Thursday, November 17, 2016


He nodded toward the magazine headlines in the grocery store checkout line and voiced his opinion with confidence.

“Can you believe this sh*t?  This Obamacare?  Affordable my *ss!  
Trump will fix this. He said he would.  Mark my words.
Trump said he’s gonna get rid of all of it!”

The man said these things to me a few days before the election.

My mouth opened and an opinion came out. “Well, I’ve had cancer and have had some insurance changes, so I hope he doesn’t get rid of the pre-existing conditions clause.  I’m hoping my family won’t have to deal with bankruptcy fears... or worse...if my cancer comes back and I can’t afford treatment.”

The anxiety kicked in immediately.  
My heart pounded in regret.
I wished I had kept quiet.  

“You see, it’s people like you I really


he said, firmly, finger jabbing toward me.

“I have to pay for people like you to get your chemo and stuff that you pretend will let you live a little longer. MY family and MY finances are worse off because of you. It kinda p*sses me off.”

I managed to mutter-stutter a response, “Well, I’m sorry it’s been so hard for you.  I hope you don’t ever get cancer or another disease so you have to worry about the other side of getting sick.”

He was done paying for his groceries. He grabbed his two bags and turned to me, “Oh, you can bet I would never be so stupid as to get something like cancer.  Cancer is just God’s way of getting rid of people who are expendable.  I’m pretty sure I’m good.”

It was true. I was stupid enough to get cancer.
And now I am someone many people don’t want to help.
I am a burden to society and the health care system.
Sick people like me make your medical insurance more expensive.
I am alive, telling my story today because you paid a few extra dollars in premiums.

That man in the grocery store hated me for all of that.

Do people like me bother you?

Could you come to my house,
drink tea with me at my dining room table,
and then tell me I am too much of a burden?
As you finished your tea, could you tell me you hate me?
As you stood up, ready to leave,
could you look at my face
and tell me I am

I am afraid of your answer.

What about next year when you are stupid enough to get sick?  
In a year and a half I have been billed over $400,000.
Can  you afford that?

Is it different when it’s you?

Perhaps you are expendable too.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Manifold

I tripped over an intake manifold when I walked into my bedroom that day. The husband was sitting on the side of the bed putting on his sock.  I was focused on the hole in his sock and missed seeing the manifold.

I should have known the manifold was there.
It had been in the bedroom for 2 ½ months.  

The husband and the challenges and consequences of his automobile obsession have been a part of my life for over 3 decades.  We survived an unattractive paint job on an old Plymouth, an all night clutch repair on a mid 70’s Pinto and a race against a federal security helicopter at 140 miles per hour. We can now laugh at the engine fire in Cleveland, the air conditioning failure in a 105 degree Idaho desert and a ‘69 Camaro runaway hubcap rolling down the toll road south of Chicago.  And someday, I am sure I will look back fondly on the mountainside dirt road, flat tire ordeal.

I was used to piles of car junk, I mean, important treasures, in the garage. I was used to mysterious charges from Jegs on my credit card, gallons of orange hand cleaner under the sink and the occasional carburetor on the kitchen counter. This latest automotive challenge seemed to cross the line, though.  There was an intake manifold for a 1969 Camaro in my bedroom and it was in my way.  I said to the husband, toe throbbing, not hiding my disapproval, “You know, normal people do not keep car parts in their bedroom!”

I saw the husband’s honest reaction in slow motion.  A perplexed look of hurt and confusion passed across his face. A look of shock settled in his eyes that stared back at me. Without any doubt in his mind, he innocently said,  “Oh, I really don’t think it’s that uncommon.  I think you’d be surprised.”

I told myself the husband was nuts. This manifold clashed with my bedroom decor and cluttered up the room. It needed to go.

I knew I’d have to resign myself to the hardships that come with being the wife of a car guy. I walked out of the bedroom that day, leaving the husband to put on his other sock. I walked past my piles of scrapbook material, my stacks of family photos and the sweatshirts and shorts I had thrown on the ground.   As I left the room I looked back at the 13 library books, an assortment of  magazines, 3 different kinds of lotion, 5 ibuprofen pills and numerous headbands that lived near my side of the bed. I picked up the mail and the phone, a bottle of water, a thermometer, two earrings and a candy wrapper and headed out of the room.

And as I reached the door I turned to the husband  and reiterated my point, “Normal people do not have manifolds cluttering up their bedrooms.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Club

I probably don’t want to join your club.
I’m probably a bit too
overly sensitive and
unnecessarily analytical to be a reliable club contributor.
I probably want to stay home and
just read my

Those in charge of fate decided it would be funny if I was forced to join a club.
Those in charge of these things chose the CANCER club.

I was highly reluctant.

Despite my hesitation, I was a good club member.  I cried.  I was numb. I researched the traditional.  I researched the alternative.   I announced it on social media with a statement mohawk and just the right amount of verbal ambiguity that was worthy of any new product launch.  I thought positively. I thought negatively. I went to bed angry and woke up terrified. I found ways to be happy.  I convinced myself that realistic trumped naive and hopeful trumped realistic.  I wrote the required cancer blog.

I followed the club rules.

I recently passed the one year anniversary of finishing chemotherapy.  One year later, cancer still invites itself into my day.  Scar tissue says good morning. Green tea glares at me during breakfast. My favorite boots mock my feet that hurt when I wear them now.  A good club member would acknowledge this important anniversary day, pin on a pink ribbon and spew forth a grateful outpouring of thankfulness.  

Thankful they were alive.

I stayed silent.  

I had
nothing to

There are a shocking number of women with my story. They’ve had cancer at a relatively young age and sometimes they write about it on their blogs.  It has been helpful to read their blogs and know I am not alone and I am not going crazy. These women openly wrote about their diagnosis, surgeries, chemo, radiation, and many complementary therapies and alternative treatments.

They wrote about feeling powerless and how they were afraid the
overwhelming vulnerability
The wrote about their families.  
Their written words, cried and screamed out loud for their children.
They fought for their lives.
They fought for every single
breath they could

These women became my invaluable therapy.
They were my online friends.

I was so grateful these
women had
something to

One year ago I followed 12 blogs.  
Today, there are 6 blogs left.  

One woman has stopped writing because it was too stressful when people commented that she had caused her own cancer and had chosen the wrong treatments.

5 women have stopped writing


6 of my blog friends still have something to say..
These are women like me. These are people like you.
These are women who don’t want to become a tragedy.
These are women who massage that scar tissue away even though they think they might be massaging a new tumor. They drink that green tea even though it tastes like dirt and they doubt it will help at all. And they put on those boots, no matter how much they hurt, because they are determined that NOTHING will keep them from wearing their Doc Marten's.

No, I still don’t want to join your club. One year after chemo I am still here as a highly reluctant cancer club member.  Maybe, though, I shouldn’t ignore these anniversaries. Maybe I should be more aggressive in spewing forth a grateful outpouring of thankfulness. Maybe I should honor my blog friends by saying something,


They would want that.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Border Clash

There was no foreign financed wall to stop us from leaving Canada.

But there was a border agent with a badge, sitting in a small, grey booth in front of a fancy computer.

Our passports were taken.

The husband, the children and I stared at each other, wide eyed, while sitting on a bench inside a building that was presumably, the bastion of first world border security.  I whispered to the children, giddy and with a smile, that this was, “so exciting!”  I knew it would be an experience they would remember.  

They were not amused and told me to be quiet.

We were surrounded by people who were there for random vehicle searches.  We watched them come in the building and attempt to explain why their hypertension medication was not in its original bottle.  We watched them explain their arrest from 1994 when they were 19 and careless.  We watched them worry about their fluffy white dog, waiting outside, who “never did anything to deserve this kind of treatment.”

We were not there for a random search.  
We were there because of the husband.

He was suspicious.

The husband spoke to a border agent.  The husband was polite and respectful.  They asked him if he had ever been questioned before.  He tried to explain why he crossed the border with a bunch of long haired, pot smoking hippies in 1988.  They told him he had a common name. He casually mentioned his years of dedicated, patriotic, naval submarine service.

They told him there were problems.
They told him to wait.

We all waited.

I cheerfully mentioned to the children that this adventure might be used in an essay for one of their classes this upcoming school year.

They were not amused and told me to be quiet.
They did not use their polite words.

I smiled and assured the reliable, patient husband that we’d be out of there in minutes. I made jokes about his “criminal past”.  

He laughed.

The border agent stared at his computer, typed furiously, paused, and stared at the screen. He repeated this several times.  He grabbed a piece of paper that had just ejected from a printer and walked quickly to the back of the room.  He gathered all of the other border agents around. They looked at the paper and discussed super secret things about the husband.  They glanced back and forth toward our family.  After half an hour of this,  I turned my now nervous head toward the fidgety husband, cocked my head sideways and raised my eyebrows.  I made my skeptical eyes big and silently asked the husband, “Do you know what the heck they are talking about?”

He seemed unaware I was speaking to him.

Over an hour passed.
We were still being held captive.
All because of the husband and his dubious, hidden, unlawful identity.

I put on my strong woman, resilient, happy survivor face and told the children that, “We were lucky because not many people get to experience American border security at such an intimate level!”

They were not amused and told me to be quiet.
The did not use their polite words.
They seemed a bit angry with me.

I stared long and hard at the husband and began to fuel a senseless rage in my head, “Gosh darn it! We’ve been together for 31 years. I thought I knew him!  What has he done? What is he keeping from me?”  

Our captivity had gone on long enough that I began to anxiously, wonder, way deep down, if my life with him had been one big lie.

The border agent eventually returned, explaining that he had cleared all the criminal activity associated with the husband’s common name. He apologized for keeping us for such along time, but there were some bad guys with the same name as the unblemished husband's name.  He wanted to make sure the husband would have no trouble in his future border crossings.

The husband was innocent.
We were free.

As we continued our drive toward home, I turned an ever-loving eye toward the reliable husband. I grasped his strong, steady hand and was grateful knowing that he hadn’t been hiding a serious criminal habit from me.

I said to the children, “Well, that was fun!  How many people get to experience that?!”
They were not amused and told me to be quiet.
The did not use their polite words.
They seemed a bit angry with me.

They asked me how long it would be until they could get wi-fi.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

It Was a Friday

It was 3 months ago when I wrapped myself in thin pastel fabric.  I laid down on a sterile table topped by a flat mattress covered in a crisp white sheet.  The lights in the room were dimmed. My stomach was jittery and unsettled. I could feel my heart beating. I stared up at the spongy looking ceiling tiles and tried to count the dimples in each square.  I looked around at the flat beige walls and considered the scuff marks near the door. The flashing login screen on the computer next to me gave my anxiety a consistent, controlled rhythm.

A knock on the door jolted me into a smile and a handshake.The technician had arrived with her warm gel, her ultrasound wand of magic and a neutral, polite face that was necessary for her profession. I had been through a lot, physically and emotionally, since I got a little bit of cancer. This one year ultrasound checkup was where they would tell me it had all been worth it.

Instead, they told me they found something.


Nothing was certain.   It could be surgical “debris” or it could be the first sign that the cancer was determined to kill me.   A multitude of experts bantered about terms such as extensive scar tissue and significant swelling and probable cyst and suspicious immobile nodule. They all offered their opinions. We decided I would come back in 3 months.  

3 months later, on a Friday morning, I laid down on the very same table.  A quiet calm dominated the room, but chaos monopolized the inside of my head.  I had months of erratic thinking swirling in my brain.  The unlimited freedom, possibility and privileged gift of life was drowned out by frightening uncertainty and the weight of potential impending mortality. If the cancer was growing again so quickly, it would, most likely, be very difficult to stop it from taking over.

It was a Friday morning when they told me they couldn’t find that suspicious nodule. In another 3 months I would have to come back and lay down on that table again.  But for now, they couldn’t find any cancer. For now, I could start to breathe again.  For now, I allowed myself to think I might be alive to see my son graduate from high school.

I stopped at the grocery store on my way home that Friday morning.  Grade school children were fighting with each other in the checkout line in front of me.  They pointed to the politicians on the covers of the magazines.

“That one is a liar and is stupid and hates people!”
“No, THAT one is the liar and is even stupider and KILLED people!”

As the kids escalated their argument, their mother turned to me.  She shook her head and sighed out of frustration.

“Can you imagine ANYTHING worse than living in a world where either of those two people are president of our country?” she complained to me.


I could imagine something worse.  I’d been imagining it for the last 3 months.

Not living.  
Not living in this mostly good, crazy, beautiful, messed up world.


That would be worse.