Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Long division

My little hairs are starting to sprout again, albeit reluctantly, which means my cells are getting back to the business of dividing.

This freaks me out.

On one paw, I've been complaining about my squeaky face, my sinuses that release all over everything when I bend over, a patchy hairdo, and a noggin with stagnant capacity and the inability to shout "look out for that flying ax!" when my beloveds are in harm's way. On the other paw, cell division means an opportunity for the mean girls in there to start bullying again.

It's been safe up to this point. I've escaped without debilitating side effects. The axes hurtling our way have been minimal since the Middle Ages. Remember Madonna in her Dita days? Screw the haters, I think she looked pretty wicked with no brows, and I've gotten adolescent-level good at drawing mine in so I get pitying stares from only 93% of strangers instead of 100%. I've learned to cope.

Now it gets real, real fast.

My PET scan is tomorrow and I'm trying not to succumb to a bundle a stress, biting the heads off baby turtles and selling my children to gypsies. I'm actively trying to be an awesome mom, a decent friend, and a person who returns phone messages and emails. All the things I've sucked hard at in the past when life gets me by the balls.

I waver between feeling like I need to dissolve in a hedonistic existence of beer and nachos at 10 am, pedicures with happy endings at 1 pm and endless karaoke and cocaine at 3 pm, or submit to the life of a martyr, eating kale while I self-flagellate. If I had a therapist, she'd likely say that whatever I do, I need to do with joy. I know it. Eating chocolate cake at midnight is only half the problem. The other half is the big oily stress mess you put on yourself for eating it.

It's not all food-related, and truth is, I'm golden with what I need to put in my body. It's getting the whole mind/body/spirit package in place so I can do my job of quickly multiplying my natural killer cells and lengthening the time between the division of the mean girl cells scattered hither and thither. I'm about 75% there with that whole package dealio and trying hard not to be all "good" and "bad" about it all like a Cosmo girl.

By the end of this week I'll know whether chemo-sabe has really been my friend or if I have go more martyr than hedonist to stretch this life out as long as possible. It's okay. I can be a bitch about this stuff. I've had a ton of inspiration from the bitches in my life, Madge included.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


After I met Pete for the first time and fell hard for my blonde Kanye, I asked our mutual friend, M, whether she thought he would be interested in a busted dame like me.

I was already in love, but one giant indicator was telling me to run far away: he was just that very second getting out of a long-term relationship with someone who liked to kayak as much as he did. I was about as outdoorsy as Zsa Zsa Gabor, without the wealth or good manners with police officers, and I had never been in a relationship that lasted longer that a Daft Punk song.

"I think Pete needs a little time to figure out who he is," M said wisely.

She was right, but another thing I'm no good at is being patient, so I damned the torpedoes and continued to flirt with my future boyfriend. 

After a few cutesy lunches and walks around our mutual workplace in Burnaby, Pete was inspired to lend me a book of Vancouver walks with his name and number written inside the cover and then waited for me to figure out it was a silent invitation and not an indication of his fear of having his precious guidebooks ne'er returned.

More than 13 years later, I'm still mad about the boy, and want to hang out with him every day and go for long walks.

Pete took some time off this week because we haven't had any extended opportunities since my re-diagnosis in February to just be, sans kids. No cancer shizzle. No schmoop. No talk of what kind of stripper he'll marry if I can't crush this thing as expected. Not that we deteriorate into that stuff on the regular, but sometimes, between the kids and his work and the general running of our lives, we have to cram in a bit of everything in the couple of hours we steal for each other at night.

With entire days to fill with just hanging out, I forgot about il cancro. Like, almost completely at times. 

It generally never goes away entirely, which I don't mean to make sound dire, but when you're trying to be badass, you have to be diligent, which means staying well is always top of mind. I don't wake up crying into my Holly Hobbie pillowcase or go to bed depressed, but on most days, cancer is an agenda item that I'm ticking off over and over again, and it gets a bit much.

The respite with Pete has been glorious, especially since I've been feeling completely fantastic for the first time in months. We lunched, shopped, walked, talked, cooked, cleaned, watched ridiculous Italian travel shows, and just generally enjoyed being boyfriend and girlfriend.

I also fell in love again for the 20,000th time, in a slightly different way that can only come with the shit we've been through together. 

But more than anything else, I lived like a person without this blasted disease. Thanks for the mini-break, Mr. P.

Monday, August 11, 2014


Frances has been up to her old tricks lately, waking up in the middle of the night to tell me she's scared, or has to pee, or remembered that she forgot to pick up a quart of milk, a stick of butter and a loaf of bread.

I try to be as polite as possible during our 3 am meet-ups, peering over her upper bunk with half-opened eyes, shivering from her stand-up fan and just generally drunk with drowsiness and trying to get the whole transaction over with before my body realizes it's upright.

As a result of these nocturnal interruptions, evenings have been sleepier and mornings tougher to take.

Last Tuesday night around 9:30, I was ready to catapult the kids into bed and fall asleep to a good foreign home-buying show when Stella passed me a note that said:

I feel adventurous tonight and want to go for a drive in the dark before bed. Pleeeease?!

I couldn't resist.

We all hopped in the car - the girls and I in jammies and Pete in more civilized shorts. It was getting cold so I pulled on my giant hoodie with "Bad ass" on the front, put on my purple librarian glasses, washed off the eyebrows and let my patchy brush cut fly free through the open window.

We no sooner turned the corner when I saw our next door neighbours' chihuahua being walked by a stranger. I peered into the woman's face and realized as we were passing that it was the Loch Ness monster of our neighbourhood: my oncologist. She looked at me, I looked at her and we stared at each other like we'd never met.

Even though Dr. A lives just up the road, I've seen her only twice before - once when she was driving down our street in her old Honda and once when she was dropping off keys next door so my neighbour's mother could house sit for her while Dr. A went to Palm Springs.

Each time, seeing her was like seeing a teacher outside of school: surreal and awkward.

Shortly after this, we drove up to UVic and promptly got rear-ended while we waited to get onto Ring Road. Pete and the new driver exchanged heated words while the the dude refused to admit he hit us, so I did what I do best and stepped in.

I emerged from the passenger side, in full jammie'd, badass, glasses, patchy-haired glory and said, "Are you REALLY denying you hit us? I felt it, my kids felt it, my husband felt it..."

The driver looked me up and down for a second and said quickly, "I'm sorry... I'm so sorry."

Then I realized I looked like the perfect cancer patient, deserving of your sympathy and pithy inspirational quotes, not the badass I thought I was. Ugh.

The next morning I was beat and decided to sleep in an extra 30 minutes. By the time I got gussied up to go on my walk, a whole different, more intense breed of people was out on the streets instead of my usual sleepy compadres. As I pulled Lucy close to me, balancing a full bag of dog shit and making room for a couple of focused Oak Bay runners with their black lab, I looked at the man's face to say good morning and saw it was my plastic surgeon, Dr. T.

I get it, universe.

With the runway leading to my PET scan now littered with rose petals and set to the latest Euro-pop and just the right shade of orange lipstick, the sight of two of my major medical team players plus my fear realized that I look more patient than model badass these days are all signs that I can't let up on the road to breaking up with my cancer boyfriend forever. I need to work, bitches.

I've had a few moments lately, as my hormones come back into circulation, when I've thought, "can I just have a day when all this shit is not so bloody top of mind?!", but the woman who thinks those whiny thoughts is a damn baby.

As the incomparable Kate Moss said, nothing tastes as good as skinny feels... or something, something, cancer sucks, something, something, don't lose focus.