Girl G

Cure is a four-letter word – musings of a young adult cancer survivor


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Snip snip snip!

Aside from the occasional stint as a bridesmaid, I usually just keep my hair in a ponytail or French twist.  I like my hair, but it has never been the main focus of my daily routine.  I’m much more excited about picking out a bracelet or a scarf!  Even so, once I started to think about this post, I couldn’t stop coming up with thoughts and memories about my hair: like the first (and last) time I gave myself a haircut, or when my mom’s friend Charity (who put herself through college working as a hairdresser) put Marcel curls in my few inches of post-chemo hair, or the time I planned to dye it a lovely shade of auburn and ended up with a lovely shade of aubergine instead.

But after careful consideration, I’ve decided to write about three very important hair-moments in my life: my first haircut, my worst haircut, and the haircut I had on Wednesday.

My First Haircut

Most of my early haircuts were done at home.  Both my mom and my paternal grandmother could cut a mean mullet – what can I say, I was a lucky kid!  I don’t remember my first beauty-shop haircut, but I’ve heard the story a few times.

Somehow my Aunt Nancy (young, unmarried, and childless) got saddled with the job of taking me for a haircut.  Normally I really enjoyed having a day with Aunt Nancy – since she was young, unmarried, and childless, she was obviously pretty cool.  But I guess strangers with scissors put a damper on my day.  I was very unhappy to be at the beauty shop, and apparently I let everyone know how I felt.  Aunt Nancy may have been young, but she was old enough to be a mom.  The beauty shop biddies assumed that I belonged to her, and were expressing their displeasure with dirty looks from beneath the hot-air driers.  Once Aunt Nancy explained that she was babysitting and not actually my parent, they all rushed in to help: she got some pity and I got a lollipop.  I’m guessing I eventually got a haircut, too, since my grandmother wouldn’t be happy with either of us if we came home without one.

me and Aunt Nancy

Here we are right about the time of our exciting trip to the beauty shop. You can see why I needed a haircut. You can also see that Aunt Nancy is super-excited to be helping a drooly kid eat her corn.

My Worst Haircut (not counting the one I got when it was all falling out anyway)

I’ll keep this quick.  There was a salon school in the town where I went to college.  They charged $8 for a haircut, and that sounded like a great idea to me.  Sadly, despite my best instructions to the student, she gave me a mullet.  So I walked around the corner to the high-end salon in town (after a pick-me-up cookie at Starbucks) and booked an appointment for that night.  It was with Gil, and I’ve never looked back.

The Haircut I Had on Wednesday

Remember Gil from the last story?  He still cuts my hair, nearly 10 years later.  And this week he cut off two 12” ponytails that I’m donating to Pantene Beautiful Lengths.

measuring my ponytail

Can you even see the numbers on the measuring tape? I’m holding it near the 10″ mark.

I never did the wig thing during my treatment – I tried it once and it was bad.  Very, very bad.  That may or may not be a post for another day.  But I’m pretty happy that somebody else can wear my hair. After losing it all, it is a great feeling to be able to give it away on my own terms.

xoxo, Girl G

PS: Why Pantene Beautiful Lengths?  Because they’re recommended by the American Cancer Society (scroll about halfway down to see).


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Dairy-Free Recipe Day: Pineapple Black Bean Enchiladas

Last week’s scan was clear.  Nothing much to say about it.  Now onto more important things.

6 hours into Snowpocalypse 2013.

snow, March 2013

according to weather.gov, “chance of precipitation is 100%”

It doesn’t look too scary yet.  Of course, I can say that since I’m off shoveling duty.  I fell on the ice last week and managed to land with my knees together and my feet stuck out in opposite directions.  The human body is not supposed to look like that.

Thinking of the further 3-8″ of snow that is forecast over the next 12 hours makes me really long for summer anything other than this.  But instead, I’ll settle for a tasty tropical meal.  Dairy Free “Tried and True” has been a great help to me since I’ve started getting serious about being dairy-free, and her Pineapple Black Bean Enchiladas are awesome!  In fact, they are my favorite d-f recipe for the month of February.  My mom and I have made them twice over the last month, and next time I’m going to try it with the tomatillo/nopales salsa from my favorite Mexican restaurant.  (I know DFT+T says to use red sauce, but I just like green better!)  My mom even brought these to her work potluck, and there were no leftovers – these babies held their own against homemade mac & cheese, ribs, potato salad, and greens.

So if you’re rushing out to buy canned goods before you get snowed in, don’t forget the beans and pineapple!


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Procrastination 101

or,

I Could Be Doing Something Useful Right Now, But I’m Not

Bluto - Animal House

Today must be a strict exercise in mental focus.

Tomorrow is my annual oncology MRI and medical-professsional-pow-wow, so in order to get through today (and get some sleep tonight), I cannot have these thoughts:

  1. What if the tumor came back?
  2. What if the cavernoma is really a tumor and the docs have been wrong about it all this time?
  3. What if I have to quit school?
  4. What if this cold I’ve been fighting for a month is actually a symptom of something much worse?
  5. What if this is the year that I have a total panic attack in the MRI machine?

Also, to avoid any additional stress today and tomorrow, I am not allowed to think about:

  1. Why hasn’t the pharmacy called me back about my prescription?
  2. Should I apply for a summer internship?
  3. When do I start looking for jobs for after graduation?
  4. Yikes, a lot of my friends have husbands and babies!
  5. I need to figure out a topic for my term paper…

In order to make this work, I need to think of it as a form of procrastination.  Positive procrastination, if you will.  According to Dr. Piers Steel, a psychologist at the University of Calgary, “we are willing to pursue any vile task as long as it allows us to avoid something worse.”  And so in the spirit of avoidance, here is my to-do list for today:

  1. Read and take notes on an entire 140-page book for school (that does not have to be completed until March 3)
  2. Do laundry
  3. Organize my school paperwork and notes
  4. Start (and finish?) knitting a hat for my friend’s new baby
  5. Write and post this

OK, 4 & 5 aren’t particularly vile, but they’ll keep me busy.  As Dr. John Perry, of Stanford University writes, “structured procrastination requires a certain amount of self-deception, because one is in effect constantly perpetrating a pyramid scheme on oneself.”  Luckily, I am both a student and an office worker (apparently the worst procrastinators out there), so I have lots of practice.  Let’s do this thing!

Oh no!  I just finished #5.  Rats.  Time to figure out what else to add to the list.  That should take a while…

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All quotations come from: John Tierney, “This Was Supposed to Be My Column for New Year’s Day,” New York Times, January 15, 2013

Also of interest might be: Oliver Burkeman, “Pro-active Procrastination,” The Guardian, October 12, 2007


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Anger and Trust (just in time for Valentine’s Day!)

When I first started writing this blog, I really tried to keep my ramblings on target: only write about the Big C.  At that point in my life, it wasn’t too hard of a task since it felt like everything I heard, touched, or breathed had to do with cancer.  I thought about it, talked about it, argued with insurance people about it, and dreamed about it.

You know that scene in Austin Powers in Goldmember with the mole?  Number 3 (who is a mole) happens to have a very large mole on his face, which leads Austin to say things like “Nice to mole you… Nice to meet you, Mole.”  Until pretty recently, I was afraid that if I shared my diagnosis with people, they would have a hard time seeing beyond it to the real me.  Cancer was my mole.

Well here’s a big “duh” moment for you: it was me who couldn’t see past the cancer-mole.  I was so obsessed with it that I figured everybody else was too.  Once I realized that it was just me, it was much easier to go about my life without dwelling on cancer-y things.  This was great!… but it became much harder (and sadder) to think up cancer-y stuff to write about all the time.  For my own sanity, I’ve tried to branch out and write about my other obsessions – knitting, food, 30 Rock – and I think it is going pretty well.

But as my grandmother says, you can’t do it for fun all the time.  (Seriously, she says this.  She is 88.  It’s awkward, but kind of hilarious.)  Unfortunately, today I am back to writing about cancer-y stuff because in a week I will be wrapped in a glorified paper towel, and then rolled into a giant, freezing tube for an hour.  Translation: MRI exam.  On top of that, a friend of mine started chemo again last week after her “Christmas break,” and I still can’t stop thinking about that New York Times article I mentioned last week.  Like Ms. Gubar, (the author of the article), I too had a smile for everyone, and I too have been misdiagnosed more than once.  I do not believe our good attitudes caused our misdiagnoses, but she wonders, like I do
If I had persisted…
If I had insisted…
If I had challenged…

Unfortunately, I’ve learned my lesson.  No more Mr. Nice Guy.  I still smile, but it is while I am having a thorough and thoughtful conversation with my doctor.  Or rather, while I am insisting that the doctor have a thorough and thoughtful conversation with me.  So how did I go from being the Amy of the oncology floor to being the Jo?

Little Women book cover

Another obsession to write about: books. Here are some more allusions for you. BritLit: from Jane to Lizzy. Shakespearean: from Hero to Beatrice. Victorian Horror: from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.

 

I have never been good at getting angry.  For better or worse, I don’t really see the point.  If I am angry with you, either

a) you know why and you feel bad, so why do we have to talk about it? or

b) you don’t get it and nothing I say will change that, so why do we have to talk about it?

I’m not saying these are normal or healthy responses to anger – just the ones I tend toward.  So when my oncologist (who put me on necessary but potentially joint-destroying steroid treatments) told me that my hip pain was “fatigue” and sent me to physical therapy (despite knowing that I’d had a compromised skeletal system before he started me on the treatments), and then 3 months later I was diagnosed with avascular necrosis in both hips BY THE RESIDENT AT MY COLLEGE HEALTH CENTER, well, I was angry.  But I didn’t know how to handle it.  My oncologist clearly fell into category “a” – what was there to do?

I learned quickly that “so why do we have to talk about it” doesn’t work with someone you are trusting with your life on an everyday basis.  If I couldn’t be honest with him about how he me feel when he ignored my concerns, then I wouldn’t be able trust him again.  And if I couldn’t trust him… well, that would pretty much be the end of our professional relationship.  Not so good since the only other docs who were familiar with my condition worked in Japan.  So I broke the mold and added

c) I’m angry with you, you know why and you feel bad, and I still get to tell you how I feel and how I need things to be different.

It was a really hard conversation.  As I’ve mentioned, I was an anger-klutz – I didn’t know what I was doing!  Besides, I was pretty much dependent on this guy for my life, so I didn’t want to piss him off.  On the other hand, he didn’t want me to sue him…  Yes, it was hard but I made it through; and it was worth any momentary discomfort.  When I think of all the other doctors and technicians I encountered who didn’t listen, who were too tired to really pay attention, who didn’t believe that a young woman had something of value to say, or who just wrote me off as a medical record number and not a person… when I think of those experiences, then I am so glad that I stood up for myself when I had the opportunity.


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Springtime Cloche Knitting Pattern

There is some disgusting form of precipitation falling as I write this.  The flakes look deceptively like the fluffy fatties of my childhood, but they’re a sham.  Those flakes were so full of potential… not that school would be cancelled, or anything wild like that (school was never cancelled in Chicago –  we had salt trucks and we had Mayor Daley), but at least we’d be sure to arrive soaked and sweaty and giddy with wintertime.

snow in Chicago

The laptop screen reflection is a nice touch, no?

I am feeling a serious need for spring.  Since there’s nothing I can do to change the weather, I’ll have to do the next best thing: think about spring accessories!  And besides, once Christmas is over, what else is there to knit?  And so in the name of spring accessories I give you… GirlG’s knitting pattern debut!

cloche

Modeling knitwear for the webcam is harder than it looks!

Photo on 2013-02-07 at 16.45

Almost there… click the pdf for the pattern!

(Just to clarify, this is not the first pattern I’ve ever written, just the first I’ve ever shared.  If you decide to make it, I’d love to know your thoughts.  Also, I will love you forever because you made my hat!)

I wrote this in the pre-Downton days (can you believe we ever lived without the Dowager Countess???), but I’d like to think Sybil or Daisy might wear it: Sybil or Daisy’s Springtime Cloche


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Family, food… and some cancer stuff (but not a lot)

Last week, I came across Susan Gubar’s post “The Good Patient” on the New York Times “Living With Cancer” blog.

Personally, I found her work very thought-provoking; and I would imagine that what she has to say relates to anyone who has spent time in the hospital, regardless of the diagnosis.  I’m not quite ready to write about what she says – her words bring up a lot of emotion.  But stay tuned… I’m working on it.

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In other news, I found vegan rye bread!!!!  This means that I can eat it, since there aren’t any dairy products in it.  I know that my Lithuanian and German ancestors are rolling in their graves, (vegan rye bread AND no butter on it!), but it’s really not too bad.  And honestly, I am getting kind of sick of turkey sandwiches on corn tortillas.

four generations

My Great-Grandma Mary (black shoes) was always concerned that there was not enough butter on my rye bread. That is love.


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What the what? No more 30 Rock!

Well that’s it.  The very last 30 Rock episode.  Ever.

As I was explaining to my brother last night, Liz Lemon and Tracy Jordan are kind of like my life-coaches, and I’m not really sure what I’ll do without them.  They’ve even made a few appearances here on GirlG:

Jenna Maroney and I… I mean, Jane Krakowski and I even spent some quality time together in London on my birthday a few years ago:

Guys and Dolls, Picadilly Theatre, London

Guys and Dolls, Picadilly Theatre, London

Guys and Dolls, Picadilly Theatre, London

Larger than life!

All kidding aside, (although the birthday thing is totally for real – it was my birthday and I spent it in London in the same room as Ewan McGregor and Jane Krakowski – oh yeah)  Liz Lemon has been an important role-model for me.  How many funny, intelligent, potentially-infertile, risk-taking brunettes do you see out there, doing their best, making a go of it?  Not a lot, right?  So what am I going to do without my Thursday night best friends???

Not that 30 Rock is at all replaceable, BECAUSE IT’S NOT, but I do have a new show that I love: Go On.  Matthew Perry was always my favorite Friend, and now, every Tuesday I get to see him try to build up a new life after a major kick in the emotional balls.  Not that I have any, (emotional or otherwise), but I do kind of know what that feels like.  Plus, someone actually had the genius to write a show about the humiliatingly hilarious love-hate relationship some of us (who, me?) have with our support groups.  This is a theme I’ve harped on a time or two, so I’m glad to see that I’m not the only person with this issue.  Not that Ryan King is a real person with real issues; I do know that he’s just a work of fiction.  Just like Liz Lemon… and oh, my heart is breaking all over again!

I guess all I can say is I’ll never forget you, Rural Juror.


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Dairy-Free Recipe Day: Artichoke Pea Pesto

Yesterday marked my three-week anniversary of living without dairy products, and I’m doing pretty well.  That is to say, any cheats have been accidental, not intentional.  It hasn’t been easy, but that’s mostly because bread has milk in it…aaaaahhhhh!  I didn’t realize how much bread (and waffles, cookies, crackers, etc) I eat.  If you know of any dairy-free bread that’s actually worth eating, please let me know in a comment, thanks.

To help myself stay on track, I thought it might be fun to post my favorite dairy-free recipe each month.  Please remember, dear readers, I am not a food blogger – there will be no cozy instagram shots of pie, or any sexy platters of linguine.  What I am is not afraid to experiment in the kitchen.  So hopefully each month, I’ll be able to provide a recipe for a tasty treat.  This turned out so well that I didn’t even miss the Parmesan.

Artichoke Pea Pesto

(enough for four servings of pasta)

I intended to make Once Upon a Cutting Board’s version, but it turned out I only had half a jar of artichoke hearts (and I already had my garlic sautéing, so I had to make something.  Plus I was hungry).  I thought I had some frozen cauliflower that I could dump in, but no.  So peas it was.  But lucky for me, this actually turned out to be quite delicious!  Here’s how my version went:

Sauté 4 cloves of garlic, cut into large pieces, in olive oil over medium heat.

Put the garlic and the oil in your food processor and add:

  • ½ jar of marinated artichoke hearts
  • about 2 TBS of chopped walnuts
  • about ½ cup of frozen peas
  • juice and zest of ¼ lemon
  • a small handful of parsley

Pulse in the food processor and add olive oil as needed

Season with salt and pepper

When I first wrote about my dairy-free adventure, I showed you a picture of my Dairy Princess Tower – all of the items I would be giving up in the name of feeling better.  Today, I’ve got a shot of my DFBF’s for you (that’s dairy-free best friends, FYI).

Dairy-Free Best Friends

It was kind of inappropriate how excited I got about being able to eat Triscuits.  I was standing in the cracker aisle at Jewel convinced that my cracker-eating-life was reduced to the pale sadness of water crackers.  Why even bother?  And then I turned over the box of Triscuits, read the ingredients, and… JOY!  (Hey, you’ve got to take it where you can, right?)