Sunday, October 16, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Rosie

Sorry about the photo (looks like sight-impaired grandma and her seeing eye dog), but I dropped my camera and this was about the last family pic I had. 
Today, October 16, marks my one year anniversary as a breast cancer survivor. One year ago, my adult nurse practitioner reluctantly told me I had invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) of the right breast.

Marking survivorship from the day of diagnosis is a relatively new point of view. Not that it gives you better bragging rights, but because this philosophy emphasizes the importance of every decision you make after you hear that chilling news.

Have I made good decisions? Well, therein lies the problem… I won’t know until I die (of whatever cause!). Certainly there are things I would do differently. (Want to know what they are? Just send $19.95 and I’ll mail you Rosie’s Four Simple Rules for Making the Most Important Decisions of Your Life.) Here's a sample:

Rule one -- Don’t look for simple answers, especially from non-experts. In fact, don’t look for simple answers from anyone, even “experts.” Cancer is so complicated it’s just not possible. Educate yourself by learning about your particular variety of the disease, ask questions and always get a second opinion. Oops. Never mind the $19.95. I just gave you the rules.

So, how am I doing one year later? I feel good. I don’t have the same stamina or strength of 18 months ago, but I exercise every day. I don’t take any medications (much to my oncologist’s dismay) because they make me feel lousy and I figure after messing with my hormones (birth control + HRT) for half my life, it was time to stop mucking about with my precious bodily fluids.

As for my mental outlook; a few months back, a friend asked if I were a kinder person after having gone through this episode in my life. As I recall, I brushed her question aside and denied having gone through any major personality breakthroughs. But I’ve come to reconsider that answer. It’s not so much that I’ve become kinder, it’s that I’m learning things about myself that I am finding humbling to discover. Do I have to tell you what they are? Not yet! Humility is a new trait for me; let me get used to it for a while! 

I found a helpful discussion about knowing oneself on my favorite blog site: Happiness in this World. (Philosophical stuff written by a young physician who was formerly Jewish, but is now a Nichiren Buddhist. His topics cover life, death and everything in-between in weekly Monday morning posts he promises take only five-minutes to read. His views are always worth pondering and the comments from his readers are often every bit as profound as what he writes.)

The bandana is to keep the grit out of my mouth while the wind blows about 30 mph. Spring is not one of our better seasons here in beyootiful NE Arizona
So what have I been doing for these past summer months since I’ve managed to post to my blog? My garden was the major challenge… I mean gardening in a desert. Get real. However, this year I was able to produce dozens of zucchini and a fair amount of Roma tomatoes. And as we were experiencing a miserable cold spring I thought a tomato plant from Siberia would be just the ticket so I bought an heirloom plant at the grocery store called (I think) a Black Russian. I got one lemon-sized, reddish-black lumpy thing that turned out to be the most divine tasting tomato I ever bit into. However, a late summer hailstorm and what I suspect is a #%&*@ gopher ended my gourmet gardening experiment rather prematurely.
And to think I grew about $7 worth of zucchini. Certainly makes all that effort worth while.

But summer is now long gone and I’ve moved on to other gourmet delights. Here’s one of my favorites: Wash a somewhat unripe pear. Place in a bowl in the microwave. Cook on high for 2-4 minutes (depending on how unripe, how big, etc.). Eat.  (Microwave Gourmet author Barbara Kafka says to peel and core first and then wrap in plastic and then microwave. And I say “humbug.” Take the skin off and scoop out the core while you’re eating it.) Hey, life is short.

I do spend a lot of time watching Netflix pix. Here’s my recommendation for sleeper movie of the year: City Island. Despite the non-starter of a title this is a dysfunctional-family movie (but funny) about keeping secrets from those you love.

Also I am feeling perkier enough to do housework again. (Actually, I finally admitted that pulling the cancer card every time I didn’t feel like cleaning the house was really just postponing a horrible day of reckoning.) So now I put on some of Mom’s big band CDs -- the music of her youth and the music I listened to in utero -- and happily fox trot around the living room dusting and straightening while channeling Mom's happiest time.

We all deal with loss in our own special ways.

Love you all,

“Early stage cancer is like crossing the Mafia and getting away with it. You live, but must forever glance over your shoulder.”
                         --“Athena” (user name/quote at the “No Surrender” cancer website)