Please Don’t Touch My Feet or Butt

Greanada hammock EvaI’ve had at least ten massages in my life. I’d like to think that I can distinguish a good massage from a bad one.

However, I have never had such a peculiar massage like the one performed in one of the massage chains, let’s just call it M.E.

I arrived 15 minutes early (as requested) for my introductory (and discounted) one hour long massage. The girl behind the counter ushered me on a white plastic cushioned couch and handed me a clipboard with several forms.

After I filled in my name and address three times in various sections of the paperwork, I was asked to indicate whether or not I would like a massage in the following regions: abdomen, pectoral muscles and gluteals. So in my head, I translated it to stomach, boobs and butt.

I checked “no” on all of them because I couldn’t fathom an intestinal organ massage neither could I consent to a massage of my reconstructed post mastectomy silicone breasts. As far as the butt, well, I could see a potential benefit but felt uncomfortable with “Ms Helen” kneading my exercise needing gluteals.

I sprung up from the couch to give my paperwork to the desk girl. She glanced at it and with an apologetic smile produced two more papers.

My admission to having been diagnosed with two cancers earned me extra questionnaires. I trailed back to the plastic couch and skimmed the pages. It asked for all the surgeries, all the medications I have been on and still am on, dates of treatments, chemotherapy, everything.

I felt instantly heavy. This was supposed to be a relaxing hour. Not a misery rehashing journal entry. I sighed. I put the pen to the paper and went into autopilot, filling everything in as quickly as I could.

The girl behind the desk must have been watching me because as soon as I finished the last page signature, she walked over and sat down next to me, gently taking the clipboard out of my hands.

“So, I am now going to take you in the back where you can relax and Ms Helen will come get you and discuss your massage with you. Then you will have your 50 minute massage.”

Whooa! What? What did she mean by 50 minutes? I signed up for one hour. Isn’t that why I arrived 15-20 minutes early? So we take care of all the bureaucracy and explanations? I frowned and felt annoyance rise up from my stomach to my face.

After I froze in the back waiting room for a few minutes, Ms. Helen, who turned out to be an older Asian lady, came to get me.

In the massage room, she looked at my paperwork for about 10 seconds and I knew she couldn’t have read my meticulously filled out cancer saga.

“So, here, it say…” She struggled with English. “No gluteal? Yes?’

“Right.” I said. “No gluteals, no pecs, no abdomen.”

She studied the sheet a little more.

“And feet?” She looked up hopefully.

“No, thanks, I don’t like my feet massaged. It’s OK.”

Her eyes widened and her mouth dropped open a little bit. She stared at me. I stared back at her.

“So…feet…?” Her voice fluttered and her head nodded.

“NO.” I said sternly. “No feet. No feet.” And I made a sweeping sideways motion with my hands and shook my head side to side. “No feet.”

Her face brightened and she nodded in apparent understanding.

She left the room and I got undressed and lay on the not so comfy and cheap looking massage bed. I put my head into the head rest.

Immediately, blood rushed in my brain and hummed in my ears. I lifted my head and noticed the head rest screws were lose and wouldn’t hold the doughnut in place.

I scooted down a little and just rested my head on the massage bed itself. Ms. Helen came back in and after another broken conversation I conveyed my problem to her. To my surprise, she magically fixed the head rest so that it held my head at an acceptable level.

I wondered about my silicone breasts. This was a first massage since my reconstruction. Since I lay on my stomach, they felt very flattened and I imagined little ripples spreading through the implant, the silicone coming loose and reacting with surrounding tissue until I would be in a toxic shock and die right there with Ms. Helen mistakenly massaging my feet.

None of that happened and the massage began after Ms. Helen’s repeated inquiry if I really did not want my butt massaged.

She swept her hands over the sheet on my back for about a minute.

Then she (and I can only imagine that’s what she did) laid her forearm on one side of my back and leaned in. Full force. She leaned in so much I couldn’t take a breath.

My eyes sprung open. What was she doing? Before I ran out of oxygen, she switched sides and lay on the other half of my back. I blinked a few times, confused.

I felt the vein on the side of my head pulsing. I marked on one of the many papers I filled out earlier that I wanted a light massage. Ms. Helen either didn’t read it or didn’t understand the word “light” in English.

Then she proceeded to spread some lotion on my back. She did it very quickly and I felt like a child on the beach getting hurriedly slathered with sunscreen.

She started kneading my back with gusto. Every time she got to the kidney area, I tensed, but thankfully she let go of some of her steam and lightened the pressure a little.

She repeated the laying-on-me move again. This time she pushed even more with her elbow.

Suddenly, her arm slipped and I felt my muscle stumble over another muscle or a bone or whatever was in my back. All I know is that it hurt.

“Oh…sorry.” She said but repeated the same move on the other side of my back.

By now, I was in full alert. I kept readjusting my head in the headrest and hoped that Ms. Helen changed the towel the headrest was wrapped in after every customer.

I was asked to turn around and face up. I complied happily. I thought she couldn’t possibly lie on my stomach or squeeze me that hard now.

My mistake.

Ms. Helen proceeded to clamp her hands on the sides of my neck. I imagined my chemo port being ripped out of the vein by this pressure and blood from my jugular spraying the not so cozy massage room.

When I was about to say something, she unclamped her fingers and went on to press on various points of my head with her thumbs. It felt like she wanted to burrow holes from one side of my brain to another.

Then, out of the blue, she stuck her point fingers in my ears.

My eyes flew open. I felt like a skewered pig on the roast. I didn’t dare move. What kind of a massage move was this?

I was relieved when she moved on to my legs. She again hastily slathered less then optimal amount of lotion on them. Then she touched my feet.

NO! Let go! NO FEET! I squirmed a little.

“It’s OK, no feet.” I mumbled and pulled my foot out of her hand.

She stared at me with her mouth open and with a completely confused look.

Soon afterwards the massage concluded. I suddenly had a stuffed nose and was cold again.

Ms Helen handed me a cup of water when I exited the room. No cucumber flavor, just plain old water I noticed with disappointment. I felt bad for her and tipped her anyway.

The girl at the front desk intercepted me and made me sit on the plastic couch again.

What now? I was annoyed.

She went on to pitch me a monthly membership deal for a ridiculously high price. I declined all of it and paid my intro rate for the massage I just had.

I walked outside into the sunshine and moved my shoulders around. There was a strange new kink on the left side of my back. I turned around to look at the purple massage place logo and frowned. No, I didn’t think I was going to come back. Ever. Again.

The Father’s Day Bitter Pill

Eva 2 yearsI forgot, It’s Father’s Day.

I turn on Facebook and nearly everyone’s profile picture is changed to a faded or even a black and white photo of themselves with their father.

All of them smiling, in an embrace, holding hands, gazing at each other lovingly, mid pose in a wedding dance, on a boat holding fish up in the air, standing in front of a house from the 70s.

It makes me sad. It makes me angry and it makes me annoyed.

I know I should take some higher ground and be happy for other people but I can’t.

I am jealous. I am so jealous. I wish I could post my own photo and genuinely wish my father a happy father’s day.

I have not spoken to my father in years.

The communication first broke down in my early teens when I first noticed just how bad his alcoholism was. A cracked bedroom door let me glimpse him pulling out a bottle of liquor from the armoire and taking a 7AM swig. A walk in the city with my friends after school revealed him sitting in one of the wine cellars. I used to open a trash bin outside our house only to see at least five wine bottles each week.

A couple years later when I started to go out to clubs with friends and date, our communication limited itself to him calling me names and making fun of my friends. I dreaded if he picked up the phone when someone called me. I didn’t invite anyone to our house. I was so embarrassed I forbade him from going to my graduation.

After I moved to the US, my parents divorced. I received a handful of letters in the last eighteen years from him. All of them dated from before 2001. I sent him a long letter once laying it all out, how I feel, what he did, how it affected me. No response. I attempted one more contact a couple years ago via email. I got two short replies to my three long emails.

I have been battling two different cancers for the last two years and have not heard even one word from my own father. Not even a snippet of concern uttered in front of my uncle, his brother, who sees him regularly. Nothing.

When I expressed my disappointment and my desire to write him off to others, people would say to me here in the USA:

“But he is still your father.”

Well, guess what? He isn’t. He is not my father. He is a man who’s sperm helped create me. He is nothing more than a DNA donor. He doesn’t care about me and he has proven it over and over again.

So I won’t change my Facebook picture, I don’t have to make special plans today and I don’t have to wish him a happy Father’s Day. I will not pretend that I don’t care. I care very much and it hurts. Seeing other people’s happy family pictures makes me cry. But it is what it is. “C’est la vie” as he would probably say.

Beastly Anniversary

calendarLast night, a strange feeling enveloped me. It stuck to me like a spider web; it clung to me like a wet shirt. It weighed me down like a diving bell. It constricted my breathing as if an anaconda wrapped itself around my torso. It changed my thoughts to black and white. It played out grey scenes of worst case scenarios.

It was the eve of June 12, the day when one year ago I went in for my breast core biopsies. This dreadful feeling gave me a headache, pulsing in my brain like an alien feeding on the last chunks of sanity. I ran my hands through my hair as if I could just sweep it off me. Brush it out like leaves in the fall.

I sat on the couch, legs stretched out on the ottoman, arms by my side, palms down. I felt tethered to the cushions like Gulliver in the Lilliput land. I couldn’t move. I stared at the TV in front of me, the blasts of images making my headache worse. My eyes burned. I blinked. I sighed. My dog looked at me. She sighed too. Even she knew.

My eyes filled with tears. I couldn’t decide if it was sorrow or just a reaction to the bright TV screen.

My mouth felt sewn shut, frozen solid. No chance of a smile, no whistle, no words. They were all locked in my head. They kept churning and multiplying like if some magical bottomless satchel kept spilling them out into my brain.

My head hurt so bad. I wished I could have drilled a hole in it and all the misery would seep out. Slowly, in a black inky stream.

My mind was in a free fall towards the memories of last year. The drive to the Langone Medical Center in New York City. The minutes in the waiting room spent among other women dressed in bathrobes, waiting for mammograms, biopsies, ultrasounds. They all had blank stares and most of them were frowning. Their backs hunched over, hands laced in their laps, ankles crossed.

I was called in for my first core biopsy and had to lay face down with my head tilted sideways, my breasts hanging through holes in the bed. I felt the anesthesia needle stab the left side of my breast over and over again. Then the doctor made a small incision and inserted a needle the size of a straw. I felt something warm run down my breast. I imagined it dripping down below, creating a small red puddle.

The second core biopsy was guided by the ultrasound. That time I lay on my back, watching the monitor as the huge needle plunged in my flesh. Normally, I would like medical things like that, but I remember feeling queasy. I had to swallow a couple times to suppress the nausea.

The needle gun clicked several times as snippets of my inner breast shot up to its container.

The nurse assisting the procedure commented on my wedding band. It was only eleven days old.

Two days later, on June 14, on Friday afternoon at 5PM, the doctor called me to tell me that breast cancer was confirmed.

I sensed it already anyway. I knew when the PET scan flagged my breast a month earlier that I was on the precipice of something bad. I knew my cards were unlucky when another doctor hugged me when he revealed the ultrasound and mammogram results to me.

I knew, but I still felt like someone punched me in my stomach. I hung up the phone and stared at the computer screen in front of me.

I didn’t cry until my husband came home and I told him. We were standing in an embrace, in the middle of the living room.

It is now a year later and the black veil of that day lays on me like a stone sarcophagus. May this beastly anniversary pass by fast.

“I Would Rather Have AIDS than Leukemia”

Buns-pawI creep quietly in the cancer support group room because I am almost 15 minutes late. This is a new set of people for me. A fourth different group so far. I have been trying to find one that would actually live up to its name.

I sit down in the last empty chair and complete the circle of about twenty adults around the room. I spot the counselor right away. A perky forty something guy, rigid on the edge of his seat, gazing at the person speaking at the moment. It’s the introduction time.

“…so it turns out I would rather have AIDS than leukemia.” Concludes one guy, let’s call him Joe. He is in his 30s, baseball cap, shorts, flip flops. You could never guess he was sick. Looks like he just got back from a football game.

His eyes stare across the room, his life playing itself out in the irises.

“I mean,” Joe continues, “I didn’t even know what leukemia was when they first told me. They said it’s either AIDS or leukemia. And I was thinking please God don’t let it be AIDS. Well, I guess I was wrong. I would rather have AIDS than this.” He repeats and nods his head. He looks over to the person on his right and silently hands over the imaginary ‘what’s your story’ relay. The woman sitting in that seat starts speaking.

I look around the room. What other stories and thoughts are hovering in everyone’s head? That young girl with a thick braid and Ugg boots? That forty year old looking lady with sad eyes? The girl next to me who’s been fighting tears this whole time? What about the older looking lady huddled under a blanket with her fingers laced tightly around a mug of something?

The counselor is the only healthy person in the room and looks clearly uncomfortable in the face of all this disease and misery. In the face of the matter of fact stated stories about surgeries, transplants, reconstructions, chemotherapy, radiation, and recurrences. He keeps blinking and shifting in his seat, taking random notes in his notebook.

When I relay my story, I hear the gasps and see the mouths drop when I reveal I got two different cancer diagnoses in one single year. When I talk about my eye surgeries, everyone zooms in to detect any abnormalities on my face. Can they tell which eye it was? When I describe my mastectomy and reconstruction, their gazes involuntarily drop to my chest.

I wiggle in my seat and my leather jacket crunches. I cross my legs and shift my weight to one hip, ending my story on a positive note about how my hair is finally growing back and I am almost done with treatment.

But my brain vibrates and trembles with fear and the unknown. The hazy future. The smog covered years to come. The upcoming tests.

I open my eyes wide to try and reverse the tears I feel are starting to collect there. I sweep the room with my gaze. Will anyone give me hope?

But the looks are melancholic, sad and forlorn.

Everyone stares into the center of the room as if there was a huge revolving crystal ball revealing everyone’s destiny.

Why do I go to these groups? It is like a masochistic Catch 22. I go because I can talk about my cancers without any stupid follow up questions. Without people trying to make me feel better about how I look. Without people assuming that I am “…done now, right”? The people in the support group understand. They know. They have the same demons flying in their heads.

At the same time, the support groups depress me to such a degree, I want to cry within the first five minutes I am there. They are a constant reminder of just how wrong things can still go.

And then again, on the flip side of that, when I hear someone’s story who is worse off than me, I feel relief. I feel guilty and ashamed that I breathe easier when someone else is more miserable. But the relief is temporary because it turns into a “…what if that’s me in a few years”. Then I want to cry and smash a vase across the room.

I keep going to these groups because I can’t handle a normal social life. I can’t handle healthy people’s comments about “…the cute haircut” or the assumptions that now, since the bulk of the treatment is over, I am somehow done with it, like when a skinned knee heals over.

This will never be over. I have more scars than I can count and I have no guarantees from the doctors. All I have are statistics.

Then there is the head, the brain, the feelings. The anger. The sadness. The fear. The indifference to what happens next.

I don’t plan. Anything. Anymore.

I find it hard to listen to healthy people’s problems. I find it hard to find meaning at work. I find it pointless to search for happiness when there is a lurking dragon sitting in the cave and I can’t read his mind. I don’t know if I have one year left or thirty.

It has now been a month and a half since that support group meeting. The lady under the blanket passed away on May 23rd. I still remember her perky voice, so unlike the husk of her body. Turns out she was only five years older than me.

If someone would ask me about the future, I would probably use the famous line:
“I don’t know and I don’t care.”

Another Bump on the Road or, Rather, in the Groin

bumpI came back from a work related road trip, tired and hungry. I slung my bags on the living room floor.

I fished out the speeding ticket that a solemn highway patrol officer with a matter of fact approach issued to me at the beginning of my drive back, right after I was stuck in a complete standstill for almost an hour. The six hour trip turned into an eight hour nightmare.

That night I finally stood in my shower, in my apartment and enjoyed the hot water cascading from the top of my head to my feet. I closed my eyes imagining how I would burrow into the bed, pulling my sheets over me and not some questionably washed hotel linens.

My bliss lasted exactly until the moment I glanced down at my torso, soap in one hand, lathering myself up with the other.

WHAT was THAT?!

I stared at the area where the lower abdomen melts into the groin. I saw a walnut sized bulge on the right side. I looked up and looked back down. It was still there. I bent down, water running in my eyes. I poked it with my finger. It didn’t hurt. It was soft. What was that?

I spun around in the shower, now frantically finishing up my washing routine, a frown settling on my forehead. All I could think about was my inconclusive PET scan from a month ago and the follow up ultrasound that revealed some ovarian cysts.

But they said not to worry about them! I argued with myself as I angrily scrubbed my legs.

What if one of them suddenly grew and filled with more fluid? My brain propositioned.

Or, what if, my fear midget sent this thought, what if it filled with BLOOD!?

I looked at the bump again. As if I had X-Ray vision I imagined a blood filled sack about to rupture at the slightest move. I imagined myself in the shower, writhing in pain, water mixing with blood and nobody finding me for days as the water changes from hot to cold and my skin gets all wrinkly from the moisture.

Something (rational) in the back of my head kept pointing out that the ovaries really weren’t exactly in the same exact spot where the bump was. But to me, it fit. It had to be the ovarian cyst. It grew. Suddenly. And it would burst.

It was Monday night and coincidentally, I had an annual OB-GYN appointment set up for Wednesday afternoon.

Tuesday morning, I started working as usual but as the morning progressed, I kept getting up from my desk, pacing around, checking my bulge and compulsively looking up burst ovarian cyst on the internet. By 11AM, I couldn’t contain myself anymore and called the OB-GYN with the intention of forcing them to see me the same day.

After the confused receptionist sorted out that I was talking about a lump on my ovary and not my breast, she grudgingly said that Dr. S. could see me that day at 2:30PM but that my annual exam cannot be done at the same time. I would have to come back on Wednesday. I didn’t care, despite the lack of logic in that.

Later that day, I drove to the hospital, mentally pleading with my cyst to not burst yet, to just wait a little longer until I am not inside a moving ton of steel.

I sat in the waiting room, leafing through the Pregnancy magazines because they were the only choice of reading material. Finally, they called me in.

The nurse took my blood pressure, asked me about my height and weight and wrote down what I stuttered about my PET scan, ultrasound and the cysts. Her eyes glazed over about 30 seconds into my story but I pressed on.

Another 20 minutes later, I sat naked, shivering on the exam table with a paper shirt resembling a napkin on the top and a paper towel resembling sheet on the bottom.

The doctor came in. She was pregnant, had long blond hair in a pony tail and smiled.

I explained my story to her. This time there was no glazing over. Before she even asked me to reveal the bulge, she said:

“I don’t think this is the ovaries. They are much deeper inside your body. This sounds like something totally different.”

WHAT? I reeled on my paper toweled perch. What else could it possibly be?? What other problem had I earned in the cosmic book of cause and effect? Weren’t two cancers enough? Wasn’t the ongoing treatment for both enough? Wasn’t the stress from PET scans enough? What the hell did I do in my past life?

I was asked to lie back as the doctor slid out the end of the exam table under my knees.

“Did you want me to do your annual exam too while you are here?” She asked with another big smile.

“Yes, that would be great, actually. But the lady at the front desk told me you wouldn’t be able to do it…”

“Oh, that’s silly. Let’s just do it today.” She smiled on.

WHAT ABOUT MY BULGE!?

I was asked to slide my arms out of the paper napkin shirt and she proceeded to check my breasts or, rather, the implants. Then she moved lower on my body.

“I don’t feel anything.” She said, frowning and pushing and kneading about my right groin area.

I sat up. I looked and the bulge wasn’t there.

“Can I stand up?” I asked confused. What the hell? Where was the walnut?

I stood up, my bottom paper napkin falling to the floor. I was completely naked except for my black and blue striped socks. We both kept staring down at my groin. I felt rather peculiar because I stood on the step stool so my breasts were at the doctor’s eye level.

I kept pressing around the area where I knew the bulge was. I couldn’t find it.

“Oh my god, you must think I am crazy.” I said. “I swear it was there.” I sat down and stood up a couple times.

The doctor observed, her head cocked to the side. I stepped off the stool and took a few steps around the office. I looked down. The bulge was back.

“There it is!” I exclaimed happily.

“Oh, OK, I see.” The confusion on the doctor’s face cleared. “I think this is a hernia.”

“A hernia?”

“Yes, I can push it back in, and there is no inflammation around. This definitely looks like an inguinal hernia. I can give you a name and a number of a general surgeon. They can fix that easily.”

She then finished my annual exam, I got dressed and walked outside in the sunshine with a list of surgeons to call. I wasn’t mad. I wasn’t angry. I was dazed that I actually had a normal, common problem that is easily fixable.

Got Nominated for The Liebster Award

a33bf-theliebsterawardpicI came home from a long road trip, tired and with a speeding ticket in my bag.  There were so many things I had to do before going back to work the next day and I felt very overwhelmed. Then I opened my WordPress email and the sunshine shone on my day once again.

I got nominated for the Liebster Award by my fellow blogger The Golden Limoncello. I really appreciate the nomination as well as reading Golden Limoncello’s blog. Her ideas and photographs are awesome!! I already did several of the things suggested and am very happy with the results.

The Liebster Award is an award for new blogs. Liebster is a German word that means: BELOVED, CUTE, LOVELY, DEAREST, and WELCOME.

As part of this award chain, below are the steps to follow:

1) Thank the blogger nominating you, linking back to their blog
2) Post the Liesbter award logo in your post
3) Answer the questions posed to you
4) Nominate 5-11 other bloggers with less than 1000 followers you think deserve the award
5) Present them with a list of questions to answer in their blog. 
6) Comment on the nominees blog letting them know about the award.

Below are the questions I was asked to answer:

What is the thing you enjoy the most about blogging?

I like the reach one has with the internet. Even if there is only one person in the world who was looking for something and he or she found it in my blog, it makes me happy.

What is your favorite post in your blog and why? (Share the link if you like).

Probably the one called This is What My Fear Looks Like. It was pretty much a free write and I never expected to paint such images but I was happy with it when it came out.

What is your favorite dessert?

Cheesecake with a really tart raspberry sauce.

What is your astrological sign?

Libra

If you could meet any celebrity, who would it be?

Angelina Jolie

If your life would be a movie, what actress/actor would be playing yo in the movie?

I would love for it to be somebody glamorous like Sophia Loren or sophisticated like Meryl Streep. Diane Lane would be cool too.

What is your favorite quote?

“Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.” (Jack London)

What blog has influenced you the most?

I don’t really think I have been influenced much by other blogs. I try to just write what I want and how I want it.

If you could trade lives with someone else, who would it be?

Cleopatra?

What is your favorite website?

Hmm, that’s hard…I don’t really think there is one. I like photography sites, and for example this photographer has magical pictures I think.

 

And here is a list of my QUESTIONS TO MY NOMINEES:

(1) What song puts you in a better mood?

(2) Why did you start your blog?

(3) What is the best trip you have ever taken?

(4) Have you ever been afraid for your own life?

(5) If you could drive any car in the world, what would it be?

(6) Big dogs or small dogs?

(7) What’s your favorite movie of all time?

(8) What post on your blog got the most attention (positive or negative)?

(9) If you had unlimited funds, what are the first 5 things you would spend money on/give money to?

(10) What is your dream job?

 

And my NOMINEES ARE:

Rants in My Pants

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Katie Crushes Cancer

Nowhere to Run

Deux plaques et un micro-ondes

I’ve Seen Flowers and Razors in Her Hair

 

Hey, God: Fuck Your Plan

bathroom wallI saw a phrase recently that said something like God won’t give you what you can’t carry. To me it is just another one of the platitudes that religious people use to make themselves or someone else feel better about their shitty lives.

After what has happened to me in the past couple years (and I won’t even dwell on all the shit that happened before that), I don’t see how any rational human being can even believe in God. In someone who maliciously assigns misery to various people for absolutely no reason what so ever.

Why is it that God always gets the credit when things go right but never the blame when things go wrong? I got two cancer diagnoses in one year and no one blamed him. But yet, when my PET scan was clear, he was handed the credit on a glimmering plate. You can’t have it both ways!

He works in mysterious ways. Yeah, right. His mysterious ways remind me of a drunkard stumbling home knocking over everything in his path. Or someone high on LSD bouncing around doing random things like wrapping himself in a window curtain or staring at the ceiling as if a movie was playing there.

It happened for a reason. He has a plan. Well, fuck his plan!! I don’t want it, I am not interested. What about MY plan?? And what exactly did his plan achieve? What great intricate reason is there in making me live in fear that I may be blind one day? What did he achieve by having me go through multiple eye surgeries, withstand pain from them, go nearly bankrupt just to cover my medical bills, then have the cancer come BACK with more pain and surgery?

Then his wondrous PLAN was to give me another cancer. Right away. Right as I was getting married, starting a new life. And he gave me a cancer thanks to which I will never have children. Thanks to which I will definitely live a shorter life than normal. Thanks to which I now have life long health consequences. Thanks to which I have the grim reaper sitting on my shoulder waiting for his next lucky strike. Fuck you and fuck your plan.

I loved my Grandma more than anybody in this whole world. She meant everything to me. Yet, the PLAN was to kill her off first. Out of my whole extended family, including the 90+ year olds. She was the most loving person I have ever met. Did she not deserve to live longer? Why do inmates on death row live well past the age she was taken? Any explanation? No answer. I guess God is busy planning a life of a non-smoker who will die of lung cancer.

I see the Michael Vicks of this world walking around perfectly healthy. And wealthy. I see the child rapists laugh every day. I see the wife beaters and murderers buy new cars and go on vacations. I see scammers get away with swindling people out of money, but they enjoy their golf trips and bonuses. I see people like Melissa Bachman kill beautiful lions but she enjoys a perfectly healthy life.

Is there really a twisted God who is PLANNING all this? My jaw drops open when people baa like sheep in the face of the utmost unfairness, still believing in him.

I wonder – how many hours did it take him to plan a life of a six year old who died of leukemia? Does he enjoy his TV dinner while watching the elephants being beaten and bull hooked into submission? Does he calmly puff on his pipe watching people being shot because they said something wrong?

And this is not about free will. No, if he plans EVERYTHING, then he is responsible for EVERYTHING. If everything happens for a reason, then I would like for him to come down from the cloud and have a talk with that 7 year old, bleeding after she was raped for the eighth time in a night, and explain to her what exactly the reasoning behind THAT plan was.

So the only logical and acceptable alternative to me is that there is NO God. Shit happens. Life is unfair and can spin out of control in an instant. There is no master plan, there is no reason. There are just events. Some people get lucky and some don’t. Just as much as you are convinced he exists and you need him to live, that’s how much I DON’T believe he exists. I just have had bad luck and I hope for a better future. Future that I plan to plan myself.

“You Have Giraffe Eyelashes”

giraffeI hate the smell of acacia in the morning. Or it may be a different tree, different flower. But its smell causes pangs in my stomach because it blooms in late May and early June and reminds me of when I was a kid and used to walk to school terrified of the final exams.

Though years out of school, I felt the same pangs in my stomach this past Tuesday. It was 6:30AM and I walked to the metro to get to the Union Station and catch an Acela Express to New York City. My four month eye cancer check up was glimmering in the distance like a mirage.

It was so hot and humid that morning that I sweated despite wearing short sleeves and only walking less than a mile. I stood on the subway platform, an alien in jeans among the suited and crisp nine to fivers. I felt my fear of the upcoming doctor’s appointment creep up from my toes to my fingertips.

I tried to distract myself with watching people on the subway. I focused on one prim looking lady who wore a short skirt but sat with her knees at least a foot apart. I wondered what kind of view had the passenger directly in front of her.

At the Union Station, the Acela Express train was business class only so there was enough room for my 5’9” body. My joy was short lived. The man in front of me reclined his seat at least 10 inches. This was going to be a 2.5 hour ride. Did he really need to put his seat down? To make myself feel better, I passively aggressively bumped into his seat a few times on purpose.

I pulled out my cleverly packed sweater because the train was chilled to a degree in which my fellow passengers would be able to place their phone calls and type on their laptops without breaking a sweat. I was lulled by the train’s hum and the buzz of the words around me: “…blow the concept out”, “…I am booked solid through July”, “…is stuck in traffic so let’s start without him”, “…no, no, no, I said to send it to them now”, “…can you hear me, I am sorry, I was in a tunnel”. Various cell phone ringers chimed in the air, heads were scratched and legs were crossed and uncrossed.

About an hour and a half into the trip I was so cold I decided I needed to get hot tea in the café car. I looked at the young man sleeping next to me. He was pretty short, so there was just enough room between his knees and the seat in front of him for me to get by. I got up and as I squeezed myself in front of him, I hoped he wasn’t going to wake up right when my behind was at his eye level. I hopped into the isle and spun around. He was still asleep.

I got my hot tea and poured in three packets of white sugar and two ‘half and half’ containers of something fake that didn’t need to be refrigerated.

“So what.” I thought to myself. “I’ll probably get bad news in NY anyway, what’s a little bit of white sugar going to do to me now.” I stumbled back to my seat, once slamming into the wall after an unexpected jerk of the train.

We pulled in the Penn Station in NYC four minutes ahead of time. I merged into the crowds and they spit me out on 7th Avenue. I walked over to where I thought the N,Q,R subway stop was. It wasn’t there. I walked a couple streets in the other direction. Nothing. To my disgust, I had to pull out the NYC metro map. God, I felt stupid.

About twenty minutes later, I stood in front of the East 61st Street building and took a deep breath. I looked at the sky and wondered how I would feel next time I saw it.

I got out on the 5th floor and walked through a door labeled The New York Eye Cancer Center. It had been almost two years since I stood there for the first time. The effect was always the same. My heart galloped in my chest, my shirt got soaked in my armpits, I panted like a dog and my stomach transformed itself into a corkscrew. My hands started to shake.

I settled in the waiting room. There was a middle aged lady with short grey buzz cut and an old man with sad eyes. The lady sat twisted in her seat so she could face him and rattled off:

“…so then I came back for another check up and he said that it was definitely cancer, so I was like, what were we gonna do now, and he said he was going to put the eye plaque on my eye, so then I was like an inmate in a correctional facility…” She chuckled at her clever joke and continued. “I mean, you know, it’s radioactive, so my husband and my kids had to stay away at least six feet and I couldn’t go anywhere. I mean, I was like in a prison!” And she laughed again.

I thought: “God, lady, shut the fuck up, where would you want to go anyway with a sewn shut eye?”

She kept yammering about her subsequent treatment and every single appointment since then. Even though I was irritated, her rants passed my time and it took the focus away from my own mind.

“Eva?” I heard Dr. C. call. She was an Asian lady with hair down to her shoulders and that day she did not seem in a hurry as usual.

I sat in the eye exam chair and obediently put my head in the chin and forehead stirrup. She shun bright lights in both of my eyes and started taking pictures. When I thought that she permanently deleted anything in my frontal lobe with the flash of her camera, the photo shoot concluded.

She clicked with the mouse a few times and my eyeball snapshots popped up on the wall mounted monitor. “Eww”, I thought,”My eye looked gross.” Red and irritated from the eye drops and the flash, straining to the left or to the right as per the orders.

“Well, it looks pretty good so far.” Dr. C. stated. “But Dr. F will have to look at it and then I am sure he will want to do an ultrasound too.” My hands stopped shaking and my heart slowed down a little.

About ten minutes later, I was in another exam chair, this time reclining all the way down, with a plastic cup jammed in my eyeball and water solution being poured into the cup. Directly on top of my exposed eye. I called this the the eye water boarding.

“You have these giraffe eyelashes”, Dr. F. remarked, “they keep getting in the way.” He continued as the water dribbled from the eye cup down my temple and under my shirt. I guess I took it as a compliment given the fact that half my eyelashes fell out because of my breast cancer chemo.

When the side of my head was thoroughly soaked and the ultrasound exam was over, Dr. F. confirmed my good news that there was no evidence of the tumors on or inside my eye. I started breathing normally and stopped sweating. My stomach loosened up.

Was this it? I really got good news? My limbs felt rubbery as I walked back out into the waiting room and saw the annoying middle aged lady, still talking. This time to another victim. I smiled at her and walked out the door.

I made it back to the Penn Station in time to change my ticket to an hour earlier train. I did not eat anything all day except for the chemical spiked hot tea so I walked over to a falafel kiosk. Since my eyes were still dilated, I couldn’t read any of the menus. I blindly ordered a wrap with falafel and lettuce, bottle of water, paid $12 and went to the Amtrak waiting room.

After I took several bites of the not so appetizing wrap, I started feeling very sick to my stomach. My jaws clenched. I felt drool collect in my mouth. Oh god. I panicked. Where was there a restroom? What if I don’t make it there on time? I shifted in my seat. Beads of sweat appeared on my forehead. I really didn’t feel good.

I heard a slight rustle. I reached in my jeans back pocket and found a green doggie poop bag I stuck in there that morning when I took my dog out. Well, I thought, in the worst case, I could throw up in there. I saw a lady who sat in front of me watching me. I couldn’t make out the expression of her face. Everything was still blurry. I sat there for another twenty minutes, concentrating on breathing and drinking water. The nausea slowly passed. I threw away the remaining falafel and boarded the train.

I froze on the way back to Washington again but managed without the chemical tea. When I got out at the Union Station, for the first time in almost a year, I felt wind in my hair. It was actually long enough to move in the breeze.

THANK YOU WORLD for reading my blog

blog countries 2I wanted to thank all of the people around the world who read my blog.

Those of you who visited once and those of you who kept coming back.

Twenty two countries.

I imagine you: young, old, men, women, maybe even teenagers?

Do you have curly hair, straight hair, black hair, red, brown, blond? Does it fly in the wind or is it stiff with hairspray or gel?

Do you have freckles?

Where are you? Are you on a couch, in an armchair, at your desk, in a café, at work? Can you look out the window while you read? Are you cold or hot or just comfortable?

What are you wearing? A beautiful dress? Swimming suit? Jeans and a T-shirt? Business suit?

There are so many variations of you; I wish I could see you all. I wish I knew your names and your favorite songs.

Most importantly though, thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts.

Lady In Waiting

sirenThat’s me minus the queen and the court. I wait. I wait to go to the doctor’s appointments. I wait for the results of scans and tests. I wait for phone calls giving me good news or shattering my life. I wait to fall asleep through my anxiety. I wait to eat because my stomach is twisted in pain. I wait for my husband to come back from overseas. I wait for the end of the work day so I can call a friend.

I wait wondering if the cancers are going to peek back out of the darkness. Are they waiting in some hidden corner of my body, getting their armor ready? Sharpening their knives? Loading their guns? Bending over a table covered in battle plans?

It feels like a never ending state of suspension, strung out energy that vibrates through my body and makes me sit stiffly. It carves furrows between my eyebrows and etches lines on my forehead. It shortens my breath until it’s shallow and fast.

I find myself staring in space, barely blinking while my foot is moving at ten miles an hour until my slipper flies off. I grip my dog’s leash so tight that my knuckles hurt. I watch TV and have no idea what’s on.

I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know how to deal with it. I don’t know how to stop it.

Redirecting my thoughts works for three seconds and I am back in the downward vortex of worst case scenarios. Changing tasks to stop the anxiety grip turns me into an ADD freak that can’t sit still for longer than two minutes.

If I was a dog I would be pacing around the apartment and would have licked my paws raw by now.

I slice my life in segments between scans and check-ups.

I am like a rat in a maze running around, sniffing frantically, bumping into dead ends but always hoping I will get to the end of the labyrinth. The scariest thing is that I have no idea how big this maze is. Is the exit around the corner? Do I just need to take a few more steps? Or is the malicious puppeteer who pulls my strings laughing at my pathetic attempts because he built the maze so big I won’t get to the end before I die?

I see him gazing at me from far above, puffing on a cigar, having all the time in the world. He smirks with the half of his mouth that’s not holding the cigar and I see his yellowed teeth and purplish tongue. I look back down on the ground, scared, and slide my hands along the maze walls. I keep going. All I have is hope.