Too Far

Brace yourself: I’m here to admit there is something I dislike about Halloween. I know, right? Whooaaa…

I started noticing a few years ago. My hobby is obsessively searching for Halloween themed recipes—not just dessert type things either, but actual main dishes. I kept running across some stuff that, in my humble opinion, was NOT really about Halloween so much as it was about being disgusting. The pinnacle is the dessert/cake/pie thing that looks like a litter box with turds in it. How is this scary?

I guess I’m just funny (not ha ha), or hopelessly conventional here. My Halloween is about witches, pumpkins, ghosts, vampires, etc. Heck, I’m even OK with zombies and some of the 80’s slasher icons—although that is kind of pushing it in my book.

Today I ran across a Halloween decoration idea featuring a headless body posed by a garage door, with blood spattered to indicate the door decapitated him. Scary? Yes, but not really in a Halloween-y way. This “decoration”—and I use that term loosely—isn’t about the old timey Halloween stuff. It’s just…show-off-y.

Ah, and that is the crux of it.

I’ve read lots of books about Halloween, its origins and progress to current rituals. I understand part of the of the appeal is the sort of cutting loose, the opportunity to “get crazy”. I know it was often embraced by those not fully embraced in society, yada yada. I’m glad that it’s not just for kids—honestly! I dressed up as a witch long into my adulthood. And I get that maybe something like the garage-door-decapitation represents a new fear, whereas witches and vampires were representations of real fears of times long past.

But there is just an element of taking things too far, of a one-upmanship, of just being performative. I don’t think this can be blamed solely on the need to create Instagram moments, thought that doesn’t help.

Hold up, this is a blog about breast cancer (culture), right?

Yes. And my larger point is my frustration with the performative, exhibitionist, one-upmanship aspects of breast cancer “celebrations”.

You see, it isn’t really just Halloween that has been negatively impacted by this…this…relentless need to turn everything into a big noisy, tasteless piece of performance non-art. I’m sure I’ve compared the endless pink parades to bachelorette parties before on this blog (no idea which post). As I drove by a local race last weekend I saw men and women drenched in Pink t-shirts and tutus. The obligatory women with bras worn OVER their t-shirts were scattered throughout the crowds. All I could think was: What drives them to do that? What does it even mean? What message are they trying to broadcast by putting a pink bra on their body, over the clothes? What am I supposed to understand or learn? That they have breasts? That breasts get cancer in them sometimes? How does that help? Don’t you dare say “awareness”!

I was in a hurry, on my way to a last minute meeting, so I didn’t have time to stop, pull over, demand answers. Or slap them. Whichever.

Even bachelorette parties themselves are a newer social phenomenon, compared to bachelor parties, which are kind of new as well—when thinking in terms of the evolution of marriage in the past thousands of years of human civilization. I’m not an anthropologist, so it’s not like I’m equipped to analyze these things. I cannot help but ponder, however. What the hell is driving us to turn everything into an over-the-top celebration to the point of ridiculousness?

Honestly I’m uncomfortable with this blog post I’m writing here. I have always whole-heartedly embraced full-on celebration of holidays. Heck yeah, make the day after the SuperBowl a holiday—why not! I love the way holidays and seasons are the rhythm and flow of the year. Autumn? Gimme the PSL. Winter? I pull out my fuzzy boots and scarves. Spring? Well, that’s not my fave, so gimme allergy meds. Summer? Where’s my beach blankie?

cat pinkAnd I feel silly revealing how, ARGH, conservative, I’m being here. Am I possibly a fuddy duddy? I’d like to think I’m just such a fan of the Universal monsters that I’m saddened to see Halloween move away from those classics to…ugh, imitation cat poo. But maybe I’m just stuck in the past in my old fart yells at cloud way. I will continue to grapple with this.

But I don’t think I will grapple with, or apologize for, my views on the party atmosphere surrounding these Pink parties. I don’t care if people need to feel “hope” or celebrate survivors. The October races have become annual traditions and I’ll admit they have evolved. (I’m always complaining breast cancer culture has not progressed and evolved.) But the evolution has been this obnoxious competition of outdoing one another in levels of being outrageous. But to what end? Everyone is so busy showing off that the reason for the season seems to have gotten lost. No one seems to remember it isn’t about “saving ta tas”, it’s about the 116 who die each day.

Am I ending this post on a “downer”? You bet. It was always my nature to piss on the Pink Parades. While the revelers might whine that my negative attitude kills their fun vibe—well, I wish they’d consider why all these races began, and how far we have NOT come. In crassness, tackiness, obnoxiousness, BCAM has just gone too far. In terms of the reduction of death and sickness, sadly we cannot say the same.

 

 

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Hey Pink Noise—Please Stay In the Background

It’s not that I really thought I could totally avoid Pinktober and its smorgasbord of hellish delights. It’s just that—EVERYthing is happening SO MUCH right now. I kinda thought the bits that broke through would not interfere with my busy life. It would be like background noise—when someone is playing music you dislike so you mentally push it back there. But no.

I mean, as an American liberal #resistance person, I’m going crazy right now. I’ve spent the past 2 or 3 years completely overwhelmed, but it is noticeably worse lately. Remember after 9/11 when the news networks constantly had that threat thermometer thingie on every day, and it was usually “high”? I’ve been at orangeish-red for a long while now. But these days, it’s fire engine red.

Not everything is bad of course. No one has ever accused me of being an optimist, but there are GOOD things happening, things I like. I can’t wait for the “Zombieland” sequel, the “Mr. Robot” final season, the “Breaking Bad” movie. Of course, there is always Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations in October, which have often been a source of solace for me in these post-treatment years, when the Pink menace was just too much (even in my white-hot angry era 2012-2015). And of course, most readers here know I’d like to crown myself the Queen of Halloween. I’m getting ready to watch “Hocus Pocus” in a little while as I write this first draft!

So, with all these things I’ve just listed, it would seem that I would not, could not possibly, notice Pink Shit. Oh, but I have.

ribbonIt sort of erupted the other day in Walmart (where else?) upon seeing all this pink craft ribbon right there next to the Halloween craft ribbon! Like it was just part and parcel of October, that pink crap somehow belongs in the costume aisle. NO NO NO! Then there were the pink feather flags at the outlet malls. The ads in the paper. The electronic billboards and store marquees. The ad on local news, in which a local car dealership always, ALWAYS, gives prospective customers a pink frog for “breast cancer awareness”, they cheerfully intone (the frog is their mascot, don’t ask why). And then today, driving through a small resort township that is known for being the party section adjacent to Rehoboth Beach, DE, a large inflatable pink ribbon was being erected. “Ugh, the Race,” I thought. Yeah, it’s actually next weekend, guess they just want it up early. Guess who won’t drive through that area again? Picking up party decorations minutes later,  I saw the store featured plenty of pink ribbon themed shit. As I left, I noticed two honeycomb 2-D discs in the window—pale peach with pink centers—to indicate “titties”. Because only white woman booby cancer counts, amirite?  (first time readers of me—I’m pretty sarcastic, not sorry.)

Fortunately, I was too busy fighting a gust a wind and a plethora of helium balloons to take time to puke.

I guess it was that last thing there that lit a fire under my butt to sit and write this. Even in my haphazard avoidance, I still got the full spectrum of this month: the symbols and lip service to “courage”, to “awareness”, and then finally, the part where some places just skip over all that and use the month to celebrate the sexual angle. I look at my ugly, cancer impacted body—the aging, the weight gain, the brittleness—and that angle hits me harder every year. I ran across a photo of my pre-tattooed scar on Facebook, a pic that got removed from Tumblr (Have you ever been on Tumblr? Have you seen the porn? I mean, really? My nipple-less breast got removed? It did get re-instated after I appealed, but good grief).

It continues to shock me how very little UNDERSTANDING of this disease there is amid all this so-called “awareness”.

It’s not this simple plan everyone seems to think: have a race to promote early detection as an ultimate savior, some lovely young thing (because who gives a damn about the “olds”, the average age woman to get BC—is that still 62? I’m too lazy to research it) who “catches it early”, and all is well, no consequences.

Oh no, honey, there ARE consequences. And they are not appealing in mass culture. It doesn’t matter if the surgeon and all the other docs on the “team” ooh and ahh about the neatness of the scar, how well it healed (true story). They think it’s dandy. Race promoters do not.

Sigh, once again, I ramble on. There is not much left to say other than—I’ve said all of this before (see old posts here). I know this is still fresh for so many. For me, it’s stale but I’m still pissed off—maybe a little less so at certain aspects. I’m less likely to start screaming at other BC patients who do the “good vibes only” route. I don’t like being criticized for how I “did cancer”, therefore, I should lay off how others do it. I just don’t want people to get it twisted and think the rage of this ummm, segment of the community, and the mets segment of the community, is the dominant narrative. If that were so, I wouldn’t have to see the effen sights I put up with today. All the stuff I saw today is why many of us are still saying what we are saying. It isn’t just anger—it’s facts and truth. If these realities were more widespread and accepted—I wouldn’t see my friends on social media so upset. I wouldn’t be writing this.

And that’s the core of it for me really. All this anger I had, still have, all the words I’ve written, that so many of my friends wrote, not much has changed.

Am I wrong?

#StillPissed #JustQuieter #ButStillTryingMyBest

2019 Blog Hop Challenge Questions

OK Nancy, here ya go!

  1. Who are you? If applicable, share anything you want about your cancer (type, stage, when diagnosed, whatever.) Share something about yourself such as where you live, the name of your blog and it’s “mission”, a challenge you have faced or are facing now, or whatever you want.

My name is Wendi Dennis, aka Cancer Curmudgeon—a name I chose because I never had a nickname growing up, and well, you know my crappy attitude.

I was diagnosed on Oct 25, 2010 (a few days before my 39th birthday) with Stage 3B breast cancer, E/P negative, HER2 Positive. I didn’t really know what any of that meant. I do now.

I live in America’s Coolest Small Town (2014) Berlin, MD. You can see my town in movies Runaway Bride and Tuck Everlasting. I am a Delmarva (Delaware-Maryland-Virginia) native many generations back—but I am NOT much like others in my town. It’s very conservative and faux Southern. I am not.

My blog is called Another One With The Cancer, and I chose the handle Cancer Curmudgeon—at the time I was coming at blogging and general social media crap via Tumblr, where real, actual names were not a thing (still aren’t). I kept my real name hidden for a couple of years out of paranoia but I guess I’m over it now. See the about me section on my blog—explains the names and all.

When I began the blog I thought: if ONLY people knew what it was REALLY like to have breast cancer, all this pink fluffy shit would evaporate. I was an idiot. The blog evolved into just musings for the like-minded, so those who had similar views would not think of themselves as crazy/ungrateful/bitchy/etc. I’m just preaching to the choir, basically. 

  1. Have you ever participated in a blog hop before? 

Nope. 

  1. What’s your favorite sort of blog post to write and/or read – personal story, informational, how to, controversial, political, opinion, rant or other? 

At the risk of sounding lame, cannot say I have a favorite sort. Personal story and rant probably.   

  1. Describe yourself in three words. Yes, just three! 

Procrastinator, moody, introvert

  1. Name three of your favorite books from your youth (whatever age that means to you.) that had an impact on you. 

“To Kill a Mockingbird” – because, duh, faux Southern

Any of the Ramona books—because I love an agent of chaos

“Interview With the Vampire”—cliché, I know. But it made me realize I actually loved historical fiction best. If I had time to read books these days, that would be my genre of choice. I eventually grew frustrated with Rice’s florid style. But the book will always kindle a glow in my heart. 

  1. What are you reading right now, or what’s on your to-read list for when you have time?

Just the horrible news. I’m all podcasts all the time now—so I can absorb while driving, walking dogs, etc. It’s mostly news and politics. I have enjoyed American Hysteria tho’—which is more about stupid crap Americans believe.   

  1. What’s your favorite dessert of all time?

Cheesecake and brownie sundae; I refuse to choose between the two. 

  1. Tell us about a special pet you have, had, or would like to have. (Never wanted a pet, that’s okay too.)

Cats, cats, cats. My most recent cat was euthanized at the end of June and I am still not over it. She was never supposed to be a pet, she belong to a neighbor. But she chose me and I accepted. I hope her final 2 years with me were good. 

  1. What’s something people don’t know about you and might be surprised to learn?

Not sure I can surprise my readers—I’ve kinda put it all out there? 

  1. Do you believe healthcare is a privilege or a right?

A right. And even for those that believe it to be a privilege—with the costs so high that only a slice of America could possibly afford it—how is this fucking fair?! 

  1. What’s your favorite thing about blogging and/or reading blogs?

Connection with other regular people—not paid media 

  1. What’s something you really suck at?

Most things! Argh, next question! 

  1. What’s something you’re pretty good at?

Loving animals. 

  1. How do you escape from cancer (or life in general) worries?

I “escaped”—if I could call it that—from cancer right into politics which is also a nightmare. So escaping from worry? Hmm, YouTube and other curated social media. I was into pimple popping there for a bit (admit it, if any of you were too). Funny cats and other animals too of course (videos and memes). Tumblr was a big help when I was in my immediate post-treatment phase. I am forever grateful to members of the MCU fandom—it really helped. I even did some proofing of fan fiction—totally new for me back then! Those ladies will always hold a special place in my heart. These days it’s stupid K-pop/BTS crap. I formally apologize to all who follow me on Twitter, for all the ARMY crap I’ve been RTing lately. I need the break from reality so that’s what I’m amusing myself with for the time being.

For the Millionth Time

I had a mini-meltdown a couple of months ago. I was so angry and frustrated that I was ready to give up on all the political activism/advocacy I’ve been doing the past 2 and half years. The evening before I’d explained for the millionth time (or so it seemed) what kind of help I needed in content creation and dissemination, and it just fell on deaf ears. I know this, because I am STILL struggling this evening.

Untitled design

I angry-drove on back country roads in the very early morning hours, fuming and fussing to myself. I realized how much it was like life in CancerLand. One of the reasons I’m not as active here on this blog, on my FB page or @curmudgoe Twitter account is that I look at the conversations there and just think: “been there, done that”. I don’t have the energy to explain, for the millionth time, why warrior metaphors are harmful, that slapping pink on everything doesn’t cure breast cancer, that blaming victims flat out sucks. I just have a hard time getting angry that Facebook/Instagram once again censored a mastectomy patient’s image—didn’t Scorchy Barrington handle that back in 2013 or 14?

I took a few breaths and reminded myself of something I wrote a few years ago. It is up to us. I once was very motivated to keep explaining the shittiness of cancer, of letting the more recently diagnosed know that no, it isn’t all pink ribbons and beers for boobies parties. That it’s OK to hate it, because so many others of us who’ve gone before hate it too. Don’t have anything nice to say? Good, come sit with us (to paraphrase Dorothy Parker).

This isn’t a job exactly, this cancer advocacy, nor is my political volunteering. The newly diagnosed will come to realize some truly crappy insights, and it is my choice to support and help them expand. Their people around them might not be helpful, and I—along with other long-time bloggers—have a few tools to help with that. Same with my other activities. I must stand firm, and explain, for the millionth time, maybe in a different way, what they need to hear, so I can get what I need, so that change can actually happen. I still believe in that, as jaded and cynical as I am.

Now, if THAT isn’t a helluva cancer lesson, ha ha.

When My World Slows Down

Hello anxiety my old friend.

Three times a year everything gets weird, slows down. In May/June, when I get my annual diagnostic mammogram. Then in September, when it’s time to see the oncologist (although maybe this year will be the last time, fingers crossed), and then when I see the gynecologist, although that’s the least worrisome (sometimes). So the first and worst approaches, this Friday.

I tell myself I shouldn’t be so paranoid, shouldn’t dread this so much. Then the other half of my brain perks up and reminds me of being so caught off guard when I got my first-ever mammo back in 2010, got that false negative, and then a month later had a whole bunch to worry about.

Yes, I am worried that I am not worried enough.

So I do this dumb thing, every year. I cannot plan beyond the date of the mammogram. Well, not literally of course. I have work gigs set up for the next couple of months, even one for later the day of the mammogram. That’s something I usually avoid. I remember all too well taking a morning off from work that one day, thinking what an annoyance it was to get an inverted nipple checked out. Then spending the rest of the day bouncing around various hospital screening departments. Even seeing a breast surgeon that very same day (who moved away shortly after I met her, so she was never really a part of that whole thing).

It’s odd that my memory of this so clear, that I’m so marked by it to the point I am still, STILL, skittish about making any plans for the day I get a mammogram. I get very focused on the day (Friday, this time) and cannot allow myself to imagine what I will do on Saturday.

Argh slow down a minute please.Because I still half expect my world to get turned upside down. Again.

I know enough now to know this feeling will never go away. Yes, the dread “lead in” time is less. I’ve only begun to fixate on it today. I am so good at distracting myself now that I can hold the panic at bay, for a little while. Being busy with work helps, being an angry political activist helps, YouTube helps, stupid cat memes help. Until today.

Today I cannot think about anything beyond Friday and am vaguely annoyed by a world that keeps on spinning, by people looking forward to things that will happen later this summer. I want everything, the whole world, to just slow down for a minute, until I can get Friday over with.

Then I can go forward again.

I asked myself today to be at peace with this thing I do, this stupid habit of panic and anxiety. I cannot. I still find all of this unfair. I know “it’s not fair” whining doesn’t help, doesn’t matter. But I still feel that way.

I still hate this.

Mourning My Limitations

I know my limitations. I have learned that lesson. I learned how to say “No” so I can save my energy and my sanity. What I still struggle with is how much I hate it.

I WANT to do things. I HATE that I cannot attend that meeting, commit to that protest, go to that event. I am struggling against both regular aging and cancer-induced aging. There is so much I want to do, and I cannot do it, at least not to a fully invested ability. Half of a Curmudgeon is really no Curmudgeon at all.

OK I cannot blame this ALL on cancer. Some of it is my gig-economy lifestyle. If I don’t accept a gig, I don’t get paid, and I NEED to get paid. The cancer part comes in where I get tired all too quickly. I know my limits—I get up between 5:30-6:00 AM and I don’t have a brain at 7:00 PM. If there is a meeting I want to attend via Internet, I have to take a nap or adjust my manic daily activities—I morphed into a morning person and get most of my shit done early in the day. But it is not always the case. I ration out my time, my attention. I will attend a meeting in a few days and I have CHOSEN to do this. I have adjusted my schedule and will sacrifice a few things to attend this meeting—a meeting in which I hope to propose solutions to make my political active life a bit easier. But while it may seem like a smooth rearranging on my part—what lies behind that is all the angst I had in making choices, in figuring out my plan. It might not seem like a big deal to some readers, but to me, cutting 2 days of work is 2 days lost income. Travelling 80 miles out of my way (40 miles 2 times) on a 14 year old SUV approaching the 200,000 mark (while making an awful noise), that is trying on my nerves. I cannot afford to just up and get a new car, though I seriously need to do that.

Like I said, I hate my limitations. Not all of them are cancer-related, at least not directly. I mean, some of my financial woes is because I wiped out my savings buying insurance before the ACA kicked in. I had to buy insurance because I could no longer handle working in my 80-hour work week job after treatment. It all really does come back to the cancer, see?

There a million things I want to do, a million issues I’d like to comment on. But I am tired. So tired. I am limited

The Things I Didn’t Say Before

I am again on tenterhooks today, like many others. I even saw a think piece about how this election is a little traumatic for those who thought Clinton would win and woke up in a nightmare world 2 years ago.HCTVBlueArrowHashtag

Obviously, I haven’t written here as regularly in the past 2 years as I did before. Much of it has just been the frustration I’ve often expressed: been there, ranted that. The same breast cancer culture shit keeps happening, why bother write a new post when I have an old one I can just re-share? I mean, really! But I’ll admit a large chunk of my silence on this here blog has been my inability to keep politics out of my writings, and the constant low-grade depression I’m in…and most of all, an inability to keep bitterness and near hatred in check.

The day after the 2016 election, the thing that upset the most was how deeply conservative my region had voted. It made me glare at people in the grocery store—because all I could think was, “YOU! YOU are the one who thinks it is OK for cancer patients to go bankrupt and die because you hate the ACA”. I hated everyone around me. I’m not sure I’ve admitted that on this blog before, but it’s true.

I’d like to say I’ve grown, calmed down, but I have not. I got involved in a few groups, but now am really only still involved with my local Indivisible group. Because I work far from where I live (and vote), I handle social media aspects rather than the in-person actions our group takes on. So that means I live in the sewage of political Twitter more than I’d care to. Yes, I could choose not to—but I want to “do something”, so I do the thing I can do. I admit it has not been great for my mental health. Right after the election I was involved in airy fairy things like bridging divides, trying to have meaningful conversations with those whose views differed from mine. I no longer care. I’m simply not interested in wasting time with “agree to disagree” conversations. I’d even say I’ve been pushed more to the left than I was before—not by exposure to the far left, but by the opposite. There is only so many times “libtard” and “snowflake” can be lobbed at a person—it takes a toll.

Look, I hate the division in our country too. I hate the way the media portrays this all like it’s the SuperBowl or something—this is not a game, it is my life and pursuit of happiness. Well, look at that, I found one thing I can agree with Trump rally attendees on: CNN does indeed suck! But I cannot find common ground with someone who thinks so much of what has happened is permissible (not even going to list all that stuff). I was shaken to my core checking something on the Countable app the other day—other users post their opinions on the bills Congress is voting on. Someone simply said, people with health problems should be required to pay more—full stop. It’s this weaponization of those “Did You” questions that I feared. When I first wrote that post, it was merely just a gripe, knowing that people asked me those questions because they wanted to believe they were “safe” from getting cancer—it merely had to do with fear and a sense of control. Now I know they ask those questions because if they can believe I caused my own cancer, I can be punished for it. While the ACA remains law as I write this, I can still say MOST of my fears came true since November 2 years ago. I feared this would happen. I have no desire to engage with someone who holds this view of me.

As a cancer advocate here, I’ve often thought if we only shared the truth and reality of cancer, people would begin to understand. I cannot say that drove me to write my posts—I mostly wrote for an audience that did not need persuading—this was a place for others to come and feel relief that they felt the same way and that it was OK. I understand that advocacy requires more outreach, more appealing to empathy in others. I cannot say I’ve believed in that this year. I keep trying, I keep putting things out there—to show: this is what is at stake in this election. But I don’t have much confidence in the outcome.

Ugh, this is NOT my version of Trump’s “American Carnage” speech, though it feels like it, amiright? I refuse to pay attention to exit polls or any polls—I think most people feel that burn too. I write I guess because I am trying to muster up some hope today. But as my usual curmudgeony self—I’m girding my loins too. I never again want to experience that gut punch like with cancer (you know, how it wasn’t all pink fun and games like on TV).

I’ll watch and wait today. Then I will pick myself up tomorrow and continue this particular battle (yeah yeah, I hate battle metaphors in cancer—but this voter/political activism thing, yeah, it might be a bit more war like).

I do what I can.

The Kick In the Butt

Here is an experience I had back in 2005-06 that I keep reminding myself about, (on REPEAT):

I worked at a non-profit, running many monthly outreach film-based programs. I had a kids’ film thing at a local library. I used money from my budget to create thousands of paper(!) flyers for local elementary schools to distribute. I spent time convincing school officials to let me distribute them (each month–for some reason the permission didn’t stay in place), then getting the flyers to the schools. All this for just ONE of my several monthly events. I would get about 10 to 15 kids and their parents to attend. After a few months of what I considered out-sized effort for such ridiculous results, I stopped using the money and the time for the advertising efforts. After that, I think I got maybe 1, or 2 kids, to attend. Moral of the story: it takes A LOT of advertising/screaming-into-the-void to get even a little bit of attention.

I keep reminding myself of this frustrating episode from my life, over and over, lately. As I’ve pointed out many times here, I haven’t had time to write my own blogs, read others’ blogs, or participate, even a little bit, in the cancer community in which I was a minuscule, fringe part of in the years since I began this site. I don’t have the spoons, the emotional bandwidth. I think I popped in on Twitter a few weeks ago and found someone wondering if there is a hierarchy in cancer, and I just….navigated away. I’ve written about it extensively, others have written about it over and over.  It’s not this person’s fault, they are likely new-ish to cancer, waking up to things I realized in my progression out from the first confusing years of treatment and moved on to dealing with aftermath. But I just get frustrated that we cannot move forward (see most any blog post I’ve written in recent years).

So I think back to my story and remind myself, with gritted teeth, that it takes mammoth effort to move forward even a millimeter. In fact, I repeated this story to someone involved in local politics, and I will tell this story in a speech I have to give in a few hours to local political activists.

Why do I tell this story here and now? Well, you might have noticed that we did not have a day set aside this Pinktober for #BreastCancerRealityCheck. It’s still going on, we still encourage everyone to use the hashtag. Primarily, we were unable to create a Thunderclap–the site was just not there. I personally was unable to get any of the comparable platforms to work (they kept kicking me out). Without that Thunderclap, and a concerted effort to get people to REALLY use the hashtag around the time the T-clap happens, well, I’m not seeing much use. Heck, I’m not even using it much. I’m having too much car and computer trouble and have been so distracted I don’t do more than the bare minimum of my volunteer activities.

Then I opened Twitter upon waking up on Saturday and saw No Bra Day trending. I know that the algorithm picks things it thinks a user wants to see–but I wasn’t even using my @curmudgeo account, I was using one of my political accounts. About an hour later it wasn’t popping up on any of my accounts, but my FB feed was full of outrage from my friends who hate the day. I toyed with re-posting my own screed against No Bra Day, but within seconds went into my “why bother we never move forward no matter how hard we scream” mode.

Earlier this week I stumbled across this picture and Banksy quote. I generally roll my eyes at inspirational quotes, but I liked this one.  (The art is not Banksy’s, and the argument around even that, where I found the pic, just made me tired).

I’m not exactly resting right now–I cannot. I have too many obligations (not here in CancerLand) and too many personal troubles, I am unable to rest. But I remember that I must keep trying. I must be patient. A change in Cancer Culture will take longer than I can imagine. But that doesn’t mean I should just quit.

I cannot promise I’ll be involved as much as I like. As stated before, I’ve said nearly all I have to say about the horribleness that is cancer–I’ve said it repeatedly. But I encourage others to say their truth, their reality. Use #BreastCancerRealityCheck. There is so much bullshit out there–and we need to set the record straight. I’ll try if you try, OK?

Annual Blog Challenge 2018

Nancy of Nancy’s Point has unveiled her questions for her latest blog challenge (in the past she’s asked us to list 15 random facts and other such things, see here, here, and here).

2018 Summer Blogging Challenge Questions! 

(Boldface = Nancy’s questions, my answers follow…)

How long have you been blogging (or reading blogs)?

I started posting a few frustrated ravings in the summer of 2012 (I completed treatment in January 2012, quit my 9 to 5 a couple of weeks later). My first “real” blog here in this spot appeared November 2012.

How has your blog changed?

I write and therefore post much less since 2016. A number of factors contribute to this: I’m more involved in political activism, and well, it is rare an issue comes up (when I DO tune in to breast cancer social media) that I haven’t already written about. Why repeat myself? I’m pretty frustrated at culture’s lack of ability to progress and evolve. I understand part of this is because newly diagnosed patients are all new to this—I remember I didn’t like the pink ribbon crap prior to my own DX, but I didn’t realize all that was wrong with it until then. I’m sure I said what had already been said many times before.

What is your biggest blogging challenge/frustration?

To quote Nancy: time. Oh and spoons—I’m just too anxiety ridden lately and it fatigues me. All I can do when I finally sit down at night is watch cat videos—it’s all I’m emotionally equipped to handle most days.

What is your favorite post that you’ve written (or read)?

My personal favorite, the one I most re-share is “Did You?”

What are your goals for your blog? (Why do you read blogs?)

Venting, therapy for myself—at first. Then I realized others out there felt the same way, so my goal became community, and a source for those who come behind me to see they are not alone (see 2). Definitely NOT advice, I am sooooo unqualified. 

How many blogs do you read on a regular basis?

Not many lately. Not enough. 

How do you determine what to share and what not to share; in other words, do you have blog boundaries? (or comment boundaries)

At first I let it all hang out there, or so I thought. I’m sure I kept some things back subconsciously. I’m more likely to have stricter boundaries these days due to nature of social media-every opinion gets ripped and I get enough of that in political social media.

When things get hard, what keeps you blogging (or reading blogs)?

Well, I haven’t been (see 2).

What is your biggest Cancer Land pet peeve today, right now, this minute?

The lack of evolution and progress (again, see 2). The big charities and foundations just keep doing the same races, marketing, messaging in spite of repeated attempts to explain how they are problematic.  See “Symbols Are Stagnant Institutions, Not Solutions, Nancy G. Brinker

What one piece of advice would you offer to a new blogger?

My advice is crap.

Share something most people do not know about you. A secret sort of thing.

I hate talking on the phone because I assume the other person is making bored faces.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Spare time?! Ha! Well, I will select a special show to actually binge and pay attention to at times. I’m re-watching “The Americans” because it challenged me. I used to be such a film geek, but these days the only thing I will actually spend money at a theater on is a Marvel Avengers thing—just for the visual impact. Quiet indie films I used to prefer can be done via streaming at home to save money. I used to read, but…..I fall asleep when I sit, and listen to podcasts all day. I do try to re-listen to my fave all time book (“To Kill A Mockingbird”, of course) each summer, but I think I’ll miss out this year.

 

I keep saying I’ll get back to writing blog posts and keep not doing it. I do have 2 rants in my head that maybe I can get done. And #BreastCancerRealityCheck is in the works too. And possibly another thing. I swear! I WILL try to keep in the community.

After All This Time

After all this time, scanxiety is still a bitch. It will be 8 years since diagnosis in October for me, and I’m impatient with myself. I’m soooooo jaded about EVERYTHING in cancer world (and elsewhere) yet I can’t seem to be jaded about my own fear.

Some annual mammograms are worse than others. I was tense last year, but not very much. I kind of figured it would “all be OK” and it was. This year I’ve had some pain on my right side, around the breast and under the arm. That would be the other side—my cancer had been on my left. I’ve also had some nagging throat/gland pain, so my paranoia is quite high. So naturally, as you can imagine, I’ve been a massive asshole for the past month or so. Super irritable. Quiet. Too much in my own head, up my own ass. What little “acting upbeat” energy I mustered, I saved for my job, and I’m ashamed to say I didn’t manage that quite well either.

When I went for my mammogram a couple of days ago—the oncologist always schedules a diagnostic, not just a screening one—I brought up the pain, and was approved to get an ultrasound too. All is well (with that; my throat issue will be dealt with next week). Two things struck me so hard during that hour or so it took to do all of this. The first was an idea that maybe I’m good at manipulating this situation. There is a sort of—not privilege exactly—being a former cancer patient. I was believed, there was no question. I know how to phrase it in med-speak: “I’m experiencing pain in the lymph area, and the side of the breast,” I say, so calmly. And they are all over it. It just seems to be in great contrast to things I’ve read (at random, they just seem to pop up in feeds lately) about womens’ pain being dismissed, chalked up to mental/emotional stuff. And while I still carry around a grudge about my first ever mammogram totally missing my giant-ass tumor back in 2010, I no longer mention it in the threatening manner I used to use to let imaging techs know–hey, you fucked up with me before, don’t let it happen again. What a weird status, to be a former cancer patient in the imaging center.

Second thing that struck me was just how much I HATE all of this. I hate the mammogram, it freaking hurts, especially on my left—the impacted side, the nippleless one. I always think I’m going to faint, but luckily I manage to get through. I hate sitting there in the ultrasound room, I hate the gel. I hate going into any medical facility, if I get right down to it. I hate being older so that the likelihood of potential diseases increase each year—any disease—whatever that will force me to take meds, see doctors. Yeah yeah, aging is a privilege denied to many, too many that I’ve known. So I’m not doing the “getting old isn’t for the faint of heart” thing—but, dammit!

When I was making my treatment decisions during that year, I remember a friend advising me to just “chop ‘em off”. So insensitive and I’m still sore about that. But on the other hand, before my diagnosis, I probably held the same view. It was only when faced with the reality that I recoiled from that caviler notion, and decided to take the lumpectomy the oncologist and surgeon recommended—because my chemo had done “so well”! Not sure why I didn’t want to lose my breasts, they aren’t great or anything, and I’m NOT a beauty queen, it was kind of out of character for me, really. Afterward, I was a bit smug, as I read all the articles during my early blogging days saying women were over-treating, jumping the gun in bi-lateral mastectomy, which does NOT increase survivability, does NOT decrease recurrence (cancer very rarely jumps from one breast to the other). I was prideful of a rational decision. But really I was just afraid; of what I don’t know. There are days I regret it. I know full well this is stupid, removal would prevent very little, but when scanxiety kicks in, rationality flies out the window. And I would just redirect my paranoia to other body parts—I’m doing it right now!

(NOTE: I’m not a medical professional, don’t let my confession of regret inform your decision—hell, don’t take ANYTHING I say or do as a factor into a decision—I am the worst, trust me, I’ve lived with myself for 46 years, I repeat, I’m the worst.)

I think I started this blog in 2012, so it is nearly 6 years I’ve been at this. I bet I can find complaint posts from as far back as 2013-14 regarding my frustration with the bi-annual “mammograms are not that great” debate, the cyclical debates about war metaphors, just everything. Feels like I’ve heard every angle to every argument about a million times. As I’ve said on this blog repeatedly, I’m short on patience. I cycle through things quickly. I get jaded fast before others (new patients I guess) even discover some of this stuff. So now I’m a bit jaded and impatient with myself. So often in the past year I’ve written posts here and on Facebook that cancer culture and the pink shit has GOT to move forward, the stagnation is choking me! Now I’m gagging at my own stagnant self, because I am still reduced to jelly knees when the annual trek to the imaging center arrives.

Longtime readers know, I’ve been absent here because I’ve switched focus to politics in the past 18+ months. But I’ve even been lame with that. Every day is a new low, a new outrage, and I am very burned out. This is not good for someone who has no patience (like, uh, me!). So I’ve been careful on Twitter, on all 3 of my accounts—nothing worse than an angry tweet, screenshots are forever! And Facebook’s algorithm is so stupid I just keep seeing the same stuff over and over; I do little 1 minute scrolls on my phone, but I barely register what I see.

I guess you could say I’ve disengaged a little bit. I needed a distraction for April and May so I concentrated on the end of the TV series “The Americans”, interacted with other fans—it was nice. I needed that escape.

Of course, I cannot stay disengaged for long, real life intrudes. I was stuck in traffic the other day (summer at the beach, y’all) behind this car with a multi-colored ribbon sticker that said “support cancer awareness”. It took all I had to not leap out of the car and shake the other driver: “what the hell does that even mean?!” I was so overcome with hatred for the word “awareness”, for the fact it has lost its meaning. And just a few minutes ago I was trying to listen to the 50 freakin’ podcasts I’ve downloaded on my phone and an interview with Amy Robach popped up. It was only a 15 minute thing (or so—I listen at 1.5 speed or I’d never catch up). But she managed to say every damn cliché known to breast cancer narratives (yes narrative is a damn cliché too). I only agreed with her on one thing: that it can kind of suck that docs tell us our treatment is “our choice”. I mean, I appreciate not having some god-complex-afflicted doctor command me from on high like in the old days, but on the other hand, I am paying for their expertise, because I sure as shit don’t have it. Everything else she said was just a mess. She started right off with the whole cancer makes you a better person myth that is oh so damaging. I would’ve turned it off, but I was washing dishes, and I just didn’t want to take the time to stop, dry my hands, then go back to it. I guess I should reign in my harshness. New patients might find solace in her “story”, others still, who are more like myself—and probably like you if you’re reading this—have to come to their realization in their own time. I can’t just stand up and be like, “hey can we all collectively, as cancer patients, no matter what year of our journey we’re at, just stop with this tired old script?” I want to do that, but then, I’m a bit crazed of late.

quotes-Where-is-my-mind-

Well, I went off the rails a bit didn’t I? This has been a periodic, classic Cancer Curmudgeon word vomit, stream-of-consciousness ramble. It is the written, electronic, blog post equivalent of me poking my head out of the little cocoon I’ve developed, looking around and going “what the fuck?” and diving back down.