Sunday, July 30, 2006

Pins, Needles and Rickets

(Open on two lovely ladies riding in a car- a Big ol' SUV that is no longer in the picture. (Tee Hee) The ladies are chatting, perhaps listening to Paris Hilton's new single... Stars are Blind.)

Driver Girl: You know, you want to hate this song, cuz it's- you know, Paris Hilton- but it's surprisingly catchy.

Passenger Girl: I don't care- I hate Paris Hilton.

Driver Girl: (SCRATCHING BALD HEAD) Me, too. But seriously, I'll shoot myself if I hear Shakira next - (YELLS) Bitches!

Passenger Girl: What? Who the hell you calling bitches?

Driver Girl: Damn bones!

Passenger Girl: (LAUGHING) Oh, if it's only the bones...

Driver Girl: Must be the rickets.


Yes, I finished the chemo, but the fun lives on. I spent the first week in horrible bone pain. My friend Jill referred to my "gangsta walk"- occasionally, one leg would buckle and I'd sort of mosey. I'm not sure what rickets is, other than a bone disease that kids get, but I definitely felt like I had it. My hips would hurt if I sat anywhere too long, my forearms would feel like someone was burning them from one end to another, like a matchstick. Good times.

About 10 days after my last treatment, I still have side effects. I'm told the pins and needles in my fingers and feet can last for a couple of months. Please, sir, may I have some more? My feet look like someone took a cheese grater to them... and not the single side...the tiny holed side- they are shredded. I'm told I can thank my chemo for this, too. My nails are lifting- a couple of them could fall off at any minute. In other words, I'm in desperate need of a mani/pedi, but I can't get one right now- my white blood count is low right now and I should avoid anything that could give me an infection. When I wake up, I feel like I'm walking on pegs for a few minutes- I simply cannot feel my feet properly. Thank you chemo.

But every day is better. And the worst is behind me. Who needs fingers and toes anyway?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

New Car Smell

I celebrated the end of chemo by buying myself a little present. It's not so little, I mean it's bigger than a breadbox, but it's little compared to others of its kind. In fact, it's so little, you could call it MINI.

Yep, a MINI COOPER. A convertible, in fact. It's blue. And drives like a go-cart. And I look oh so cute in it. And you know what, being bald is very convenient when driving a convertible. No nasty windblown hair.

Some might argue it was a rash decision. Or perhaps a bit impractical...I did in fact trade in my SUV and all its room (and its 18mpg) for it. When taking my dogs anywhere, we'll now have to smash them into the back of our sporty, yet not as cute 4 door sedan. But dears, this decision is a long time coming.

See, when I left life on cruise ships and Alan and I settled down for a life "on land," I desperately wanted a MINI. We drove them, looked at them... but decided we needed something bigger. Something more reasonable. Something for the dogs. So a few years go by, and you would think my MINI obsession would subside. Not so, my friends. I would see them on the road, cheer them on in their adorable little speed racer mentality.

Upon traveling to England, home to the MINI, every time I saw them on the road I would yell, "One MINI COOPER, Mwa-ha-ha. Two MINI COOPERS, Mw-ha-ha." This is easiest to imagine using your very best Count from "Sesame Street" voice.

When the convertible came out, I decided it was finally my time. I had recently gotten my current job. But practicality won out. We needed the room. We didn't need to spend the money, yada yada yada...

Then last winter, Alan and I were serious. We were going to buy a MINI. We contacted a salesperson in Atlanta. It was our goal to order one and pick it up when we moved. We went back and forth for a few months, building a MINI online, talking to dealers, we were all set to put down the deposit. YAY!

Not so much. That week, I found out I had cancer. Our world was now doctors and tests and surgeries. We put thoughts of the MINI aside. With deductibles and baby hatching and whatnot, we decided it wouldn't be practical to spend the money. We were worried about other things. Suddenly, bonnet stripes didn't seem so important. Alan emailed our salesperson and said "sorry." We bought a nice used 4 door instead. For half the cost. We commented on how good we were being. How safe. How responsible.

Well, guess what? Here I am, six months later. And I still love the MINI. And I still cheer when I see it on the road. And dammit, I just finished chemo. And dammit, we can afford it. And dammit, life's too short to be practical all the time.

I'm done putting aside my dreams. There's a time and place for practical- and guess what, it's never really been in my "free spirited" nature, so why start now? I used to do a lot of dancing and singing. So guess what? Dance lessons and vocal work for me. And I always wanted a MINI. So I got one. Time to stop having cancer and time to start getting a life.

So please, don't wait till something shitty like cancer makes you realize it's time to do something just for you. Whether it's a car or a new job or those oh-so-great-but-they-cost-too-much-but-my-ass-looks-so-good pair of pants. Life's too short.

Now if only I could get Alan out of the driver's seat.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Ooh-wee, It's hot in here- there must be some Toros in the atmosphere!

If you don't get the reference, I suggest you run your little self to the nearest Blockbuster, rent a copy of the campy and amazing cheerleading flick, "Bring it on." Then proceed to dust off your spanky pants and enjoy.

Hot, you say? Sure it's hot- it's called summer in Atlanta. No my dears, that is not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the raging hot flashes that are happening to me, even when the thermostat is set at 68 degrees.

Hot flashes suck. Except for my first night of chemo, I have been lucky to miss out on them during treatment. Unfortunately, they are coming on big style now. This scares me on numerous levels. First of all, I am afraid of my next electric bill. I am afraid I will scare someone by ripping my wig or hat off in the middle of an inopportune moment. I am also afraid that my dogs will lick my sweaty head in the middle of the night.

Most importantly, I am afraid of chemopause. I am afraid the hot flashes are a sign of what I've been trying to avoid. TMI WARNING: I've been lucky so far. I've had a couple of periods and am eagerly awaiting the next. Any day now. But when I have the hot flashes, I worry that my baby making machine is closing for business. Chemopause can be temporary and it can hit even after chemo. It can also happen while on hormone treatment. Other than being fatty mcchubby, menopause is the big worry. While I can revel in the money saved on tampons, I fear the money spent on IVF.

So I will hope the hot flashes, like potential chemopause, are temporary. I will walk around my house without pants because they are so damn hot, I will apologize to my husband when he's freezing and I'm screaming, "colder, colder."

I will suck it up. Meanwhile, I know the fall collections are in stores, but please refrain from sending me sweaters.

My Last Chemo


I had my last chemo on Thursday. I'd like to say it was life altering or prophetic or something, but it wasn't. It was like every other chemo. I waslked in, got weighed, asked for my two warm blankies, settled in to my lounge chair and away I went. I slept the whole time practically. When I did wake up, I had to pee. Benadryl and fluids... go figure.

The only excitement was the woman sitting next to me. It was the first time anyone was sick in the chemo room. Like pukey pukersons. And she was si-ick. She made the comment that just thinking about the flush in her port made her puke. That blows. I wanted to say something- tell her it would be okay, see if she needed to talk.

But I didn't. I didn't say anything. I slept instead. And I felt a little guilty. I mean, I was never that sick. Maybe I'm lucky. But I do know what it is like to feel that miserable. And I know what it's like to be thankful someone reached out. Next time I will. And I'm sure there will be a next time. Unfortunately.

I walked out of that chemo room with a smile on my face. I'm done with chemo. The hard part's over. But I can't help worry that I'll end up back there again. I'm not sure if that fear will ever go away. And maybe it's because of that fear that I don't feel as happy or as free as I thought I would. Maybe because I'm not done with treatment. Maybe it's because I'll still have side effects of the chemo for a while. Maybe it's because breast cancer is a sneaky little bitch and you're never actually "cured" or "in remission." Nobody knows if it's actually gone.

And that sucks. But we celebrate what we can. We enjoy the milestones when we hit them. So I will.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Ya-Yas

First of all, I apologize for not writing in a while. In all my "Grabbing cancer by the throat" shenanigans, I went out and got a life. My parents were in town, I flew to Chicago for a wedding, my brother came to visit. I drove said brother and husband around while they drank and got giggly and decided that yes, 12:30 am was a perfect time to give my parents a call... You get the picture.

Last week I met the Ya-Yas. You, know- like the book? (or movie starring Sandra Bullock that was not as good as the book?) The Ya-Yas were an amazing group of crazy southern women who did anything for each other. Oh, and they were usually drunk.

A friend of a friend's mother lives here in Hotlanta, and through this friend, she offered to take me to her support group. I wasn't sure, as I had gone to a support group already, but hell- it was a Thursday afternoon and I hadn't been to that part of the city yet.

As I drove up, a "mom looking" woman starts yelling across the parking lot, "Courtney?! Is that you? (YA-YA clue #1). I greet her and she immediately gives me a huge hug. I felt immediately like I had found my new southern mom.

Little did I know I would meet 15 more.

The minute I walked in the room, I was handed a hot pink feather boa. (YA-YA Clue #2) It was someone's birthday. (YA-YA Clue #3) Later, she would receive a long flowing wig... for her still short hair. It was amazing and black and had a huge grey streak and matted and would look excellent with a fake nose and wart and painted hat. (Clue #4)

When we began talking, I mentioned something about my younger radiation oncologist... to which the room perked up and we spent 10 minutes discussing cute doctors. The group informed me they kept a list of doctors to recommend but they considered Dr. McDreamy's to be a special section of that list. The group agreed having cute doctors was definitely a plus, if not a requirement. At one point, there was discussion of a particular doctor, to which it was mentioned they kept a picture of him. Eye candy is very important when you have cancer. (Clue #5)

Later, my southern mom informed me she has a terrible potty mouth. That it was amazing she went the whole meeting without saying "Fuck." My kind of girl. (Clue #6)

While there was no booze involved, I'm sure that was just a condition of the group being held in a church. I'm sure these women could toss back a few.

More importantly than the antics, however, was the true true support I received, even being so much younger than most of these women. It's like I walked into a huge hug the minute I walked in the room. I automatically felt like they would take care of me. Women offered to accompany other women to appointments, they offered advice on doctors, insurance, anything. They meet every week and I could tell that this group was a lifeline for many- and for some, many years out of treatment, it was a way to support those traveling through behind them.

This was a group of smart, funny, strong, beautiful women. They inspired me. They educated me. They made me laugh. And more and more, they made me proud to be a part of "the club".

Because if it brings out such generosity of spirit, it can't be all bad, can it?


Monday, July 03, 2006

Game on...

When I was in college, blissfully unaware I had a life threatening tumor growing inside my left boob, I was quite the little minx. See, I was crazy charge of just about anything I could (I know, big surprise, huh?). I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, basically enjoying being a big fish in a little pond. I was also hot as shit. (that's a story for another day)

As only you can be at 22, I was afraid of nothing. Or perhaps that comes from being a middle class white kid who went to a fancy schmany private college with a bunch of other white kids. I would like to believe it was because I was a. brilliant, and b. simply that good.

"Game on," we would say, as our little "we could have gotten into the Ivy League but we were too busy having a life" selves would proclaim, as we took on such amazingly important tasks as funding the student government or rushing those soon to be sorority girls. "Game on," we would shout as we picked up our Dewalt drills and built some theatrical set. "Game on," we would laugh, as we stayed up all night licking envelopes or going to the Green Mill until 4am.

Game on. A late nineties phrase used to imply saddling up to a challenge. Also used in the same conversation... "not so much" or "cool beans" or "ricockulous."

Everything was a game. We were always up to the dare. I don't think I traveled in circles where people said, "sorry, I don't think so" or "I'm not comfortable with that." Life wasn't about comfort. Life was about grabbing some sack and getting it done.

Then life bitch slapped us. One by one. We couldn't find a job right away, we got cheated on by the guy we thought we were going to marry, we lost friends and GASP! we were shown that were weren't quite as smart or as talented as we once thought we were. Of course not, we were 22. "Game on" wasn't heard so much anymore. Perhaps it simply got replaced by other catch phrases. Or maybe, we lost a little of our game as real life responsibilities got in the way. You know, bills, real jobs... adult stuff. We lost a little of our fearlessness. Or maybe we just got a clue. Who's to say?

As I reflect on my lost mojo and how to get it back, I think about that time. The time when, granted it was in a bubble, I was ready for anything and afraid of nothing. Sure, real life might have made me a little less stupid, but cancer definitely wore me down.

I've let cancer take my self image, my strength, my energy. I've let it take my body, my self confidence and my fearlessness. I've let it take my hair, part of my boob and my sex drive and feeling in my fingers and toes. I've let it take way too much. I'm done. I'm taking it all back.

Game on.

Hello, my name is Courtney and I have breast cancer...

I went to my first support group meeting last Thursday. "But Courtney, you've had cancer for months, why a support group now?" Well, my friends, it is two fold... First of all, I am in a brand new city, where I don't know many people. Call it socializing, cancer style. Secondly, I never had a support group within easy access before... You know, living in the boonies and all. And thirdly, yeah, I suppose there's a thirdly, I have not actually spoken aloud about my feelings, in person, to anyone but my husband. Sure, I've talked about options, procedures, yada yada yada when I've seen my family, and I've talked about it with friends on the phone, but my friends live hundreds of miles away. I guess why maybe this blog has become more important to me than I originally planned.

So anyway, I decided it was time to speak some of this shit aloud. It was really nice. We all go to the same hospital, all have the same doctors, and we're all under 40. The rare breed. And we talked, we laughed, and yes, there was a little bit of tears. It's very hard to be witty through tears.

I was sitting there with this group of brave, strong, beautiful young women who had such balls to be going through all this. And again, I was inspired by their talents, their insight, their perspective. And I was pissed at the same time. Pissed that this disease - at any time - has made these women feel scared and alone. Pissed that it made them feel like something had been taken from them. Pissed that at any point they felt less than themselves. Pissed that they had to "recover" from anything. We shouldn't have to be worrying about this. We should be meeting boys and getting drunk and getting married. We should be having fun and having babies and having heart palpitations over our first house payment.

When I was diagnosed, I spent a lot of time (and still do) in the chat room on These women walked me through my pathology results, gave me ideas for side effect management, laughed with me over those side effects... When we weren't crying through them that is. They gave me ideas on shaving my head, what to eat during chemo and what questions to ask. Mostly, though, they gave me a place to talk about the disease and not have to explain it, not have to rationalize my feelings and not have to comfort the person you're talking to. They have been sisters and mothers and grandmothers to me, when they have absolutely not reason to be. In turn, as I move through this disease, I have hoped that I could be that to another woman who has the unfortunate ability to join our club.

So I was so glad I got to be a part of a real life support group. I am happy to do all these things face to face- to see the recognition on another's eyes as they tell you without saying a thing that they understand completely. TO laugh together over chemo stubble or peeing blue. And sometimes, maybe cry a little. Cuz after all, we are girls. And it wouldn't be a group of girls talking about feelings without some tears.