27 May 2009

Cancer Is Fattening

There's just no way around it: Cancer is fattening. Or chemo is. Well, mostly spending a week with a friend going through chemo and trying to keep her weight up is thigh-widening. Fabulous, but fattening nonetheless.

It's really not Joy's fault. I mean, she didn't force me to eat the (organic) cookies or the soy/flax chips (with guacamole) or the shrimp burrito or to choose pasta for every dinner...but the one that involved fish and chips. At least she and I split that. It's not her fault I couldn't say no. No. But it's not like it was a level playing field. She gets the bonus of having a tiny appetite (chemo bonus?). I have the appetite of an Olympic athlete. If only I trained like one. Which is the other problem: Chemo and cardio don't really go together. Throw in a shot of Neulasta (to help her build T-cells) and you have bone pain on top of fatigue. So, a few laps around the block weren't really going to happen. Not like I couldn't go on a walk by myself. But that's so not the point. The point was to spend quality time with my friend going through the cure. And so I stayed by her side...and went toe to toe as we snacked my butt into oblivion.

Laughter might well be the best medicine, but it is total crap at burning calories. Seriously. Because we laughed a lot. A lot a lot. Not even Percocet could dull Joy's sharp wit. We were doubled over, catching our breath. And that requires a good deal of ab work. Shoulders, too. But I saw no results, other than laugh lines.

You would think that waking up at seven each day to help with Laddy's breakfast and make his lunch would help burn some calories, too. Nope. But I suppose I didn't have to eat the cut off crusts on top of my toast. Not literally on top. You know what I mean. The way-too-basically-simply idea of putting them into the trash didn't sit well with me. Thanks, mom, for tattooing all those starving kids in China onto my brain. Food guilt is child abuse, people. Piggyback rides and park playing aren't calorie busting either, FYI. But, it is fun.

My dieting discipline was something I seemed to forget to pack. Breakfast consisted of carbs. Lunch consisted of carbs. Dinner consisted of carbs. Dessert, well, that was chocolate, and that is God's gift to us. But it's full of carbs. And a bit of fat, too. That's not to say we didn't eat healthy. We did. But Joy can't have too much fruits or vegetables because her digestion is a bit sensitive. Sure, I could have gone to the store and bought some, whipped them up on my own. As a matter of fact, I did go to the store. A few times. And I made dinner every night. But that extra effort of chopping and washing and steaming...what was the point? I was only going to be there a week. We all deserve a little break, right?

Justifications must be full of carbs and calories, too, because when I got on the scale after returning home, I found four (FOUR!) extra pounds. Feck. Okay, I've already lost two, but I'm grounded until the rest are off. No more cookies or chips, and chocolate is to be used for medicinal PMS purposes only...and only in moderation. Control, people. It's a choice.

In spite of the pounds, I wouldn't trade an ounce for a moment with Joy, her hubster or adorable son. And let me tell you about how great my friend is:

A week after what we hope is her last chemo treatment, her hair is starting to grow back. You heard me. This after two IP chemo treatments as well. This coming from a woman who was moved to Stage IV. By the way, once they mark you at a stage level, they don't downgrade you. Sure, we know the statistics of ovarian you-know-what (that's the only C word I truly hate), but Joy is the fluke. Statistically, she shouldn't have gotten it. So, screw statistics. She is already thriving. She's one of the healthiest people I know. And I'm looking forward to the days when we are old ladies, doubling over laughing and wetting our Depends.

13 May 2009

At Least We Can Laugh

I don't know where I am right now. I don't know if it's denial, acceptance or certainty. It doesn't matter, really. There's only one place I can be and that's here, in the moment. Dealing with it. That's all anyone can do.

And we are all dealing with it, no matter what our it might be. Everyone has something going on. It's part of the human condition. The trick is not to do it alone. That's what friends are for.

Thank God for my friends. They are a fabulous group of wonderful nuts. You won't find better people anywhere. Except maybe in your tribe. I hope you've collected some wonderful nuts along your way. My friends and I are all dealing with a little merde right now. But, at least we are dealing with it together. And, at least we can laugh about it.

I'm going back up to see Joy next week. T-cells willing, she will have her last chemo treatment tomorrow. Hurrah! I can't wait to get back up there and spend some quality time with three of my favorite people. I think what I adore most about Joy is that, through this whole ordeal, we have laughed more than we've cried. A lot more. The last time I was up there, we spent most of our time together doubled-over laughing. If you were in California after Easter, you'll remember the winds that kicked up. They were Dorothy/We-aren't-in-Kansas-anymore wicked. I had to pop outside to pick up some errant socks (her three year-old at least brought in his shoes), and in those twenty-seconds, I couldn't believe how my hair was whipped around. We were going to be leaving in a few minutes to go to her doctor's appointment and when I came in, I said, "Hey, you'd better tighten up your wig, sister. It's a blustery day." She bent into a ninety-degree angle, laughing. When she came up for air, she said, "I'm so glad I can laugh about stuff like that." To which I replied, "Shit, so am I."

I have another friend who was slammed by the housing market. Another who is considering bankruptcy. Another dealing with family issues. Another juggling three jobs. Another hoping to find a job. But, we are just as concerned about what the other is dealing with as we are with our own load. And, in the midst of our merde, we are laughing. Hard. At each other. At ourselves. At the absurdity of it all. We are laughing more than we are crying. Maybe it is a form of denial. Perhaps it is acceptance. More than likely, though, it is the certainty of our friendships. We have each other's backs. And we have each other in stitches. And I can't think of a better place to be.

06 May 2009

When 'What If' Happens

For years, I've been aching to have nothing to do but write. Just write. Writing, to me, is like drawing breath. I just have to do it. And, each time I rushed from the gym to get to my desk for whatever client I was dealing with, I wondered, "What if I didn't have to clock in? What if I didn't have someone else's deadline? What would my life be like?" I would fantasize about waking up a seven, being at the gym by 8:30, working out for two hours every day (I really like my gym time), then, after a shower and breakfast, I would write. And write. I would take myself out to lunch at a sunny bistro, then sip coffee as I typed out a scene or spiced up some dialogue. I pictured myself happy, well-rested, fit, prolific. But, since I've been unemployed (for over a month now), I've done anything but write. See, it turns out I didn't need the time to write -- I would shoehorn that in, much to the detriment of my social life and benefit of my dark circles -- what I needed was dough.

By no means am I a materialistic label-whore. You'd be lucky to ever find me in anything but Gap, except maybe Banana Republic. Whatever you find me in is most likely from the sale rack. I like a solid bang for my buck, people. Being freelance, I am always living on a budget. Sometimes, it's stricter than others. Right now, it's Sado-Masochistic.

The odd thing is, with an open schedule, instead of feeling free and having all the time in the world to write, I find myself slightly paralyzed. With everything in flux, I think of all the things I should be doing, worrying about what might happen, hoping a miracle arrives and eating organic. Because that seems to be the most proactive thing I can do. Go figure. And with all of that, there's no room for the story stuck in my head to come down. I've yet to have a two-hour workout because I'm just a little too stressed out to enjoy that. It makes much more sense for me to be at home waiting for the chips to fall.

But, I was just thinking today that I might as well make the most of this. Why not? Sure, my budget has me spanked into submission and there are real-life worries to deal with, but why not take a few days to dip my toe into the great What If? Maybe tomorrow I'll enjoy a lengthy workout and let the story flow. Get used to being a self-supporting, self-sustaining writer who gets up at 7, is at the gym by 8:30 and has a two-hour workout then writes and writes and writes. Maybe I can make it happen in a build-it-and-they-will-come sort of way. After all, it seems like a version of 'What If' has arrived, so what the hell, right?