Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pretty Women

The first time I saw this, it overwhelmed me.  It was long before I was diagnosed, before I had to re-evaluate my own self-image as I have had to over the last 14 months.  But the message that Katie Makkai shared at the National Poetry Slam in 2002 was one that literally brought me to tears.

(And this was in the days before my hormones got all screwed up and I started weeping at unexpected moments and at any and all vids or commercials that include servicemen coming home to adoring children.  Jeez - that stuff gets me every time.)

I don't have daughters.  I had always hoped that my brother would have nieces for me - little versions of me with a bit of Russian thrown in from their mom.  It only seemed fair, as my eldest was the spitting image of my brother as a boy - and my youngest certainly had moments that reminded me of my brother as well.  But no - he had to go and have a boy as well.  Hmph.

Katie's message isn't just for the young women who are starting to find out who they are - and what they are pretty amazing at.  It is for all of us.  I hadn't thought about it in years, but a week or so ago, a friend from Austin posted a picture from Katie's performance with a good portion of the conclusion on it, and I remembered.  I remembered the gut reaction I had to it - so I had to go find it and watch it again.

Since then, it has come to mind in odd moments.  Such as this evening - when, as I was in the bathroom, I once again caught a glimpse of my latest self - head covered with a few wispy hairs, eyes with just a few eyelashes left and dark circles that look like some one slugged me three days ago.  I caught myself wrinkling my nose at my reflection thinking "well ain't that purdy" and heard an echo of the video above.

Will I be pretty?  Will I be pretty?  Will I be pretty?!!

Well hell.  I thought I had gotten past all that.

The thing is, it's hard to let go of vanity.  It's no wonder it's listed as one of the deadly sins - once it gets a hold of you, it doesn't want to let go.  I would love nothing better than to not glance in a mirror and start picking apart how I look now.  To not give in to that ritual of self-loathing that anorexic Victoria's Secret models with D-cup jugs have bequeathed to those us not blessed that way naturally (or monetarily). 

Some day I might have granddaughters.  I hope like hell at some point - if I'm not around to do it - that someone points them at Katie's performance above.  I wish for them a society that reveres women that have talent, intelligence and a willingness to work hard instead of those with nothing but a sex tape in their past and a willingness to do anything to be "famous" in their present.  I hope that my sons - and their wives - don't focus on them being merely pretty, but instead encourage them to be "pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing."

But never. Merely. Pretty.

(All the credit in the world goes to the amazing Katie Makkai, who inspired this entire post and I don't know at all, but I consider an inspiration for myself - and I hope for you as well.  She is, quite simply, one of my heroes.)

Friday, December 20, 2013

I'm Sure I Don't Know WHAT You're Talking About

There are times in your life when you have to hear what I like to call "hard truths."  These are usually things you don't want to hear - either about you, or your job, or your friends, or your life, or whatever.  But they are truths that for whatever reason, need to be said.  You need to hear them.

It's never easy to hear these hard truths.  Often when you hear them, you react with anger or denial because who wants to believe something unpleasant?  Rarely are hard truths pleasant to hear - if they were, they wouldn't be hard.  It often takes a long time to absorb what you've heard.  Sometimes your denial is so firm that you won't even accept that what you have heard is a truth.  Denying it only hurts yourself, but we humans rarely want to hear - or  believe - the bad stuff.

When I finally found out that my cancer was Stage IV - that was a hard truth.  I didn't want to believe it.  After all - as soon I noticed my bloating stomach, I went to the doctor.  I had the tests run.  Surely it had been found early?  I didn't have the run around that so many ovarian cancer patients have - fighting to find a doctor that will take their symptoms, their feeling that something wasn't right seriously.  Many of them spend months or years begging health professionals to figure out what is wrong.  It's no surprise that after all that time they are diagnosed at Stage III or IV. That shouldn't have been my case, but it was.

After finding out what stage my cancer was, I did what most of us do these days - I googled it.  The statistics were terrifying.  At that point I had to accept another hard truth - I most likely would never be "cured" of ovarian cancer.  I might get to remission some day, but I would spend the rest of my most likely shortened life fighting cancer.  I should start viewing it as a chronic disease because I would never be free of it.

Ouch.  That sucked.  That's not what's supposed to happen with cancer these days, is it?  No - you're supposed to be diagnosed, have surgery/chemo, and then go into remission.  After 5 years of remission, you're supposed to be cured.  That's what so many of us that that haven't been diagnosed think.

Uh - no.  That's not how it works for a lot of cancers.  Including mine.  So I had to find a way to accept another hard truth.  I didn't like it - the truth or having to find a way to accept it and absorb it and to change my way of thinking - but I did it.  Because that is what we do as mature adults. 

I've tried to find ways to learn and grow from every hard truth I come up against.  While my health issues are the hard truths I've dealt with the most lately, I've also had to do it for hard truths at work, and with my family and friends.  Sometimes it just takes a little pouting, and ranting before I take a deep breath and start to get down to the business of processing this new knowledge.  I've tried to teach my boys the art of accepting hard truths - they're younger, so of course it's harder for them.  But I think it's important we *all* learn to hear hard truths - and to learn from them.  To not just immediately discount what we're hearing because we don't like it.

You can't tell hard truths out of meaness.  It has to come from sincerity - otherwise it's just being petty or hurtful.  You shouldn't say a hard truth unless you truly want to help that person.

(It also helps if you wait until they ask.  Blurting out a hard truth out of nowhere isn't helpful, it's hurtful.  And mean.  Like Wil Wheaton says - don't be a dick.)

What about you?  Have you had to hear a hard  truth lately?  How do you find ways to deal with those truths?  Have you had to share a hard truth?  Am I the only one who struggles with saying what has to be said?

I've had to tell people hard truths lately.  It's as hard to tell hard truths as it is to hear them.  It's not fun to tell someone something they don't want to hear, but sometimes that truth has to be said.  I hope those people take the time to really think about what they've heard.  I hope they find a way to learn and grow from it.  They might.  Then again, they might stay in denial and refuse to believe what I've shared with them.  Either way - I pray for them.  I hope they all know that I don't say hard truths out of malice.

I just want us all to do better.  To be better.  Is that so much to ask?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Little of This, A Little of That

Yup - I'm still kicking.

I haven't blogged in awhile - partly because we have somehow lost the power cord for my laptop.  I know we put it up somewhere, but for the life of me, I can't remember where.  We just recently discovered that the cord for my husband's laptop will work on mine as well, so at least I finally got it charged again.

The other reason I haven't blogged is because I just haven't been my usual cheerful self.  Every time I thought about blogging, it was basically a whinefest, and honestly, no one wants to read that.  So instead I look through Facebook, and read other blogs, and surf through Pinterest, and basically avoid blogging.  Tonight I had to get on my laptop to look up directions for a super secret Christmas project because Yikes!  Christmas is a week away.  I figured while I was on here, might as well ramble a while.

Chemo is ongoing.  Last Friday was my third chemo, and darned if I didn't have a reaction to the carbo out of no where.  It was scary, and no fun, and totally messed up my sleep habits last weekend thanks to the extra Benedryl and extra steroids.  Now my sleep schedule is back on track, but the Neulasta shot I get after chemo to build my white cell counts is making my ankles and knees ache something fierce, so that's made it harder to sleep.  (see?  WHINEFEST!)  My next chemo is scheduled for early January, and I don't know if I'll find out before then what we're going to do about that carbo reaction.  Will they just slow the carbo infusion down? Or are we done with carbo?  What are our other options?  We found out today that no one has done anything about the appeal for the recommended chemo that was denied by my insurance.  I hate not knowing what is going on, and I'm not scheduled to see my oncologist until the same day I'm supposed to have my next round of chemo.  This is not how I planned on spending my Christmas break!

Anyhoo.  That's where we are on that.  In better news, my CA 125 has dropped down to 55, the ascites went away about a week after the first chemo, and we're draining less than 60 mls a day from around my lung.  The chemo is working, and seems to be working pretty well.  I hope we don't lose any momentum.

My oldest son recently moved back home, and we are all re-learning how to live together.  It's hard to remember that he's spent the last year or so not having to answer to anyone, or deal with a curfew.  I'm sure it's hard for him to deal with not staying out all night because his worry wart mama doesn't sleep well until he's home.  We're figuring it out.  So far we've managed to avoid any huge scream fests, so I guess it's going pretty well.  It is nice having him home.  I missed him. 

I'm so not ready for Christmas.  Well - I'm almost ready for Christmas.  I have about 85% of what I need to finish everything up and no motivation to finish it up.  I just pile all that stuff under the tree, and tell myself that tomorrow I'll wrap some presents or put some things together.  So far - no luck.  I'm running out of time though - someone convince me to get going so I'm not doing everything Christmas Eve!

My beloved husband ruined my present for him.  I was so excited - I came up with a brilliant idea of something to get him, something I knew he'd appreciate, but he hadn't thought of asking for.  I had found one at a local store, and had it stashed in my truck.  Then I came home yesterday and damned if he hadn't bought one for himself.  Men.  No idea what to get him now, plus I have to return the one I bought.  Hmph.  If anyone has any brilliant ideas what to get a man who tends to go buy the damn things I WOULD get him for Christmas, let me know.  He may end up with nothing but Christmas cookies.  Or coal.

All in all, things are pretty good.  But going through chemo really messes with my energy levels, and the temps the week after are a pain.  We are hoping that I won't have that this time.  I'm doing my best to enjoy the season.  To enjoy this time with my family and friends.  I hope you all are doing the same.