The Cancer Chronicles #1: Goddamned Fucking Fatigue

It’s been about two years since I’ve received my last chemo treatment, but the hits just keep on comin’! Two brutal winters, two gloriously hot, hot, hot summers, fevers, anemia, iron infusions, pneumonia, remission, stage 1, bone marrow tests, PET Scans, remission, fevers, stage 1, B Cells, post chemo hair loss, fatigue, fatigue, fatigue.

When I say that i’m tired, I don’t mean that I didn’t sleep well last night. It means that I’m tired. Goddamned fucking town to the marrow in my bones tired. Exhaustion. Sleep does not elude me. I can sleep for days.

Really.

Days.

Having an almost seven year old darling girl is hard. I want to have energy for her. I want to want to play dolls. I play dolls and all I think about is my big comfy bed in the next room. I look at the clock over and over and over again. I hired a “Mommy’s Helper”. A cute nineteen year old girl who probably spends her cash earned on bags of pot and pregnancy tests, but she’s good. She’s reliable and my girl loves her. A lot. So much, in fact, that I’ve been getting jealous.

Which brings me to today. The school’s annual “Boo-Bash.” A big ol’ Halloween party to generate tons of cash for all of the luxuries that other New York City public schools just don’t have. Chess lessons, a fully updated and beautiful computer lab, yoga,  tennis, classroom libraries. Good shit. My friends’ kids don’t go to schools with all of these extra goodies. So, this school is constantly throwing parties, auctions, bake sales, flower sales, and of course asking for good ol’ fashioned cash in an envelope.

Back to the Boo Bash. My Mommy’s Helper offered to take my girl, but I declined her offer. I need to do Mommy stuff with her before she’s screaming “Fuck You!” at me before slamming her door. I don’t want to go. I’m fucking dreading it. I want to curl up in my bed and doze off until bedtime. My daughter is running around in her Cheerleading costume. The bash doesn’t start until 5 PM and I already feel like it’s midnight. I’ve called my oncologist three times in the past couple of weeks because of this paralyzing fatigue and he tells me I need a PET scan.

Sigh.

At least I can catch a nap on the subway ride there.

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What’s Wrong with my WordPress?

I know, I know. Suzy had another lapse, but I wanted to write a couple of new posts and see what my WordPress buddies were up to and suddenly everything has gone awry! My reader only has one blog, my little picture is gone and I lost my loveandeyeliner.com domain (though you can still access it at loveandeyeliner.wordpress.com).

I have so much to share. I have had so many magical experiences since my last post and I want to share them all with you.

I’m going to do some technical work, but please, if you know of any changes (like how I can get my reader back) share them with me!

I’m off,

SQ

xoxo

Nine. Eleven.

New York Skyline

It was a dozen years ago, but every September 11th since 2001, I feel like it is today. I start thinking about it around the 7th and I have to prepare myself mentally for the flood of emotions that will wash over me every year.

I was at work. It was the most beautiful September day you could imagine. 80 degrees and the sky seemed to be bluer than usual. No clouds. It was my second year as a teacher, so we were cut off from the news. Suddenly Ronald Burshtein, a student known for his, well, quirks, began running through the hallways screaming “A plane hit the twin towers! A plane hit the twin towers!” Nobody believed him, because it was Ronald. I thought to myself that if a plane had hit one of the towers, it was one of those little planes. I imagined some scaffolding around the damage.

I had no idea.

As the minutes passed, someone found an old transistor radio and we turned on the news.

It was bad.

Still, we all thought it was an accident. A terrible tragedy. A plane taking off from JFK or LaGuardia broke down above the Manhattan skyline. It had to be. How else could a 747 hit one of the Twin Towers?

It wasn’t long before the second plane hit. We couldn’t see the footage. We could only hear the reporter’s descriptions. Minutes later our entire school was evacuated because some dummy called in a bomb threat. Students were asking teachers if they could use their cell phones to call their parents who worked in downtown Manhattan. Everybody was quiet. Teachers walked to their cars to turn on the news. We all stood underneath that blue, blue sky protected from the death and destruction that was happening in our city.

Then we saw the smoke. From miles and miles away, the blue blue sky suddenly had a trickle of  black smoke rising in the distance. We stared at the smoke. Some people started crying. It was still so quiet.

All public transportation was shut down, so the students who could walk home were told to leave and those who didn’t were given rides home by teachers. I got into my own car and drove the short distance to my Mom’s house. The TV was on. It was stunning.

It was hard to watch, but you couldn’t stop looking. You prayed for those above the burning planes, but you also knew-if they weren’t dead yet, they would be soon.

And then the first tower came crashing down. It was horrifying. How could that tower-one of the gems of the New York skyline cone crashing down within seconds? And the people. What about the people on the street and still stuck inside? The firemen who ran into rescue and hit a brick wall?

Vaporized.

So many souls were simply vaporized. No traces of their existence left. Not a hair or a tooth or a fingernail or an earring. Others were killed by the falling rubble. Bodies everywhere. I read somewhere that all of the New York hospitals went into emergency mode, expecting tons of triage. Hour after hour passed. Nobody came.

Nobody came because no one was injured.

You escaped or you died.

The second tower fell shortly after the first. My mouth gaping at the television set I couldn’t believe the dust cloud that it produced. How many more people? And what about the people running through the streets? Trying desperately to get away. To save their lives. My sister ran that day. She walked home over the Brooklyn Bridge. So many people walked home over the Brooklyn Bridge. Tired, confused, scared, sad, covered in ash and asbestos, lonesome and lost.

Schools were closed the next day and that’s when the “Missing People” signs started coming out. Family, desperate to find their loved ones made signs, hoping and praying that they just couldn’t get home the night before. Praying and hoping. Nobody knew the body count. It was first estimated at 10,000. It was much less than that, closer to 3,000. But nobody knew at the time. It was complete chaos. Where do you begin to cleanup the rubble of two fallen towers? How do you organize a place to keep body parts, burned clothing, a shoe?

3,000 people.

Vanished.

If you’re not from New York, I don’t think you can feel the impact the way we do. It’s painful. Every year it’s painful. I listen to the reading of the names every year and I weep. Gone. They’re all gone and our buildings are gone too.

The Freedom Tower is being built and making beautiful progress, but I remember driving through a part of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, seeing those towers and saying to who ever was in the car– “Best skyline on Earth. Where else can you see a skyline like that?” Every time I drove past before the Freedom Tower started going up, I wanted to cry. It was like looking at a beautiful smile with the two front teeth pulled out.

Empty.

The Freedom Tower is beautiful and so is the memorial. But it’ll never replace those towers. MY towers. Every New Yorker’s towers. They made us proud.

And I’ll never forget.

Don’t Shave WIth Baby Oil. Ever!

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Well, I’m expecting  Mr. Irresistible (post and pseudonym pending…) to pay a visit to me early this evening.

We haven’t been physically intimate in about a month, when I felt like I needed some time apart from him due to the separate complications of our lives.

He’s been in touch and when I called him with the dreaded chemo news the other day, he said he wanted to see me.

We sent a few texts back and forth today and when I mentioned I felt “blah”, his response was “don’t worry, I’ll cheer you up.”

Of course that could have been an innocent statement, but just in case is wasn’t, I thought I should prepare.

I’m not sure which beauty magazine, blog of maybe even the back of the package suggested that baby oil is just fabulous for shaving one’s legs, but I wanted to be extra smooth and touchable, so I decided to give it a go.

Bad move. Bad.

I used the Johnson & Johnson Gel version and it was a mess. That shit doesn’t rinse off, clogged my good razor, made my hands so greasy I had to exfoliate them before I washed my hair and left a slick coating at the bottom of my shower.

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Ugh.

I had to hop out, grab a new razor and start from scratch. I scrubbed myself down, exfoliated that junk from my legs, washed my hands and shaved all over again–and you know what?? There were STILL those little water beads that couldn’t penetrate the oil.

I was about to run into the kitchen and grab the Dawn dish washing liquid before I came to my senses, grabbed a washcloth and the last bar if Irish Spring left behind by the ex and started all over AGAIN.

But no worries, this story has a happy ending. After an hour in the shower, I am smooth, clean, shaved, washed, shampooed, conditioned and ready for what ever it is that he feels will “cheer me up.”

And if it’s not what I quite have in mind, at least I have a beach date with my friends tomorrow. These silky legs are getting some kind of attention.

After what I just went through–they better!

Wasting Time

Ugh.

It’s almost 11:00 and I’ve been waiting outside the matrimonial courtroom door for an hour. My attorney told me yesterday that I didn’t have to show up today, but when my ex told me he would be here, I wasn’t taking any chances.

So, here I am. My little ass already staring to hurt from this hard bench, listening to my (ex)husband’s fake laugh as he has his first court appearance with his new attorney. (He has such a fake laugh around people he doesn’t know well or wants to impress or think he’s this great affable guy. I don’t understand how other people don’t realize it.) The judge has taken the bench. I hear her yelling from outside the courtroom. Oh Adam? (My attorney…) Where are you??

I’m sitting here thinking of all the things I need to get done, but won’t be able to because of this heinous waste of time.

Laundry.
Cleaning.
Cooking.
Sleeping off my Rituxan haze.

I’m taking bets. How long will I have to wait before a) the judge takes the bench b) my attorney shows up c) I get to go home, tired and itchy from this starched dress shirt (I specifically asked for no starch!)

How long will it take for this shitty divorce to end??

My Funny Divorce

My divorce didn’t start out as most divorces do. There was no discussion and no couple’s therapy. Sure, there were warning signs, and in my heart, I always knew this marriage wouldn’t last–there were red flags everywhere. I even tried to file for divorce back in 2010, but we “worked it out” and then, three years later on my way to the Oncologist’s office, the day I was officially diagnosed with cancer, I received a call from an unfamiliar number. It was an associate of my husband’s divorce attorney advising me that at 3:30 PM on that cold Friday in late January, my husband was going to appear in court with an Emergency Order to Show Cause evicting me from our marital residence and denying me custody of my daughter.

I arrived at the doctor’s office and called the only divorce attorney I had saved in my contacts from my previous attempt at leaving my husband. There I was, one arm outstretched being stuck with multiple needles while my free hand was being used to discuss my emergency situation to one of the most expensive divorce attorneys in New York City. He simply said “You need a lawyer. Come see me on Monday with a check for ten thousand dollars and I’ll buy the pizza.” Funny.  Bloodsucking at it’s finest.

Welcome Divine Intervention! That following Monday, walking from the subway to my attorney’s office, I received a call from my husband. He had been admitted into the hospital with a severe case of diverticulitis. Since I had been evicted from my home for two days, my stuff was everywhere! I had no phone charger and my battery was running low. I grabbed my fully charged iPad planning to log into my Facebook account to let my friends know that I was temporarily sans phone and to message me if they needed to get in touch.

Ha. Ha. Ha. Now, this is funny… My husband. The attorney. The man who I had always looked up to as being so  intelligent had made the biggest mistake ever. I touched the Facebook app to log in, and what comes up? HIS ACCOUNT. I rarely used my iPad, it was usually just sitting around the house somewhere losing power, but I had no idea that HE was using it. And so I went through all of his messages and learned that he had been planning this for about a month. A MONTH!! And so I waited. And waited. And waited. Knowing my (ex)husband could never, ever keep his mouth shut about anything, I knew something would come up and at about 6:00 PM that night it did… A message to his friend about how he had an ex-girlfirend come visit him in the hospital and give him an “unprompted” massage. He wrote some other horribly incriminating things about himself (well, horrible for him…wonderful for me…funny…) that I won’t write about in public only out of the last shred of respect I have for him as my daughter’s father. Well, one screen shot and an e-mail to my attorney later, we were back in court the very next day–his “Emergency” Order to Show Cause reversed in my favor and my first victorious battle in this war called divorce.

The past seven months have been an absolute roller coaster ride between the two of us. At one point, he even suggested reconciliation. I laughed. That was pretty funny. We fought, we cursed, we cried (in our separate beds, of course…) and we blamed, blamed, blamed. I think I came to an acceptance about our separation and ultimately, our divorce faster than he did, but that’s just because of who we are as people. I know I’ll be ok. I’m alright being alone. I’ve always been a bit of a loner and I don’t and never did need a partner to make me feel complete, but I think he’s different. I think he’s scared. I think he needs that “triangle” to feel like he’s part of a real family. He NEEDS a woman, even if it’s just for the night, for comfort and companionship. And honestly, I feel a little sorry for him because of that. It’s weak and I never, until this year, have ever seen him as weak.

Anyway, we’re getting along pretty well now, and our daughter understands that we love her no matter what happens between her parents and that it’s not her fault and that we will BOTH be there for her no matter what. My (ex)husband, yeah, he annoys the shit out of me on most days, and I don’t trust him worth a dime, but I put on my smiley face and lots of post-it notes with directions on how to do just about everything concerning our daughter on his custody nights. I even rubbed sunscreen on his back the other day as he was about to bring our daughter to the beach. As I placed my hands on his bare skin for the first time in months, he turned his head back to me and said “this is the most expensive massage I’ve ever had.”

Funny.

Just like this divorce.

Not Ruined. Changed.

My life was ruined! He ruined my life! I lost my job, I’m ruined! No, no, no, no, no!!!

I hear and read so many people using the word “ruined” to describe little mishaps and I think to myself, no, they have no idea what the word “ruined” really means. Ruined is the end. My friend is a painter. He tore a hole in his canvas. Yes. The painting was ruined. A family member of my friend’s house was a pile of moldy garbage after Hurricane Sandy. Yes. Her house was ruined. Now, mind you, I have never heard the word “ruined” escape either of their lips, they’re merely examples of what, to me, ruined IS. (IN TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SITUATIONS!! Minor ruin vs. major ruin–but they both have to be rebuilt–they had both reached the point of no return.)

I think a lot of people in my position would (and are) saying “My/Her life is ruined! She lost her job, marriage and health in less than one year!!” But I don’t look at it that way. All of these losses, they haven’t ruined me–nor will they ever. Instead, they have CHANGED me. My life isn’t ruined by some of the bullshit and pretty serious shit that I have gone through and am still facing, but it certainly is changed–and honestly, I think it’s changed for the better.

It’s true. I do have to face some pretty gruesome facts about myself, my past and my future, but quite honestly, I’ve never felt better or happier than I do at this point in my life. In some ways, I feel as if I’ve been freed from the chains carrying different names–chains that had been holding me back from who I really am and what I’ve really wanted for a very long time–and that’s the freedom to start all over again. Sure, I still have to deal with some of my past, I can’t ignore the fact that I have cancer or that I’m a Mommy. I can’t exactly run away and start over from scratch, nor do I have to. I still have a roof over my head and my extensive makeup collection, my good jeans and clothes that fit, but that’s not the change I’m writing about. I’m writing about the “Where Ever You Go, There You Are” kind of change. I’m writing about the change in ME. The way I think, how I feel, the contentment I feel every single day knowing that in the end, my life has not been ruined. It’s only changed. And I hope it keeps on changing, because one life is a million lives–I’m bravely marching in to to my next one.

And it’s gonna be good.

My “Enchanted” Life

My friend LL tells me I lead an “enchanted life.” I’ve been through a lot (haven’t we all?) and life keeps shooting it’s bullets at me, but somehow, I keep on dodging them. I don’t know if that’s exactly “enchanted,” but it sure is a beautiful way of expressing what I’ve been through.

This past year has been a series of enchantments, heartbreaks, and breakthroughs. I can’t write about a lot of the juicy stuff right now, but I promise…I will.

I like to say “I’m just a girl from brooklyn…” 2013 has taught me a hell of a lot more about myself. My husband of 7 years left me in January, just as I was diagnosed with cancer. Anger…Rage…Crying…For two months it wasn’t even a “day to day” type of life style for me–it was hour to hour.

The worst part about the divorce and the cancer was and still is the waiting. It’s been seven months, and technically I’m still married…waiting…waiting…waiting…

I was diagnosed that very same month (coincidence?) with a rare type of Lymphoma for my age and gender. Those are the three words you never want to hear when you are a 36 year old Mommy. “You have cancer.” The tests, the waiting, the results, the waiting, more tests, the waiting and finally another three words no one ever wants to hear– “You need chemo.”

I don’t know what happened to the anger, the rage, the crying. It slowly dissolved and in it’s place I have found the strength to battle an acrimonious divorce, cancer, and suddenly becoming a single Mom while never forgetting what matters most to me and where I get that incredible strength–my daughter. I can’t start writing about her now–I’ll go off on a tangent and lose myself in describing all of her innocence and beauty and healing powers.

I made a promise to myself when I first found out I had cancer. I WILL NOT BE A SICK PERSON. I will put on my cat eye and red lips to every chemo session, I will keep in touch with and still visit my friends, my family and I will have them visit me! I have learned to accept help when it’s offered, though I’m still working on asking for it when, truthfully, sometimes I could use it. I will window shop, I will grocery shop, I will laugh and I’ll have a glass of wine every once in a while on my tiny Brooklyn fire escape, looking out as the days turn into beautiful nights and I will cherish every last sip.

LL calls me “enchanted” and I don’t know if that’s exactly true, but I love her for that.