Thursday, February 28, 2013

star gazer

up in hanover county, where we live, the sky has always seemed so generous.  it's driven my girls nuts when we've returned from vacations, and i've called out,  hello sky!  we've missed you!

they've asked me, how can you miss a sky?

i've said how can you not?

even if we cruise over to another county in an afternoon, and then back to ours, i've asked them -

wow. isn't the sky so much more generous over here?

it's so easy to see the patterns the stars create at night.

there is a small hobbyist airport not too far away.  we like to observe the curving descents of the aircraft sometimes, and pretend they are aliens about to land.

my oldest daughter and i called out one night, as loud as we could, as though they could hear us, come here!  we believe! we believe!

she says now she was kidding.

but i wasn't.

and i don't believe she was either.

there's always interesting patterns forming, some we can name, some we can't.

big dipper.  little dipper. 

cassiopeia.  polaris. orion.

the godfather is pretty good at it.

it's fun to try to identify, and trace your finger along the constellations.

and point out falling stars.


this is what a mammogram can look like.  

all kinds of activity and movement against a night sky.

some things clear, some not.

there are random calcifications, expected, not unlike stars.

microcalcifications are generally more suspicious than macro, (larger) calcifications.

 when the microcalcifications create a certain pattern they are considered suspicious enough to warrant biopsy.

by the time i was called back for third diagnostic mammo, i knew enough about microcalcifications, and which patterns rated a score of highly suspicious for cancer, over just plain old suspicious.

microcalcifications in a linear formation were considered highly suspicious.

like ants marching in a line on a picnic blanket.

like the handle on the big dipper.

it is simply that clear.

the technicians are instructed to say nothing regarding diagnostics.

but i saw my image on screen, with a circle marked around it.

in that circle were clearly those grains of salt, all lined up.

i said that's cancer.

she said oh.  you don't know yet.

i said it's cancer when it looks like that.

it's microcalcifications in a linear formation.

i can see it right there.

she didn't tell me.

and she couldn't, i knew.

i said look.  you didn't tell me.

i didn't ask.  i knew when i saw them.

you did nothing wrong.

i happened to see the image is all, it was right there on the screen.

i knew what the patterns were.

and she said still, you don't know for sure.

i said ok fine.  but i knew.

it was that obvious.  that clear.

she was doing her job, and that was fine.

but i had a job to do too, as far as i was concerned.

seeing that, i knew there was no way it could be anything but cancer.

just like the stars.  

you know what they are when you see them.  the big dipper never looks like something other than what it is.


haven't seen them yet.

but that doesn't mean they're not there....

i keep looking.

xx katy

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

one potato. two potato.

you know the rules.

you remember them from kindergarten.

or before.

regarding fair play, there's only one way to choose.

one potato.  two potato.

three potato. four.

five potato. six potato.

seven potato.


does the o'er mean you're out?

does the o'er mean you're it?

does the o'er stand for eight?

1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

wait a minute.

did i say develop?

if i did, i didn't mean it.

that hasn't been proven.

there is no evidence that one 'develops' one's own breast cancer.

1 in 8 will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

that's what i meant.

1 in 8.

one potato. two potato.

doesn't matter if you want to play or not.

you're being counted.

1 in 8.

that rhymes with hate.

but also great.

7 in 8 will not.

that's kind of great.

perhaps it's fate.


what about the 1?

gotta hate that.

there is no rhythm when it comes to the counting of the fists in the game.

one potato. two potato.

it's not even a game really.

but the counts, the findings, the calling out,


wanna play?

doesn't matter.

you're being counted anyway.

xx katy

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

you betta work

i've been briefed about what to expect from the radiation treatments, scheduled to begin next week.

it seems pretty straightforward, though it's the potential cumulative effect of radiation fatigue i'm concerned about.

but maybe the fatigue won't happen.

fingers crossed.

i've been given the literature.  along with the lectures.

 soon enough i'll be heading into the radiation ring.

 a prizefighter i am not.

the old school tacky flashy satin colored robe wearing atlantic city type boxers have certainly come to mind though.

their coaches and bookies following them, arms extended, fist pumping the air as they cruise through the crowds, entering the corner of the ring.

they fight to win.

i am curious about the bookmaking, the fanfare, that whole low down razzle dazzle.

but the fight itself, what's the point?

i'm no fighter.

i'd rather hire rupaul.

this isn't a battle as i see it, a so called cancer fight. 

but there are times when support is a welcome thing.

i think rupaul would make a fabulous, diva-esque cancer coach.

 oh honey.

i believe he might understand a sister going down, he just wouldn't tolerate a sister staying down.

he'd position those long manicured fingers on his slender hips, extend his waxed leg through the requisite slit in his sequined gown, point his stilettoed toe, and say, through glossy lips and blinding white teeth, oh no honey.

you betta work.

what choice would a girl have?

i can hear those finger snaps now.

work it girl.  he'd so go there.

xx katy

Monday, February 25, 2013


i know a woman who has recently encountered the dreaded breast cancer recurrence.

she is a self employed exterminator, though not gigantic enough to afford her own health insurance.

this is a particularly dicey subject for me.

who can like the idea that health care is provided for those who can somehow 'afford' it?

or not?

i have breast cancer.

and insurance, thus good medical care.

thanks to the godfather.

this woman does not.

how is this fair?

it's not.

courtesy of health insurance, i've had numerous diagnostic procedures done.

biopsies, surgeries, sci fi screening this and that.

i've said it before.

this woman has not.

she was told, by her paltry and non existent medical team, let's watch it and wait six months.

i said no way. that's bullshit.

how is that possible?

and she told me, katy. it's bc you have insurance. 

and i don't.

i said but you have cancer too.

she said i'm not like you.

i said yes you are.


my buddhist friend happens to also be a writer.

i remember a piece he wrote a long time ago that reminds me of  this kind of thing.

he was in nyc, and if you've ever been there, then you know that when you're standing on a street corner, and the light changes, then you and an army of folks surge across the street, together, at the same time.

my friend was carrying an armload of books.  and in that surge, he noticed a guy crawling, trying to make his way, just like everyone else.  

 it was painful to witness.

in that crossing, my friend tried to adjust his books, while at the same time trying to help this guy cross before the light changed.

bc in new york, the cars can move so damn fast.

time waits for no one.

everyone just kept crossing.

and it meant enough to my friend that he tried to write about it later.

he tried to address that crowd of people crossing.

he said pretty clearly -

i'm no better than you.

i'm no damn better than you.

but you've got to help a man trying to cross the street on his hands and knees.

xx katy

Sunday, February 24, 2013


on tuesday, we're scheduled to spend 1/2 the day down at massey for 'mapping.'

so far, we know it will involve cat scans and tiny tattoos for marking the target, where the radioactive field will 'hit.'

more sci fi adventures await.

we were given a couple 'very solid' options for radiation treatment.

but i told the godfather, you know how we're always a few years behind the times.  

he said yeah.  so?

(we're not so behind the times that we bury ca$h in the backyard though)

i said well how do we know choosing this kind of radiation is not like walking into a phone store, and selecting the flip phone, when there's tons of 'smarter options?'

when we met with cal, our radiation oncologist, he explained, in pretty great detail, what our options were.

and it was up to us to decide.

we were positively flummoxed.  we said how are we supposed to know what the best option is?

and he, along with his team said this.

the best option for you is the one that helps you sleep at night.

there are no bad options.

flashback to monty.

mr. hustle.  mr. let's make a deal.


maybe there are no bad options.  

but aren't some options better than others?

the 'tried and true' (flip phone?) option is the external beam, 6 weeks, 5 days a week.  on the 6th week, that will be a 'boost' week, where the radiation beams will be more localized to the internal cavity where the cancer formerly resided.

if this sounds like a grind, it's bc it is.  but so are plenty of other worthwhile endeavors.  

the other newer fangled option requires another surgical procedure, involving implantation of a series of catheters, a kind of cross section of porcupine quills going in, through, and out the other side of the breast.

they said you'll feel like a porcupine for a week.

but only a week.  

(smart phone?)

the idea here, is once the catheters are inserted, you go twice daily for that week, each time receiving high levels of radiation, directly to target.   though not area surrounding target.  so partial breast, not full.

you're instructed to stay away from babies, and pregnant women, so i understand, bc you're considered radioactive.

this is strange.

as our daughters say, 'is this real life?'

this sounds pretty do-able though.

spit spot.  one week.

see ya later alligator.

i was initially 100% sign me up for that.

as was the godfather, we had some things on our calendars, this would free us up to do.  

no 6 week ball and chain.

fuh.  getta.  bout. it.



 what we learned was those porcupine quills would only kill the potentially rogue and remaining cancer cells in the very cavity that finally produced those clear margins.

no where else in the breast.

which is good.  though maybe not?

if there were a rogue cell, perhaps elsewhere in the breast, undetectable at this juncture, due to limitations of imaging, combined with known 'dense breast tissue,' then the porcupine option wouldn't reach it.

but.  perhaps it's not even there.

but what if it is?

but likely it's not.

one week.

let's go to hawaii!

but do i want to be laying on the beach, wondering about some holdout cell?


6 weeks.


flip phone.

smart phone.

i'd just like it clear.  no static on the line please.

xx katy

Saturday, February 23, 2013

cancer kitty?

i hesitate to begin a post with the words, 'this might sound strange, but....'

but there's no other way to do it.

this might sound strange, but i have read recently about more than a few women whose kitty cats gravitated toward their breast cancer.  

before they knew they had it.

you can stop reading now.

and if you never return, i wouldn't blame you. 

but these are 'bona fide' accounts.  not substantiated in medical journals, this is just old fashioned over the fence kind of girl talk here.

one woman happened to mention it.

then another said hey, me too.  

and so on.

i admit to not being a cat lover.

i'm fine with people who are.

i've loved only one cat in my life, and that's the cat one of my sister's got during trick or treating back when we lived in cincinnati, which made me about 7 or 8 at the time.

i guess she couldn't remember which house in particular had given out kittens instead of hershey bars, but at any rate, our parents let her keep it.

and they named it whitey.

and he was a decent cat, until he ran away when we took him with us to visit our cousins in pennsylvania.

and as we loaded the station wagon when it was time to head back, we called out, whitey! come on!  we're leaving now!

but he had taken off for the cornfields of western pa.

for a long time after that, i imagined him running.

you hear of stories now and then about a long lost pet who returned after 12 yrs or so.

but not whitey.

i used to think god whitey.  you've got nerve.

so that was the end of my one and only cat love affair.

never again.

but these women swear that their beloved fluffy, or cupid, or whatever their names are, never came to a certain side of their chests for nuzzling.  not ever.

 until their cancer came.

these are long time cat owners.

and cats are kind of creatures of habit.

and cat owners tend to let their cats be.

i don't get it.  

but that's how they are.

they snuggle or they don't.

  what's the point?

but these women, in their steadfast way, say these tiny cougars at some point, started to come directly to the right or left side.  so much so, so intently so, that it caused them to wonder.

these 'cat ladies' asked themselves, what the hell?

and they were curious enough to look closer themselves.

and they noticed very subtle differences.

not lumps.

only slight dimpling.

or very easy to miss inversions.

or a previously unnoticed dry patch.

so they thought hmmm to themselves.

i wonder if this means anything?

so they went to the dr.

and it did mean something.

it meant it was cancer.

in each of those cat finding cases.

so. damn. strange.

i'm not saying here kitty kitty.

no way.

but i find it very curious.

did curiosity kill the cat?

not in these cases.

but maybe the cat's curiosity somehow helped not kill it's mama.

hope kitty gotta treat.

Friday, February 22, 2013


now that i've met with the radiation oncologist, you might say i'm a baller.

but i wouldn't.

no way.

i'm a rookie, remember?

but somehow, thanks to yesterday, i seem to have made it past first base.

not because i'm a superstar, but because it's just the nature of the game.

i was pretty happy on the bench in the dugout, btw.

it was cool there.  no drama.

i never said i wanted to walk up to the plate and swing.

or strike out.

 prior to actually meeting the doctor yesterday, there were several other technical and medical professionals who wanted to brief us on his status before he actually entered the consult room.

so it was funny and strange when he finally walked in, and the godfather shook his hand, and said 'you look just like cal ripken.'

and 'cal' said, yeah.  but he's getting older.

an oncologist with a sense of humor can't be a bad thing.

it was my turn at bat.

we were there to discuss strategy for getting on base.

i'm not saying i've hit a homer yet, at any point in this cancer game. i have not cracked a ball way out of the stands, bases loaded,  crowd roaring.

far from it.

more, it's been the godfather up in the stands, along with our daughters, and a few others who have showed up for the game.

marcia of course.

i never wanted to feel like a spectacle.

starring myself in some kind of twisted cancer world series.

how not fun would that be?

 i prefer the low key.

i'm definitely more a fan of the backyard ball game.

minus the scorecard.

so far though, i've managed a half hearted bunt, which seems to have landed me solidly on first.

this was achievable after the three surgeries finally produced clear margins.

i was at bat for a while.

strike one.


there were a couple of foul balls.

now, i'm making my way to 2nd.

on to treatment with cal!

i can hear the muffled cheers from the dusty stands.

you got this mom!

 go get it girl!

i can see the base, despite the obstacles.

what i'm looking for, when this game is finally 'over', (though they say there is a way that it never really can be) is an old school, straight up by the books, can't be 'bought,' non crooked, solid, referee.

i want to hear that word, so definitively spoken.


xx katy

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virginia, United States