1. the end of the middle of treatment
In a couple of hours, I’ll have my sixth and last (hopefullyforeverknockonwood) chemo session. Before I started, I told people I was thinking of chemo as my four-month vacation from worrying about getting cancer, and it’s pretty much been that. I’ve used that time to work and read and write and do some fun things; also to bitch about people who’ve let me down and stir up small dramas with my family and friends. Because hey, cancer treatment still blows, just not in an anxiety-producing way.
I also told people who seemed convinced I’d be more sick than I’ve actually been (knockonwood), “Maybe you’re right. Maybe by the end I’ll be so sick of being sick that I’ll trade it in for good physical health and the return of crippling anxiety.”
I’m almost there—it would be nice not to have my feeble exercise routine undermined every three weeks. It would be nice to have hair. And, thanks to Effexor, I’m not totally an anxious mess. I’m just a girl walking down the same path I’ve always been on—because I either have an unshakable sense of who I am and what I want out of life, or I’m highly uncreative and rut-prone—but now there’s a gaping, burning, Hunger Games-esque hole in the middle of it, and I have to go the long way. And I don’t walk in the same way. I skip more. I limp more.
Cancer treatment isn’t done. I have thirty-three radiation
treatments ahead of me. One of my awesome newish cancer friends told me it was
nothing—you just lie on a table for ten minutes a day while they beam some
crazy shit at you. Another newer cancer friend told me radiation was the
hardest part for her because she already felt so beat up from all the other
|Making my way around the fire. But instead of a bow and arrows, I'll have, um, Tamoxifen.|
Me, I’m almost over having expectations anymore. I’m just glad to have cancer friends who feel like regular friends—smart, cool ladies who seem like people I’d want to be. Who have wisdom and hair.
Then there will be the nixing of the ovaries and the exchanging of weird hard implants for silicone starlet implants. (Side note: one of my students wrote a story starring a girl who’d been coerced into getting breast implants. This story took place in a dystopian future and there was a lot of crazy shit going down, but the implants nevertheless featured prominently in every peer critique. BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE OBSESSED WITH BOOBS, AND FAKE ONES ARE SHORTHAND, perhaps incorrectly, FOR SO MUCH.)
2. dykes on bikes on vacation
Anyway. I actually meant to write about the super lovely bike ride AK and I took earlier this week. For my birthday, she got our bikes fixed. They’d been in our garage for like a year, accumulating a patina of spiders and the funny little tumbleweed things that blow beneath the garage door. I was excited in a mostly theoretical way. Did I even know how to ride a bike anymore?
Of course I did. Because riding a bike is like riding a bike. We pedaled down the new bike path on York, and I was suddenly grateful for all those hardcore cycler lobbyist types who seem all self-righteous and born-again when I’m in my car. They got me this bike path! Thanks, activists, for doing what I’m too lazy to do!
AK was often blocks ahead of me, because she’s in kind of amazing shape right now, and I have strange hurty chemo quads. I’d get to the end of a street and see her waiting with an encouraging smile on her face.
We stopped at Buster’s in South Pasadena for coffee and Homeboy Bakery bread and the conversation that we’re too tired to have on so many busy weeknights.
“I feel like we’re on vacation,” AK said. “Like we rented
bikes and stopped at this little café.”
|In South Pasadena, everything is actually in watercolor. There are cotton candy clouds and good public schools.|
“Me too! As soon as we got into South Pas, I felt it.”
Highland Park’s hipster corridor peters out somewhere around Avenue 53, and there’s a long stretch of muffler shops, discount T-shirt warehouses and convalescent homes. I’ve gotten some good shit at that 99 Cents store and eaten fine burritos at the Estrella #3 taco truck, but it doesn’t feel like vacation, you know? Then you cross the arroyo and it’s all charming cupcake stores and blooms of farmer’s market.
Then I had to go to work, so we got on our bikes and headed back toward the land of gum-stuck sidewalks. It was an easy ride back, mostly downhill.