Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Shannon needs...

photo courtesy of Google Image. Results of a "Shannon needs"  search.

This post is inspired by a facebook update by my favorite silver friend, Jesse Fowler.

I'm feeling playful (a sign that I'm healing!) so I wanted to play along. 

Jesse's prompt said to google your name, and the word "needs."

Jesse googled "Jesse needs" and got some very telling search results: 

Jesse needs to get out and live! 
Jesse needs your help unscrewing the inscrutable.
Jesse needs help playing with his ball.
Jesse needs to grow up.
Jesse needs to apologize to Christians before representing liberty.
Jesse needs to learn to set firm boundaries. 
Jesse needs a hug. 

Jesse will tell you, that google was right!

This is Jesse.

Here Jesse is sad because he just received a violation for having silver skin.

But Jesse challenged it.  Went to court, with legal assistance from lovely Julie, played the race card,

and won. 

If none of this makes sense to you, it's okay. 
This is a day on the playa at Burning Man, 2011.
An annual event that I've taken part in for the last nine years. 

If you've read me for an extended period of time, you're probably tired of hearing me tell my Burning Man tales, so I'll leave it at that.  But if you want to know more, I'll leave some post suggestions at the bottom. 


As I mentioned, I wanted to play, so I googled "Shannon needs" 
And this is what I got:

Shannon needs an attitude check.
Shannon needs help.
Shannon needs a DROID. 
Shannon needs shelter from the storm. 
Shannon needs your help. 
Shannon needs to take third grade english again. 
Shannon needs saving. 

MY needs are completely different from Jesse's. How does google know? Everything is spot on except for the DROID.  I had a DROID and didn't like it. Now I have an Iphone and I like my Iphone, so Shannon doesn't need a DROID. 

Want to play along? 
Please say you do! 
Google your name and the word "needs" and tell me what google says about you. 

Top "Burning Man Green Monkey"google search stories: 

The Waiting Place contains my favorite Burning Man video of all times. 


Friday, March 23, 2012


"Yes, they're fake. The real ones tried to kill me!"

I saw that quote under a survivors bio, at  It made me laugh and laughter is good.

This morning, during coffee, I asked my husband if I had the dates right...

"I had my annual mammogram on December 29th and was told I needed a biopsy, you were laid off from your job on January 19th, I was diagnosed with cancer on January 20th, and my Dad died on January 29th - is that right?" I asked.

"Yes, and we had surgery on March 5th," he added.  When he speaks of my cancer, he says "we" and this has a calming effect on me. It tells me I am not alone.

I, we, have yet to properly mourn my fathers death or the loss of my breasts.  We are, however, grateful for the extended amount time spent together. My husband has attended all of my doctor appointments and has been a key component in my decision making process. His calm, logical side, balances my, fierce, emotional side.  

The whole breast cancer concept is mind boggling.  You wake up one morning and discover you have a life threatening illness.  It's hard to come to terms with because you don't feel sick, and in my case, I didn't have any tangible proof - no lump, no blood count gone ascu, no family history to justify it. All I had were these itty-bitty-teeny-tiny microcalcifications that appeared under high resolution film, on my annual mammogram. Three specks that looked quiet adorable at first glance.  

Once I discovered I had cancer, after my initial stunned stupid response wore off, I diligently set out to learn everything I could about the disease and the best way to go about fighting it. This included educating myself on genetics, drug therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation.  Once I felt I had the knowledge I needed to form an educated opinion, I focused on treating it, and learned there are many choices involved in treating cancer.

Once I decided how I wanted to treat my cancer, I set out to find a compassionate breast surgeon who respected my decisions. This is a critical step because your breast surgeon is the one who will remove your cancer. A mistake could cost you your life. I interviewed 4 breast surgeons before I found one that I had total confidence in. I chose, Dr. Alexander Heerdt and she was magnificent. She consistently treated me with dignity and respect. She listened and addressed all of my concerns. Thanks to her meticulous, and highly skilled efforts, I am able to say I am cancer free. 

After I picked my breast surgeon I needed to find a reconstructive surgeon who works with the breast surgeon. Their schedules have to mesh because the reconstructive surgeon steps in immediately following the removal of my breasts.

And then finally, I had to consider the hospital. What is their infection rate?  What primary surgery's take place there?

These three components have to fit together and all must be considered "in-network" on your insurance plan.

It's a daunting process to say the least.  And I must admit, my main focus was the cancer.  When it came to who would do my reconstruction, I lost steam.  I thought I was safe riding on the white coat tails of  the head reconstruction breast surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering. 

I would love to tell you that the opening "UNDER CONSTRUCTION" photo is me. But, sadly, it is not. This is me, 18 days after my bilateral (double) mastectomy...

Hidden beneath the row of stitches are "TE's" (tissue expanders) or what I like to refer to as deflated non-regulation sized basketballs. Notice the two small, round, bandaids above each incision? This is the port where they stuck the needle for my first "fill" of saline last Tuesday. They need to slowly fill these up but as you might notice, there is a problem.  They are not symmetrical and the upper chest section of my "lower side" has collapsed. My breast reconstructive surgeon told me not to worry, that they will "fix it" when they do the "exchange" (see how you're learning all the cancer jargon). But that didn't make sense to me so I went for a second, post-op, opinion. Besides being uneven, the lower expander is sitting on the lower lip of my ribcage.  I can't breath without pain.  It's not a horrible pain but its uncomfortable.  It feels like I bruised a rib (and maybe I did).

My second opinion confirmed my suspicion - my right TE is not set correctly and needs to come out.  Worse, my second opinion stated that the surgeon should have NEVER filled the expander because it was misplaced.

To make absolutely certain, I'm going for a third opinion on Monday. This will be interesting because it is a surgeon who is part of Memorial Sloan Kettering hospital and works with (under) the surgeon who placed my TE's. 

Somewhere between all the poking, prodding, smooching, scalping, and stitching, my breasts lost their dignity.  Which is why, I suppose, I have no problem showing you the various stages of my recovery. On top of all that, it is important for people to understand that "breast reconstruction" is NOT the same as a boob job. This is a comment I hear often, "lucky you, you're getting a boob job!"

Regarding my last post, titled BLAME, to me it was not a "woe is me" post - it was a mind opening, heart fueled, self evolving post.  And damn, it felt good to write it. 

As I often say, I don't sugar coat anything. Nothing on my blog is off limits. I have dissected everything and anyone who has had an effect (positive or negative) on my life. I have pissed off a lot of people.  So far, I still have the support of my husband, some family, and a growing group of friends.  All of you are attracted to one key component... PERSONAL GROWTH.  For me, that is what this journey here is all about.

So if you catch me bitching or blaming, it's okay.  It's just me working on the stuff I need to learn. And if a second surgery is warranted, it's okay. They'll get it right and I'll have more to write. 

One thing I will never be, is a victim. 


"Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them -- every day begin the task anew." Saint Francis de Sales

If you, are someone you know, has been diagnosed with breast cancer, is a wonderful resource.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


...part of the cure is to wish to be cured. SENECA

Today, I am stuck on blame. And, I realize this is a reoccurring theme in my life.

There are days when I blame entitlement, or impoverishment, or complacency.

There are days when I blame heredity or bureaucracy, or society.

There are days when I blame the weather.

There are dark days when I blame my husband, or a friend, or a family member.

But mostly, I blame myself.

Everything gets heavy when I bring blame home with me.  Roll in it.  Sleep with it.  Awake to it.

Today, I blame my neighbor.

My superficial, elitist neighbor, has taken it upon himself to install thick black netting along the top lip of our shared carport to prevent the birds from building their nests.

I love watching the birds. It is one of the simple joys in life. I listen to their song. I watch their flight. I watch them tend to their young.

I don't care if they crap on my car. I don't care if they swoop at my cat. They are protective, nurturing, territorial, creatures. They will strategically gather at high ground and then one by one, dive-bomb the cat until she runs for cover. They also do this to the dog, who is half the size of the cat, but she is too aloof to let them distract her from her walk, or a friendly face, or a sniff of this or that.

This morning, I watched blackbirds try to fight their way in. Watched them peck and push at the menacing mesh. With a tight flutter and beaks bound with nesting, they jabbed at the obstruction over and over again.

There is a ladder close by. I want to climb it. Take my hedge cutters and snip apart his pompous barricade. I am angry but am still healing and I am physically limited. And if I toss logic into it, I'm not certain my efforts would be effective. I am certain that my actions would cause friction. A close to home friction that would play out for days, and months and years to come.

Today and yesterday, I blame my reconstructive breast surgeon. A small man with a huge ego.  A dismissive, condescending, belittling man cloaked in clout and a vast accumulation of accolades.

I blame him for not reassuring me before or after my surgery. And when I questioned why he didn't inform me that it is not his practice to see his patient before or after surgery, he replied, rather sheepishly..."you didn't ask."  Oh how I loath that excuse.

I blame my smug, superhero, rockstardoc, for not placing my tissue expanders evenly, or correctly.  These deflated non-regulation size basketballs are cumbersome and annoying, especially now that I have begun the skin and muscle stretching "fill" process. Doesn't he realize how meticulous I am? How everything MUST be balanced, and straight, and even. And how difficult it is for me to view my lopsided self.

Healing is hard work. Healing is letting go the way we want to be and holding on to the beginnings of good intensions. Healing is not about competing with ourselves. It isn't something we gain or lose. It is a process.

Today, I am focused on the birds, because they are struggling.
Today, I am focused on myself, because I am struggling.

Today, above all else, I know, I must honor the struggle.

We habitually erect a barrier called blame that keeps us from communicating genuinely with others, and we fortify it with our concepts of who's right and who's wrong. We do that with the people who are closest to us and we do it with political systems, with all kinds of things that we don't like about our associates or our society.  It is a very common, ancient, well-perfected device for trying to feel better.  Blame others.  Blaming is a way to protect your heart, trying to protect what is soft and open and tender in yourself. Rather than own that pain, we scramble to find some comfortable ground.   Pema Chodron

Friday, March 16, 2012


Simply put... 
I am cancer free

yes YOU 
and YOU 
and YOU

YOU carried

YOU comforted

YOU caressed

YOU cradled

YOU empowered

YOU healed

You gave me the courage to do what I recognized in my gut, heart and head, needed to be done.

Thank you. 

I love you
I love you
I love you



“When love awakens in your life, in the night of your heart, it is like the dawn breaking within you. Where before there was anonymity, now there is intimacy; where before there was fear, now there is courage; where before in your life there was awkwardness, now there is a rhythm of grace and gracefulness; where before you used to be jagged, now you are elegant and in rhythm with your self. When love awakens in your life, it is like a rebirth, a new beginning. ” 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pi and I

Today, the sun is strong and there is not a cloud to be found. I am on the deck, dressed in a wide brimmed hat and a loose fitting nightgown. It is more than just an unseasonably warm day, it is PI, a date that reflects an irrational number and corresponds with Albert Einstein and my husband's birthday.

This time last year we were numbed by images of Japans devastating Tsunami. The year before we were beaten by the wrath of a fierce nor-eastern storm. Hurricane strength winds toppled trees while a steady surge of rain caused town wide flooding. It was the worst recorded storm in Connecticut's history. 

But today, on this happy Pi day, I am focused on my healing.

Today... I feel as sleek as a salamander. I have always admired salamanders.

I remember how, as a young girl, I would spend endless hours in search of salamanders. They would hide in moist dirt shadowed by overgrown vegetation. I would focus on the bend and twist of tethered leaves - evidence of their scurry. I would dig for them with my bare hands. Dig deep below the surface. Dig past slugs and worms and disjointed roots.

I loved the look and feel of packed dirt beneath my nail beds. I still do.

I am thrilled with my new, sleek, salamander physic. Bra's, no longer a necessity, are an optional accessory.

I am that happy little girl again - frolicking in the simplicities of my youth.

Miss Pegged surprised me today with two flats of pansies that I bare-handedly and methodically intermingled with cascading shafts of ivy. Together they will flourish in the sun drenched copper planters that line our 5th floor balcony.

I ignore twinges of burning and tearing and throbbing, and instead, focus on the simple pleasures of digging into rich organic soil. Smiling as it, once again, nestles in my unpolished nail beds.

This greenery shields me from our neighbors across the river. It shields me like a salamander.  Here I can hide topless, or bottomless, or, I can simply rest.  Fully dressed.   

I am a far cry from the misery of last Saturday. Saturday was painful and pathetic.  Saturday was the day I read my post surgery instructions that included the 1-800-suicide hotline number.

I medicated myself all day Saturday and most of Sunday. Got high on valium and vicodin, hoping I'd wake just in time for Tuesday.  Tuesday (yesterday) was my first post-op doctors appointment.  Tuesday was the day they yanked the four drains that sank into the center and surrounding walls of my chest. Tuesday was the day I removed my surgical camisole and released the detachable mini jugs filled with sludge from the oozing wounds of my missing breasts.

Tuesday I was set free.

Today I enjoyed a super sleek me.

Tomorrow, I receive my full pathology report - a microscopic view of the dissection of three of my lymph nodes, both of my breasts, my nipples and my areola.  Even a section of "suspicious looking skin" from the under-fold of my right breast.  Tomorrow, I get a glimpse of what my future holds.

xo, MOnkeyME

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.  Albert Einstein

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cat in a Cage

I've got nothing clever or profound to say but I want you to know that my internet is very slow. Either that or I am very slow.

The songWhat's new Pussycat is stuck in my head. It's better then We at the Pizza Hut, which, thanks to Jay was stuck in my head for over two weeks, but still, that Pussycat is stuck there.  In my head.

I want to go OUT just as the cat and the dog want to go OUT, but I don't know what I'd do if I went OUT and besides, I've got these four obnoxious drains that resemble mini milk jugs, dangling from the bottom of a surgical camisole.  If I walk on all fours and moo I look like a cow with sagging teats. (I need to stop eating cow). They fill up with gunk that oozes from my chest.  I used to pretend the gunk looked like a french martini but now its more pineapplie and it's disgusting.  Maybe if I bedazzle the drains - make little socks to slip over them so you can't see whats in them, but I don't have the energy for that so I guess I'll just stay here in my bed.

I don't need the painkillers. What I'm feeling is more annoying then painful (except for the shots of pain that sneak up out of nowhere or the burning sensation that spreads across my chest and makes me think I caught myself on fire because I know what that feels like).  The only reason I take a painkiller is if I want to sleep and most of the time that is all I want to do.  The painkiller does give you a nice buzz, but still... nothing beats a glass of wine.  So most often, I opt for a sip of wine and a splash of pain over numb to the point where I don't know if I have toes.

Besides, there's nothing wrong with feeling things.

The cat is meowing.  She wants to go OUT. Please stop meowing cat! YES, I want to go OUT too but you don't hear me meowing.  Or maybe you do.

I'm alone for the first time since my surgery.  Mark went OUT.  Part of me wants to do something bad, like eat a bag of potato chips and wash them down with a stick of butter and a bottle of rootbeer.  But I don't have an appetite. I want to watch whatever it is that I want to watch, only noise of any kind annoys me.

I'd call someone but I don't have the energy to talk and everyone's voice annoys me, except for Mark's voice because he's very quiet and he barely talks.  Remind me not to complain about that when I get better.

It's daylight savings this weekend and I am super excited about it! To me, this means one less hour with my drains.  One less hour before I get my pathology report.

The phone is ringing, I hate the sound of the phone ringing and NO I'm not going to answer YOU. Please don't leave a message.  I hate the beep beep beep sound of the answering machine, warning me that I have a message.

I might be suffering from TMA (too much attention). This doesn't mean you should stop reading me, or telling me how wonderful I am, but I am starting to feel undeserving of all the cards, flowers, gifts, food, etc.  I need to thank you all personally. Each gift lifts my spirits but I'll need to do that on my own one day and today, I have no idea how I'm going to do that.

Oh my god, my phone is ringing AGAIN, and now my cell phone is ringing!!! no, no, NO, I'm not going to answer you.  You are just a phone, you can't tell me what to do!!!

How is possible that there is a new Dr. Seuss movie?

I twirled yesterday and today. To me, it seems like a good way to exercise my shoulders so I don't get that "shoulder lock up" they talk about it.  That doesn't sound like fun.  I asked Mark to videotape it and its OUT there somewhere in youtube land - me in my surgical cami with my drains dangling. (if you REALLY want to see it search for greenmonkey27 twirl drains on youtube - but I must warn you, it isn't pretty)

I'm going to take a nap now.... but first I'm going to eat a special shortbread cookies that somebody very special sent me!  YUMMMAYYYY!!!

LOVE to you from Healing MonkeyME........ zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Mother Daughter Pre-surgical Moments courtesy of Ling Fong's laptop

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


The first time I felt pride in myself  was when I stood on the Junior High School auditorium stage and delivered a passionate speech about why you should vote for me for Student Council treasurer.  I wore a blue gown and curled my hair.

I won.

The second time I felt pride in myself was when i stood on the High School auditorium stage and gave a rebellious speech about why you should vote for me for Student Council Vice President. I wore ripped blue jeans and carried a large green stick (long story).

I won.

My next two moments of pride came at the birth of my children.  A few more flashes of pride came as I crossed the finish line at the New York City Marathon.

In between all that were days when I would coast.  Days when I would arrive half empty, or exit prematurely. Days when I, for whatever reason, lurked in the shadows.

But not March 5th, 2012.  On this day, I faced the darkest of all demons.  I wore nothing. I closed my eyes, and put all my faith in the power of love.

And I won.

My body is challenging me to learn, grow and blossom.  To keep my heart open when facing my fears.

My body is healing.

I have never felt more loved.

I have never felt more beautiful.


"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen." ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Sunday, March 4, 2012


My research is complete. My decisions are made. My bag(s) are packed.

It is time for me to turn inward.

I wanted to write to you all week. Instead I stored everything in my head.

On Friday I had pre-op testing and was told I have a heart murmur. When I asked for more details I was told my heart should go "flub dub" but instead it goes "dub flub." The doctor, a petite asian woman, sounded so adorable saying,"flub dub, dub flub" that I had her to repeat it several more times.

I explained that this could be a side effect of listening to too much dubstep. She didn't get it. I tried to explain dubstep. Still, she didn't get it.

Bassnectar photo courtesy of moviespad

It happened again. This is the second time it happened. The first time it was the radiologist that asked. This time, it was the nurse.

"Are you related to THE Kennedy's?"

"Your resemblance to Eunice is uncanny!" said the radiologist.
"The look is so distinctive" said the nurse.

photo courtesy of google image

The first time I said nothing but gave a coy, don't tell a soul look. The second time I answered, "Yes, on my fathers side."

I'm afraid of what I'll say the next time I'm asked. ("Please don't let another Kennedy die!")

I have been given an arrival time of 9:30 am. I am to report (on time) to the nuclear medicine department where they will inject my breasts with dye and scan me. After the dye reaches its destination - estimated time of arrival one and a half hours -  I will proceed to surgery.  Once I'm under, they will inject another dye that will aid in determining what sentinel lymph nodes will be biopsied.

This is important, I need CLEAN NODES!!! CLEAN NODES!!! Multifaceted, crystal clear, shimmering, clean, lymph nodes.

The breast surgeon will remove the tissue from both of my breasts along with my nipples and areola. Then the reconstructive surgeon will insert tissue expanders that resemble a deflated, non-regulation sized, basketball. About 8 weeks after surgery, and every week or so thereafter, they will slowly inflate them with saline. Four months after that I will be ready for my second surgery where they will remove the tissue expanders and give me my implants. I'm sticking with a full B cup size. If I opt for double D's it will take a year and a half.

At my request, my husband photographed my breasts from every angle. For one shot, I balanced a mimosa in the center of the chest.

I strung your cards on silk ribbon and draped them from a wood beam that stretches across my bedroom ceiling. They are a constant reminder that I am loved.

Yesterday, I shaved. To avoid infection, this is the last time I will use a razor until I'm healed. I also started using a disinfectant cleanser the hospital recommended - guaranteed to keep me germ free for up to 6 hours.

I took my fingernail polish off.  I took my jewelry off.

I burned all my bras. One house guest burnt her panties. I can't tell you who. (see hint in next line)

Miss Pegged bought a ice blue silk pajama's.  They are beautiful. They make me feel pretty and they will make siding in and out of bed easier.

I spent the last week visualizing and affirming positive, radiant, health.  I found a wonderful reiki practitioner who worked with me during the week and will continue when I am home.  I have been reading a book called Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster by Peggy Huddleston which speaks to me on many levels.

By chance, I discovered my breast surgeon and my reiki practitioner are friends. They both go to the same church. They both have great respect for each other.  Knowing my breast surgeon is a spiritual being is very comforting.

I feel lighter.

I am ready.

All I need now is your prayers. I am asking that you visualize me wrapped in a radiant blanket of love. You decide what that blanket looks like.

By doing this you will prepare me for surgery. You will open me to healing. You will bring me peace and clarity. You will allow my soul to shine.

I love you.




Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison