a little c

because I refuse to give it a big one

Posts Tagged ‘identity’


Posted by wendy on 2012/04/09

I knew when I got my port-a-cath removed last August that I wanted to do something special with it–I just wasn’t sure what.  I had loads of suggestions, but it wasn’t until M suggested we hike our way up Helvellyn over the Easter holiday that the plan coalesced in my head.  I would climb Helvellyn and bury my port at the summit.

Mind you, I’ve never actually climbed a mountain before, so let’s all imagine my shock (and awe) at how incredibly difficult this climb was for me.  Difficult–and completely terrifying–and oh hey, can you SEE the metaphor forming?  I mean, seriously, I had a little metaphor-shaped cloud hanging over me from around the 400 meter mark and beyond.  I mean, seriously.  Incredibly difficult on a physical level?  Check.  Painful?  Check.  Mortal fear?  Check.  Icy cold wind making my face numb?  Well, okay.  That bit was new.  😉

We hiked, we climbed–and once or twice, I scooted on my butt because I couldn’t figure out any other way to get from one rock to another–but, we made it to the summit, and I buried my port inside a cairn just north of the summit marker.

There are cairns all over Helvellyn.  All the way up and back down again.  It’s tradition for climbers to toss another rock on the cairns as they go by.   I think it’s a way of saying “I was here.”

It may come back.  It may be the thing that gets me in the end.  That is the reality we all live with.  But, now–here and now–I feel stronger and less afraid than ever.

I was here.

Me. Sitting on the cairn that now encases my chemo port. If you're ever at the summit--toss a rock on and think of me, will you?

There are more shots on my Facebook page, if you want a peek.

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While I have your attention….

Posted by wendy on 2012/01/14

I don't have any relevant shots to post today, so I'll give you this self portrait, instead. If you meet me on the street, please don't mention my huge bulbous red nose. I'm very sensitive about it.

Oh hi, New People.  It’s been super fun to interact with you and meet so many of you during Wendy’s Wild and Ironic Ride on the Meme Train.  (seriously, I love that my complaint about viral updates turned into a viral update.  That was pretty cool.) You’re awesome.  Oh yes, I’m looking right at you when I say it.  Because you know you are.  If you want to stick around, I’ll do my best to keep it interesting around here.  Deal?  Deal.

So, this week, I am the Go-To Girl for snappy retorts to stupid cancer memes on Facebook.  I’m okay with that.  Next week, we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled program of Me Hating My Curly, Curly Hair, and I have a Nutella and Sea Salt Fudge recipe that you  need to try and report back to me–or send to me.   (mmmm, fudge)  But, we’re going to toss out one more meme before we get to that.

We’ve discussed the Facebook cut and paste phenomenon here, and I have mentioned one of the many versions of the following Facebook forward before, but we’ll give this dead horse one more THWACK before we let it go, okay?  A friend of mine–a cancer survivor, no less–received this the other day.  She was torn, because it was sent to her by a friend, and she didn’t want to hurt her friend’s feelings by telling her how it made her feel.   (so…if none of your cancer warrior friends have complained to you when you send them this stuff?  It is more than likely because they’re concerned about hurting you–so, maybe before you hit send, take a minute and think about their feelings.  Please.)

Let’s all take a minute and just…absorb the next few paragraphs, m’kay?

In support of Breast Cancer Awareness…So we all remember last year’s game of writing your bra color as your status? Or the way we like to have our handbag handy? Last year, so many people took part that it made national news and the constant updating of status reminded everyone why we’re doing this and helped raise awareness!! Do NOT tell any males what the statuses mean…keep them guessing!! And please copy and paste (in a message) this to all your female friends! It’s time to confuse the men again (not that it’s really that hard to do ;]) The idea is to choose the month you were born and the day you were born. Pass this on to the GIRLS ONLY and lets see how far it reaches around. The last one about the bra went around all over the world. Your status should say: “I am going to________________for___________ months.”

The day you were born should be for how many months you are going.

January–Mexico; February– London; March–Miami; April–Dominican Republic; May–France; June– St Petersburg; July–Austria; August–Germany; September–New York; October–Amsterdam; November– Las Vegas;December–Hawaii

I know so many cancer fighters and survivors who get stuff like this.  I’m one of them–because apparently, people think that since we had cancer–especially breast cancer, because that’s somehow the SEXY cancer (???? Really?),  we’re really appreciate cute and coy ‘don’t tell the boys’ memes about our bras.  Seriously, there are more ‘flirty’ email forwards for breast cancer than I can begin to count.  It’s depressing.  But, that is a rant for another day.  Where was I?

Oh yes.  Many of us don’t complain, because so many times it’s our friends and our family that send these things to us, and we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  Well…I’ll will go ahead and be the Bad Guy here.  That’s not okay, y’all.  It’s not . There is NO PART of that email that is okay.  And, don’t you dare say to me “it’s a bit of fun”, because co-oping cancer for flirty fun puts you firmly in the ‘insensitive and clueless’ category.   (Yes, I just called you insensitive and clueless.   Good thing you’re reading this, because now you can move over into the  sensitive and aware category if you choose to do so.)  😉

Even if we try to look past the asinine nature of the meme, “we’re going to raise awareness by keeping it a secret from the men!”–Wait.  No.  No.  I’m sorry, I can’t get past that at all.  Men get breast cancer, too.  MEN GET BREAST CANCER, TOO.  God, people.  GOD.  Nothing in that email  has a single thing to do with cancer.  Nothing.  It’s a game.  It’s a forward.  It’s a meme.  It’s useless.  And, it is by-GOD so insulting to the people who have to fight this disease every day.  If you want to participate in silly Facebook memes, then by all means–do so.  But, how DARE you have the gall to do it under the guise  of “it’s for cancer!”.   How. Dare. You.

The fact that the bra meme ‘went around the world’ is nothing to be proud of, dammit.  You want shame?  That’s a shame, right there.

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I’m not much of a gambler

Posted by wendy on 2011/10/26

Baby needs a new pair of shoes! No, really--I could use a nice pair of comfortable flats.

I’m not sure I’ve discuss my BRAC Analysis results here–they administered the test at my first surgeon visit after my diagnosis–which, I don’t know…once you get cancer and they do a test to see how susceptible you ARE to cancer, it’s kind of a “wow, thanks for letting me know about my  BRCA2 positive mutation after telling me I have breast cancer!”.   It seems a bit pointless at that particular juncture–but, of course, (and it’s the thing I haven’t talked about here) I am not only at risk for breast cancer (which, I already had would be super pleased NOT to have again), but I have around a 20% chance of developing ovarian cancer at some point.  Now, that means I’ve got an 80% chance of NOT getting it, and if I were in Vegas, I’d certainly play those odds.  Of course, the fine folks at Caesar’s Palace aren’t asking me to put my life on the line.  20% seems much bigger when the stakes are this high.

So, this week, I had my first vaginal ultrasound and a pretty serious discussion  with my gynecologist about getting rid of a few more body parts–my ovaries and my uterus.  She gave me a few options—remove my ovaries and tubes, leave the uterus or, do a full hysterectomy.   The method she advises is called a da Vinci Hysterectomy (robotic hysterectomy).  It’s less invasive than an open hysterectomy and the downtime would only be a few days.  I could conceivably be back home the same day.

I have to say that at this point in my life, I am sugeried OUT.  Seriously.  The idea of more surgery brings on a case of The Tragics that no amount of Ben and Jerry’s can abate–but…am I willing to spend the rest of my days having a vaginal ultrasound and bloodwork every 6 months so we can try to ‘catch’ any abnormalities?   Not so much.  And, the more I think about it, the more I realize I’m not all that attached to them anyhow–I stopped menstruating back in 1989 after my son was born, so, essentially all my ovaries are good for is pumping out estrogen, which my (ER-postive) cancer loves to attach itself to–hence the 5 year tamoxifen (which also carries it’s own risk of uterine cancer) prescription.  (ooo…an added plus that my doctor said she would investigate:  Would I have to continue taking an estrogen blocker if my ovaries are removed?  There’s another plus.)

So, she’s given me plenty to think about–and plenty of time to think about it, as my next ultrasound is scheduled for April 23, 2012.   Really though–I’m not sure there’s much to think about.   I should really stock up on Ben and Jerry’s, though–cause there’s no ice cream in this house right now and that’s all kinds of wrong.

I wonder if my insurance would cover  New York Super Fudge Chunk as a therapeutic necessity?

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Relief and Gratitude and a House Guest

Posted by wendy on 2011/10/09

I have a mouse.  He is freaking adorable, but he is not allowed to live in my house so the game of Catch or Kill is on.  I prefer “catch”, but if I have to resort to “kill”, I’ll do it, because mice aren’t very good house guests at all.  They use your good towels on their muddy feet, don’t put the little wrappy thing back on the bread, and put empty cartons back in the fridge.  I’m pretty ruthless about empty milk cartons.

I’ve spent the last week in a kind of frenzy of gratitude and excitement and fear.  The fabulous people who particpated in the boobiethon netted me $2,555.  You know,  the ‘thon has taken its fair share of flack over the years, because Komen was the main recipient (and for the boobies)–but, in case anyone ever tries to criticize them because the women who need it don’t benefit–send them to ME.  Send them here:   I am a breast cancer survivor and the Boobie-thon has just paid for the next 4+ months of my COBRA.  I don’t have the proper words to say how much this has meant to me.   I’ve tried thanking everyone who donated to me (I think I thanked a few of you twice–haha) and it feels like it was just this litany of “thank you, I’m overwhelmed, and OH MY GOSH!”.  hahaha.  If I babbled to you, I apologize.  I really was completely overwhelmed.  Thank you Mel for doing such a fantastic job as the organizer, and thank you Statia, for nominating me.  I love you guys so much.   I’d be remiss not to mention that Pete’s image  went up to $350, and my very good friend Jason is also auctioning off a shot for me (it ends Tuesday).  I have such amazing friends.  I really do.

Don't freak out--I was stopped at a red light when I snapped this.

There is a sense of relief that this little bit of attention is kind of over for me now, though.  I have to admit–I felt like HIDING a lot last week.  I have no idea how I suddenly became The Shy Girl, but oh maaan—I just felt so completely undeserving of all of the kindness directed my way.  I couldn’t look at my stats, because I’m so used to the 20 or so people who read this and when there’s suddenly 700 views on your blog…it’s scary to feel so opened up and vulnerable.  I’m not used to it.  🙂  Overwhelmed.

Physically, I’m doing really well.  The hot flashes haven’t gone away completely–but, they have subsided.   I think I had one yesterday.  Hurrah for Effexor!   My hair–much to my chagrin–is very curly.   DO NOT WANT.   Seriously, I actually had a moment yesterday in which I missed my wigs desperately.  I feel terribly ungrateful for disliking my hair, because–helloooo, at least I have hair, right?   WHINGING!  I should stop that.  I’m just super lazy and hate fixing my hair every day.  Seriously I do not get how short hair is easier.  Ponytails are easy.  Massive amounts of hair gel are not.

What a difference a week can make!!!  For reals, people–my biggest complaint about my life right at this second is that I have to fix my hair.  I’m going to stop and just enjoy that for a minute or two.

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The Tale of the Phantom Port

Posted by wendy on 2011/10/06

I noticed yesterday in the shower that I was still very carefully washing my neck and upper chest, so as not to touch the (skeeevy) chemo port that is no longer there.  Old habits die hard, don’t they?

It’s still a shock to me when I look at pictures of myself now and there isn’t a hard little round disc sticking out of my chest and I still occasionally feel a bit of a phantom pull in my throat where the port met my jugular vein.  I expect this will all fade eventually–I mean, I finally learned where my breasts are located on my body–for the longest time after my first surgery, I found myself trying to wash under breasts that were no longer there.  (Seriously.  It was super annoying.)  It stands to reason I’ll figure out my neck is OKAY TO TOUCH AGAIN eventually.

Why yes, I did make myself a shirt. Iron-on transfers, ftw!

Right now, the only real obstacle I face in the shower is shaving my right armpit–because the underside of my arm is numb (and will remain so–this is something that won’t go away since they removed all my lymph nodes on that side) and I haven’t gotten around to getting an electric razor yet, so cutting myself without realizing it remains a possibility.  I never realized how much one shaves just by feel.  The pressure of the razor against your skin is how you tell you’re doing it right and I can’t feel that anymore.  Frustrating, but not end-of-the-world stuff, so I can deal.

I’ve been pretty lucky so far with my arm.  Working out doesn’t bother it (I’m being very careful not to overdo it, as I know it’s a bit risky–but, I think the benefits outweigh the risks.  It cannot do me anything but good to build up the muscle in my arms.) and I’m hopeless when it comes to remembering not to carry my purse on my right shoulder, but it hasn’t affected anything.   I haven’t had to deal with any swelling or other signs of Lymphedema yet.  I have full range of motion with the arm as well.   Dr. Awesome (my surgeon) was unsurprised at my progress.  “You’re young, you’re healthy, there’s no reason you shouldn’t do well.”.

I’m going to just take a moment and enjoy those  words.  Cause I really love it when my doctors talk about how ‘young’ I am.

Tomorrow is the very last day of the Boobie-thon, and I am just completely overwhelmed with gratitude over how generous people have been.  I’ve talked about ‘moments of grace‘ here before, and I want you all to know I’ve had more of those moments this week than I can count.  I feel like I keep repeating myself over and over, but it’s all I know to say or do.  Thank you.  Thank you.  ❤  One day, I’ll pay all of this forward.

This is the very last Boobie-thon ever, which is such a bittersweet thing to all of the women who’ve been involved over the years–but I think especially to Robyn, the founder, and Mel, who took over organizing the thon for Robyn a few years back, and I’m sure for my Hot Internet Wife, Statia, who was the reason the whole thing began.   These women have worked tirelessly for a cause they really believe in and I think they’re amazing.  There are a few really fun contests (win a Kindle Fire or a $30 Amazon card!)  running over there right now, and you still have time to enter, so head over if you like.  Now, shoo!

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Change is inevitable. And scary. But good.

Posted by wendy on 2011/10/02

Our lives can spin out of control so quickly–and when you’re first diagnosed with cancer, the whirlwind you find yourself in does not seem to stop–ever.  I told a friend today it’s like busting through a series of brick walls.  You get through one, and there is another one standing directly in your path.  It’s the nature of it.  I’ve got this…idea of a quote I’ve read somewhere about tempering steel–and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a blacksmith banging a sword against the wall in order to make it sharper, so maybe I’m mixing up analogies.  Hang on, while I hit google,  will you?  Go get something to drink–or, if you like, go on and hit the link to the Boobiethon and peruse around for a few minutes, and I’ll meet you back here in 2 minutes!  Okay, I’m back and I found it!

The fire of adversity will melt you like butter, or temper you like steel. The choice is yours.

YAY!  I really like that quote.  Of course, in the time that I ran around google to find that quote, I also found more really cool clown make-up ideas, a recap of last Thursday’s Project Runway, and a dreamy picture that my friend Emily posted on my wall of Dylan Moran and I kind of lost the thread of this  post.  I am easily distracted by shiny things.

Now and Then

THREADS!  Yes, I know where I was going with this.  I fought so hard against the idea that cancer would change me.  I liked me!  I didn’t want me to change, to be different–I didn’t want to lose my breasts, I didn’t want to lose my hair, I didn’t want to be anything other than the girl I saw in the mirror in November of 2010.  The thing is…we all change.  I mean, that’s what life IS.  Things happen to all of us, good and bad, and we hit the brick wall or get tossed into the fire and then we come out..different.  So, maybe the ‘change’ bit is out of our control–but we can control the outcome.  Having breast cancer changed me–I mean, literally–helloooo to the Now and Then next to this paragraph.

So..yeah.  I’m different.  And, I fought so hard against it, but once I decided to accept the reality of what had happened to me, suddenly….I was okay with the changes–physical and mental.  I’m stronger and wiser and there are days that I am steel and fire and seriously, brick walls need to STEP OFF.  um…lest I give the impression of being a Super Hero here , there are also days that getting out of bed and getting dressed to leave the house feels like an insurmountable task.  But, even the ‘bad’ days and moments are tinged with this sense of being grateful to be here to experience the highs and lows of being alive.

My Aunt Puppy told me I ‘have a glow’ about me now.   I told her it was the hot flashes.  😉

It’s Day 2 of the Boobiethon, and as I mentioned, I am the Bloggers Helping Bloggers recipient this year, and I am overwhelmed and completely out of ways to show how grateful I am to everyone who has donated this year.  I have alternated between fits of weeping and elation and introspection and I feel so humbled by the outpouring of help that’s been thrown my way.  I had $2.82 in my bank account on Friday–we were drowning and you guys have thrown us a lifeline.  So, thank you.  Thank you from me, thank you from my son, thank you from Pip and thank you from Emma.

Here I am again.  Grateful to be alive to experience something beyond any expectations that I had.

Thank you so much for that.

Thank you.

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I yam who I yam! Who yam I? Popeye? Oh, hey, he doesn’t have any hair, either! Although, my forearms aren’t nearly as large.

Posted by wendy on 2011/04/09

One word titles are so hard to do.

I had a comment on a shot of me wearing my wig in which the question was asked “Why hide who you are?”.  I had to think about that comment a bit–because I DO choose to wear a wig on the days that I don’t feel like being ‘the bald girl’.   When I’m wearing my bandanna, I am immediately recognizable as a chemo patient–hell, I was approached twice yesterday by people who wanted to know what kind of cancer I had–I am happy to tell them and to talk about my experiences when this happens, but seriously–my life could quickly become The All-Cancer Channel if I allowed it to be.   We call this the “little c” around here, not the big one.  I don’t think wearing a wig ‘hides’ who I am, I actually think I am more me, more Wendy when the wig is on.  I look into a mirror and I see ME again.  Losing your self-identity is so easy to do when little bits and pieces are constantly whittled away by an illness.  My wigs (all of them) have helped me find that ownership of self that is so important to me.

I am not defined by cancer.  Period.  It’s actually a bit insulting to me that anyone would want me to carve out who I am around my illness.  Some days, I wear a wig, some days, I wear a bandanna.   I am learning that I am always me, inside–where it really countsno matter what my outward appearance is to the general public.

Has cancer changed me?  Yes.  Obviously.  You look your mortality in the face and it is bound to change you.  My perspective, my priorities, they have shifted.  But, I refuse to make this the most important thing that has ever happened to me.  I’m not going to allow that.  There are so many other wonderful things in my life that are important.  In fact, I see what IS important so much more clearly now.  This cancer is a blip, an interruption, an unwelcome interloper.  My son is important, my love is important, my family is important.   I’m going to get through this, I’m going to beat it, and I’m going to get back to the things that do define me.


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