Saturday, June 28, 2008

Chemo Curls

Enough said. Actually, if you have a minute, I have a short story (honest) about my hair.

Ocho, I, my brother and his cute wife went to the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss concert at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley last night. We had to park far away, and the air was smoky (from all the NorCal fires) and foggy. So foggy, in fact, that it was misting. After about three minutes, you could see my hair curling. Like slow-motion photography of a tender little shoot pushing through the earth and growing into a plant. Only faster. And curlier. By the time we got to the Greek, I was Linc (see Totally Mod).

Fortunately, Ocho thought it was cute. Yet another reason to love him.

The concert last night was stunningly beautiful. As I sat there in the dense fog, listening to the improbable but perfect duo of Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, feeling my hair curling and twisting, I felt a peace settle on me and sink into my soul.

PS: To my big sis: Jannie, doesn't my hair like this remind you of when I was in sixth grade--minus the wire-rimmed John Denver glasses?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mothers with Cancer

I recently was asked to be part of a new blog called Mothers with Cancer. These women know how to deal with adversity with that perfect blend of intelligence, compassion, spunk and bite that just wags my tail!

Go read what these 17 women have to say, including the creator of the site, the brilliant Susan (really, she's a NASA scientist), who also blogs at Toddler Planet.

Another of the 17 is Andrea of Punk Rock Mommy. This articulate, feisty mom of six was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer the day after she got her college degree. She's fighting the good fight, but she needs love and prayers now. Send yours her way, if you would.

Also read Jenni Ballantyne of The Comfy Place. She's just gorgeous. Inside and out.

Heck, take the rest of the day off and read them all. They're all truly amazing.

Love to you.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Ocho and I drove to the City this afternoon, hoping to get into the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the De Young. It was sold out. So instead we ambled through Golden Gate Park and into the botanical garden cactus sale, where Ocho bought seven vibrant green succulents.

The stress of selecting only seven of those luscious plants must have exhausted the guy, because it’s 9 o’clock on a Saturday night and Ocho’s in bed sleeping like a rugby player.

No worries. That means I can stay up late and write about a topic that is difficult to write about—my changing body.

I was extraordinarily proud of myself after going through chemo without gaining a pound. In fact, looking back, that was a sweet time. I was flat, and I was bald. But I was loved. And I knew I wasn’t always going to be flat and bald. Those were temporary experiences.

Then I went through 28 sessions of radiation. I would arrive at the Dorothy B. Schneider Cancer Center at 8 a.m., have Tony or Wayne radiate me, apply anti-burn gel to my radiated side, and go to work. Other than getting a rockin’ good burn, the whole thing was not horrible, just fatiguing. About halfway through, I found myself falling asleep at 8 p.m. every night after work.

In the six months between radiation and reconstruction I gained 18 pounds.

I quit drinking. I buy healthy, organic foods. I eat more vegetables and fiber. I avoid the Red Vines at work. I go to 5:30 a.m. spin classes. I ride my mountain bike up, well, mountains. I do my own yard work and home repairs. One would think I would have lost those 18 pounds. The digital scale says I’ve lost three.

I put on a pair of pants for work the other day. The black capris, to my horror, looked like leggings. So, I took off the leggings and put on a skirt, the one that used to ride loosely on my hips and that now cuts deeply into my gut.

Nora Ephron wrote a great book, called “I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman.” It helped. But only a little. It may have helped more if the title had been, "I Feel Bad about My Gut: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman."

Here’s what—finally—has helped me: a sentence in an article on post-chemo weight gain on the American Cancer Society website.

Dr. Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, RD, an associate research professor at Duke University Medical Center said, “It’s not necessarily the weight gain, but the change in body composition that is worrisome.” The change in body composition is characteristic of the normal aging process. “If you look at these women in the year after diagnosis, the chemotherapy patient ages 10 years over the course of a year. Although you might think a change in body fat of 2% is not much, indeed it is. The time clock is sped up.”

Finally. Validation.

I thought it was the Tamoxifen, but my oncologist and others say that Tamoxifen does not cause weight gain. That made me a little crazy. And a little pissed off. It helps to know that chemo and chemo-induced menopause can cause dramatic changes in your body. It helps to know that chemo takes the pause out of menopause. This was no gradual menopause; this was the entire process, which usually takes 10 years, in one year.

So here’s the new plan, and it’s a simple one: I’m going to work out more and eat less. I’m going to give losing this 15 pounds extraordinary effort. And in the meantime, I’m going to try to love this new, succulent body.