Thursday, April 18, 2013

home base

dear breast cancer rookie readers --

i've appreciated your stopping by the blog, and keeping up as your time and interest has allowed.

now that treatment is behind me, and tamoxifen lies ahead, i've found myself in a space where i'd kind of like to put the whole cancer story in the rearview for a while.

i can't do that if i write about it everyday.

i've enjoyed the opportunity to frame the experience in the form of storytelling.

i can say it was helpful to be able to organize thoughts during the months of diagnostics, surgeries, recoveries and treatments.

fall, winter, spring.

summer though, is truly the season of the rookie.

i went for my first swim of the season yesterday.

and today i took my first outdoor shower of the season.

yesterday i put two early cherry tomatoes, growing in the backyard garden, into my cheese and pickle sandwich for lunch.

talk about a mouthful of summer.

fall, winter, spring were the months filled with cancer.

i'd like summer to be the months filled with light.

so with this is mind, i'd like to thank you again for being here.

if i keep writing here though, then breast cancer will always be riding shotgun, bc i'll have to think about it everyday.

and i might think about it everyday anyway.

for a while.

but i really want it to just be a chapter in whatever book this life is.

so with gratitude, i'm saying again, thank you.

you were here when i swung that first time, and made it to first base, which i consider to be diagnostics.

and second base, when i moved on to surgeries.

and third, which i see as treatment.

and now, wherever home is, i'd like to believe i'm there.

thanks again.

for everything.

xx katy

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


the last day of radiation was surprisingly bittersweet.

i'd spent the afternoon prior baking cookies for all the radiation attendants, nurses, and techs that i'd seen every day for the past 6 weeks.

i happen to put baked goods in pink boxes, and often tie them in pink ribbon.

this was unintentional, i've done the pink bakery box thing for years.

but the color was not lost on the attendants, who were more than familiar by now with my pink hair, pink glasses, pink scarves.

they said and pink boxes too!

they were the sweetest crew really, every one of them.

passing out the boxes, hugging each of them goodbye, i kind of felt like dorothy waking up from her dream. 

in that sterile environment, dumbo's playhouse, i seemed to be surrounded by the tin man who had found his heart, the scarecrow who'd found his brain, and the formerly cowardly lion, who's courage was now intact.

one of the techs said we just can't believe it's your last day.

i said i can't either!

then she said, and i suspect she says this to all patients, we don't say that to everyone.

i said yes you do.

oh it was so bittersweet, the goodbyes.

i said look.  if i see you again here, at least i won't be afraid next time.  

they said you won't be back!

i said you never know.

they said well, we hope we don't see you here.

i said okay.

but if i do, it'll be okay, because we've got it down now, we've found a rhythm.

and they let me leave it with that.

i had to see the oncology nurse after treatment.

she had to set me up with first follow up, a month from now with cal, our radiation oncologist.

before that, it's back to dr. bear, our surgical oncologist.

but for now, she presented me with a certificate of merit, just like a diploma, with my name printed on it, the doctors and nurses signatures, the certificate read --

for kathleen gorman.

who has completed the prescribed course of radiation therapy,

with the highest degree of COURAGE, DETERMINATION, AND COMMITMENT.

the letters were really capitalized on the certificate btw.

my girls asked if i was going to hang it up in my workroom.

i said no.

but i'll keep it.

cowardly lion that i am.

i might need to remember.

there might come a day when i need to see evidence of COURAGE.

next stop, tamoxifen....

xx katy

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

savant bon vivant

i've been wondering a bit about the idea of cancer solution.

perhaps cure.

we know treatments exist of all kinds.

the treatments and pursuit of cure spring from the minds of scientific and medical minds across the globe.

but where are the artists?




should they be invited to a kind of cancer summit?

maybe we just need more kinds of minds working on the problem.

different kinds of thinking.

once, when our youngest daughter ella was almost 2, we were walking through an antique mall.

me, the godfather, and our four daughters. i was carrying our almost 2 year old ella, who was born on the first day of the second week of the last month, of the first year of our new century.

 friday, december 8, 2000.

we formed our own little unit, perusing the aisles, and came into another unit, a bunch of guys on an outing, on a random saturday afternoon.

the guys had a chaperone, they were 'clearly impaired.'

have you seen the movie i am sam?

or rainman?

it was kind of like that.

these guys were savants of some kind, their fascinating minds so heavy on the genius in one area, that it cast a large and oppressive shadow on the other parts of their brains, rendering them 'useless....'


says who?

the guys stopped and counted the girls.  one pointed to ella, and asked, when is her birthday?

i said december 8th.

he said what year?

i said 2000.

he said back to me, very clearly,

december 8, 2000 was a friday.

indeed it was.

these are the minds we need.

we are here to learn from each other after all.

science fair winners, we love you.

but we need everyone.

as i see it.

xx katy

Monday, April 15, 2013

felony dodged

as the end of treatment draws near, i've been thinking a lot about what's next.

besides the 5 years of tamoxifen.

i anticipated the 6 month rotation, rather than the 12 month appointments 'healthy' people get.

see you in a year, is what those folks get to hear.

i didn't anticipate the every 3 month jive.

have you ever been convicted of a felony?

i haven't.

but once you're considered a felon, that's it.  

a felon you will always be.

it is a matter of record.

and if you apply for a job, you have to put it in writing, yes.

i'm a felon.

same with a cancer diagnosis, it's part of your history.

a matter of record.

the other day, after radiation, but before seeing cal, the radiation oncologist, i saw mila, cal's nurse.

she said i'll need to see you next week, on your last day of treatment so i can give you your 'walking papers.'


i'm not a felon, remember?  

she said we'll need to set you up with your parole officers.



you'll see dr. arthur every six months.

(radiation oncologist)

and dr. bear every six months.

(surgical oncologist)

but we will stagger the appointments so you are being seen every three months.

i said for how long?

she said it depends.

(on what?)

i said wait.

is this a big deal or not?

she didn't answer.

so i asked another question.


i said, if i hadn't come in for my routine mammo this year, and this is the first year ever i'd been tempted to blow it off, if i came in next year, would it have been invasive?

and she said very likely yes.

bullet dodged.

she said yours was caught early, so it had no chance to invade.

we believe all cancers start at that stage.

not all cancers progress.

but they all start at that stage.

why give those nasty cells a chance to rob a bank?

that only means more time in the pen.

isn't a misdemeanor better than a felony?


i think so.

xx katy

Sunday, April 14, 2013

date with a mobster

i'm a true fan of the color black.  few colors are so consistently easy to wear.

it's strong and simple, basic.

mobsters are long time fans.

the godfather began wearing it one too many xs head to toe though.

the other morning i said come on.  you're going to have to stop with all the black.

he said i like it.

i said i like it too.

but there are other colors.

out the door he went though, in his godfather head to toe fashion statement.

and the next day too.

and i believe the day following, though i don't keep track.

the final two treatment days are tomorrow and the next day.


the godfather had to go out of town this morning, will return wednesday, treatments in rear view by then.

i was meant to go along, though it would have involved interruption of treatment, something i wanted to avoid.

i did not want anything disrupting the trajectory of the cancer fighting missle, bc if it were to come back down the road, i know myself well enough to know i would wonder,

should i not have interrupted treatment?

i didn't want that head trip, so one of our daughters went with him, which is a very nice thing for them both.

on friday, before treatment, i was in a real hole in the wall scouting for vintage, and these places are sometimes very heavy on the nostalgia, and sometimes they can put you in a moment, an emotional moment, especially if there is tom petty and stevie nicks playing on the radio.

and i wanted to call the godfather and say hey.  what are you doing?

even though i knew he was at his office.  duh.  but still, i wanted to call.  but i told myself, stop being such a f*cking baby.

so i didn't.

as i was getting help hauling heavy old stuff on the truck bed, marcia, in her uncanny timing way, called.

how did she know i needed to talk right then?

i'm telling you again future cancer patients, a marcia is your secret weapon for digging your own selves out of dark holes.

we chatted as i drove from the vintage place, to the hospital for treatment, and since i was early, i stayed in the truck to chat on phone.  

as we were chatting, i saw through the rearview a handsome and pleasant looking dude.

he was wearing a mulberry type colored collared shirt.  it was a good color. i thought oh.  the godfather would look really good in a color like that.

and then, as that handsome and pleasant looking fellow got closer, i realized wtf, it is the godfather.

i said marcia! (not her real name)

it's the godfather!  (not his real name)

she said oh ok! well go ahead then.

i said yeah really, off to our radiation date.

i really was surprised.

i hadn't called him about the nostalgia re the vintage, or the tom petty and the stevie nicks.

but obviously he could see i'd been somewhere, the truck was loaded with what he sometimes calls 'bullsh*t.'

this is before he sees the final product though.

i said i can't believe you're here.

how did you know i needed to see you?

he said i just know.

i said no really.  i didn't call you.  how did you know?

he said again, i just know.

him being a godfather, i swear i had the fleeting thought, but didn't say, do i have some kind of emotional gps implanted somehow that i don't know about?

mobsters are very adept at bugging things.

it was very sweet though, a mobster in mulberry.

who knew?

xx katy

Saturday, April 13, 2013

survivors ready?

have you ever wanted to go on the television show, survivor?

i haven't.

but the godfather has.

once he went to an open call, but didn't make the call back, bc in his words, he didn't show them his 'true nature.'

could he have?

is that what godfathers do?

i don't know, i've never seen one play.

i was all for it, him being on the show.

he wasn't sure about the being gone so long part.

he said how will you manage with me being gone so long?

i said don't worry.  it will be worth it.

back in the early days of the show, the players were allowed to bring one 'luxury item.'

i said what will your luxury item be?

he said my visa card.

i said it doesn't work that way.

anyway, like i said, survivor was not in the cards, he was meant to stick around.

but the show continues to have it's own kind of legend.

jeff, in his low key survivor host way, asks the players on reward challenge days,

wanna know what you're playing for?

and of course here comes the oohs and aahs.

the rewards can be anything from pillows and blankets, flint for fire, hooks for fishing, or an afternoon picnic on some tucked away beach.

those players really suffer out there in the jungle.

they get hot.  sick.  tired.  snake bit.

some experience concentration camp levels of weight loss.

many endure mind fatigue.

all of it.

but mostly their cunning remains.

the build up of radiation effect has made me think of those challenges that start out 'easy.'

but as time elapses, the easy gets hard.

and harder.

and then harder still.

but it's not like you can drop your heavy barrel of water that you can no longer balance on your shoulder while standing on one foot.

there is no afternoon massage beneath a waterfall.

no flint.

yes fire though.

only it's beneath your skin.

still though.

there is reward.

when it's over.

just done.

survivors ready?


xx katy

Friday, April 12, 2013

horse sense?

if you've ever ridden a bus or a train, or waited at an airport, or a doctor's office,

then you're pretty familiar with how easily spontaneous conversation can get started.

it's the same with the radiation waiting room.

it's surprising the conversations that seem to be fair game.

today i wore sandals with fairly high heels, with an easy lightweight dress.

note to future cancer patients -

the heels are fine, but you might want to rethink the dress, bc you have to take everything off from the waist up, and if you're wearing a dress, then you're kind of screwed from the waist down, and it's awkward holding the hospital gown together in the back, as you traipse down the hall to the vault.

once a week i have to meet with cal, the radiation oncologist.

so that means after your radiation, it's back in your street clothes, and also back to the radiation waiting area, until cal's ready to see you.

so when i rejoined the posse, i said what are you gals talking about?

they said we were just wondering how you walk in those shoes.

i said easy.

the one woman said i'm not wearing heels anymore, no way.

i said what about platforms?  then you can have height, minus the heel part.  

she said you're talking to an old hippie here.  i know all about platforms and bell bottoms.

i said ok then.  so you know.

she said no.  no heels for me.

(didn't i just say platforms weren't heels?)

i said you guys need to stop hatin' on my shoes.

 suddenly they were all in denial mode.

but i know a hater when i see one.

next subject.

how do you think you got your cancer?

here came an answer i never heard before.

the other woman said i got it from my horse.

i said horses can't give you cancer!

(did i say i wanted to be here?  no.)

she said i think mine did.

her name was daisy, and she was getting old and fussy.

and one day i was reaching in to give her hay, and she just bit me right through my breast, clamped right down, and four years later, that's where my cancer was.

i said you're really telling me you think you got your cancer from your horse named daisy?

and she said not really from daisy.

but bc of her.

she said i think something happened during the healing.

something changed, and got messed up.

i said are you talking about cellular activity?

you think that bite, then the healing, caused an upset somehow?

and she said yes.

and i said interesting.

next subject please.

i'll find out tomorrow.

cuz they'll be there.

as will i.

xx katy

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virginia, United States