Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cue Overture

I'm done!

I am exactly one week and a day from my very last chemotherapy treatment. Which means. . . people don't really know how to talk to me anymore.

It's not their fault. I don't know what to talk about, either. (My favorite topic of being single is, of course, still on the table. But I'll try to let this be the only reminder in today's blog post.) So things are awkward. You can ask, "How are you?" because that is a standard question we ask everyone, but now that I'm actually starting to feel fine and good, and I know that I get to keep feeling fine and good, no one knows what to say. Except, "You're done!" And I say, "I know!" And then we laugh gaily and look out the corner of our eyes and have the requisite conversation about growing my hair back.

I thought I dreaded losing my hair. But actually, I'm dreading the process of growing it out much, much more. My scalp already resembles something like this:


It's not attractive. No really. It's not.

I'm going to stop you right there.

Stop it. 

Stahp.

Don't even try.

There is literally nothing you can say--ENH! I said stop--to make me feel better about this. The baby bird phase is a painful process that cannot be helped if I ever want to have hair again. (I am tempted everyday to shave it.) And it is horrendous. There are probably no less than fifteen different stages that I'm dreading, but none so much as these first, oh, six months. Because it takes a ridiculously long time for hair to grow back. (Don't believe me? Google it.)

I can hear you trying again. Just don't. Leave it alone.

Aside from that, I'm done. People want to congratulate me, and commend my fight well fought, and all sorts of things and I also need to put a stop to that.

I think there's been some misconceptions about this whole "cancer" thing. I mean, people were like, really worried. And the more I think about it all, the more I'm just annoyed with how inconvenient this whole thing has been! (Does that make me sound like an ungrateful wretch?)

I had a tumor on my ovary. It was cancer--a granulosa cell tumor. They removed the tumor. I shouldn't have had anymore cancer. Stupid Abner (the tumor) had at some point ruptured and so just to make sure they made me do the chemo.

That was often the hardest part.

I would read blogs from other survivors, others who were going through something similar, and the difference was, they were seeing it from a perspective that the chemotherapy was saving their lives. And I was seeing it from the perspective that I felt icky, and hadn't left my bed in three days--just as a precaution. So when I say I'm cured--and I am, probably*--it's not a miracle** and it's not something to really celebrate. Because, honestly, I was probably cured the minute they removed stupid Abner and the stupid ovary.

But! As a precaution, I did it. And probably deep down, I'm glad I did it. Better to go through the precaution and now be able to set it aside and forget about it, than always be wondering "what if"***. See, I said it, so that you don't have to!

I'm cured! And cancer free! And this is all a whole lot to celebrate. And even though a lot of people use times like these to develop relationships with their family members and praise their Higher Being and all sorts of super amazing existential stuff, I thought a lot about how much I hated it. I hated being inconvenienced. I hated feeling sick. I hated the pity and that there is absolutely no right thing to say or do. I hate looking like an alien. And I hate that I can't just snap back like a rubber band back into normal life or normal looks. My muscles are all but atrophied from months of barely doing anything. I gained weight. GAINED WEIGHT ON CHEMO! What kind of stupid bull crap is that? Much to my mom's disappointment, I refuse to take anything from this experience.

However, what a fool and ungrateful wretch I would actually be, if I just didn't say: Thank you. Again. Because even though there is no right thing to say, the fact that you said something meant a lot. I felt very loved. I know that there were prayers offered, and allowances given, and I was on the receiving end of meals, gifts, company. . . the list goes on and on and on. I'm looking at my hospital account balance, and amazed that I'm not crippled financially. And it is because of my friends and family--and even their friends and family--and to say that I'm not blessed would be a true falsehood. So fine, I'll give credit where credit is due. . . I guess.

Oh! So what's next? Lots of follow up appointments over the next few years. They can't test my blood work, because it won't be reliable. The markers they are looking for are produced my normal-working ovaries, and since I still have one, it won't really tell us anything. They'll do an occasional ultrasound and keep an eye on said ovaries and lady parts. None of this will affect my fertility.

biting tongue to keep earlier promise

Life goes on. I'm going to have to actually figure out what I'm doing at my "new" job, and delve into, "this, my 30th year. . ."

. . .

. . .

Shudder.
_________________

*This from the same doctor who said it was never cancer to begin with, and that there's such a thing as "good chemo" and other equally silly things. . . 

**The miracle is that it all always could have been worse, and it wasn't. I am incredibly lucky and blessed.

***Full disclosure forces me to say that from what I know about granulosa cell tumors, return rates are high, even if 20 years later. Hopefully if there's a next one, it won't rupture and I'll be done with all my lady parts and they can all go the way of Abner and the problem-ovary. So there will always be an element of "what if", but hopefully, I won't have to think about that for another 20-30 years.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Cancer Perks




I have officially completed all six rounds of my chemotherapy. This was such a non-event that even my chemo-therapist didn't make it to my appointment. And as such, the day pretty much passed as the five before (minus any reactions) with the addition of some cakes and sveets from some sweet coworkers, and the presence of my sister. They did sing me a song too, I guess.

After, I walked out of the building and was done and I didn't feel any different than I had any other time. Though, mostly, that's because the treatment is by far not the worst part of chemo. I may have finished pumping poisons in my veins, but I hadn't even begun the chemo sickness that comes after the fact.

Thus far, everything is running per course. I went in for chemo. I felt fine after. I felt fine the next day--well enough to go to work. (Amy and I went to the YL farm and explored different aspects of it for a project I'm working on. It was a grand time.) The following day I get sick and continue to be some kind of sick for the next 4-7 days.

The cancer binder guarantees a few things with side effects: hair loss, nausea, tiredness, "chemo brain", metallic taste, mouth sores, stomach problems (if it's not the chemo, it's the medicine for the chemo) etc. etc. etc. and all of it is a load of crap, and it is all varying degrees of horrible.

Comparatively, I have fared well. I need people to understand that I realize how very lucky and blessed I am for how this whole thing has played out. It certainly could have been worse. Usually within a single week, I was feeling much better and able to go about my activities as if I weren't a body pumped with poisons. And if I felt a bit cruddy, or tired, well, that was just to be expected. (I am currently sitting at my office, feeling cruddy, but otherwise alive. . . )

BUT! Let's talk about cancer "perks" now.

There are no perks of cancer. 

For the record: I don't think you can consider employment that has been patient, understanding, and overall supportive a cancer perk. Though, it is certainly a perk to my life. Likewise, all my friends and family and vasts amount of support are a testament to how blessed I am and how amazing the people around me are. Not a perk of cancer.

We all joke about the cancer card, but I will tell you now, that there isn't one. The cop pulling you over because they ran your plates and your insurance information isn't up to date yet, doesn't care a whit that you are bald and pathetic looking. No one really knows how to take care of you, because taking care of a normally fully-functional adult is a weird thing. I didn't need someone to mop my brow. I needed someone to help me keep my house clean (Thanks, Mom!!) but was often too embarrassed to let the few who offered actually into my house to see the wreck it was. I have spent so much time in my bed over the last several months that my muscles have all but atrophied, and yet, I still have to work up a semblance of courage to get my alien-looking mug out the door. But! Try to pull a "call in ugly" move or something, and your friends are not going to stand for it. No respect for the cancer patient, I tell you!

You don't get free things. You don't get genies and wishes. You get a few stares (though, not nearly as many as you were expecting) and invasive questions from strangers. And you answer a lot of the same questions over and over and over again. No one lets you stand in front of them at the grocery store, and they will still cut you off in traffic, and you have to park with everyone else.

There are some well-meaning "perks" that people like to remind you of. "Think of the cute hats and scarves!" or "At least you are saving time on your hair!" or "At least there are fake brows and lashes!" There are so many well-meaning consolations and people trying to give you positives to take to bed at night, that they don't realize that for someone who doesn't wear hats and scarves in the first place is not going to be consoled by it. And for what it's worth, the amount of time you save on doing your hair, you are instead focused on trying--TRYING--LIKE, HOW DO I EMPHASIZE FURTHER THE AMOUNT OF TRYING IT TAKES--to get your eyebrows to look even just slightly normal. Do you know how hard it is to draw on eyebrows? And how easy it is for them to smudge? Or have you put on fake eyelashes? There are people who are PAID to do this, for a reason. (And fake will never be yours. So unless you were intending on paying for it anyway, it will never be enough.)

There are some people who look at the existential side of going through cancer. And maybe there, there are some that benefit from discovering the meaing of their lives. They find their will to live--or to live well. They find their purpose. In the end, they find an empathy that they can then share with others who will experience the same thing. Even if that is the case, it certainly isn't for me. I was never battling cancer. I just never got past the sheer inconvenience of the whole thing. The exorbitant cost. The amount of time I was missing from work. The exhaustion. The reactions. The utter toll on my body. My knowledge gleaned from my experience has resulted in no reaction differing from the one I would have uttered before: It sucks.

I guess now, I can just say that it sucks with a whole lot more empathy packed behind it. Perk.



Monday, February 09, 2015

Dating Fireside


Guys, yesterday was the best day I've had in a very long time and it is because I found the thing that fuels my hate fire. The dark evil that only makes me stronger. I found it, and it is glorious. And it is:

Bad dating advice. 

I went to a dating fireside last night, and while my companions were mildly optimistic that this "expert" on dating would give us some nuggets of wisdom, I knew that it was going to be delightfully bad. And it was!

We sat on the very back row and easily were the youngest people in attendance (and me, in my 30th year*) and honestly, within three minutes knew that we probably wouldn't get much out of the whole thing. I will say, there were some nuggets of useful information, but mostly, it was just stuff that we have heard for years--which obviously isn't working for us--and things that are common sense.

We live texted all these nuggets in a group text, and I think it was a brilliant idea, because, I think we picked up on some things that were actually useful--or mock-worthy.

Here are the things we learned:


  • Flirting
    • When leaving a conversation with a boy, turn back and look to see if he's still looking at you or if he's moved on. If he's still looking, he's probably interested.
    • Always be a lady
    • THE MAGIC ELBOW TOUCH
  • General advice, or excellent quotes
    • "Don't give them your best, if they're not willing to invest."
    • "Passiveness is passionless"
      • I actually really agree with this. She is saying that non-responses, and pulling away from things so that there is a lack of passion. And if we are living our lives with passiveness, then we aren't going to find passion--for anything. 
    • Don't start overthinking things until AFTER six weeks
      • I didn't write this down exactly as she said it, but, there is some merit in this advice. A lot of the times, guys accuse girls of jumping the gun and planning the wedding after the second date or some such nonsense. The first six weeks of dating should be low-stress and FUN. If you hit the six week mark, then maybe start analyzing as to whether or not things should continue. Dating should be fun, and she was encouraging of having 4-6 different people that you were dating a month. It's not wrong. With more people on your first and second string, there's less pressure for just one of them to work out. Of course, finding that many people to date at a time is the very definition of easier said than done.
    • Men are sheep -- men want women that other men want
    • It's what you AREN'T doing that is keeping you from dating
    • Don't scrutinize emotions--focus on having fun and relieving pressure
    • Treat this year as your last year of being single
    • Turn boys down with a compliment, tell them they are great and be warm about rejection
  • Your Image
    • Revamp your image [constantly]
    • Spend as much money on yourself as you want a man to spend on you
    • The world has set unfair expectations on women and what is attractive, but we need to strive to meet these ideals, because changing the world is too hard
    • "Feel like a woman, so he will feel like a man!"
    • Get professional photographs taken of yourself and use them for 1) boosting your self-confidence and 2) You OH SO IMPORTANT online dating profile picture
  • 5 Ways** to Motivate men:
    • Image and attraction
    • Make guys "feel good"
    • Go where the singles are: online, grocery store, LDS activities
    • Unclear
    • Unclear
  • 5 Types of Dates that keep things exciting:
    • New and exciting
    • Highly stimulating--dancing, making out
    • Frightening and intimidating
    • Mystery--don't say what you're going to do, just tell them what to wear
    • "I'm putting together fun weekend plans, and want to include you!"
The thing is, as we all know, no one thing works for everyone. The reenactments of how we were supposed to flirt and reject and just act, probably work for a valley girl with only a little self-respect, but I honestly don't know anyone who could organically act that way. Yes, I want someone to like me for who I am, and I don't think there is anything wrong with that. We should be our best selves, and constantly striving to be better, but I don't think we have to at the expense of what comes naturally to us.

She was a huge advocate for getting online and doing the online dating scene. And honestly, it feels like that is the only option these days, as our dating culture shrivels and dies. But how depressing! To think that it really has come down to one of the few options for meeting someone new . . .. I wish she had spent more time talking about how to go about being social human beings.

And for fun, Mindy Lahiri, who is my spirit animal:





*I wouldn't have phrased it that way, except I did phrase it that way earlier today and got made fun of. So I'm trying to normalize its use. And also, I have to remind myself that I'm going to be 30 this year, because maybe then it will be something I can easily accept by the time November rolls around. 

**She kept throwing out numbers and lists, but then never actually made it through her lists

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Playing the Game

There are (probably) many people who make it to their 30th year of life having resisted the experience of ever locking down a particular significant other for any length of time. And then there's me, who falls into that category, and has only the subjected ignorance of how it all came to be that way.

If I'm looking over my dating history, I can say with force, that it isn't for lack of trying or from want. (Others might disagree.)

According to my friends, I fall under one of two categories. When it comes to dating "game", I either have ZERO game or I have the WORST game.

We were debating which is the worse predicament; which is why I am humiliating myself by writing up a blog post about it.

The argument is that it is better for me to have no game than it is for me to have the worst, because, there is something endearing about a young, innocent frolicking through life not understanding exactly how to date or entice men. In a sense, there is still hope that one such person could--if not be taught--at least be coached and eventually, there would be a success of some sort. Or someone might just take pity, and scoop up the naive thing and call it a day.

Having the WORST game, though, suggests something much more menacing. It means that there is, not just a level, but a full blown war of self-sabotage. That I might actually know what I am supposed to be doing, but then do the exact opposite to an end of consistent and counteractive results. (This also includes unending, entertaining beratements from friends.)

For instance: let's say that a guy in my ward* begins to show an interest in me by making an effort to say hello every time we are at a church activity together. He is kind and polite, and the handful of conversations we've had show no major red flags or reasons to stop anything from happening.

The person with no game would be genuinely clueless of the efforts said guy is making in hunting her down each Sunday, especially given that she is never on time. She might even think that he was more interested in the girl she often sits with and is seen talking to, even though he hasn't shown a marked preference for either of them. She wouldn't necessarily be encouraging, but she might be slightly flirty and generally comfortable with his presence. Nothing would happen because he would be confused, but happy to continue down a road of friendship.

The girl with the worst game would see that he's sought her out, regardless of whether or not her friend was present, and would even note how he stands close to her and has suggested they go to Stimulus Tuesday ($5 movie night) or read that article she mentioned she found interesting the last time they spoke. She would mention how busy her calendar was, and waste time provoking him by asking about his dating successes and failures, and at the end, would announce that she has a friend to set him up with. All without thinking once about going on a date with him herself.

At least, that is how I see those two scenarios going.

And really, I have been guilty of both. Because I have my own theories. They much more resemble an economics class with lectures on supply and demand and desirability of certain commodities. Since I have never taken an economics class, I will spare us all on me even beginning to explain. I will say this, I do believe I'm more self-aware than for which a lot of people give me credit. Sometimes the guy is just being friendly and really is interested in the girl across the cultural hall and appreciates that you aren't throwing yourself at him.

*There is no guy. This is a purely hypothetical situation.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Callings

In Church, ward members are assigned various jobs within leadership, general running of meetings, and maintenance roles called callings. There was a talk given many years ago (I think by President Hinckley, but I could be wrong) that states that one of the things that every member needs is a calling--or a responsibility within the church. Singles wards don't have to worry about youth organizations or primary, and so there always seems to be a plethora of made up callings in order to meet the needs of the members, in trying to keep everyone active participants.

Which is one of the reasons I haven't heretofore asked for a calling in my ward.

I don't like the made up callings. Like the busy work teachers used to give us in elementary school (or high school, for that matter) just to keep up quiet and working, I resent some of the made up "callings" that help make a YSA ward a YSA ward.

But, it's been some months, and I'm not integrating into the ward as well as I really ought to, and we all know what that means.

I need a calling.

My bishop had told me that he wasn't going to worry about giving me one until the whole surgery, and then cancer, stuff blew over. Which was a nice thought. And I really have enjoyed not having any responsibilities. But, there really is nothing like a calling to get you involved in the ward. (Most the time.) So, about a month ago, I told the bishop that I needed him to start thinking of something for me to do. He seemed surprised. Which, I don't doubt. My attendance to my ward is spotty at best, and often limited to sacrament meeting.

I still haven't received a calling, because, likely, he hasn't been able to track me down in order to extend the offer. But I have a few suggestions as to what I would most like to do in the ward:


  • Elder's Quorum Teacher - this is in no way a political statement. I just would rather hang out with the guys during this hour than attend Relief Society. I also think it would be an excellent opportunity for the guys in the ward to get to know me. 
  • Elder's Quorum Greeter - since the first suggestion is wrought with political and social controversy, using the old made up "greeter" calling might be a better way to go. It would also require me to be to church on time, since EQ/RS meet first.
  • Song Chooser - for any meeting. Nothing sets me off like a list of poorly chosen hymns on my Sabbath day. I don't know why anyone has not put me in charge before now. I will bring back themes and choose new songs, and keep the favorites in rotation. And we will SING ALL THE VERSES. Or, the most applicable verses. (Why do we never sing the sacrament verses during sacrament?)
  • Ward Matchmaker - this might be giving me too much power, but, I would like to just offer up suggestions for relationships I think have a chance . . . and also, the ones that amuse me to no end. Besides, the point of a singles ward is to get people married, right? So this should DEFINITELY be an official calling with stewardship.
  • Shepherd's Crook - Can I please sit on the stand every Sunday with a giant shepherd's crook and control the unruly speakers who are speaking WAY past their time, or about things that are not at all related to the meeting? This is a most important calling during Fast and Testimony meeting. I will give them three chances for me to not roll my eyes, and then they're done. (This would also help with whoever is the song chooser, because then we will get to sing all the lovely verses of the hymns, instead of constantly being ripped off.) 
See? There are plenty of opportunities for me to serve within this ward. I can't wait to see what the bishop comes up with.

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