Sunday, January 30, 2011

Of Baldness and Books

I've been deep into my writing these days. And when I do that, I tend to stay in my head--pretty much all I'm thinking about is the writing and pretty much all I'm doing is writing (or worrying about writing, or thinking about writing, or talking about writing--either with Chris or with my agent). I even forget to write the blog, despite the fact that I'm constantly referring back to it guessed it, the memoir writing!! (You are a clever, clever bunch.)

By way of brief update on the memoir...well, it's still progressing. Let me just say that writing is a lot of work. Wow. A lot. Probably the hardest thing I've ever done (and I've been through law school, the California bar exam, two divorces and um, oh, yeah, cancer!). Not unenjoyable hard, just....well, difficult. I keep thinking I'm getting it and things are going great and then, well, not so much. My agent has been fantastic walking me through what needs to change, what's good, what's a pile of crap not as good. The funny thing is what I'm working on isn't event the book! It's the book proposal. But the proposal includes a chapter outline and the chapter outline includes excerpts from each chapter. In a way, that's more difficult (or maybe I'm just hoping this is the more difficult part!!) because I only get a paragraph or a page to really demonstrate what that particular chapter is all about...and to make the reader laugh or cry or at least think. Or want to turn the page. 

I'm excited though. Each revision makes the proposal (and the book) better and better, so I'm going to push on. In the meantime, I share with you a book I just learned about when I got an email from the author. She's way ahead of me...her book is already published. Since I don't have kids (and Seamus was all "yeah, whatever, mom...cancer, been there done that") I didn't need this particular resource, but for anyone dealing with small children while undergoing cancer treatment....this looks to be a great help. And, it's a beautiful book.

Here's the email I got:
Hey Teresa -

My name is Sue.
I found out about your blog because I too was recognized by Navigating Cancer as a featured blogger.
And I just spent the last two hours going down the list and reading about all the different blogs.

10 years ago I was hit with a cancer diagnosis as a 33-year-old mother. 
One of the first thoughts I had (and I would wager ANY mother has) after hearing my diagnosis was:
"How in the world will I tell my son?"
Because I'm a writer, I turned to books.

What I saw portrayed the mother as a scary-looking emotional mess.
Or was decidedly sad.
Or far too technical for a young child.

So I decided to write the book I always wanted but never had.
Nowhere Hair explains a loved one's cancer to little kids in a way that is honest yet still whimsical.

"Sue Glader's words put it all in the proper perspective.  A wonderful tool for families."
- Kelly Corrigan, New York Times bestselling author of The Middle Place and Lift.

The mother is strong, fashionable, and yup, bald.

It does the heavy lifting.  (Without being heavy.)
And helps women tell the truth to their children.
So everyone can heal.

If you're feeling visual, here is the book trailer.
You can learn more about the book here, at my website:
(Where you can also easily purchase copies as well as on Amazon.)

I wanted to reach out to you because I'm trying to spread the word about how I am working to turn my mess into my message.
Whatever you can do to help me put Nowhere Hair into the hands of children and their parents,
I would so very much appreciate.
The author (of the email and the book!) is Sue Glader. And I have to say, I'm impressed she got a blurb from Kelly Corrigan. And you that I think about it, I could have used this book when my niece was asking about my scarf-wearing! Remember this blog post: Talking Cancer to a Kid.?

Happy Reading! I'm going back to my writing....

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Breast Cancer all-too-awareness

This past week has been filled with breast cancer news--some good, some bad. I'm fine--no issues. I guess I should be careful to start there. I had my two year check-up this past Thursday. Well, not so much a check-up as a "diagnostic mammogram" (which means the right breast only--the one that had cancer).

I've moved on from thinking about having cancer daily to less frequently, although it's now a significant part of my history. But the few days before check-ups and certainly the day of the check-up are always a little tense. The "what-if" sneaks back in. The possibility of recurrence becomes all too real. Chris and I (and Dr. Good Karma!) do a pretty good job of distracting me from dwelling on the check-ups with a little trick learned from Seamus's experience. When Seamus went to his oncology appointments the techs, doctors and receptionist at the center plied him with green doggie biscuits. Consequently, he loooooved going! To him the Veterinary Cancer Group was just the "handfuls of yummy biscuits" place. So when I have a check-up, now that I don't have 3 or 4 appointments in one day, we follow it up with a trip to the Cheese Shop of Beverly Hills and then dinner. This time we outdid ourselves--after the cheese shop we met Dr. Karam at the Los Angeles Art Show and then the 3 of us had dinner (not at the restaurant we had planned on...that one had a line down the block waiting to get in! You gotta love LA and its hip spots).

The news from the check-up was good on many levels. Because it's a "diagnostic" check-up, after the mammogram (and ow, wow, did this one hurt!) I sit in my highly fashionable men's boxer material gown and wait for the radiologist who then meets with me to go over the results in person, right there on the spot. And the radiologist was the very same Dr. Koo who did my ultrasound biopsy two years ago! You may remember her (or refresh your memory...or meet her for the first time...) in THIS post. She, like Dr. Karam, was brand new at the UCLA Medical Center at the time, but both are now busy, sophisticated, much sought-after specialists. It was nice to see her again and particularly so when she told me all was clear. And that soon I would be graduating. I get my annual mammogram (both breasts) in August...and then I'm on a yearly basis just like every other woman over the age of 40, and I'll no longer get the immediate in-person meeting with the radiologist. I'm returned to normalcy. Well, except for the part where I'll still see the oncologist every 6 months, but I believe that after my April appointment that will change  as well--I'll be annual with him too.

I have mixed feelings about this. I'm happy to be returned to "normal." That should be the goal, right? But then again there is something comforting about knowing that every 3 months I'm either examined by an oncologist or a radiologist is looking at my mammogram. It makes me feel like if there is a recurrence we'll catch it early too. But, then, I have to remember it was me who caught it the first time. So, I know what I'm looking for. And perhaps Chris and I can venture out to the Cheese Shop just for the heck of it, no oncology appointment needed.

No sooner had I come to terms with this, and decided it was a good thing to not have recurrence on my mind, then I learned that one of my breast cancer blogging friends had passed away. Daria was originally diagnosed in 2000, had a recurrence in 2004 and then again in 2008 when she learned the cancer had metastasized to her liver and bones. She'd been undergoing treatment ever since and yet still blogged, still encouraged others (including me) when they underwent treatments, and stayed optimistic until the very end--which still seemed alarmingly quick to me. Her husband announced her passing on her blog--he know how many people followed her and how many people she had touched.  For those of you who read the article on breast cancer blogging, you will recognize Daria--she was also featured and her article was just above  mine.  She will be missed.

Sometimes, I'm just a little more aware of breast cancer than I want to be.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Real Housewives (Remedial version)

Glad you all enjoyed my adventures with the vacuum. As far as I know under the bed is still clean (and Shawn returns tomorrow, phew). I did get this nifty plastic lidded container to store some of my very many boots and shoes and purses under the bed (this time on purpose and in an organized fashion) and I was fairly excited about that too. Chris has yet to show me how to change the vent/bag/ dust collector receptacle on the vacuum, but I'm not particularly excited about that anyway. After all, I've already vacuumed this year so I think it gets put away with the Christmas decorations (yes, both of them.) But I do think I have a future as a housewife. I really do. So I'm moving on to the next step.

Fake eyelashes.

Look, I've been watching reality TV and alllll the housewives of (insert chagrined city here) have fake eyelashes, fake hair, fake breasts, fake lips and fake relationships. I'm not willing to have any more breast surgery, thank you very much; my relationship is very real, I need to be able to speak in my day job so I'm not willing to inject things into my lips (how would I snarl at people??) and we all know I did the fake hair thing for several post-chemo months there and it didn't really work for me.  So if there is any hope of continuing the stellar housewife path I am on, I'm left with needing fake eyelashes. Well, not exactly fake. More like my own eyelashes on steroids.

Remember this post when I mentioned the lingering chemo side effects and you had no sympathy whatsoever you horrible beyotches you? Remember those included that my eyelashes would grow out and then suddenly leap in unison from my eyelids, crashing and falling down my checks to certain death only to return again a few months later and then, like some sort of crazed lash suicide pact, jump out again? You do remember this, right?? It's important stuff, people. (It's no vacuuming extravaganza, I know, but how would you feel if you came to realize you could no longer rely on your lashes?).

My doctor also had no sympathy and basically laughed at my concern but did prescribe Lastisse for me. That product that Brooke Shields hawks highly recommends to magnify, extend, beautify and grow lashes that will actually stay attached to my eyelid? Well, it's been a couple of months and I've held onto that prescription feeling silly about wanting it and also hoping my lashes had been reformed and would no longer run away. So far so good, my lids are not naked. But if I wait too long....well, then I won't have any eyelashes to put this magic formula on.

Off I went to Tar-jay (I think this is suitably housewife-y, but I'm pretty sure this is not where the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills get their lashes). And here's the thing.... the prescription costs $96 freakin' dollars! $96!! That's a lot of fake eyelashes!  I didn't get the prescription filled. My insurance does not cover it. The pharmacist recommended that I ask the doctor to indicate that this was "medically needed" and then maybe insurance would cover it....I can't see myself doing that (especially as I currently have eyelashes) and I really, really can't see my oncologist buying that for even one second. I can see him rolling his eyes at me and suggesting I get my fat ass self out of his office and to a gym--because he thinks that will solve all of my problems. (I'm determined to try absolutely everything else first, just to prove his hypothesis on a systematic basis. Rule out all the other stuff, don't you think?)

So, help me out here.... should I fill the prescription because a) eyelashes are important and/or b) you all want to know if that shit works too. Or, should I save my $96 and maybe buy a nice bottle of tequila that will make me not care about eyelashes...or what's under my bed? Vote by leaving a comment below, or--boy, this has been awhile--there's an official silly little poll to the right. (Now if only they had a little "donate here" button...)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Life Not in but With a Vacuum

I think this is newsworthy. But be warned, you may not.
Today I vacuumed.

What? That does not sound even interesting let alone newsworthy? Well, consider the conversation in my home:

Me: "Baby, do we have a vacuum cleaner?"
Chris: "Yeah, I think we do."
Me: "Any idea where it would be?"
Chris: "I think maybe I have one out in the garage from my bachelor days ." (note: most stuff from his bachelor days is out in the garage, so this is a safe assumption.)
Me: "Can you go look?"

And just for the record, he did go out to the garage and locate said vacuum cleaner (he knew the odds of me a) going to the garage and b) properly identifying a vacuum cleaner were slim).

If you are thinking "Teresa, you're 40 something (mumble mumble..whatever, I can't hear you) years old and you've been married twice. How do you not have a vacuum cleaner," then clearly you either a) have never actually met me or b) have forgotten to whom I was married. Let me refresh your memory. I married husband number 1 right out of law school (read as "with no practical living experience whatsoever") and he had a mother determined to prove, daily, what a horrible wife I was. She did this by regularly appearing at our home to vacuum, dust, bleach, purge, snoop, cook, condescend, wipe, and stuff my our refrigerator full of eastern European foods of the stinky variety. I was a new associate in a horrible large, condescending, hyper-competitive, demanding, ridiculous law firm, so I was more than happy to have the help and since whatever she was saying about me was said in Hrvatsky (a Croatian dialect) I was none the worse for it. Okay, well, until we had a dozen or so people in our home and she took her bright red scalded hands out of the dishwater in the sink (where she had stationed herself for the entire evening) and shouted "look how I suffer!" My comment that the handle on the right would give her cold water fell on non-English hearing ears. And don't even get me started about the party where she exclaimed about my "barren-ness" to a roomful of guests...

So, right, I never had to vacuum during that regrettable for all concerned era. I'm sure we owned a vacuum but when I left I did so in such a big hurry "must grab vacuum" wasn't really a thought. Must grab tequila and dogs was really as far as my planning went.

I'm sure husband #2 and I had a vacuum. No. Scratch that. I'm sure husband # 2 had several vacuums and I still had none. But had I thought about taking any of the vacuums with me when I left he no doubt would have fought me for them as though they were well-stuffed IRAs or the very house they kept so sparkly and dust-free (twice a day). We had a nice, civil, reasonable divorce. I'm sure that's in large part because I did not try to take the vacuum or that spongy thing on the end of a stick, or the stick with straws on the end. I left all of those behind. They were his friends and utter strangers to me. Let's just say he had Only Clean Desires. And I, uh, did not.

Today though, today I had the urge to vacuum. Oh right, you're thinking I need to explain why I haven't vacuumed in the last 7 years of my life since husband #2. Okay, fine. I have a housekeeper. Shawn does a lovely job and prefers I not interfere. And, um, I don't own a vacuum.  BUT... we bought a new mattress set! (No, not Shawn and I; Chris and I) And do you know what happens when you buy a new mattress set? Right. They haul away the old one.

Which leaves that whole "scary, never before seen let alone vacuumed" vast space under your bed exposed for all the world or at least you and the mattress delivery men. I'm guessing, now, based on very recent experience, that there are people in the world who periodically (say, every spring) lift up their mattresses and vacuum under the bed. Or have vacuum attachments (more on this in a moment--I was fascinated!) that reach under the bed and dispense with the four to six pounds of dust hiding out there. Chris and I are not those people. We are the people, we now know, who allow dust bunnies under the bed to turn into large warrens of huge, frightening, pink-eyed, rabid bunnies with fangs.

When I saw what the under the bed section looked like, I have to admit, I was appalled. Really, truly appalled. At Shawn. (Kidding!) There was no choice but to vacuum. Having seen dustmageddon, not even I was going to be able to sleep above it, no matter how clean and pretty (and, as it turns out, really, really high) our new mattress is. And vacuum it I did!!  But when I was done I was not satisfied. It seemed the edges still had dust and there were areas around the bed posts I couldn't quite get to and nooks and crannies and ledges filled with dust. Chris opined that he thought there were uses for those things hanging off the back and sides of the vacuum. Brush looking things, a long tube, an angled thingy. I had to admit, it seemed promising.

I am so proud to tell you I tried them all, attaching them one by one to the suction tube thingamagig that seemed to be a really important aspect of the whole vacuuming experience. And by god, they worked!! I vacuumed, brushed, angled, and suctioned for over an hour--in just the bed area! Seamus howled and barked and threatened the vacuum the entire time which he does not do to I'm left to believe it was the sight of me vacuuming that frightened the dog. Clearly I was under attack. No matter! I was successful. I was so inspired I got out this can of stuff that apparently you spray on wood and wipe up to get a clean, shiny look. That worked too! And smelled really really good. Like my house smells on Thursdays that I always thought was Shawn's cologne.  Never in (my post-divorce) history has a bed area been so clean!! I almost did not want to put the mattress down on the frame. Except for the part where sleeping on wooden slats would be, well, icky.

Oh, and I need to publicly apologize to the dryer. All these years I'd been blaming it for indiscriminately eating socks and here it was the big, silent, brooding bed that was thieving footwear!! And not just socks. Shoes! Boots! flip flops! Or, er, flip flop. And magazines from 2002, Carmex from godonlyknows, paper clips, post-it notes, an entire blanket and a sewing needle (at least that's what I think it is and I have to assume it's been there since the prior owner lived here).  Poor, poor  unfairly maligned dryer.  One day I shall make it up to him by cleaning his vents. Maybe with a vacuum attachment thingy!!A whole new world may be opening up to me. Pardon me while I go sleep on it...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A New Year

Right, so it's a new year.  I'm probably supposed to have something profound to say...
Nothing.  It's sort of like the epiphany I should have had post cancer. I'll work on it.

In the meantime, several of you asked why Seamus didn't have a glass of wine in our Christmas photo (see this post). The answer to that is...because he's a dog. Look, just because he forgets that doesn't mean you can forget that. But don't think he didn't try:

No, his tongue is not doctored in this photo. And yes, we did contemplate sending this as a Christmas card. For once, we actually exercised some judgment.

Happy New Year!