14 chemo doses to a better you

Last week, I had another cancer scare.

I’ve been in remission from breast cancer for about two years now. Every six months, I get a scan to make sure there aren’t any new shenanigans going on at my cellular level. Of course, “sure” is a relative term; I have what’s medically referred to as dense breast tissue, which is a technical way of saying my boobs are fibrous as fuck.

After this most recent scan, my oncologist called. The images showed a suspicious area the size of a grain of rice. I needed to go back in for an MRI-guided biopsy. She reassured me that sometimes these tiny spots don’t even appear on the follow-up scan – they can be just imaging blips, or regular hormonal changes.

This is the general reality of being a cancer survivor: everything could be fine, or some minute part of you could be decidedly not fine, and you just won’t know until you know.

For two days, I practiced the art of acknowledging fear without actually freaking out. Chances were decent it was all nothing, but I was also looking ahead to how another round of cancer might feel. What would be the same, and what would be new? What decisions would I have to make? What would it be like to exist in the liminal space of illness for a second time?

When you get diagnosed with cancer, you find yourself the potential protagonist of a whole slew of pop culture narratives, from Livestrong hashtags to Christian religious awakenings. Most of these stories have been easy for me to shrug off; I don’t own any rubber bracelets, and I haven’t been to church in years.

There’s one story, though, that did worm its way firmly into my brain, so seamlessly I didn’t realize it was just as artificial as all the others.

That first night after I got the news, I lay in bed looking at the ceiling, as one does when one’s hypothetical mortality suddenly becomes a calendar full of real chemotherapy appointments. Most of my thoughts were cloudy and distant, but one was completely clear. Whatever happened next, I was going to become a different person than I’d been before.

Continue reading “14 chemo doses to a better you”

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It’s another dark moon and I’m cranky as fuck

Last month I wrote about dark moons, witchy culture, and awkward feelings over on the Little Red Tarot blog.

Lately, whenever the moon is dark, I don’t feel like doing ritual or reading cards or making magic.

Mostly I just feel cranky as fuck…

Here’s what I’ve decided, from the tidal depths of my crankiness: I’m not cutting cords anymore. I’m not holding strips of paper to the flame, hoping to turn my anxieties into ash.

Take in the full curmudgeonly glory here, no cleansing spell required.

Ancestors: part one

When I was little, my grandparents’ house was my personal wonderland. The back yard had a terraced patio with steps zagging between lush, carefully-tended beds of flowers and shrubs. A shallow drainage ditch circled the property like a moat. By the door, a mosquito zapper lamp gave off a lurid glow at dusk and sizzled like a cauldron.

Their house was a split-level 1950s ranch with teal carpeting – not exactly the stuff of gothic enchantment. But even the indoors had a fairy-tale patina. A seaside landscape mural covered one wall. The spare room housed a small hoard of aloof dolls in satiny dresses. In the basement was a tall, old-fashioned clock with shelves built into the front, holding all sorts of trinkets.

When my sister and I would stay the night, we slept down there, in a cozy room with shutters on the high windows. I’d wake to blades of light along the wall and the sounds of my grandfather making breakfast upstairs. He liked to sing hymns while he worked. Sometimes the smell and clatter of bacon frying reminds me of his voice:

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free.
His eye is on the sparrow,
and I know He watches me.

I liked his hymns, but I didn’t know most of the words. My grandparents were Southern Baptist, and supposedly my father once was too, but we were Catholic like my mother. The first time I went into their church, I genuflected at the pew, and somebody actually gasped. Neither one of my grandparents ever said anything about us not being quite like them, but there were signs of how they felt: kids’ prayer books with Protestant theology, invitations to Sunday school events. Later, when I got to college, I found myself mysteriously subscribed to a magazine for “America’s evangelical youth.”

I joked about one of the articles with my mom during a call home, but her voice got unexpectedly tight. She asked for the name of the magazine. The next month it disappeared from my mailbox as abruptly as it had arrived.

Continue reading “Ancestors: part one”