Tag Archives: Cancer

I is good at the moving!

T-minus six days until I move to Minneapolis. I mailed the first rent I’ve had to pay in…um…a long time to my landlord up there, and wept quietly when I saw the dent it had made in my bank account. It may do a number to one’s street cred to live with one’s parents for a year, but it’s almost, almost made up by the cash saved on lodging and the ungodly amounts of baked goods at one’s disposal. Despite my transient bohemian life after college, I’m convinced I’m a suburban housewife in disguise. Because I’m really going to miss the granite countertop and seasonal dishware.

***

Moving, as everyone knows, is rather stressful. But as my family and close friends can attest, something unique happens to me when I get ready to move. Something that looks kind of like this:

Not that this is based on a real event or anything. Cough. Just a possible, um, example.

There’s no way around it. moving is hard. Especially when you’re leaving the nest for the second (fine! third, damnit) time. People keep telling me, “ohhh, congratulations!” and “you must be excited!”, the way that kind, considerate people often do.

But because the LAST time I got all excited about a big move to Minneapolis for graduate school, a giant bird named Fate dropped a giant poop on my head, I am trying to keep the excitement on the down low. Like, I am hoping to kind of slink out quietly before the Fate bird realizes my getaway and tries to poop on me again. Silly old fate bird.

A rare image of the exotic bird. Funny looking guy, isn't he?

My monkey mind remembers the Fate bird, too, so it is being very diligent. Maybe a little too diligent. My body thinks that every time I get a bit stressed, I am either a) being chased by a saber-toothed tiger, or b) getting a ball-busting illness again. So I am often overwhelmed with an urge to run or to get tested. For everything. Three times a day.

Sweet old monkey mind. I think it was Anne LaMott who said that we should treat ourselves the way we would treat an elderly, slightly deranged great aunt — kindly, gently, and with a lot of soft food. What are some times in your life where you have to pat your deranged great aunt self kindly on the head?

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When Being A Cancer Surviving Writer Isn’t The Awesomest Job At Cocktail Parties

Whoa, man, it’s been way longer than I wanted it to be since I last updated this thing. I blame it on my travels. ‘Cause I’m a fabulous jetsetter. I was in Boston and Vermont for six days, visiting a friend from college and then heading to the Green Mountains to watch another friend get married. And besides the whole ‘four hour delay -slash- flight cancellation -slash- getting stuck on the tarmac -slash- everybody at O’Hare smelling like stale McDonald’s, the trip was pretty awesome.

STILL, this is no reason for delinquency! How in the world am I going to be a best-selling, Oprah-endorsing author at this pace? I haven’t worked on my book in over a week. Maybe I should throw in the towel and take up professional microwave popcorn making. I make sure to get that shit done every. day.

So this wedding. Amazing. My friend who got married is finishing up at Dartmouth Medical School this week. She’s going to be an opthamologist, and from what I know about doctors based on my extensive experience in Grey’s Anatomy and Scrubs, the -ologists are much more fancy than the -icians. She is brilliant and funny and kind and this makes me thrilled for her.

But hanging around her brilliant, Ivy League-educated future doctor friends can get to a temporary file clerk after awhile. These BILEs* tend to talk about serious things like earning potential and good ‘lifestyle’ specialties and that Master’s degree they got in Computer Science at Stanford, just for the hell of it. So a conversation with them might go something like this:

BILE: So what do you do?

Me: Well, I’m a writer? And I’m headed to graduate school this fall?

BILE: Graduate school in what?

Me: Uhhhh…an MFA? Master of Fine Arts?

BILE: Oh. So what do you do with that?

Me: Uhhhhhh.

BILE: (sighs) I do admire people who stay in the arts.

Me: Uhhhhhh.

BILE: Are you writing somewhere now?

Me: Yeah! Um, I kind of freelance for this newspaper, and I’m kind of writing a book…

BILE: What’s the book about?

Me: Uhhhh…just this thing…that kind of happened to me last year…

BILE: Oh. Uh. That’s cool.

Me: (bursts into flames)

This also happened a few days later, when an old friend who moved to New York was back in Madison for a visit. Keeping up with the Joneses is a pathology in our culture, especially with we competitive Virgos. I feel like my stabs at legitimacy and oneupmanship in conversations are getting more and more absurd, like soon I’m going to start saying things like “I WAS ON ‘THE BACHELOR’!!!!!!” or “I’M PREGNANT WITH JUSTIN BIEBER’S BABY!!!!!!”

I wish I could say that having cancer made me care less about impressing other people. Sometimes it does. But sometimes it makes me want to impress them more, because there’s this huge, one-year gap in “normal person life” that is a lot of damn time when you’re in your twenties. Like, whatever I got out of being really sick isn’t quantifiable. You don’t get a diploma for “self-awareness,” or a cash bonus for “developing a spiritual practice.” And it’s not the kind of thing you talk about at cocktail parties. Like all the ‘big stuff’ that each of us goes through…it taps into another frequency level where cocktail parties cannot travel.

This is why I have decided that the next time I go to an event with a bunch of BILEs, I am going to pull a Bridget Jones and change the subject to the war in Chechnya, or something. And maybe claim that I am a secret agent. That oughta impress ’em big time.

*I realize some might characterize me as a BILE since I did go to Barnard, but we humanities majors with Guitar I on our transcripts aren’t treated the exact same way.

The Wisconsin Story Project Roxx!

Yeah. Yeah, I did say roxx. Because I was a rock star this morning at the recording studio, telling my story that will appear in next week’s podcast. With the fat headphones on my ears, and the fine, super sensitive mic, I was like Barbara Streisand. I was like Celine Dion. I was like all those people in “We Are The World”… but not that new, shitty version.

Mike Lawler is the guy behind The Wisconson Story Project. — an amazing, amazing organization whose sole mission is to promote the art of storytelling in the state of Wisconsin. It’s kind of like the StoryCorps project on NPR. Or The Moth. Or This American Life. But way more locally oriented.

In addition, WSP puts on cool events like a monthly storytelling series as well as an upcoming original documentary theater project called Cancer Stories. Think The Laramie Project meets Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center. The play will make its debut at the end of this month at the Overture Center, and EVERYONE SHOULD GO. Cool, right?

I e-mailed Mike on a lark a few weeks ago when I saw an blurb about auditions for Cancer Stories posted in the State Journal. He e-mailed me back and told me he recognized my name, both from the Isthmus story and my irate letter in the New Yorker. Turns out Mike is a cancer survivor and a writer, too, so we hit it off right away. Even though I’m thrilled to be moving to Minneapolis in June, I’m sad that I won’t be able to get more involved with WSP before leaving. We’re really lucky to have an organization like this in our own backyard.

Because as Wendell Berry said, “In a truly grounded, locally adapted culture, the artists would be the rememberers. They would memorialize great occasions, preserve necessary insights and so on.” Telling our stories, and listening to other people’s stories, is not just a novelty — it’s a means of survival. If it weren’t for stories, how would we survive harsh winters and devastating setbacks? How would we develop our morality?

I mean, plus, it’s just, like, really fun, you know? And you get to meet great people.

So if you feel like it…and by that I mean unless you want a good arm-twisting from me…become fans with Wisconsin Story Project on Facebook or find them on Twitter! You can also subscribe to the podast by searching Wisconsin Storycast on iTunes. And hear my beautiful, beautiful, semi nails-on-chalkboard voice.

What Bike Accidents And The Incredible Hulk Have In Common

Wisdom of the day: beware of slow-moving bicycle accidents!!!! SMBAs are the 4th most dangerous accidents in the whole world, behind complications from hot-dog eating contests, cartwheel miscalculations, and boa constrictor bites!!!

I know this because my big sister, Lee, got into one yesterday, and boy oh boy was it a doozy:

So there she was, minding her own business, politely passing a few recreational cyclists on the East Side bike path, in a hurry to get home and see her family, and BAM! Out of nowhere a bicyclist turns left in front of her, WITHOUT LOOKING BEHIND HER AND WITHOUT SIGNALING, and the two of them go crashing toward the ground.

Now, maybe you’re wondering: who doesn’t look behind them before turning left? Allow me to explain:

she are sooper gif-ted and tallented

But don’t worry — my new friend is fine. Walked away with nary a scratch. And my sister? Slightly more complicated. Now might be a good time to look up Femoral Artery. It’s confusing. Something about crushing it, and sirens, and morphine, and surgery and I think one of those minor procedures…maybe called a bypass?

You see, I have a slight problem remembering the details, because when someone harms my sister, this happens to me:

My protectiveness probably started when kids made fun of us on the school bus in the second grade. They’d alternate between “Lee, Lee, took a pee” and “Sally pooped in the alley.” And whoever had the bye day rallied a valiant defense against the evil forces.

Hell hath no fury like an alley-pooping Sally.

But anyway, Lee’s okay, and I visited her after work at the hospital. I’m trying to get her to press charges and hire one of those ambulance-chasers that have the commercials during daytime TV, but she keeps talking about pesky things like “forgiveness” and “not doing anyone any good.”

Whatever. She’s still hiding the police report from me, but when I get my hands on it, watch out, tubby, directionally challenged ladies: I’m going to bust out a can of whoop-ass on all y’alls.

I realize this has very little to do with reading, writing, or remission. But wait — it does! This was my very first time being in the hospital and NOT being the kind of doped-up looking one lying prostrate on the bed! Thank you, thank you very much. Thank you, Lee, for voluntarily breaking my streak.

We should have known something like this was coming. Fransons have a hard time going six months without catastrophe. That’s why Jimmy Cliff wrote a song just for us.

If anyone wants to join my vengeance gang, I’ll be the awkward-looking one on the pink Schwinn who looks like she’s never been in a vengeance gang before!

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.