Posts Tagged: cancer

Grandma's Proxy

My brother’s request was simple, his tone firm: We were going out for dinner. I couldn’t recall the last time I ate a full meal, let alone left the house. I hadn’t been to my own home—a six-hour drive north—in weeks. Deadlines passed unnoticed, my precarious writing career in peril.

Everything rested on a fulcrum, the pulse of a 77-year-old woman in a dark room. And that was all that mattered; I was either inside that room, or just outside it.

“I don’t know if I’m doing a good job,” I confessed as my grandmother and I watched the hospice nurse pack up her bags.

“She says she’s not [...]


Angelina Jolie: "My Medical Choice"

"I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer." —Angelina Jolie's op-ed in today's New York Times.


Dog Shadow

Toward the end of my breast cancer treatment, I couldn’t do much besides sleep. “An exhaustion like nobody knows,” the kind receptionist outside the radiation oncology department called it. Along with painful burns (and the fact that all the other 26-year-olds I knew were off living instead of trekking to the hospital daily), the regimen's side effects could have made the last four months of 2011 an isolating experience. But I was never alone, because my dog, Kip, refused to let me leave his sight. My ‘dog shadow’ followed me from room to room, wedging his back beside my thigh wherever I settled. This from a dog who normally spent [...]


'Tig Notaro Live'

In case you missed it, the excellent Tig Notaro has a stand-up special available through Louis CK's site. He has this to say about it:

Tig is a friend of mine and she is very funny. I love her voice on stage. One night I was performing at a club in LA called Largo. Tig was there. She was about to go on stage. I hadn't seen Tig in about a year and I said how are you? She replied "well I found out today that I have cancer in both breasts and that it has likely spread to my lymph nodes. My doctor says it looks real bad." She [...]


How to Remember Father's Day

When my dad started inpatient chemotherapy we’d sit hand-squeezing-hand. I cozied as well as I could into the narrow blue plastic recliner beside the bed. Thank God for small miracles—the methotrexate toxified his piss and left him an immunological tabula raza, so he got a tiny room to himself. We kept our grief in this shoebox. His heels dug into the beeping beige footboard, and my mother complained. He got a six-inch extension piece so he could rest with legs extended—my daddy long legs.

We didn’t think about time in periods other than a day. There was nothing else. They pumped the Simpsons-esque neon green sludge directly into his [...]


"Comfort IN, dump OUT."

Here is a really helpful (and illustrated!) guide to how to talk to and about sick people (or people in crisis, in general.) Because people are really bad at it! Not intentionally, necessarily. I'm not good at it either. But I'd like to be better. Or for no one to get sick, ever. Either way?

When Susan had breast cancer, we heard a lot of lame remarks, but our favorite came from one of Susan's colleagues. She wanted, she needed, to visit Susan after the surgery, but Susan didn't feel like having visitors, and she said so. Her colleague's response? "This isn't just about you."

"It's not?" Susan [...]


Breasts' Future

"In other words, mammograms increased diagnoses and surgeries, but didn’t save lives." (Elsewhere, a different view.)


The BRCA Gene, Our Mother, And Our Insurance Plans: A Chat Between Sisters

On Monday, Angelina Jolie quietly published an op-ed in the New York Times in which she admitted to undergoing a preventative double mastectomy. Jolie, whose mother died from breast cancer, carries the "faulty" BRCA1 gene, which increases the risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Our own mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. She had radiation and chemotherapy and has now been cancer-free for more than five years, but last year she tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation, and she is petrified that she has passed it on to us (we're 26 and 30 years old). She desperately [...]


Pirin Tablets

"It’s an important finding for high-risk women to discuss with their doctors, but it’s way too early to recommend that everyone go take aspirin to prevent melanoma.” —A potentially interesting correlation between aspirin and melanoma. (From Cancer, via the Times.)


A Tidy Death


First, I’m OK.  I do not have cancer. For now. At least not where they did the ultrasound, CT scan and biopsy.

I’m writing this because I don’t want to forget the promises I made to myself when looking squarely at death.

As my friend, Dar, said, “It’s important to come face to face with mortality once in a while.” I thought, really? Seriously? No, thank you. Though, we all do. It seems to cluster for me. A friend gets sick, a parent dies, there’s a medical scare or a medical unbearable truth.

This spring, I had two close friends lose a parent the same month my [...]