Archive for the 'Life' Category

01
Apr
19

Home is where your….

We put our house on the market today. We actually bought a house in the city where Husband works (an hour away) at the end of November, but, for professional reasons, was keeping pretty quiet about it until recently. He’s been commuting that hour for 11 years, so we thought it was time.

The funny thing is, we were looking at houses on Zillow for a year, and weren’t finding much that we were really interested in. The house we ended up buying I actually saw last April, and sent the link to it in an email to Husband with just the line “This might be the house.” He didn’t reply (I think it was finals week), so I thought, “okay, it’s not the house,” and moved on. Five months later it popped up again because of a price drop. The week I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It did not seem like a good time to buy a house, but Husband did, in fact, think it was The House,* so buy it we did. (*Told ya’.)

As you can imagine, we’ve been very busy. Refinishing the floors in the new house (all oak or pine); decluttering this house; moving the decluttered clutter into the basement of the new house (where we will no longer call it “clutter,” it will, again, be “our stuff”); cleaning up this house. It’s never looked so fine. Of course, if I want to find my extra iphone power cord or my silk robe I’m going to have a hard time because there are four unlabeled boxes in the basement (actually, one of them is labeled “Surgical Stuff and Purple Things” for all you M*A*S*H fans out there) .

But that’s not why I’m writing today. Long intro, I know.

As any of you who have sold a house or bought a house or moved house know, such occasions prompt reflection. About who you were when you moved in and how that compares with who you believe yourself to be now. About the nature and joys and frustrations of fixing up a house and the sadnesses of leaving it behind. About the Christmas mornings, and hockey games watched on TV in the living room, the whispered (or not) fights in the bedroom late in the night, the first days of school and the day you finally quit the job that had been making you nuts for months. About the mornings you rush out the door with BelVita crackers and a banana in your bag because that’s all you have time for and the night you and Husband made a 3-course authentic Thai meal for just the two of you. About the childhood fevers and common colds and hysterectomy and stents and breast cancer and the healing that takes place when people who love each other take care of each other.

When I first saw this house, in May of 2007, I was at the end of a 20-year marriage; moving in with two of my children, barely able to afford the payment and the frugal life I was trying to lead. Shaky, and broke, and hopeful. I had barely any furniture, and many of the walls were an ugly color and there was so much to be done, so much to become.

A little more than a year later, the man I now call Husband (well, to you), moved in. He brought an Aga stove and his grandmother’s furniture, and we embarked on the beginning of a marriage. So much we knew, and so much we didn’t. We knew how much we loved each other, we knew what we wanted this marriage to be. We had no idea how hard any of it would be.

I look back sometimes and it feels like I scrabbled my way up a dusty, rocky mountaintop wearing ripped jeans and falling apart Keds and using just my fingernails for climbing tools, sometimes dangling by not-strong-enough fingertips, sometimes hiding behind a rock in the rain eating the last crumbling biscuit in my jacket pocket and hoping the rescue helicopter would find me soon.

But I also see a life well lived. Meals prepared together and laundry folded together and conversations late into the night. Laughing so hard over a “Shouts and Murmurs” in the New Yorker about Debussy’s La Mer, or reading “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly” to a group of friends around our dinner table and trying not to cry. Coffee brought and feet rubbed and shoulders leaned on. Dogs cuddling on the couch and Mahler blasting on the speakers. Nights in the hot tub under beautiful skies at 10˚ below. Beautiful travertine and bamboo floors installed with money I inherited from my Grandma. A bright and light-filled conservatory half paid for with money I inherited when my mom died after a five-year battle with brain cancer. Rooms Husband and I painted, sometimes more than once, and a pizza oven and patio we put in ourselves, proving that married people can work together. My daughter grew up here — she’s 18 and will go off to college soon; a force to be reckoned with, a shining light. A humble home nestled in the woods, surrounded by vinca and perennials and grass somebody should cut more often.

Every room is filled with our lives.

I would like just to take the joy with me, and to leave the emotional cobwebs and struggles of the past buried here somewhere; not in the basement, that would be haunting and weird, but maybe out in the woods, or in some kind of ceremony over the fire-pit out back. Yeah. That sounds like a really good idea.

New chapters, clean slates, fresh starts.

It is time.

 

31
Oct
18

cancer, depression, and (looking for) the light at the end of the tunnel

So according to the National Cancer Institute, depression is “a comorbid disabling syndrome that affects approximately 15-25% of cancer patients.”

Also, apparently, women are more likely to experience depression than men, especially in the transitional period between pre- and post-menopause.

I can’t help but wonder what the percentages are of menopausal women with cancer. Sounds like a lot of really sad women.



I did just get my blood work back from the medical oncologist visit on Monday. At which I cried, more on that in a minute. Apparently I am post-menopausal. Who knew?


Does probably explain the subsiding of the hot flashes even though I’ve stopped HRT, the weight gain over the past couple of years, the moodiness, the lack of interest in….well, just about anything. (Phew! That was close!)

So here I sit, with a breast cancer diagnosis and the best possible prognosis. These details include:

  • Estrogen and progesterone positive—100% and 70%, respectively—which means that my good friend The Tumor, (whom I have named Bobba Fett), had every available surface covered with little seats in which estrogen could rest its weary head and on which the tumor could feed; 70% of it was also receptive to progesterone. This characteristic makes it very vulnerable to blocking those hormones in the body. And apparently it would seem that I’m almost out of them anyway, but not so much so that I won’t have to take Tamoxifen or, more likely given my hormone status, Aromatase Inhibitors, for 5-10 years. And AIs sound like a lot of fun, with side effects like joint pain, loss of bone density, weight gain (yeah, I really need that), vaginal dryness, carpal tunnel syndrome (great for a pianist), increased blood pressure, and mood swings (cuz I’m not having enough of those already).
  • HER2 negative. HER2 is a protein in some breast cancer tumors that seems to make the tumor more aggressive, both faster growing and more likely to spread. HER2 negative means no chemo.
  • Lymph nodes negative—no indication that Bobba Fett has tried to set up little colonies elsewhere in my body, although that is always held out to be possible.
  • Negative genetics for any kind of cancer that is currently identifiable through genetic testing
  • OncoDX score of 17 (out of 100)-–which means it is in the “low-risk” category for spreading, albeit still an 11% chance. Husband likes to point out that that indicates an 89% chance that it won’t spread, but somehow that’s not really where the mind goes. At least not mine.

Apprently once cancer is detected it has been in the body for many, many years; little sneaky sleeper cells lurking around with tiny little time bombs strapped to their  backs.

Bastards.

And most people think that this “best possible prognosis” would mean that I was walking on cloud 9, surround by sunshine, chirping birds, and harp music.


But I’m not.

When I posited the theory that maybe I should be to my medical oncologist earlier this week (right before the tears started) she scoffed, and said, “Pah! It’s still a prognosis, and nobody wants one of those.” The recognition of that, and a prescription for a teeny-tiny bit of Lexapro, has made a big difference.
My bullshit tolerance meter is set to zero. But maybe that’s not necessarily a bad thing (equivocation, anyone?)

But I do apologize if I’ve “yelled” at you in anyway in the past few weeks — verbally, via email, or even in my head. I sincerely hope, at some point in the not-too-distant future, that the


sign stops blinking in my head and leaves room for other things. Until then, be well, be safe, get your mammogram, and if somebody snaps at you for no apparent reason, remember, they might have something really shitty going on in their lives right now, and they’re probably really really sorry.

08
Oct
18

how to help

The past few weeks have been quite a ride.

giphy

I mean, I’ve always been a little (🙄) emotional, but sheesh.

CBD drops were helping, until I was told I needed to stop taking them until after the surgery.

One of my dogs ending up with, well, let’s just call it “some gastrointestinal distress” 😬 hasn’t helped.

My lumpectomy is tomorrow.

*Please know that the above cartoon in no way reflects my feelings about my husband. First of all, we don’t even own a La-Z-Boy.

And I am so grateful for all of the messages of love and support I’ve gotten from so many people. The best of which acknowledge the difficulty of the time I’m going through, and/or include specific offers of assistance.

The thing is, while well-intentioned, and appreciated as such, things like “Cancer picked the wrong woman to mess with!” or “You’ve got this! I know (!!!) you’ll be fine!” don’t really speak the truth; a truth we all know. Because cancer is a test you can’t study for, and there are lots of strong women who have lost their noble battles against it.

You want to feel like


but it actually feels more like


I do accept and treasure it all as encouragement. And it might seem odd, but it’s actually more helpful to acknowledge the randomness and lack of control over all of this. As M said to me last night in a text: Cancer isn’t pink, it sucks.


Looking forward to looking back at all this.

26
Feb
17

In case you haven’t laughed yet today

NSFW

But watch it anyway. It’s hilarious.

13
Jan
17

Something lighter

For those of you tired of soap that lies.

20170113-081120.jpg

Who knew?

26
Oct
16

The being of nothingness

In an interesting coincidence, given what I just wrote about last night, I just ran across this in the NYTimes article about Bob Dylan’s silence since having been awarded the Nobel prize:

‘Bad faith, Sartre explains in “Being and Nothingness,” is the opposite of authenticity. Bad faith becomes possible because a human being cannot simply be what he or she is, in the way that an inkwell simply is an inkwell. Rather, because we are free, we must “make ourselves what we are.” In a famous passage, Sartre uses as an example a cafe waiter who performs every part of his job a little too correctly, eagerly, unctuously. He is a waiter playing the role of waiter. But this “being what one is not” is an abdication of freedom; it involves turning oneself into an object, a role, meant for other people. To remain free, to act in good faith, is to remain the undefined, free, protean creatures we actually are, even if this is an anxious way to live.’

And am realizing that all most of us really want is to live (and be loved, respected) exactly as we are. Sure, we could get all “but let’s help make people better people,” but, actually, unless they’re your not-fully-grown children, it’s really about learning how to live with each other, not about trying to conform them into being what you think they should be.

We all just want to live authentically, and maybe, when we don’t, is when we start hurting people, or ourselves.

25
Oct
16

Letting go of s#!t is hard

Have spent a large chunk of time over the past few days cleaning up piles and papers and organizing desks and drawers and cupboards, etc.

Finding myself also in need of shedding the burden of some observations I’ve been carrying around for awhile. Feel free to forward this on to anyone for whom one or more of them seems to speak to directly. I may do the same.

A new category: You Might Not Know This, but…

For example: 

  • You might not know this, but the reason some people don’t say “hello” in a loud and cheerful voice every time they walk into the office is because a secretary in a previous office may have sent everyone an email once, pointing out how busy she is, and how distracting it was for her to have to stop work and exchange greetings with every person who walks in, and could everyone please limit their casual conversations with others perhaps to a different area of the building; so maybe they’re just trying to be considerate.
  • You might not know this, but the day you said “Hell-O” in a very pointed way, I had already said hello, very quietly, so as not to interrupt people at their work.
  • You might not know this, but misspelling or omitting names of participants in programs or brochures or during the official “thank-yous” might make them feel their contribution is insignificant, or cause them to wonder why they work so hard to be so professional and conscientious all the time when so much of what they do will be attributed to someone else, or to no one at all.
  • You might not know this, but I had decided not to charge you for the recital we performed together, but when you sent me a copy of the publicity with your name in size 36 font and your 5×7 picture and your bio and made no mention of a pianist, no less no mention of me, I realized that you did not see us as collaborators and equal contributors, but rather that you were the soloist and I was the hired help, so charging seemed like the logical thing to do.
  • You might not know this, but forbidding an active, full investment from someone with whom you are “collaborating” (in scare quotes, since, if you’re not encouraging an active, full investment, it’s not actually a collaboration at all, is it?) will not only make them feel small, but will prevent you from learning anything from them, and may actually interfere with your own goals, as chances are they have ideas worth at least considering.
  • You might not know this, but in rehearsal, when a collaborator says “we’re not together” it might mean that you actually miscounted and came in wrong, and maybe they were being polite, and considerate of your feelings. And, in case this is not obvious, firing them on facebook is kind of a shitty thing to do. 
  • You might not know this, but the look on my face at that meeting was not impatience or animosity toward you for holding the meeting, but sheer embarrassment on your behalf that other people’s actions had made the meeting necessary.
  • You might not know this, but some people may not insert themselves into conversations or invite themselves along to social gatherings because they were taught not to intrude on others’ conversations, or to invite themselves, and does not necessarily imply a lack of desire for personal interaction or connection; and it may even be possible that your lack of welcome and inclusion had as much to do with a lack of connection as anything else you might want to blame.
  • You might not know this, but it’s not appropriate to pay someone half a salary, or hire them to work 15 hours a week, and expect them to make a 100% commitment. You wouldn’t do it, I can’t for the life of me why you would expect someone else to.
  • You might not know this, but people may not agree with how you choose to do your job, share your ideas (or not), gossip, post on facebook, manage your relationships, or even how to be. But realize that, as they show you respect in allowing you to make those choices for yourself, they probably long for the same respect to be shown in return.
  • You might not know this, but allowing the person who was hired to do the job actually do the job might actually lead to more consistent and professional results than if you encourage your spouse, who has no training or expertise in the area, to express opinions and influence on how the job should be done. Likewise if you replace “spouse” with “person who writes the huge checks every year as a donation to save the organization when yet again the deficit budget fails to miraculously convert itself into a surplus.”
  • You might not know this, but calling to yell at someone about a blog post you hadn’t even read hurts the writer’s feelings tremendously, maybe even more so if the writer was advocating for someone close to you. These feelings may continue to reverberate, including creating a hesitancy to write anything at all, and a lack of trust in your fundamental relationship, which is regrettable for all concerned.
  • You might not know this, but people who feel deeply and are always striving to improve are not necessarily pessimistic, but may in fact be exceedingly optimistic, but find their optimism harder and harder to act on, given the responses this optimism has met in the past. 

I think everyone should read Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly” (New Yorker, June 14 & 21, 2010) and pick which sentence best describes them. I used to think it was “You were too injured by things that happened in the distant past for anything to be effortless in the present” but now I think it’s “I was never indifferent to the children of strangers, just frustrated by my own unrelenting optimism.” 

Tomorrow: the linen closet.
P.s. An opportunity for catharsis for you, dear readers, in the comments section: You might not know this, but…

Or maybe a sub-sub-category for parents: …the dishes don’t put themselves away, …the cupboards don’t wipe themselves, …lights don’t turn themselves off, …sometimes it’s nice to do something just because you know it needs to be done not because somebody asked you, …it’s more polite to ask if there’s anything you can do to help with dinner than to ask what is for dinner, or what time it will be served, …the laundry is not actually done by the laundry fairy, …




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