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.
My straight BFF says she's annoyed when she gets screened for STIs because it's often as a result of a break-up and she thinks you should get banged after you get a clean bill of health, as a reward. Except you sometimes get this stuff taken care of at the end of the road because maybe you were cheated on or you realized you had some miscommunications with someone about fluid bonding and probably you should get tested for your own peace of mind. And then there's no one to bang you when it comes back clear. Just maybe a little bit of relief and an iced coffee when you don't get a call that anything is wrong.
I have said before that vulnerability is a sign of strength. Through my sneezy haze this morning after a fitfull night unable to breathe, I asked the twitterverse for everyone's favorite allergy tips.* Tonight's trip to the coffee shop for the third cup of the day (so tired and woozy from congestion and meds) confirmed that I am not the only sneezy, sniffly mess in Brooklyn.
Liz was fat, too. Not just sort of in between fat, either, like my mom and other female relatives were at the time (though now, of course, most of them are around my size). She was short and round, with a round face, black curly hair and a mouth that was always smiling. She was half Italian half Mexican and very girly.
The first time we met, Liz was ready to be a huge part of my life. I was mistrustful and didn't understand why she loved me so much already. I was used to adults liking me, since as an only child I learned to socialize well with grown-ups and I was very bright. But the way she just immediately loved me, in that I-loved-you-before-I-knew-you way that parents talk about felt so weird. As I continued into adolescence and hated myself more and more, the more suspicious I was of her unconditional love.
Take it from someone whose routine trip to the GYN turned into a kerfuffle of mis[fat]diagnosis--when a doctor is supposed to be treating you for something and launches into the fat talk you can politely tell them "I am not here to discuss my weight with you. I am here to discuss my bits, my HIV status and whether I am at risk for cancers." I like to have a mantra to prepare ahead of time.
FemmeCast's Femme Shark Correspondent Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha came out for a clandestine visit/gig for API month at Swarthmore last weekend and it was a welcome distraction from everything to hang out and do life planning and road tripping with her. She went looking for apartments with me and I caught a bit on tape. (I want to start a video blog but need to figure out how to get the video editing software I need for PC. Eventually.) So here's a bit of that adventure, for your pleasure.
Heather's last wish for you, what she wants for us all, is to love
each other, and to love ourselves. To take care of our minds and
bodies, without fail and against all odds. And to know, beyond doubt,
that we are all beautiful, amazing beings. Never forget. This is what
she lived for. Take care of yourselves, you beautiful beings.