We’ve been in our house for two and a half weeks and have so many more boxes than I thought we still would. In my visions, we were mostly unpacked by now. In April of last year I had a meltdown about how our house wasn’t yet together and somehow I had that same meltdown on Monday of this past week, a full three months early. The last house we had complex attic clean outs and renovations that slowed things down. This time it was major surgery for Dara.
When Heather Von St. James was diagnosed with mesothelioma, as a new mom, she was full of fear. In her own words:
I was only given 15 months to live, and had to undergo a life changing procedure. On February 2nd I had my lung removed, which my sister declared LungLeavin' Day. We celebrate it every year by writing our biggest fears on a plate, and smashing them into a fire. LungLeavin' Day grows bigger every year.
I know first hand how powerful it is to have a project to pour your fears and intention into in the wake of life altering change... When my partner Dara was going through chemo for breast cancer, her chemo karaoke video production and her cancer vlog were incredible for her to orient herself towards looking for the positive. It also gave her something to focus on in the meanwhile to get to the next moment.
One night after our second round of watching Broad City, I said, “What if you made a Make a Wish video and asked Abbi and Ilana to write you into their show?” Dara immediately countered with, “I should get them to come be in my Chemo Karaoke video shoot!”
So we did it. Why not? It was a low-stakes, really fun way to spend an evening, making the video. And even if Abbi and Ilana couldn’t come to the video shoot, at least it was a way to say thank you for producing art that was really delighting us during a time that was pretty shitty... It's never a bad time to make someone feel good about themselves, as my bestie Rachael likes to say.
Abby and Ilana were busy writing the second season of their amazing show and couldn’t come to the shoot. But they did invite us to be their guests at their show the night before Dara’s birthday party.
Lucky is a great way to describe how we feel post treatment—we saw the movie the Fault in Our Stars, about a teenage girl with terminal cancer. It really hit home how temporary love can be. And even though the length of love is sometimes short, it can still have important, life changing intensity.
I feel like Dara’s cancer treatment was a life changing intensity kind of time for me… as it was for Dara. We’re excited to see what our relationship is like after cancer treatment.
It can be so hard to think that what you are able to do is not enough for your friend or loved one. I had no idea whether visiting Macy in the puppy hospital mattered to her or not, especially in those moments when I had to give her back to the vet techs. Saying goodbye was awful. It wasn’t perfect that I could only be there for an hour, or a half an hour, or whatever, but it was something. I had to trust it was going to help her get better and not feel so lonely.
As a follow-up to my post about Dara’s experience with chemo I thought it might also be helpful, and provide some background for other posts around my care taking lessons learned, to talk about the process of her diagnosis and the surgery prior to chemo for her breast cancer. This is also another information dump sort of post—it’ll be interesting for someone who might be going through this process or having someone they know going through it to read a detailed experience.
My friend Kelli Dunham, a stand-up comic and nurse, posted a video she made about planning for unplanned health care and I think it is one of the most brilliant things I've seen about how complicated it is to have a non-normative body while trying to navigate the health care system. I absolutely had to share it with my readership.
One of the biggest motivating forces behind my work as a body liberation activist is getting people to love their bodies enough to take care of them and to dismantle the system that pathologizes fat people just for their fat. My beloved step mother died at age 48 after being prescribed fen-phen--she was being treated for her fat not her actual symptoms. What a fucking hassle to have a body that is immediately targeted and treated incorrectly because people buy the myth that fat is automatically unhealthy. This happens far too often.
Before Dara started chemo I’d known plenty of people with cancer at a variety of ages. Other than understanding that chemo is extremely difficult and disabling, I didn’t know what was involved. Going through the chemo process with someone as girlfriend and primary caregiver has been an extremely different experience and there is a lot that I’ve learned. Helping to ease the discomfort of the person you love the most in the world is a huge motivator to suck up information like a sponge! I wrote the below for a friend who asked for a relative about to go through chemo and I thought it might be a helpful blog post. It's long so I tried to create headers and bold stuff for easy reference. I'll write more another post about my experience as a caregiver (I've learned a lot) and about the other parts of her treatment.
Dara’s experience with chemo hasn’t been consistent as side effects change and shift. Before she started her treatment everyone (doctors, nurses, former/current chemo patients and their caregivers) said that all bodies react differently to chemo and things will be somewhat unpredictable. Even all the research we did ahead of time wasn’t really helpful until she was actually going through the experience. This is an account just of one person's experience with the physical and emotional affects of chemo as they're happening.
A lot of folks do the long look to try to decide what’s going on with someone when they look unusual. And that’s way more noticeable when you’re not used to it. It feels weird. And when Dara started to notice it, she felt uncomfortable and insecure about it.
I surprised myself by rattling off a bunch of strategies she could use to get more comfortable with being conspicuous. So here, dear readers, is a cheat sheet for how to stop caring about what strangers think about you.
Click here to read the whole article.
My not-yet girlfriend and I had our second session of relationship coaching the week after we began. Christine suggested we continue our coaching separately. It’s counterintuitive to how I pictured this coaching would occur; I imagined we’d both be together on skype with Christine, but instead we each take thirty minute separate calls with her. Since we tend to be together when it happens, the other hangs out in the living room with music playing.
Being out of earshot enables real talk with Christine about what’s happening. Often if you explained a problem in your relationship to a third party, you would use really different language than if you were together. I find it a relief not to think about Dara's feelings when I’m explaining something. I feel like I can get right to the solution without spending extra time sugar coating an issue.Click here to read the whole article.