I remember cancer…

Today marks one year since I stopped being inconvenienced by cancer. That may sound flippant…but I never thought cancer was gonna be the end of me. A big reason for that was the amazing medical attention I received at Memorial Health here in Savannah. A bigger reason was one I used to deflect any fear or negativity by me or anyone else when the subject came up: I ain’t got time for that.

I think back now about the whole ordeal and certain moments are crystal clear.

Like the  beautiful September day I walked out of Dr. Rehl’s office after my biopsy wondering if I was dreaming. I thought, “No matter the outcome, my life will never be the same.”

I remember telling my daughter in the most inelegant way…blurting it out because I was exhausted from covering Hurricane Matthew non-stop for 4 days.

I remember telling my dear friend Drew about it early because he and I spend a lot of work hours together. He hugged me and then said, “Can we start making bad cancer jokes yet?” I said, “Yes, please!”

I remember telling my parents and trying to soften the blow. “It seems I caught a touch of cancer…”

I remember walking down the hall to surgery and not being able to turn around and look at my parents because I was trying just to keep it together.

I remember a few days after my surgery when I tried to take the bandages off in the shower and was completely wrecked by what I saw.

I remember my first chemo treatment…my dear friend Michele by my side. And yes, I really did wear a tiara.

I remember feeling relieved when my hair started falling out because what makes your hair stop growing also makes the cancer stop growing.

I remember the day I decided to just go ahead and have my head shaved. My dear friend Christie came to her salon on her day off and made me feel beautiful even though I was nauseous from chemo. I also remember Drew coming to film it (to use later in a story I planned to do about my ordeal…yeah, that never happened.) When I asked him where his camera was, he said, “Ah…I think I’ll just get my head shaved today too.” (**swoon** I’ll never be able to adequately express what that meant to me and still means to me to this day!)

I remember being so exhausted from chemo that I had to sit down in the shower sometimes. My mom and dad would take me downtown for walks and just covering a few Savannah blocks would take us hours. But it was fun!

I remember the last day of my chemo. I had kept my cancer from a lot of people. I never posted on FB because I didn’t want family and friends far away to learn about it that way. My dear friend Tami was one of the last to know. She’d been through so much with her own family that year, I just couldn’t bring myself to tell her until near the end. When I opened the door that day, I knew my parents would be there waiting. But so was Tami. She flew hundreds of miles to be with me on that last day. She made me a banner and held my hand. I’m tearing up again just thinking about it. I will never be able to let her know exactly what that meant to me because there aren’t enough words.

I remember my first radiation treatment. It took longer to drive to the hospital and find parking than the treatment did…but it was every day for 6 weeks.

I remember making a joke (as I did a lot) at one radiation appointment about some weird face apparatus that was always hanging on the wall. “That looks cool. I want one of those! How come I don’t get a face thingy?” And the radiation tech looked me in the eye and calmly said, “You don’t want one of those. That’s for brain cancer.” I was rendered speechless. I never made another stupid joke like that again.

I remember walking out of Memorial Health after my last radiation treatment. I was still suffering from the “bad sunburn” that radiation can give you. My hair had only started growing back. (Yay, hats!) And I was HUGE from all the steroids and mashed potatoes I’d ingested during all the treatment. But I was FREE!

After treatment, I thought I’d feel elated…happy…grateful. But I didn’t. And that’s when the guilt set in. I couldn’t believe that I’d kicked cancer’s ass but wasn’t happy. So I started to see a therapist. And I was diagnosed with PTSD. I remember saying to her, “What crap is this? I am not a soldier. Soldiers get PTSD because they do and see things that no one ever should. I just survived cancer.” And she looked me in the eye and said, ” You just did and saw things no one ever should either.” LIGHTBULB!

So I started working on why I didn’t feel happy or grateful. I discovered that cancer is something I felt I brought on myself. Since doctors and nurses (angels on earth, I tell you!) provided the things I needed to get rid of cancer, I didn’t feel I was an active participant in my recovery. Once I realized that I’m better because I CHOSE to follow the suggestion of my medical team, I started to feel better. Like a champion…not like a victim. I remember feeling a powerful sense of worth. I tell my therapist thank you for giving me that gift every time I see her.

I remember the first haircut I got once my head had more than just peach fuzz. I went to Ulta and the stylist was just as excited as I was. We giggled and she took a long time making me feel like a girl again. (My hair grew back curly and gray. Who knew?)

So now it’s been a year. I am part of a clinical trial to see if a low fat diet can help stop cancer from returning. I’ve lost weight. I’m going to the gym so I feel stronger. And today, on the one year anniversary of my final cancer treatment, I had a wonderful realization: I don’t think about cancer that much any more. Sure, I still have to take a handful of drugs every day…but mostly just vitamins now.

Think about that: the thing that consumed my life for more than a year doesn’t even register most days.

So yeah, I remember cancer. And cancer can suck it.

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Sick and tired of being sick and tired

The past few months have been difficult. I am not a good sick person. I tend to hibernate when I don’t feel well. I get on my couch and pretty much don’t move until I’m better…only doing things I must — like going to work or taking my kid to school. I have been known to not leave my house from Friday at 5pm until Monday at 7am. Sometimes I can’t even remember if I’ve brushed my teeth or not. And that’s just if I have a cold.

Recently I was diagnosed with something serious. Not deadly or debilitating. But serious enough that it scared me. I tend to be a bit of a contradictory hypochondriac — I’m convinced I’m always sick but I rarely actually go to the doctor. Needless to say, I put off dealing with the symptoms until I just couldn’t ignore them any longer. And because of that, it took a very long time for myriad doctors to come to a conclusion on what was making me sick.

On the outside, you wouldn’t have necessarily known anything was wrong. I tend to fight through any pain or discomfort. Years of suffering with migraines has taught me that when it’s time to go to work you go to work. So what finally made me sit up and say, “Hey, this ain’t right!”?

I peed in my pants.

I know, I know…TMI. But seriously, I need to say that out loud for 2 reasons. One: HELLO? I waited so long I couldn’t hold my bladder. Not good. And two: I don’t normally do that so, yeah…time to figure out if it was something serious or if I just needed to face the fact that I need Depends.

When I first went to the doctor, I was told to take a drug called Enablex. It helped me to pee only when I wanted to — and not, say, while I was pumping gas at a convenience store in another state. (Yes, that happened and I tripped over the gas hose trying to get inside. I fell into a barrel of windshield cleaner. On the upside, no one knew I had peed myself because I was drenched in Windex. Thankfully I was relatively unhurt.) Enablex had some weird side effects: dry mouth, blurred vision and — my favorite! — CONSTIPATION! My poor plumbing didn’t know if it was coming or going. (Well, I guess it wasn’t really going at all so whatever…)

I was miserable. The very thing that was helping me was making me so uncomfortable I contemplated buying a box of those supposedly fashionable adult diapers and just resigning myself to a life of internal humiliation.

But then something even worse happened: I started to gain weight. No, seriously. I think if I stood in front of a mirror long enough, I could actually see my girth expanding. Now, being the vain hypochondriac that I am…that was not an acceptable occurrence. I was so uncomfortable. I felt like a balloon about to burst! I don’t mean I felt like I ate a huge meal. I told my mom I felt as if I was constantly wearing one of those inner tubes we wore as kids. You know the ones: made of shiny colorful plastic with some goofy animal head on the front to hold onto? Yes, one of those. And I felt like it was INSIDE ME, constantly pushing and expanding. God, I was so miserable. I couldn’t sleep or drive my car for long trips. Nothing helped either. I took probiotics with literally BILLIONS of whatever probiotics have in them to make you feel less bloated. I did a gentle cleanse. I already eat little to no dairy so cutting that out wasn’t going to help.

Since I was under a doctor’s care I guess I convinced myself I was just getting old and my hormones were freaking out. I figured I was simply going to have to live with feeling (and looking) like a bloated tick.

And then one night, on the way home from a late dinner with a good friend, I just had a flash: “Something isn’t right. Go to urgent care.” I can’t even say something specific (like acute pain, etc.) made me go. I think I was just exhausted from thinking about it for so long. The doctor took one look at me and sent me to the hospital. I had an MRI and, lo and behold, it turns out my kidneys had decided to stage a coup. Actually only one of them did. The left one remained loyal to the homeland.

I was diagnosed with kidney cysts. And, because I can’t do anything half-assed, I had 2 on my right kidney. The doctor actually told me, “Yeah, 2 on one kidney is rare. I’ve never seen that before. And the one on the bottom is HUGE.”

It’s been about 2 and a half weeks since I had the procedure to take care of them. (I won’t go into what had to be done because it involves words like “drain” and “fluid” and “OW!”). I was home shortly after it was done and spent a lot of time on the couch watching Netflix. I feel worlds better but there are a lot of residual feelings other than, “Man, I hate kidney cysts!”

The little devils wreaked havoc on those around me. My kid was denied a Summer of Fun (as was I). We missed out on 2 getaways: one to a mini-reunion with good Clemson friends and the other to my dear friend’s daughter’s wedding. I had to settle for experiencing both through Facebook pictures (which I am completely thankful for!) My parents were worried sick about me from afar. I missed out on a Tybee visit from a dear friend and her family. And, because my medical bills are beginning to stack up and driving long distances is still very uncomfortable, I’m missing out on a visit with my beautiful niece and nephew this weekend.

But I’m on the mend. I wish I could say I’ve lost a ton of weight in the last 2 weeks but the doctor says my body will continue to hold onto that for a bit as a healing mechanism. Thanks, Body (she said sarcastically).

One last thing before I go. (You didn’t think this massive missive would end without me getting on my soapbox, did you?) Please, if you drink diet drinks, consider stopping. I may never know what caused my one kidney to decide she needed to encase herself with something ugly but one guess my doctor ventured was the mass quantities of fake sugar I was consuming on a daily basis. You should have seen how high his eyebrow shot up when I told him I was probably drinking a 12 pack of Diet Coke a day. He actually said, “You’re not serious, are you?” I thought about lying but since there was photographic evidence to contradict that, I decided to come clean:

IMG_7401

Please don’t let the fact that you can see all my girl parts deter you from noticing the ugliness that is on my kidney there.

So, I’m on the mend. (Unless you count that nasty URI I got the week after all this happened. Yeah, I was a raving beauty for 3 weeks in June!) I have only had water and unsweetened tea to drink for weeks. And because I imagine it now with devil horns, I don’t miss Diet Coke at all.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for hanging out with me. Please consider having a physical soon…because I’d like you to be here the next time I get off my lazy butt and write something. 🙂

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Sticker Shock

luke bryan

Dear Luke Bryan,

I know you have legions of fans who want to see you shake your painted-on jeans but seriously? HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS FOR NOSE BLEED SEATS?

No thanks.

Respectfully,

Broke in Savannah

 

I didn’t post that little ditty on social media. But I want to. My kid adores Luke Bryan. And today, when I saw his 2015 tour dates included 2 Atlanta shows, I was so excited at the thought of taking her. (Well, excited at the thought that she’d be excited I was taking her. He’s not my jar of moonshine…)

For 2 Upper Level seats — where, let’s be honest, we’d be watching him on giant screens  — I would have to shell out $250 just for the tickets. JUST THE TICKETS! That means Meg couldn’t ask her BFF Ashley who also adores LB to go with us. It means we couldn’t make a weekend in Atlanta of it because sleeping on a bench in a MARTA station would be considered child abuse/suicide by most people. It means making a financial sacrifice I am not willing to make. And that makes me very sad.

Some of my best memories are of going to concerts with friends. We’d pile in the car, stop for food, buy t-shirts, see the show and go out drinking after the show. And I never spent more than $100 TOTAL for all of it EVER.

I am so thankful that I live in Savannah where free concerts are frequent events. Megan has seen George Clinton/P-Funk, James Brown, Blues Traveler, Natasha Bedingfield, Ziggy Marley, Charlie Daniels, Little Big Town and countless other bands because this town loves music.

So, sorry, Luke Bryan. Not gonna happen.

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Giving Up

friday

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Lent. That’s the 40 days from Ash Wednesday until Easter Christians observe by fasting and seeking forgiveness.

Much is said about giving things up for Lent. Sacrifice is supposed to bring you closer to God. The Bible teaches that humility is good for us. I happen to agree…but not necessarily for religious purposes.

We live in a time of excess and entitlement. Many of us have phones that function as mobile offices. Our cars can practically drive themselves. Even fast food restaurants have gourmet menus! So every year, I try to give up something that, at first blush may not seem like a big deal but, in the long run, is.

I could give up Diet Coke…something I love. But I’ve already cut way back due to health reasons so that’s not really a sacrifice.

I could give up Facebook. I’m on there all the time. But will I spend the time saved deep in spiritual thought? I’d like to think so but probably not. I’m sure life will get in the way of quiet time. I’ll just find some other obsession to occupy my brain.

I could give up watching my favorite TV shows. But again, that plan would probably be met with the harsh reality of laundry, housekeeping and errands.

No, I think this year I’m just going to make a conscious effort to be more aware of how I spend all of my time, how I treat others and how I want others to see me. It may not sound like I’m giving up much. But if you think of it as giving up the daily stress that takes my focus away from nature, breathing easier and being more in the moment with the ones I love, I think God will be okay with that.

 

 

 

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Gone Girl

gone girl

You know that feeling of loving a book so much you literally try to WILL the ending to be what you want? …what you hope it will be? And then you get to the end and you’re woefully disappointed?

Yeah. That was Gone Girl for me.

Here’s my dilemma: Did I like the book? No. Would I recommend it? No. Was it really well-written. Definitely.

Gone Girl (“Soon to be a major motion picture!”) is about the complete disintegration of a marriage framed around the abduction of the seemingly perfect wife. Of course, the husband becomes the prime suspect. “Boring!” you say? Could have been. But the author, Gillian Flynn, uses a form of “he said/she said” to write the first part of the book which really sucked me in. She continues that same format for parts 2 and 3 but by that time, I was so pissed off at where I thought the book was headed, the writing style lost its sheen for me.

I am a reader who becomes really emotionally invested in a book’s characters. Whether I love them or hate them, I want to know what happens to them. Gone Girl is the first book I’ve ever read that had me totally fooled. Flynn lead me exactly where she wanted me to go…and she did it by force. I admire her very adept story-telling ability. But I also resent her for it. Not for feeling manipulated. (What else is a great author but a master manipulator?) But for making me care about certain characters and then whip-lashing me into completely opposite emotions…and sometimes during the course of a single page turn!

Am I glad I didn’t stop reading Gone Girl when I realized what was really happening? Yes. It’s that well-written. Did I hope up until the very last page that what I KNEW was going to happen wouldn’t? Yes. Will I see the movie when it comes out? Yes. Because I’m truly curious to see if Hollywood will go down some dark, dark alleys and keep the author’s vision in tact.

Even though that vision really MADE ME ANGRY!

If you’ve read Gone Girl, I’d like to know what you think.

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Perfect Day

lou reed

Lou Reed died this weekend. To say I loved this man would be a gross understatement. His music and mystique just spoke to me on a level I’d never experienced before.

I was introduced to him by my first serious boyfriend. It was 1984 and New Sensations had just been released. There was just something about hearing I Love You, Suzanne on vinyl… I must have listened to that album a bazillion times. Could he sing well? Not really. But there was such an earnestness in his vocals. I needed to know more about him…about the Velvet Underground. I spent hours at record stores combing through LPs and at the library going through old Rolling Stone magazines.

I got my first radio job in 1986: WGOG-AM, a thousand-watt station in my hometown. I loved spending hours looking through the old records. And when I found the Walk On The Wild Side 45, I played it on air. And I got in trouble. At the time, I thought, “How square! Can’t they see the greatness behind the naughty lyrics?”

Fast forward 10 years. I’d devoured everything I could find about Lou Reed. That first boyfriend went away and another bought me the VU box set. I spent many a mile driving and listening and loving. In 1995, I moved to Cleveland. That year, the Rock Hall opened. The concert to celebrate the opening was epic. And I was finally able to see Lou live. He only performed for a short while but I still get chills thinking about the fact that I was literally hearing AND seeing him.

Fast forward even more years. Another boyfriend/another Lou Reed memory: driving around Tampa listening to the intro to Sweet Jane live. Stopped at a traffic light on a warm Tuesday evening. Windows down. Sharing sweet kisses just like teenagers.

Now Lou Reed is gone. Rest In Peace, poetic soul, and know that all my Perfect Days are set to your lyrics.

Perfect Day

Just a perfect day
drink Sangria in the park
And then later
when it gets dark, we go home

Just a perfect day
feed animals in the zoo
Then later
a movie, too, and then home

Oh, it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spend it with you
Oh, such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging on
You just keep me hanging on

Just a perfect day
problems all left alone
Weekenders on our own
it’s such fun

Just a perfect day
you made me forget myself
I thought I was
someone else, someone good

Oh, it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spent it with you
Oh, such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging on
You just keep me hanging on

You’re going to reap just what you sow
You’re going to reap just what you sow
You’re going to reap just what you sow
You’re going to reap just what you sow

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50 Shades Of Boring

50-shades-of-grey-cast-dakota-johnson-charlie-hunnam-4

Did you see this?

Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.

I know, right? People are outraged over the casting of a movie. And it was the 2nd time in a month that Twitter exploded with (mis)casting news. (I feel for you, Ben Affleck!)

I wish I had enough time on my hands to create online petitions to have movies recast to my liking. I don’t. But if I did, I wouldn’t waste that time on stupid Hollywood stuff. I’d recast real-life.

The first to get the boot would be that one clueless person behind the coffee shop counter who NEVER gets my order right. “Grande soy chai, 140 degrees” sounds pretty straight forward to me but it must not translate in “barista.”

Next would be the person at the drive thru who is slow as molasses. I do not see how there can possibly be enough time between driving from the “pay at” window to the “get your food” window for my fries to get cold!

And finally, I’d recast that “I’m-Right-And-My-Kid’s-Coach-Can-Suck-It” dad. You’re wrong. You’re not a better coach. You just have a bigger mouth and a badder temper.

So all you 50 Shades lovers who are mad right now, take a deep breath and smack your own butts. You never know. The movie might end up being hotter than you ever imagined.

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