The Cancer Curmudgeon is a Cat Meme Come to Life

OK so the title isn’t THAT big of a startling confession. I should’ve suspected my true nature all along. But the stay-at-home thing has REALLY highlighted this truth.

As soon as the rumors of school/bars/restaurants etc. began rumbling, the cat memes began taking over all of my feeds. I mean all—my personal feeds and social media platforms I run for others. The best was the first—it was so succinct. It said something like: dogs will be the real winners of the pandemic because the humans will be home ALL. THE. TIME. The cats….not so much. Then every other meme I saw was something like a cat writing in a diary—the human is STILL in my spot; won’t leave the house. You get the idea.

Stay at home cats

The takeaway—at least the way I interpret it—goes like this: cats were great at staying home and social distancing all along. Then those humans had to do it too, and got all up in the cats’ personal spaces. This exact thing is happening to me.

I actually prefer staying in. I’m not an especially social creature. One of the fall-outs from my whole cancer experience was this introduction to social media, which I’d sort of avoided/did only for work, prior to the end of my treatment. I enjoyed those heady days of 2012—finding various nooks and crannies of the internet—my cancer friends, my geeky fandom friends (and yes there is crossover). The best part for me was that it was kind of on my own terms. I could tune out a few days if I wanted, if my social anxieties barged in. I learned to curate my feeds to make me happy—which has turned out to be an oddly useful skill of late.

In the crazy first days of the stay-at-home era, I experienced a barrage of buzzing notifications on my phone. Much was work related—and kind of my own fault. I bought into the idea of “Doing Something” (a mistake I will explore in a follow up post). I asked for info about where kids could get lunches since schools were closed, info to help local communities. I was busier than before in crafting messages to get out on behalf of clients/volunteer orgs. All the messages I’d carefully created and scheduled to go out had to be taken down and I was scrambling to adapt and replace (hmmm, sometimes getting too ahead and planning too carefully CAN backfire).

Don’t get me wrong, I am super grateful people sent me things—on all platforms—to collect and wrangle into a coherent message. It was just a bit overwhelming when I was out scavenging for groceries. On top of that, a few folks—people I truly like—put me in group texts of encouraging messages. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated them—but it was weird. Because it was coming from people I usually only interact with in person—not in social media/phone worlds.

I was like the cats, with all the extroverts coming into my space, bringing too much energy. I felt a bit claustrophobic. See, as an introvert, I can control WHEN I interact—in like a coffee shop or at a meeting. When I’m drained, I can retreat. I can interact with my online world at my discretion. Zoom meetings, Google chat, texts that I feel compelled to respond to—no matter how late at night—it all feels invasive.

It’s like this old joke on tumblr: in the early days of the internet we were told we should NOT tell strangers/weirdos online where we live in real life. In 2012, we didn’t want to tell people we knew in real life about our weirdo tumblr accounts. I was VERY careful when I began my blog—I never wanted to reveal my real name. I eventually got over that and blurred the boundaries a little. Because I seriously doubt anyone I know gives a shit about my weirdo online life.

But this is…a lot.

Things have already started to calm down, the adjustment period is setting in. I’m back to having some measure of control over my boundaries. When I manage to get out for my bit of walks/fresh air, or when I’m out hunting for elusive toilet paper—I’ve learned to ignore the buzzing alerts. I’ll be trapped inside later and will have to time to deal with whatever it is. And they will be around later, too. They can respond to me when their self-imposed schedule allows as well.

But I’m not doing another damn Zoom this week. Enough!

Listicles

Not gonna lie, I’ve always loved listicles. I don’t love or hate, oh I don’t know, let’s say: pickles. But if I run across an article or even TV show listing top 10 brands for pickles, I would just HAVE to see what made it to number 1. And as a self-professed pop culture addict (movies and music, mostly), those year end lists of best bands/albums/movies generally have me riveted.

decade listicle post

Of course, the downside began when I started to get older and drifted away from current music—this was in the early 2000s. But since I was diagnosed in 2010, I even began to disconnect from movies as well. (2005-2012, I worked in film distribution, so I was especially plugged in to year end best in film stuff, it was occupational hazard.)

Now it is 2020 so for the past few weeks those “decade definers” types of articles were in my face and it has been…a strange experience.

(Pause for special note: yeah, I know there is an argument that 2021 is the REAL beginning of the next decade—hey I remember everyone arguing about when the 21st century actual began and just the exhausting nonsense of Y2K. I have no opinion on that, and the endless bickering did not erase those year end listicles from my feeds or emails.)

I know lots of patients say things like “cancer doesn’t define me” or “I’m not a survivor, I’m a person who had/battled breast cancer.” I’ve written a little about this in past blog posts but haven’t really gone into depth about how I feel about this “what defines me” mess. I did not like to identify as a “survivor” in the past, but I do now out of necessity. Being an advocate and political activist with a specialty in health care issues, I found that self-identifying this way gives my words a bit more gravitas (although I could go into a whole thing about that too, but some other blog day).

Reading all these year end and decade things left me with a profound feeling of disconnect. Or if not that, a bizarre connection. The weekend Obama sent Navy Seals to kill Bin Laden, I was recovering from my lumpectomy. I remember reading those damn moving crawls on the bottom of news programs and getting dizzy and sick (I don’t do so well recovering from anesthesia it turned out).

I was totally disconnected from contemporary music in 2010-2012. I only remember using my cancer card to listen to hip-hop all the time as my mother—who dislikes hip hop—drove me to treatments. And even then I listened to old school. I tried to get current as this decade ended, but I confess I don’t listen to music as much as I once did, spending my time to podcasts, because well, remember: political activist now. I barely know any of the artists on the year end and decade lists; I used to know all of them. All my music memories now are tied to my cancer experience: what I listened to then, and the things I delved into in order to deal with post-treatment depression.

I used to be so plugged in to the “awards season” pertaining to films—again occupational hazard. But I guess all those years only liking “prestigious” film finally got to me. Unless it is a big budget Marvel or “Star Wars” movie, I find it useless to spend time and money at the theater. One can only see so many “gritty”, no-budget, artworks before it gets tiresome. There are a few films I’d like see these days. But, I dare not go to a movie starting at 7—I’m so unlikely to stay awake through the whole thing! Better to stream it in bits and pieces later. I know that is not how the filmmakers think their work should be experienced—but, hey—reality!

I did not expect all the year end think pieces and listicles to smack me in the head like this. It saddens me that the pleasure I used to take in pop culture got dimmed by life, aging, and especially cancer. I know some would say that I LET that happen. But coping mechanisms like escaping to a world via a movie, or listening to music, are bound to get a little tied into the very thing that required the coping in the first place. The fact I remember so vividly listening to hip-hop so much during drives to treatment is precisely because I needed to listen to something I enjoyed, but of course those things got tied in my mind. I remember very clearly seeing “True Grit” on Christmas Day 2010, because so many people thought “Black Swan” would be too much for my recently-diagnosed depressed state of mind. Except, guess what? All the meds caused me to have vivid terrifying nightmares, one featuring snakes. The snake scene in “True Grit” nearly sent me over the edge. I generally can watch Coen Brothers films repeatedly—but I’ll never watch that one again.

I’d like to say some sort of “good riddance to the 2010s” or end-of-decade-the-new-decade-will-be-MY-TIME, but you KNOW that’s not my style.

I will just keep plugging away, doing the work that needs to be done, whether that be in political health activism or my continued efforts here in CancerLand, toward healing or trying to create some Cancer Culture change.

Wow, the cliché is true: time really does march on!

When I Hustle Bustle

Well Monday was weird.

P_NKTOBER_I’d been running around and I noticed a truck at a local dealership had a “Pinktober” decal on it. I know I saw it when I passed it by like an hour or so before, and apparently instantly forgot about it. When I saw it that second time, I had a vague memory of seeing it earlier in morning. But it didn’t hit me/annoy me until that second time I passed by it.

After the momentary annoyance of seeing a truck decked out like this, with a joyful, festive look (yes, there were pink balloons tied on other cars), I kind of freaked out. It took me 2 ride-bys to register this atrocity. Or wait—I’ve been traveling Rt 1 all month, how long has it been there? It was the freakin’ 28th! Soooo, do I just not see this crap anymore now?

And hang on, I thought the word “Pinktober” was a term of derision used by those of us who dislike all the Pink crap to sum up all the hell that the month contains? So, what…now it has been taken and used in exactly the way it was meant to mock? Am I remembering wrong?

This wasn’t the first jarring event, to be honest. The other morning I was doing my work and noticed it was the 27th. Two whole days beyond the 25th, the anniversary day of diagnosis. I just zoomed by, doing all my stuff, and didn’t even think about it. It’s not like I’m unaware of the date of each day—my jobs depend on knowing the date, the day. I guess I got so focused on the tasks scheduled for my day, Friday, October 25, that I….just…forgot. Or more like, lacked the mental space for my brain to process.

I mean, it’s not like I “do” anything to mark the day, and I don’t dread it or get depressed or anything—I don’t observe dates/holidays like that. It doesn’t matter—in that way, I guess. The residue of having had cancer is an every-damn-day kind of thing. A few weeks ago, I experienced a wave of anger about being a former cancer patient, almost as intense as when I was fresh out of treatment. I think I was tired and was just overwhelmed that cancer has stolen my vitality. I should be able to do more without fatigue. My anger bubbled up in a way it has not done in a while, but it cooled back down to my usual simmer.

I guess this is all kind of good. I didn’t get stressed by the Pinktober crap because I don’t “see” it—even when it’s there. I’ve commented to some of you that it seems less in your face this year—but I wonder if my perception is up to snuff. I mean, that Pinktober truck—maybe it was there all month! I honestly don’t know! As for missing my awful date, I guess that’s OK too, I never want to relive that moment.

But on the other hand, I don’t like all my hustle and bustle. October is over and as a Halloween lover, I feel like I missed out—too busy and distracted even while chiding myself to ENJOY FALL. Well, I cannot blame just being busy—I blame the weather too. The other day I sat watching Laurie Strode in her 1978 sweater fashions and Mike Meyers in his jumpsuit, while I sweated in shorts. All I could think was, aren’t they hot? The lingering summer in my region just kills that “Halloween” vibe.

The hustle bustle and distraction can provide a healthy distance. But losing connection, not being plugged in—to the good things (Halloween) AND the bad (Pink crap)—is less healthy. I regret my distance from the cancer world at times. I’ve written 3 whole posts in recent weeks, counting this one, after leaving it unattended for months on end. I forgot that writing helps me, even if it’s anger and annoyance that forces me into a chair to do some writing. I usually feel better afterwards.

I cannot promise to keep up, to post more. I still get so tired and upset at times that mindless scrolling or movie watching can help me. But I will try.

Catchy Phrase

I wasn’t fond of catch phrases or slogans before cancer, but after I was done with treatment (in my white-hot angry phase), I came to HATE them. Oh no, is that a cancer lesson? (Yes, that’s sarcasm.)

I’ve eased up a little bit in my loathing of catch phrases. That has little to do with cancer/health advocacy and more to do with my foray into political activism. I now spend time trying to create catchy phrases—if not outright slogans—to make into short tweets or Instagramslogan quotes. What can I say, there is no room for nuance in the American mind.

Back in September I posted (on FB) an Ovarian Cancer graphic, something with a “not all cancers are pink” slogan on it. Someone pointed out in comments that breast cancer isn’t pink either. I chuckled to myself—I once probably said the same thing, angrily, back in the day. And it is totally right. I guess I was so busy/distracted/unfocused that in my haste to make sure I honored September as Ovarian cancer’s “month”, I paid little attention—just shared the first thing that popped up in my feed.

I’ve spent so much time since ending treatment railing about how much I hate the factory-like churn of finding a cause, labeling it, assigning a color and a ribbon. I still hate it, but I have tried to submerge the hatred in an effort to be a better advocate. Once upon a time I even tried to get my Maryland hometown to join the Paint the Town Teal Ovarian Cancer awareness events (where I work in Delaware, they do a great job). I offered to help coordinate—but never wanted to take on sole leadership because, well, I had breast cancer, not ovarian. And I hate ribbons. But after November 2016 I had to focus elsewhere. I get it that anyone currently going through either cancer, that is likely their whole world. But I have to think bigger (protecting/demanding health care access/lower costs/preexisting conditions) right now—unless a recurrence shrinks my whole world again.

I spend A LOT of time these days thinking about words and phrases that will stick in the minds of the public. Crazy, considering I once wrote a whole post (SOME WORD PROBLEMS) about hating common phrases in breast cancer culture. I still hate all those phrases, and often want to fight anyone saying something as asinine as “mammograms save lives”. It just seems these phrases have lost meaning—do people even know what they are saying when they say “support awareness”—what does that even mean?! You BE aware, or cultivate/grow awareness in others—but SUPPORT it? Why the hell support awareness? Soooooo stupid it burns my brain to contemplate it!

Look, the truth is, ALL the slogans and catchy phrases suck. I can tear all of them down. I guess the main goal is trying to avoid outright harm.

OK, so with that lofty aim, what IS harm, in the world of breast cancer slogans? Because of my personal history (mammo showed my big ass 6cm tumor and radiologist dismissed it); I would say “mammograms save lives” is harmful—but obviously my view is skewed. (Check here and there is probably more, but I’ve been bitching about this too long now, so just read random blog posts–I likely complained. )

What about “save the ta-tas” and ALL the related “sexy” things, like “just here for the boobs” and the Coppafeel organization? Also, please know I HATE all slang for breasts. So I can REALLY go off on the harm this shit causes.

What about 1 in 8 and the caveats that are in that stat?

What about all the be positive/she-ro mess? Oh FFS (Take the Mythical Image of the Strong Breast Cancer Survivor and Bury HER Once & For All).

What about all the “brews and boobs” celebrations (see Chicken and Beer)? I mean, encouraging drinking is not great, right? Don’t get me started on the live healthy/blame game stuff (see Did You? OMG I’ve covered nearly everything, why can’t we progress in cancer activism, arrrgggghhhh)

OK, there are probably more but honestly I can’t even right now. Personally I can make arguments as to why all the above are harmful. I guess I need perspective. Thoughts?

I shall end my ramble here.

(As I write this, I am in an online squabble with someone I don’t know about a political graphic I attempted to make—so take this post with a grain of salt. I’m a little touchy about things at the moment.)

 

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.

 

 

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.

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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