Friday, August 28, 2009

Soup of the Day

As I glanced over to my right I heard him say to the waiter "My wife died".  His hand was outstretched as if he wanted to connect.  He was dining alone.   If I had to guess I would say he was about 80 years old.  His navy blue hat had gold ticking on the letters that let me know he is a WWII veteran.  The hat was adorned with pins from glory days gone by.  Velcro sneakers completed his outfit most likely picked out by his wife.  

"Yes, we heard.  Your daughter told us the bad news.  We are so sorry for your loss."  the waiter responded.  

"She was a nice wife."  he said with his sad squinted eyes.

My heart broke for this man I didn't even know.  I could feel the tear roll down my cheek as I tried to shovel more food into my mouth.   I thought about how I dined alone when it happened to me.  I remember looking in the mirror each morning and seeing my lifeless eyes.  It was as if he took the soul of me with him when he left.  I only knew Paul for 10 years and was married for just shy of 2 and here was a man who probably spent the past 60 years with this woman he looked lost without.   Then I thought about Lou and I.  I thought about how one will always outsurvive the other.  One will always be left alone.  I thought about how I never want to go through it again.  I looked over at Lou and I wanted to hug him, kiss him, and never let go.  

The waiter walked back over and asked him what he wanted to eat. 

 "What's the soup today?"  he asked as he pulled a hankerchief out of the pocket of his tan pants. 

 "Chicken soup"

  He paused, wiped his eyes, and said "My wife used to make that for me.  I'll have that..."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Writing Exercise. . .

I could barely see him over the pile of books I was juggling in my arms.  As I listened to my white capezios tap, tap, along the cold terrazo my palms began to sweat.  I slowly moved closer.  I could smell his cologne.  He had jet black hair that complimented his big brown Italian eyes.  A ripped bandanna was tied around his head like Rambo most likely torn from an old gray sweatshirt.  A red and white football jacket hung neatly on his broad muscular frame.  Then I looked in his eyes.  Then I remember where I first saw him.

I was neatly dressed in a red and green plaid uniform climbing the stairwell of St. Peter’s School.  I noticed a boy quickly walking down past me looking very shy as if he were hiding something.  His head was tilted to the left.  With my childlike curiosity I strained my neck to see his face.  I gasped quietly to myself noticing the dent around his left eye.  The skin was multiple shades of red and purple.  There were no eyelashes with only half of a brow.  The eye appeared to be protruding from its socket.

 Rachael ran up to me giddy with excitement demanding that I put my books down.  As I bent down hoping my black pants held together I heard

 “Cathy, this is Paul, and Paul this is Cathy…ok, now talk!”

 She had tried to prepare me, told me how handsome he was and then sternly warned me a few days earlier.

 “Do not stare at his left eye.”

 “Why not?”  I asked as my eyes grew wider.

 “Because he has a lot of scars from sugeries.  I don’t know the whole story but just don’t do it okay?”

 “Okay, don’t worry, I won’t”  I repied as I wondered if it was the same boy.

 My eyes slowly gazed up and caught his smile as he reached his hand out to greet me. . .

I will occasionally be posting writing samples for a new project I am working on and would love to have input from you guys!  

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mascara Isn't Good Enough Anymore??

When I was going through chemo losing my hair was bad enough.  And then out came my eyelashes and eyebrows too.  Drawing on eyebrows was easy but the eyelash thing...not so much.  I was too lazy to try fake lashes (truth be told...I was too scared to glue something to my eyelid) so there I was facing the mirror with my mascara wand cursing as I tried to lengthen the one lash I had left.  I never had long luscious lashes so I used alot of black mascara to thicken them.  It was easy, it washed off, and wasn't dangerous.  Unless I poked myself in the eye with the mascara wand. 

So a few months ago when I caught the commercial starring Brooke Shields for that new medication  Latisse to lengthen lashes I had to wonder...why isn't mascara good enough anymore??  Then I wondered how dangerous it could be.  Seriously...a medication for eyelashes? Maybe its just me but that just seems a tad bit unnecessary.  It was hard to be without lashes for 6 months but I knew they would grow back.  And today my lashes are still very small and sparse.  But I am just glad they are back and I am certainly no stranger to mascara.  I think I will stick with that.   I have to wonder...are there really that many women for whom mascara isn't enough?

Did you loose your eyelashes during chemo?  How did you handle it?  Would you ever use something like Latisse to lengthen lashes after they grew back?  

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Have You Ditched the Phone Call For Online Technology??

I remember when I got my own phone.  It was Christmas circa 1986.  I was 16 and had been begging my parents to let me have one for my room.  They finally caved.  Although I didn't have my own number at least I could have some privacy when I chatted it up on the phone for hours. My phone was white and gold, in old-fashioned style.  
I was a latecomer to the cell phone craze back in the 90's.  I couldn't afford a car that had a phone in it.  But I finally gave in out of longing to feel safer as a single girl driving at all hours of the nite and day.  I wanted a phone in case of emergency when I was out and about.  It barely fit in my small compact purse.  Remember when they were analog and huge?  I was never too tech savvy so it took me a while to figure out how to use the dam thing.  But it eased my mind a bit.  

And then I started spending hours on the internet.  I was IM'ing friends and boys, emailing, and talking on the phone only occasionally.  Today as the internet progresses and technology moves at rapid pace with sites like Facebook and the ease of email I find that I don't pick up the phone and call anyone.  I rarely get calls these days either.  My friends connect with me via email or IM and on sites such as Facebook where you can have conversations with groups of people who you my never get together with much outside of your computer screen.  

Don't get me wrong....I think the internet is great.  I  have met so many new people, many of whom are young adult cancer survivors, and maintained connections with those in my life online.  It has truly opened up my world in many ways.  But sometimes I miss getting a handwritten letter in the mail or a card that I didn't have to click on a link to access.  I can say I email much more than I pick up the phone and call someone.  And I miss it sometimes.  Life moves at such a fast pace these days I think sometimes it is easier to shoot someone an email than to give a call.  

Has your phone time decreased while your fingers are getting cramped with texting, emails, and such??  Do you think that modern technology has keep us more connected to friends and family or less?  

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's The Waiting Room. . . What Do You Do??

Yesterday I had a 6 month boob checkup at Sloan with my surgeon and after 8 years I still get super anxious.   Monday nite I started with a headache and by yesterday morning I felt sick to my stomach.  Somehow I thought that it would be an easy appointment.  Just a breast exam and no scans.  But alas...I was WRONG!  I felt a teeny bit less stressed being scan free but I still hated going.  

My husband always goes with me to my doc dates.  Yesterday I told him he didn't have to go.  I don't even know why.  Maybe I wanted to see if I could go it alone.  Maybe to prove to myself I was strong enough.  It was the first time in all these years I went to see any of my doctors on my own.  And I drove to the city.  It was just too dam hot to take the train and subway. 

As I entered the building and caught a whiff of that familiar smell I felt my palms start to sweat.  My inner dialogue began.  It went something like this..."You are fine.  You are not going to have a panic attack right now.  You are healthy and nothing bad will happen."  Sometimes it works. Sometimes I have to say that out loud to myself no matter how bat shit crazy I may seem at the time.  

When my name was called and the assistant asked me  how I was doing I almost snapped back at her  "I would be alot better if I wasn't HERE"  but I resisted the urge.  As she handed me the gown instructing me to open to the front I thought to myself "Yeah, yeah, I know girlie, not my first time unfortunately."  As you can tell I get a little bitchy when I am a nervous wreck.  I will never understand why the hell they leave you in the examining room for so dam long.  By the time 30 minutes had passed I was in super pacing mode like a caged animal looking to break free.  My palms were sweating again and my inner dialogue was lost on me.  Nothing was working.  I refused to sit on the table and wait so I continued to pace that cubicle of a room until she finally walked in.  

After all the travel time and the hour of angst my exam lasted all of 5 minutes.  Thankfully the boobs checked out fine.  No palpable lumps or bumps in them or my arm pits.  As I breathed a sigh of relief she told me to come back in 6 months for my mammo and followup visit. 

As I stepped out onto the pavement on 64th street and headed to my car I wondered if it would ever get easier.  I wondered if it would ever feel like a "normal" doctor appointment.  And then I stopped and thought  "What the hell is normal anyway?"

How do you handle your doc appointments?  Do you have any crazy rituals you use to maintain your sanity in the waiting room?  Do ever wonder if the post treatment anxiety will ever end?  

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Scary Part of Cancer. . . For Ethan Zohn Its the Medical Bills

As you probably already know Ethan Zohn of Survivor fame is going through treatment for Hodgkins Disease.  He is now another face of young adult cancer which hopefully will bring more awareness to our lost age group.  I saw this video on where he is documenting his journey.  The video is super short but speaks volumes about the state of healthcare in our country.  And I could soooo relate.  

When I was going through my treatment for breast cancer I luckily had good insurance.  But still there were copays and part of my reconstruction that was not covered cost 4,000 dollars.  At the time (this was 2001) that there was  bill passed stating that surgery related to breast cancer including all reconstruction was to be covered by insurance.  But somehow with all I was going through with my surgery, chemo and trying to hold down a full time job my bills started to get thrown into a big pile called "things I just can't deal with right now"  I often felt as though I needed someone to help me with that big pile of shit constantly calling to me from my kitchen table.  I was scared, depressed, and I couldn't focus to read any of that crap.  And I paid the price, literally.  By the time I had finished my chemo and was feeling better I started to sift through that pile and found the 4,ooo dollar bill for part of my reconstruction.  I was finally all ready to file a grievance to my insurance company only to read in the fine print that the grace period was over.  I screwed myself. 

And the bills don't stop as a survivor.  There are costly scans, doc visits, bloodwork, and the occasional scary biopsy.  2 years ago I went through one of those scary biopsies for my boob in an MRI machine.  The cost $12,000 dollars!  And it was thankfully benign. I was still healthy.  But although I have good insurance I still had to pay the 30% which added up to quite alot of dough.  

I am never without getting a billing statement from Sloan Kettering for my followups.  I am so thankful that I am healthy and alive but cannnot help be bitter about the downsides of life after cancer.  Besides the residual side effects from chemo the medical bills never seem to stop.

Kudos to Ethan for so candidly sharing his fears and frustration with this aspect of the cancer experience.  

What did you think of Ethan's video? Were you drowning in medical bills during your treatment?  Did you have insurance or even if you did, was it good enough?  How did you deal with your financial issues while fighting for your life?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

My Boobs Hurt Just Thinkin 'Bout It!

The pain usually starts about a month ahead of the scheduled checkup with my breast surgeon.  After all these years one might think it would be easy.  Sometimes I think it should be.  I wish that it could be.  But its sooo not. I see her twice a year which pretty much entails a boob exam and discussion of how I am doing all in the span of 7 - 10 minutes.  This time I don't even have any testing to do.  My mammo is not until the winter.  This should be a cakewalk appointment for me.  Maybe that is too much to expect from myself.  Maybe its too much pressure.  

The anticipation has always been my problem.  The obsessing I do and the negative places my mind likes to frequent especially at these times are not good for me.  I try to work hard at staying positive but old habits die hard I guess.  All those associated reactions just overwhelm me sometimes and take over.  I am hoping that as in my last post about recent city trips the good thoughts will carryover when I head to Sloan Kettering on Tuesday.  

Do you ever obsess over your doc appointments way ahead of time?  How do you handle the fear and anxiety?  Have you ever skipped one out of sheer fear? (Something I have highly considered on many an occasion!)