" I implore you, my child; observe heaven and earth, consider all that is in them, and acknowledge that God made them out of nothing (ex nihilo), and that mankind comes into being in the same way..." 2 Maccabees 7:28

Thursday, May 29, 2008


My sister Charity has a friend who told her this story about a strange experience he had. He's a nice Italian boy who tries to get to mass every Sunday and when for some reason he can't, he tries to make a visit to church. So this story takes place on such a Sunday- he had missed mass due to having to work, but he stopped into a church to say hello. When he went into the church, it was empty except for one little old lady sitting in one of the front most pews. He spent some time in silence at the altar rail, and then as he turned to leave his attention was again focused on this little old lady. He thought he would say hello as he walked out. She was wearing what appeared to be a veil over her head, so he assumed she was a nun who worked at the parish.

"Hello, do you work here?"
"Oh, no; I work for the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I just do whatever she asks me to do. Sometimes she just asks me to pray on my knees for hours at a time and I tell her how much it hurts and how badly I want to stop, but she just asks me to keep praying, so I do it."

At this point our friend noticed that the veil was not actually a veil but a piece of kleenex opened up and placed strategically on top of her head, and that the pew around her was strewn with all sorts of papers and notebooks. He smiled inwardly, realizing now that he was dealing with someone who was "a couple beads shy of a decade", if you catch my meaning. He smiled at her and said his goodbyes, and her last words were "may the Immaculate Heart of Mary protect you on your travels". He walked down the aisle a bit, and thinking to himself "that was weird" turned to see her one last time. But, of course, the woman was gone. And when he scrambled back to check her pew, all the papers were gone as well. He spent the next half hour scouring the church for her, looking under pews and behind furniture, even checking the confessionals. And then he finally said to himself "well, I believe in God... why is is so difficult to think that something unexplainable happened to me today?"

I think of this because a little old lady came up to me in church this morning when I was particularly anxious. Her lipstick was not quite in line with her lips, and she handed me a holy card that she had clearly made herself. The ink was smudged and the edges were not cut in line with the picture. But she asked me if she could pray for me and of course I said yes. So she put her hands on my shoulders and prayed silently for a few minutes, then walked away. That's all. Nothing miraculous. No disappearing, no cryptic words. I don't think she was an angel in the typical sense, but it was comforting to have this stranger offer to pray for me at a time when I was feeling more than a little fearful. So I think she was working for the Immaculate Heart of Mary too. There's lots of em out there.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Brief Explanation of the genetic testing thing...

So here is a simple, layman's explanation of genetic testing for breast cancer.
They (those science guys) have located 2 breast cancer genes (really mutations on the gene) and have named them BRCA 1 and 2 (for breast cancer 1 and 2). These are 2 particularly dangerous mutations, because they are also linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer which is harder to detect in its earliest stages. They don't automatically test everyone for the genes; only those whose profiles would suggest that their cancer is hereditary rather than environmental. In my case, although there is some cancer in my family, my young age at diagnosis is enough of a red flag to indicate the possibility of a genetic cause, although it is not absolute. So I will go in on Friday for the blood test, and it will take a minimum of 4 weeks to get any results back.

There are lots of problems with genetic testing, though. One of the biggest issues is that, although they know there are many more breast cancer genes, they have only located 2. So a negative test just means that you do not have one of the 2 known mutations, and does not necessarily mean that your cancer is not genetic. In this sense, a negative result on the gene test is not very helpful.

Not that a positive on the test is great news, either. If you test positive, statistics say you have an 85% chance of contracting breast cancer in your lifetime, and a much higher likelihood of recurrence. You are also then at greater risk of contracting other types of cancer as well. For me, this would mean having to very seriously consider the option of an uverectomy (removal of the ovaries) within the next 10 years or sooner, as well as even making it more imperative to go ahead with the second mastectomy. Even after a mastectomy you are not in the clear (especially in my case since they did not get the clear margins on removal of the tumor) but it does greatly decrease your risk of recurrence.

Another downside to genetic testing is that it doesn't really indicate anything as far as treatment goes. There isn't any preventative treatment for cancer, if you test positive for the gene you do the same as anyone else- keep getting regular screenings so that if you get it, you catch it in the earliest stages. If I test positive, my sisters will then be qualified to take the genetic test as well, if they choose. Some people just feel it increases fear without giving a person any more options than they had before, which is a conclusion I certainly can respect and understand. For me, I am leaning towards foregoing some treatment options that I will be encouraged to take, specifically a drug called Tamoxifen that decreases your chance of recurrence (though not totally) by blocking your bodies ability to absorb estrogen and putting you into menopause. Fertility is something I want to conserve for as long as possible, and I don't fancy the idea of anything that messes with the hormones. Especially since Tamoxifen increases your chances of ovarian cancer (bizarre, aint it?) I'd rather reduce my chances of recurrence by a second mastectomy than by Tamoxifen, as in the big picture a mastectomy has no untoward side effects. Taking the genetic test is just another step in deciding if this is a feasible option for my situation. The reality is that statistics are not very helpful (and really, they have already failed me once). So I just have to make the best informed decision I can and be at peace with it.

Am I boring you? I could go on and on about all that comes next... But for now it's enough to start the process of testing and see what happens. I'm at peace with that, and I'll figure everything else out later.

Monday, May 26, 2008


There is a young bird couple living in our apricot tree in the front yard. I don't know what type of bird they are, but I have developed a great respect for them. They are average sized birds, not ornate in their plumage; the female is all gray and the male is slightly larger with gray and white tail feathers. As I sit on the living room couch with only enough energy to watch the wind blow the trees, I just marvel at that bird father. There is a gang of crows that is always hanging out; sometimes 3 or 4 at a time. The crows, with their massive black feet and their threateningly arched beaks are clearly more than capable of taking on the little Gray couple. But Mr. Gray is ever watchful- although the crows outnumber him he is so vigilant in protecting his nest! Every time a crow goes up he chases it down. This will go on for sometimes an hour at a time, with various crows moving in menacingly and Mr Gray swooping up to chase them off- the crows work in shifts but Mr Gray has to fight them off all on his own. But he never complains and puts his little heart into the fight! I wish I could help him somehow, as sentimental and unscientific as that may seem...I know , it's the circle of life. If I saved all the baby birds then it would throw off the food chain, birds would not have enough food, and eventually all the stars would fall from the sky, all because Faith didn't understand the way nature works. But I don't want to help them all, just Mr Gray and his family. After all, he's my neighbor; unfriendly though he may be at times (he sometimes swoops at me if I venture too near his tree). I mean, you gotta admire him- would you have the courage to swoop a human if you were his size?

It's especially on my mind as I have just been approved for genetic testing. I can go into the details of that in another post, but it seems so strange to have to make these decisions that effect my future family without the input of the one to whom it is the most important- the father of my children. It feels a heavy burden at times, although I know I'm not walking it alone.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Chemo Pics

Aargh! I have some good pictures from the last chemo session (halfway finished- can you believe it!!) but I can't seem to upload them to blogger. Even had the guts to take a few baldie shots, in case anyone wants to see my shiny new pate (really a bit too stubbly to be shiny still). Mom, Harris and Br. Robert were there as well. Harris offered me his hair for a wig, but I don't think it would work unless I had the beard as well (this would all be much funnier if I could upload those blasted pictures!!)

Wanted to start a second blog that would just be an index of other bloggers dealing with Cancer or other Incurable DIsease issues (I know there is such an index for other issues like infertility, and it seems like a great idea. You can get a different kind of encouragement from reading about other people going through the same or similar diagnosis). But there are so many! So I think I just might go through and link up the ones that I have been corresponding with on my own blog. Much more manageable that way! But I did like that brown blog background... my blog needs a facelift.

My new fear- my hair will grow in super- curly and gray, and I will look like the rear- end of a sheep. But I have been informed that one blogger had her (formerly light brown) hair grow back in black, and less gray! Chances of that happening are pretty slim, but it does give one reason to hope. And I can always dye it after about 4 months.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Halfway there...

Today is treatment #4, which means that, once finished, I will be halfway there! It's hard to believe, it's all just whizzed by. It is also another landmark treatment in that it is the end of the Adriamycin/ Cytoxin infusions; future infusions will be with a different drug, Taxol. On Taxol your hair can actually start to grow again between treatments (although, ironically, it often makes your eyebrows and eyelashes fall out, according to the oncologist).

And most importantly, my parents, Brother Robert and Harris will be there with me.

One thing I have been avoiding that I know I will regret if I don't do is to get pictures of myself while I am still hairless. I have such a hard time looking at it, but I know this phase in my life will go by so fast- I will want to remember where I've been once it's over. And I will want to be able to show others who are starting out on the same journey, too. I think having Brother Robert there will help, as he is also a cue ball right now and two cue balls in one picture will be less uncomfortable, somehow.. The more I think about it, the better an idea it seems...

This period in my life will go by so fast. By Spring break of next year I should be done with all the surgeries and reconstruction, my hair will be maybe down to my shoulders and I will have received my upgraded mammies. But there are some things about this time that are unique and unrepeatable. For instance, when I am out in the community people look at me with compassion and smile encouragingly. Or look away in discomfort. Or just stare. For the last 15 years of my life, I have worked with people with disabilities; I've always considered myself a compassionate person. But now as I go through this, I know it's not really me and them anymore, I'm ONE of them. Not only in spirit, but in body as well. This feels like another of those odd graces that God is showering me with right now, a "talent" that I will be held accountable for later.

Hey, that's a good title for a book- "An Odd Grace". Is it too much like "A Severe Mercy"? As I write this, I realize that Sheldon Van Auken and I are both reaching to describe the same experience.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More Glam

Today I went to a "Look Good, Feel Great" seminar put on by the American Cancer Society; a seminar in how to take care of your appearance during and post chemotherapy. And I gotta say, ain't it great being a woman? Here we were, a bunch of strangers with nothing in common except our lumps. But that was enough, apparently; we all chatted like old friends, showing each other our scars and helping to draw in each others eyebrows. I was the youngest in the group, but fully accepted; in a sense even an "elder" as I am almost halfway through the chemo and have had one mastectomy, while most of the women were just starting the process. So I felt like a seasoned veteran, sitting back and sharing exaggerated war stories about my wounds and the way things used to be...

Chemotherapy puts your body into a menopause- like state. Not full menopause, but many women report hot flashes and mood swings. For me, it has just been hyper- emotionalism. EVERYTHING makes me cry. It's really embarrassing. At the class today I got to be the head wear model for the group (ironic, since I haven't even looked at my OWN bald head yet) so I was up in front of everyone and someone mentioned the recent earthquake and I started tearing up. And then someone else mentioned that her hair had just started to come out this morning and I started leaking again. Then when I went home the dog was panting and her lip looked like it was kind of stuck on her dry tooth and she looked so pathetic that I wanted to spring another leak... oh well. I'm not grumpy or depressed, it just seems that my emotions are very close to the surface (and my reason somewhat submerged). I am still working on a letter to Sheila but it makes me cry to write it so I write in short bursts.

I went to a prayer meeting last night- it was really a warm, welcoming group of people. We prayed the rosary and crowned Our Lady for the feast of Fatima, and the woman who runs the group asked me to pray over another member of the group who is dying. Well, I'm not really accustomed to praying over people and even less so when other people are watching me; there was only one solution. I put my hands on her and burst into tears. Honestly, you'd think I was a professional mourner or something, the way I go on. (Once in confession a priest said to me, "we'd better stop now, or you're going to dehydrate!" And that was BEFORE chemotherapy!) But it worked; everyone later told me how moved they were by my prayers. So let that be a lesson to you; when in a tight spot, cry. Works every time. I should know.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Now I know from college philosophy classes that, while drawn to the stories of the early martyrs who gave up their lives for their faith, Nietzsche was repulsed by what he saw in Christianity as baptizing passivity and inaction. He was disgusted by the emphasis on such virtues as humility, forgiveness, etc... I think there is still this temptation in our modern culture to see things in that light, despite the evidence of our own experience to the contrary. Humility, forgiveness, just try it and we all see try how horribly difficult they are. Certainly not virtues for the cowardly.

On those lines, I am reading a book by Father Tadeusz Dajczer called "Inquiring Faith". I only read about a page a day, but I use it when I am trying to pray but can't concentrate (most of the time, lately). And everytime I open it, I find some idea or thought that feels like it was written just for me.

A few days ago I read about the parable of the talents. So the word "talent" in the bible actually referred to a monetary currency, and not a personal gift or strength as it means in English. I'm just going to quote the book for the next paragraph or so, because I was so touched by it.

God waits for us to look with the eyes of faith at all the experiences we live through, especially the difficult ones. A talent is a gift and material, but at the same time an opportunity. Christ, in giving you a talent, trusts you and waits for you to take proper advantage of it. If he has given you abilities, then he is not indifferent as to what you do with them. If, however, you did not receive these abilities,- this is also a talent. A talent is not only receiving something, but also lacking something.

In the light of faith, the good health you have is a talent, but bad health is also a talent. You can equally waste good health and even more so, the lack of health. It is a talent if you are unable to pray, yet you consider this a misfortune. It is important what you do with your inability to pray; maybe you bury this talent and say, "well, I will just not pray". But you can gain so much from it! This inability should intensify your hunger for God. The very search for the deeper understanding of personal experiences is to profit from the talent. Difficult graces are the most valuable talents of your life.

So there it is, take it or leave it, poor Mr. Nietzsche. But I believe it wholeheartedly! After reading this part of the book, I went through my life and looked at the big disappointments and hurts; looked at myself with all that I would wish to change or improve. All the opportunities he had given me to grow, some which I had used and some which I had squandered. And I suppose these are the types of lessons that we have to learn and re-learn for the rest of our lives. But I'm sure there will be many more opportunities to come...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Making Chem Glam

Here is my long- promised, much requested picture of Brother Robert, the shorn Dominican. What a friend! I myself still have not really gotten a good look at my bald head. I leave the lights off in the bathroom when I take a shower and just use the nightlight instead to minimize the risk of catching a glimpse of myself. I feel like the ultimate prude.

Well, I have a new, super swank head covering. Brown with pink embroidery and even a few tasteful sequins (very small and not too shiny). I know Kasia won't approve of the brown, but what can I say? I LIKE brown... it's such a warm, maternal color. When Kasia and I lived together, she was famous for telling me in no uncertain terms that I was no longer allowed to go shopping unattended as I would come back with more... brown clothes. But even Kasia would like my new swanky head thingie, despite her brown aversion. It does reduce the flow of blood to my ears, however. And I'm afraid that my ear tips will eventually just fall off from poor circulation, but as mom used to say, "you have to suffer to be beautiful". Charity and I were reminiscing about growing up with long hair and a dad who didn't know how to comb it- he'd just stick the comb in at the top and pull down towards the bottom, seeming rather perplexed at our screams of protest (Ow! Don't do it that way! Do it the way MOM does it! Ow!). His towelling techniques after baths needed some work as well. To dry us off post bathing he'd just drag a big bath towel vigorously back and forth in the "nether regions" until we yelped. I mean, come on- did he dry himself off that way? Geez.

Still feeling nauseous, but learning some tricks to help control it. On the first round of chemo, I had a cup of ice to suck on during the infusion. The ice is supposed to slow the blood flow to the mouth and decrease the chance of mouth sores, as well as reduce the "metalmouth" side effect. Unfortunately, the ice from our refrigerator tastes worse than metal, it tastes like onion. So when I think about ice now I get nauseous (also thermos cups and metal spoons), but I can minimize the effect by quickly thinking about applesauce.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Bed To Couch Kind Of Day

Sorry for the lack of a post yesterday- I went from my bed to the couch back to bed again. Just one of those days- kind of wobbly on my feet. Other than that, not so bad.

I did go to my first breast cancer support group, which was very nice. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was not depressing at all. Very practical. We all took off our wigs or scarves or whatever; reminded me of the scene in the children's book "The Witches" by Roald Dahl. According to the story, witches have no hair and squared off toes- they are always shoved into uncomfortable shoes and have to wear wigs against their bare scalp. At their conventions, the first thing they do is cover the windows, lock the doors, take off their high heeled shoes and wigs and scratch their itchy scalps. So our meeting was a little like that, without the squared- off toes.

Actually there was one woman who had not yet had the surgery but was considering the same one I had, so I was showing her my scars. Right then a doctor walked by the glassed in meeting room. A bit embarrassing, but the woman facilitating the meeting says the doctors who walk by this room at this time know there's no telling what may be happening, so they walk at their own risk. Maybe we should charge admission, I'm thinking...

In Disease Update news: Got to talk to the Breast Care Coordinator about the whole Radiation thing- why my case was put back on the table and why it was taken off again. She fleshed out the picture a bit more. Evidently, although they didn't quite have the amount of clear margins upon removal of the tumor post surgery, they had to weigh that with the risks posed by the Radiation (there's lots of these lose/ lose situations involved in cancer...) Because of my body type (thin) the risk of damaging the implant, the bone or organs is greater and more significant long- term; they felt that those risks outweighed the potential benefit of Radiation. However, all the tissue that would be of concern is now ABOVE the implant (as the implant goes under the muscle of the chest wall, beneath where the tumor was) and will be able to be checked regularly via ultrasound for any concerns. And I am really more scared of Radiation than chemotherapy, precisely because of the long- term concerns.

Got a beautiful letter from She She (of She She Says fame). Her real name is Sheila, not She She but I continue to call her She She which is really rather ridiculous. I mean, I don't call Christina "Windshield", do I? Sheila wrote me a letter that is going to generate about a 10 page response, unfortunately I only have energy for a page or so a day. But I'm not going to cut this one short- too much to say!

Thank you all for your cards, your phone calls, your flowers, your letters, your gifts, your visits, your photo sessions, your prayers, your trying on shower caps to see how you would look bald... all the dozens of ways as unique and original as you are that show me what it means to be loved.

Love, Faith

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Cycle 3, Day 2!

Feeling a bit sick today- my brain is hungry from the roids, but my stomach holds the reigns and will only allow apple sauce and chicken broth. And even that is pushing it. It's weird to be hungry and nauseous at the same time. If you've never had that experience, I don't exactly recommend it, but it's kind of weird.

Yesterday was a busy day- had chemo # 3 and a visit from my roommate! Amy asked me awhile ago if she could come with me, and of course I was thrilled! Just to talk again about the wonderful support I have in my friends and family, Amy took the day off work and came down to be with me for the session- it was great as we hadn't gotten to spend much quality time together since I started chemo. And of course my devoted mom and dad were there as well, as they always are. I even went out that morning to the sporting goods and bought a collapsible chair to bring with us, as there is always one extra chair in the infusion room and we can usually rustle up a second from somewhere, but it's often hard to find a third. So, I brought my own. It's for hunters, with a camouflage back and seat and a pouch hanging down under your butt that you can keep your ammo or knives or sunscreen in, I guess. My dad said it was pretty comfortable, and I think he felt pretty manly sitting in it. And it's always good for a laugh to watch him trying to get out of it again (I know they are not really called collapsible chairs, but in his case the title is very appropriate).

Well, as luck would have it Amy had more to offer up than I did. I felt a little under the weather after the session was over, but Amy had to leave the room twice. She kept saying she needed to use the bathroom, but her white lips upon return told another story. After her first return, she sat down and then promptly exited again. She (again) said she had to go to the bathroom, but she was walking the wrong way (to the water fountain, it ended up). She didn't want to worry anyone, but once in the hallway she flagged down a nurse and told her she was feeling faint. The nurse directed her to an empty infusion room and she was able to lie down and recover. It would have been such a bonding experience if the doctors decided she needed electrolytes and they hooked her up to an IV! They have double rooms, so we could've totally done it...total girls gone wild night out at the infusion center! But since it was seeing them put the IV in me that set her off, I guess it's a good thing that she avoided that fate. But she recovered enough and was there to pray the rosary and talk. It was great.

Brother Robert and Tara will be with me for my next chemo, and Eileen and Trish will be there for future sessions. Trinka and Charity were there with me for the last two, and mom and dad every time. Everyone has been so incredibly supportive of me through this whole thing- It's always great to have people come to the chemo sessions to pray the rosary. It's not for everyone though, because I think it makes some people feel nauseous (and then some of those people come anyway, true friends that they are.) By the way, Charity reports her eye lashes are falling out. Mine aren't even falling out yet!

And I got some good news- I thought I would have nine chemo sessions, but I only have eight which will mean that I will be finished with chemo on Mon. July 7, giving me more than a month to recuperate before school starts! I really couldn't have planned the timing better if I'd tried.

Just another sign that I'm in good hands.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

My First REAL Sick Day

Wednesday was my first real sick day yet. I had severe back pain before I went to bed on Tuesday night, but nothing that my buddy Vicoden couldn't handle. I assumed that it was due to having weakened bones and sitting in a bad position for too long. But at 2 am the pain woke me up; once again those darned 2 am hours really are the pisser, if you'll excuse my French. You are already exhausted just because of the hour, but you are not thinking rationally to boot. Combine that with action- packed dreams and an already over- active imagination, and you have the recipe for sheer panic. Well, I cooked up a batch of the stuff that morning, let me tell you.

I had enough knowledge to know that kidney or bladder infections often manifest as back pain, so I got up to email my doctor. I hadn't walked very far when the nausea hit and my vision began to blur. I knew I had a few seconds before I passed out, so I called for my mom and made it to the couch, sweating and CONVINCED that this was NOT a bladder infection, but a new cancer. So I was back to the beginning in terms of fright, begging God for the grace not to choke on my fear. My mom woke up my whole family who were down with me as I was doubled up on the couch and vomiting. By this time the lights were on and I wasn't alone in the dark, so my fears subsided and I was able to think rationally again.

I was able to go back to sleep after an hour or so. When I woke up, the back pain was completely gone, without a trace (even Vicodin hadn't been able to do that). The oncologist said I had just gotten unlucky- the back pain is a common side effect from the white blood cell booster, and she suspected I had picked up a stomach virus as well (as evidenced by my sub temperature). By the evening on Wednesday I was feeling much better and keeping down food.

FEAR. I remember it from the nights after I received the diagnosis- I could be fine during the day, but those wee hours... you are just so vulnerable. I sometimes find blogs or websites from other people at various stages of different life threatening illnesses, and that's always the first thing I pray for - God protect them from the FEAR. During the day you have so much support, people holding your hand and telling you how brave you are, how proud they are of you... but at night you wake up, aware that you are walking this alone. Even those you love who would go with you cannot- they have their own paths to walk and their own sufferings to face. For those who don't have faith that they walk this with a God who loves them and will never leave them I feel the most concern as those times can lead you to desperation. The disease, the symptoms, those are nothing compared to the fear.

I don't think it was an accident that God allowed me to experience these 2 unassociated symptoms together and to go back to that dark place; it reminds me that I need to be praying with my whole heart for those souls who truly are living with that fear, not just a panic induced midnight version like mine. Even St Therese, toward the end of her life as she was dying with tuberculosis told her sisters to be watchful and never leave powerful medications near someone who was dying- it was too much temptation.

My friend Tony, after my diagnosis told me of his own experience with cancer 10 years ago. He told me there were times when he was so exhausted and wanted nothing but to sleep, but they were turning him over and giving him shots and the closest he could come to a prayer was to squeeze the crucifix on his rosary with all his strength. He said to me "Faith, in those moments, she was so close to me I was certain that I could have reached out and touched her..."

Just so everyone is clear- I'm doing really well! I have times of fear and anxiety, but nothing lasts for long. Sometimes I think God leaves me in these places only long enough so that I know what he is redeeming me from when he pulls me out again. Also it sure keeps you humble; falling apart in the middle of the night. Just makes me love Him more for loving ME at my worst; bald, cold, weak and defenseless; scared of my own dreams. I suppose, like any good father, that's when he loves me the most; when I need him the most.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

More Crazy Dreams

Charity told me no one would believe I actually had this dream, but it is all true. As mentioned in previous posts, every night we watch 2 episodes of "Alias" right before we go to bed; as the show gets more intense, my dreams get more intense.

Last night I dreamed that I was working on a mission with Sydney, the CIA spy. I was her partner but I had no field training so I kept messing up everything. I was supposed to drive the surveillance van but I got lost and was driving around looking for a house to which I had lost the address. Then I blew our cover because I mistook a pedicure for a fight and shouted "So! You're one of the bad guys, too!" to a good guy who went bad out of frustration in having to work with me. Then Sydney asked me a question in code- I knew it was a code but had no idea what it meant or how to respond; all I could do was hold up my hands and say "I've never been trained for this!" to which she frustratedly wrote on a scrap of paper "did you blow our cover? yes no circle one. I circled yes.

Everyone was frustrated with me and I felt so bad because I knew our mission was important. Then the bad guy and the good- guy-turned -bad from frustration came after me with guns. I barely made it to the back door in time when I made an amazing discovery- I had springy legs! I could jump from roof to roof and leave them all behind, because in all their CIA and KGB training they had never learned how to take aim and shoot at a target who could bounce around like me! So I boinged off to safety, leaving them all behind with this curious sense of redemption in my heart.

It actually reminded me of my real life college experience working as a temp in a foster care agency. I did everything wrong- I erased their computer data base (um... oops?). Unbeknownst to me, my boss had stayed up till midnight restoring it; the next day I figured out how to restore some files and proudly put them all back on so there were duplicates of everything that had to be erased manually, one at a time. I didn't know how to do this, so my boss had to fix it herself(...sorry?)

The next day I had to tell them that I was not going to work beyond the next week, but the blow of that news was softened by my final disaster at running off 150 standard .29 cent letters through the postal machine at $1.25 each (didn't notice that someone had reset the meter- never used one of these things before; you can take it out of my paycheck, if you like...) Like in my dream, I finally made it out of there alive, only in real life, I didn't boing off triumphantly in the end. Just kind of slunk off apologetically with the firm resolve in my heart never again to do secretarial work. It's not fun to be trapped in a situation for which you are so abysmally unsuited.

But I still think if I'd had the right training, I could've made it as a spy.

Friday, May 2, 2008


You know, all metaphors limp and this will certainly be no exception, but it occurs to me that parting with your hair during chemo is very similar to breaking off a relationship. It's dead already. What you have left is only a pale, wispy reminder of what once was and will eventually have to fall out on it's own, with or without your help. It keeps you awake at night and itches during the day (okay, that's the limping part) yet somehow we cling to it in a desperate attempt to delay the inevitable misery that comes from parting (yeah, yeah, I know. I made a pun. It was an accident- blame the chemo.) We put so much more effort into avoiding pain than we do into seeking joy.

So now I've gone from looking like Gollum (as Masayo once told my dad, very adamantly, "yes, he does have hair. He definitely has hair. It's in the back.") to looking like Satan in the Mel Gibson movie "The Passion of the Christ" (totally freakin' hairless). And envying even Ken Barbie- of Barbie and Ken fame- who at least has ridges in his head painted dirt brown. I look funny and feel funny; I'm at that stage of grieving over what I've lost and not having much to look forward to in the next 2 months or so, but I know that someday there will be stubble! Yes, glorious stubble is definitely in my future. There will be joy to come, so for now I just need to wait and trust. And exfoliate my scalp.

And in the meantime, God has blessed me with friends beyond compare. Trish and Tony sent me flowers with a card "hair or no hair, we love you the way you are" (or that was the gist of it- the card got wet and I can't read it anymore and am going from memory). And Brother Robert shaved his head too! Can you believe it? Yessir! And his beard, so that he doesn't get mistaken for a Franciscan. That's a true friend for you... And God in his wisdom saw to double his sacrifice as it snowed that day. So when people do a double take and ask him why he shaved, he tells them about his friend who has cancer and to please pray for her. It reminds me of the famous O' Henry short story "The Gift of the Magi"; there is a scene at the end when the newlywed young bride, after just cutting off all her hair to buy a present for her beloved husband sets to work " repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task. " I love that story; one of the all- time greats. So I can't ever be too bad with friends like these. I'll ask BroRo if I can post his picture, newly shorn.

And here's a website to the whole text of the story "The Gift of the Magi". It's very short and absolutely worth a read, but I can't seem to make the link active so you have to cut and paste.


Love Faith

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Gratitude and Celebrity Sighting

When I started this blog it was meant to be a way to keep people informed about how I was doing, since my cell plan doesn't have enough minutes to keep in touch with all the people who were reaching out to me. But as it goes on, it really has become a lifeline. I have never been a big "journal" person; to write into an empty book that only I would ever see is not an idea that held any appeal. Kind of the same concept as writing a letter to a person and then destroying it (the letter, not the person) without ever sending it (I assume as an alternative to saying things that will come back to haunt you later). Nameless, faceless audience holds no appeal.

Even though I don't respond to all your comments I am so grateful for your prayers, your words of encouragement, your humor... We can have the illusion of being isolated in our struggles, but the truth is we're all just walking along together! I don't always respond to your comments, but they mean SO much to me. I check my blog like a crazy blogging fiend several times a day and appreciate every little comment you write. I set it up so that anyone could respond, even if they don't sign their names or identify themselves; it's really exciting when someone I've never met reads my blog! Okay, I'm starting to sound a bit pathetic now. I DO get out, you know. And on that topic...

Just yesterday Charity and I saw...Robin Williams! That's right, in a coffee house in San Anselmo. Charity even spoke to him; she said "that lid doesn't fit that cup, I already tried". Such profundity, yes? And he walked out the door behind her and she kind of held it open; he said "Thank you, thank you." (I thought the second thank you sounded a bit excessive myself). He drove away in a big black Land Rover or Jeep kind of thing (I don't know much about cars... it was black, okay? What more info do you need?) with a bike rack and a mountain bike on the back. I saw Sean Pen twice at that cafe, once I was driving by and we actually made eye contact, the other time he was with Robin Wright and his kids.

What can I say- rubbin' elbows with the rich and famous. All in a days work for Girl Ex Nihilo.