I Got The Female Trouble

The time has come for the ol’ Cancer Curmudgeon to explain that blog title and name. It will be a nice, amusing (to me) diversion from the rant-y posts I’ve been drafting, and certainly a diversion from spending my internet & computer time obsessive-compulsively changing passwords to all my freakin’ accounts, after being repeatedly “compromised” this week.

Some time ago when I joined Twitter I got a couple of random comments about calling myself a curmudgeon, because curmudgeons are usually—but not by definition—grumpy old men…and I am a grumpy middle-aged woman.  I realize it might even be therapeutic for myself to get it down on paper (or electronic document, as it were).

Part 1 – anotheronewiththecancer

I’m from south of the Mason Dixon line, but it is barely THE SOUTH. However, as mentioned in past posts, some leaves and branches of the family tree floated on the wind here from THE SOUTH, and this particular, peculiar area in which I live does have some, ahem, tendencies, the quirky dialect being one. When I was young, I remember hearing old timers talking about how so and so got “the cancer”. I used to think it was a stupid way to talk. I wanted everyone to talk like people on TV, not sound so hick. Last summer, to get myself out of my post-treatment funk, I read a lot of essays by North Carolinian humorist Celia Rivenbark. I am always delighted by her numerous explanations of Southernisms, including how everyone she knows calls it “The Cancer”. Of course, she also mentions in a few essays that one must always call Kmart “The Kmart”, as she says, “out of respect”. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I’ve uttered the words “I’m going to the Kmart,” my own self (yeah, bad grammar, but common here). At any rate, while I knew intellectually that other regions called it “The Cancer” it was nice to see it discussed as a more widespread phenomenon.

I knew when I was diagnosed that people in town would talk about how so and so’s (insert random relative) granddaughter/niece/cousin had got “The Cancer”. No one would use my name, because here, who you are is defined by “your people”. Therefore one is always referred to not by name but by their relation to some other name: as in Jim-Bob’s niece, or Anna Mae’s granddaughter. Since so many in my family, in my town, have cancer or died of cancer, I simply became — another one who got “The Cancer”.

Part 1.5 – title of this post, female trouble

Another little quirk that I used to think (when I was little) was just in my family, but learned as I grew up was a Southern habit, is the way women gather to whisper about gynecological troubles. Of course, things are different now; we are encouraged to scream about breast cancer from the rooftops these days. But I am sure there is a certain type of woman, and there are less of them now, that still enjoys this activity the same way I remember the women in my family enjoying it. I cannot describe this bizarre quirk well, since I avoided these types of talks. The best descriptions are in Florence King’s “Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady” and “Southern Ladies and Gentlemen”. For the uninitiated, the best I can muster in the form of a description is this: having some kind of gynecological problem makes one a lady, and this is the ultimate expression of womanhood. Think of it as how in olden times (which I believe took place before the good ole days), women were expected to be weak of constitution, always fainting, never robust. That’s the gist. King describes it much better.

Let me pause here to say that while I am not a tomboy, I’m not very girlie-girl either. Oh on occasion I enjoy wearing dresses and such. And I almost always step out of the house with at least foundation make-up on, if not lipstick (I think some definitions of lady require the wearing of lipstick, not sure where I read that, and I cheat with tinted lip balm). But at my core, I dislike the stuff socially associated with womanhood. The color pink is a big one, I’ve always preferred green. I don’t like Lifetime television, and I loathe rom-com movies. Conformity ain’t my best thing, I just never realized how bad that was until I didn’t want to join in rah-rah pink-hood.

I hated, Hated, HATED those whispering clusters of women, who relished discussing gynecological ailments. I’m not sure if it’s a result of being taught in school by feminist hippies, watching Mr. Spock on “The Star Trak” (according to the aforementioned Rivenbark, we always have to say “Star Trak”, not Trek, and that is exactly how my grandmother said it) or just what, but I always used proper, scientific, anatomical language when speaking of breasts, uteruses and other organs. I still do, though no one in my family listens to me. It seems the women in my family were ALWAYS having female trouble: breast cancer, miscarriages, hysterectomies and the like. I got my own first taste in my late teens, getting a diagnosis of dysmenorrhea, which luckily I was able to control, eventually. Of course, not before the elder females in the family had their fun discussing it in those whispering circles, much to my horror and disgust, ooo-ing and ahh-ing over my paleness—obvious evidence of my femininity (and being drained of blood). Ugh, gag me. Isn’t cramping, excessive bleeding, and vomiting fun?

And then I wound up getting one of the Big Mamas of all Female Trouble—breast cancer. For two seconds I entertained the notion that breast cancer must be my comeuppance for scoffing at all those circles of whispering women. Of course, as a rational, logical being (thanks Mr. Nimoy!) I reject the notion, but I cannot deny the irony, or the notion the universe has a sick sense of humor.

The bottom line, calling my blog anotheronewiththecancer is just my way of ceasing the struggle against my lineage. I may not have turned into a full-on pseudo southern lady like most of my family, but so much of cancer science has to do with family history, that the blog name is sort of me coming to grips with the fact that no matter how much I tried to make myself different from my family background, it caught up with me anyway.


Part 2 – The Cancer Curmudgeon

Well, shit, if Beyonce can just go and start up an alter ego and name it Sasha Fierce, I can have an alter ego too! The name must be part of her whole female empowerment shtick, I mean there must be more to female power than flashing boobs and booty rather than intelligence. Whoops did I just say that. Yes, still sarcastic.

Anyway, developing this name is a way to create a therapeutic device as I start my post-cancer, post-previous-job life.

Why Cancer Curmudgeon? Well, the alliteration is awesome, obviously. But more accurately, it has to do with treasured books by American author, journalist, founder of the Fund for Animals, and cat Dad, Cleveland Amory. Amory wrote a series of books about his cat called Polar Bear, including one titled “The Cat and the Curmudgeon.” To say Amory was an outspoken animal rights activist is mild. He once suggested on national TV that a hunt club should be formed in order to hunt and kill other hunters for sport, claiming it would only be humane, as there is an overpopulation of hunters. Satirical and extreme to absurdity, I love that. And yes, he got into hot water over the comments.

Amory would continue to be a curmudgeon for the cause for the rest of his life (and I wonder if just for the sheer fun of being a curmudgeon). Being an animal and pop culture lover, I loved his Polar Bear book series. One image I’ll never forget (although I cannot name which book it is in) is his description of an attempt to walk Polar Bear on a leash in a park. Mainly the cat just sat there, annoyed, while Amory orbited around him, leash in hand. Apparently, Polar Bear was a curmudgeon as well.

So yes, I am a bit of a curmudgeon, a malcontent, a borderline misanthrope (might be why I spend most of my time with animals). Mostly I am like Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory”, forever pointing out to Penny that her check engine light is on. I perceive things in cancer world that seem not quite right, such as the twisting of stats, the use of pink to sell plastic crap (without transparency as to if the corporation is actually donating anything and if so, what the money is being used for), the sexualization of breast cancer, the blurring of the line between early detection and prevention (my personal white whale). I cannot help myself, I must speak up about it. And like Sheldon, who cannot conceive of a world in which anyone would not get her car fixed when there is obviously a problem, I wish to correct the problems—starting with talking about them, even if the problems are hard to talk about. Of course, not everyone would agree that the things I just listed are indeed problems, or worse, some will just not see them at all, citing that the overall greater good is worth a few problems. I disagree. If that makes me a curmudgeon, well, looks like I chose my name wisely.

Author: Cancer Curmudgeon

Oct 2010 diagnosed with Stage 3, HER2+ Breast Cancer. Completed treatment Jan 2012. Waaaaaay over pink. Applying punk rock sensibility to how I do cancer.

19 thoughts on “I Got The Female Trouble”

  1. I lived in the South for 7 years-6 years in NC followed by a year in Northern Florida. The use of language there is often endearing, sometimes maddening, but always interesting.


    1. Yes, and as you know each area has its own accent, sometimes unintelligible from one place to the next! I am from one county & state, and work in another county & state, and man is it different. Just like Alabama (I once had a co-worker from there) is sooo different. But we all say these things: “y’all”, “all y’all” (that is more that 3 folks), “bless your heart,” (everyone knows the meaning of that by now I think), and my fave “how’s your mom & them?” (pronounced “‘ow’syermominem”). I actually entered that last one in a contest about Southern sayings, but did not win.


  2. Nicely writen grumpy ol’ gal. I’m not from The South but, can draw many correlations to my own upbringing. Don’t want to tell you how many birds I shot yesterday. Arson was being a bad boy he kept breaking. Not sure Cleveland would have liked hanging out with me.


    1. Thanks! Uh-oh. So funny you mention this. I was just chatting with a hunter who is raising a puppy for hunting, the Lab pup is friends with the Lab pup I was sitting that day, and was telling about some previous dogs and their, uh, lack of skills in duck hunting–that is the big thing here, along with deer of course. But, ultimately, it is the rabbits who are the bane of my existence. All dogs chase them, dragging me along. Luckily, most of the dogs I care for are lazy when it comes to deer, which run rampant in the newly built communities (humans encroaching on the land). If they were not lazy, I would not survive. I’ve had my share of being pulled down and skinned knees and elbows.


      1. Had Arson been wearing his training collar he would not have done this, nor would he need to be corrected he’d just know better. He was taking liberties because I wasn’t the one honoring him, a new club member had him out and I was shooting which I think he interpreted as us upland hunting.

        Anyway he has never nor will he ever pull me over, no skinned knees for me. And yes, they’ll chase rabbits, squeals, mice, rats, deer, coyotes, skunks, name it. If it moves has feathers or fur they want it in their mouths so when we hike I just put their training collars on them then I don’t have to worry about any out of control chases, and again I don’t have to use it because wearing it is a big enough threat. They are both collar wise which means they know the appropriate behavior they are just being brats.


  3. Gosh, I’m going to have to come back and read this one again. It’s jammed pack full of good stuff. “The cancer” is the ultimate “female trouble” – that’s priceless. I have never heard it described that way! You’ve got some real zingers in here. Cancer Curmudgeon, I happen to think it’s a great name for your blog. And that’s meant to be a compliment! Thanks for writing this.


  4. FABULOUS! I grew up in the SouthWest, where my “people” just wandered from other parts. I love tales of the South, and, recently, thanks to “Toddlers & Tiaras” have come to love the accents and dialects. I love your blog name, and while I have seen it around, this is my first visit. I added you to my blog list on my my blog. Love the writing and descriptions.


    1. Thanks, wow, I just saw this comment on here, sorry for not responding earlier. Thanks for adding me to your blog and for loving the writing. If you go back to read Punk Rock (Breast) Cancer, you’ll see why your kind words mean so much to me.


  5. This is a great post, its always good to get insight to other parts of the world from someone who lives there rather than the sanitised versions we get in the media. The ‘female trouble’ is a real problem for a lot of people in the UK, its just not the done thing to talk about breasts or ovaries and the like. Mention them and you’re likely to get an embarrassed sideways look or a rapid change of subject. Becomes problematic when people ask how I am and I tell them the truth!


  6. That’s why I love your blog, and the internet as a whole, too, I think. It was very isolated when and where I grew up. These days I can interact with people from all over, and I like to think about how everyday life is in other places! What is pink ribbon culture like in the UK, for instance? (I’ve mentioned a few times on my blog that we in America are almost expected to wear our breast cancer/survivor status loud and proud.) I’ve interacted with a young guy who is a pharma student in Scotland (who did his thesis on BRCA and HER2), and it was just so wonderful to hear such a different perspective about breast cancer. I guess the only downside is that I’d like to meet people I interact with online in person, and that for me is financially impossible. So, now I have a new form of longing. Someday maybe.


  7. Awesome! Pleased to “meet” you, Wendi! 😉
    Cleveland Amory! His was the first newspaper column I read regularly when I was but a young little thing. I don’t often meet another fan. Of course, I’ve been YOUR fan since I first read your blog.
    Big hugs!
    Oh, and until a very few years ago, in Israel people referred to “a serious illness”, never cancer.


    1. And pleased to meet you–and yay another Amory fan. I love Willie Morris too–who wrote My Dog Skip, and then fell in love with a cat and wrote about it, after a meeting with Amory. Just great stories. (I’m a pet sitter, so partial to cat and dog tales). Thanks–and I am your fan too!! Hugs!!

      PS–that serious illness, instead of cancer, is interesting given some stuff I’ve read lately implying that cancer patients never feel shame. Hmmmm…


  8. I’m so late to this party, Wendi, but I had to jump in here to add a wee bit to your stated preference for “using proper, scientific, anatomical language when speaking of breasts, uteruses and other organs”. Hallelujah! Please send that memo on to Oprah…

    In the late 1950s – just to reinforce how the times they are a’changin’ – the six mothers in Franklin Park, Illinois (note: NOT the South!) who founded La Leche League had to call it that (Spanish for “milk”) because no local newspapers at the time would advertise their free breastfeeding support group meetings because they had, you know, that B-word in their names…


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