Monthly Archives: November 2011

Morning Warfare

I’m not a morning person. It takes me a little while to wake up. My husband and ex-roommates can verify that, before kids, I had a guideline. No, it was more of a rule that it was safest not talk to me before I left for work in the morning. You could call me the minute I was out the door; that was best.

Josie is a morning person. She is 100%, in your face, loud, starting at about 6:00 am every day.

Sometimes we struggle. Some mornings there is sobbing, sibling slap fighting and resulting time out(s). On these mornings there is usually some maternal yelling and I spend the rest of the day being mad at myself and trying for forgive myself for losing my business.

As a result, I do my best to streamline our morning routine, to put out her clothes the night before, to make sure she puts socks on before she leaves her room so we don’t have to go back for them. I plan a menu of breakfast options so she has multiple sources of protein, but not so many that I have to make every breakfast food in existence.

As Josie gets older, we can talk more about mommy’s dislike of loud noises in the morning and the appropriate and inappropriate times for loudness. Paul and I try to make mornings fun by talking like pirates, challenging each other to races, and giving lots of rewards. Sometimes these tactics work. Sometimes they don’t.

The other day we had a super-great morning. Josie and I were both so chipper. I think she skipped to the car and actually got in right away and then I thanked her. There was no yelling, no crying, no children slap-fighting. If a neighbor had heard us, I don’t think they would have even thought about calling CPS. Not once.

Later that day, I found myself thinking about what we did right – a mental de-brief of the morning. What made this morning different? Then I remembered the email. Before I went into the kitchen I checked the email on my phone and discovered that The Huffington Post would be publishing my essay the next day. Interesting. Perhaps I need to work less on Josie and more on myself. Perhaps I need to be less of a pirate and more of an empathetic mother. Or, perhaps I just need to make sure I get an email that is just that happy, every morning.

The Strangest Things Happen on Book Tour

A few weeks ago, I found myself carrying two cases of Who in This Room: The Realities of Cancer, Fish and Demolition, about 60 pounds of books, into Nordstrom’s Bellevue store. They were having one of their Nordstrom Fits America Events, where they fit women with bras and raise money for breast cancer research and asked me to read at the event. It was a different idea – a way to take a breast cancer-related event away from the pink weirdness and back to the individual story, to what breast cancer is really about. It was experimental, a little different, and I was pleased and flattered to be invited.

When I arrived, there was a table in the center of the store where we displayed the books, a director’s seat for me and a handful of chairs that were quickly filled. A small crowd gathered to listen. It was relaxed, intimate and cozy.

I’d asked the department manager for a microphone because I still had laryngitis and couldn’t project my voice. They delivered. Perfect. Lovely. I was set.

“Thank you for the mic,” I said.

“Sure,” the department manager said. “It’s hooked up to the sound system so everyone will be able to listen, even people in the dressing rooms.”

Oh, isn’t that awesome?! Um, I’m sorry, have you read this book? May not be appropriate to for all audiences. Includes adult topics and profanity. May not be appropriate for children, men and casual shoppers. Perhaps I should have put that on the back cover.

It was too late now, my introduction was underway and then, oh, here I am, microphone in hand.

Because it was a breast cancer event I chose to read from the first chapter about my decision to have a mastectomy and before I knew it, I was saying: You wonder if you will have enough skin to cover the hole (where your breasts used to be) and your husband says, “Don’t worry babe, I’ve always been more of an ass man myself.” Over the intercom. In Nordstrom. Lingerie. While innocent women shop for bras.

The Huffington Post Adoption Essay

(c) La Luz Photography

Too Many Real Moms

A few months ago I heard an interview on NPR with Nancy L Segal, the author of “Someone Else’s twin: The True Story of Babies Switched at Birth.” The book told the tale of three babies and what happened when one singleton newborn was accidently switched with an identical twin. The “twins” were raised as fraternal and no one knew about the mix-up until they were adults.

It’s a complicated story and in the interview there was a lot of discussion of the various parents of these three girls and how they felt. The interviewer, I presume in an effort to simplify things, used the term “real” mother or “real” parents on several occasions to indicate the biological parent of the child.

If the biological parent is the “real” parent then what is the term for the parent who raised the child? The parent-in-practice? Parent-in-life? Bed-sheet-changer? At some point, it seems like 18+ years of lunch-packing should earn a parent the title of “real,” no?

Click here to read the rest of the essay in The Huffington Post.

A Different Vaccination Question

This isn’t a post about vaccinating babies; I’ve already covered that. And it isn’t a post about vaccinating teenage girls against the HPV virus to prevent cervical cancer. Speaking of… Have you seen this Saturday Night Live skit, Lil’ Poundcake, the doll that administers HPV injections.

Ah, good times.

This post is about vaccinating me.

For many years (12?), the University of Washington Tumor Vaccine Group has been working on a vaccination to prevent Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2-positive (HER2+) Breast Cancer. My cancer was HER2+. I am at risk for recurrence, and a candidate for the trial.

Now, here comes my terribly un-technical understanding of the trial. HER2+ cancer cells have more receptor sites that enable them to grow and divide faster. The folks at UW have isolated the bits of the HER2+ part of the cancer cell and are mixing them with an agent in an effort to get the immune system to recognize and kill these cells.

The purpose of this trial is to find out how much of the agent makes it most effective. Everyone enrolled will get three injections of the vaccination and varying amounts of the agent, 28 days apart.

My oncologist suggested I look into the trial, but participation is up to me. I’ve had the paperwork on my desk for 6 weeks and I can’t decide. Here are the issues I’m thinking about:

  • At 6.5 years past my diagnosis, I am fairly low risk for a recurrence. Do I really need the vaccine?
  • Will I cause myself harm? Will long-term side effects appear later?
  • When I was on Herceptin, a miracle drug for patients with HER 2+ cancer my heart showed a rapid and alarming drop in ejection fraction, pumping capacity, which caused my oncologist to discontinue the drug immediately. My heart recovered but no one knows if we did any long-term damage.
  • If I don’t get the vaccine and have a recurrence then it’s too late. No second chances.

What would you do?