Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cancer - 1

***Warning:  this post was written on a particularly bad day. It is REALLY negative.  I decided to post it anyway because of it's rawness, but please proceed with caution!***

I wrote this post last January documenting my bi-yearly CT scan appointment, and the positive results the scan revealed.  I titled the post, "Joan - 9, Cancer - 0" because at that point, I had undergone nine CT scans over the course of three years, all with positive, "no tumor growth" results.

Yesterday marked my eleventh CT scan, with my third oncologist (moving to a new town also means finding a new specialist).  This time, the results showed marked growth in the majority of my lymph node tumors, one especially in my pelvic region which has prompted a huge red flag.  The "conclusion" line from the radiologist's report was one sentence:  "Increasing thoracic, abdominal and pelvic adenopathy suggesting progression of lymphoma."

Cancer - 1.

So, here we are in Scarytown.  My new oncologist feels it is still necessary to wait before starting chemo, because my particular brand of lymphoma (follicular) can sort of wax and wane.  There is a chance that it will diminish on it's own, without treatment.  My doc feels it is safe to wait six more months, scan me again, and make the decision for action at that point.

Although I recognize this glimmer of hope, and will be clinging to it with both hands for the next six months, I still feel an enormous sense of defeat.  Here's why:

It's time to admit that cancer holds all the cards, my friends.  We can eat right, replace our carbonated sodas with green tea, and exercise daily.  We can juice fresh veggies and fruits and down them after our morning runs, and consume healthy, green salads every day.  We can even invest in a pricey wheat grass juicer because someone said that ingesting a frothy, thick, green swill that tastes like you're drinking your lawn has "been known to cure cancer."  And even though each shot of that stuff makes us want to vomit, we faithfully grow that damn grass and down it every morning because just MAYBE it'll be the healing remedy that will solve everything.  Except that it won't.

I did all these things, my cancer has never gone away.  I raised a triumphant fist in the air after each of those ten CT scans, as if I had something to do with the results.  I didn't.  Cancer was just deciding to stay quiet for awhile.  Now, I must sit and hope it will do the same until November.  I have no control.

So, I'll wear my colored ribbons and donate to my friends' 5Ks and Races for the Cure.  I'll keep a positive attitude (after I'm finished purging myself with this particular dramatic pity-party I'm now composing) and smile at my friends and relatives and tell them I'm doing just fine, that I'll "show cancer who's boss!"  But I know the truth.  There is no score.

Cancer has me, literally, by the throat.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Even though I'm an avid reader, I've never  used  this blog to review any of the books I've read.  Why?  I have no idea!  But I've just finished "Bossypants," an autobiography by the awesome Tina Fey, and I've decided to break my streak!

"But Joan," you may be saying, "Tina Fey is a Pinko Commie Liberal Fascist!  How can you like her, or for that matter, support her anti-American agenda by buying her book?"  To you I have only this response:  If you feel this way, you need to read Tina's writing more than anyone, because then you will see how misinformed you've been!

The truth is, Tina is an uber-witty comedian/writer/producer who somehow managed to achieve success in a male-dominated medium, even though she was never the Prettiest Girl in the Room.  She actually succeeded because she is smart and talented, not because she batted her eyelashes and played "dumb blonde."  She also displays a wonderful self-deprecating humor which proves that she doesn't take herself too seriously, and insists that we don't either.

In her brilliant, witty book, Tina discusses her early years as an improvisational comic (performing with the popular Second City Comedy troupe in Chicago), and how they helped shape the ways she conducts herself as a performer, as a writer, as a boss, and as a wife and mother.

For example, one of the rules of improv is to "Always agree and say 'Yes.'"  "For instance,"  she writes, "if we're improvising and I say, 'Freeze, I have a gun,' and you say, 'That's not a gun.  It's your finger.  You're pointing your finger at me,' our improvised scene has ground to a halt.  But if I say 'Freeze, I have a gun!' and you say, 'The gun I gave you for Christmas?  You bastard!' then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun."

Then Tina explains why this "agreement theory" is applicable to life: "Now obviously in real life you're not always going to agree with everything everyone says.  But the Rule of Agreement reminds you to 'respect what your partner has created' and to at least start from an open-minded place.  Start with a YES and see where that takes you.  As an improviser, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life whose first answer is no.  'No, we can't do that.' 'No, that's not in the budget....' What kind of way is that to live?"

Then there's my favorite Rule of Improvisation that Tina discloses:  There are no mistakes, only opportunities.  She writes:  "In improv there are no mistakes, only beautiful happy accidents.  And many of the world's greatest discoveries have been by accident.  I mean, look at the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, or Botox."  Seriously, how can you not love this woman?

And if you're still clinging to the "pinko-commie-liberal-fascist" belief because of her dead-on portrayal of Sarah Palin back in 2008, then I have this message for you:  If you think her portrayal of the former Alaskan Governor was "mean," as many of her opposers have commented, then you must also be outraged at Chevy Chase's depiction of a bumbling, stumbling, accident-prone Gerald Ford.

You must be unforgiving of Dan Ackroyd's impersonation of a toothy Jimmy Carter, hoarding tubes of Preparation H (during the unfortunate public disclosure of the president's hemorrhoid problem).  You must condemn Phil Hartman for his portrayal of Bill Clinton, laying across his bed, gossiping with Monica Lewinsky about the latest Dawson's Creek episode, or gorging on Big Macs at the local McDonald's.  And do we really need to discuss Dana Carvey and Will Ferrell's version of the silly, "Not gonna do it" "Strategery" Bush boys?  (Or Dana Carvey's hilarious Ross Perot impression?)  I don't think so!

The truth is, everyone understood when these male comedians performed a parody involving political celebrities, that it was just that, a parody.  When Tina Fey did the same involving a female candidate, she was tagged as being "mean" and "cruel" and having a political agenda.  Unfair?  Sexist?  You betcha.

So unclench your fists, place this book in your hands instead, and enjoy the comedic stylings of a refreshingly honest, REAL female American.  You'll be AMAZED at how much you've learned (AND how much you've laughed) once you've finished!

And even if you don't agree with me, I still want you to know that I respect your opinion, and I won't judge you or think less of you for disagreeing with me.  Tina taught me that!

Thanks for Reading!!

Friday, April 15, 2011


I've been doing a lot a whining lately.  That dumb house in York, PA won't sell.  The vet recently found a mass on the lung of Trixie, our seventeen year old Jack Russell Terrier, and she coughs like a 90 year old chain smoker. We've been on some pins and needles around here, to say the least.

But the truth is, I'm really lucky.  Way, WAY more lucky than I deserve.  I have Alan, my husband, who holds my hand, particularly in times like this.  He assures me that everything is going to be OK.  I believe him.

That's why I love this song so much, and why I play it over and over and over on days like this.  It's why I want to share it with you now.  The chorus is so pretty, so lovely, I can't stop listening to it.  This is my wish for you today, that you find someone that makes you feel as happy and as loved as this song suggests! Enjoy!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cleveland Worries

This is my little red canary, Cleveland Brown.  I named him this because he sports the colors of my favorite football team, and I love him with all of my heart!  You may remember that I wrote this post about him several months ago.  Cleveland has a beautiful singing voice, and when he begins his melodic arias each day, it's like the entire house is filled with the essence of Spring!

But Cleveland's joyful trills are a bit deceiving.  Although he is provided daily with fresh water, a variety of delicious foods, fun toys, and a bright, sunny location from which to sing, Cleveland worries.  A lot.

When I approach his cage each day, his singing is replaced with frantic, frightened calls.  "Bweeep!!  Bweeep!!  Bweeep!"  Even though I do this EVERY day, and he is NEVER harmed, Cleveland worries.  Actually, EACH time he is rewarded with fresh water, replenished food, and even a freshly-diced apple treat.  But still, Cleveland worries.  I understand that it must be very unnerving, indeed, to experience a large hand reaching into your territory each morning and invading your space, but I'm stunned that he hasn't yet learned that these few seconds of discomfort ALWAYS lead to delicious treats.  Still, Cleveland worries.

I hate that I cause this fear in my sweet little songbird.  I wish I could somehow make him see that I love him with a heart so big, so full,  I couldn't hurt a feather on his precious, tiny head.  I wish he could see that I would defend him against anyone or anything that dared tried to cause him harm.  I wish he could see that the times when we DO need to cause him discomfort, it tears my heart into little pieces to hear his frightened cries.  Like when we have to catch him so we can hold him to clip his nails or put him in a holding cage so we can clean his home.  By the time we finally finish the unpleasant task and return him to the safety of his cage, I am a sweaty, useless wreck.

As I reached into Cleveland's cage this morning and heard the familiar "Bweeps" of fright, I thought about my own fears in this life.  Like the house we still own in York, PA, that's been on the market since last May, and still hasn't sold.  Or when we first moved here to Nashville, and I feared I wouldn't be able to find a job or make any new friends.  Boy, did I worry.

I forget about the One who watches over me, the One who is my protector.  The One who will defend me, and keep me from harm, and make sure I am clothed and fed.  The One who weeps with me when I cry and worry that things will never get better, even though He knows they will.

I'm a lot more like my little canary than I care to admit, actually.  He and I both have it way better than we'll ever know.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Praise the Lord, I'm Employed!!

I'M BACK!!  Did you miss me?

Boy, I've got to tell you, the last few months have been memorable, to say the least!  After weeks of sweat, tears, and intense prayer, I am happy to report that I am gainfully employed!  (Hold for applause.)

For a while there, I was getting so desperate that I would've settled for ANY job, but I've actually landed one that I like very, very much.  What's my new position, you ask?  I'll give you a hint:  if you were to visit Nashville and wanted to take a tour of the presumably haunted buildings in the downtown area, who ya gonna call?  ME!!  I'm the brand new guide for Nashville Ghost Tours!  Yay!!

Oh, my friends, it's such a wonderful job!  I get to meet people visiting from all over the country and share with them the wonderful history and ghost stories of my newly adopted hometown!  I just couldn't love it more, quite frankly.

But I must say, the process of gaining employment was quite frightening, indeed. I had no idea how impersonal and harsh the job search could be, or how completely it can crush your soul if you're not careful.  I'd show up in person at shops and temp agencies, only to be given a business card and sent right back out the door.  They'd tell me to apply online and attach my resume, they'd call if they decided they needed me.  I spent hours in front of the computer, searching and applying, knowing that everyone who received my "theme park performer" resume was probably having a good, hearty laugh at my expense.

I actually learned a lot from the process, however.  And if you'll indulge me, I thought I'd share my newfound knowledge with you.  I know in today's economy, there must be others in the same "employment-seeking" boat as I was just a month ago.  Here's a list of a few things I learned:

Don't be afraid to inform everyone you know that you need a job.  I was a little embarrassed to admit I was in need, but that quickly faded when I realized I was forming a whole supportive "Team Joan" that was on my side.  It was actually my friend, Keith, who heard that the ghost tour people were hiring, and sent me an email with a link to their website.  Otherwise, I never would have known and would have missed the interview date.

Find a support group to help.  Mine was invaluable.  It was a free "business transitions" group that actually met at my church once a week.  They specialized in helping people who had recently been laid off or who were new to the area and needed to find work. They presented guest lecturers each week who addressed everything from "How to Network When You Have No Network" to "Personal and Career Branding."  Not only was the information helpful, but the support of those who had once been unemployed and had now found work, saying to me, "Don't give up!  It WILL happen for you!" was priceless.

Resist the urge to "hibernate."  After spending several days emailing resumes and filling out online applications, all with no response, I must tell you, all I wanted to do was retreat to my girl cave, lock the door, and pull the covers over my head.  I actually did EXACTLY that one day.  Then I passed by a mirror and was a little frightened by the unkept, hopeless mess I saw staring back I me.  I vowed to try harder and avoid having to see THAT sight again!

Volunteer, it'll change your whole perspective!  Determined not to spend another day sitting around the house, I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and perform some good deeds.  Let me tell you, it's really hard to crank the "self pity meter" when you're reading "Fluffy and Baron" to a classroom of first graders who treat you like a rock star!  Or see if you have the nerve to shed a tear for yourself after you've learned that the prayer shawl you've just knitted for your church group is going to be wrapped around the shoulders of a 30 year old cancer victim, as she begins her chemo treatments.  Suddenly, my problems seemed pretty minor in comparison.

And finally, if you're really weary and ready to give up, come by this blog and visit ME!  I'll remind you that you're awesome, amazing, tremendously talented, and DEFINITELY one of the cool people!  Hey, you MUST be, you follow THIS blog, don't you?

Thanks for your patience, everyone, it's just great to be back!  And, most of all...

Thanks for reading!!