Monday, March 1, 2010

I See a Pink Door and I Want it Painted Black.

If February 23, 2010 was Day 1 of my Life with Cancer, today is Day 6.

And I am already sick of the color pink.

Don't get me wrong. As a general rule, I like the color. I went through a phase a few years ago that involved most of my bikes sporting some sort of pink accessory. My Specialized mountain bike frame was selected primarily because of the pink paint detailing.

And I do appreciate how breast cancer advocates have used simple power of color to raise an unprecedented amount of awareness about the disease. If you are a womens' basketball fan, you would have noticed that many of the major Division 1 programs wore a custom pink uniform during televised games during the month of February. I watched a Tennessee game last week that was almost too much to watch in HD because it was being played in a sea of pink.

Part of this pink overload is my own fault. I spent most of Friday, Sunday and today online. Getting referrals, making appointments, researching. Trying to become an educated patient. There are some great resources out there. Unfortunately, some of the best websites are heavy on the pink. Pepto pink, carnation pink, hot pink, baby pink.

Pink just doesn't jive with how I feel about cancer right now. It feels too passive, too kind. If I had to pick a color that signifies how I feel about cancer right now, it would be a dark, steely gray. Like the color of thunderstorm clouds right before it begins to rain.

Not surprisingly, this is the color I feel right before the start of a big bike race. When I am nervy and twitchy and focused. Maybe a bit hostile.

Driving around the city over the weekend, I've been listening to a lot of the music that is on my cyclocross warm-up playlist: Robyn's "Konichiwa Bitches" and "Cobrastyle," Jean Grae's "Hater's Anthem," Quasi's cover of "Paint it Black." I don't want to be soothed right now. I want angry confidence.


I only cried twice this weekend. The second was on the way home from the hospital yesterday after an early morning MRI. Can't say much interesting about the MRI other than that it was loud, cold and boring.

The techs' attempts to make me more comfortable with a bit of music were thwarted when I realized ten minutes in that they were feeding me two entirely different radio stations simultaneously. I kid you not, I was listening to Sir Mix-a-Lot and Red Hot Chili Peppers at the same time. The MRI machine was so loud that I first thought that it was some sort of crazy mash-up. Once I realized what was happening, trying to sort out what I was listening to became the brain puzzle that I used to distract myself from the fact that I needed to be still for twenty, thirty more minutes. I don't sit still very well.

Being in the hospital as a cancer patient still feels sort of surreal, and the transition back to the outside world (in the form of car rides to the safe harbors of my condo or Ricardo's house) has always involved a huge wash of emotions: relief, anger, sadness, panic. I cry a bit, then things come back into focus. Ricardo gives me as much space as is possible in a moving car. Squeezes my hand, turns up the music so we can listen to something other than my sniffles.

The first crying jag was Saturday night while I was getting ready to go to the ballet and packing for spending the night in Vancouver. Top of my "to-do" list was taking out my body jewelry in anticipation of the MRI. I've done this a dozen times before. Thirty seconds with a mirror and a set of pliers and the physical work is done.

This time when I finish, I'm just standing there in the mirror, looking at my naked self and realize that, in all probability, the nipple ring is never going back in. That there might not even be a nipple there in a month. And if the nipple is there, it will be surrounded by scars and is likely to be pointed in an awkwardly southeastern direction.

My body is never going to look the same.

Tears everywhere.

The onslaught lasted about five minutes, then I washed my face and put on the red dress that Ricardo bought for me in Santa Barbara. It it is beautiful and I look beautiful in it.


Here is where I am, treatment-wise, as of Monday morning. Waiting for MRI results, which should be back this afternoon or tomorrow morning. I have an appointment next Monday to have a second set of surgeon's eyes examine the images and lab results. Tomorrow I am going back out to St. Vincent's to take advantage of the resources at their Breast Clinic. I have spoken to a nurse and a social worker at the Clinic and, after I expressed a bit of frustration that the resources that I had been given didn't address what it was like to have breast cancer at 32 years of age, they are going to hook me up with some resources (both informational and people) that are more age-appropriate. And, finally, I had a long talk with my acupuncturist and we have a long appointment set up for Thursday to discuss my treatment plan.

Emotionally, I think I'm doing pretty well. I have cycles every 6-8 hours where I get into a melancholic pity-party, but (so far) I have been able to snap out of those fairly quickly. Being able to get out and ride my bike certainly helps, as does all of the well wishes that continue to stream in.

Its already apparent that this process will be a serious character-building experience. Patience is not one of my stronger character traits, but I am being forced to accept the fact it is an essential piece of developing a solid treatment plan. Sort of like recovery is an essential piece of a training plan (and look how well I do with that one.)


Paul in Florida said...

Don't worry about the crying. I've been crying every day for over five years and it doesn't hurt a thing.

Just be a bit circumspect about who you let see you hurting. And keep fighting. The person that said winning isn't everything wasn't fighting cancer.

Amy said...

I am shocked and feel some devastation for you in my own time of devastation.

It sounds to me like you are tackling this thing like you an educated person who is ready for options. That is how we tackled everything with Allison. I could go on and on about the hospital crap and experiences we have had, but what i really want to tell you is to not lose your fighting spirit that I'm pretty sure you still have.

I will continue to follow your blog. I would like to say that I could do something for you, but I'm not in that place yet. When I am and you still need something I will be there. Jeff and I still have some growing pains to figure out (like how to be a family of different size and needs).

Our deepest heartfelt prayers go out to you and we understand why you couldn't be there yesterday. Feel our love from McMinnvile.

Jeff, Amy, & Keala (& your new guardian Angel Allison)