Cancer Lesson #67: Lowbrow Humor

Cancer Lesson #67: Lowbrow Humor

Your eyebrows and lashes may disappear more slowly than your hair. Likewise, when they reappear, the process may be sluggish.

This means you could be sporting the Uncle Fester look for longer than you expected.

While I was grateful not to lose my lashes and brows entirely, I found I missed them more than my hair. And though both returned eventually, neither they nor my hair are quite as thick as I remember them being before cancer.

Cancer Lesson #66: Be Strong for the Fight — free download

Cancer Lesson #66: Be strong for the fight.

A friend sent me this song, which I’m sharing for those who are in the middle of their battle with cancer, in the hope it may help you stay strong.

“The waves look much deeper when you’re underneath them, so try to look up instead. The sun looks much brighter when viewed from the dark side when the dark side is in your head. So, look toward the light. And be strong for the fight.” — Emily Keener

Click the link below for the rest of the lyrics and to listen to or download the song. 

Cancer Lesson #65: Yes, Mamm, or You Don’t Get a 50% Discount for Having Only One Breast

Cancer Lesson #65: Yes, Mamm, or You Don’t Get a 50% Discount for Having Only One Breast

Back in October, 2011, my oncologist said, “Come in for a mammogram of your left breast in March.”

Just my left?

My mind went blank for a moment before I remembered. Although I have a breast of sorts on my right side, it’s a placeholder with no breast tissue.

Hence, no mammogram.

And, no, I don’t get a fifty percent discount on my screening. I tell myself it’s because they have to look extra hard for anomalies.

As for you, please take this as a reminder to get an appointment for a mammogram on your calendar. It might save your life.

Cancer Lesson #64: Hair Today Revisited

Cancer Lesson #64: Hair Today Revisited

When my hair first started to grow again, I looked like a baby ostrich.  I couldn’t quite carry off the uber-chicness of extremely short hair,  so I kept my head covered for the most part, usually with my baseball cap (very un-chic).

My daughter would take off the hat and rub my head like it was Buddha’s belly. I put up with it because I love her.

By the time I went back to work, the weather was getting cooler, so I started wearing wigs. I was working in the children’s section of the library, and the kids’ reaction to my hair color was sometimes quite entertaining.

For my first storytime in seven years, I felt like I needed a little extra oomph. I wore Darling Daughter’s fluorescent pink wig and promised my small charges the next time they saw me my hair would be a different color.

To follow through on that pact, I bought a new wig from a place I call “the hooker store.” (Darling Daughter didn’t appreciate the humor, but if you saw it, you’d understand.)

“Ooooh! Your hair is violet,” said one little girl, exhibiting an astonishing vocabulary and knowledge of color for a five-year-old.

Another little one said, “I like your hair dye.”

Her mother was aghast.

“How do you know it’s dye?” she asked.

“Because her hair was a different color last time I saw her,” replied her unfazed daughter.

The Starbucks barista asked if my hair color was in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

It was, I suppose, albeit unintentionally.

Even when I wore my “normal” wig, people commented. Maybe the raspberry pink streaks made me more approachable.

My favorite was midnight black with electric blue tips, also Darling Daughter’s.

She wouldn’t give it to me, though, not even when I played the cancer card.



Cancer Lesson #63: Cancer Has a Lot of Nerve

Cancer Lesson #63: Cancer has a lot of nerve.

I know this because it’s taken so many of mine.

Try this: Run a finger across a scar.
It probably feels different from the rest of your skin, maybe even numb.

Well, I have a lot of scars. One encircles my relocated belly button – kind of like a bull’s-eye – and a long one crosses my abdomen.  Then there are the others, on and around my breast and under my arm.

Twelve hours of surgery does that to a body.

It’s been almost four years since my surgery, but I still don’t feel much around the scars, even partway down my arm.

I can live with that.

But I can’t tell you how odd it is to have my breast bump into a wall – or worse, another person – and not realize it.

Yeah. Think about that one for a minute.

And when I scratch an itch – which, for some reason, I can still sense – it’s feels like someone’s running a finger up a completely different part of my arm.

Yet, I’d rather have these side effects knowing my lymph nodes were clear than feel everything and find out later they weren’t.

Part of me thinks I should take advantage of the situation and get a wild tattoo.

But I’m cheap so I probably won’t.

Cancer Lesson #62: Chemotherapy Has a Long Tail

Rosa's Long Tail

Cancer Lesson #62: Chemotherapy has a long tail.

I’ve been lucky. My cancer lessons could have been much harder learned. Soon after I finished treatment, however, one slouched into my brain forcing me to comprehend that exhaustion – sheer debilitating fatigue – had become a part of my day.

I’d never felt so feeble, even during chemo — probably because I was at home during most of that time and could rest whenever I wanted.

You see, I had access to both my accumulated sick time and the library’s sick bank, which meant I didn’t have to work during that period. Plus I was between positions so there were no worries about how my department was functioning without me.

Returning to work made all the difference. I discovered I couldn’t work and do everything I thought I needed to, let alone everything I wanted to do. And I was only working part-time!

Most evenings I came home and stared at the walls.

It was weird to feel mostly healthy when you’re not yet completely recovered, but I knew it would get better.

My oncologist told me I was at about 50% of my normal energy level. Chemotherapy, he says, has a long tail.

It’s a great image, bringing to mind a sleek cat slowly disappearing from view. The last one sees is a flick of that tail, and then it’s gone.

I expected my “new normal” to appear as silently as the cat, and it did. One day I realized I felt, well, almost normal. And that was that.

No more tail.

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog, and I’m sharing because I’m so pleased to have reached so many. Thanks for making 2014 a great year.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,200 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 37 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.