deal, I felt confident, but like I was about to negotiate, not get another diagnosis. Then Dr. A blew my mind and I remembered how this thing can knock the wind out of you.

The "affected area" (which is not really a tumour, but a rash) is about 5 cm and I have a slightly enlarged lymph node above my collar bone. It's the same cancer from 2010, back and better than ever. I'm being queued up for a litany of scans and doctor appointments, and surgery and skin grafts will likely be later, after we can shrink the rash (and the possible malignant lymph node) with six months of chemo.

I was a bit stopped in my tracks, but there was no time. Hormone therapy and monthly injections or hardcore chemo? Port-a cath or PICC line for your scarred-up veins? Cancel your trip to Hawaii in July and ruin your family's life or skip a treatment, travel and risk infection? Now, now, we need to know NOW!

I was a good little cancer patient and said yes to hardcore chemo, maybe to the port-a-cath and shit, I guess I have to re: cancelling the trip and making my kids cry.

So here I am once more. This time with feeling.

I'd love to have company. It'll make it more fun to share my pink mohawk pics before I shave my Tilda in a few weeks. I'll miss my eyelashes, but getting unfettered dust particles in my eyes gives me an excuse to wear some wicked shades.

And the blog title? I still feel badass, ferocious, and completely ready for this do-over. Bring it.