At the Top of My Lungs is published on The Huffington Post.
At Last – April 27, 2015
Since I got cancer, I have a new appreciation for firsts, and lasts. Endings matter, and I want the last word in how my story ends.
I Want the Option to Die on My Terms – February 16, 2015
(Contributed piece to Good Housekeeping)
My seven year-old stepdaughter, Eloise, snuggled in close as I read to her, smelling like sunshine and little girl sweat. “Were you afraid when you got cancer?” she asked. “Do you feel scared that you might die?”
Live With Me – September 2, 2014
“Your naked body should only belong to those who fall in love with your naked soul.”
― Charlie Chaplin in a letter to his daughter Geraldine
A poem written for my husband Harlan, on our second wedding anniversary.
A Year in the Clear – August 13, 2014
Once it seemed likely that I probably wouldn’t die this year, I had to start thinking about the future. Leisure looming large presents its own conundrum. I can’t exist in perpetual intermission. The next act has to start some time.
The First Cut is the Deepest – June 9, 2014
“The most important thing a woman can have ― next to talent ― is her hairdresser.”
― Joan Crawford
Every Breath You Take – May 14, 2014
“I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in.”
― The Big, Bad Wolf
I may have to work a little harder to fill my lungs with air, but the effort makes me appreciate every breath I take.
One More Year– April 30, 2014
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
― Mae West
Looking back I realize that I’m quite fond of birthdays. Please, may I have another?
The Color of Cancer – A Piece About Feeling Beautiful – April 2, 2014
“I see your true colors shining through. True colors are beautiful.”
― Cyndi Lauper
(Contributed piece to LiveStrong)
For years my motto was, “Have red dress, will travel.” When I was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer, it sucked the color right out of me. How do you get your color back when you feel like a negative of your former self?
Quarterly Yearnings – March 24, 2014
Hot off the press… SAN MATEO, Calif. — Jennifer L. Glass Corp. (Ticker: JLG) today announced a third consecutive quarter of positive CT results. Today’s news comes on the heels of a turbulent year for JLG, marked by a hostile takeover bid from end-of-life-sciences industry titan Chaos, Necrosis, Crisis and Rash (Ticker: CNCR). Led by CNCR founder and chief architect Mr. G. Reaper, CNCR boasts a long history of establishing a foothold within organizations, then engineering early and often involuntary exits.
Step by Step – February 27, 2014
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
― Lao Tzu
I am a stepdaughter, stepsister, and now a stepmother. To my way of thinking, the more steps in a house, the more interesting the home.
Parental Guidance – February 20, 2014
My dad may no longer be able to hold me in his arms and raise me high, but every day he lifts me in spirit and helps me to see the world through his wise eyes, often in a whole new light.
Horse Sense – 10 Resolutions for the Year of the Horse – February 12, 2014
Under the lunar calendar, last month marked the beginning of the Year of the Horse. It always takes me some time to adjust to a new year. I’m still writing Year of the Snake on my checks.
Meditate or Medicate? – January 31, 2014
“Whatever gets you through the night, s’alright.”
― John Lennon
I close my eyes, take a breath, and immediately start fretting about whether or not we have enough milk for the weekend, and what I should have said to that mean boy in eighth grade. Ok, I’ll try positive thinking… I’m positive I still have cancer. Next.
Don’t Sweat It – January 21, 2014
“Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.”
― George Carlin
I’ve never been what you’d call sporty. In my teens about the only time I broke a sweat was jumping to conclusions. In the ‘90s I was delighted to discover Pilates. At last I could exercise while lying down!
The Big C – December 30, 2013
“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. But if the white runs out I’ll drink the red.”
― Seen on a cocktail napkin, source unknown
The most memorable Christmas display I ever saw was in a small department store in rural Japan. It was Santa on a cross… Christmas can be a brutal season for a single person. I’d had too many silent nights, too many holidays alone under the mistletoe with no one to deck my halls or jingle my bells.
Luna de Miel – December 18, 2013
“Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.”
― Ernest Hemingway
Once in a blue moon, the recipe is just right when two people come together. Take a few sweet nothings, whispered softly, fragile as spun sugar. Add salt from a warm sea breeze, a little wine, a pinch of spice. Let simmer until you find yourself shaken and stirred. Like honey, love can be sticky, but its sweetness helps all kinds of medicine go down.
Have Cancer, Will Travel – December 12, 2013
“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson
I was an intrepid traveler. Restless in spirit, rarely at rest, I was happy being a body in motion. Whenever I think of these journeys I hear the squawk of chickens. If there is a live chicken in your vehicle then you are traveling chicken class.
Waiting to Exhale – December 4, 2013
The lab technician inserts the I.V. into my arm. He cautions that, as the solution moves through my system, I will first experience a metallic taste in my mouth, then I will feel a warm sensation as though I am peeing my pants. I’ve had enough of these tests to know the drill by now, but still I appreciate being reminded of this last bit. It is a sudden, strange feeling and would be alarming were I not prepared.
Mama – November 22, 2013
“Lace the skates and kit the ice.”
― Joanna McClelland Glass, “Trying”
There’s nothing like being sick to make a girl want her mama. I remember her cool hands on my forehead hot with fever, and bowls of soup when I had a cold. If only a mother’s healing powers could soothe away a tumor, and I could see her in the morning with the sunshine on my face.
GLAMOUR-Us – November 14, 2013
“Tumble outta bed and I stumble to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition.”
― Dolly Parton, “9 to 5″
Thank you Shannon for helping me understand the etiquette around taking someone else’s child to the bathroom, and patiently explaining to me that at the playground you’re supposed to keep an eye on the child assigned to you.
House Calls – November 5, 2013
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
― L.M. Montgomery, “Anne of Green Gables”
Some people think that houses can be haunted. I believe the house can do the haunting. A childhood home, especially, looms large in memory, an apparition enticing us in dreams. Bedrooms beckon, sunrooms summon, kitchens call.
Pray For the Bear – October 29, 2013
“If you see me in a fight with a bear, pray for the bear.”
― Kobe Bryant
In 1990 I went to Kumamoto, Japan, where I taught English for two years. It was there that I met Doug Lavanchy, who has been one of my closest friends ever since. I asked Doug to share his perspective on being a friend to a friend who is sick.
The Facebook Force Field (Social Media, Social Me) – October 19, 2013
“No man is an island.”
― John Donne
I’ve always been a highly social person. Now that my health prevents me from getting out as much as I’d like, my online social community helps me avoid feeling and acting like a marginalized sick person. When I stumble, there are so many virtual hands to catch me. People come together from all parts of my life to shield me, not from sadness or pain, but from ever feeling that I am going through this alone.
In Sickness and in Health – October 11, 2013
“If I get married, I want to be very married.”
― Audrey Hepburn
For my husband Harlan, on our first wedding anniversary.
I Seem to Have Cancer Today – September 26, 2013
“A poem begins with a lump in the throat.”
― Robert Frost
About Face – September 20, 2013
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
― Winston Churchill
I’m regretting the time spent fretting over crow’s feet, laugh lines and age spots. I’m frightened that I cannot count on my countenance and might never see my old self in the mirror again; that I’ll face the future with a ravaged face. The bumps on my skin are like braille, a tactile language telling me that my body is a battlefield, and, for now at least, my face is a casualty of war.
Tarceva Diva – September 20, 2013
“Hit me with your best shot.”
― Pat Benetar, 1980
I knew that the drug Tarceva would be a rough ride. The prescription came with many pages detailing a long list of gruesome potential side effects, and a warning to call the doctor right away if I had, “vomit that looks like coffee grounds.” Call the doctor? I would call 911 if anything that looked like coffee grounds came out of any part of me. It’s a fascinating science experiment, just too bad that it’s me in the petri dish.
Spring Forward – September 13, 2013
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.”
― Dr. Martin Luther King
On the first day of spring, Harlan and I finally took the little white holiday lights down from the bushes in front of our house. They looked magical when we put them up at Christmas and we were full of hope and plans for our new life in our new home. I did not want to see those lights go out. They seemed a beautiful way to keep the darkness at bay, at least for a little while.
Radiation Burnout – September 6, 2013
“Just like a tattoo, I’ll always have you.”
― Jordin Sparks, American Idol winner Season Six
In preparation for radiation I was given three small tattoos. This was not nearly as much fun as the last time I got a tattoo, a tequila-soaked night in Hong Kong many years ago. My radiologist, Tony, was middle-aged, bespectacled, soft-spoken and specific. A scientist straight from central casting. But to me he was Tony the Tiger, and he was Grrrrreat to Rrrrradiate!
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow – September 3, 2013
“If I want to knock a story off the front page, I just change my hairstyle.”
― Hillary Rodham Clinton, 1997
Three weeks after the first chemo treatment I began to lose my hair. Up to this point I hadn’t felt like a sick person. Now I looked in the mirror and saw Cancer Girl. While I’d hoped that I’d be able to rock headscarves like Rhoda, in fact they just made me look like Steven van Zandt. I worried that I had not bought enough hats, but Harlan reminded me, “Honey, the world is brimming with hats.”
Food For Thought – August 26, 2013
“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” ― Mark Twain
Does this chemo make me look fat? If I had to have cancer, maybe I’d have just enough to get me back into my skinny jeans.
Explaining Cancer to a Five Year-Old – August 22, 2013
“Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them.”
― Lady Bird Johnson, former U.S. First Lady
Eloise watched the nurse put my I.V. in and we explained that this was the best way for me to get my medicine. She didn’t seem alarmed at all by the new information, only interested—particularly interested in choosing the color of my bandage when they took the I.V. out. Eloise chose red for me. She wanted a bandage too, and chose chartreuse for herself.
Ready for Take-Off – August 19, 2013
“For Heaven’s sake discard the monstrous wig.”
― Thomas Jefferson
Maybe the airlines should think about awarding miles for chemo and radiation visits. It’s a pretty big target market. When patients are up and about again… dream vacation to celebrate. They could call them Frequent Fryer Miles.
We Are Family – August 14, 2013
“Family isn’t about whose blood you have. It’s about who you care about.”
—Trey Parker and Matt Stone, South Park, 1998
All the World’s a Stage – August 14, 2013
“All the world’s a stage.”
— William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”
When the doctor first said we needed a biopsy, blood work, and x-rays for “staging,” there were honestly a few seconds when I thought, “Ooh, a stage! Will I be on it? I’ve heard of a theater of operations. Maybe I’ll have an operation in a theater on a stage!” I may have watched All That Jazz too many times. The reality is somewhat less glamorous.
At the Top of My Lungs – August 2, 2013
“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”
— Nora Ephron, commencement address to the Wellesley class of 1996
Living with cancer means living. Cancer is part of my life now. But that doesn’t mean it is my life. It’s sort of like traffic—an unpleasant reality that is usually manageable but can be hugely disruptive. Some days I just have to accept that it’s a day for the slow lane. But most days I
pull on my big girl pants (mine have black sequins), rev the engine, and hit the gas. Radio cranked to 11. Singing at the top of my lungs.