Sunday, September 30, 2012


photo by Debra and Dave Vanderlaan

The weather forecast called for rain. I love rainy Sundays. Especially when I'm in pain. Instead, its sunny. So sunny that I found it difficult to stay in bed past noon. So I'm on the deck. Sipping perfectly brewed coffee. Surrounded by annual foliage that refuses to die.

This is day seven. Seven days since my surgery. Seven days of not showering. Seven days sporting drains that ooze a substance that looks more like piss yellow than blood red. That's a good thing. It means I'm healing.

If you haven't guessed, I'm miserable. I'm tired of being in pain. I'm tired of talking about my pain. I'm tired of wincing, of gasping, of moaning.

If this revision surgery works, and my breasts are perky and even, it will all be worth it. If it doesn't work, I don't know how low I'll go (physically and mentally) and that scares me.

When I reach low, cynical, woe-is-me levels like this, I like to make lists.

(one for each of my seven, miserable day)

1. I used to like to watch porn at 4:00 on Sundays. I realize how absurd that sounds but it was fun. I wasn't alone watching porn at 4:00 on Sundays. My husband was with me. Typically we'd have a martini or two and laugh about how we should write slapstick porn - a mix between Debbie does Dallas and The Three Stooges. Call it, Debbie does Curly, Larry and saves Moe for last.

Since my cancer diagnosis, porn no longer interests me. I look forward to the day when I get my sexy back. 

2. I used to be overly focused on a brown, age spot at the tip of my otherwise adorable nose. It started off looking round and now it's the shape of Texas. Texas, the adopted home of George W. Bush. Oh how I loath George W. Bush. Imagine reliving the catastrophes of the Bush administration every time you look in the mirror - the tragedy of the Iraq war, the shame of Guantanamo, the erosion of civil liberties, the damage done to the American economy... it's maddening!

Since my cancer diagnosis, I don't give a rats ass about the brown spot on my nose, or brown spots anywhere on my body, or spots in general or, for that matter, the color brown. I still loath George W. Bush.

3. I used to get extremely irritated by Saturday afternoon leaf blowing. I'd pledge to lead a campaign to ban them all together. And then lose steam mid-way through my second glass of wine.

Since my cancer diagnosis, I no longer give a flying fuck about the noise pollution caused by leaf-blowers. Go ahead, enjoy your back-pack, carcinogenic causing, gas operated blower. You're drowning out the sound of my moans.

4. I used to be leery of wearing flip-flops. Convinced everyone was focused on my crooked monkey toes.

Since my cancer diagnosis, I'm oddly proud of my monkey toes. They curl inward as if they're grasping on to something. Grasping onto life. Grasping onto a day worth living. 

5. I used to wonder what I would die from. Now I can say, with a good amount of certainty, that it will be cancer.

Since my cancer diagnosis I know I am brave. I know I have a will to live. I know I will not give up. I will apply for clinical trials. I will seek alternative methods and incorporate traditional medicine with mind, body, healing.

6. I used to worry that my husband would leave me. That I'd grow too old for him, or too droopy, or worse, dowdy.

I am the queen of all cancer patients. I am cared for better than, a male, first in line to the throne, premature infant. Mark has followed me to every doctors appointment, every test, every treatment, every surgery. He waits in the hospital while I'm under anesthesia because I'm scared to death I'll die if he leaves the building. He wears my healing beads during my surgery's. When we're home, he lifts me, dresses me, washes my hair, brushes my hair, strips my drains, cooks for me, pours my wine, fluffs my pillows, finds my ear buds, charges my ipod, my iphone, my computer, screens my calls, pulls my covers up, then five minutes later pulls them down. He does all this without complaining because he wants to care, comfort, heal, and help, me. I am not a burden to him.

Yes, it's true, immediately following my cancer diagnosis, my plan was to divorce him but in reality, my plight proved to me that I am lovable.

7. I worry I'll wake up square. Not square as in uncool, I mean physically square. This is what happened to my mother. Somewhere in her mid 50's, she started to shrink and yet her mid section grew. She's now as wide as she is tall. She's not fat by any means. If anything, she looks stronger.

I can see the changes already beginning. My back is getting broader. My stomach and arms are getting beefier. And I've already proved that I can fit in a square box.

This is another reason why I don't want to go too big on my implants. They'll just make me look more square.

But unlike me, my mothers complexion is flawless. She has no brown spots. No wrinkles. True, her ears and nose continues to grow, but so does her eyes and they're a beautiful shade of blue. Sadly, they're overshadowed by a constant frown. Even when she's sleeping she frowns. Regardless of the path life takes me on, I don't want to be remembered as a women who frowns.

You must be thinking I'm mad to write about my mother this way. I don't mean to be cruel, but cancer has taught me not to sensor myself. And slowly, deliberately, cancer has dismantled a reverberating negativity that once governed me. Cancer has given me a reason to smile, wide, true, for no reason, for every reason. 

photo by Celery Jamey Sims
Monkey Me arriving at camp. Basking in the shine of the Silver Guy. Burning Man 2012




Monday, September 24, 2012


CATSTIR [kat - stur] noun: Code word for the other "C" word that rhymes with "dancer"

What Breast Cancer Taught Me

Read, research, google, as much as you can stomach and then STOP. You will know when you've had enough.

I will recommend one book because it was recommended to me, Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book.

It's a really BIG book. Even if you don't open it, holding it, or simply owning it, will make you feel better. It has more information then you'll ever need. It covers all the different types of cancer and treatments available.

Go for several opinions. Some will be recommended to you by doctors or friends. Some will whimsically cross your path. See as many as you can stomach and then STOP. You will know when you've heard enough.

You might encounter a lot of EGO. You do NOT have to put up with it. You have the right to have a doctor who is compassionate, patient, and informative. Someone who will take time to sit with you, look you in the eyes, and answer your questions.

Don't worry about who's the best. Trust your gut. You will know when you're in good hands.

The final decision on how you treat your cancer is yours and yours alone to make. NOT your doctors, or your husbands, or your family and friends. You will know, when, what, where, and how, to treat your cancer. Trust your inner guidance/wisdom. It will not fail you.

People who love you, and people who don't, will say stupid things to you about your cancer. The stuff they say will piss you off. Write it down. Crumble it up. Shake your fist at it. Toss it away. Burn it. Save it. Do what your pain tells you to do. The point is, get it out of your system. Don't wallow in it. Don't feed into it. Don't hold it against them. They can't help themselves. They are scared to death. This could happen to them.

Try not to panic and rush into a decision. But if you do, forgive yourself. Cancer is scary stuff.

Go to Join the DISCUSSION groups for support, information, opinions, rants, tears, and laughter. This is your new FACEBOOK.

Most of us will be facing surgery. If this is you, make sure you know who will be doing the surgery. THIS IS IMPORTANT especially if you're going to big, teaching hospital. Ask your doctor point blank,"will you and you alone be doing my surgery?" If he/she says, "I'll be there for the important parts," are you comfortable with that?

I realize doctors need to learn but do you want them to learn on you? If that feels comfortable to you then go with it. If it doesn't, don't do it. Do NOT let someone talk you into it ESPECIALLY if they have a vested interest in it. For example, breast doctor recommends plastic surgeon because they work on the same days.

Do NOT rely on "TOP DOCTOR" or any published reports claiming to know who is the BEST of the BEST.  Do not be impressed by a title that immediately follow a doctors name. For example, "Head Plastic Surgeon at ..." or "Head Breast Surgeon at ..." This does not guarantee you a successful outcome.

OKAY... time to talk about immediate reconstruction.

Prior to my Bilateral Mastectomy, I attended a tea party between good friends and several of the guests questioned my decision to have immediate reconstruction. One of them had a medical background. I was probably a bit defensive at that point because I had already made up my mind.

Following your diagnosis you will be given information about reconstruction and somewhere along the line you might find yourself marching to the immediate reconstruction beat, thinking I can take care of all of this in one procedure.

You can, but you don't have to. There are a lot of options regarding reconstructions and they vary in complexity. Sadly, complications are not uncommon. The process, even at best, is mentally and physically challenging. Give yourself time to digest and prepare for it.

I had a doctor say to me, "Cancer should be your main concern."

I bought that hook line and sinker. Still do. But that doesn't mean it should be your ONLY concern. Your reconstruction decisions deserves just as much attention as your cancer decisions.

Once you decide on your course of treatment, your doctors, and your hospital, you will feel calmer. You are brave. You are doing everything in your power to heal yourself.

I am one of the luck ones. My cancer treatment ended with my choice to have a bilateral mastectomy. I have never regretted this decision. But it's my reconstruction decisions that have tormented me.

Post Surgery Updates:

I am home. I am in more pain then I expected but one part vicodin mixed with one part valium is a decent cocktail.

I was lucky enough to get an experienced oncology nurse who got the IV in my foot in one try. This is always the most stressful part for me. Apparently, my feet have poor veins and due to the risk of lymphedema from having lymph nodes removed from both sides, all blood draws and IV's must be from the foot. This request will freak out even an experienced nurse. But not nurse Nancy. She looked me right in the eyes, smiled and said "point you toes and don't move." I closed my eyes, Mark held me tight, and in it went.

The surgery went well (?). It lasted 4 hours. I have 2 drains, 2 slings of alloderm and a multitude of sutures. My ribs are doing most of the anchoring so I'm having a hard time breathing comfortably or doing anything comfortably other than pointing my toes.

Because not everyone can stomach the SHOW part of my SHOW and TELL catstir adventures. I'll link the photo's instead of posting them.

I don't know what that "pinch" is on my right noob. I'll find out more when I see my doctor on Monday. I'm not crazy about the shape but I'm going to try really hard not to complain. Right now I need to focus on healing - visualize my body accepting the alloderm and the new implants. 

Please know that your generosity continues to uplift and heal me. Thank you for your love, prayers, healing light and energy.

          COMING SOON...


Monkey DO, Monkey LEARN, Monkey pass it FORWARD

xo, MOnKeYMe

Sunday, September 23, 2012

ON and OFF


I'm an all ON or all OFF sort of monkey. As you may have noticed, I've been OFF for almost three weeks.

After returning from my left coast vacation, I couldn't locate my rudraksha seed beads - a gift from my dear friend, Aloha Steve.

These seed beads have magical powers. I wear them when I write. They help me tap into my higher self. They stimulate my chakras, give health and peace, relieve my fear of untimely death, and increase my memory. These beads were purified in the ocean water off the Big Island of Hawaii and are energized by a chant of love, joy, perfect health and abundance.

I found them three days later. I blame Miss Phoebe, the cat, for batting them off their perch and hiding them under her bed. Clearly, she is out for revenge. And they say pets don't know if you're gone for 10 minutes or 10 days.

Beads ON, still no words.

You know I don't read books. Most of you don't understand how you can write if you don't read. Neither do I.

Recently, my insomnia sparked a joy of late night audio books. It works like a charm! It's better than ambien! But by bedding down with literary geniuses I'm convinced I can't write worth a damn.  Primarily I blame, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Do Facebook status updates count as writing? If so, here is a tweaked version of my latest:

Took dog to vet. Vet played the kitten card (again - this is how we got Miss Phoebe). "I've got 5 of them," said she, "3 more are on the way."

She handed me one. An orange one. I was wearing orange shoes and an orange bra. "I'm yours" whispered the kitty. 

I am a women who brings home injured squirrels, birds, chipmunks... now I've got an orange kitten (with blue eyes) in my arms.

I live in a condo that only allows one pet. I have two. What to do, what to do...

"I'll take all 8!!!" said overly zealous, 
Monkey ME. "But first let me sell my condo and find a home for my husband."

Vet was NOT amused.

So, I played the catstir card....

"Did you know I'm recovering from CANCER?" said I. "I'm having my 5th surgery in less than 7 months on MONDAY. This time they're putting dead people skin in to try and hold my implants in place. I know its going to hurt. Emotionally, I'm a wreck. I'm discouraged. I've lost faith in my doctor. I am worried the accumulation of multiple surgeries and multiple disappointments will aid in my demise...."

I left kittenless.

But still... 8 ADORABLE kittens need homes. Will deliver (once recovered). Will bring wine! Will clean litter box for the first 6 months.

This is a TRUE STORY. If titillated by these adorable, homeless, love buttons, please contact: 

1500 East Boston Post Road  Mamaroneck, NY 10543
(914) 698-1111

cat box
kitten caboose
two hands, three kittens

I'll be clutching my beads tomorrow.
And anxiously awaiting your prayers, positive vibes, light and love.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012


I set my alarm to remind myself that it is the first Wednesday of the month - time for my Insecure Writer's Support Group post.

I am currently decompressing from the burn at Lake Tahoe, California. It is beautiful here. The crowds are gone. The water is clear and calm.

Burning Man never disappoints.  I submerged myself in music, art, fire, and dance. I was physically challenged by the extreme elements. I was emotionally swaddled in open minds and hearts. There is always struggle here but it promotes growth and that growth benefits every aspect of my life.

Overexposed: A loss of highlight detail, that is, when important bright parts of an image are "washed out" 

One of my camp mates expressed his concern about my overexposure. "Thanks to your blog I know more about you then I do my family and that disclosure makes you vulnerable," he said.

His comments came from a place of LOVE and of course, he's right but I don't know how else to write.

I don't know how to make up stories, how to write from pure imagination. I can colorize but I can't create something out of nothing. I write what is in my heart.

I don't have regrets about anything that I've posted here but I suppose that could change. I could lose a client. I could alienate another family member. I could attract a psycho stalker.

It's too late for me to change my name, my location, or my occupation.

I like most of what I write. I like most of who I am and what I don't like about me I write about because if I write it, it doesn't stick inside of me. It doesn't weigh me down or clog me.

Does any of this make sense? Does your writing make you feel vulnerable? Do you have any regrets?


Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison