Endurance

Have you ever cried so much that your eyes seemed like they would fall right out of their sockets? Have you ever wept so much that every inhalation felt like you were sniffing ground-up glass? Have you ever bawled long enough that your eyes were tiny yet swollen slits and your lungs hurt every time air entered or exited them? Have you ever hurt so deeply and so completely that you seriously thought you’ll never recover? Have you ever wanted crawl into your bed right now, in the midst of this swirling inferno of misery, and never, ever get up?

Don’t call or text or ring the doorbell because there will be no answer. None.
At some point in this future I may find the strength to plaster on an insincere smile and reply “Fine” when asked the inevitable “How was your Mother’s Day?” But I won’t mean it. I won’t feel it.

I just won’t.

Don’t bother telling me I have so much to be grateful for. Don’t insult me by telling me to look on the bright side. Don’t waste my time pointing out all the good in my life.

Just don’t.

I can endure the long-distance slog that is facing a cancer diagnosis. I’ve never been one to deceive myself when reality stared me in the face.

I can handle hearing the worst possible news and do it with an inquisitive look on my face.

I can hear the worst-possible news with dignity and without falling apart (at least not in public).

I can face everyone’s worst nightmare without ever once whimpering, crying, or losing it.

I can digest the worst-case scenario with a straight back and a strong will.

I can formulate a Plan-B after Plan-A dissolves like the pages in a generations-old photo album, then start working on Plan C as soon as it becomes apparent that Plan B is hopeless, too.

I can dot every “i” and cross every “t” and still be shocked when there’s no pay-off for playing by the rules.

I can handle more stress than I ever before imagined, and I can get through more harrowing ordeals than I ever would have expected.

I can endure worse pain than that required to bring a new life into the world.

I can take it when I’m told again & again that no one anticipated the scenario that has become my reality.

I can suck it up and grit my teeth through repeated instances of “no one saw this coming.”

I can make it thorough the extreme mental challenges that follow a worst-case-scenario physical test.

I can serve as the poster child for “who in the hell has that kind of terrible bad luck?”

I can thrive amidst the “everything that could go wrong did go wrong” scene.

I can be the one that even the oddsmaker wouldn’t have predicted–and not in a big-winner way.

But pit me barefoot against a goat-head thorn and I may just crumble. Ask me to endure that sharp stick of brittle thorn into the tender flesh between my toes, and I may not make it.

That thorn may just do me in.


Dear Me,

Day 6 of the WEGO Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge nearly made me give up on the daily task of blogging about my “condition.” I don’t like my “condition” and I don’t like the touchy-feely side of dealing with that “condition.” I like to keep my word, though, and I said I would take on this challenge, so here goes.

Today’s prompt: Write a letter to an older you. What lesson do you want to make sure you remember?

Well, with my dilapidated body, blown-out knee, and menopause-induced lunacy, the older version of me scares the hell out of the current version of me, so I’m going to write a letter to the younger version of me.

Dear Younger Me,

Listen up, missy: that college dream of yours to light Madison Avenue on fire with clever advertising campaigns isn’t gonna happen. You don’t like the Big City — too many people and way too many germs. That other dream of writing children’s books isn’t going to happen, either. You do end up reading a whole lot of good ones, though, to a couple of precious kids who look so much like your baby pictures it’s scary.

Your smart mouth will get you into a fair amount of trouble. I’d tell you to be careful, go easy, and use restraint, but we both know you’d flip me the bird and keep right on sassing. I can tell you that eventually you do learn the fine art of holding your tongue, but it will never come easy.

That sweet, loyal, smart, cunning and unmatched yellow dog who grips your college-aged heart will never let go. She will protect you, and then your children, for nearly 15 years. She will guard the entrance to the nursery and sleep under the crib. She will show you her back when you get out your suitcase, because she knows you’re leaving, if only for a few days. Her time on this Earth will grow short but she will stick it out longer than anyone expects because she will insist on seeing you through an even rougher patch: the death of your sweet mama.

Guess what, girlie? Your sweet mama keeps a tight grip on your heart, too. Not a day passes without you feeling the loss, in big ways and small ways. (Note to self: don’t give up on trying to make her pie crust. It won’t ever be like hers, but keep trying.)

Just about the time cancer steals your beloved mama, you’ll start getting an annual mammogram. You’re ahead of the schedule thanks to that mama-stealing cancer, and every year the mammogram will come back funky. Don’t settle for the “dense tissue” rationale. There’s a tumor growing, and it ends up taking up a lot of space, both in your body and in your life.

Look, I know you’re going to be busy living your life and raising those two little kids when the diagnosis comes, but please, brace yourself, because it’s going to get ugly fast. And say a little prayer to the environmental-services gods who control your operating room on the day of your mastectomy; maybe we can avoid that post-mastectomy infection that will reorder your life. And BTW, the bilateral mastectomy was totally the right choice. Good girl for following your gut. There will be no hint, not a single whiff, of cancer in your left breast, but it’s there.

Give up right now on thinking your cancer “journey” will be “one and done.” It will be more circuitous than you can ever imagine, and it will change you in ways you won’t discover until years later. Oh, and before you even begin that circuitous journey, you’re going to have to deal with melanoma on your right foot. I know, who puts sunscreen on their feet, right? Hate to tell ya, that even though you catch it early, the surgery to remove the melanoma will be the most painful thing you will experience. Yes, it’s worse than childbirth and a bilateral mastectomy. Oh yeah, about childbirth–when your water breaks, the baby is coming. Yes, he’s early. No, you haven’t finished the birthing class or packed your bag, but it doesn’t matter. And you’re going to get teased for decades for reading ahead in that “What to Expect” book on the toilet in the middle of the night when your water has broken and your much-better-prepared spouse sleeps peacefully, unaware of your foolishness.

It turns out fine, the baby is healthy (but hard-headed). Even the cancer thing is manageable. Not easy, but manageable. I think we both know you can handle it. You’re going to learn a lot, whether you want to or not. Your limits will be tested. You’re going to make some true and life-long friends along the way. You’re going to unload friends, too, in one of many hard-learned lessons. You see, there are people who are willing to give what they want to give, not what you need. This is a very important distinction. Trust me, you’re much happier without ’em. A couple more pieces of advice: first, don’t ignore that knee pain while you’re running. Stretch before and after you pound the pavement. Listen to your body. Pain is its way of saying something is wrong. Ice your knee after each run. I know it’s a hassle, but so is living with constant pain. Years down the road, you’re going to be embarrassed by how you hobble down the stairs like a woman twice your age. You’re going to be frustrated by the ways in which your body fails you. I don’t have an answer for how to deal with that, because I haven’t figured out how to deal with that. I do recommend drinking champagne as often as you can. I don’t have to tell you to never, ever pass up an opportunity to drink some bubbly. The lesson I want you to remember is that the sound of that popping cork will soothe your soul, every time.

Love,
Me

 

 

 


Cancer Vixen

Day 5 of the WEGO Health Activists Writer’s Month Challenge:  “If I could do anything as a Health Activist…”

My first thought was to cure cancer. Today’s prompt said to dream big, so I am. url

 

Since it’s my dream, I’m claiming two superpowers. In addition to kicking cancer’s ass, I would eliminate all the stupid/inane/insensitive/uncaring/clumsy/offensive things people say to those of us in cancerland. Yeah, yeah; I know sometimes people mean well and just don’t know what to say, but that’s no excuse. No cancer patient needs to hear a comment like this, or certainly not this, no matter how well-intentioned the awkward speaker should be.

So if I could do anything as a health advocate, I would ensure that no one in cancerland ever had to hear anything like this. Ever. 00518B46-24C7-46E0-B621-C284213E7976


Hacked off

Susan Gubar has done it again. She’s written another fantastic post for The New York Times‘s Well blog. This one is about The Scar Project, which is near and dear to my heart. Perhaps it’s a theme this week: scars, invisible and visible, and how we cancerchicks live with them for the rest of our lives. The women pictured in The Scar Project will have a long, long time to figure out how to live with those scars, as they are all under the age of 40.

Says Gubar of the young women portrayed: “The youthfulness of David Jay’s subjects wrenches me. Unlike them, I had a good span of my adult life — more than 60 years — before treatment. Their bodies stopped being their own too soon. Did their selves also stop being their own too soon? Cancer scars are physical mutilations of and on the body; but, more than that, cancer scars the psyche, the soul, the spirit. The ‘me’ before cancer is not the ‘me’ after cancer. Nor can these identities always be sutured.”

Yes, Susan Gubar, I think it’s safe to say that our bodies and our selves did indeed stop being their own too soon. I was 40 when I was diagnosed, which is old by The Scar Project standards, but I can say with certainty that it totally sucks to have been denied a good span of my adult life before cancer . It’s a drag. Because estrogen feeds my cancer, and many other varieties of breast cancer, I had to shut off the supply of that vital hormone. Being forcefully fast-forwarded into menopause also sucks. Aging on an unnatural timeframe, well ahead of my peers, does too. Having to face mortality decades in advance extracts a heavy toll on us cancerchicks. We want to live long, healthy normal lives; we want to see our children grow up. We hope that cancer doesn’t have other plans for us. Gubar touches on this, too, writing this about the young women portrayed in The Scar Project photos: “The ones that grip me stare at the photographer — at me — defiant. They want to live. I want them to live. Like Barbara Ehrenreich, David Jay seeks to unsettle a ‘public anesthetized by pink ribbons and fluffy teddy bears.’” Unsettle away, Mr Jay.

Gubar writes that “David Jay’s portraits contain images of women whose bared breasts look crumpled, concave, synthetic, reconstructed without or with reconfigured nipples, stitched horizontally or vertically or at an acute angle, lumpy, lopsided, wounded, or hacked off. Bravery resides there, beauty elsewhere.”

Wounded. Hacked off. Those descriptions apply both to my body and my soul. My body is wounded, and like my cancer-ridden breasts, I am hacked off. That this disease happens. That it takes so much from those who are so young. That it steals so much beauty, both internal and external. That the scars that remain are so upsetting, so unsettling. That this disease robs us of our youthfulness and our peace of mind. That the cancer experience changes who we are, forever, and not always in ways that are good or positive.

Gubar says that before cancer, she may have been perceived as being “ungrateful for an intact body, taking for granted organs that functioned normally, arrogant about the boons of health, ignorant of the preciousness of life.” As the old saying goes, we don’t know what we’ve got til its gone, and so too it is with cancer. Pre-cancer, I didn’t think about an intact body, fully functional organs, the boons of health and the preciousness of life the way I do now. While there are days I’m grateful to be up and about and not confined to a hospital bed or tethered to an IV pole, there are many more days in which I’m hacked off. While I take notice of air filling my lungs and appreciate my stamina at the gym, that appreciation is tempered by sadness at what I had to go through. While I am happy that I’m capable of achieving strength and fitness again after the cancer, surgeries, infection, and treatment took their pound of flesh (literally), I’m pissed that my triumph is bested by the omnipresent fear of recurrence.

I can identify with Gubar 100 percent when she says, “I remember the ‘me’ before cancer nostalgically. My earlier self could … connect with family and friends spontaneously and lavishly. At times I visualize the diagnosis as a gun aimed at a flying bird — pitched down from the sky in an instant to lie fluttering on the ground.”

Bang!

translations.deviantart.com

translations.deviantart.com

Susan Gubar ends her beautiful article by pointing out that “the young women in The Scar Project were gunned down while just trying their wings. With courage, the wounded survivors bear invisible scar tissue beneath the physical scars of cancer: the haunting lost person each might have become, had it not been for the disease. They live, but not the lives they would have led.”


Invisible scars

Last night, while pretending I was watching “Dance Moms” with my favorite girl, I saw this Facebook post by Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer:  “Had a ‘friend’ ask me when I was going to ‘get over this whole breast cancer thing’..ummmmm when my chest stops feeling like bricks, when my arm stops swelling, when I stop having doc appts, when I do not have to have another MRI, when there is a CURE!!!”
Shortly thereafter, while still fuming from that FB post, I came across this blog post when it was shared on Twitter by several blog friends. When more than one blog friend shares the same post, it’s worth reading. Surviving Survivorship by Cindy is most definitely worth reading.

This post about the invisible scars from cancer on Surviving Survivorship blew me away. I had to go back and read it multiple times to take it all in. Her depiction of  “the darkness of hovering clouds for the cancer survivor” are so right on, so completely telling. That darkness and the invisible scars aren’t something people like to talk about. The darkness and invisible scars fall into that category of things that make people uncomfortable. I don’t recall seeing anything in the “now that you’ve been diagnosed” literature about the darkness or the invisible scars that would come. I didn’t give  them much thought before my own diagnosis. Even watching my sweet mama die from cancer didn’t clue me into the darkness and invisible scars, because she was an all star when it came to downplaying the horror of this damned disease. Me, not so much.
Cindy writes that “invisible scars are well hidden, not often seen, but most definitely felt.”
Most definitely.

In Cindy’s words:
I wanted to post my thoughts on the topic of invisible scars, and the darkness of hovering clouds for the cancer survivor.  Throughout this document the words “cancer survivor” are loosely used, as cancer survivors are not always quite as fortunate as the words imply.  Yes, their cancer is in remission, and that is incredibly wonderful!  However … the survivor continues to spin, fearful of what may come next. 

Our visible scars are reminders of each step and path along the way of disease or injury.  The invisible scars run much deeper.  Even when the physical scar starts to fade in color and blend in with surrounding skin, the invisible scar residing just below it continues to prevail.
For me, going through major health events, resulted in a darkness like no other.  The darkness hovers, and follows me around like Charlie Brown’s friend PigPen’s cloud of dirt.  This pesky dark cloud of dirt doesn’t magically go away, or even diminish.  It’s a lifetime event.  Actually, it grows with each late-effect side-effect issue discovered.  I may be tricked into thinking it has finally subsided, but its still there, poised and ready to strike at any moment in some new unknown way.
I will say, the invisible scars can show themselves in unkind outward ways.  They are indeed ugly and evil on their own.  Holding inside the frustrations of the incredible physical changes I’ve encountered over the past 7 years takes a toll emotionally and messes with my psyche.  Occasionally, the frustration pours out, like a burst of bad energy. It’s the darkness of the cloud that never gives my pea brain a rest.

We all definitely have our day to day issues to deal with.  Work, the car, the kids, the spouse, the toilet overflowed, the dog ate the cat, etc.  A cancer survivor has those plus these invisible scars weighing them down.

I’ve been weighted down lately. The PigPen darkness has been swirling. My invisible scars are prevailing. It’s something that’s hard to understand unless you’ve been there. We’re told to think positive, be grateful, and savor what we have instead of focusing on what we don’t have. Good advice, in the abstract, but pretty worthless in the ongoing pursuit of surviving survivorship.
If I had a magic wand, I would wave it over the invisible scars (and the visible ones, too, because those suckers are ever-present and an oh-so-powerful reminder of all the evil that’s been inflicted upon the bodies of those of us in cancerland). I would wave that magic wand over the darkness that envelopes even the most intrepid cancer warrior. I would get carpal tunnel from waving that wand over the PigPen-like clouds of dust that choke out even the most persistent rays of sunshine. I would dislocate my shoulder waving that wand over the morons who ask us cancerchicks when we will “get over” our cancer. (I would likely have my magic wand privileges revoked for whacking those morons, actually. But it would be worth it.) I would tear my rotator cuff waving that magic wand over each and every resident of cancerland to rid the kingdom of darkness and invisible scars.
If only.
dark_clouds-wallpaper-1440x900

48

 

Apologies if you receive this post twice; something went wonky and the post disappeared. Here it is again. IMG_1031

On this day 48 years ago, an accomplished and driven schoolteacher from humble, rural beginnings married a confident, athletic Greek who was making his way in the petroleum engineering industry. The mother of the bride had passed away nearly 15 years before this wedding. The father of the groom, who had immigrated to the United States from Greece with limited funds and even less English in his vocabulary, died before being able to watch his son’s life unfold with his new bride.

That bride’s life was cut short, too. By cancer. Stupid cancer. While that bride lived to see her son and her daughter into adulthood and she welcomed and adored four grandchildren, her life–and her marriage–ended too soon. Stupid cancer.

That bride was my sweet mama, and I miss her dearly every single day. I’ve written about this topic in this space a lot. And I will continue to do so. I know my dad misses her every single day, too. He still refers to her as The Bride. In caps. I’m sure he’s missing her even more than usual today. Because today he should be celebrating with The Bride. They should be celebrating 48 years of marriage and a life full of happiness. She’d be laughing right now, recalling her simple wedding and her sweet pale yellow suit and pillbox hat. She’d be self-effacing about the number of years that have passed and the wrinkles etched in her face and the extra pounds settled around her middle. She’d be tempted to surrender the battle against the grey hair, but would continue seeking the ash-blonde color. And she’d be infusing our lives with her unique blend of meddling, hovering, and loving.

Happy anniversary, Mom.IMG_1032


In 30 years…

Yesterday walking out of yoga with my favorite girl, I was relaxed and refreshed and thoroughly enjoying the first day of spring break. On our way to the locker room, the woman walking ahead of us turned to compliment my girl on beginning yoga at such an early age. My girl beamed in her ineffable way and chatted politely with this woman while I, the eternal germophobe, washed my hands. My girl gave me a look that said, “Seriously, Mom, the only thing you touched was your own personal yoga mat, so why are you scrubbing your hands like that?” Such is life after a nosocomial infection.

My girl and the woman discussed their most-favorite and least-favorite yoga moves, and after a short debate on the wheel and the crow, the woman told us that she’s been doing yoga for 30 years. My girl’s eyes grew wide at this, and I imagined her picturing herself 30 years from now, a most experiences and tranquil yogi.

Rather than smiling at my girl’s fledgling love for yoga, I was struck by a moment of panic and a most unwelcome thought: Will I even be alive to do yoga in 30 years?

Not to be morbid, but this is life after cancer.

When I was diagnosed at age 40, my breast surgeon told me something that has stayed with me through the worst parts of fighting this disease. Worse than facing the reality of losing both breasts as I faced a bilateral mastectomy at a time when most of my peers were reclaiming their bodies after years of childbearing and breast-feeding. While many of my friends were undergoing elective cosmetic surgery to perfect their post-baby bodies, I instead was looking at pamphlets illustrated with grey-haired grandmotherly types considering their surgery options.

My sweet breast surgeon imparted a fact about my life after cancer: that I would spend more years fighting this disease–whether actively (swallowing an estrogen-blocking pill every morning for 5 or 10 years) or inactively (chasing fears of mets from my mind on a daily basis)–than I had been alive.

And that’s the best-case scenario, in which I actually live more than 40 years with this disease rather than succumbing to its terror, as is the case of some 40,000 women in the United States every year. Of course my sweet breast surgeon was thinking best-case scenario when she told me this, and at the time I had no earthly idea how much mental havoc this disease can wreak. Had my sweet surgeon predicted or warned me that on any given day, even years after I had allegedly slain the beast that is cancer, that beast would have the power to plant such thoughts in my head as that which brought me up short yesterday after yoga, I would have likely run screaming from the room.

Would I even be alive to do yoga in 30 years?

charmedyoga.com

charmedyoga.com

What kind of thought is that??? That, my friends, is the power of cancer. It can erase the calming, centering effects of yoga in a single bound. It can swipe the joy of the beginning of spring break in one fell swoop. It can plant a seed of recurring fear and doubt with the greatest of ease.

The Social Security Administration estimates that the average life expectancy for a female in the US these days is 85. Simple math tells me that best-case I’m looking at 45 years post-cancer. More years fighting it than years I’ve been alive. Even with low recurrence-rate predictors and stellar care from top-of-their class physicians and access to always-improving tools that monitor my cancer’s efforts to reinstate itself, the recurring fear and doubt prevail. Within two minutes of bidding my yoga instructor namaste, cancer had infiltrated my thoughts and led me to wonder what my chances are of being the grey-haired grandmotherly type rolling up my yoga mat and heading to class.

charmedyoga.com

charmedyoga.com

I know, I know, we residents of cancerland are supposed to think positive. We are advised by all manner of sources–both sought-after and unsolicited–to assume the best. We are told to visualize it and believe it and it will happen. We are told that what’s meant to be will be.

But that doesn’t stop the automatic response that cancer brings. I can think positive and assume the best and visualize and believe all I want. I can employ every cancer-fighting weapon from pharmaceuticals to superfoods. I can hope and wish and pray to the anti-cancer gods. But cancer will do whatever it damn well pleases, and if it wants to come back and rudely interrupt my life, it will. If cancer wants to cut short my plans of doing yoga for the next 30 years, it won’t think twice.

That, my friends, is the power of cancer.


We Saw Your Boobs

Some of y’all have asked what I thought of Seth Macfarlane’s song “We Saw Your Boobs” during the Oscars the other night. I didn’t watch the Oscars, so I knew nothing of Macfarlane’s little ditty until several astute readers brought it up. I checked it out on youtube and while I’m not surprised at the drivel that Macfarlane creates, I am surprised — and disappointed and angry and upset — that the powers that be behind the biggest awards show found it appropriate to include in the show. Here we go again, with women’s breasts being not just a topic of conversation but an excuse for titillation (pun intended), objectification, and reducing women — not to a sum of our parts, but to a particular body part.

My first thought was whether the predominantly white, mostly male, older guys who make up the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences would welcome a similar song about that one particular male body part. My guess is no. While there has been some full-frontal male nudity in the movies, it’s never depicted as callously nor as gratuitously as a woman baring her breasts on film. Wouldn’t you know, someone has created a parody of Macfarlane’s song, called “We Saw Your Junk.” While I am a fan of tit for tat (again, pun intended), I sure hate that this is the road we’re going down as a society. Why, why, why do we have to go there? Whether about boobs or junk, surely we have more interesting things to talk about than this. As a woman who lost her breasts to cancer, I’m especially vexed by displays of breast-related ignorance or insensitivity or ass-hattery such as that perpetrated by Macfarlane on Sunday night. As I recently vented, “We go from cherishing [breasts] as a food source for our infants to exalting them as the ultimate symbol of femininity and sexiness. We vacillate between highlighting them in all manner of ways to reassuring pink-ribbon-club members that their lack of breasts doesn’t define them.” And now some jackass awards show host is belittling women because they showed their breasts in the context of wrenching, emotionally-charged cinematic performances.

The feminist in me is delighting in the backlash aimed at Macfarlane over this. From online magazines to blogs to twitter to print sources, people are speaking out against this tasteless display. For example, from The New Yorker: “The Academy is supposedly a trade group, and yet it devoted its opening number to degrading a good part of its membership.”

From Salon.com:  “On a night meant to honor and reward the best performances of the year, MacFarlane let the female Oscar nominees in on a secret: We don’t see the work you’re doing. We’re too busy staring at your tits. Giggle, giggle. Boobies. It wouldn’t be funny if he sang, “We saw your dick” because men aren’t expected to strip down in order to sell a movie, and it would be super gay. Want to peek at Bradley Cooper’s grade A beef dart? Dream on. Long to ogle Samuel L. Jackson’s heat-seeking-moisture-missile? As if. Get a load of Hugh Jackman’s wee little Jackman? Not in this lifetime.”

From twitter: “It wasn’t even funny for juvenile humor… offensive or not. I thought it was just dumb and then tasteless/tacky and pretty creepy.” And another tweet: “So since I don’t own a television, I hadn’t actually seen ‘We Saw Your Boobs’ until now. Now I have. I’m speechless with misery and rage.” And another: “In a year where the Academy awards nothing to women unless it has to, the male host opens with song called ‘We Saw Your Boobs.'”

From The Guardian: “The opening number We Saw Your Boobs, in which MacFarlane announced: ‘Meryl Streep, we saw your boobs in Silkwood/ Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive/Angelina Jolie we saw your boobs in Gia/ They made us feel excited and alive,’ was supposed to work as a commentary on how men view women in film. ‘Look at us guys,”‘MacFarlane was saying. ‘Isn’t it funny that we only watch movies to stare at women’s breasts, nudge, nudge, snigger, snigger.'”

No, it’s definitely not funny. It’s degrading to women as a whole, and insulting to those women in the movies who work hard to portray things like strife and struggle and passion and compassion and fear and poverty and gender inequality and misogyny.

It’s also downright disgusting that four of the movies Macfarlane named depict topless women during or following a sexual assault. If that passes for comedy, we’re all in real trouble. Jodie Foster in “The Accused.” Hillary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry.” Jessica Chastain in “Lawless.” Charlize Theron in “Monster.” All four women named by Macfarlane, and all four bared their breasts while portraying rape victims. Another article on Salon.com sums it all up: “So it came as little surprise, then, when base misogyny and racism dominated MacFarlane’s performance on Sunday. And while the musical opener “We Saw Your Boobs” has been called immature (true) and sexist (also true) — it wasn’t just a harmless roundup of spicy movie scenes. Four of the films MacFarlane crooned about featured nudity during or immediately following violent depictions of rape and sexual assault, stripped of their context and played for laughs.”

It must be noted that of the four actresses named above, three of the four — Jodie Foster, Hillary Swank, and Charlize Theron — won the Oscar for Best Actress. So even after having reached the pinnacle of success in their industry, these women are still held up for objectification and ridicule by a smarmy host. Disgusting. Seriously disgusting.

Add in Scarlett Johansson, who Macfarlane also mentioned in his song. She made the list not for portraying a woman who had been sexually assaulted, but because nude photos of her were stolen from her then husband’s phone and sold for profit. Christopher Chaney was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of identity theft and wiretapping, and Johansson was left “truly humiliated and embarrassed.

I’m not the only one disgusted by this. Two California lawmakers, Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal and Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, have asked the Academy to condemn Macfarlane’s performance. In a letter to Academy president Hawk Koch, Lowenthal and Jackson wrote, “There was a disturbing theme about violence against women being acceptable and funny. From topical jabs about domestic violence to singing about ‘boobs’ during a film’s rape scene, Seth MacFarlane crossed the line from humor to misogyny.”

The duo went on to point out that “On Oscar night, when Hollywood seeks to honor its best, Seth MacFarlane’s monologue reduced our finest female actresses to caricatures and stereotypes, degrading women as a whole and the filmmaking industry itself.”

Bravo, ladies. May the Oscar for Biggest Jackass go to Macfarlane, and the award for Best Ass-Kickers go to Lowenthal and Jackson.

 

 


Thoughts on Robin Roberts

Let me just say first and foremost, I harbor no ill will toward Robin Roberts. None. She seems like a smart, funny, and together woman who would be a lot of fun to have a drink with. I loved how open and honest she’s been about her cancer “journey” and about how upsetting the death of her mother was for her. I agree with her completely on both of these weighty issues, and I’m grateful that she didn’t put the positive pink-ribbon spin on her cancer experience.

I’m glad she’s doing so well, and I’m glad she’s back at work. I’m not a morning TV watcher, despite several of my besties who swear by The Today Show and who look at me funny when I say I never, I mean never watch TV in the morning. Nothing against the talking heads or the people who love them, but it’s too chaotic for me. As I’m swilling coffee, appeasing a hungry little piggie, cajoling kids out of their cozy beds, making breakfast, and packing lunches, I like quiet. That’s just me.

But back to Robin Roberts. In the magazine article, she’s candid about how harrowing her cancer “journey” has been. On the cover, she’s quoted as saying she’s “lucky to be alive” and that “I truly felt I was slipping away.” In the article, she reveals that she was warned that during treatment she would feel like she was dying. “I was in a pain I had never experienced before, physically and mentally” she said. Finally! A celeb who is honest about how shitty it is rather than chirping cheerfully about how exciting it is to get new boobs (I’m thinking of you, Giuliana Rancic). Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, Roberts had a lumpectomy and chemo. Five months ago she had a bone marrow transplant after being diagnosed with a rare blood disease called myelodysplastic syndrome, which left untreated can lead to a nasty form of leukemia.

She went through hell and now is telling us about it. Good for her.

When I saw her face on the cover of People magazine this week, I felt an intrinsic happiness for her. As I peered more closely at the cover, however, unease settled in. While I applaud her pride in her bald  head and I say cheers to her for not feeling like she needs to cover up the ugly truths of cancer by wearing a wig, I’m uncomfortable with the picture of glamour she presents.

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Of course I support a woman’s efforts toward looking good while beating back the beast that is cancer. More importantly, I would never stand in judgement of another person’s decisions along the cancer “journey.” Just as I learned the hard way after my mom’s death that no one has a right to tell me how to grieve, I also believe that no one has the right to judge me for how I conduct myself while I’m in the fight of my life. Let me be clear that I’m not judging Robin but rather expressing the feelings that bubbled forth as I saw her rosy glow on the cover of the magazine.

It sure would be nice if every woman recovering from the ass-kicking effects of chemo had a professional make-up artist to apply fake eyelashes and pencil in thick, shapely eyebrows. I for one would have loved to have had someone come into my beleaguered home and apply just the right amount and shade of foundation to even out my beat-up skin and cover up the dark spots that cropped up from chemically-induced menopause. How nice it would have been for someone to lightly feather my sunken cheeks with some rosy blush, especially on the days in which it was an effort to get out of bed to brush my teeth. A sheen of pink lipstick and the extra shine of lip gloss would have perhaps disguised the fact that my mouth was rarely smiling during my darkest days after sacrificing both my breasts so I might have a better chance of being alive to see my kids grow up. While the post-mastectomy infection I contracted “saved” me from chemo — can I consider that nasty bug a blessing in disguise? — and I didn’t lose my hair, I definitely lost a chunk of self-esteem. Cancer does many things to our bodies and minds, and the havoc it wreaks on our appearance and self-image is vast, far-reaching, and long-lasting. I often wonder if I’ll ever feel good about my body again. I’m glad Roberts looks so put-together and rosy on the cover of People, but I wonder how realistic that is.

Ladies, raise your hand if you felt this pretty after your cancer treatment. Guys, let me know if you felt pampered and restored after yours.

Is it not enough that we have to battle this vicious beast called cancer? Do we have to look pretty while doing so and afterward?

My blog friend Renn at The Big C and Me wrote eloquently and movingly on Roberts’s return. She astutely pointed out that Roberts’s fame enabled her to have access to the best health care (likely without concern for her portion of the treatment) and she was lucky that her sister was a perfect match as a bone marrow donor. She also had the support and well wishes of millions of people, who cheered her on and encouraged her during the darkest days. Not everyone has those luxuries, and while I’m glad Roberts does, it bears mentioning that she’s an exception, both in her privileges and in her team of beauty magicians and stylists who help her look so good after going through so much.

people.com

people.com

In addition to the perks awarded celebs battling cancer, I think it’s safe to say that much of her success in her fight comes down to her attitude and her resolve. While cancer patients take a beating from well-intended people reminding us to stay positive, Roberts seems to have done just that. She seems feisty and determined to prevail over both breast cancer and myelodysplastic syndrome. In the magazine article she says she blinged out her IV pole with a disco ball (seen above) and made the most of the awful reality of being confined to her hospital room after her transplant. She’s goes on to say that People say to me, ‘You’re so strong.’ But what was I supposed to do? I want to live.”

As we all do.

 

 

 

 


Some fruity advice

Breaking news: a woman at my gym just told me about a CURE for CANCER.

Wow!

It’s the news we’ve all been waiting for! The War on Cancer, launched by President Richard Nixon in 1971, is over!

I can’t believe this earth-shattering news hasn’t hit the airwaves yet. None of the major news organizations have broken the story yet.

Hmmm. That’s weird.

Well, I suppose she’s just ahead of the curve. She must be a genius to know of this CURE for CANCER well before anyone else.

Here’s how it went down: This woman, whom I’ve never laid eyes on before, was chatting with an acquaintance of mine. We’re “gym friends” — we see each other at the gym and exchange pleasantries. She may know my name, but only because she hears the trainer yelling it when he wants me to quit chatting and get to work. I don’t know her name, nor do I know the name of the woman who knows the CURE for CANCER.

For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to call my acquaintance Francesca (because I’ve always liked that name), and I”ll call the woman who knows about the CURE for CANCER Koo-Koo Bird.

Francesca and Koo-Koo Bird were talking while on the AMT, my favorite cardio machine, when I climbed on next to Francesca; Koo-Koo Bird was on the machine against the wall. Francesca asked me how my newly repaired knee is healing (badly and slowly and painfully) and how my rehab is going (much the same). In the course of our chitty-chat she asked how long ago it was that I was diagnosed with cancer. Koo-Koo Bird’s ears perked up at the mention of cancer–likely because she was eager to tell me that she knows of the CURE for CANCER.

Koo-Koo Bird, who has a very thick Indian accent and a very soft voice, didn’t even bother asking my name before asking me pertinent details about my cancer diagnosis. I’ve never been one to shy away from answering direct questions, so I gave her the deets. She nearly fell off the AMT in her haste to tell me, in her heavily accented and soft voice, about the CURE for CANCER.

I still had a mile and a half to go on the AMT, so I was rather a captive audience and I listened to Koo-Koo Bird describe the magical powers of soursoap.

“Excuse me?” I said. “Soursoap?” Never heard of it.

Francesca was all ears and asked Koo-Koo Bird to spell it. Koo-Koo BIrd wasn’t sure how to spell it, but said that her sister-in-law, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, chose to use it instead of chemo after her bilateral mastectomy two years ago and bam! her cancer is gone!

Well. That is interesting. Could it be, I asked Koo-Koo Bird, that the mastectomy rid her sister-in-law of the cancer, rather than the soursoap?

No, no, no, Koo-Koo Bird assured me. It was the soursoap that CURED her sister-in-law’s CANCER. It works, she said, very softly. It really works.

Francesca asked Koo-Koo Bird again how to spell it, for she must have missed the press releases and news stories about this miracle drug. Koo-Koo Bird said oh, it’s not a drug…it’s a fruit.

googleimages.com

googleimages.com

Well, why didn’t you say so, Koo-Koo? A fruit that can CURE CANCER. That makes perfect sense.

Francesca whipped out her iPhone right then and there, mid-stride on the AMT, to google the wonder fruit. She couldn’t find a darn thing about the magical powers of a fruit to CURE CANCER; probably because Koo-Koo Bird didn’t know how to spell it.

No matter, because Koo-Koo Bird told us everything we need to know about it. Except how to spell it. It’s grown in Central and South America as well as some Asian countries. It’s related to the paw paw and the cherimoya, the latter of which I know about because I’ve seen it on “Chopped.” When cherimoya is one of the mystery-basket ingredients, the contestants either start sweating because they know that the seeds are poisonous, or they risk being chopped because they don’t know that the seeds are poisonous. Not wanting to interrupt, I did not share that little tidbit with Koo-Koo Bird.

Koo-Koo Bird spent a lot of time telling me how soursoap is better than chemo and how it changed her sister-in-law’s life. Her sister-in-law apparently was at death’s door with breast cancer, until she started eating and juicing the soursoap that was delivered to her via FedEx fresh off a tree in some unknown tropical locale. Francesca asked if the wonder fruit is available in a can, and Koo-Koo Bird said she doesn’t know, but even if it does, you shouldn’t eat or drink anything that comes from a can because canned goods can CAUSE CANCER. Koo-Koo Bird then asked me if I ate a lot of canned foods before I was diagnosed. Before I could answer, she quickly and softly listed all the other CAUSES of CANCER: red meat, bottled water, and Tupperware among them.

Oh boy.

How is it that with all the research I personally have done–which is a pittance compared to the amount the Hubs has done–I missed the data on soursoap? Koo-Koo Bird says it’s thousands times more powerful than chemo, and that it does not kill the non-cancerous cells, like chemo does. How did I not know that a high-alkaline diet is more effective than pharmaceuticals in fighting cancer? Koo-Koo Bird said that the role of alkalinity in diet was proven to be a CURE for CANCER before World War II and that the man who realized this was in the running for the Nobel Prize, but because he was a Jew he missed out on the prize and the credit for CURING CANCER.

Wait a minute, I said. Are you telling me that there’s been a CURE for CANCER all these years, but the world at large doesn’t know about it because of anti-Semitism?? Koo-Koo Bird turned quite serious and said yes.

Then she went on to tell me that soursoap could also cure anything from diarrhea to migraines to bed-wetting.

Koo-Koo Bird was quite adamant that I look into this wonder fruit that can CURE CANCER. I finished my sprint on the AMT and patted myself on the back for not telling Koo-Koo Bird exactly what I think of people who feel compelled to tout a CURE for CANCER. I smiled politely, told her it was nice to meet her, and ran like hell. Well, actually I hobbled like hell because my newly repaired knee does not and likely will not ever endorse running.

I did not tell Koo-Koo Bird that until she herself had cancer, she could never know how insulting and annoying it is to have some random stranger quiz you on what you did wrong to CAUSE your CANCER. I did not tell her that hearing her crack-pot nonsense touted as fact made me want to punch her in the brain. I did not mention that those of us who’ve endured a cancer diagnosis neither need nor appreciate unsolicited advice. I did not tell Koo-Koo Bird to pull her head out of her arse. I did not call her a tool.  I did not suggest that if there were a CURE for CANCER, we might have heard about it on the news or seen it online or read about it in a newspaper or magazine. I did not school Koo-Koo Bird on the fact that cancer is not one single disease, but a complex and multi-layered shitbox full of different diseases, and that even within one subgroup of cancer, like breast cancer, there are a million different combinations of factors and characteristics, so the idea of a CURE for CANCER is inherently misleading.

I thought about soursoap and Koo-Koo Bird for the rest of my workout. And when I got home, after peeling off my sopping-wet clothes and queing up the ice bags for yet another freezing session for my newly repaired knee, I took a little look-see into soursoap.

First thing I discovered is that it’s spelled soursop, not soursoap. I’ll have to tell Koo-Koo Bird next time I see her.

I’ll also have to tell her that while eating a varied diet and consuming foods like soursop that are high in vitamins B and C is a good idea in general, it’s not a panacea and it will not CURE CANCER.

Turns out that while soursop may have some overall health benefits, evidence of its cancer-curing properties having been tested on any actual humans is hard to find. In what may be a huge disappointment to Koo-Koo Bird, I didn’t spend much time researching it, so perhaps I missed the links to the clinical trials of soursop. In my limited research, I did find several references, such as one from Sloan-Kettering saying “human data are lacking” on soursop. There is plenty of data, however, showing that the fruit contains a heaping helping of annonacin, which has been shown in actual studies to lead to Parkinson’s when eaten in large amounts.

Rats.

Well, I guess I’ll continue swallowing a Tamoxifen tablet every day for the next 3 years (minimum) and relying on CT-scans and MRIs instead of enjoying a bowl of soursop to CURE my CANCER.

Rats.

Thanks for nothing, Koo-Koo Bird.