Whatever. I’m totally over it.

For Medicinal Purposes Only

Sometimes we reach a moment in which it becomes important to stop and take stock of our lives — where we have come from, where we are going. One might, then, not find it too difficult to imagine that a certain one-year anniversary of a certain shitstorm of a diagnosis might inspire said reverence and introspection. And one would be right, but only partially.

Because over the past year, if I have learned nothing else, I have learned about the holistic health benefits of pie. You can cry into a pie.
You can be simultaneously energized by the sugary interior and soothed by the crusty fat of a pie. You can remember your grandmother with a pie. You can remember that slumber party food fight with a pie. And if you make one big enough, you can actually hide in a pie.

Which, by the way, would look something like this:

Anyway. The one-year anniversary has come, and at first I responded like any normal, healthy, well-adjusted girl would: I picked a fight with Ben and honked angrily at other cars and got pissed about the mascara smeared on my cheeks. But when I got home from work…there it was, my mama’s rhubarb pie. The same pie she baked for me the first time she came with me to the doctor on Ohio. My, oh my. What a gal.

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What the f*#% is a platform?

Hello, everybody.

Um, so maybe some of you (read: all two people who read this blog) have noticed that I haven’t been updating it lately. As in, never. And maybe some of you (read: no one) has been desperately concerned and sad over the lack of bloggy developments. But fear not! I am back in the blogosphere, and better than ever.

Since I’ve been doing a fair bit of journalism these days, I thought I’d interview myself to give you guys a heads-up on what life is like these days.

Me: So what is life like these days?

Me: Life is good! And I’m not just saying that because I’m polite and Midwestern and have a pathological fear of sounding less than fine. Well, mostly. I’ve been busy working, reading, writing, and just kind of reveling in the fact that I’m in remission and healthy.

Me: Where are you working?

Me: Heh, heh…well, there’s a funny question. In addition to continuing to freelance for Isthmus, I’ve taken on a number of temp jobs, including but not limited to: middle school secretary, office lackey for a startup company, and file clerk at the school district administration building. I’ve been modeling for my painters on the side and until recently was still barista-ing, until I became so tired of people assuming I was an incompetent dumbass while placing their orders that I literally exploded all over the espresso machine. They’re still cleaning bits of Sally up off the floor. But mostly it has become very clear that I will do just about anything for money, save for stripping, except I actually thought about becoming a stripper but it was for a story…does that count?

Me: Why are you blogging again after 234092432 years of silence?

Me: Well…that’s a funny question, too. I kept meaning to, but I’ve been kind of trying to focus on writing my book when I’m not freelancing, and it turns out that book-writing is not the easiest task on the planet. But I was at a writers’ conference this past weekend, and I talked to a couple agents, and they were all like, PLATFORM, PLATFORM, PLATFORM. What’s a platform? Hell if I know. But they said blog-tweet-facebook-network blah blah blah, and as much as I’d like to think that’s a load of crap…they’re probably right.

This one agent in particular…oh, she was a nasty breed. She crossed her hands and sat back in her chair and was like, ‘well?’ And apparently my triumphant battle with cancer at the age of 25 wasn’t too impressive, because after I finished my (awkward, terrible, because it was terrifying) pitch, she kind of clasped her hands and said, ‘you know, we get a lot of illness memoirs,’ like I was some born-again middle aged woman with breast cancer writing an extended diary entry (no offense, born-again middle aged women with breast cancer).

I basically got the impression that unless I suddenly became a celebrity and discovered a new weight loss plan, it was going to be very difficult to sell my book. I thought about auditioning for the next season of ‘Jersey Shore’ to up my street cred, but then I was like, fuck that, I’m just going to be awesome instead. And that’s the long answer to your short question.

Me: What’s your favorite animal?

Me: A bulldog…and dragons. Why?

Me: Just curious.

Me: This interview’s getting kind of stupid.

Me: That’s because it’s almost nine o’clock, and everyone knows you turn into a pumpkin at nine o’clock and can only read books with large print and watch CSI.

Me: Shit. That’s true. How’d you know?

Me: (glares)

OhKAY. Now that that little interlude has gone down the toilet, maybe you’d like to see some of the things I’ve written lately! Here they are, in no particular order:

http://www.isthmus.com/isthmus/article.php?article=28440

http://www.thedailypage.com/arts/article.php?article=28184

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=28980

http://www.isthmus.com/daily/article.php?article=28866

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=28749

And I’m out!

A better link

Read my whole irate letter here!

Hey! I’m in the New Yorker!

…You can’t even believe how long I’ve waited to utter that sentence.

Okay, so it’s only a letter (you can see me in the Feb. 1 table of contents¬†here). But how great is that?! My comments are in regard to a recent profile of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, who, among many other offensive statements, asserted that Americans essentially were getting cancer because of poor nutrition. We all know how I feel about THAT. So my letter asserts that John Mackey, essentially, is an idiot. Check it out if you can — the issue’s on newsstands now.

Have to say, one could get used to seeing one’s name among all these heavy hitters.

***

In other news, I am still virtually unemployed, save for a few scraps of hours the coffeeshop is tossing my way and another freelance project at Isthmus. But surprisingly, today, I don’t mind this at all. This could be a result of something my aunt Nancy wrote me a few days ago. She told me not to worry. She told me: “starting from newness is a rare gift.”

The first time I read this I wanted to toss this so-called present into the garbage in return for some – any – solid ground to stand on, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized she was right. I can think of many times already in my life that I’ve wanted to scrap everything I had and start over again. The routine and stability I lack (well, crave) might be exactly what the person next to me dislikes. They might wish for my freedom, my flexibility, my chance to begin again.

The grass is always greener, right? I am the queen of wanting the opposite of what I have, wanting to be the opposite of who I am. Molly and I have talked a lot about the aging-wunderkind dilemma, in which the traditional gauges that we use to measure our progress vis-a-vis our peers — grades, diplomas, etc. — dwindle as we get older and people’s paths begin to vary. This makes it very confusing for people who are used to, and maybe a little addicted to, being ahead of the curve.

I’m not sure if I’m ever going to be able to completely get rid of that competitive drive and penchant for comparison, and I’m okay with that. Those things helped me survive (and occasionally thrive) during six months of brutal chemotherapy; because of them I never once wanted to give up. But, you know, I don’t want to spend my first months after conquering a life-threatening illness worrying about falling behind in the rat race. So I won’t.

***

The first weekend of Barefoot In The Park went swimmingly. Maren and I stage-managed the hell out of the show, pumped up the cast members during pre-performance notes, and enjoyed being the most stylish stage managers on record — here are the pics to prove it! I still maintain that I look like Bono with my very-very short hair and all-black, but Mom disagrees. You be the judge.

It has been ridiculously fun getting back involved with theater, something I abandoned when I got to the talent-riddled New York (inferiority complex) and decided I was too old for after college (superiority complex). I’ve rediscovered a joyful and long-dormant part of myself, and I’m so grateful for the chance. Again, I’m no sap about cancer, but this never would have happened if I hadn’t needed to move home and, well, start over. I might even audition for an on-stage role in the summer show!

***

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” — George Eliot

Get Some Culture!

If you’re in the Madison area, come see Barefoot In The Park this weekend or next! It’s actually a really cute show (written by Neil Simon), and the lovely Maren and I will be stage-managing. It’s going up at the Verona High School’s Performing Arts Center. Be sure to listen for the phone ringing in it. Because that’s all me, baby, and I am AWESOME at it.

Goodbye, Port. Hello, Scar.

Today I am irritated with the health care system yet again. BadgerCare has switched me to an HMO, but the HMO won’t approve any visits with the health psychologist I’ve been seeing, and I would have to switch primary care doctors and get my CT scans elsewhere to stay with them. SO. I was on the phone forever trying to switch HMOs, which I was eventually able to do, but not until March 1st, and even then I STILL won’t be able to see the health psychologist. Time to do research on sliding scale folks in town. Definitely still needing a “life coach” at this juncture.

Wish trying to be healthy wasn’t such a difficult and expensive process in this country.

***

Another person has been added to the Hodgkin’s club. Michael C. Hall, star of Dexter, which is incidentally one of my favorite TV shows. The news came out just recently, although he has been in treatment for awhile. This is a particularly cruel example of the disease’s randomness, since he is clearly a very fit, healthy, actor-type. He attended the Golden Globes sporting a black hat, and when I saw him I started to cry. Now, clearly I don’t know this guy; for all I know he’s a total asshole. But seeing him so visibly vulnerable made me want to run up through the television and hug him. “I understand,” I would tell him. “I understand.”

People wondered why he didn’t mention his illness during his speech, but man, I understand. It’s hard enough to talk about with one person; why does he have to share it with millions?

***

Exciting news: I got my first haircut today! And my first eyebrow wax! In retrospect I should have brought an envelope and saved the clippings, the way moms do when we’re babies. It’s still not quite full enough to stop wearing a hat, thanks to an unfortunate incident with my nail scissors in Mexico, but I think in a couple weeks I’ll be good to go. (Note to self: do not employ boyfriend to cut hair, regardless of any mullet-like situation.) I’m really looking forward to blending in with the rest of the world, and I am so sick of wearing a hat I don’t know if I’ll ever voluntarily wear one again. Unless, as it will be in the Twin Cities, it is very, very cold.

The other big transition of the week is that yesterday I had a small surgical procedure done to remove the port in my chest. I almost didn’t want to go through with it, afraid I would be tempting the gods, but when Dr. Chang told me I’d have to get a saline flush monthly to keep it clean, I made the appointment immediately. (Hate those flushes.)

I have a big gash and bandage on my chest and can’t lift weights for a week, but everyone keeps telling me it’s worth it. I hope so. It was kind of annoying playing in my bathing suit with this giant bulge poking out beneath my collarbone, but having to go to the hospital again was nothing short of traumatizing. I just want to be normal. That’s my mantra these days. I just. Want. To be normal.

It was, not unsurprisingly, kind of hard to come home from Mexico. For the obvious reasons, sure, like the severe lack of sunshine and warmth here, and the blessed relaxation of vacation, but also because I’ve never before taken a trip and returned to a life that no longer exists. I’m not “cancer girl” anymore, I don’t have any more chemo, I’m not at the hospital all the time — heck, I don’t have to be there till mid-March. So what do I do now? No (real) job, no house of my own, little cash, and a seven-month limbo until graduate school.

Let me be the first to say this: it’s absolutely terrifying. I don’t know what my life is supposed to look like, because I’ve never had to this before. I’ve been without cancer before (like for the first 25 years of my life), but I’ve never been in remission. The two things are very, very different. So I can’t go back to my life pre-cancer and I can’t go back to my life mid-cancer, either.

Where do I go? What do I do now? These are questions I longed to ask in the middle of my treatment, but now that I can, I feel unsure. Now the only thing limiting me is myself; I can’t use the cancer excuse anymore. But I am not quite my self yet. I am still reeling a little. I am still tired. And I am still a little lost.

I had coffee with a friend today whose own cancer journey started six years ago, and he told me: “it will be interesting to see how you change in the next year.” Because he knows what I already have a sense of: that this is just beginning. That I cannot just seal the box and put this on the shelf of memory. It’s just too big. It’s been too much.

In that sense, the point of keeping this blog is very different than it was when I first started posting on Caring Bridge. I have no medical updates to give — at least, not very often. But I am going through — emerging from — something, something that I feel is worth chronicling. It is my hope that by writing about it I can gain some new perspective on it, and I can learn to take the uncertainty and fear and transform it into something beautiful, something hopeful, something that speaks to new beginnings.

Hello world!

Yo! So, if you’re here, you’ve done one of two things: 1) followed the link from my Caring Bridge site, or 2) found me independently. Let’s be honest. Chances are it’s the former, since this has only been up for about two hours.

In any case, welcome! This is a continuation of the blog I started after I was diagnosed last year with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Since Caring Bridge is primarily intended for people with serious illness, injury, or other trauma, I felt like it would be most appropriate to gently transfer myself to a more traditional blog setting. Also, wordpress has these things called widgets that are supposed to be pretty cool; unfortunately I have no idea how to do anything with them. So we’ll just take this whole website thing one at a time.