Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cloudy with a Chance of Spray Tan

So, the past few weeks have been pretty bad. Wah, wah, wah poor me. In order to balance the scales and try to remember some of the more wonderful things that are still happening in my life, I’ve made a little list. (Lists are good: short, sweet, to the point. They get to the heart of the matter.) This list is just a compilation of things that help me cope, make me happy, inspire me, blow me away, and generally help me get through each day in one piece:

1. Palm Beach, Minnesota. As the weeks of chemo drag on, my skin has become translucent. (I think I saw a movie where this happened to Kevin Bacon. Eventually, he disappeared.) He should have tried his local Palm Beach Tan franchise. About a month ago I got tired of looking at my see-thru skin and jumped into a Mystic spray tanning booth. I figured these chemicals couldn’t hurt me any more than anything else that was going on right now – and these chemicals make my skin feel softer. The color is really impressive and the best thing is it makes me look healthier than I normally feel. It has the effect of positive thinking through skin color. It’s been quite a nice mental boost and helps me redistribute all the money I used on spend on my hair – both the hair on my head and other areas way too TMI to go into --- into a new form of beauty maintenance.

2. Driving Miss Denine. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I have an amazing group of former colleagues who drive me “to and fro” my chemo appointments each Friday. It’s really just the most wonderful experience, but under the worst of circumstances. I think on every ride, with each “driver” (as they call themselves), we have commented on the fact that it was such a great chance to visit and laugh, but how weird is the occasion? I’ve thought that this would be a great idea for a Broadway play. Each ride is this great connection and an opportunity to share stories and laughs, but underneath, there is this attention to The Moment. To the purpose of the ride. It’s an extraordinary moment in time when you know people are reaching out to you, and in some way, you are reaching out to them too because you are allowing them to help you. It’s an important exchange for everyone.

3. Life After Cancer. I was recently told by a good friend that they have been diagnosed with a long-term, chronic disease. It really made me feel humbled by my own situation. I know it’s not a competition, but it made me stop and think. And although I realize that my condition will be followed for years and there is a chance of reoccurrence, with breast cancer I am largely in an “in and out” mode (at least that is what I tell myself). After surgery, I will not be expected to live with new symptoms or change my life too dramatically. It really made me think about how difficult that would be to accept. And it made me want to give her as much support as she has continued to give me.

4. Pictures of Emily. A few weeks ago, I attended the first birthday party of my dear friend’s daughter. On a lark, I lugged along my good camera to take pictures. I know at parties, I always love to have pictures, but – if it’s my party – I hate to orchestrate taking photos versus enjoying the moment. So it was fun for me to start taking pictures of Emily (who looks exactly like my friend…) and know that her mom and dad would have pictures of the day. Before I knew it, I had taken 86 photos. I’m strictly an amateur photographer, but it just felt nice to focus on this beautiful little girl, the great vibes at her party, and all the people surrounding her with love. It was also highly therapeutic for me: for those moments, I was traveling outside of CancerLand sans passport, doing something I enjoy and in the process, giving back to someone else.

5. Wren Hill Farm Eggs. One of my colleagues is a writer/gentleman farmer (see favorite links). The last time he was in town, he brought me a dozen farm fresh eggs. From his farm to my desk. What is it about eating eggs that haven’t actually been through the Target dairy case that is so intoxicating? It makes me feel like I am one step closer to Michael Pollan and solving the Omnivore’s Dilemma. It also makes me feel like I am doing something so healthy that no illness can touch me. Bring on the farm fresh eggs.

6. IMs From Hadley. I feel bad for everyone who does not have a friend like Hadley. Hadley and I have known each other for years now. We connect by instant messaging more than we do by phone. Some days, we constantly have a conversation going. Other days, not so much. But Hadley is my IM Angel (He’ll kill me for saying that…). I get updates on his life, his workouts, which Louis Vuitton accessories he is currently using, his latest plan for world domination or his thoughts on what would be fun to do next weekend. For my part, I talk about my wig collection, who’s driving me crazy at work, who needs a makeover (me?), who I just broke-up with or got back together with and the latest funny thing Sam just said or did. It’s always a different conversation. Although he has been know to humor me, he will also tell me what he thinks --straight up -- which I really value. The fact that our conversations are so normal keeps me in the moment of my day and away from the drama of how I’m feeling or not feeling and when the next chemo appointment is.

7. Girls Gone Wild Weekends. Last weekend, my Mom and I spent the weekend in Two Harbors, MN (population: 3,277) at a resort on Lake Superior. The trip was strictly of the spontaneous variety, brought on by the feeling of a free weekend coming up and chemo treatments that were suddenly more manageable in the month of August. We first did this trip two summers ago and we entertain ourselves by referring to them as our “Girls Gone Wild” weekends. Our GGW weekends usually consist of imbibing massive amounts of Diet Peach Snapple and unrefrigerated cheese. (We are simply wild!). This trip, I went all out by having an actual cocktail (a Cosmo that had real vodka in it – my first alcoholic drink since May) and getting in a near fist fight with a 65-year old Lutheran man who stole my baggage cart and smiled at me the entire time he was rolling it away.

8. The Calendar. It is August and I am three-quarters of the way through chemo. I can’t believe I started chemo in May. I can’t believe I was diagnosed in March! Because of the impact of chemo on my life and my work, I have come to see the battle against breast cancer as the battle against chemo. I have another surgery scheduled for the end of October, but I barely count that in the timeline. To me, when chemo is over with, so is the most debilitating part of my treatment. I am wildly grateful that I can look back on these months like one of those old movies where the calendar pages are falling to the floor in a fast-forward motion. When all is said and done and surgically processed, I should be as good as new by December. In fact, I should be better than new. Nonetheless, my New Year’s Resolution is to find a new “hobby” for 2011.