Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Strange Days Indeed

More of my videos here.

I'm getting back in the saddle, making videos again, writing on the blog. I just uploaded another belated video from this summer, but I never shared its predecessor here, so I'm posting that one first.

My office this afternoon is a hospital waiting room. I'm passing the time while my husband undergoes minor surgery. His surgeon, who comes highly recommended, was the doctor who diagnosed me with breast cancer three years ago. It wasn't until after after the biopsy, after his diagnosis—which was delivered over the phone at my request—, at my second office visit, when I requested that he show me where my lymph nodes were because I kept worrying something was wrong there even though he'd said otherwise, that he found the lump there too.

I will never forget the look on his face in that moment.

I haven't spoken to him since I left his office that day.

Both Jim and I felt a little tension about how he might react when he saw me today, sitting at Jim's side pre-op. Jim actually considered asking me to stay away, so as not to add stress to his surgical experience, but I reassured him that I would follow the doctor's lead, that I would be pleasant, and he decided it would be okay.

"Nice to meet you," the doctor said, shaking my hand with a perfunctory smile, turning his attention to the man of the hour.

Apparently he didn't recognize me at all. Or else he was being discreet.

Just now he called my cell to tell me the surgery is done and that it went very well.

What a strange thing, hearing this man's voice in my ear as I'd heard it once before, delivering good news instead of bad.

As I said before, life goes on.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


I sent a version of the following as an email to my family last night, explaining why I've been a bit out of touch. It's not the whole story, but it may shed some light on why I've been out of touch with you all as well. Please don't judge me too harshly.

Hello family, 

Dad called me after the holidays saying, "You're not answering your emails. What's wrong?" 

I was a bit defensive, admitting finally that I was maybe a little depressed, but it was true, I wasn't participating in the family chatter. It wasn't until after I got off the phone that I realized there was something behind that depression and that it hadn't occurred to me to tell any of you, or indeed, to admit to myself. 

And then it just seemed really sad to me that I went through the holidays burying this awareness. 

And then I realized I do this all the time, which seemed even sadder. 

So, in an attempt to break my habit and to have you all a bit closer, I want to tell you two things—first the thing that was bothering me then, and also the thing that is bothering me now.


Because of Tamoxifen, the drug I take for breast cancer, I am at increased risk of endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterine lining). It's a numbers game and the odds are better that it will help me, so I'll likely be on this drug for ten years. In the two years I've been on it so far, my endometrial lining has gotten very thick, and I've had three endometrial cancer scares. They've done ultrasounds and sonohysterograms (a more invasive ultrasound) and finally, this time, most invasively of all, an endometrial biopsy. 

I wasn't as worried about the risk of cancer this time around, which everyone thought was small, as I was troubled by the biopsy itself. The procedure has similarities to an abortion, which is connected to traumatic memories for me, as well as the fact that I never got to have children. Over the holidays I was anticipating that experience but trying not to think about it either, and then waiting on biopsy results, which in spite of not worrying, got me worrying. Luckily the biopsy was negative. 

Tamoxifen is hard on me in other ways as well. After ten years, there'll be another drug and its side effects to contend with too. I won't get into details now, but suffice it to say, it can be depressing. Anyone you know who has breast cancer seemingly in their past - just know that it's never really over. I know I'm not the only "survivor" who feels like I shouldn't complain, like we're supposed to feel lucky because there are life-saving treatments available to us now that didn't exist before. I do have a lot of appreciation but that doesn't take away what's hard, or the worry about what will happen, in my uterus and otherwise, in the next eight years.


The new thing bothering me is very different, but I've been crying about it all week, ashamed, and embarrassed and, I don't know, just feeling heartbroken and terrible. Here's what happened: 

I was trimming the fur around my dog Millie's mouth. I have been grooming her every couple months for four years now without major mishap, but this time, I messed up. She tried to lick the scissors, which I had recently sharpened, and before I knew what was happening, I had sliced into her tongue. There was a lot of blood for about an hour but nothing the vet could do about it. 

She's doing fine, fully healed already, not in pain or having any trouble at all, and yet, writing this out, I'm crying all over again. The split in her tongue remains and will remain forever. Every time I see it, I feel rotten. 

When I called the vet I was in tears. The woman I spoke to told me she had a similar accident with a dog she had years ago and she, too, felt terrible. 

"Did you ever stop feeling terrible?" I asked. 

"No," she admitted. "I feel kind of terrible right now." For a moment, we laughed and I cried some more and we felt terrible together.

On the bright side, life goes on.

A belated thank you for all the holiday cheer and thoughtful gifts.



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Taming the Beast

Earlier this summer. More of my videos here.

From yesterday's walk.
Back in May, when I started writing what I hope will someday be a book, the memoir of my Babies or Not journey, I thrilled at the mounting page count like an excited child tallying her age in quarter-year increments. But now, as the total creeps up toward four hundred pages on a first draft manuscript I thought would be finished a hundred pages ago, I'm facing demons bigger than the number of candles on my middle-aged birthday cake.

The bottom line is, I feel like I'm blathering on and on, and the story isn't over yet.

Believe it or not, I've never been good at telling my story from start to finish without worrying that my audience, real or imagined, isn't getting bored and fed up.

No wonder I have files full of half-finished books.

But I'm pushing forward with this one and I'll keep at it until I find the tail of this beast.

And then I'll tame it.

Or maybe I'll ride it, wild, into the sunset.

Or maybe I'll simply edit out all the silly metaphors.

In the meantime, I'm way behind on the videos, and even more behind posting them to the blog. There's another after this on the youtube channel. I'll post it here soon...er or later.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Beach Report

Medical drama and family fun in this one. More videos here.

Last Friday, on a whim, I packed up and took myself for a day at the Rhode Island shore. It was just what I needed, both a reminder that my beloved ocean isn't so terribly far from home, and an affirmation that there is pleasure in my own company (how nice to not have to hurry from the car to the beach, for instance, because taking my time gathering my things was holding someone up).

I'm a bit behind on posting videos, but cranking along with writing. My manuscript is now over three hundred pages. I feel the weight of all those words. It's harder to write lately, perhaps because I'm just coming to the crux of the story.

It is my hope that I'll be able to get to the end of this draft by the end of the first week of September. And then I'll return to the beach for a couple of days, this time with Jim. Because I like his company too.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Spoiler Alert

(From this spring. Uploaded the sequel to this one today. More of my videos here.)

I'm closing in on page three hundred of the first draft of what I hope one day will be the Babies or Not book. Once I'm finished—I figure I've got fifty or so more pages to write—I'll print the whole thing out and sit with it some place comfortable. In the warm sun I hope, maybe in a meadow or perhaps on a beach if I can finagle that, or else on the couch or sitting up in bed. In any case, I'll have a good red pen and some snacks and a notepad at my side.

I imagine I'll have some new writing to incorporate into the second draft, and a lot of older writing to strip away or wrangle into something more tightly honed. Eventually, I'll have a completed manuscript, the story of my journey through the reproductive years, which turned out very differently than I ever expected it would.

Early on in writing this, I began to imagine pitching the book to an agent or an editor, saying, "It's the story of an infertile abortion counselor's urgent but ambivalent desire to have children."

This imaginary conversation spawned a worry. What would I say if the editor or agent asks, "How does it end?" At first I drew a blank. So I asked myself, How does it end?

The answer came without a moment's hesitation. It's not exactly a fairy tale, but it's close enough for me:

"She gets cancer and lives happily ever after."

I hope the world wants this book, but if not, I'll be okay. I'll live my way into the next story.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Taking it On

More of my videos here.

With all the digestive difficulties I had before I understood that by staying away from gluten and dairy products all would be fine—I have been dreading colonoscopies for a long time. Sorry to be so blunt here but there's little that feels quite so scary and vulnerable as turning over control of what comes out of and goes into that particular orifice.

Thanks to my history of breast cancer, I'm told I'm at increased risk for colon cancer. My oncologist told me to get a colonoscopy now. Don't wait, like most people, until I'm fifty. I put it off for an entire year. But now, forgive the pun, my first colonoscopy is behind me. I did it without anesthesia. And for me anyway, it was no big deal. One less thing to be afraid of in life. Actually, make that two. I don't have colon cancer.

I did this video a while back, but have been busy working on my book (I'm about 185 pages into the first draft now) so it took a while to put together its sequel. That one is uploading today. You will be able to see it here soon.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Full Disclosure

I'm in the process of loading my latest video to YouTube, number #150!
But I haven't yet shared with you #149!
So here it is!
More of my videos here.

I haven't spoken up about this yet, here or otherwise. I wanted you to be the first to know: I'm finally writing the book, the Babies or Not memoir which this blog was originally intended to foster, all about working as an abortion counselor while struggling with infertility and the story that brought me to that place in my life and then beyond that place. It's about how "Babies or not?" the question became "Babies or not..." the resolution to live a full, brave, brazen life, regardless of cancer and marital upheaval and how parenting fits (or doesn't fit) into the picture.

I write every day, have been for a month or two now. I'm about seventy pages in and going strong. (I'm aiming for around 250 pages for the finished manuscript), and it feels like the most important, right work I've done. I look forward to sharing more with you about this - but for now - back to work!