invalidKelly Ripa, she of her eponymous television show, Colgate and Nutella commercials, has caused quite a stir. She went on “The Wendy Williams” show last week and revealed, when relating an incident with her 13-year old daughter that resulted in her daughter losing phone privileges, “I don’t think she likes me, but I don’t care. I’m like, ‘I’m not your friend, I’m your mom.’”

Oh, my God, Kelly Ripa broke the internet.

Twitter, Facebook and all manner of social media blew up. People, in a stunning example of online overreaction, made comments ranging from “she hates her kid” to “Kelly has just shut up liberal parents once and for all.”

Seriously? Why is this even a conversation?

Sure, I’m friends with my mom. Now. I’m also a 44 year old woman who’s achieved at least a small measure of maturity. When I was 13? Couldn’t stand the sight of the woman. It wasn’t her fault. It was simply the nature of our particular parent/child relationship. She was not my friend. She was my mother. And never the twain met, at least until I was legally able to join her at the kitchen table with a bottle of wine and bitch about horrible bosses and bad dates.

I don’t understand parents who are afraid that their kids aren’t going to like them. I insist on their respect and depend on their love, but they do not need to like me. I don’t need to be their friend and I don’t expect them to be mine.

I have a checklist of things I look for in a friend and at this stage, my kids don’t meet any of them.

Things like, can you buy wine? Do you remember where you were when the Berlin wall came down? Were you even born when the Berlin Wall came down? Have you ever seen a music video on MTV? Have you or are you currently in a serious, long-term relationship with a significant other thus giving you insight into why my husband is currently driving me up a friggin’ tree? Have you ever lain awake at night worrying about money or illness or whether you’re going to lose your job in the latest round of your company’s layoffs?

No? Then you can’t be my friend.

Similarly, I’m sure I don’t meet all my kids’ requirements for friendship.

I can’t watch “Kickin’ It” or “Lab Rats” or “Jessie” on a loop without wanting to open a vein. When I want to celebrate something, my first restaurant choice isn’t McDonald’s or Buffalo Wild Wings. I love naps, having someone wash my hair and someone presenting me with a well-balanced meal at 6:00 every evening, all things they hate. Dirty hands make me twitchy, runny noses skeeve me out and wearing the same pair of socks two days in a row is gross. But they, and most of their friends, see no problem with any of the foregoing.

I look forward to the day when my children come home to visit (not to live – once you’re out, you’re out!) bringing with them adult problems and adult beverages, when we can talk like adults and reminisce about the time I took away their phone or they lied about doing homework or they thought my head was going to explode from all the yelling I was doing.

Until that day, friendship is not part of parenting. And I think we’re all better for it.

Posted in humor, kids, mom humor, parenting | 4 Comments

fuckcanceriwinjThere is a lot about the last year that I would prefer to never think about again. The pain – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual – I’d rather not remember. The surgical drains and radiation burns and hair loss? I would be fine blocking out that trauma. The days where I couldn’t get out of bed or eat or sleep? All memories I don’t need to have.

But I do find myself wondering what I’m going to remember when I look back on 2014 in a year, five years, 15 years. And there are things I want to be sure to remember.

I want to remember that even through cancer, I laughed. A lot. My kids cracked jokes, there were funny cards, and I was able to find humor, from the ridiculous (nipple clamps always make me laugh) to the sublime (watching my kids play keep away with my fake boob). I wish I could say I laughed every day, but I did laugh a lot. When I look back on this year, which was pretty freakin’ horrible in a lot of ways, I want to remember that it wasn’t all bad and I never lost my sense of humor.

Before cancer, like most women, I had the occasional bad hair days. Days when humidity or dark roots or a wrong shampoo choice turned my hair into the enemy. Days when a bun or a baseball cap were my only defense. And while I can’t remember exactly when I did it, but I know on more than one occasion, I threw the hairbrush down in frustration and muttered some variation of, “I’m just going to shave it all off and go bald.” Once my hair fully returns, I’m sure I’ll once again have to endure bad hair days but my hope is that I will remember how particularly unattractive bald is on me, and be grateful that I have hair at all.

I read a story about a woman who got breast implants and then popped one by wearing an underwire bra. I must remember not to wear underwire. The story is probably an urban legend, but why take a chance?

When my husband, who is generally a good man, inevitably starts to drive me up a. freaking. wall., it would be best for me to remember how he stepped up, and came to doctor’s appointments and shouldered the burden of raising our kids when I couldn’t get out of bed and went to three different drugstores to buy me egg-shaped Twix bars during Easter. Perhaps by remembering all of that, the up-a-wall-driving won’t make me quite so crazy.

And finally, I want to remember how blessed and loved I felt. I received so many dinners and carpool offers and cards and gifts and calls and emails and Facebook posts. I honestly didn’t know just how many friends I had.

With all the things I want to remember, I just wish I could forget the cancer.

Posted in breast cancer, gratitude, humor | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

I am not an athlete. Never was. There was a time, once upon a time, that I may have entertained aspirations (read: delusions) about my skill on a softball field. Alas, my dreams of being a power hitter were derailed by little things like my lack of speed, athletic talent and hand-eye coordination.sports

But I loved to play.

I am a very competitive person. My obsessive need to win has been softened over the years thanks to things like reality, but I remain someone who likes to come in first. Unfortunately, I am also pretty lazy. When the zombie apocalypse comes, you can all thank me, since I will not be able to outrun the undead, thus giving them an easy target and you a chance to get away.

When I was a kid, weekends weren’t weekends without sports on TV. From the Super Bowl to the Professional Bowlers’ Tour to endlessly long golf tournaments, we watched sports. Now, I watch sports with my own kids and I revel in teaching them about strike zones and nickel defenses and icing. And I anxiously await Sunday afternoons to call my Dad and talk about the same with him.

There has been a lot of criticism of professional sports over the last several weeks. I want to be clear. Domestic violence, child abuse, drug use, drunk driving, “insert latest athletic hero’s fall from grace here” are abhorrent and have no place. Not just no place in professional sport, but no place in a civilized society.

Even so, I live for weekend sports watching. I spend fall Saturdays nearly vibrating with excitement waiting for Sunday football. I pore over standings and schedules and try to calculate my team’s chances at the beginning of the season. I cry when they lose (better luck next year, Red Sox), I get defensive when they are criticized (Tom Brady getting replaced with a first year backup – puhlease!), I rejoice when they stand alone at the end of the season, trophy hoisted above their heads.

I owe my teams a lot. The Red Sox taught me it was OK for a grown man to cry, that losing doesn’t make you a loser, and that loyalty isn’t always easy. As fall of 2004 opened, I was deeply mired in grief. I had lost quintuplets and spent my days lost in a haze of depression and hopelessness. All I could think about were the babies. I vacillated between insomnia and not being able to get out of bed. I couldn’t see any way out of the dark haze of sadness I was in.

I watched the ALCS that year, hoping that this would be the year that the Red Sox finally knocked off the Yankees. But then the Yankees were up three games to none and it looked like they were going to lose. Again. Heartbreakingly.

Then Dave Roberts stole 2nd. And suddenly, my team had life. And suddenly, after six weeks of thinking of nothing but my loss and pain, I had something to look forward to. And when the Red Sox won the World Series. I felt joy. It was the first time since I had lost the babies that I felt anything other than despair. I had missed joy. And I am grateful to the Red Sox for giving it to me.

This year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer on January 27. It’s harder to wallow in despair and depression when you have three kids constantly in need of your time, attention and, let’s be honest, cash, but once they were in bed at night, the dark feelings came out to play. What if I died? What if I wasn’t strong enough to make it through treatment? What if, what if, what if? For weeks, if I wasn’t thinking about my kids, I was thinking about cancer.

Until the Super Bowl. And my most hated team, the Denver Broncos, got crushed by the Seahawks. And I felt joy watching a team standing alone at the end of the season. For those moments, I wasn’t someone standing at the beginning of a breast cancer journey, afraid and vulnerable, but instead I was a sports fan, happy to see one team achieve the dream.

I am not a good mother in a lot of ways. I yell far too much, I don’t keep a pristine house and I am almost always the parent who turns in the school forms a day late. But one thing that I am proud of is that I encourage my children to love sport. To engage in competition. To revel in rivalries. To try their hardest even when it looks like they’re going to get creamed.

My oldest son started playing tackle football this year. I know that he is only 8 years old, but I also know that he is a good athlete. He has excellent body awareness, he is very fast and he has excellent stamina (for most everything except homework). I entertain a lot of visions of him as a high school football player or a college basketball star or the star shortstop for the Red Sox in 2026.

My athletic dreams for him probably won’t come true. But what he has learned in his first season of football are things that I couldn’t teach him nearly as well. He has learned to lose gracefully, particularly important since they are currently 1-6. He has learned that even if he tries his hardest, he might not be one of the star players on the team and in fact might be one of the kids who has to work even harder to get playing time. He has learned what teamwork is and that playing a sport is not always about winning but playing with your friends as hard as you can is always satisfying.

And that is what sports is all about.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I tend to be a procrastinator. I get everything done that I need to get done, but sometimes I’m sliding in right under the wire.3689842

I put off getting my first mammogram for three years. I knew that I was supposed to start getting screened at 40. My OB/GYN made sure to mention it to me several times in the years leading up to the big 4-0. I had dozens of friends post status updates on Facebook about going to get the girls squished.

But I put it off.

I wasn’t afraid of doing it. It just seemed unnecessary. I have no history of breast cancer in my family. I nursed my kids, for a time anyway. And at 43, I was young. Just past 40 didn’t seem like I was old enough to really have to be concerned. I figured I had plenty of time to go get my first mammo.

It wouldn’t hurt anything if I put it off.

And then I felt something. It wasn’t a big something. It sort of felt like a cashew nut, stuck just under the skin in the lower right quadrant of my right breast.

Still, I put it off.

It was probably cycle-related, I told myself. It’s probably because my period is due, I told myself. Or probably because my period just ended, I told myself. Plus, it was that crazy, chaotic, don’t-have-time-to-sit time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I was certain that the something I felt was absolutely nothing.

So, I put it off.

I’m not terribly good at keeping New Year’s resolutions, but I did resolve to be better about keeping up with routine body maintenance. I resolved to make a dentist’s appointment and a dermatologist’s appointment and a mammogram appointment.

I made my appointment at a satellite radiology office of my local hospital. I didn’t know that not every mammogram facility would read your mammogram while you waited. If I had done my mammogram at the local hospital, they would have read my mammogram before I changed out of the ill-fitting paper gown back into my street clothes. But the satellite office didn’t have a radiologist on staff full time, so I had to wait to get my results.

My appointment was on a Tuesday. I was warned that since it was my first mammogram, they would likely have to call me back in for additional views. It wasn’t anything to worry about and they’d call me Wednesday or Thursday with the results.

Friday came and I hadn’t heard anything. Everything must have been OK, right? Well, no. I got a call at 6:30 Friday evening that they found something on my films and I had to go to the hospital’s breast center at 1:00 on Monday afternoon. Thank you. Have a nice weekend.

Now, if you are calling someone on a Friday afternoon to give them the news that they are in need of further testing for anything, the next words out of your mouth damn well better be that you have Saturday office hours and you would be happy to make them the first appointment the next day. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

I remember almost every little thing about that weekend. It was cold. We had takeout Chinese food Friday night and ordered a pizza on Saturday. We went to a minor league hockey game with the kids’ elementary school. The boys’ had basketball practice and my daughter had a play date. Oh, and it was the longest weekend of my life.

I’ve written about the rest of the story before. The second mammogram led to an ultrasound which led to an appointment with the breast surgeon which led to a biopsy and MRI and unilateral mastectomy and chemo and radiation and a decade of Tamoxifen to look forward to. Not to mention the peripheral neuropathy, alopecia and lifelong terror that it’s going to come back.

Let that be a lesson to you, kiddies. Would my path through breast cancer have been different if I got that first mammo at 40? Who knows. But it certainly wouldn’t have made my situation worse.

Please, I beg you, if you are over 40 and haven’t had a mammogram yet, make an appointment today. And if you’ve skipped a couple of years, make an appointment today. And if you had a mammogram six months ago, make an appointment for your next one today. And please share this message with everyone woman you know. And ask her to share.

Putting it off won’t help anyone. But it certainly won’t hurt.

Posted in breast cancer, chemo, mammogram | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

cancer1.     Well, I’m done with my active treatments. No more chemo infusions sitting in a pleasantly vibrating chair while trained volunteers offer to massage my feet and hands (yeah, I could write an entire post on that alone) to help take my mind off the fact that they’re actually poisoning me. No more radiation, where I schlep into the doctor’s office every. single. freakin’. day. for six. freakin’. weeks. and watch my skin burn off day by painful day. But I am not “done” done. I’m still taking Tamoxifen for the next 5-10 years. My 8 year olds will be headed to college and my 6 year old begging to borrow the car by the time I’m “done” done. I’ll still be getting mammograms and ultrasounds and MRI’s, oh my, every several months. And let’s not forget the praying, begging and deal-making with God to ensure the cancer doesn’t come back. Of course, calling myself done is a great excuse to celebrate with GNO’s and dinners out, so yeah, I’m done.

2.     I have, as I’ve stated previously, always been a bit obsessed with my hair. After a few weeks of wig-wearing in the heat and humidity of a New England summer once my hair fell out, I decided I would be much more comfortable and significantly less bitchy if I simply went with baseball hats and scarves. I figured that once the weather cooled, I’d go back to wearing wigs. I figured I’d be wearing something on my head for at least a year after treatment was over. Then my hair started to grow back and, with a self-confidence that I have rarely felt, I let my head go au naturel. And people wigged out. (Yeah, yeah, cheap joke). Not because they didn’t like it. But because all they wanted to do was touch my head. Grown-ups and kids alike. Kids usually just start petting me like a dog, but adults hold back, clearly wanting to rub my head like some kind of talisman but afraid of insulting me, until I ask them, “Do you want to touch it?” Folks light up like it’s Christmas morning. People are weird.

3.     What the hell am I going to complain about now? I like complaining. Not because everything in life pisses me off, but rather because complaining is my way of being funny. Snarky, sarcastic, caustic – these are a few of my favorite things. But how the hell am I going to complain now – about school pickup lines and stupid drivers and cheerleader fundraisers – when I never really complained about the cancer? Did my stiff-upper-lippedness during treatment now preclude me from bitching about the mundane? Do I come off as ridiculous if I vent about Boo bags when I didn’t gripe about surgical drains? Screw it. I’ll bitch if I want to.

4.     I’m going to miss napping. A lot. Farewell, my friend.

5.     My first blog post after my diagnosis was entitled Me v. Pink. Because, as I’m sure you all remember, I hate the color pink. I’ve always hated it. I avoid using Pepto-Bismol for tummy troubles because I just can’t stand the color. I’ve made limited exceptions in my life for the color pink, like for my daughter’s favorite pink baby blanket or the bridesmaid’s dress for my best friend. The month of October causes me emotional pain. Everywhere I turn – PINK. Yes, I want to support breast cancer awareness. Yes, the more people know to get screened the fewer people will have to go through what I’ve gone through this year. Yes, raising money through pink-colored consumer goods is a wonderful thing. I just hate the color. And I hate even more that pink no longer reminds me of a wedding where I danced until my dyed shoes turned my feet pink or swaddling my daughter her first night home from the NICU. It just reminds me of the cancer. And that really pisses me off.

Posted in breast cancer, chemo, humor | Tagged , | Leave a comment

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on January 27. Since then, I have had:

Two mammogramsil_340x270.346530922

Two ultrasounds

One MRI

One biopsy

One PET scan

Two surgeries

One four-day hospitalization for an infection

Four chemotherapy infusions

Twenty-one radiation treatments

Untold gallons of blood drawn

Countless appointments with countless physicians

And a partridge in a pear tree.

And it’s all coming to an end.

As of today, I only have seven radiation appointments left. I meet with my medical oncologist next week to get an idea of my long-term plan, I need to schedule an appointment with my breast surgeon for a follow-up and mammogram, and I have to start thinking about what I’m going to do about reconstruction. But my calendar is no longer filled to bursting with doctor appointments.

Now what?

I have been closely monitored by doctors for the better part of the year. I don’t think a week has gone by since D-Day (“diagnosis day”) in January that I haven’t seen a doctor, talked to a doctor or made an appointment with a doctor.

Now that treatment is coming to a close, I won’t have that safety net anymore. And it terrifies me.

There was a point – who knows when – when I went from being a person without cancer to being a person with cancer. There was one moment, probably one second, where the balance shifted and the scales tipped and I became a cancer victim, patient, survivor. It wasn’t on the day of my diagnosis. It was at some unknown moment in time before that.

Was I having a good day on that day? Was it a good moment? Was it a moment when I was basking in my family, perhaps someone’s birthday, and we were all in love with each other and hopped up on birthday cake and togetherness? Or was it a moment where I was yelling at the kids to find their sneakers so loudly that the neighbors’ kids started looking for their shoes?

Did I feel it? Once the threshold of 40 is crossed, there are lots of little aches and pains. Did I feel a little pinch in my breast one day, when healthy cells began to be pushed out of the way to make room for the tumor? Did I feel a little more tired that day? A little extra fatigue in the already exhausting life of a mom of three?

Will it happen again? There are all sorts of scary statistics about secondary cancers and recurrence and survival rates. And there is no possible way to know whether it will happen again.

Seeing doctors all the time has kept the fear of the cancer coming back at bay. Being pumped full of poison, radiated and medicated has given me a sense of security. As long as I’m following the doctors’ instructions, the cancer can’t come back. The treatments are keeping the beast inside me down. The cancer is the monster under the bed and the doctors are my nightlight. If I lose my nightlight, how long before the monster comes for me?

I try not to dwell on the possibilities. I come from hearty peasant stock, and I wa t to choose to believe that I am just as likely to live to 90 as I am to die before 50.

I visited a dear friend and her brand new baby the other night. Holding her newborn, I was reminded of coming home with my babies for the first time, wondering how in the world the folks at the hospital trusted my husband and me to take care of these babies. We didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t have any experience. We weren’t qualified.

I feel something similar being almost done with treatment. I don’t know what I’m doing as a cancer patient who has completed treatment. I don’t have any experience. I’m not qualified.

We’ve managed, despite our lack of parenting experience at the outset, to fall into a groove and figure out how to be parents. The kids are happy, healthy and whole.

I can only hope to have the same experience with my new status as a cancer patient who has finished treatment.

Posted in breast cancer, chemo, gratitude, surgery | 3 Comments

September 21 is the ten year anniversary of the birth of my first babies. Five babies who were perfect and tiny and too early to survive. Their conception, pregnancy and birth was perhaps the defining moment of my life, and I wrote about it here: How I Became a Mother, or How Earth, Wind & Fire Saved My Lifebabies 3

I am who I am because of those babies. And I miss them every day.

Everyone wonders about what their lives would be like if things had gone just a little differently. I’ve done a fair amount of wondering myself this year. What if I had gotten a mammogram earlier? What if I had ignored the lump? What if the Patriots hadn’t traded Wes Welker to Denver? OK, maybe more the first two questions and less of the third.

Dwelling on “what ifs” and “I wonder” won’t change what is. I try not to indulge in that kind of thinking too often. I’ve got enough to keep me busy in the here and now.

When I do allow my mind to wonder, it doesn’t take long to wonder what would life be like if I hadn’t lost the quints.

If the babies had been born when we had hoped, namely, after about 30 weeks, they’d be in fourth grade this year. I look at the fourth graders I know, and I wonder. Who would my kids have been friends with? Who would their teachers have been?

I wonder about what kind of super-multiples discount they’d give on five football, basketball, t-ball, softball, cheerleading or swimming registrations.

I wonder if my eight year old daughter is like her sisters. Would they have loved to read like her? Would they have been as talented at twisting the truth? Would they have her red hair and freckles and inability to ever. stop. talking?

I wonder whether my boys would look like their father, like their 8 year old brother does, or would be more like their 6 year old brother, who favors me. I wonder if they would love football, cheesesticks and summer with the passion that their brothers do. I

wonder how much more I would spend at the grocery store with a few extra mouths to feed.

I wonder how we would have handled the first year of five babies. How we would have dealt with that kind of sleep deprivation, whether we could have gotten a bulk discount on formula, just how many diapers we would have changed.

I wonder what it would be like driving one of those 10 passenger church vans, because no minivan would have fit five kids, five car seats, a double stroller and a triple stroller.

I wonder what they would have grown up to be, whether they would have my family’s genetic predisposition for dry wit, whether they would have realized just how extraordinary being one of five is or whether they would have resented being born in a crowd.

And even though I don’t want to, I wonder how I could have been given such an amazing gift as these five babies, only to have them taken away before I even got a chance to know them.

What I do know is that I have the children now that I am meant to have. And I also know that it is highly unlikely that I would have them if the quints hadn’t been born so early. Because, really, who would have time for fertility-aided romance with five babies running around.

So I know that I am where I am supposed to be, with the children that I am supposed to have.

But it doesn’t stop me from wondering.

 

Posted in infertility, kids, miscarriage, parenting | 1 Comment

It’s that time of year again. The most glorious time of the year again. It’s back to school season again. But, even through my utter joy, I can see the work piling up for me. Every day my kids are coming home from school with sheaves of paper for me to fill out and sign.

funny-kids-are-back-in-schoolFluoride rinse permission slip? Check.

Auto-debit lunch money account? Check

Pickup authorization form? Check.

There is one form that usually gives me pause, entitled something like, “Tell Me About Your Child.” The form asks simple questions about your kid, in the hopes of giving the teacher some insight into their personalities and learning styles. I’m all about sharing information with the teachers, edited of course, so as not to have said teachers contacting the school psychologist, asking them to “Please keep an eye on that V family kid.”

Some examples of my editing process:

What are your expectations of your child this year? (3rd grade son)

What I told the teacher: I expect that my child will continue to grow in his love for math and hope that he will find joy in reading. I expect that he will strengthen his problem-solving skills and his relationships with his peers.

What I really meant: I expect that this kid is not going to do his homework unless I am standing over him with a mallet and the threat that he will never again see the light of day if he doesn’t finish before MY bedtime. I expect that he will lose a number of privileges, up to and including football, playdates and possibly breathing, because he hasn’t done his freakin’ homework. I expect that he will do everything in his power to avoid reading, including forging my signature in his assignment book. (I expect this to happen because he did it last year. Despite his valiant attempt at forgery, his teacher still identified it as a fake. Probably because I don’t typically sign my name as “Mom.”)

What do you expect of your child’s teacher? (3rd grade daughter)

What I told the teacher: I expect that you will encourage her independence and love of learning. I expect that you will show her patience when she is frustrated with a new challenge. I expect that you will foster a safe environment where the kids are free to discuss their ideas and feelings without fear.

What I really meant: I expect you to drink. A lot. I expect that the sound of my kid’s voice is eventually going to be like nails on a blasted chalk board. I expect that you will be forced to count to 10 multiple times a day. I expect that there will be moments when you cannot wait to get out of the classroom and vent to your friends and family about how these kids are driving you mad. Did I mention that I expect you to drink?

What do you expect your child to learn this year? (1st grade son)

What I told the teacher: I expect him to learn to read more fluently. I expect him to continue to learn appropriate responses when dealing with other children. I expect him to continue to mature and grow as a student.

What I really meant: I expect to get at least one phone call during the school year telling me that he has a problem keeping his hands to himself. I expect tears, definitely from him, possibly from you, the first time he is caught doing the wrong thing in class. I expect him to stand 3 feet from his sneakers each morning, crying because he’s looked everywhere and can’t find them and his mom is really, really mean. I expect that he will tell you at least one borderline inappropriate story about his father and me that I could try to explain, but really, isn’t it just funnier to listen to the 6 year old’s version of marital discussions?

The teachers ask what I expect of them. In addition to my expectation that they will probably all drink or find some other appropriate outlet for what is most assuredly one of the most stressful jobs in the world, I do have certain expectation of our parent-teacher relationship.

I expect that you will take care of my babies, who drive me batshit crazy but who have made me whole.

I expect that you will tell me when they are acting like little brats and that you will discipline them appropriately.

I expect that you see me as someone who wants to help you do your job, and not as one of “those” parents who make an already impossible job that much more difficult.

I expect that in June we will look at each other and sincerely say, “Thanks for a great year.”

Happy Back-to-School, everyone!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I lost my boob. And it was awful.

I know what you’re thinking. “Hasn’t she complained about her mastectomy enough?” But I’m not talking about losing my breast. I came to terms with that months ago. And reconstruction remains on my horizon, but is not in my immediate future.images (3)

With reconstruction still several months away, I purchased a fake boob shortly after my surgery. Being someone with an overabundance of breasts, I needed something quite large. Imagine my giggling when I realized that most of the products in my size were not exclusively marketed to mastectomy patients, but rather to transgender folks and cross-dressers.

So I have a fake boob. I’ve worn it for months now, but over the weekend, I lost it and couldn’t find it for about a day and a half.

I was lopsided. I was unbalanced. And, more importantly, I was mortified.

I have, quite obviously, no problem talking about my cancer. I’ll happily talk mastectomy scars, radiation tattoos and chemo side effects with almost no filter to anyone who’ll stand still long enough to listen to me. I love to talk and what better subject? I can vent my frustrations, educate others and maybe get a laugh, all at the same time.

But I’m apparently feeling that the physical evidence of my experience is something to be hidden or disguised. I never go out in public without my boob. It’s like the old American Express commercial. “Don’t leave home without it.”

Because while everyone knows, not everyone needs to see.

I’ve seen the eyes dart towards my chest when someone looks at me. Whenever I encounter a stranger, I see first the recognition that something must be wrong because, lovely though my headscarves and baseball hats are, clearly I’ve lost my hair. Then their eyes sink lower to try to figure out what kind of cancer I must be fighting. When I’m wearing my boob, it is not readily apparent what my battle is. When I’m not, everyone knows, leaving me looking funny and feeling exposed.

The problem is, I hate wearing that damn thing. In the winter and spring it wasn’t so bad. It would get a little damp on warm days, and I had to be careful what “foundation garments” I was wearing; the stupid bugger likes to poke its head out above my neckline occasionally and see what’s going on in the world. But other than that, it wasn’t so bad.

Now that it’s summer, it’s like having a soggy sponge stuck in my bra. If you’ve ever thought that underboob sweat was gross, simply magnify that feeling by, oh, infinity, and you’ll get an idea of just how gross it is. It soaks up sweat and makes me sweat and, perhaps most disgusting of all, reeks of sweat by the end of each day.

Say it with me. Ewwwwwwww.

On Sunday, we came home from church with our Dunkin’ Donuts and I whipped it out and threw it on the couch. When it came time to leave the house again, I couldn’t find it. I didn’t know if the kids hid it from each other, the cat hid it because he’s a pain in my ass, or my husband hid it to be funny. I couldn’t find it. And I had to leave the house.

I put on my blousiest blouse, sucked it up and went out. I don’t know whether anyone noticed or not. I was certainly a great deal more comfortable physically than I normally am when I wear it. But I found myself holding my arm at a certain angle to try and hide my deformity. My daughter was with me and she was worried whether I would feel sad without my boob. I was worried that she would be embarrassed.

At the end of the day, she wasn’t embarrassed and I wasn’t sad. I’m not trying to draw a philosophical conclusion or make an empowering statement about going out in public with only one boob. I just eventually stopped thinking about the fact that I didn’t have it. Just like I’ve usually don’t think about the fact that I don’t have my real breast anymore. No one pays much attention to their normal.

I did find my boob. It was under a pile of laundry. And I’ve been wearing it. But it was really, really hot yesterday and after wearing it all day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I made the command decision to not wear it. I sat at my kids’ football and cheerleading practices sans fake boob, without holding my arm at a funny angle and fighting off the little voice in my head telling me I should be mortified without it. By midway through practice, I wasn’t even thinking about it anymore.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I have a confession to make.

I can’t talk to God about my cancer.

sister-prayer-new-high-score-funny-memeI was raised Catholic, went to Church every weekend as a child and happily wore a white dress and veil for my First Communion. (I much less happily wore the red robe for my Confirmation; red is sooo not my color). And then I decided I didn’t need Church or God and so walked away from the Church for a number of years. I still believed in God. I still even prayed on occasion. Every final exam season during law school saw me dragging my rosary beads out from under a stack of books, trashy magazines and caramel Nips wrappers on my nightstand and praying like a cloistered nun that I would pass whatever I was taking that semester. Once exams were over, the rosary beads would once again be buried under the detritus next to my bed.

When my husband and I decided to get married, we knew that we would get married in the Church, despite the fact that neither of us had been to Mass for years (with the stereotypical exceptions of Christmas and Easter).

We met with a priest at a local church and this guy was hardcore. He wanted us to meet with him for an hour or two a week for six months. He didn’t believe that the Church adequately prepared couples for marriage and that he saw it as his job to make sure that we knew that marriage was a sacrament and that we acted accordingly.

There is a lot to be said for religious guilt, because we did meet with him every week for six months. And while a lot of it seemed unnecessary, we did start going back to Church. We did start praying again, not just for gifts from God like a closer parking spot or another Super Bowl win for the Patriots, but for the things that really matter, like health and patience and strength. And another Super Bowl win for the Patriots.

Even when I wasn’t a faithful member of the Church, I did always believe that everything happened for a reason. And I believe that God directed us to that particular church and that particular hardcore priest because He knew that tough times were ahead. He knew that having a family wasn’t going to be as easy for us as opening a bottle of wine and queuing up Barry White on the ipod and letting nature take its course. He knew that we were going to need our faith to get through infertility and loss and heartache.

Oh, how I prayed to get pregnant. And to stay pregnant. I prayed to God. And the Virgin Mary. And a whole litany of saints. I wore a St. Gerard medal pinned to my bra (that was a fun conversation with the TSA). We went to special Masses for those hoping to conceive. It was all prayer for babies, all the time.

My prayers and my faith never stopped throughout our journey to become parents, even when loss brought us to our knees. The first phone call I made after I delivered our quints was to our priest to make funeral arrangements. There were precious little we could do for them as their parents, but we could give them our faith.

We remain a staple at Mass every Sunday morning. I’m sure there are many who would prefer that we kept our wiggling, stage-whispering, not-so-respectful kids at home, but we are giving them our faith.

But here’s my problem and what’s been weighing on me for the almost 8 months of my diagnosis:

I can’t pray about the cancer.

I’m not mad at God. I don’t blame Him for my diagnosis. I just can’t talk to Him about it.

When I’m on my knees in Church, I have a really hard time bringing it up. You would think that it would be the simplest thing in the world. It sucks and it’s hurting my kids and I didn’t deserve this. But instead, I simply feel resigned to the whole thing. I did believe for a while prior to my diagnosis that I already had my cross to bear. That God wasn’t going to let any other horrible, no-good, rotten, terrible thing happen to me. Yet, here I am. Lopsided and bald and soon-to-be radioactive.

Again, I’m not mad at God that this happened. I’ve accepted that this is my lot in life. I’m not trying to sound like a martyr, but I do believe that perhaps my lot in life is to be the person that people can look at when they’re going through hard times and say, “Well, my life might suck right now, but at least I’m not Meredith.” And I’m OK with that.

I admitted to my Dad early on in my diagnosis that I was having a hard time praying about my situation. I think about his response every day. He told me, Maybe it’s not your job to pray. Maybe you have to let others pray for you.

So that’s what I’ll do. I’ll let others pray for me. And if you are one of those who are praying for me, could you also just let God know I’m not mad at him? I can’t seem to do it myself.

 

 

Posted in breast cancer | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments