November 30, 2009

What Anchors You When Life’s Out of Control?

patsy-cline

Soon into my cancer care, I somewhat unintentionally started developing small, mundane rituals around my house.

After my first surgery, I had a daily pattern.  When I could muster up the energy, I would sit in a warm bath and listen to Patsy Cline.  The bathroom was a world away from the rest of my studio apartment where my mom and I were living side by side.  Getting into the tub felt like a vacation, and a major accomplishment.  My world had become so small, so boring, so comparatively unproductive that taking my Patsy Cline bath everyday felt like a tangible accomplishment.

I typically despise routine, schedules, and predictability.  But so many things that I could formerly count on, like having a social life, working, paying bills, were thrown out the window when I became a young adult cancer patient.   I wanted just a shred of something I knew I could count on;  I needed to become a tame control freak.

During my second treatment, I instituted four hours of alone time each day.  I sent my mom packing, unplugged the phone, powered down my computer, and sat on the couch looking out the window.  I simply stared at the bare tree branches for four hours each day.  My mom probably thought I was totally depressed.  But I just needed time to myself.  It was my anchor.  Everyone around me had places to be at certain times – work, class, dates.  I needed a schedule to my day so I wasn’t just floating through the murkiness of unmarked time.

A lot of people I interviewed in Everything Changes had ways that they needed to spend time during and after their cancer.  Greg spent long stretches of time alone just working on his boat.  HollyAnna loved to go up to the mountains, sit, and watch the water flow down stream over rocks and stones.  When Wafa’a lived with her parents, she’d retreat to her room, lit candles, listened to Nina Simone, and read Milan Kundera.

Do you have any little rituals that get you through the hard times?  Have you ever felt compulsive about them?  Do you do them even during times when you are well?

Read Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s to learn more about how I coped with staying sane during cancer care.

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July 27, 2009

Sangria-Flavored Book Signing

everything-changes-cover

I’ve been busy traveling the East Coast with book readings and parties, but have not had a public reading in my own town yet.  It’s about time I rectify that.

i[2]y Chicago presents a stupid cancer book signing of


EVERYTHING CHANGES:

The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s


Wednesday, August 12 – 7:30 pm

Women and Children First Bookstore

5233 N. Clark Street, Andersonville

For more info call – 773-769-9299

Complimentary sangria from Winediva

and gourmet hors d’oeuvres

I’ll be reading and signing.  Jonny Imerman, Winediva, the crew from Gilda’s Club and Planet Cancer, and other 20 and 30-somethings will be there.  Hope you can make it too!

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February 26, 2009

Cancer Makes Me Feel Like A Twit

winthewar

Superficial Twit

There have been times throughout cancer where I have the intellectual capacity of a three-year-old and my attention span is nil.  I’ve tired of reading mind numbing glossy mags, yet could not surmount a thick biography or engaging book of history if my life depended on it.  Is there hope for a young adult cancer patient beyond feeling like a superficial twit, glued to television and waiting room copies of People Magazine?  Yes.

Dixie Cups, AIDS, and Georgia O’keeffe

Letters of The Century 1900-1999 is the perfect book for tired, weak cancer patients who are devoid of short-term memory, but still yearn to get their intellect up.  Broken down by decades, the first few pages of each chapter runs a bulleted list of the major cultural, political, and economic events: “The Dixie Cup and electric toaster appear.”  “Vermont widow Ida May Fuller receives the first Social Security Check – for $22.54.”  “The space shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after lift off, killing seven astronauts aboard.”  The meat of the chapters are comprised of letters that speak to the times of that decade:  Profound letters, love letter, irate letters, letters to the editor, apologies, friendships, governmental exchanges. Voices are as wide ranging as Booker T. Washington, Georgia O’Keeffe, Richard Nixon, and the mother of an AIDS patient.

Letters of The Century is a chunky book to tote to chemo, yet in paperback, well worth it. Keep it by your bedside to read slices of history while you are waiting for a wave of nausea to subside or for your Ativan to kick in.  It’s the kind of book you can read from beginning to end, or pick pages randomly.  Best of all, each letter is only about one-quarter of a page to two pages long. This is history made convenient.

Click here for other Time Flies Tips

Do your cancer, chemo, or treatment side effects ever make you feel dumb as a stump?  Has cancer or other illness interrupted your reading habits?  What do you tend to read when you are sick?

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