Warning: This post is complainy. It does have one funny part, though, if you find accidental drug use amusing.

COMPLAINT #1: I would like to say that right now I feel like my body is a leaky rowboat and I am floating alone in the middle of the ocean. I hate it so much. Please send corks, glue and/or chewing gum.

COMPLAINT #573 My armpit is ruined! Now, I never claimed to have sexy armpits, but they definitely weren’t unsightly. Now the left one is, because the fucking doctor who did my last biopsy didn’t sew me back together properly. It’s as if he took a stapler to a bag of leftover chinese food. Frankenpit. Plus, it hurts. He severed a nerve or something and I get zappy pains shooting down to my fingertips. I can’t even raise my arm over my head any more and tanks are banned henceforth. Dammit.

COMPLAINT #795483645427: The cough. I still haven’t kicked the bronchitis or pneumonia or whatever it is I’ve been battling the past three months. Firemom sent me some pills for my arm pain and I ate one without even looking at the bottle. That’s smart, right? About 15 minutes later, I suddenly felt as though someone set my brain in my skull sideways and had to go lie down. I crawled under the covers and proceeded to have random, disjointed thoughts and visions for a few hours. When it wore off, I took a glance at the pill bottle and I could swear it said “codeine.” I ate another one again today and after it knocked me on my ass for a good six hours I gave the bottle a closer inspection. Oxycontin. Whoops. What kind of doctor is prescribing Oxy to a perfectly healthy woman in her 60′s? Also: never touching that shit again, but it did help my cough.

That is all.

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That’s the name of the flap that holds your tongue to the bottom of your mouth. Did you know it can swell up and hurt like a bitch? ME NEITHER.


If you know someone doing chemo, or just an old, decrepit person with mouth problems, tell them about Magic Mouthwash. There’s lots of recipes online, but this is the one I am using and it helps SO MUCHLY.

Mix equal parts:
Children’s Benadryl

Swish and try not to gag. Spit into sink. Wink at self in mirror.

It figures

some days are just shitty

some days are just shitty

A few years after college, I heard that a guy I had known back then had died in a mountain climbing accident. He was descending and the protection failed. He fell quite some distance and was killed instantly. I don’t remember who told me the story, but whoever it was also told me that his last words were, “It figures.”

“It figures.” True story or not — for whatever reason — it’s sprung to mind frequently over the years. I didn’t even know him that well.

When my oncologist told me about my new medicine, he said 10% of people who take it get mouth sores. Lucky me, I’m always in the 90th percentile. “It figures.” I’m trying to come up with a plan to get it under control, but right now everything I eat or drink just hurts. Late this morning I realized I hadn’t eaten anything in almost 24 hours. I slathered a rice cake with peanut butter and jelly, thinking I could maximize my protein while minimizing the pain by coating the whole mess with slippery goo, but after I took my first bite I threw it in the sink and laid down on the floor. “It figures.” I wanted to cry but I just got eyelash extensions and if they get wet they’ll fall off.

While I was on the floor I thought about how in the movies when people die, they’re always lying in bed surrounded by all their loved ones and usually have some very touching parting words. It’s all very cinematic and epic. It’s not really fair that Hollywood sets us up like that, because probably most of us will just run one yellow light too many, or feel a sudden crushing chest pain and no one will even be with us to hear what we have to say. I hate to break the news, but I bet plenty of people’s last words are “It figures.”

After I decided the situation was safe for my eyelashes I got up off the floor and I Googled my friend the climber. Why it took so long for me to do that, I can’t say. The first result was a story he had written for Esquire. About his mom. Who had breast cancer.

It figures.

Now, will somebody please go get me a goddamn milkshake?

The ghost of laurel past


Today was my last free day here in SF. Fireboy went back to Vegas this morning so I had the whole day to myself. I’ve been feeling lately that I’m playing catch-up with the cancer. Like it has somehow gained the upper hand on me — not mentally, but physically. This lingering bronchitis is kicking my butt, and that hip metastases has pretty much literally broken my ass so I decided enough is enough. I’m shutting this business down.

Some people (definitely not scientists, obvi) actually believe that cancer can be caused by shit like grief, stress, fear and holding grudges. Nothing like putting the blame on the victim, but whatever — let’s just go with it for a minute and imagine it was that simple. What if it was? I’m here in the city where my heart broke into a million pieces, where I worked around the clock like a machine, where at times I was utterly alone and terrified — what if I could go back and erase it all? Why not try?

So, I spent the whole day chasing my ghost. I followed it all around Union Square and the FiDi. I saw it duck into a check cashing store, embarrassed, and I told her that everybody needs help sometimes. I squared off with her in the place where a vapid socialite once made her feel tiny and told her to hold her head up high. I waited for her outside the office and said, “Keep up the good work, but for the love of God stop sleeping with your BlackBerry under your pillow.” and each time I passed her in a bar I knocked the drink out of her hand, because as it turns out, that is one thing that really might actually, really have made a difference.

Then, after all the angst, stress, sadness and borderline alcoholism of the past were healed, we went somewhere fancy and got our hair done.

Fresh ink

My radiation oncologist says that they can zap the bone metastases in my hip in just one dose! He says that afterward it won’t hurt any more and I will stop limping.

One thing most people don’t know about radiation is that the person getting the radiation gets a tattoo (or three, or four.) Just your basic prison-style tattoo — where ink is poured on the skin and then pushed under it with a needle. Just one pixel, which is used as a guide to help the radiation tech line up the beams correctly. I have one on my breast from when I had radiation after my lumpectomy, but for this go-round I got FOUR: two on my abdomen and one on each hip. FANCY. You know, if someone had told me ten years ago they were going to turn my body into a connect-the-dots game, I probably would have minded, but now I couldn’t care less. I just want to FEEL GOOD AGAIN.

Do yourself a favor and take the next five minutes to really think about your body and how good it feels. Think about all your parts and how they work together and what a miracle it is that they do. And how someday they won’t anymore.

When he’s happy, my dog Manchester throws himself down on the ground and rolls around on his back. I know he’s just scratching his back but I like to think he’s celebrating himself so that’s what we call it. We yell “CELEBRATE IT!” and when I see him do that it reminds me to do the same. If you want to take a minute and celebrate yourself by rolling around on the floor, you totally should. Go ahead, no one is watching.

For the tattoo aficionados amongst you, here is one of my rad new dots:

The multiverse and the moth

So it turns out that everything we learned in school about atoms and stuff is wrong. The Theory of Relativity, Newtonian physical theories. All wrong.

Recent research supports a new hypothesis that we’re actually living in a holographic multiverse. Supposedly, it looks like this:

Um, yeah

It is believed that quantum relationships regulate all the processes that go on inside this crumpled up piece of wrapping paper at the bottom of God’s recycling bin. Not at the speed of light (not even close, Einstein) but at 20,000 times the speed of light. Relationships which occur and change, all with the mere act of observation.

Every time I get a scan, I consider this stuff as deeply as I am able, with my non-scientific brain.

When the PET scan follows the trackers through my body with its glucose-vision, what changes does the watcher cause inside me? While my body surrenders under the machine’s electric eye, in my mind I imagine my self slipping through the origami folds. I slide right down into the one in which I live cancer-free. That one. Not this one. I am the switch operator who moves the tracks. The train goes left, rather than right.

I briefly come out of anesthesia during my lymph node biopsy. I hear what sounds like a nail gun being fired and my entire body shakes in reverberation. Later, when I wake up again for good in the recovery room, it feels like someone kicked my armpit’s ass. We will know the results next week.

Walking past my kitchen today, I notice a frantic flapping on the inside of the window sill. It’s a big moth or something, lord knows how he flew up 21 stories to begin with. I open the balcony door and for 15 exhausting minutes try to get him to land on the bristles of a broom so I can chuck him out the window, but he’s not cooperating. I wish I was brave enough to touch him so I could help him, but I’m not — so instead I give up. “Stupid bug.” I think to myself. “If he would just relax and stop flapping around like an idiot, I could help him.”

If there’s something bigger than us humans, I bet that’s just what we look like to them. Stupid bugs flapping around for no reason.

Hold hands when shit gets scary

James Turrell is my favorite artist. (If you aren’t familiar with Turrell’s work, or want to see all the different kinds of magic he makes you should click here.) Over the years, I’ve visited his installations in Europe, all around the UK and in various places here in the U.S. One of his works, “Backside of The Moon”, in Minamidera, I thought I’d never see, because it’s located on a tiny island off Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, and I could never imagine how I would find my way there.

Right after my first cancer diagnosis, Fireboy made my dream come true. After a few days in Tokyo, we rode three shinkansen, a ferry and a taxi cab to get to that place. It was August and it was so humid it was the hottest I’ve ever been in my whole life and I was a total whiny pain in the ass. Due to some confusion, we didn’t realize our tickets to enter Minamidera were only good for the exact hour and minute stamped on them. When we presented them at the door, the attendant made an “X” with his index fingers and held it up to us as he said, “Invalid.”

The sun was pounding down and I felt beads of sweat running down my back. I didn’t figure out until our last day in Japan that the secret to keeping cool is to cover every single inch of skin. I was so hot and tired that if I would have been alone that day, I would have just given up and gone back home. Fireboy leaned in towards the guy and said, “We came all the way from San Francisco, in the United States, to see this. Can we come back later?” The guard was firm at first, but eventually caved and told us to come back in two hours.

We killed the time, eating ice cream on a small bench and wandering around, keeping to the shade. Since we were missing Burning Man to make this trip, I had made a small paper mache sumo figure covered with Sanrio stickers. We called the thing Japan Man, and the original idea was to set him on fire somewhere in Japan on the night of the Playa burn. Instead, since we had nothing better to do, we walked around town looking for a good place to hide him. Once we had found it (in someone’s front garden) we went back to Minamidera. Right on time, I might add.

From the heat, we were led into a cool, pitch black room. It felt so good to be in the dark. After about five minutes, a rectangular screen gradually emerged from nowhere and we groped our way toward it, hands outstretched. If you’ve ever visited a Turrell installation, you know that what looks far away is actually very near, and what seems solid soon gives way to mist.

Like life.

On Tuesday, I will fly back to SF for more scans. My doctor is worried that my cancer has changed genetically and the medicine I’m taking isn’t working anymore. I know in my heart that he is right. I feel strange sensations and weird pains and a fresh panic I haven’t felt before.

I think about Japan Man sometimes. I wonder if someone discovered him and threw him in the trash, or if he melted away in the rain, leaving just a pile of sun-bleached Hello Kitty stickers behind.

There’s a Turrell in the Louis Vuitton Store here in Vegas. It’s called AKHOB and it’s great, because it’s private so you get to have it all to yourself during your visit. I made a reservation for Valentine’s Day. While we were there, all alone in that crazy light, Fireboy put a box in my hand. Inside was my new wedding band. A concept by our friend artist Nick Dong – The Introspective Ring, made just for me. Melted down from a US Golden Eagle coin, and lined with ten Brazilian emeralds, the stone of renewal and healing.

Two people fumble through an undefined space. How can the corners be so blurry, yet the edge so razor sharp? I reach out for his hand.

Into the ganzfeld

Into the ganzfeld