Monday, October 12, 2020

The one where I need a suit of bubble wrap because the hits keep coming

So, here we are five years post-diagnosis. It's been four full years of no medications, no surgeries, no scans; nothing but regular checkups. Now, I can only speak from my experience, but it seems like the high of hearing the words "no discernable masses" and "no cancer cells in your lymph nodes" doesn't last as long as the fear of waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

Now, I cannot say that the other shoe has dropped, per se. But, it seems fair to say that someone definitely chucked a boot at my head. 

Because chemotherapy and the removal of my ovaries put me into early menopause, I was at risk for osteoporosis. This is a thing that I knew, but really thought wouldn't be an issue. I am young, I eat healthy, I work out, I feel strong, etc. Clearly I haven't learned my lesson that sometimes you can do everything right and still have it turn out all wrong. 

My oncologist ordered a bone density scan just to be sure and wouldn't you know it, here I am at 37 years old with full-fledged osteoporosis. Yep. Osteoporosis.

I am a cancer survivor. I went through hell and it sucked and I am so glad that chapter of my story has been completed. But here's the thing; it doesn't go away. You never get to stop thinking about it and you never get to let your guard down. You don't just get to wipe your hands clean, exhale and say "done". There's always something else around the corner, or so it seems. 

The chemo screwed with the lining of my stomach and now I'm lactose sensitive. The "chemo-brain" hasn't totally lifted for me and I struggle with short term memory...and now I have osteoporosis. All before the age of 40. 

Want to know what else is awesome? I will now get a shot every six months for the next five years to manage my osteoporosis, and take calcium pills daily. Those shots with my insurance are over $500 a pop. Without insurance? We'd be looking at over $2,5000 a pop. OUTRAGEOUS! I am so grateful to have an employer with great benefits, but my heart is aching for the women out there who don't have access to these medicines, or those who just can't afford them. I hate to think about what it must be like to choose between groceries and medicine for a disease like osteoporosis. 

Side note: I think it's interesting the way these shots work is that the medicine pulls calcium from your bloodstream and essentially re-distributes it into your bones. Super cool in theory, but in reality it hurts. Like, really hurts. All over. For days. Admittedly, it's better than the alternative and I'll suck it up for the three days twice a year. But it doesn't change the fact that I wish I didn't have to do it. 

Please understand, I don't tell you all of this to have you join my pity party. I tell you all of this because I so desperately want you to do monthly breast self exams, to get your mammograms, talk with your family about health history, call your insurance and ask what types of scans or preventative measures they cover (things like mammograms or breast ultrasounds), talk with your doctor about uncomfortable topics, and don't be afraid to look into free or low-cost community resources if you don't currently have health insurance. I tell you these things so you will stay vigilant, advocate for yourself, and prevent what you can because cancer comes with a hefty price tag in more ways than one. 

Left: normal bone, right: osteoporotic bone; Source: International Osteoporosis Foundation: https://www.iofbonehealth.org/what-is-osteoporosis 


Saturday, September 19, 2020

The difference between a window and a mirror

 I don't have any clever hype or backstory for this one. Just had an arrow of inspiration and went with it. 

The difference between a window and a mirror


When I look at you just right 

I can only see the petals

Not your thorns.


Your horns

That accompany your devil may care

Attitude


The altitude of your ego is so high

Mountains to climb

Climb up up and up into the clouds


Your eyes have clouds

so thick

I can barely it happen

That moment when your pupils

Dilate


Your laser focus

Has turned and fixated

On me


Targeted

I stand in the dark

Totally unaware of what is to come

What is running after me

An unwitting player in a game of cat and mouse

The chase 

The race is on

With no way to see the path I’m on

Running blindly


But what if I stopped 

Turned around

And let myself be caught


Caught up in you

Your arms

Your curiosity


Then you open your mouth and let the sun shine out.

Would it be so trite to say

Now I can see the light?

The light of a new day dawns

The way your words lie in your mouth

Lie in the curve of my ear

Just lies


What do I see when I look at you?

Through this glass.

In this mirror.


Photo credit: Me. 2019. Lincoln, NE.


Saturday, March 7, 2020

Let Go

My husband bought me this painting on canvas a few years back. It actually means quite a lot to me -- I  received this in a fairly chaotic time in our lives and I was struggling to find some peace within myself. I was trying to focus on getting something down on paper this morning and I kept staring at this painting. Sometimes inspiration is almost too obvious.

Everyday
I am afraid
Terrified it will be so very obvious
that I need you
more
than you need me

Each time I say goodnight
I get on my knees (figuratively)
and pray that you are not
planning
your goodbye (literally).

When you turn around and
walk away
because you have somewhere to be (literally)
I fear that its because
you would rather be
anywhere else (figuratively).

It hurts in the head
in the heart
a solid one-two punch to the gut
maybe more like one million unsure (but still painful) cuts

When I breathe you in I feel
comforted and safe
You are probably waiting and waiting and waiting
to exhale with relief
that I don't need anything more from you
(other than just
everything)

It has become so completely obvious
that somewhere along the way
I was so busy holding tight
to your hand
Afraid to let go
It never occurred to me
I should fear
losing myself





Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Brick by brick

I don't have a particularly interesting story to tell about this poem. This isn't based on a true story; in fact, I am pretty sure I was watching a Hallmark movie and had an idea bubble up. It's a little hazy. This was a poem I sketched out in 2014 (!). Nothing like digging up and dusting off old pieces to flex the writing muscles. Well, anyway, here it is in all its glory.

 Bricks


Sticks and stones can break my bones
but your words are the one thing I will never forget.
As my defenses started to crumble
The rubble fell at your feet.
Even in defeat I couldn’t help but give those broken pieces of myself to you.

Your words found a place to hide out in the curve of my ear.
Taking shelter, finding a safe space to live forever
Your voice ringing out clear and pure.
(It really was the strongest thing about you.)
There is something hypnotic about a beautiful weapon.
A silver tongue spitting brass bullets.
Perfect white teeth gnashing.
Pushing out soft words with jagged intentions.

Your words were an unforgettable cadence.
I still can’t stop hearing you say it. “There’s someone else.”
(It really was the worst thing about you.)

Each one of your words was another brick.
Baked in the heat of my fury.
Every smug platitude was mortar and filler.
Watch me build this wall.

You keep saying it over and over.
"We can still be friends, right?" 
"You understand, don't you?"
Brick. Brick. Mortar. Brick.
I crumbled and fell. But now I’m rebuilding.
Up and up and up and up.
And then finally…
I’ll be over you.

I call this photo "Love in an alley". Taken in 2017, Lincoln, NE.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The lady in the painting

I can often feel the itch to write, just nagging at the ridiculously hard to reach point between my shoulder blades. The frustrating part of this is when I can't rope one single idea out of the clear blue sky and let my pen run with it. So, that's when I fall back on the talent and creativity of people in my circles and use one of their creations as a writing prompt.

David Quinn is a talented award-winning artist based in Co. Mayo Ireland whose piece titled, "Necklace" serves as my most recent creative inspiration. He's ever so graciously permitted me to link to his work here (what a lovely guy!):

Necklace, David Quinn, 2007, Mixed media on board, 70cm diameter
View this piece (and so many beautiful others) on his website

So now that you've had the opportunity to fall in love with this painting like I did, here's the poem I wrote:

Lady Like

It hurts to remember you
Your laughter feels like tiny bursts of flames licking across my skin
Your touch feels like a million paper cuts left in the wake of your trailing fingertips
What used to give me goosebumps now stings me

But this is life; c’est la vie
One stupid mistake
Two fingers of whisky
Three fingers on a ledge
But forever hopeful

Never totally prepared to defend my heart
My battle armor is deceiving
Looks like perfect hair and makeup
Two swipes of the blackest eyeliner
Three spritzes of the most romantic perfume
It makes you feel comfortable
It makes me feel confident
Then I rip apart the silky illusion with ten manicured nails on my dainty lady hands

My hands hurt from
Clutching these pearls
Oh how I wish I was clutching the back of your shirt
Soft thin cotton bunching up
In between my fingers
My wedding ring snagged a tiny hole
I can fix that later
Can you fix this now

We were quite the dazzling pair
Now I’m a single earring with no back
Cherry lip gloss with no lid in the bottom of a bag
This promise should have been set in stone
Like a 3 carat stone set in a platinum gold band
But instead I just wrote “xoxo” in the dust on our dresser
Memories caught in the cuffs of my jeans
Spilling out around my feet as I walk through the door