Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mothers and Daughters (and oil and water, and Israel and Palestine, and...)

One day while driving home from work, I called my friend Kyle in tears.

"My daughter hates me."

"If it makes you feel any better," she said, "I have two daughters. Double the hate. In fact, I made [honey] kosher chicken noodle soup last weekend and she gave me shit about it."


"We're Jewish, but [honey] is orthodox. She only eats kosher. And she has to have her kosher food made in separate pots and pans and served on separate dinnerware. I make [honey] kosher chicken noodle soup every Friday night to make sure she'll have something kosher to eat for the weekend."

"Wow. That's really nice of you."

"Except for the fact that I was chopping the carrots and celery with my bare hands, which made [honey] wretch and gag and proclaim me disgusting."

"You asshole!"

"I know! I feel horrible!"

A couple of days later, I was telling my boyfriend about an incident with my daughter. "You know," I said, "this sounds like hyperbole, but going through cancer was easier than living with a teenage girl who absolutely hates me. No matter what I do, it's wrong. And not only is it wrong, I am wrong. Everything about me is disgusting, including my voice, my appearance, my beliefs, my approach to life, my relationships, my job, everthing. When I was in treatment, I may have been scared to death and tired, but my own sense of self-worth actually increased."

"When you had cancer, you probably thought, there's an end to this," he said. "With daughters, it can feel interminable. You lose them for about four years, and it's an agonizing four years."

I don't know when this tumultous mother/daughter relationship will resolve itself, and sometimes in the moment it feels impossible to repair. But the one thing I do know is that all I have is this day, this moment in time when I have the absolute luxury and honor of angsting about my relationship with my daughter instead of worrying about my post-op drain. Or my sore post-chemo arm. Or my post-radiation narcolepsy. But this morning as I sit at my kitchen table wearing embarrassingly old pajamas with unhighlighted hair and unmanicured nails, drinking coffee out of the mug my daughter gave me "just because" when she was nine, I am beyond grateful.

ps: feet belong to another, hipper, mom and her daughter

Sunday, July 18, 2010

What Matters

I know. I take off an entire year, now I just can't stop writing. So much to document. The Walk. The Man. The Kids. Of course, people used to read this blog. Now, it's just me. No worries. I have reached that point in my life where I understand what's truly important. Who'd have ever thought that an angst-ridden, self-conscious chick like me would get to the point where other people's opinions don't matter? Or, truth be told, matter less?

True story: My brother, his wife, me and my kids were in my brother's Honda Pilot last Christmas, going to Stanford to return Christmas presents. My brother and I share a love of Alison Krauss and Shawn Colvin. But lately, my brother's taste in music has devolved, as evidenced by the Glee soundtrack streaming from the Pilot's speakers that day.

Mike: "Uncle Dennis, your music sucks ass."

Uncle Dennis: "You know what's great about being middle-aged, Mike? You don't give a shit what other people think. And you're going to love the Michael Buble CD I got coming up next."

I turned 50 in May. I no longer care that I can't fit into a size 8. I no longer care that I don't fit into your group. I no longer care that there are tumbleweeds of dog hair drifting around my unpolished hardwood floors. I no longer care that I drive a 2000 Toyota Sienna mini-van that needs bodywork and smells like wet dog. I no longer care that I have a radically altered body. Why? It took me 50 years, but I have finally realized what matters in life. Here's what matters:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Man

When I was 10, shopping at Sears Roebuck with my mom, I would wander around the men's section and pretend I was a grown woman, shopping for her man. I would ruffle through the rugged red and black plaid shirts, looking for that rare extra extra large. My man was very big and outdoorsy. A guy's guy, but bighearted and true. I'd find jeans, socks, underwear and undershirts, and maybe a surprise: socket wrenches from the tool department.

Later, while setting the table for dinner, I'd lift the lid on the big pot on the stove and stir, letting the steam from Mom's vegetable soup fill the kitchen. How homey I make my home, our home, for my man. I lay out the Parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper. Saltines. Big blue and white bowls. Big spoons. Glasses for milk. Cloth napkins.

I ladle the soup into the bowls and anticipate my man's appreciation. Hi smiles at me and tells me he loves me. And my soup.

It's been almost 11 months since I met Kevin. When he reads this, I'm sure he'll have a big laugh. A big extra extra large laugh. But he might see in himself that man I had created in the Sears Roebuck men's section when I was a little girl. He's a big, outdoorsy guy. Knows how to use a chainsaw, fish, fix a car. He's bighearted and true. Kind, genuine, honest and protective. And, while this didn't enter into the story back then, he's wicked smart and funny.

Dating post-cancer, post double-mastectomy, post reconstruction is a tricky thing. But God smiled on me when I met Kevin last September 1. I'm filled with gratitude.

Avon Toe-Day Walk

You can get blisters between your toes. Bet you didn't know that...

I didn't know that, but I found out last weekend when I did the Avon Two-Day Walk in San Francisco with my friend, Sophie.

Highlights of the event:

1)Sophie. She had me laughing from Mile 1 to Mile 44 (I know they said it was 39 miles, but the GPS said otherwise).

2)Kevin. My last post was in September of 2009. On September 1, 2009, I met Kevin. Since then, I've been showered with love, acceptance, generosity and patience. Kevin got to Sausalito at 8:00, waiting for me and Sophie to walk by and cheer us on. We didn't get there until 10. He had a big smile for us and big kiss for me :)

3)San Jose Cops. They were our mountain bike escorts. Great guys. Ridiculous calves.

4)Rest Station Nurses. Saved my feet, actually. And, later, my knees.

5)Wellness Village dinner. Big, piping hot plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Rivals dinner in Rome, Italy, as my best meal, ever.

6)"Freelance" roadside well-wishers. Ok, a couple of them gave us incorrect ETAs (only one mile to go!), but they were great support.

7) Co-walkers. The spirit of the event was one of mutual support and camaraderie. I felt part of a big, loving community.

8)The gals who put up our tent. Thank you! Sophie and I, dog tired, got in our tent and fell asleep unshowered in our walking clothes by 8 p.m.

9)Sophie laughing at me as I made it, sobbing, down the steep hill into the Wellness Village. I had done serious damage to my knees and almost couldn't walk. Thank God for a friend who can laugh with me at my stunning stupidity. PS, don't train for a 40mile walk on a mountain bike. I thought that because I could ride my bike up Mt. Montara two times in one morning, that I was a total stud. You actually have to train as a walker. And you have to get good shoes, not your old lawn-mowing shoes.

10)Finishing. Walking up the hill to Fort Mason, my relief at having made it was huge. One for the bucket list. And Sophie making me laugh until I wet my pants. No worries. I was still in yesterday's clothes.

11) Purpose. At Rest Stop 5 on Day 2, I was interviewed by a Canadian documentary crew, who asked me this question: Why are you doing this? My answer: I got health insurance two months before my diagnosis, and I received excellent care by the best medical team I could find. Going through breast cancer treatment is hugely stressful (to say the least). No one should have to go through it and have to worry about how they’re going to pay for it or how to get the care they need. More importantly, even though I had 10 tumors in my right breast, I found my cancer early. Walks like these raise funds for research and prevention, the best reason of all to participate.