So, I haven’t posted in a while, – I’ve been hard at work on completing the memoir as promised! Sure stuff has happened – like I GOT TATTOOED! Nipples that is. Exciting, right? I will post my story about my trip to Little Vinnie’s Tattoo Parlor in Finksburg, Maryland asap – after I straighten out the disarray all my websites fell into after I changed hosting sites… It’s all very exciting! Okay, really it’s not – I’d rather well, be pulling every hair out of my legs one by one with a pair of rusty tweezers on a thursday. Very soon!Tweet
In the last few hours of my Indiegogo “Book to Blog” campaign I’m wondering what is the best way to motivate people?
Feel good ads?
Let me know what works for you – there’s only a few hours left!
Please take a moment to look at my “Blog to Book ” indiegogo campaign.
Unless that’s how you got here, in which case, welcome! I hope you will have a little read, visit the sights. Tell me what you think.
I’ve been writing like crazy – a memoir weighs in around 80,000 – 90,000 words (ish) – can you believe that?
This whole post is only 109 , (if you count (ish)) – all the essays and posts are only about 20,000 so I’ve been pounding away at it, generating material. I’m told that’s how it’s done.
Also – I’m performing at Comedy Central Stage April 17th -
call 323.960.5519 for reservations.Tweet
“You have an audition. Check your Casting Networks Alerts for audition details.”
Woo hoo! I love getting these texts. I go right to my email to see what it’s for. Could be anything!… A national network spot…?! A Proctor and Gamble mom, a funny shopper, a snarky office worker, a…
Hmmm. A “REAL cancer survivor -Female, 25 – 45.”
I bet my agents were psyched when they saw this – “hey, we’ve got one of those! Brockett!”
The casting notice read, “We need someone who has a warm, inviting presence on the screen. Someone who can tell the story in a way that hits on the emotional parts but can also deliver it in a way that won’t leave the viewer depressed. A positive outlook.”
As much as I’d love to quote the rest of the notice, it’s not really Kosher, but I have to tell you it said the actress should have “hair of some length,” but if it wasn’t long enough, “the illustrator can always draw it in.” Then it says “REAL CANCER SURVIVORS ONLY” in ALL CAPS, which makes me think 2 things; #1, have they been having problems with FAKE cancer survivors? And #2, the cancer has to be real, but the hair can be fake? I’d really rather it be the other way around…
I can’t tell you what the product is, because again, not really Kosher, but it is national network and cable, if you are not familiar with the industry that means cha-ching in the thousands and thousands of dollars.
A note at the end says that casting director would like pictures with friends and family during treatment emailed to them directly.
The whole thing kind of bothers me, and I’m not sure why. I mean I am a commercial actress – I will sell anything (okay not cigarettes. Well, maybe in Asia. No – I’m kidding, not even in Asia. Thailand maybe…) Seriously – it’s my job. And I am a REAL CANCER SURVIVOR, and I have good hair. In high school they called me Blair Hair. You know, from Facts of Life, I spent a lot of time in hot rollers, but that ‘s really not the point. The point is – I need to go book this job.
When I get to the audition I see another actress sitting outside the room, waiting to go in. A beautiful black woman who is completely bald. As a cue ball. No hair. None. Egg, black egg. Anyway, I think maybe the illustrator can draw it in… I also think, maybe I have an edge!
“Weird, right?” I say to her like I know her. Like we’re in the same club. Club cancer. And I hate that because, well, I don’t know, for the same reason I freak out at the thought of walking in one of those walks wearing a pink ribbon rhinestone emblazoned hoodie.
I look at the scripts posted on the wall. Happy fluid drawings of a woman banking. (Ok – it’s for a bank.) Shots of her smiling, running, shopping…using the ATM… There is a note explaining that the audition will be interview style, and we should consider answers to some of the following questions; “What kind of cancer did you have?” “Can you share experiences with friends and family during your cancer treatment?” “What has the experience of cancer taught you?”
I head to the bathroom, “what has cancer taught me?”
“What has cancer taught me….” A peek under the stall doors shows one of the two free, I enter and a moment later the whole thing shakes the sister door is slammed shut. Then another door slam. I come out to find another beautiful black woman, standing at the sink fixing her make up. She has gorgeous hair.
“Well I guess that didn’t go well for her,” she says and eyes the door.
I put it together – she wasn’t the slammer. “Oh, I guess I missed it.”
“Are you here for?…” And I’m doing it again, the club…ugh.
And I want to ask her ‘what kind?’ But I really hate that question. She volunteers, “uterine, but I’m worried it was too long ago.”
“Well, you have great hair.” I tell her.
“You too!” she says.
I say, ”I wouldn’t worry, as long as you have good stories.”
Good stories. Positive stories, while smiling into camera, “You know, cancer really taught me to value life.” “My friends and family mean so much more to me.” “I really know what matters now.” Positive outlook stuff you’d find on coffee mugs or posters with kittens at the ends of branches. Like it’s assumed that somehow surviving cancer is a good thing. Not being dead comes with an added bonus of the key to meaning of life and knowing who to bank with!
The casting director calls me into the room. Surprisingly he is a very young man, and sweet. We share a little laugh a little at the absurdity of the casting.
He starts to tape, “So, when did you find out you had cancer?”
I smile right into that camera and say, “funny thing, it was right before my 39th birthday.” (It wasn’t funny. Well, it was kind of funny in an absurd waking up on your birthday with a piece of your boob cut out and having people over for strawberry cake anyway type way.) “But I guess the timing for these things is never good.”
“Did you have chemo or radiation,” he asks.
“Actually, no – (crap, maybe they’re going to think that’s not bad enough) so I offer, “I had a bi-lateral mastectomy,” (oh, that was probably too graphic… too much information? Positive, the positive…)
“I love my doctors, I was really blessed. My doctor, Dr. Kristi Funk is actually Angelina Jolie’s doctor (why would I say that? Am I actually cancer name dropping?) “She’s great, she always saw me as a well person, not as my disease. I don’t know how I would would have made it through without her positive attitude from the start.” (That’s all really true, and she’s funny and beautiful and when she took it personally that they couldn’t save my right areola I felt like the luckiest one nippled girl in the world.) Breathe.
“What about your friends and family?” he asks.
I look above the camera to the right, like I’m retrieving a meaningful memory, “Well, you really find out who your friends are. The people who you are close to become much closer going through an experience like that.” (And some people suck. Some people are like, “shit cancer!” like it’s somehow contagious, and you don’t hear from or see them until you track them down at their place of employment because you happen to need a bottle of wine and know he works Thursdays and say, “what the fuck – I thought we were friends!” And then feel horribly guilty because you know that when people react ‘badly’ it’s probably because of their own fears – that as soon as you say ‘cancer’ it goes right into that deep core of fear in the center of us that says – that if it happened to you it could happen to them, and taking it personally is pointless and lonely.
Aloud I say, “Yeah, you learn to really value those people,” and deliver a wise meaningful look worthy of a turban chemo scarf wearing City of Hope poster woman right into that lens.
And then there it is – “What have you learned from having cancer?”
“What have I learned from having cancer?” And I know what I am supposed to say – but I hesitate….
Awkward silence, he prompts me again as if perhaps I missed the question, or maybe really never thought about it.
“What have you learned from having cancer?”
(That it’s horrible you fuck nut! That there’s no real way you can put it in a a pre packaged/bumper sticker/coffee mug/window decal/positive sound bite bank selling kind of way.
That it sucks! That you think why me? Am I going to die? Is it somehow my fault? Am I supposed to make meaning out of all this myself or am I – as I deep and dreadedly fear, someone who is supposed to make meaning for someone else – like am I freakin’ Barbara Hershey in Beaches when I want to be Bette Middler or Randy Pausch from the Last Lecture or Susan Komen. No! It’s a deep dark place that late at night you can think it would be easier to die then fight with the hard grip of something that is bigger and more terrifying than you are. That it’s even worse because it has come from within you – your body has created it and the whole thought of whether you will win or lose the battle has to do with whether you believe you will or not.
Is that positive enough for you buddy? Pal? Can I open a new checking account?
But out of my mouth comes,
“What I learned from cancer… Is that cancer didn’t teach me anything. The meaning of life doesn’t come pre packaged with any experience good or bad, it’s a choice, a choice you can make every minute of every day, like Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” I wouldn’t recommend cancer to anyone as a way of learning that lesson, I am sure there are much easier ways.
So that’s what I say. Smiling, looking directly into camera.
And I booked it.
No, I’m kidding, that was soooo mean. Honestly, I didn’t even get a callback!
I’m not sure why. (Did they want a more difficult cancer? Maybe an amusing chemo story or two?)
All I know was that it definitely wasn’t because of my hair.
I recently read that the whole thing about Eskimos having 400 different words for snow was “a linguistic hoax.” I thought this was pretty disappointing until I got to the part of article that pointed to a study of the Sami language of Norway, Sweden and Finland, that said the language has as many as 1000 different words for reindeer (never challenge these people to a game of Balderdash, right?) It made me wonder, from all the thinking and writing I’ve been doing about that area inside the shirt – how many words are there?
Here are the 140 I could find.
I think my favorite is “chuberteens,” or maybe baps…no, definitely love apples…
Bust, bosoms, assets, mammaries, bazookas, boobs, boobies, bouncers, boulders, bristols, cans, cantelopes, chesticles, chi chis, cones, fooblosity, fleshy milk cartons,
sweater puppies, tatas, teats, tits, titties, twins, dirty pillows, udders, who whos, bahama mammas, balloons, bawagos, big brown eyes, blinkers, bobambas, bodacious tatas, bombs, bosom, bosooms, boulders, Bristols, brown suckies, bubatoes, yabbos, baps, bust, busts, Cadillac bumper bullets, casabas, chest, chuberteens, cones, gedoinkers, doorknobs, floppers, fried eggs, fugis, gams, gazangas,
jungle, golden bazoos, winnebagoes, mounds, mountains, marshmallows, Maguffies, grenadoes, hogans, honkers, itty-bitty-titties, jalobes, bazongoes,
bazookas, bazooms, bazoos, ninnies, nips, nupies, pair, nice pair, beamers, starter buttons, tads, handles, tatas, tittyboppers, bee stings, jiggers, jobes, rolling hills,
cup cakes, cushions, dairy section, highbeams, hinyackas, knobs, love apples, love monkeys, luscious scoops of flesh, twins, love warts, watermelons, wazoos, whoppers, winnebagos, yabos, mambas, mammas, mamms, massive mammaries, mazabas, melons, milk factories, Mcguffies, mosquito bites, perkies,
melons, milk factories, Mcguffies, mosquito bites, perkies, pillows, pimples, pink chewies, rack, set, smosabs, stacked, torpedoes, twin peaks.
I have not had a diet coke since June 3, 2011. I used to drink 3 or 4 a day. What’s better than starting your day with a cold soda for breakfast, then one at lunch of course, and a sweet little treat waiting in the fridge at the end of a long day? I’d drink them with ice and lemon if I was feeling fancy, or just warm from the case I’d keep in the trunk of my car.
I knew it wasn’t great for me, but it was diet coke – not crack – whatever – George Burns smoked 10 – 15 cigars a day and he lived to be 100 years old. My friend’s golden retrievers only ever drank water from her pool and they lived until they were 16 and 17, and that’s old for goldens.
If you asked me then I’m sure I couldn’t have thought of any way I could give up this guilty pleasure, how would I ever kick the soda habit…?
Then I got cancer and I thought – well, that would do it.
After the initial period of shock – a sunny May weekend which I ate my way through most of the Gus’s BBQ restaurant take out menu half of a Sweet Lady Jane’s Princess Cake, several plates of food at a gourmet picnic; including 3 kinds of meat, 2 types of pie, many cookies and wine, most of a cheese and chacuterie display at a wine tasting, a burger, fries and more wine, – things changed.
Because when Monday morning came – the world stopped spinning with a cold hard thud. I thought – oh my God, I have cancer (breast, these boobs are new – I’ll be fine, but if you are anything like me then you will be wondering the whole time and I am trying to tell you a story.) But at the time I didn’t know anything – what stage I was in – did it start somewhere else – was it creeoing around in my body?… So after that Bachanailian weekend of wine and denial I thought – I better make my body into a lean mean cancer fighting machine.
Right? How does that happen? I mean I’ve heard those stories about people who have cured their cancer through the power of juicing or garlic, or milk thistle or an all carrot diet, I thought it was all bunk – but what if it wasn’t? There are people that say eating anything with a face will give you cancer. Like my landlord, who wrote a vegan cookbook – she was thrilled when she found out I had cancer – she said, “that means you are going to give up meat and dairy, right?” (but she’s not exactly a Ph.D., she stopped eating animals in the 60’s after she opened a refrigerator when she was tripping and all the meat spoke to her.)
What are the rules? I stopped eating meat, dairy, wheat, sugar, anything processed and alcohol. I was afraid to eat anything that wasn’t organic. I emptied my cabinets and wondered what else was trying to kill me. I threw out my Secret deodorant and stared suspiciously at my Crest toothpaste. And my Britta filter, come on – you pour water through charcoal and that’s seriously supposed to remove anything toxic?
I was particularly afraid of the evil white sugar because of a very intense energy healer lady with big white hair who got all up into my face to say, “sugar feeds cancer!” It was just like that scary moment in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure – “tell ‘em large Marge sent ya'” Aghhh!!!
I went to a Chinese Wellness Center and paid a ton of money for a brown paper lunch bag of twigs and mushrooms and sticks that I could only brew in a ceramic kettle – so I found one at Sears, and made pots of tea that smelled and tasted like something that was scraped off the forest floor.
I taped the Tao’s food philosophy, a quote from Hippocrates, to my refrigerator door – “Let food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.”
No fast food, chips or cookies, not one bite of steak or cheese, bacon, butter, pizza, diet soda or Lucky Charms. Lucky Charms; the only sugar cereal I was allowed to eat as a special treat as a kid – and only on vacation – the heady pleasure of taking the time to eat an entire bowl, all the little oaty things out first, then each color marshmallow leaving only the pink hearts floating in a bowl of now warm purple grey colored milk sitting at my Grandmother’s breakfast table in the Florida morning sun.
In my adulthood, I was not above buying a box to get that high and eating around marshmallows – with the grown up addition of pouring the sugary milk into my coffee.
So – never do that again? Never, never?
Everything good was ruined – meatloaf was replaced by “neatloaf” a “meat textured bake made with oatmeal, organic catsup and barley. Butter with palm fruit oil spread, mayonnaise with Vegenaise, ice cream made from nuts, “burgers” made from sprouts and nuts…
I barely survived Thanksgiving, – rescuing a few green beans before they were casseroled and funioned, watching everyone slather soft butter on white flour fluffy rolls and scooping up bourbon laced sweet potatoes topped with crispy browned white sugar marshmallows. I missed out on dessert because newsflash – no matter what Vegan Girl says on her Vegan Yum Yum website – you really can’t make pumpkin pie that tastes “even better than the real thing everyone will rave” with tofu. It doesn’t! It’s like you said about the “delectable chocolate mousse” made with “a rich avocado base” – you know what that tastes like Vegan Girl? Avocado with chocolate. Chocolate guacamole! And yes, it’s disgusting, – it tasted like burp! The pie. Not the mousse. Come to think of it – the mousse too.
I would bake authentic white flour, white sugar, butter and vanilla chocolate chip cookies tor my favorite nurses and doctors, because several attempts at vegan cookie favorites like “grapefruit icebox cookies” and “magical nut chews” proved there was no replacement for the simple perfection of the original Toll House recipe. And when I would get to my favorite part – that just mixed soft dough stage where it took Herculean effort not to stick my finger into the bowl, I resisted.
I did it.
And I felt strong – like I was doing something, you know -with every bite of blueberry pomegranate seeds and quinoia salad and sip of disgusting tea – I imagined that the superfoods were soldiers kicking ass in my system.
The mutant cells were being starved into oblivion without their hearty diet of acesulfame K, benzly isobutyrate, methyl benzonate and hydroxphenyl-2-butanone.
I ate my weight in broccoli.
My friend who is now the head of surgical oncology at a major hospital, but back when she was only a fellow at an internationally renowned cancer program, would just laugh at me. Sitting at the bar Delancey’s eating fancy pizza one night, I ordered mine without cheese or sauce (yes, crust with mushrooms), and she said, “you know it really doesn’t matter.”
Of course it matters, if it doesn’t then there is nothing I can do – I have no control, I can’t stop it, the cancer from coming back, what if I eat all the crap again and I get cancer again later – what if it’s because some tiny little mutant cell behaving badly was just about to die a death of starvation – when along comes an ethyl methylphenylglycidate on a digesting marshmallow bit and it hitches a ride and grows an multiplies – only because I wasn’t strong enough to resist magically delicious breakfast cereal?
But I did cave.
It was Christmas cookies. But I’m sure you could tell that was coming by the way I wanted to FF chocolate chip cookie dough… Then it was Christmas dinner.
And then I caved and I caved – delicious bleu cheese, butter, pizza, and the meat from heaven – smokey crispy bacon and wine – lots of wine.
And everything was delicious.
Because what about twinkly eyed George Burns and those happy golden retrievers and every centurian on The Today Show who say it’s about “not sweating the small stuff,” and “having a sense of humor.” Like Jeralean Kurtz – 114 years and 148 days who told Willard her favorite foods include potato salad, honey buns, and McDonald’s chicken nuggets!
They’re right, right?
I thought my control freak diet made me feel stronger – but now I think maybe I was just punishing myself. Because I was angry. At life. No comfort in comfort food.
Does it matter what you put in your piehole if you are living your right life?
A woman named Anita Moorjani is the hot spiritual expert on cancer at the moment because get this – she was admitted to the hospital after 3 years of cancer and given only hours to live because her organs were shutting down, but get this – she didn’t die. She had a near death experience, woke up completely healed – doctors can’t find a trace of cancer in her body and they can’t explain it.
In her book she says, “If I ever had to create a set of tenets for a spiritual path to healing, number one on my list would be to make sure to laugh as often as possible throughout every single day – and preferably laugh at myself. This would be hands down over and above any form of prayer, meditation, chanting or diet reform.”
“The only universal solution I have is to love yourself unconditionally and be yourself fearlessly! Add a box of good chocolates into the mix, and we’ve really got a winning formula!”
I still don’t eat fast food, rarely processed food, and to this day not one sweet sweet refreshing diet coke. I have sitting in my cabinet a single package of Lucky Charms I was given as a gift. One day I will feel safe enough to eat it.
I didn’t mean to steal the nipples. I thought insurance was supposed to pay for them, so I just walked out of Intimate Images, the “all things cancerous lingerie shop” with a pair of $42 medium almond nipples, I didn’t really want them anyway but my plastic surgeon insisted I test drive them – to see where I wanted them because after my bilateral mastectomy I no longer had my own set. (I’ll be fine, but as a result – “Frankentits”)
I really thought it was her job to know where they should go.
So when Linda calls me and tells me that I owe them $42 for something I didn’t want and was only going to need for a couple of weeks – I’m thinking I am not going to drive all the way back out to Santa Monica to Victoria’s Malignant Secret, – a store with walls of the ugliest cotton bras in white! or nude! hanging between wigs on styrofoam heads from the 70’s with creepy orange lipstick and Twiggy eyelashes. Bras with features like a handy little detachable Velcro bags for your post surgical drains that are expensive! Last time I was there I spent $88 on a bra – $88 dollars – I told Linda for $88 dollars I expect something black, leather or crotchless.
I didn’t go back – instead – I became passive aggressive about them and just left them in the bag on my dining room table, where every time I passed them – the Tell Tale nipples would say to me, “ wear us! Take us back – or…wear us! You’re supposed to practice… You stole us…”
Until finally the Friday before my Monday surgery – I stick Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum where they look like they belong (with whatever latex magic stick technology they use in those kid’s toys you throw at walls) and the perfect little rubbery flesh colored discs look pretty great. I dress in a little black J. Crew dress a cute A line that falls straight out from the bust and why not capitalize on my new fake perky rack – I decide to go braless.
And I go about my errands for the day.
I go see my agent to drop off some money, a friend’s apartment, and the post office.
I get home, I take off my dress. And I only have one nipple.
I have lost a nipple.
I don’t know where.
My agent’s office? They all know about the cancer, so if there was a spare nipple around, clearly it would be Brockett’s.
Was my nipple at the post office? Stuck to someone’s shoe? Did it catch a ride on a priority box or an express mailbox on it’s way with someone’s Christmas packages? Was it sitting on a curb somewhere with a tiny knapsack singing“all by myself!”
And oh shit – my friend Anna has a miniature pinscher who will eat anything – so I called her immediately, “Hey, it’s Catheryn – is my nipple there? Well, look around on the carpet because I’m afraid Bruno will choke on it – and die. ” Death by my nipple.
I’m panicked. I take a flashlight and trace my steps back and forth to my car –- finding a lot of gum, a penny, a nickel, but no nipple.
I pray it is at the post office resign myself to the fact it is probably waiting to be discovered by my agent who will feel sorry for me – that woman with cancer who cannot manage to keep herself together.
By noon the following Monday I was out of the hospital and the surgery went great! Ok – I’m lying – the right one ended twice as big as the left – huge – it looked like I could milk a calf – this big round twisted Cinnabon looking thing held together with angry black stitches. I’m not sure what I expected from a nipple made out of skin origami from my groin, but they looked nothing like my tiny perfect plastic peach pancakes.
It took two minor surgeries to tame the nipple that ate Manhattan but – now, now that the “crisis” is over – the almost 2 years of cutting and pasting, is over I feel a desperate need to make some sort of sense or get the lesson out of all of this, the getting cancer, all the surgeries, the vanished time, the discomfort, the fear, the part of me that is lost and reconstructed into something that I wonder if will ever feel like my own.
There has to be some grand plan, – “everything happens for a reason.”
God isn’t careless and irresponsible, like some crappy foster Mom who lets the dishes pile up in the sink while smoking cigs, eating Doritoes and watching TMZ – I know this because I’ve seen some of his/her good work. I’ve seen sunrises, oceans, babies, and Hugh Jackman.
Clearly there has to have been a reason.
Live life to the fullest every day…? Live in the moment…? Don’t become separate from your spirit…? That causes dis ease. Did I become separate from my spirit? Should I return those cute patent leather pumps to Macy’s and wait to see if they go on clearance?
What’s the “take away?”
There is a wonderful Doctor, a pioneer in mind/body health who started the first cancer support group, – Rachel Naomi Remen, who has written extensively about the capacity of illness to be a gift. She tells gorgeous stories of people who have found a deeper meaning in the experience of cancer, in one story she says:
“Sometimes it takes a wake-up call like cancer to bring us back to ourselves. The crisis of illness may shake us free of the life we have created and allow us to begin to return to the life that is our own. “One patient, a CEO with cancer, told me, “I always knew what mattered. I just never felt entitled to live by it before.”
And now I feel worse because I feel completely gypped! Where’s my shiny new back to myself life? Because now I just feel like a human Mr. Potato head – but as my friend Matt pointed out – 2 years older with the same problems?
But sometimes, sometimes… I get a glimpse of something… Like in December when I traveled home – back to the East Coast for the holidays, and it was less than 2 weeks after the surgery – and with all of these surgeries you have limitations – I couldn’t raise my arms above a tee, and I couldn’t lift anything over 5 lbs. I got dropped off at the airport with no carry on – no purse. (I was so not looking forward to 5 hours with just my iPhone and a Skymall magazine.) And so I wouldn’t do anything, and could ask for help – I wore a fake sling on my arm.
I have to change planes in Denver – because it’s Southwest (the Greyhound of the sky) and I find out my flight to Baltimore is cancelled; fog. Not delayed, not rerouted, cancelled. And I’m just standing there at the counter in my stupid fake sling looking at the woman, who is explaining that I could fly standby to Dulles – an airport that is like 1 ½ hours from my parent’s house, but I would be number eight on the stand by list and I’m thinking – I don’t even have a toothbrush! And even if I could get back to LA – I would have to get one of my friends to come out and get me and the luggage and then do the whole thing the next day. The guy at the counter on my right is freaking out because he just found out he’d be number nine on the stand by list – which means now I’m up to number ten, and the ticketing agent motions to me to walk down to the other end of the counter. Once I get there she hands me an actual ticket on the fully booked flight. She says, “with everything you have going on – it looks like you should just get on that plane.” I looked at her and said, “You know – this is just a disguise, there is nothing wrong with my arm – I’m going through reconstruction for breast cancer and I didn’t even know how I was going to manage to get home – you have no idea what this means to me.”
And she started to cry and said, “I’m a survivor – 3 years.”
And I started to cry.
To me – it was a deeply profound moment – an amazing moment of connection I wouldn’t have had without going through what I’ve been through, without her going through what she’s been through – and I think – well that’s a hell of a lesson to learn – I mean how dark does it have to get to see the light?
It’s about seeing beauty in the darkness.
Then I think – no that’s totally not it, – it’s the fact that that moment wouldn’t have happened without us sharing it with each other, – that’s what it is! It’s about sharing our stories, that unites us and makes us feel not so alone…
And then I think – oh my god!! – fuck it!! – I have no idea – I think it just comes down to how you choose to see every moment of your day – a challenge, a choice, or a gift.
And feel entitled to live that.
And oh yeah, I found my nipple later that night – my nipple that I don’t need any more that I did get insurance to pay for – it was there in the hall by my door,– rolled up on itself like a Pirouline cookie or a tiny piece of salami waiting to be stuffed with cream cheese.
This morning my inbox was jammed with emails linking me to Angelina’s Jolie’s Op-Ed piece on “My Medical Choice,” so before my Trader Joe’s blueberry waffle made it into the toaster I learned with millions of others about her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I thought – awesome, she’s talking about the “C” word – taking a little bit more of the stigma away. It’s still a word that I have trouble using casually – seriously, try throwing that into a conversation. It rarely goes well and usually ends up with me saying, “but I’m fine, I’ll be fine… blah blah just fine, it wasn’t so bad,” just to get that “uh oh” panic look off their face. So honestly, thank you Angelina for that – for raising awareness, for telling your story, for telling us about the emotional impact of the death of your mother from cancer. Thank you for talking about the BRCA1 gene (and how it costs over $3000 – not covered by most insurance) and a little bit about the medical process…
But sister, my breast friend (or breastless friend) I had to put waffle number two into the toaster so it’s syrup covered semi healthy deliciousness could help me cope with the feeling of wanting to COMPLETELY FREAK OUT. Is it me or did she make it sound like she popped over to Beverly Hills for a little nip, a little tuck and skinny soy latte on the way home? She went to Pink Lotus, the amazing place I went to for my cancer, (“but I’m fine, I’ll be fine… blah blah just fine, not so bad.”) It is an incredible place in the center of Beverly Hills with valet parking and fresh flowers, state of the art technology, and wonderful world class professionals dressed in matching pink scrubs with embroidered pink lotus’s and clogs. I know how truly lucky I am to be cared for by the staff there, led by the (can I use the word amazing again?) Dr. Kristi Funk – who I credit with giving me the ability to face my decisions with a glass half full attitude (truly, how can she be so beautiful, funny and smart?!)
BUT – here is why I am seriously considering waffle number three – maybe 1% of 1% (go ahead and fact check me) of women have the means, the ability financially or geographically to have an experience anywhere near this one. It is a difficult, devastating and drastic medical choice and they will not have Kristi to have hope in her eyes while telling them the facts, the flowers will be dusty and artificial and the staff will be over burdened and preoccupied and they will face stacks of medical bills that cannot be stopped. Brad will not hold their hand, they will go through radiation, they will lose their hair, they will discover that having your breasts cut off and replaced with bags of silicone is rarely with out medical complications, ask my friend who had a leak in lefty, or another friend who is livid that at the age of 60 she has two high perky softball boobies (it’s true – she pulled up her shirt “Girls Gone Wild” style and showed me) or me – who spent an entire December trying to save a nipple. (I call it the Blue Nipple Christmas – too soon?) And never without emotional consequences, imagine – never feeling the caress of a lover again, or being able to nurse a child of your own, the piece of you that has been taken and replaced by something artificial. Aliens in your bra.
Cancer is ugly, it’s hard, it’s depressing, it’s scary gross (she kinda glossed by that part about the surgical drains…really, – try going out to a restaurant with balls of your own juices in your pockets) – and it’s different for everyone, Angelina Jolie’s experience is Angelina Jolie’s experience and I understand that and will defend her right to tell it – but I really want to stand on top of my sunny (it is LA) apartment building and yell – “this is the Hollywood version!” It’s just not that easy, women need to know that going in, to talk with other women who have been through it and not think they can survive the experience based on a celebrity version, one that has been reduced to a page that make a bilateral mastectomy seem like the new black. Okay, that sounded way mean, which is probably not the way to go if you believe as I do that everyone should tell the stories in their lives, that sharing these things makes us stronger individually and as a community, but poke me and I bleed dark humor.Tweet
So my decision to go on Tamoxifen went something like this:
Dr. G.: After the mastectomy I’m going to put you on Tamoxifen. It’s an anti cancer drug.
Dr. G.: You’ll probably be on it for five years.
Catheryn: Okay. Are there any side effects?
Dr. G.: Not usually, it can put you in an early menopause, hot flashes, if we can get you through the first three months you’ll be fine.
If you are a keen observationist you might point out my lack of… lack of… thorough investigative questioning. But if you’ve read any of my stuff you already know that I don’t put a lot of creed into doing a ton of research about medical decisions. I credit this as 30% trusting my gut and 30% the fact that no matter how much research you do you will probably find everyone has a different opinion and no one can ever say %100 for sure anything and since I already blew the curve getting 2 cancers at 39 and so who gives a shit how much time energy and mind comprehensive research goes into any medical decision. And 40% I’m lazy. But mostly the other 2. I’d go back and adjust the math – but – lazy.
Whatever – here’s why I bring this up. Weight gain. I am pretty sure Dr. G. did not mention that Tamoxifen would give me the metabolism of a couch sitting, Cheeto eating, Budweiser drinking 50 year old. I will admit to a little blame – I mean I’ve had 8 surgeries in the past two years and what else is there to do when you are stuck inside then let friends feed you and give you wine? Delicious wine… where was I? Yes, so now all my favorite dresses look like sausage casings. I even had to go out and buy a new fat dress at Christmas, a short number with silver sequins – I looked like a disco ball.
All my oncologist can say is “Calories in, calories out. The best you can hope for is to maintain.” Bollocks! One of the best things about getting cancer is at first, when I was too scared out of my mind to eat anything with sugar, dairy, wheat or that wasn’t organic I lost a bunch of weight and looked fabulous! Always awkward when people said, “you look great – are you doing something different” but no matter, for a brief while, cancer looked amazing on me!
I will have to look into the whole calorie in calorie out thing. In the mean time – look at this ad I found in an old magazine. Disturbing, right?
I love fireworks and BBQ and pie and America, so of course I love the Fourth of July – it’s all these things rolled into one! Plus – I love that taking the day off and hanging out with friends is the correct way to celebrate the day. There is none of that Memorial Day guilt or Labor Day obligation. Hell no – it’s the Fourth of July – eating your face off and exploding things makes you a good American!
This year I was lucky enough to get invited to my friend C’s – forgive me but there’s no other word for it – mansion. It’s a mansion, a real live unapologetic statues and columns and marble floors mansion, up in the Hollywood Hills. With catered BBQ and a heated pool what could be better? I brought homemade cole slaw and wine. And a bathing suit. I hadn’t worn a bathing suit in public since getting the girls. In private and in the dark I had worn one. Paddling around in the pool down in the Florida Keys, feeling unsure about the new residents in the tankini. Definitely larger than I was used to – but kind of, well, voluptuous. Definitely ‘a rack.’ I could get used to them. Knockers. The kind of boobs guys turn their heads to check out.
I was uncomfortable, but determined not to make a big deal out of it. Enjoy the day. With everyone else splashing around in the 98 degree pool I put on the suit. It’s black with a high straight across top and a cute little skirt, very 50’s, very Marilyn Monore – which I thought was fitting given the location.
We were playing a very complicated game of see if you can get the beach ball in the inner tube when I finally began to relax. There was no reason not to be having fun. It’s the Fourth of July – it was my patriotic duty to enjoy the day – let go of the cancer worries, the money worries, the why am I here in this crazy ostentatious gold plated home with water spewing from the mouths of stone lions instead of a grassy back yard somewhere with my own kids worries. It was a beautiful day! And I needed to have fun! I am fun! I am a hoot! I yell out,
“Look – my impression of Flipper!” and submerge for the excellent trick of popping out of the water and using my face to propel the beach ball into the air – like a dolphin, get it!?
Unfortunately the pool is a little to deep to get the proper boost and I’m bummed as the ball just sort of rolls off my face.
“Catheryn!” C. yells. I turn to her and using both hands she makes a motion – the motion of pulling her suit back up over her boobs. But she means my boobs. I look down and sure enough – there they are in their full glory. Given my lack of sensation and the warm water and the cruel evilness of the gods – I hadn’t even felt it. Had she not mentioned it they would have been out until the next time I checked, which was I guess every 40 seconds or so, but still!
I looked around to see who might have gotten a good look at Frankenboobs. That’s what I call them these days with their funny slash grimaces where nipples should be. Lucky me – it seems the crowd was relatively uninterested in my Sea World trick, save one older gentleman who was now wearing a perplexed look on his face. Poor guy.
I’m wondering what the moral of the story is – never impersonate sea mammals…? Never trust spandex…? If you are going to expose your odd nippleless post mastectomy C cups – point them at the old guy with the cataracts…??
Not sure, but I decided to pretend nobody else saw – if a boob falls out in the woods and nobody’s there to see it – did it really pop out of my suit?