Monday, August 3, 2015

It was a red Jetta.

This is not a story about cancer. I share it here because this is my place and it is my story.

It was a red Jetta.

Alpha guy drove a red Jetta, shiny and new...newer than any car I had ever owned. As he drove his Nokia lit up with a call - his friends were going to a late night party and he thought we should go.  I protested a bit, saying I was really tired and needed to head home, but he kept driving and insisted that we would only go for a little while, and then he would take me home.  At once it was clear that he wasn’t lost at all, knew exactly how to get around, and he headed toward the outskirts of town to an area I didn’t know well, far outside of walking distance to my house and the safety of familiarity. My insides turned. We went back and forth on going to the party as we drove around the curves of the hillside highway, but he kept driving. I was scared and quiet. We eventually arrived at a run down hotel five or ten miles outside of town, where he still insisted there was a party going on, and that everything was fine. I knew there was nothing fine about this, I knew I didn’t want to be there, and I was paralyzed with fear and embarrassment.  


It was the summer of 2002.  I had just moved to Mexico, was living in an awkward platonic roommate situation with my ex-boyfriend, and was feeling a little lost.  Prior to moving I had told everyone, and even mostly convinced myself, that it wasn’t about him -  I was making this move to satisfy my own sense of adventure, to have new experiences, and to leave the familiarity and comfort of my home in search of a different life. While all of those things were true, I had also hoped that the relationship would be rekindled, and if I am honest, that was a big motivation in my move. Of course it was. It wasn’t in the cards for that summer, and eventually I decided that was fine.  It was better than fine, I was young and cute, and I would find my own way.  And I did.  I found a job, made friends, and was having a great time. I taught and waitressed during the day, drank and danced at night, and I was enjoying my new life.

Some evenings I would find myself just walking around with nothing specific to do but meander through the charming city, watch people go by, and daydream.  One such evening I was walking past a popular nightclub when a group of three cute guys stopped me to chat.  They were in town from Mexico City for the weekend, and were looking for recommendations for fun places to hang out. I flirted. They flirted. You know how that thing goes. They invited me to come out with them. Oh I couldn’t possibly...I didn’t know them. But they flirted more, told me I was beautiful, and insisted that it would be so much fun. And so I went. Just like that. I felt uneasy - I had rarely, if ever, accepted invitations from strangers (mostly because I rarely received them). Ignoring that uneasy feeling, I smiled and took an outstretched hand and went.  There was something about the Alpha guy that was a little off, but I convinced myself that it was fine, and that I was just feeling awkward because that’s how I am. And he was really cute. And he liked me. So we went to the club.

They bought bottles of tequila. I drank too much. We all drank too much. We danced and danced, and flirted and flirted. It was fun. It’s always fun. As the club closed and we headed out, Alpha cute guy offered to walk me home. It was probably around three in the morning, and it was definitely a good idea not to walk home alone, so I was happy for the offer, but my uneasy feeling was growing. As we were walking, he mentioned that he had left his car in a parking garage near the supermarket, but wasn’t sure how to get back to it, and asked me to walk him there and that he would then drive me home from there. Sure. That sounded reasonable, right? And so we walked to the red Jetta and took that drive.

[Can you imagine the end of this story?  Have you heard a similar beginning before? Is it fairly easy for you to come to the possible conclusion that Alpha guy raped me? The ease and accuracy of that conclusion is more troubling to me now, thirteen years later, than the story itself.]


He parked the car in front of the porch to the hotel room. He hopped out of the car and in an instant was at the passenger side door waiting for me to get out as I sat there, still buckled. I clicked the release and he opened my door with a charming smile, took my hand to bring me to my feet, and closed the door behind me.

[This is the point in the story where I ask time and again what was happening in this moment and why I didn’t do something, anything. I knew it wasn’t good, and I still had some chance to turn it around.  I was in public, though in unknown surroundings, and logic would tell me that there was a reception desk, other people around.  Walking into the private space of that room sealed the fate of that night. I don’t know exactly what it was that pushed me forward, but I know it had a lot to do with self worth. This, more than any other, is the moment that haunts me.]

I followed him to the hotel room “party” like a zombie, not even sure in the moment what I was doing or why I kept putting one foot in front of the other.  Of course, when we walked in I saw that there was no party. There was a bed, a dresser covered in cocaine dust and bottles of liquor, a carton of cigarettes, and no party. There was no party. I protested. I wanted to go home. I was sorry. I wasn’t that kind of girl. I was sorry. I wanted to go home. I wasn’t going to stay there with him. I wasn’t like that. I was really sorry. I kept repeating it. I didn’t know what else to say. He locked the door, kissed me, and told me everything was fine.  I insisted again that it wasn’t, begged him to take me home or just let me walk, but he pushed me onto the bed, pulled off my dress, and raped me while I pleaded for him to stop.  He was bigger and much stronger.  I pushed and scratched and yelled to no avail.  He told me to be quiet, that he wanted me, he wanted me to have his baby, that it would be a blonde baby like me, that I wanted it too, that my mother would forgive me, and again and again, to be quiet.  It was over in a few minutes, and he rolled over and passed out next to me.

I couldn’t move.  I was naked and in shock.  I was out of my mind with fear and shame.

I didn’t move until I heard him snore, and then I slid off the bed and onto the floor, acutely aware of my nakedness and humiliated that someone might see me, or that he would wake up and find me there naked and see my naked body.  I was afraid that the man who just raped me would look at me naked, and I was just as humiliated about that prospect as I was scared that he would do it again.  

After putting on my dress I gingerly picked up my cashless purse, a pack of cigarettes from the carton, a lighter, his wallet, and his car keys, and floated across the room to slowly and silently make my exit.

I lit a cigarette. Blowing out the blue smoke into the dark sky, I took a good look at my surroundings and made a quick plan of action.  I took the money from his wallet, a $500 peso bill, and threw his keys in a bush on one side of the building and his wallet in a bush on the far side of the parking lot.  I found the reception office, and rang the bell.  The hotel employee who came out was an older gentleman with a soft, wrinkled face, and a comforting ease about him.  He opened the office up, where he was sleeping, and asked me what I needed.  He looked at me and took a step back, and I quietly followed him into the office and shut the door behind me and locked it.  I took a couple of breaths without saying anything - standing there, just looking at him and him looking back at me. I told him that I had come with a guy who had treated me badly and that I needed to get back to the city, and showed him the cash I had.  He said that a taxi wouldn’t come to that part of town in the middle of the night, and that my best bet was to wait until 6am when the local buses started running.  He gave me bus fare, because the drivers wouldn’t have change for the $500, and he told me I could sleep on the couch until it was time.  He said it was ok and that I was safe.  I lay there for an hour with my eyes open until he told me it was time to catch the first bus into town.  He walked me to the bus stop, asked if I was ok, and waited with me there in silence until the bus came. He knew.

I walked up the hill to my house in my dirty dress and messed hair, and slipped into my bed and cried and slept for the rest of the day.

I told no one. I was ashamed of the decisions I had made that night, and I also knew that there would be no point in reporting it.  The police would never even attempt to find this man, and in the off chance that they did, I would be in more danger.  So I did nothing.

A month or more later I went to a local clinic to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases and for a pregnancy test.  All negative.

Some time later, while a friend from the states was there to visit me, we ran into Alpha guy in the street. I lied to her. I whispered to her that I had gone out with him, we had hooked up, and it was awkward. He came up to me, kissed me on the cheek, and asked me how I was, just as natural as anything. He joked about my little prank with the keys, said I was a wily one, and that it had taken him a while to find them.  He pulled me aside and told me he had come for the weekend from Mexico City to look for me, and that this was the second time he had come to town.  He asked me in a whisper if I was pregnant.  I told him coldly that I wasn’t. He nodded his head, pulled away, and invited us to come out that evening for drinks.  We declined and casually walked home.

I never saw him again. I never reported it. I went to therapy. I go to therapy.

It is a thing that happened and I am just fine. I don’t think about it often, in fact it rarely crosses my mind.  Some time back, when that fool congressman started the conversation about what does and does not constitute “legitimate rape” it occurred to me to write this, but I guess I wasn’t really ready to or didn’t feel compelled to at the time. Then it faded back into the back of my mind. Is it a contributing factor into my personality and behavior?  I’m sure it must be.  Is it the reason I eat so many donuts or run so much?  Maybe.

I have told this story in its entirety to two people.  I have made mention of the experience to a few more than that, but not many.  I have never taken the time until now to put it in writing, read it, relive it in black and white, and share it.  My motivation for doing so now is threefold:

1) After some recent research into adolescent body image, victim blaming, and “slut shaming” for professional development in the area of education, this experience has played over and over in my mind, which usually means for me that I need to write about it;
2) In the midst of my cancer experience, and in the years following it, I have benefitted from the sharing of vulnerable moments of others because it can provide perspective, insight, and a better understanding of our own experiences, and help us feel empathy for those in similar situations, so I am here to add mine to the pot of collective wisdom; and, most importantly,
3) Someday I want my daughters to read this and know that I have been thinking about this since the day they were born, and doing everything in my power to protect them and prepare them for the world, and to help them develop into strong and powerful women who love and protect themselves, love their womanhood, and love the world and humanity enough to help change them and to forgive them for their shortcomings.

This story is sad on its face.  What is distressing to me as a parent of two girls, and as a teacher to many more girls and young women, is that there is much more going on in this story than a girl who got date raped. This is the story of a girl whose feelings about herself led her to make risky decisions that she didn’t feel right about in the moment - decisions that of course, she should be able to make without consequence of bodily harm.  Of course.  I should be able to be the girl who goes through all of those moments up until the time when I say “Please take me home.” or “Please stop.” or “No. Don’t.” and still make it home unscathed.  I should be able to walk down the street at any hour of the day in any place in the world wearing anything I want and talking, dancing, or flirting with anyone I please, and I should still be able to make it home safely, intact, unharmed. That should be true. But it isn’t true so many times. Enough times that we have to talk about it. I don’t want to teach my girls to live in rape culture. I don’t want them to think that they have to say or do or wear certain things because they are vulnerable or weak. I won’t buy into that unequivocally. We are women, we are beautiful and strong and powerful and worthy of our rights to govern our own bodies.

However true, it is my job to keep them safe and whole. Terrible things can come out of the clear blue sky and make terrible messes of life. Sometimes, though, there are warning signs and opportunities to change the course of action. This was one of those times. My babies can’t fall victim to some Alpha cute dude, ignoring their gut feelings, because they want to feel beautiful and desired. They have to listen to that voice, they have to trust themselves, they have to love who they are enough to walk away from him.  There are enough dangers that we cannot avoid.  I will teach them to recognize the ones that we can, and to proudly bid them goodnight before last call.

Friday, June 19, 2015

June Makes Me Think of Cancer

Sweet Miss Bekah

June makes me think of cancer. I don’t forget cancer for the rest of the year, but particularly in June it sneaks in to occupy my quiet moments and brings it all back to the forefront.  It’s a good thing.  I remember how lucky I am, how differently things could have gone, and how beautiful and perfect my life is, even if at times it seems otherwise.  Perspective. Gratitude.  Gravity.  These are the gains.  There were great costs and significant losses, but none of it can be undone, and we must learn to love what we have and appreciate its value.  I am well on my way to reaching that goal.  The old wounds still sting a bit, but I am blessed to have many years to let them continue to heal and for the scars to fade and melt into memory.

This year, the day before the seventh anniversary of the stem cell transplant that saved my life, marked the first anniversary of the loss of a very dear cancer sister, Bekah Furey.  She was a bright and brilliant young woman, gifted with boundless wisdom and a truly lovely soul.  If there are words to accurately describe her beauty and grace, I don’t pretend to know them.  

She is missed beyond measure.  She is loved beyond measure.

Cancer has touched the lives recently of people I care about.  While this month I celebrate living with cancer in the rear view, many are dealing with it head on, and most of us will, in one way or another.  According to the National Cancer Institute, 39.6% of us will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in our lives (  

I sincerely hope that you aren’t included in that nearly 40% of us, but if it isn’t you, it’ll be someone you know and love...and in either case, what do you do?  You do everything you can do.  

If it’s you, you do everything the doctors tell you.  Everything your body tells you.  Everything your heart tells you.  You do it all.  You are stronger than you know.  

If it’s someone you love you make sure they have everything they need to do all of that.  AND, you tell person, in writing, in an email, in a hand-written (gasp!) note, in any way you can and as often as you can, that you love them, that you’re thinking of them, that they are strong and beautiful, that this seriously sucks, that you want it to get better, that you are scared that it won’t and you know they are too, that it’s ok to be afraid, that it’s ok to be angry, that you are on your way over with a movie, that you wish you could do more, that you are right there with them.

Bekah did that for me.  She did it for so many of us...too many to know or count.  I just read through all of her emails and blog comments and forum responses….and I cried and cried.  I might still be crying a little, but don’t tell anyone.  She made me know that she was there, even though she was a thousand miles away, and that she was holding my hand and that we were in it together.  

Some choice quotes from Miss Bekah:
“Knock it down one day at a time, cupcake, we’re all cheering you on.”
“Somehow, I’m not sure how, but we find a way to reach into our souls, and the strength of find a new, better, improved life.”
“You CAN and WILL do this.  You already are.  So proud of you.”
"Big hugs to you - you're on my mind for next week, babe."
“God, we are superwomen.”
“Here’s to surviving, little black dresses, small celebrations, and life, my dear.”

She is cherished beyond measure.


El mes de junio me hace pensar en el cáncer.  No logro olvidarme del cáncer el resto del año, pero especialmente en junio el tema se me entra en la mente y ocupa mis momentos de silencio y toda esa experiencia se me viene a la actualidad en un instante.  Es bueno eso.  Me hace recordar lo afortunada que soy, lo diferente que todo podría haber sido habiendo diferentes circunstancias, y lo bella y perfecta que es mi vida, aunque a veces no lo parezca.  La perspectiva.  La gratitud.  La gravedad.  Estas son las ganancias.  Hubo costos enormes y pérdidas considerables, pero nada de esto se puede deshacer y hay que aprender a querer lo que tenemos y apreciar su valor.  Y voy haciendo bastante progreso en alcanzar esa meta.  Las viejas heridas todavía arden un poco, pero tengo la fortuna de aun tener muchos años para dejar que siga sanándose y para que las cicatrices desvanezcan y se derritan a la memoria.

Este año, un día antes del séptimo aniversario del transplante que me salvó la vida, marcó el primer aniversario de la pérdida de una queridísima amiga del cáncer, Bekah Furey.  Era una mujer joven y brillante, sabia más allá de sus años y con el alma increiblemente único y gentil.  Si existen las palabras para describir su belleza y gracia, no pretendo saberlas.  Se le extraña a esta mujer inmensamente.  Se le quiere a esta mujer inmensamente.

Recientemente, el cáncer ha tocado la vida de varias personas importantes para mí, y me hace pensar que aunque este mes yo celebro vivir pensando en el cáncer como parte del pasado, mucha gente lo está viviendo hoy en día, en este mismo instante, y la realidad es que en algún momento de la vida de algún modo nos tocará a todos.  De acuerdo al National Cancer Institute, el 39,6% de la gente tendrá cáncer durante la vida (

Sinceramente espero que no se te incluya en ese 40%, pero lo que sí es seguro es que o vas a ser tú o va a ser algún querido tuyo, y en cualquier caso, ¿qué haces?  La respuesta es que haces todo, todo lo posible.

Si eres tú el afectado, haces todo lo que te dicen los doctores.  Todo lo que te dice el cuerpo.  Todo lo que te dice el corazón.  Lo haces todo, todo.  Tu fuerza no tiene límites, aunque no lo creas ahora.
Si es un ser querido tuyo el afectado, haces todo lo posible para que esa persona tenga lo que necesite para hacer todo lo mencionado, que no le haga falta nada.  Y, de igual importancia, LE DICES - en persona, por escrito, en un correo electrónico, en un recado escrito a mano (¿A mano? Sí, a mano.), de cualquier manera que puedas y lo más frecuentemente que puedas, que lo quieres, que lo amas, que estás pensando en él o ella, que es fuerte y bello, que ésta es una chingadera de lo más cruel, que quieres que se mejore, que tienes miedo de que no se mejore y que sabes que él o ella también tiene miedo, que se vale tener miedo, que se vale tener coraje, que ya vas en camino a su casa con una peli, que ojalá y pudieras hacer más para ayudarle, que estás ahí con él o ella...estés lejos o cerca.

Bekah hacía todo eso para mí.  Lo hacía para tantos de nosotros del club de cáncer...demasiados de contar.  Acabo de releer todos sus correos, comentarios, y posts, y lloré y lloré.  Si prometes no decirle a nadie, te confieso que todavía estoy llorando un poco. Me hizo entender siempre que estaba ahí, atenta, a mi lado, aunque estaba a miles de millas de aquí, y que estábamos pasándolo todo juntas como equipo, como una fuerza mayor e imparable.

Algunas de las palabras de Bekah:
“Hazlo un día a la vez, bombón, todos te estamos echando porras.”
“De alguna manera, y no estoy segura cómo, pero encontramos una manera de buscar dentro del alma, y con la fuerza de los demás, para encontramos una vida nueva, mejorada.”
“Tú PUEDES hacer esto y lo harás.  Ya lo estás haciendo.  Estoy tan orgullosa de ti.”
“Vaya que somos supermujeres.”
“Brindamos por la sobrevivencia, por los mini vestidos negros, por las celebraciones pequeñas, y por la vida, mi querida.”

Se le echa de menos a esta mujer inmensamente.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dear 7N / Estimado 7N

Dear 7N,

My new daily commute now includes a 7:00am trip westbound on the Banfield into town, and as I round the bend after the 53rd Avenue overpass, I see your tower quietly waking behind the cloud of steam that rises from the generators below. I can pick out the seventh floor easily…I know it well, from the inside and out.

Most of the lights in the Cancer Center are still off at that early hour, but there are almost always several lighting the morning commute from the seventh floor. When I took up temporary residency with you, mine was always one of them. I remember those mornings with a shudder, a tear, and such clarity that it’s hard to believe that more than a year and a half have passed since I spent the first one waking up to a beeping IV machine, a dose of Dilaudid to ease the pain, and vitals and weight check visit from a gentle CNA. Sitting here writing this still makes my heart rate rise with nervous energy.

I see your morning lights, and, if traffic is slowing my trip, I count them and sigh - there are always too many. Too many people spending too many nights and mornings and the longest days that have ever passed in the history of days in your tower. It’s a lovely tower, and your staff do absolutely the most extraordinary work, but I’d rather no one have to stay with you. I’d rather you be a lonely abandoned tower with no patients, or, better yet, to have never been built at all. But sadly, there you sit.

It’s a week before Christmas. I thought that spending the beautiful summer locked in the tower was torture…seeing the sun, missing out on all the good summer times, watching the news reports of the gorgeous weather and smiling children playing at local parks and rivers…but Christmas wins the contest for the worst time to be in the cancer ward for sure.

I know I haven’t been by to see you…and I should, I am healthy and happy and pregnant. You would be pleased. It’s not you, it’s me. Once I get up the nerve to stare my PTSD in the face and take the elevator ride up, I will come visit you and let you rub my expanding belly. It’s a girl, and as far as I’m concerned, she’s partly yours. You don’t have to pay child support or anything, but you deserve some visitation at a minimum. I will make it there, I promise.

In the meantime, please give your patients the following message:

Dear 7N Temporary Residents,

I’m so sorry you are going through this. I’m sorry you got cancer, I’m sorry you still have it, and I’m sorry it’s the holidays and you’re not home. I carry a tattered and worn membership card to the cancer club in my wallet, was also once assigned a 700 room number for far too many days, and have walked a mile around that 7N loop in those slippers pushing that IV pole. I don’t know what will happen, if everything will be ok or not, but please know this: I drive past the Cancer Center every morning and I think about you, and hope that you get to go home soon like I did. Stay strong, Cancer Brothers and Sisters, take good care of yourselves, and remember that there are lots of us here on the outside thinking about you.

Much love,
Darcy Davidson
Former 7N Temporary Resident

Estimado 7N,

Mi viaje mañanero al trabajo ahora incluye un tramo por la autopista 84 hacia el oeste con toda la demás gente que trabaja en el centro, y después de pasar por debajo del puente de la avenida cincuenta y tres, veo tu torre despertándose tranquilamente tras de la nube de vapor que sale de los generadores abajo. Reconozco con facilidad el séptimo piso aún así de lejos, pues lo conozco bien por dentro y por fuera.

La mayoría de las luces en el centro de cáncer permanecen apagadas a esa temprana hora, pero siempre hay varias que iluminan el tráfico mañanero desde el séptimo piso. Cuando tenía mi residencia temporal contigo, mi luz siempre era de esas que estaban prendidas temprano. Recuerdo esas mañanas con un escalofrío, una lágrima, y tanta claridad que me resulta difícil creer que haya pasado más de un año y medio que pasé mi primera mañana despertándome con el ruido de la alarma de la máquina del catéter sonando, una dosis de narcóticos para aliviar el dolor, y un chequeo de señales vitales y peso de una asistente de enfermera cariñosa y linda. Aún hoy en día, escribiendo esto todavía se me acelera el ritmo del corazón con energía nerviosa.

Veo tus luces mañaneras, y, si el tráfico me está alentando el viaje, las cuento y suspiro – siempre son demasiadas. Es demasiada gente pasando demasiadas noches y mañanas y los días más largos que han pasado en toda la historia de todos los días ahí en la torre. Es una bellísima torre, y su personal hace sin duda el trabajo más extraordinario del mundo, pero nada me daría más gusto que si nadie tuviera que pasar ni una noche contigo. Me gustaría mejor que fueras una solitaria torre abandonada sin pacientes, o, mejor aún, que nunca te hubieran construido desde un principio. Pero, tristemente, ahí estás.

Falta una semana para la navidad. Y yo pensaba que el pasar el hermoso verano encerrada en la torre era tortura…viendo el sol, perdiéndome de todos los buenos tiempos de verano, viendo los reportes de las noticias del clima perfecto y los risueños niños jugando en los parques y ríos…pero sin duda, la temporada de navidad gana el concurso del peor periodo para estar en el centro de cáncer.

Sé que no he pasado a visitarte…y debería. Estoy sana y feliz y embarazada. Estarías encantado conmigo. No eres tú, soy yo. Ya que agarre el valor de mirar a mi trastorno de estrés postraumático en la cara y subirme en ese elevador, te voy a visitar y hasta te dejo sobarme la creciendo panza. Es niña, y para mí, que es parte tuya. No te voy a pedir que me pagues la manutención de la criatura, pero de seguro te mereces derechos de visitas, mínimo. Sí voy a ir, lo prometo.

Mientras tanto, favor de darles la siguiente nota a tus pacientes:

Estimados Residentes Temporales de 7N,

Lo siento mucho que tengan que pasar por esto. Siento que les haya dado cáncer, siento que aún lo tengan, y siento mucho que sea la época de navidad y las fiestas de fin de año y que no estén en su casa donde deberían de estar. Tengo una credencial de membrecía del club de cáncer en mi cartera, alguna vez un número de habitación de los 700 también me fue asignado a mí, y he caminado varios kilómetros dando la vuelta en ese circuito cerrado del 7N en esa bata y pantuflas, empujando esa misma máquina del catéter con ruedas. Comprendo su situación.  No sé como vaya a terminar esto, no sé si todo va a estar bien o no, pero deben saber esto: paso diariamente por el centro de cáncer y pienso en ustedes, y espero con todas las ganas del mundo que les den de alta pronto y que puedan regresar a su casa así como yo. Manténganse fuertes, hermanos y hermanas del cáncer, y recuerden que somos muchos aquí afuera pensando en ustedes.

Mucho amor y abrazos,

Darcy Davidson
Pasado Residente Temporal de 7N

Thursday, October 15, 2009

'Bright-Sided': When Happiness Doesn't Help - Barbara Ehrenreich

'Bright-Sided': When Happiness Doesn't Help - Barbara Ehrenreich

I encourage you to listen to this interview. Her book is on my Christmas list. I could not agree more with this woman, and wish her book had come out a year or two ago when this was my reality. Positive thinking is a fine coping mechanism if it comes naturally to you, but it’s not everyone’s way. It’s ok to be angry. It’s ok to stay angry. I’m still angry.

Unfortunately, positive thinkers die every day, just as much as angry realists do survive every day. Let’s not devalue the struggle of those who have lost their lives to disease by jumping to the erroneous conclusion that putting on a happy face will save you. It just won’t – it’s not that easy. I wish it was. After someone dies of cancer, no one ever says “well, if they had only been more positive about it.” You know that’s absurd. Support the people you love and let them cope however they can.

You might say “But positive thinking can’t hurt….” and go on with that mantra. That’s just not true. Positive thinking can hurt when you don’t feel like thinking positively, you have no reason to, and yet you feel an immense pressure to do so for others to feel better about the whole thing. I can tell you from my experience that I didn’t have even one iota of extra energy to put into one more extra thing. Don’t ask people to do that. It’s hard enough to be sick – it’s impossible, daunting, and stressful to take on the extra work of putting on an act to convince everyone else that you’re thinking positively and that everything’s going to be just fine.

And by the way, I’m doing just fine. 

'Bright-Sided': When Happiness Doesn't Help - Barbara Ehrenreich

Si hablas o entiendes inglés, te recomiendo mucho que escuches esta entrevista. Su libro está en mi lista de deseos de navidad. Desde que mi vida fue volteada por el cáncer, yo he tenido esta postura, y no podría estar más de acuerdo con esta chingonería de vieja…escribe y habla con una precisión, certeza, y honestidad impactante. Ojalá y su libro hubiera salido hace un año o dos cuando todo esto era mi realidad. El pensamiento positivo es un mecanismo perfectamente adecuado si te nace sentirlo y creerlo, pero no es el camino de todos. No hay nada malo de estar enojado. No hay nada malo de quedarte enojado. Yo hasta la fecha sigo enojada.

La cruel realidad es que desafortunadamente, los pensadores positivos mueren diariamente de cáncer, curiosamente a la misma frecuencia, sobreviven los realistas enojados. Una cosa no tiene nada, nada que ver con la otra. De esto habla esta mujer y su libro…que aparte de ser una creencia ilógica pero común, ahora es científicamente comprobado que la actitud positiva y las sonrisas y fortaleza emocional de una persona simplemente no tienen nada que ver con la probabilidad de que sobrevivan la enfermedad. Esto ha sido mi mensaje. No hay que devaluar la lucha de los que han perdido su vida a la enfermedad por llegar a la conclusión errónea de que el sonreír y el creer que todo va a salir súper bien te pueden salvar. Lo siento, pero no funciona así. Ojalá y así fuera de fácil…me daría mucho gusto. Cuando alguien se muere de cáncer, nadie, nadie dice: “pues sabes, si hubiera sido más positivo esto no hubiera pasado…” Sabemos que esa noción es absurda. Te pido que mejor, apoyes a las personas que quieres y dejes que lidien con lo que les haya tocado vivir como puedan.

Ya sé, van a venir con que “Pero el pensamiento positivo no hace daño, ¿por qué no hacerlo?” Y les contesto con esto: El pensamiento positivo SI que puede dañar cuando uno no se siente con ganas de ser positivo, cuando no tiene ninguna razón por sentirlo, y cuando siente una inmensa presión de sentir así para que otros puedan sentirse mejor de todo el asunto. Les puedo decir de mi experiencia que yo no tenía ni una pequeña gota de energía extra para aplicar a una tarea más. No pidas a nadie hacer eso – no sabes como se siente esa persona ni tienes que vivir su lucha. Es increíblemente difícil estar tan enfermo – es imposible, anonadante, y estresante agregar el trabajo extra de tener que actuar y convencer a los demás que estás pensando positivamente, y que todo va a estar perfectamente bien.

Y a propósito, yo estoy perfectamente bien.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Green Light/Luz verde


The scan was completely clean. Yessssssssss.

More later...I'm still chewing on the words to capture my thoughts and feelings...

La tomografìa saliò completamente limpiaaaaaa. Escribo más en unos días que todavía estoy masticando las palabras exactas para capturar mis pensamientos y sentimientos...y la alegría que por el momento es difícil cuantificar.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


High Anxiety Pictures, Images and Photos

My next scan is scheduled for a day between now and the end of the month (I will refrain from giving an exact date – I don’t want to be asked about it or infect you with my high scanxiety…I’ll just let you know once it’s over). It’s crazy how much the upcoming scan terrifies me. Crazy that from one moment to the next life could shift from working, studying, and planning babies and summer barbeques to scheduling treatment, preparing for pain, and coping with the severe disappointment of living a short life. How is it possible that one procedure makes that big of a difference in my whole world? Doesn’t seem right, does it?

Anyone who has walked this road knows the feeling. The stakes are just so high it’s an incredible feat even to walk in the door to the radiology department and check in. “Hi, I’m here to find out whether or not I’m dying.” “Sure, have a seat and read an outdated magazine – we’ll call you in a minute.” The last time I went in the nurse commented on how “easy” I was…I didn’t flinch when they poked me to get a line in, didn’t complain when they needed to redo part of the scan, didn’t mention the burning sensation of the contrast dye…I was just barely holding it together, I couldn’t be distracted from my concentration or I would have had a panic attack right then and there. But I held it together…and then that was it – “follow the signs to the lobby right through there.”

Oh, but here comes the worst part – you know nothing still. You leave there no better than when you went in because you don’t know anything more than you did, and now you have to wait. My oncologist is amazing, however, and always, always calls me as soon as he has the results. Only then can you breathe and deal. Even the time they called to tell me I had a dirty scan I felt better after they called than before. I would be happy if they could knock me out, do the scan, and not wake me up until they knew the results. Seems like it wouldn’t be too much to ask…though I speculate the insurance company may disagree.

The anxiety is intense, and as the day gets closer it will only get worse. Prior to every scan I have had after my initial treatment, I have suffered from night sweats, aches, and general malaise for weeks beforehand. To be clear – I suffered from these symptoms before clean scans and the same symptoms before a dirty scan…so they aren’t really telling of anything, except of some seriously frayed nerves. I get anxious about every little ache and pain, question every body temperature change, and sob when I wake up from a bad dream in a cold sweat. I am going to give myself a fucking ulcer. Wow, when did I become this person? People like this are so annoying. I’m so annoyed.

The temptation to blow the whole thing off and forget doctors and scans forever is strong. Why put myself through this? Fuck it. Oh, but no. This time we took it to another level altogether because a clean scan means much more than not having cancer. This time a clean scan is a free hall pass to the baby doctor and a chance at motherhood. This time it’s really a big deal, and I will remember this one for better or for worse for the rest of my life. That’s kind of a lot of pressure…a whole lot of pressure.

Mi próxima tomografía está programada para un día antes del fin de este mes – no les voy a decir exactamente cuándo porque no quiero que nadie me pregunte y tampoco quiero contagiarles mi tomografansiedad…yo les avisaré, lo prometo. Es una pinche locura el pavor que provoca en mí esta tomografía. Una locura que de un momento a otro mi vida podría cambiar de trabajar, estudiar, ir a clases, planear bebés y celebraciones de verano a programar tratamientos, prepararme para el dolor, y lidiar con la decepción inmensa de vivir una vida demasiado corta. ¿Cómo es posible que un pequeño estudio cambie todo así? No me parece justo.

Cualquiera que haya vivido este viaje del cáncer entiende perfectamente cómo se siente esto. Hay demasiado en juego…tanto que es una hazaña increíble tan solo llegar al departamento de radiología para la cita. “Buenos días, vengo a averiguar si me estoy muriendo o no.” “Ah, sí, pásale a leer una revista del 2004 y ahorita te llamamos.” La última vez que fui la enfermera comentó que era una paciente muy “fácil” porque no me retorcí cuando me picaron para poner el catéter de suero, no me quejé cuando tuvieron que repetir una parte de la tomografía, y ni siquiera mencioné la sensación de ardor cuando me pusieron el suero de contraste…lo que la enfermera no sabía es que estaba a punto de sufrir de un ataque de pánico y que tenía que mantener la concentración para evitarlo. Me podría haber derretido ahí en el piso de los nervios que sentía. Pero logro contenerme y ya - "ya terminamos, el lobby es por ahi."

Pero ni creas que puedas leer sus caras para saber qué onda – no te dicen nada. Y así te vas, igual que llegaste cagado de miedo porque aún no sabes ni madres. Eso sí - mi oncólogo es muy sensible a esto, y siempre me llama en cuanto tiene los resultados. A veces es el mismo día, y si no, al otro día de seguro. Es entonces cuando por fin puedes respirar. Aún cuando me hablaron aquella vez para decirme que habían encontrado cáncer de nuevo me sentía mucho mejor después de la llamada que antes. Yo sería feliz si me durmieran para hacer la tomografía y que no me despertaran hasta tener los resultados…sería perfecto…pero los doctores y el seguro no están muy de acuerdo.

La ansiedad es intensa….y entre más se aproxima la fecha, más la siento y más fuerte. Siempre me pasa igual antes de la tomografía – sufro de sudores por la noche, dolores extraños, y malestar general por varias semanas. Esto me ha pasado igual siempre - antes de las tomografías que han salido limpias y antes de las sucias igual….así que no significan nada estos síntomas, aparte de los nervios desgastados al máximo. Me altero por cada dolorcito, cada pequeño cambio de temperatura corporal, y se me derraman las lágrimas cuando me despierto en la madrugada empapada de sudor después de una pesadilla. De seguro voy a terminar con gastritis. ¿Y cuándo, me pregunto, llegué a ser esta persona tan paranoica e hipocondriaca? Qué weva me da la gente así, no mames, que weva me doy.

La tentación de mandarlo todo a la chingada y decirle adiós a los doctores y las tomografías para siempre es muy fuerte. ¿Por qué tengo que soportar esto? A la chingada. Pero no. Esta vez hay algo más: la tomografía limpia significa más que no tener cáncer. Esta vez significa un pase gratis para ver al doctor de los bebés y una oportunidad de que seamos papás. Esta vez significa mucho, mucho más, y lo voy a recordar para siempre para bien o para mal. Y eso es un chingo de presión…

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Story of My Neck/La historia de mi cuello

My neck and upper chest have been through a lot in the last few years…so here it is in photos for all you curious folk. Here’s a note to all those with cancer – if you are going to have IV chemo, get a port. Simple. Looks gross, feels kinda gross, but you will be glad you did it.

Mi pobre cuello y la parte de arriba de mi pecho han sobrevivido mucho abuso en los últimos años, y aquí está a todo color para que lo puedan ver. Una nota para todos que tengan cáncer – si te van a hacer la quimioterapia, insiste en que te pongan un “reservorio” o “portacat” (que es un dispositivo que se coloca justo debajo de la piel y tiene un catéter que va a la vena subclavia para que entre la medicina directita al corazón (o bien cerquita pues). Facilita increíblemente el proceso…se ve un poco extraño y es otra cicatriz, pero vale la pena, créenme.

2/1/2007 – Sent these two pictures to my mom. I was living in Guanajuato, Mexico at the time and noticed that the cute little sexy depression between my collar bones had disappeared and something had taken its place…I wanted to see if she thought it was something I should worry about or if she thought I was being paranoid and silly. Silly me. Look at that…that’s what cancer looks like…isn’t that insane? Gross. Eventually it started pushing backward and affected my breathing and swallowing. I had the biopsy shortly after, and was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on 2/15/07.

1/2/07 – Le mandé estas fotos a mi mamá…era cuando estaba viviendo en Guanajuato, y había notado que el espacio entre los huesos del cuello se me había llenado de algo. En el correo que le mandé le pregunté que si pensaba que debería de ir con el doctor o si pensaba que estaba preocupándome por nada. Qué locura, no? Mira la foto…eso es cáncer creciendo en mi pecho, saliendo para que todos lo vean. Eventualmente empezó a crecer más y me afectaba al respirar o pasar comida. El 15 de febrero me dieron el diagnóstico de linfoma tipo Hodgkin.



8/2007 – After 8 treatments of intravenous ABVD chemo, the veins in my arms were shot. I went for my 9th treatment and they sent me home after five nurses tried to get a line in. Chemo was also painful when it went directly into the veins in my arms…the last one of the drugs…(D is for Dacarbazine – anyone feel like writing a book with me?) really burned the inside of my veins, and even with lidocaine and ice packs I couldn’t stand the pain after a while. They’d slow down the bag, and a half an hour of unbearable pain turned into an hour and a half of really uncomfortable pain. I wish they would have just knocked me out. Even today as I remember those days it makes me tear up…there was nothing I could do to make it stop, and there was nothing they could do to make it better, and we just had to do it. The port solved that issue (drugs go into bigger veins and are diluted faster – no pain). So here’s the port after the port placement – it’s a “power” port which means that it is a little cooler than regular ones because it can take a power injection (like the ones they use for CT scans) and it also makes you fly. Straight up.

8/2007 – Después de 8 tratamientos de quimioterapia ABVD, las venas en mis brazos se habían chingado por completo…ya no servían para nada. El día que fui para el noveno tratamiento me mandaron a casa después de que 5 enfermeras no pudieron ponerme el catéter en la vena. Fue una semana de vacaciones de la quimio, pero había que hacer algo. También, siempre me dolía mucho la quimio “D” (dacarbazine) de la mezcla…dolía un chingo, pero un chingo. Me hacía llorar del dolor…me ponían anestesia local en la piel, me ponían hielo, pero nada, nada, nada ayudaba. Un martirio fue…y hasta la fecha me da escalofrío pensar en la desesperación que sentía porque me dolía hasta la madre y no había nada que hacer al respeto…era una pinche tortura horrible, y el portacat alivianó todo eso – porque ponen la medicina en las venas grandes y se diluye más rápido y no duele. Aquí está la foto de después de la cirugía para ponerlo…


Fast forward…

More chemo, a relapse, and a stem cell transplant later here’s what it looks like in my chest….kinda gross, kinda cool, but definitely unsightly for summer clothing and now totally unnecessary. I scheduled to have it removed…I had kinda been waiting to do that, not wanting to jinx the whole thing by taking it out…superstitious much? Geez. Anyway, it’s stupid, I wanted it out and if for some reason they have to put one back in then I will deal with that then. Chances are fairly good that they won’t, but again, don’t want to jinx it so I’ll just officially say that if cancer comes back they will put it back in, no big deal, move on.

Después de más quimioterapia, una recaída fea del cáncer, y un trasplante de células madre, así se ve el portacat. Está más o menos chido o interesante…pero se ve espantoso y gacho, y ya no es necesario, y ya no lo quiero. Así que pedí que me lo sacaran…y estas son las últimas fotos de su existencia en mi cuerpo. Sí, si regresa el cáncer algún día, lo pueden volver a poner…sé que eso es posible, mas ya es menos probable, y no hay pex.


Here it is now! All done. It was a pretty easy removal…though I did insist on being asleep for the removal ‘cause I get real anxious about the local-anesthetic-only procedures…it feels super gross and is totally nerve wracking and awful. It’s getting much better and I think the scar is going to be minimal…but still visible, and that’s ok. I will be happy to explain that it is evidence of a difficult fight that I am winning.

Así se ve ahora…listo. Me dieron anestesia general para quitarlo…insistí en eso porque no me gusta cuando quieren hacer las cosas con anestesia local…se siente horrible y me pone súper nerviosa. Sí que va a haber una cicatriz, pero creo que va a ser pequeña…y me gusta que esté ahí…es un recordatorio de una batalla difícil que hasta ahorita voy ganando.