Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Wishes

This morning, A. woke me up and asked me, "Do you remember where you were a year ago?"

"In Thailand, surprising you for New Year's Eve."

Standing here on Dec. 31st, I can honestly say that despite all the sucky bits, 2012 was a good year. I traveled to Asia, San Antonio, Alabama, California, Virginia Beach, Miami and drove around the U.S. in an RV with four friends and a stranger. I played with white tiger cubs and busted my ass to make A. a wonderful birthday present. I turned 30 and started my own stationery company. I developed a liking to new bands, new friends, and fun hobbies. I took burlesque and photo classes and discovered that gambling simply isn't my thing. I cut my hair! I said I liked girls. Toby popped back into my life and 20 years after she made a beautiful mark on my childhood, my fifth grade teacher found me again.

I pushed myself. I stumbled. I dusted myself off. I grew.

As the clock strikes midnight I'll be wishing for strength and acceptance. I'll be wishing for light when the hopelessness arrives and the reminder that while this new weirdness is now a piece of me, it is not my entire existence. I hope to finally learn how to be gentle with myself and realize that it's okay if I put myself first, if I treat myself kindly, if I laugh while I cry, if I yell, if I squeal, if I do nothing. I wish for patience with those who only seek to love me in whichever way they know how. I wish for peace with whatever comes next.

Here's hoping the mountains we currently find ourselves up against turn out to be nothing but hills in the rearview mirror. Happy 2013. Here's hoping it is so.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Retreat

First off, thanks so much for the warm messages you all wrote to me last week. It was really touching to know that though we've never met, you guys took some time to send over words of encouragement and kindness. Here's hoping this all blows over soon and as painlessly as possible.

So how were your holidays? A. and I spent Christmas with his family in L.A. and it was really nice to get away for a few days. We'd made the plans in late November and after I received my diagnosis I was so intent on not changing my vacation plans no matter what happened. It was great not having to answer calls, accept invitations, entertain family, or spend my days thinking of what's been going on or what'll happen. I really needed to run away for a bit.

Can you believe that A. and I actually thought it would be a good idea to buy presents once we were there? We were running around malls on Christmas Eve still wondering what on earth to get the family and each other. Never again. We also went bowling (I sucked), played Catchphrase (so fun!), A.'s mom and I had a movie date to catch Les Misérables (did you watch?), and we all played with A.'s nephews who are the two cutest kids ever (see exhibits K and C). It's always hard saying goodbye to them so when I hugged and kissed the older one - who will be a whole two years old in a few weeks - my voice caught in my throat and I could only manage a whisper.

"Goodbye," he whispered back in imitation.

Each time I go, I could just stay there and on this trip I couldn't believe that it almost became real. A. and I had been seriously preparing for a possible move-in with his parents. After only being employed for three months out of the last 16, his finances were seriously dwindling and he was contemplating moving back to California at the end of the year to go for his college degree. Completely self-taught in his field, A. was starting to doubt how far he could go without a bachelor's degree in something or other. And because I would gladly support him and am fortunate that my current job only requires a computer with Internet connection, I would have left New York City with him. About a couple weeks before he would've had no other choice but to leave, he got a call back for a job he's been enjoying since.

Who knows what could have happened if we had left? With these recent events, I'm actually glad we stayed home where I have the support of family and friends and health insurance coverage. I still have every intention of moving away someday. I just have to take care of a few things first.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

And the Battles, They Are Never-Ending

My family seems to have the worse luck with this holiday month. Seventeen years ago, we lost our grandmother due to complications from her diabetes. Last year, we woke up one morning to discover that we had lost a young cousin due to a shoot-out and two years ago, I landed in California on Christmas Eve to spend my first holiday with A.'s family only to receive the call that my last living grandparent had passed away. Still, we manage to celebrate life, to enjoy the time we have while lifting those who are mourning. Initially, I'll struggle with what's okay to share and what's too personal to release into the world, but ultimately I'll concede to writing because no matter how raw it might still be, this is simply how I've learned to deal with my emotions when they can no longer be contained.

Two weeks ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Getting that phone call after a week of questions, lab visits, a biopsy, and "it's highly unlikely" was devastating and surreal. I took down the surgeon's info, shaking and fighting back tears, to then fall apart on A.'s lap as soon as the call was over. I kicked, I screamed, and cried into my hands, wondering what the hell did I do to deserve cancer at 30 years old. I clung to his neck afraid to let go and face that this was real. In the days that followed I let myself believe that perhaps I'd heard wrong, that maybe there was simply a possibility that needed to be vanquished with a few more tests. A visit with my gynecologist days later dashed that delusion and since then, the waves have kept coming and going, sometimes suddenly, leaving a jumbled pile of hope, helplessness, determination, ambivalence, and fear strewn upon my days. One night I'm twirling around the room with complete abandon and the following morning I'm being handed my bib for a race I never even knew I'd entered.

Dealing with cancer has become a whole new full-time job and I haven't even begun treatment yet. Between back-to-back trips to the hospital, MRIs, mammograms, PET scans, and giving out more vials of blood in two days than I have in years combined, my veins and I are exhausted. Maintaining an actual full-time in between all these visits has been a struggle, but I refuse to let this become my whole life. While I welcome the distractions of work and social outings, I can't deny that I also wish I could allow myself time to grieve and come to terms with what could happen down the line, but the silence of being alone and what lurks in those quiet hours scares me.

The cancer is in stage 1, which is "good," they say. I can think of better things to have. Two whole boobs for instance. The final step is discovering if the cancer is genetic, which will determine whether a lumpectomy or a more aggressive double mastectomy will be the surgery of choice for my "pea-sized" lump. Produce: good for juicing and indicating tumor size. I can't fathom losing my breasts over such a tiny thing. Then again, I think I've already begun losing my mind. Being handed my options as if I'm simply deciding between soup or salad isn't exactly comforting either.

What other little lumps could be hiding in my gut? If I beat it this time around, will I someday go in for an annual and receive news that it's returned? What about the increased risk my mother, sister, and my future children will now face? And once I go on drugs for treatment, when could I finally have a baby?

"I love you," A. says to me.
"I'm sorry," I reply.

I'm sorry that this has now become his fight, too. That after years of pulling through one issue after another, petty fights, personality differences, multiple lay-offs, and dwindling finances that nearly had us moving to Los Angeles, we now have to weather through this, too. He, along with my family and friends, has been amazing through this ordeal, my mood swings, and the questions that still have us all in limbo. The not knowing is prime recipe for panic attacks as my overeager mind will swoop in and fill in the missing parts. Staying in the present has proven to be difficult when all I can think is "What if? What if?"

I'm terrified, I'm sad. I'm still slightly detached because that's what's helping me to take on each day and joke about this absurdly ridiculous and shitty thing that I have to deal with now. I have to look at my films and laugh at the odd grey blobs on the sheets. Otherwise it's just too unbearable and the crying won't ever stop. I'll be fine one moment and the next I'm bawling into A.'s chest or my father's shoulder, blubbering on about wanting to hold it together, but being so tired of pretending that I'm strong. I never asked for this fight, I never wanted to be the face of anything, wave banners, or be anyone's inspiration. I don't want to have to pull through anything, but now everyone's expecting me to do so. The walks, the pink, the "survivor" title, I don't want any part of it. I just want my life to go back to how it used to be, mine and unconsumed by fighting for a healthy future.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Porcupine Hugs Holiday Cards

I'm so excited to announce that my stationery shop Porcupine Hugs is now open for business! The soft launch for the holidays features three card designs with my hand-drawn illustrations. It's taken me so long to get to this point (can you believe I first dreamt this up back in 2007?!), but I'm super proud to have finally taken this leap. Looking back I can see how I beat myself out of the excitement and motivation simply because I was too nervous about falling flat on my face. Then one day I just woke up and stopped giving my doubts so much air time. Sometimes things just roll into place it seems.

I typically go crazy over all things cute and sweet and papery so I tried to create that feeling with my own company. Over the coming months I'll be prepping to launch a full collection of stationery, paper goodies, and greetings cards for all occasions. For now, get a little taste of what's in store through Porcupine Hugs and get those merry wishes out to your peeps.

Oh, and did I mention there's free shipping involved?