Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Moving on to more important things...

Okay, so as you can see from the post below, I am now a full-fledged brunette. Again, I could have been a natural brunette before, but it had been so long since I saw my natural hair color, it's hard to tell. I will stand by the belief that it is darker than before cancer. With more gray than I'm comfortable with. And it's curly. The chemo curl is out of control. I have to use some hard core product to make the front stay down. Otherwise it just looks like a 'fro.

I am debating whether I go back to my original blond or stay "au naturale." It's so weird that there is a whole world of people - well, not a world, but my current metro area- who only know me with my short, brown hair.

My biggest problem? I have a closet full of clothes in pinks and purples and light blues... very blond haired, blue eyed kind of colors. Summer colors, if you will. I think my current hair color makes me more of a winter. Or maybe I'm talking out of my ass. I just know my 3 different hot pink dresses don't look quite as good with my brown hair. Then again, I can't fit into those dresses right now, so it's moot.

But some people say they like it. I'm not sure. So I put it to you, the public. Or the 4 people who read this. To dye or not to dye? Do blonds actually have more fun? For those looking for a reference, check out this post.

If I knew how to do a poll on this, I would. Comments?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I'm a Model, you know what I mean...

And I do my little turn on the catwalk.
Yeah, on the catwalk, on the catwalk-
yeah, I shake my little tush on the catwalk.

Yes, I just quoted "I'm Too Sexy." And yes, I knew all the words without looking them up. 1992 was a great year.

These are some cropped pictures from my naked photo shoot. You heard me- cropped. I will pose naked but putting my tits and my snatch on the internet for every freak who googles naked or cancer? No thanks. Again, I must credit my photographer, Christine Benjamin for her amazing work. Perhaps one day I will be a page in her "I of the Beholder" book, my girls out on your coffee table.

How was that photo shoot, you ask? Well, it was many things. Liberating, uncomfortable, fun, sad, moving, fucked up. I was more comfortable with bearing my body than bearing my soul. See, as Christine snapped away, she asked me to go into my thoughts about cancer, my body, whatever. It was so hard for me not to crack jokes and put on some cheesy smile. In fact, when I tried to dodge some of her questions with an inappropriate crack, she wouldn't let me. Before I knew it, I was talking about how uncomfortable I've become with my body. How I've lost a bit of myself. And then the tears came. Fucking tears. I kept thinking to myself, "cry pretty." I do not cry pretty. I have a very unflattering picture of me sobbing from my wedding, mascara streaming down my face. When the shoot was over, I asked, "Does everybody cry during this?"

"Pretty much," she said.

I am in fact, NOT a model. I had no idea what to do with my hands or how to stand. I felt forced. It was harder than I thought. It was hard not to "pose" or to stand purposely to hide certain flaws or accentuate the positives. It was hard not to think about the 30 pounds I'd gained from cancer that I haven't shed yet. Or how to put my hand where I had earned some cancer stretch marks. Christine had me just talk, and move my hands accordingly.

How do I feel about the finished product? They're beautiful. And moving, I think. However, it's hard not to focus on the flaws. My lopsided boob is much more prominent than I thought it was. The spare tire around the middle is not so pretty. I have a wicked double chin. Then again, I had a double chin 20 pounds ago so there's no surprise.

I know, this is shitty to think of these things, as the whole point of the photos is not to focus on them. That we are beautiful despite them. That we are strong, wonderful women. It's easy to think that when looking at someone else.

I guess my problem is that I look at these pictures and it feels like looking at someone else. It doesn't look like me. In my mind, I'm still athletic and blond. I have long straight hair. I'm smiling. Or laughing. I radiate a little bit of sex. A me I'm not quite ready to give up, yet. Not only do these photos not match my own image, they show a vulnerability that I'm not quite comfortable with. A vulnerability I can thank cancer for giving me.

Perhaps that's why these photos are so good.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Spring has sprung.

It's spring down here in the south. You know that whole March going in like a lion thing? Well, when I lived near Chicago, it was pretty much a lion all month long. A cold, rainy, not very cute lion. Not here in the land of peaches. It's 75 degrees today. Perfect. I'm enjoying my first spring in the south by having a mojito. You may notice the time stamp. It's noon. It's happy hour, somewhere, right?

Amazing how the weather can have such a profound impact on your mood. Alan and I spent the weekend mulching and planting flowers. I planted my first flowers ever. Around my mailbox. Yeah, we live in suburbia. Get over it. It felt so good to be outside, doing active things. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I just felt really alive. See, I missed all the good weather last year. Spring and Summer and Fall came and went. I couldn't be outside in the sun and I felt like shit. Way to live, huh? This spring I vow it will be different. If I have to live in a land where people think evolution's only a theory, at least I can enjoy the sunshine.

I think about spring a lot right now. For SATC fans (Sex and the City, for those of you not in-the-know), you may recall when Samantha got breast cancer. Some have told me, that of all the Sex and the City characters, I remind them most of her. I choose to believe it's for her spunk, her loyalty and her no-nonsense approach to most problems - not just because she's a dirty whore. See, Samantha's identity was very much tied up with her sexuality. She was dating this HO-OT man about 15 years younger who turned out to be the greatest guy ever. Anyway, when she was going through chemo and menopause and lost her sex drive and didn't feel like herself, her boyfriend told her it was like winter. It may look and feel dead, but it's just waiting for spring. He then proceeded to send her daffodil bulbs with a card that said, "looking forward to spring." You know by the end she got back her mojo and fucked the shit out of him. Good girl.

I guess that's how I feel. That most of me has felt dead and gone the past year, but it's just a matter of letting it bloom again. Not just sex, but me- all the things that make me feel myself. Maybe that's the reason for the mid-life crisis dancing, diving, buying or photo taking. I feel like it's time to peel away all the dead bark, rake up all the nasty leaves, and pulls some weeds. Prune some of those insecurities and repot some self-confidence. Aerate some fun. Put down some fertilizer and water daily. Watch for the gorgeous blooms that have been hiding all winter. Those blooms of fearlessness and sex and humor and mojo. Look at them one sunny day and remind yourself just how fabulous they are and how wonderful you are for cultivating them.

I'm looking forward to spring.

I'm a human guinea pig

When Alan and I worked on cruise ships, we spent 6 months in South America. One of my most vivid memories, however, was not seeing Evita's grave or the Tierra del Fuego. It's not even the dirty whores in Rio who grabbed Alan's hand out of mine and put it on their crotches. No, it's sitting in some sketchy restaurant in Ecuador as a friend ordered guinea pig. Yep, you heard me. As in one of those little furry creatures that inevitably escapes in your house and no one ever finds him. The best part of this delicacy? It arrived at the table with tiny bits of hair still visible.

Why, you ask, do I tell this story? You are, after all, trying to eat your lunch while trolling through your staple of procrastination websites. Well, I am now a guinea pig, served up at the table of science.

Those of you who think that finishing treatment for breast cancer actually ends, au contraire. In many ways, I still feel very much like I'm actively in treatment. My breast cancer is Estrogen positive, meaning I was prescribed tamoxifen to take daily for 5 years. Nothing like a constant reminder.

What about the little hairy guinea pig? This is where the fun begins. I volunteered to be a part of probably the most important clinical trial for premenopausal women. Okay, put on your thinking caps, it's time for a bit o' biology. In some women, estrogen feeds their breast cancer. Premenopausal women traditionally have a poorer prognosis than women who've already undergone "the big M." Menopause is a big divider for breast cancer treatment. Post menopausal women get different drugs, different treatment, etc. There are drugs out there that are proven to be better than tamoxifen, but only in post-meno women so far. Because younger women usually have so many more years where our little ovaries are pumping out the cancer juice called estrogen, it's a fine line.

Here's where the trial comes in. It's called the SOFT trial... Suppression of Ovarian Function Trial. The premise being- if we can make premenopausal women POST menopausal, perhaps their outcomes will be better.

What does this mean for me, kiddies? It means that I get to go through chemically induced menopause. Every 28 days, some nurse jabs a shot in my ass. It burns like a mother, most likely due to the fact, "it's like shoving glue through there." Apparently it's thick. Awesome. Makes my left butt cheek feel all sore. That's not enough. Oh, no. I'm currently in full blown menopause. Hot flashes, night sweats, the occasional touch of crazy- you name it. I'm still on tamoxifen which adds to the party.

Is this permanent? No. Well, I'm on the trial for 5 years, but after that, once they stop the shots, theoretically my period should come back. Good thing I got those frozen babies- just in case. Another option is to take my ovaries out surgically, but we won't go there until after the baby factory officially closes for business. Let's get it open first.

Why did I sign up for this, you ask? After all, Aunt Flo's good time gang was just coming back after my last bout with chemopause. In short, studies lean toward the fact this could very well keep my cancer from coming back, and could help save my life. Sounds good to me. Also, this is such an important subject of research, and I am honored to be a part of it. I have been so blessed with great care- I feel a bit of a need to give back whatever I can.

What's it like to be on a clinical trial? Well, I get more tests done. They're concerned about bone density and hormone levels. They watch me a little closer. That can't be bad, right? And they ask me a lot of questions about quality of life. After all, if this treatment makes us miserable, what's the point of prolonging a shitty life? So I get asked a lot of questions about my mood, and sleep and sex. Lots of questions about sex. Losing most of your hormones can really fuck that up. Something you mere mortals can look forward to.

Is it fun? Nope. But then again, none of this has been fun. Well, maybe the good drugs. Those are dreamy. But I feel like I'm actively doing something, and that makes me feel better. Sweaty and on fire, but better.

So I'm a guinea pig. Pass the salt.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Getting cancer allows you to see the yin and yang of what human beings are capable of. You see people's true colors- what they are truly made of. And while I am awe inspired by the love and generosity of some people, others were simply unacceptable.

Now, I can hear those of you with bleeding hearts and open arms talking already, "Everyone handles crisis differently. It doesn't make it bad, just different." Well, I will take the unpopular stand. I think that's crap. Total crap. Sunshine up your ass bullshit to make weak people feel better. Like telling a bride, "It's good luck to rain on your wedding day." You're just telling her that so she doesn't think about her ruined outdoor pictures and spots on her $2k dress.

Cancer's a scary thing. It forces us to face our own mortality. It scares us to think about losing people. Or seeing them suffer. Guess what? Sucks even more if you actually HAVE cancer.

Every single person I've talked to who's had cancer has a story about someone they've lost because of the disease. People who just didn't step up. Or people who simply stopped calling. People who couldn't handle it. And they all wonder if they should forgive this egregious lack of support. I can hear the leader of my support group now. "Courtney, it's not that they don't care. They just weren't capable of dealing." Since when is being weak an excuse? Yes, I said it. Weak. And as I once heard around my own family's Thanksgiving table, (albeit after a few too many drinks), "We spit on the weak."

What sparked this rant, you ask? Nothing in particular. I've been thinking about this a while. Ever since I lost someone I thought was a close friend. Someone who just stopped calling. Someone who was so self-absorbed they could only think about their own life. Someone who lied to me. Someone who wasn't necessarily a shitty friend because I was sick. I think they would have been a shitty friend anyway. It's just that once I got cancer, I lost all respect for that kind of crap. I saw who my real friends were and I gained more. If I lost one... well, it's not like they were helping me anyway. As a woman, we constantly over analyze why someone did this and someone did that. Getting cancer made me realize- I don't give a shit why. Doesn't make it acceptable.

On another note. I'm not stupid. I am, in fact, smarter than not just the average bear, but most bears. Don't be so dumb to think you can lie to me and I won't know. I can piece it together. Your excuse of blaming your doctor? I can add up that your appointment you told me about actually was on a Saturday. And doctors don't see people on Saturday. All that raising money you said you did? I can go online and see it was zero. Don't insult my intelligence. If you can't come, have the courtesy just to tell me. Don't' make up shit to "save my feelings." You'll just piss me off.

If it seems that I've gone into a bit of a personal call out. Perhaps I have. Just as me getting cancer does not make it acceptable to openly hurt people, it also doesn't make it acceptable for you to hurt me.

My thoughts for anyone who doesn't know "what to say" so they don't say anything? Or the person who drops off the face of the earth until their friend's cancer is easier from them to deal with. Or the person that thinks their relative or friend getting cancer is about them:

I seriously hope that you are lucky enough to have more friends like me and less friends like you.