Positively Kick Ass

Calling Kelley Coyne Campoli!

I've been way belated getting back to you, but you're much on my mind. Very early this morning I was awake when I shouldn't have been, paging through some old links that have made me happy in the past, and this one still makes me laugh like a bad bear or a seductive chicken. Like a seductive chicken once made me laugh, I mean. No one has told me (yet) that I laugh like a seductive chicken. But a girl can dream.

For you, my friend, and for anyone else in need of a dose of silliness:

http://ghettohikes.tumblr.com

Ack! Can't seem to make that a link with my mobile app, so I'm adding a bonus to compensate, one amazing result of a "seductive chicken" image search. The NY Times got in trouble with PETA for this one. "Too sexy!" cried the animal lovers, and they were right.

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Forza!
Gretchen

Here be dragons!

With my new visual deficits, dangers are coming at me from left field.  I make an innocent request  for happy, silly dog pics, and THESE are the near-lethal result. I could have burst a tired vessel in my brain! Proceed at your own risk.

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Forza!
Gretchen

Creature comfort

Parental advisory: The following contains graphic violence, strong thematic content, and pervasive language.

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Many others have observed that one of the great luxuries of physical health is an ability to forget that we are physical. When we are ill, by contrast, our bodies insist moment to moment on their presence, their pains, their petty but consuming needs. These are times when we can safely use that overused phrase "I am literally..."

Five days out of surgery, I am literally deflated. I am literally drained. If Frankenstein had made me, this would be the point in the story where he'd flee in horror back to his rosy-cheeked Swiss family and try to forget that he ever dreamed me to material life. I am a hybrid human-mechanical monster, darkly scored in two great slashes across my collapsed chest. On either side, a small wad of gauze blessedly hides an open wound from which a tube snakes out and leaks fluid - now thick and crimson, now watery and yellow - into a clear silicone receptacle the size and shape of a toy grenade. These drains will be with me at least until Monday. Warm with my own internal heat, they nestle in specially designed pockets in my specially designed "post-surgical camisoles," of which I was prescribed two. The camisoles also have pockets for "softies," tear-shaped pillows that wait on my bedroom dresser (two A/B pillows and two C/D) for the day I am ready to play (as I did when I was ten) with the shape of my body, to make multiple, provisional reconstructions of my femininity. For now, concave is the version of womanly that suits me best.

I cannot run from me. And Peter, bless his stout heart, does not. He and I share a tendency toward squeamishness but have discovered together that this delicacy of feeling is simply not an option at present. There's shit that needs doing, and we're the ones to do it. Three times a day, more often when the flow to my drains is sluggish, we "repair" to the bathroom, where we have all but perfected our little routine of cleaning, stripping, emptying, and measuring: 2cc's from the left, 3 from the right. I tuck the grenades back into their holsters and we wash our hands again. Sometimes I dare a look in the mirror before I zip my camisole closed, sometimes I do not.

Thursday was hard. Dr. Lee had instructed us to remove the "tegoderm" bandages and gauze that covered my long seams. I already suspected from our discussion post-surgery and from what I could see around the gauze that he had not achieved the flat scape I had hoped for. For someone who intends to get implants, a surgeon will leave extra skin if possible, the better to accommodate them, but I've chosen (for reasons I'll save for another post) not to pursue reconstruction, and insofar as I had any aesthetic desires invested in my surgery (very small in proportion to the "I want to live!" desires) they all flew in the direction of Kansas. I had in my mind a tabula rasa, blank canvas, bare ground. But I found that I am moon-cratered. Where mountains stood there are now depressions. My body holds a rumpled memory of abundance.

I couldn't think immediately what they resembled, these transformed features of my new topography. Then it came to me: "I have Eeyore boobs, Pete. Happy birthday."

"Still have your honeypot" was his rejoinder. 

Thus a gal who is literally deflated may feel her spirits lift and expand.

Forza!
Gretchen

p.s. There's a lot that I'm finding unintentionally comical these days. Somehow I don't think Garnet Hill had me in mind when they sent out their new catalog, as apt as their tag may be. The image of exuberant fecundity (a little freezer burnt in transit) also gets spun in an unexpected direction by my present turn of mind:

 

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The good and the bad

  

 

Just a few words from your bleary correspondent. As promised, I've been relieved of a significant weight, literal and figurative. My breasts and I are parted. The surgery was lengthy but without complication, and while it will be another week before definitive pathology results come in, the news is tentatively excellent. Two "sentinel" lymph nodes (acting much like Francisco and Bernardo on the ramparts of Elsinore) reported no hostile incursion, and the border of the tumor likewise appeared clear. We're holding off on the champagne for now (not a good mix with Oxycodone), but we have real grounds to hope that the enemy has been successfully expelled.

The bad news actually came Friday, but I could not post it here until I'd had a chance to talk with those whom it affects. I had a call from Cheryl Miranda, the genetics counselor I'd seen, relaying my test results. She told me that I do indeed carry a mutation of the BRCA-1 gene, which we can only assume I inherited from Mom (and she from her mother or father). While the heaviest risks from this mutation fall on women (who face a 60-80% chance of developing breast cancer and a 40-60% chance of developing ovarian cancer over a lifetime), it can also raise a man's risk for prostate cancer, melanoma, and even breast cancer. Thus my bad news is also potentially bad news for everyone in my matriline. The odds that my brother, sister, or uncle carries the mutation are 50-50.

I know it's utterly irrational but also probably inevitable that I feel as if I have personally put them in danger, laid a blood curse on my nearest and dearest. But the curse is really one of knowledge, and therefore mixed. We now have an explanation for our family's lousy "luck," and we can take precautions, some of them radical. I learned when I called Megan that she had been rehearsing her response for weeks, readying herself for an expected blow. Predictably, she worries most for her daughter, Maya; as to her own health she is coolly pragmatic. "Someone asked me the other day what plans I had for the summer, and I said I don't know, maybe getting a double mastectomy." My brave, loving sis has always been ready to follow me anywhere, but I fervently hope she won't follow me here.

Forza!
Gretchen