Tag Archives: frozen pea friday

another frozen pea friday

last week i asked out loud, why is it that i keep writing about cancer?

when i don’t understand something, i sometimes write a poem or two. then i let it sit, and some time afterwards, it’s possible that the world makes a little more sense to me.

so i wrote these three little poems.

they’re sad.

but then life is, too, sometimes.


she called and she said
“oh by the way
i went to the doctor.”
and i, i heard nothing more
only my voice droning inside, screaming,
“no! no! no! not another one!”

“it’s not malign,” she said
“but we need to watch it.”

***

she makes cabbage rolls like before,
and i think even still tortellini soup,
her hair has started to grow again
and she jokes and tells stories like she used to.

inside, a dragon that roars all day and all night.
fierce warfare with chemical weapons.

***

can’t get that image out of my head,
a month before the other one threw himself
over the railing by the tall bridge
and all they found on him
was my phone number.

a month before, we were at the church,
there was a coffin,
the coffin where i almost saw her,
dangling her feet, grinning her big smile,
her lion’s curls wild by her
eyes always full of glint, even in sorrow, even
on her deathbed when she said,
you’ll see me sitting on the coffin,
laughing, waving at you.

beautiful, beautiful woman who
decided to leave peacefully,
no red poison in her veins,
just letting those strange cells
grow all over her
like morning glories.

frozen pea friday: touched by a tattoo

getting my tattoo was the culmination of a three year dance with breast cancer. the tattoo changed my mastectomy scar into my shield – pam huntley

a friend of mine is considering getting a tattoo after her mastectomy. ah, i thought, that’ll be a fun entry! let’s have a few pretty, colourful pictures of tattoos!

i can be so naïve sometimes.

for some strange reason, the obvious was not immediately obvious to me: that by just gently touching the subject, i would open a spider’s nest of body modification, questions about pornography, stories of sleepless nights over what seemed lost feminity, courageous leaps into unknown sexual territory, feminist thoughts on art, anthropology, books about tattooed people (from holocaust survivors to carnies to respectable ladies to, yes, breast cancer survivors), and, and, and.

and triumph! in 2002, breast cancer survivor june gladney took part in a science fiction conference that featured a masquerade. she appeared as an amazon goddess:

i turned full-face toward the audience… my daughters tell me that the roar erupted as a wave across the auditorium as i turned … and they caught sight of the scar and the dragon tattooed across my left side. … it seemed that the whole audience was on their feet, cheering, applauding, screaming, some in tears. the back-stage crew was applauding; lots of tears and hugs.

i was overwhelmed. i had never expected anything like that!

many people came up to me later during the convention to thank me for my bravery in doing such a daring presentation. some told me they needed to see a real-life scar which wasn’t that bad. most promised to get the necessary tests done. several had been putting it off for years, dreading what they might hear.

(read here for the rest of the story, told by the photographer)

june’s experience must have started with fear, too. i imagine the journey from dread to diagnosis, then the decision to have surgery, the surgery itself and the recovery, all the thinking that must have gone into saying no to reconstruction. pondering over images for the tattoo. getting the tattoo done. flashbacks at that moment perhaps to the surgery.

as i’m imagining this, i, someone who does not have cancer, also wonder, finally aloud for all my readers to hear: why do i keep writing about this? it all started with desiring to contribute to my friends with cancer, and breast cancer in particular, with thinking that it would be fun and useful to be part of the frozen pea friday movement. but it has gotten bigger.

these images of women (and men; they can get breast cancer, too) are not just in your face, dear reader, they’re also in mine and they urge me to admit that i need to look at this. why do i keep writing about this, despite the facts that a) i don’t particularly enjoy “having” to write about a specific topic at the rate of once a week, b) almost every one of these posts presents me with some sort of hurdle, and that, c) judging from the number of comments, it doesn’t seem to be my most widely read topic here. why don’t i just say, okay, that was fun, now on to something else? (and i’m not saying that i won’t do that but so far i’ve stuck with it).

perhaps there is some survivors guilt, or is it confusion? how come these friends of mine were touched (swiped! whacked over the head!) by cancer and i wasn’t? (yet?) perhaps it’s some deep superstition: if i write about it, i won’t get it. perhapstattoo by larissa at frever art http://www.foreverart.com/larissapage6.htm by writing about it i can come to grips with the irriversability of cancer. and maybe i am finally admitting to myself that despite my supposed high level of comfort with death and dying, i, too, need to come to understand my own mortality.

there is something atavistic about these tattoos, something that literally goes much, much beyond skin level. and it has touched me and said, “girl, you need to look at this.”

frozen pea friday: “cancer is my kryptonite”

it’s friday and we have a frozen pea friday post to celebrate cancer survivors. today, a guest post by hayley:

hi! i’m hayley and i’m an alcoholic. oh wait, wrong posting day. this is the cancer posting day. let’s try that again!

hi! i’m hayley townley. i’m thrilled to have been asked to be a guest blogger on change therapy. thanks, isabella!

kryptonite, as you may know, was superman’s weakness. cancer in all its forms is my kryptonite. in 1991, i lost my mom to breast cancer. she was 47; i was 25. she had been battling it since she was 37.

in 2002, at age 36, i was diagnosed with stage 3B breast cancer.

it’s now 2008, i am 41 years old, i have a fabulous head of hair, and i am a survivor!

i have always thought of myself as a superhero, minus the cape and the tights. i can handle anything thrown my way. i have always been oblivious to the things that might get other people down.

of course, this could stem from our family motto: “nothing is wrong and we don’t talk about it.”

but when i was diagnosed, it hit me hard”from all angles: mental, physical, emotional. it laid me out and made me realize that, after all, i may be only human.

now that i’ve been free of cancer for over five years, i am stronger and more resilient. i am faster than a speeding bullet. more powerful than a locomotive. able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. but whenever the word cancer comes up, i cringe inside. it’s as if somebody has slipped me a little bit of kryptonite.

i live with the possibility that it will come back. i was never a hypochondriac before the cancer; that tendency is one of the little perks of having had this disease. when i get a headache, i think it’s a brain tumor. when i find a bump on my leg, my heart sinks. before each doctor’s appointment, i lay awake long into the night. i panic inside over each mammogram or blood test. only when the oncology nurse calls to say that i’m good to go, do i relax again. the kryptonite dissipates a little bit more each time i pass a test with flying colors.

a friend recently got a bad diagnosis ” lung cancer, lymphoma, and brain cancer. i visited her in the hospital. kryptonite had reduced this once statuesque, beautifully poised superhero of a woman to lying in a hospital bed with tubes and drains sticking out of her. she was tired but in good spirits, and i know her superhero was still inside of her.

i had a good visit with her. she was on day 13 of her treatment and still had her hair. i had lost my hair on day 13. i brought her two cancer survivor buffs”the superhero headwear of cancer survivors.* i felt powerless in what else i could do for her. i tried to tell her it would be alright.

as i sat there holding her hand, a nurse came in to give her some of the same chemo drugs i had been given. i could sense the metallic taste in my mouth and the hollow place in my gut as i watched her dutifully swallow each horse pill. the kryptonite got stronger and i could feel every nerve ending in my body as i had before, when the situation was reversed.

as i left her bedside, i tried to carry out as much of her kryptonite as i could. i wanted her to be the strong, nothing-ever-fazes-her person i knew. just like me. the cancer tries to chip away at our bodies, but the kryptonite cannot affect our souls.

mary ellen died last month. not i, nor the drugs, nor the doctors could absorb enough kryptonite to return her superhero powers.

it’s crazy that in the 21st century”when we can put a person on the moon, make a computer that weighs only three pounds, and instantly share our thoughts with someone on the other side of the world simply by pressing a button”we still cannot cure cancer. someday, i hope there will be a kryptonite dumpsite where we can dump this disease.

if you or somebody you know is facing cancer, it’s your kryptonite, too. i survived it. superman survived it. you can survive it. let’s all don our superhero capes and tights and change the world together”one kryptonite diagnosis at a time.

this post is dedicated to my friend maryellen and, of course, to my mom. you will always be superheroes in my book.

bio: hayley lives in san luis obispo with her best friend and husband of 18 years, tim; their two dogs, shelby and lucy; and 14-year-old jazmine the cat.

she and her canadian co-author are writing a book about the lives of 100 women after breast cancer. she is also writing a book full of humor, insight, and warmth on her full cancer experience, along with one specifically for people who have a friend with cancer.

she blogs at http://hayleytownley.blogspot.com and at improg. in addition, she owns the website cancer survivor stuff, which sells headwear for survivors and handmade greeting cards. she is working on another website to tie in with the book AFTER . . . there is life after breast cancer, which she will launch by mid-summer.

*cancer survivor buffs are available from cancer survivor stuff or planet buff (type in “hayley” as a referral code).

mental health and cancer

peas refractedfor today’s “frozen pea friday” post on cancer, and because it’s national mental health week, i’ve interviewed someone on how she deals with the emotional effects of cancer. here’s what she says:

  • i have 100% permission to have all the meltdowns i need to have (i.e. anger, crying spells)
  • have a relationship with a psychotherapist whom i see regularly; that helps me remind me of self-care, putting my family in perspective and making sure i get my meltdowns
  • i have buddies. we’re in a group and i strongly request my buddies corner me four times a week and get me to focus on what i want. they do it and also get me to look at the guilt monsters because guilt is huge for me
  • maintain sleep, exercise and a regular eating schedule
  • i get help with sleep with sleep medication
  • i schedule regular meals and make sure i eat them
  • i manage anxiety by being really practical and taking things that i want seriously and making steps towards them if i can’t actually do them right
  • i very rarely tell myself “absolutely not!” usually it’s, “yes” or “yes, later” or “probably, later”
  • i let myself care about other people, even though right now it’s “me first time”

other info on the connection between mental health and cancer:

sexuality and cancer

this study suggests that people with mental health issues have a larger chance of getting certain types of cancer, and getting it at an earlier age

this site has a large section on the emotional effects of cancer. what i find most helpful about that is that it shows the many effects – seeing this in print, knowing that these feelings are normal and experienced by many can in itself be helpful.

yoga may help with breast cancer

(refracted pea image by fellow canadian ecstaticist, whose blog is here)

frozen pea post: a beltane blessing

flowers for beltaneyesterday was beltane, one of the two most important holidays in pagan traditions.just as hallowe’en marks the time when we slip into the darkness of winter, on beltane we celebrate opening the door to the joys and exuberance of summer.

i’d like to dedicate this beltane to all women with breast cancer.

i imagine an end to the wintery weariness that comes with chemotherapy, radiation and all the other medical procedures – and the blossoming of fresh energy, ebullient laughter, and renewed pleasures in your bodies.

let’s have a handfasting between your bodies and the flaming red, bursting energy of tulips, the sparkling green of the new grass, the elegant white of plum blossoms!

come, let’s hold hands and jump over the beltane fire together, leaving behind pain and the cold grip of fear!

beltane is about fertility. the fertility of sisterhood, holding each other, holding on to each other, holding each other up, growing in our circle much more than what we can create each one by ourselves.

(this is another frozen pea friday post, in support of the breast cancer recovery and work of susan reynolds and those she inspires to help end breast cancer. ***** image by stephie)

can someone please feed the cat?

hello everyone!lolcat, reading a book

it’s friday today, so time for a frozen pea friday post. today you can find it over at smarter than your average blog, who has kindly invited me to guest post.  it’s about the bewildering amount of choices people are faced with when they have cancer.

i’m going to be away for a week or so. while i’m gone, please make yourself at home. someone please water the plants and feed the cat?

and if you get bored, browse through the dusty archives up in the attic, in the basement, in the shed and behind the rose bushes.

of course you can also read some books or trundle over to the blogroll – no i didn’t say eggroll! feel free to raid the fridge, though (and throw out anything that looks green and fuzzy!)

see you soon!

(i’ll try and post the carnival of eating disorders, though, which is due to come out on the 31st.)