≡ Menu

My Grapefruit and Me–Part 2

Hi, guys. This is shitty, isn’t it? I know. To say that this has been an exhausting week is an understatement. But I can also say that the outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming. I keep saying it, but all your love is my strength, and I can’t thank all of you enough. (And if you don’t know what I’m referring to all I can say is go back and read the post I put up yesterday. It’s a doozy.) 

Needless to say, that afternoon–learning that I had a mass with the same approximate dimensions as a grapefruit attached to my ovary–threw my world into upheaval. There was a small silver lining to be found, however; when you have a softball-sized mass inside of you, doctors would like to get it out of you as quickly as possible, and for once the medical world works incredibly quickly and with maximum efficiency. I was getting blood work the next day, and a week later I was strapped down in a giant tube for an MRI.

Which, let me tell you, was no cake walk. For one, it’s so loud! In my sensory-deprived loopiness I started pretending that the repetitive banging was a house beat just before the drop, and I started making up dance moves in my head. And then there were the mind games I managed to play with myself. The MRI technician said I could keep my wedding rings on as long as I was certain they were real gold. Which of course they are, but that didn’t stop me from imagining that the tingles I was feeling in my left hand (from being propped up on my stomach for an hour) were actually the magnets getting ready to rip my finger off. Add to that the fact that I had to pee for the last 15 minutes of a test that requires you to remain perfectly still, and I left no fan of MRIs.

Two days later, I was back to my doctor for a follow-up of the MRI. This was the appointment that we were looking forward to (in a perverse sort of way) the most. It was here and now that we would finally learn just how serious this was all going to be. Was it going to be an out-patient procedure that would have me miss one, maybe two days of work? Or was this going to be major surgery that would have me at home for several weeks?

Here’s what we learned:

It’s a tumor. A probably benign tumor, since the blood work they did to search for a cancer indicator in the blood came back with very low levels, telling us that there’s likely no cancer. But a tumor nonetheless. It’s a solid mass that has likely engulfed my entire right ovary. (Seriously, between the ultrasound and the MRI, no one can actually prove that I even have a right ovary, since on one can find it.) But because the tumor has presumably taken it over, I will almost definitely lose my right ovary and fallopian tube. Which, I came to learn, isn’t that big of a deal, because apparently ovaries are like kidneys and you only really need one. (The more you know…)

This was…good-ish news. It was great to hear that this isn’t endometriosis, which apparently is a chronic problem that worsens with age. (And from what I’ve heard, pretty fucking painful. Mad respect to those of you worriers living with that shit, you are stronger women than I.) It was also great to hear that they’re 95% sure that it’s not malignant. But the not-so-great news was that the out-patient procedure was definitely off the table. The doctor told me that because she couldn’t say with 100% certainty that the tumor wasn’t cancerous, she was sending me to a gynecological oncologist for surgery. They would be able to tell once they got in there, she told me, whether the tumor was malignant and if so, how much more of my plumbing needed to go in order to keep the cancer for spreading. But they won’t know until they cut into me and start looking around, so no matter what, I’m looking at some pretty invasive surgery.  The oncologist would call me back probably within the next five or six days, she said, and I would probably have surgery scheduled within the next three or four weeks. Even if the tumor isn’t malignant, with its massive size it still has the potential to do some serious damage in there, and they want it out as fast as possible.

Funny, me too.

Not even 10 days ago, I thought I was in near-perfect health. If you’d told me that I’d be facing surgery within the next month, I’d assume that I was going to be hit by a bus in the near future. Which, in an emotional sense, might be easier than what I’m facing now. There’s very clear and simple causes leading up to getting hit by a bus; primarily, getting hit by a bus. Future prevention is pretty easy, too: don’t walk in the street in front of a bus. But this. I don’t know what caused this tumor to grow inside of me, but it’s likely nothing that I did or could have stopped. And even once they remove it, even if there’s no cancer, what’s to stop it from coming back? I don’t fucking know, because I don’t know what caused it in the first place, other than that some of my dead cells started piling up for who-the-fuck-knows-what-reason until they formed a softball-sized pile of fuck-you-Stephanie. And it’s that unknown that is the hardest to face.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. But I have an amazing, beyond-supportive husband who’s in my corner 100%. Very soon he’ll have to help me get around while I recover from surgery, but even before then, he’s allowing me to heal from the emotional trauma with love and support. Things like finishing the laundry for me because before I could, I got overwhelmed by terror and depression; he saw that I was paralyzed with fear so he guided me to bed and turned on The Last Unicorn for me until I fell asleep.

I’ve also been overwhelmed by the support and love that has come from family and friends. Limitless offers of emotional support, as well as the literal in the form of meals and post-surgery care. Unanimous effort at work to help cover me while I’m gone, and pledges to support me coming back to the work during the tail-end of my recovery. A friend told me in earnest and thorough detail about her own mother’s abdominal surgery, with the encouragement that based on her mom’s recovery, I might be surprised how quickly I’m back up and around. Friends brought me cake (and a grapefruit) to go with the hugs and whispered words of confidence. It’s amazing and wonderful how much love has been shown to us in the last week, and it’s been made very clear to us that Kyle and I won’t go through this alone.

So that’s where I am. Likely a few weeks away from surgery, obsessively trying to make plans to deal with the next month while our world is turned upside down. Equally obsessively (and less successfully) trying to keep the fear and uncertainty at bay. But also full up of love and support.

 


 

When I told my coworkers, I was particularly nervous. I was worried because I didn’t want this to change our relationship until then, and even after I’m healed. I wanted them to treat me like my same strong, confident, rag-able self who isn’t afraid of hard work, not like some delicate thing that might break. As I told them the news, I watched their faces contort with shock and concern, and there were understandably questions. As the room grew quiet, and I became more and more certain that our working relationship was changed forever, one of my coworkers leaned forward in his chair. “So, what you’re saying is…” and in Peter Griffin’s voice parodying “Rock Me Amadeus” sang, “I’m a tumor, I’m a tumor I’m a tumor, Oh, Oh, Oh I’m a tumor.

It felt good to laugh that hard.

We’ll be okay, my grapefruit-tumor and me.

{ 3 comments }

My Grapefruit and Me–Part 1

Head’s up guys, this is a heavy one. Full of super shitty news and things I wish weren’t real, but are. I’ve told most of my close friends and family in person already, and if you are a person who’s upset that you had to learn via the internet, I am very and truly sorry. Just know that this is difficult for me to share, and it’s emotionally exhausting to go through the reveal process with so many people. Considering how much shit I’m going through right now, I beg you to let me have this one.

I was so beyond irritated.

The whole ordeal had been one goddamn annoyance after another. It had started with my yearly pap smear, which sohelpmegod, if they didn’t hold my birth control prescription over my head I would never subject myself to. Laying back on the tissue paper-covered table with my feet in those stirrups while a stranger–who’s very nice, but doesn’t think that any of my jokes are funny–jams a couple fingers in my twat and roots around… there’s nothing enjoyable about that.

Then the doctor tells me that she feels “fullness” in there. Whatever that means. And since this is our first examination together (my last gyno moved to Florida,) she isn’t sure if it’s something to worry about or if I just have a fat uterus, so I have to go in for an ultrasound. Yippy. Because who doesn’t love having their belly covered in goo while someone slides a cold plastic wand over their stomach?

But then, to pile a giant glob of annoying on top of my irritation, I find out that a pelvic ultrasound is different than an abdominal ultrasound. Now, I not only get to have my belly covered in goo, I have to do so with a full bladder, so that every time the technician presses the wand into my pelvis I worry that I’m going to pee on the table. And then as if that wasn’t fucking delightful enough, I have to empty my bladder and repeat the process from the inside. That’s right. From the inside. Meaning that I get a camera on the end of a wand up in my business. And even though the technician is making me as comfortable as she can and the experience as pleasant as possible, by the end of the procedure I’m starting to imagine how great it would feel to beat my gyno with the twat-cam for making me go through this just because I have a fat uterus.

So on the day of my followup appointment, I was so beyond irritated. I just knew this was going to be just like the time I had to go in and get the results for my BRCA testing. (The test they give to find out if you’re genetically predisposed to breast cancer. Which I’m not.) Watch, I’m going to sit in the waiting room for 20 minutes, in the examining room for another 15, and it’ll take the doctor 45 seconds to tell me that everything’s fine. What a waste of time. Why couldn’t they just call me and tell me everything’s cool? Blergh.

I was still annoyed when my doctor walked in the room, but that ebbed slightly when she pulled her chair up very close to me. Something in the way she held her shoulders told me that this wasn’t going to be quite as simple as, “Hey, everything’s cool.”

“We found a cyst on your right ovary…”

(Is that all? Like, five of my friends and my cat have had ovarian cysts. Yawn.)

“…and it’s about the size of a grapefruit.”

(…)

In that exact moment, the irritation dropped out of my body. I could very nearly feel it puddling in my socks. And the vacuum that irritation left was immediately filled by fear. The next words out of my mouth? “Well, at least I don’t have a fat uterus. After all, a lady has to keep her figure.”

Something I learned that day is that when presented with unexpected and frightening news, my coping mechanism is apparently to make a series of dry, matter-of-fact, mildly inappropriate jokes. I’d never known that about myself.

After assuring me that I did not have a fat uterus, I had an very adorable uterus, the doctor filled me in on the rest of the details. My cyst–which turned out to not be a cyst at all, more of a mass–was 9cm x 8cm x 10cm, which could also be thought of as slightly smaller than a softball. It was so large that it was folding my uterus in on itself, pushing it inside out. Apparently cysts usually get diagnosed because they cause immense cramping and intense pain, so the fact that this thing wasn’t flattening me was confusing to the doctor. And unfortunately, it wasn’t entirely fluid, but had mass and density. It could be endometriosis, which is where the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows as a mass on the outside of the uterus. It could also be “something else,” which she wouldn’t say what was, but reading my ultrasound results later was revealed to be called “uterine neoplasm,” which is fancy doctor-talk for some kind of tumor. Which immediately put the c-word on the table.

No matter what, the end treatment was going to be surgery. If the cyst was comprised of the right materials and positions in the right location, they could do it laparoscopically as an out-patient procedure, and it probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal. It could also be complicated enough that they would have to open me up and remove most of my plumbing. (Or, as I macabrely started describing it, they’d leave me nothing but a hole to pee from.) Either way, there was about a 60% chance I was going to lose my fertility.

Talking things over with the doctor, I held myself together surprisingly well. Probably frighteningly well. But walking out of the office I could only describe the sensation as “feeling all the feels.” But not in the way you say you feel when you watch a video of a kitten cuddling with an otter inside of a mitten. In the way that every shade of shock, confusion, rage, fear, and loss were trying to shove past each other to tackle me, and only a survivalist numbness was keeping them at bay.

I didn’t know how to handle this news or these emotions. Normally when you get bad health news, it’s because you went seeking answers and the answers just happen to be shitty. When I found out that my asthma had gone from episodic to chronic, I’d gone searching for an answer to why I couldn’t fucking breath. Sure, that was bad news, but I knew that something was wrong so I was emotionally prepared to receive bad news. But this… I was blindsided. I’d thought I was in good heath. Great health, even. My asthma had settled down recently, and I was feeling strong. I’d been drinking a lot of water and eating right, and I’d lost almost 15 pounds. I felt great. And then to find out that I’m not great, there’s something very, very wrong with me…I couldn’t prepare for that. For fuck’s sake, I couldn’t even figure out how there was physically enough room in my pelvis to fit a fucking grapefruit! Is there really that much vacant property in there?

Of course, I was scared. I was terrified of what this could mean as far as my overall health, what kind of surgery I would have to go through, how long I would be out of work, and the potential loss of my fertility, even though Kyle and I don’t have a strong desire to have kids. (And also agreed that even if I did become infertile and we decided down the line that we want kids, neither is opposed to the idea of adoption.)

But the thing that terrified me the most was the loss of control. See, for those of you who’ve never been around me for 10 minutes, I’m hardcore a control freak. Some of my biggest emotional distresses have come when I feel like my life is being driven by someone else’s actions. And when I can’t directly control portions of my life, I use control measures in other parts of my life to make me feel as if I were in control. Things like controlling the number of calories I eat, how often and long I exercise, the things that I wear, how clean I keep the house, even this little corner of the internet that I call this blog, all help me feel as if I’m maintaining control of my world. So to find out that this…this thing grew inside me without my permission or knowledge, that was pretty devastating. All of a sudden my careful eating and disciplined moderation of alcohol and sweets felt ridiculous; who cares if I make myself have a salad instead of buffalo chicken pizza, either way a mass the size of a fucking grapefruit was going to grow in my body. The loss of control over the one thing that I always had complete control over–my own body–was devastating.

As soon as the doctor gave me this news, she immediately started moving things forward to get it out of me. In my immediate future was blood work, an MRI, and some variety of surgery. Hopefully the simple, in-office kind, but that was still uncertain. In the meantime, there was fear.

And my grapefruit.

 

Author’s Note: This blog post is going to be a two-parter. Normally when I write a post like this, I will wait a week or so to post the next part, because this blog can only produce so much content. (I do have a day-job, you know.) But because this post is pretty heavy and affects my for-real life, that feels like a pretty shitty thing to do, making my friends and followers wait a week to find out whether I’m full of cancer or not. (Spoiler: almost certainly not.) So the conclusion to this post will be up tomorrow.

 

{ 3 comments }

For my birthday, Kyle bought me a pair of Snap Spectacles.

You know, the sunglasses with the built in camera that let you take video from your face and post it straight to Snapchat? They’re like Google Glass, except much less expensive and wearing them doesn’t make you an epic douche?

(They admittedly probably make you a mild douche, but not an epic one.)

First chance I got, I convinced Kyle to go for a walk downtown with me so that I could try them out. As we walked through the park and went for bubble tea, I took little video snippets of ordinary things, just enthralled with the ability to effortlessly and unobtrusively record my experience. I loved the way that I could start a video and then not think about it again as it recorded and automatically stopped when time was up, allowing me to fully experience the moment instead of actively shooting and posting on the spot. The videos were probably of the mundane variety, mostly just me talking about bubble tea and looking at the storm clouds in the sky (and once tripping over the sidewalk,) but it showed me the possibilities for the technology. Something tells me that they’re going to be very fun at the track this summer!

But, if I’m being very honest with myself, there was a little extra excitement that didn’t have anything to do with the tech. It came from the fact that I felt very, very hip, and very, very cool. See, I’ve never seen a pair of Spectacles in the wild; the only person that I even know of who owns a pair is a technology blogger that I follow. Up until very recently, they were hard to even get, since they were only available for purchase at these weird little yellow R2-D2 vending machines that moved locations daily, and without announcement. And the fact that they (mostly) resemble plain old sunglasses only added to my perception of my own hipness; it felt like I was so trendy that no one we passes even realized how much cooler I was than they were.

But as I was strutting down the sidewalk, chewing on tapiocas and complaining that it wasn’t nearly as good as the bubble tea we had in Chinatown, a though popped into my head. It flickered like a neon sign in the dark, there for only a moment and gone, a ghost of it floating just behind my thoughts as we walked.

“Am I actually hip and cool, or just one of those sad adults who thinks they’re hip and cool?”

You know who I’m talking about. You see them walking down the street, wearing what they think “the young people” are wearing. They declare things, “on point fleek” without actually realizing what they’re saying. They make things like glitter eye shadow and embellished jeans that ride way too low part of their signature look, and they pick up their kids from school in “hilarious” raunchy graphic tshirts and cargo shorts.  And even though you say out loud that you admire their confidence and encourage them to let their freak flag fly, secretly you’re embarrassed for them. No one wants to be that person, and (at least I think) it’s fear of becoming that person that drives us to become more fashionably conservative as we age. When we get to “That Age.” After all, if you don’t try, you can’t fail.

And I wondered, is my rocking a pair of Spectacles actually hip and cool, or do I just feel hip and cool because I think that this is what hip, young people are into? I posed that exact question to Kyle, who unhelpfully answered, “Yes.” I don’t know if that was his way of saying, “A little bit of both,” or if the consequences of a wrong answer terrified him and he panicked, but since I love him I didn’t make him elaborate. I think my answer is a similarly, “Maybe…” It’s quite possible that I am not even remotely hip and cool, I just feel that way because the perceived cutting-edge exclusivity of this product makes me imagine that everyone else admires them as much as I first admired the blogger who got her hands on a pair. It’s also quite possible probable that most people aren’t paying a lick of attention to things outside of their own corner of the world, so they don’t notice me at all, let alone my sunglasses. And those that do would probably respond with an anemic, “Neat,” because Spectacles are a straight-up grown up toy, and one that most people probably don’t have a strong desire for.

But even if my Spectacles don’t make me cool (or even make me decidedly uncool,) the answer to the cool-uncool question that I’ve landed on is–

“Maybe…but I don’t give a shit.”

Let’s face facts, my very fashion style–with all its hits and misses–already broadcasts to the world that I don’t really give a shit about what’s cool or not. From my collection Dr Marten boots (which a relative initially dubbed my first pair “zombie drag queen boots,”) to my love of army jackets paired with floral sundresses, to my technicolor hair, I’ve always been more interested in pleasing myself than the fashion world. I do things and wear things that make me happy, and my Spectacles definitely make me happy. So I will wear maroon jeggings with flannel shirts, I will paint my nails glittery purple, and I will walk around talking to myself while my sunglasses take a video of ducks, because those things make me happy.

Even if that makes me uncool.

 

{ 0 comments }

An Apology to Size 12

Hey there, size 12. How’s life treating you?

Silence, huh? Yeah, I know. I have been pretending that you’re not with me when we’re out in public. I get it. I’ve been letting my shame over our being together pressure me to keep you hidden. But do you maybe understand why I did it? I mean, no one wants to be seen with size 12. We want the world to see us with size 2 or size 4. Even size 6 can hang out while I hold my head high, and on a good day, most of us can feel good about chilling with size 8. But size 12? No one wants the world to know about their relationship with size 12. Size 12 is the first step into fat.

Okay, okay, I know, that’s not true. I was just feeling mean. But that’s kinda how the world tells us we’re supposed to feel, you know? Not in words; in words, they tell us that we’re all beautiful and hire “plus size” (which just means that they’ve eaten a plate of pasta in the last fiscal year) models for their ad campaigns. In words, they tell us not to focus on the number, that we’re just supposed to love ourselves no matter what size we are. But in actions, samples are still consistently a size 0-2. In actions, stores either stop at size 10 or stock a single token size 12 in each piece. In actions, they encourage us to wear dark colors and belts that accentuate our waist. I hate belts! In actions, they design pieces for a size 2 and simply stretch it out to accommodate our frame without making any design changes to flatter our curves. No, the world tells us that big is beautiful with their words, but their actions impart upon us shame. And despite my best attempts to exorcise that shame with words of positivity, it’s nearly impossible not to internalize them. And so I was ashamed of you, size 12.

I also didn’t feel like we really belonged together. I was with size 10 for so long that I felt like it was going to be my forever size. It’s who I was. It’s who my wardrobe was! We were together all through college and size 10 stayed with me as I entered adulthood. But then… Well, I don’t really know when our relationship went sour. You know how easy it is to take a long-term love for granted. It was gradually, without my noticing. A Taco Bell run here. A splurge there. One too many brownies leftover from catering and destine for the garbage, mindlessly swiped as I left work late at night. Suddenly, size 10 left me, and you showed up.

I wasn’t really emotionally ready to embrace you, size 12. I felt like a size 10 in a size 12 body. Even as I bought pair after pair of size 12 jeans, I always told myself that I was only with you temporarily. That aaaaaany any day now (without making any noticeable changes to my diet, of course) I’d lose a little weight and be back in size 10. I even still have a hidden drawer full of my size 10 jeans, for when I finally get thin again. I just…didn’t feel like we belonged together. I’m not a size 12. I can’t be a size 12.

This past New Year’s, I made the resolution to lose weight. I did this partially because I am a giant cliche, but also because I kinda…holidayed hard. By the time January 1 rolled around, everything was tight and I felt like I was sweating eggnog. I tried “just eating better” for a couple weeks, to no avail, so I broke out the big guns: calorie counting.* (*Of course, calorie counting is not for everyone, results may vary, do shit in a healthy manner, consult your doctor, blah blah blah.) And it worked. It wasn’t easy; moderation sucks. But almost 60 days later, I’m down 10 pounds from where I started. (Not very dramatic, I know, but I’m trying to approach this from a place of overall health, not just how small I can make the number on the scale.) And I’m pretty damn proud of myself. 10 pounds may not be significant enough to justify a whole new wardrobe, but it’s certainly enough to enjoy clothes fitting better than they used to. Those tiny victories where things don’t pinch or strain like they did before. As the number on the scale crept down at a agonizingly slow pace, I secretly began to wonder every time I dressed for work if this time would be the time when I pulled on my jeans to find them joyously baggy. Surely, with every lost pound, I would eventually find myself back with size 10 and be rid of size 12 forever.

But it hasn’t happened. Jackets close easily, I can wear a fitted tee without having a pooch sticking out, and that skirt I bought last summer that was juuuust a little too tight now fits beautifully. But my size 12 jeans? Still fit just fine. Sure, the waistband doesn’t bite into my stomach like it used to. But I still find myself having to do the bend-wiggle-hitch when I put them on after washing them. (You know. That move where you grab them by the waistband, do a deep knee bend, wiggle into them a little, then quickly hitch as you stand. Don’t pretend like you’ve never done it.) And it was during this ritual one morning that I realized why I will never again be reunited with size 10: it’s my thighs. My jeans are tightest in the thighs.

My thighs and I have a complicated relationship. I don’t like how big they are; I wish they were smaller and didn’t rub together when I sweat in summer. But more unyielding than my dislike of their size is my love of all the things they can do. Because my thighs are strong. I can leg press my own body weight, and more than once I’ve shut Kyle up by carrying him around the house on my back, piggyback-style. And I do a lot of really kickass things with my thighs. I run half-marathons, I ski black diamonds, I hike mountains, I lift gear into trucks, I hold my own at work. My thighs are my strongs, and I’m proud of the things we do together. And since they’re mostly muscle, they’re not getting any smaller. Not if I have anything to say about it.

And that’s when I realized, size 12, that we really do belong together. Size 12 doesn’t mean that I’m fat, like snooty little boutiques want me to think, size 12 means that I’m strong. So I’m sorry, size 12. I’m sorry I was ashamed to be with you, and I’m sorry that I was so eager to leave you. As long as my legs are strong enough to help me kick life’s ass, those legs are going to be attached to a size 12. And I’m definitely okay with that.

{ 2 comments }