The way to be good at receiving radiation treatment is to stay still, to not move at all. They will tell you breathing is okay. They will tell you swallowing is okay. Both feel like violations alone in the dark on the bed, breathing and swallowing and staying still, not moving at all. They will tell you to turn your head to the right when receiving radiation on the left, to the left when receiving radiation on the right. You don’t want to get a sore throat. I don’t understand how any of this works. Dr. Radha told me to apply Aquaphor to my shoulderRead More →

I have been looking at October 22nd since July 18th. But I have pain in my feet that is making standing and walking difficult. These are signs of chemotherapy-induced neuropathy that can be permanent in about 20% of patients. So the doctor and the people who love me but who are not enduring this wanted to cut the dose of Taxol from one big dose today to three smaller doses administered over three weeks. Laura, Carlyn, and Karen were with me. Add Marcus who’s working at reception and one of the five of us would have permanent nerve damage in our feet if I proceededRead More →

How are you doing? or, more commonly How’s Emily doing? I have completed four rounds of AC chemo and one round of T. I have three T rounds to go. I will get those three rounds on September 24th, October 8th, and October 22nd. It is September 19th. It is really only about a month to go. When I tell people that number, that October 22nd number, invariably some version of “that’s soon!” comes out. It took me four hours to crawl out of the F train stop at Jay Street-Metrotech this morning, a month to walk from Carroll to school last night. My therapistRead More →

I spend some of my time these days in various online support groups for people with cancer experiences like mine. Discussions aren’t about, like, how we’re all gonna die and maybe sooner than we thought, but about breast reconstruction choices: flat? Implants? Various genres of flaps? Etc. Some people defend their choices as the best choice for everybody (people who choose no reconstruction seem particularly prone to the universal claim), there’s a whole evidence-free argument against implants because they “cause” everything from fatigue to rashes to rage (I suspect we get these things anyway), it’s a little like Yelp where you only hear about poorRead More →

It’s labor day! This is a time to be out in the streets or at the beach. I am at home on day 6 of my last AC chemo cycle. Side effects are super real, and mine are keeping me indoors. The chemo is making me wildly sensitive to the sun, like even more than usual, I get a sunburn walking to the subway even with a giant umbrella and a hat and sunscreen everywhere. So I’m in my kitchen, working. And I’ve done quite a bit of working over the summer. My body has been working for sure, even if in ways I don’tRead More →

I am two days out from my third AC infusion. A woman from my health insurance company called me today. She calls every couple of weeks. I am not sure why she is calling me. She asks me how I am doing and I tell her and my guess is that there is some evidence-based practice guideline that says getting cancer patients to describe how they are feeling to a healthcare-adjacent person produces a more positive attitude about cancer. This is not true for me. I don’t know why she’s calling. My second infusion was scheduled to start at 11:40, done in three hours, DebRead More →

I read Barbara Ehrenreich’s piece on “the power of positive thinking” in breast cancer land and it didn’t resonate at all. It’s been what, ten years since she wrote, and for my life the pink ribbons have been replaced by sedate turquoise and soft grays, clouded glass walls, an emphasis on luxury amenities (meaning single-cup coffee makers and a bowl of green apples) and the trappings of privacy (even though there are roughly eleventy billion nurses and assistants hovering about me each second I’m at Mt. Sinai). I wonder what changed. I wonder if what we covet now is not positivity but the sense thatRead More →

I am sitting on the couch waiting for my Neulasta injection to complete. The nurses attached a little white box to the skin of my belly yesterday you’ll feel a snap like a rubber band and it dutifully pulsed with a green light until around 8:45 tonight when I heard a sort of ticktickticktick sound and it started releasing its medicine. I will know when it’s finished because that ticking sound will be replaced by a long beep, the blinking green will glow solid, and the little medicine gauge window will read empty. Many signs that things are over. There are also any number of reactionsRead More →

I am sitting at my kitchen table typing on my computer, drinking a cup of coffee. My academic paper planner starts in July, so I have my academic paper planner out. It’s July. I am writing down appointments and commitments in this academic paper planner. I have a meeting with my new medical oncologist on Wednesday, and a writing deadline too. Lunch plans on July 17th. Untold chemotherapy appointments that I’ll add when I get them, hopefully within the next week. I like to have appointments. I am sitting at my kitchen table in a button front shirt, one of two sets of button frontRead More →

I keep hitting these cognitive blocks. Why do I have to get node dissection on both sides when nobody else does? Because I have cancer on both sides of my body. Why are they removing both of my breasts? Because I have cancer on both sides of my body. Why? Because I have cancer on both sides of my body. I was given some choices about reconstruction, spent days settled into this as the next impossibility. Do I want no reconstruction? Do I want flap reconstruction (they take fat from your belly and use it to form breasts out of your own tissue)? Do IRead More →