Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bottoms Up

After eight months of sporting a stoma, I am finally free! My bottom now functions like your bottom does. It's an amazing thing. The reversal was, for the most part, a breeze thanks in part to my sphincter muscle exercises and my will to succeed.

Gently put, the job of your colon is to move digested food along. The job of your rectum is to store it. When you remove your rectum (I don't recommend it) and utilize part of your colon as a rectum, your colon still thinks it's a colon. It doesn't know it's been upgraded to a rectum unless you tell it. It doesn't know how to hold it, or for how long, or even why it's holding it. It just wants to keep moving things along.

So... I now talk to my colon, or Colonel Mustard as I call him (my new rectum is a man, who may or may not have done it with a candlestick in the library). And he obeys me just as all my men do (don't spoil my fantasy).

Now that I am stoma free, I have never felt more alive, more vibrant, and more beautiful. It was hard to rock that stoma, especially when the "baby head" (incisional hernia the size of... you guessed it, a baby's head) was jutting it forward.

But now, finally, for the first time in my life... I am sexy and I know it!

Talk about little unexpected gifts. I never felt confident about my body before, but now, when I stand in front of a mirror with my two fabulous, 450 cc fake breasts (and thinking about enlarging) laced in scars that stretch across the center, an impressive frankensteinish scar that runs from my belly button to my pubic bone, 3 drain hole scars (don't ask), a chemo port chest scar, two melanoma scars, and an itty bitty 2 inch stoma scar, I can't help but think... DAMN I'M HOT!

After all, what is more attractive than an overexposed woman who faces her flaws and fears with humor.

I so want to show you the beauty of being cancer free but blogger says I'd need a "mature audience" warning in order to do that, so for now I will have to settle on a well scripted visual.

And... I have news, exciting news. I have a new man in my life. His name is Chet.

Chet is sexy and sophisticated. Chet is efficient. Chet knows exactly what a girl wants. And... he comes with a remote control!

Chet is my ultra cool, brand spanking new, bidet from Why I feel the need to name inanimate objects I cannot tell you, but I can tell you that Chet puts the "OH" in Bi-O-Bidet.

Everyone.... meet Chet -  part of the "Bliss 2000" collection.

Isn't he gorgeous! 

I first fell in love with bidets back in my late twenties when I saw one at a friends house, mistook it for a seatless toilet, sat backwards on it, and was overjoyed when a gentle stream of mis-aimed water ignited my little lady in the canoe.

But unless you live in Europe, bidets aren't typically implemented in bathroom so to compensate, I took several trips to Paris. It was expensive but invigorating. This also explains why I have very few photo's to highlight these trips, I barely left the bathroom.

When Mark (husband #3) and I first bought our condo, I considered reducing my bathroom vanity space to half in order to make room for a bidet but it simply wasn't practical.

Then, thanks to my rectal cancer diagnosis, and the information I found on the colorectal cancer boards (cancer victims version of Facebook), I met Chet.

With Chet you don't need extra space. The magic of Chet is built right into the seat!

In less than two weeks time I had Chet trained. Chet knows exactly where to point his nozzle, and at what speed and temperature.  Chet keeps the seat warm on days when the weather dips below 60 degrees, and if I feel the need to freshen up my lady parts, with just the touch of a button, Chet is eager to please.

For a while there, I was so enamored with Chet, that I couldn't find a valid reason to introduce a two-legged man into the equation until I stumbled upon this Mack Weldon's underwear model and was instantly reminded of what Chet was missing.

Sorry... blogger, made me put that CENSOR shield in.

Chet can't be the complete package without a package. And that package is... very important.

For now, Chet will be my appetizer and my dessert, until the right underwear model comes along.

xo, Sexually Ignited, MonkeyME

Want more two-legged Chet?

Watch two-legged Chet disrobe, rub his belly, run his fingers through his hair, smile and adjust his glasses. Damn, this Chet has got it going on! What else does a girl want or need.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Happy Anniversary to ME

"The Jump is so frightening between where I am and where I want to be... 
Because of all I may become I will close my eyes and leap."  Maryanne Hershey

Recap and Release

May 20th, 2014 marked the one year anniversary of my "wrecked-tail" cancer diagnosis.

I put off having a routine colonoscopy at 50 because I hated the idea of someone shoving a rod up my ass while I slept.

At 51, with no family history and no obvious precursors other than the fact that I was a women over the age of 50, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, in both breasts, and underwent a double mastectomy. The head plastic surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering allowed two attractive female residents to do the first stage of my reconstruction and their gross errors resulted in six additional surgeries.

Twenty days after my final reconstruction surgery (and yes, they are finally FABULOUS) I went for a routine colonoscopy even though I had no symptoms, and again, no family history that would suggest any concerns.  

When I woke from the procedure I was immediately told that I had advanced rectal (wrecked-tail) cancer and that if the tumor was not so large and so low in the rectum, I would be in the operating room that same day.

My initial tests were done at a local hospital which is affiliated with Yale New Haven. I also went to Cornell Weill, Memorial Sloan Kettering and Johns Hopkins.  Each hospital did their own battery of tests and had their own opinions. The only thing they were in agreement with was that I had a low rectal, T3 tumor and that I would need surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. 

Memorial Sloan Kettering told me that my cancer had spread to my lungs and two or three pelvic lymph nodes, and that they would have to treat my lungs first with chemo for six months before addressing the rectal cancer. This would mean I was stage 4, incurable, with a very grim prognosis.

Cornell Weill suggested surgery first, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. The surgeon told me he was 90% certain I would not need a permanent colostomy bag if I did NOT have radiation prior to surgery but my oncologist warned me that I had a better chance of survival if I had radiation and chemotherapy prior to surgery.

The radiation treatment plan for both Sloan and Yale New Haven was six weeks of external beam radiation combined with chemotherapy in the hopes of shrinking the tumor prior to surgery.

External radiation never made sense to me because without visual confirmation, they were guessing at the exact location of the tumor. The rectum hides behind the bladder, the vagina, and the uterus, and all this could easily be damaged during radiation. Vaginal stenosis and bladder incontinence are two of the many possible (probable) side effects.

Johns Hopkins was the only hospital in the country that offered internal, high dose radiation without chemotherapy prior to surgery, and it was the only option that made sense to me.

It wasn't fun having a rod shoved up my ass, this time awake, but it was doable if it meant the side effects were less and the odds of shrinking the tumor were greater.

Trying to get all the doctors - surgeons, oncologists and radiologists - from four different well respected institutions, to agree on my treatment plan was futile. In the end the decision would be mine and I chose well.

In July of 2013, I became the 16th person in the United States to undergo Endorectal Brachytherapy (internal high dose radiation) and on September 10th, of that same year, I had 21 inches of my large intestines removed which included my rectum, my sigmoid colon and part of my colon. In addition to this, my surgeon used part of my colon to create a "Jpouch" which would later serve as my rectum. Fortunately my sphincter muscle was not effected by the cancer. If it was I would have needed a permanent colostomy bag.

I received a COMPLETE PATHOLOGICAL RESPONSE (the best possible outcome) from four rounds of internal radiation at Johns Hopkins which meant that the post surgery pathology report showed no evidence of cancer. And out of the 26 lymph nodes that were removed, none of them tested positive for cancer.

Even with this report, I would still need a port placed and six months of chemotherapy. For me, the chemo was pure hell - worse than surgery, worse than radiation, worse than living with a stoma and an ileostomy bag.

Sixteen days after surgery, my marriage fell apart. I was intrenched in physical and emotional turmoil. Not since the death of my son had I felt so frightened and fragile.

As much as I needed the support of my husband, I could not allow him to be part of my life. The wound was too deep. In addition to his loss, I lost the support of his family and most of my family. I have two sisters and a brother but they didn't care for me before my cancer so I didn't expect that to change. What did surprise me is that I received absolutely no contact from my mother during my chemotherapy and recovery. My fathers death in January of 2012, left me missing him more than ever. I felt abandoned.

In fairness, I could have reached out to my mother and one of my sisters did offer to pray for me.

As I have mentioned before, I received amazing support from my close circle of friends and from my immediate family - my daughter Lindsay (aka Ling), Mary, and grandson Jackson. 

On May 6th 2014, two weeks short of the one year anniversary of my diagnosis, I had my reversal. During this surgery my stoma, which is an exposed portion of my small intestine, was closed and repositioned below my stomach muscles. I also had my chemo port removed and an incisional hernia (aka "The Baby Head") repaired.

The adjustment is difficult but it is temporary and most important, this dance with cancer is now behind me. It is time for me to focus on living and stop worrying about what I cannot see.

I give tremendous credit to the skilled doctors, physicians assistants, and nurses that treated me, but I also give credit to the ((((((LOVE)))))) that was sent my way. I felt it everyday.

LOVE heals ALL wounds.

With Love and tremendous Gratitude to my Circle of LOVE and all who smile my way.

The Circle...

 Lindsay, Mary, Jackson,
Jay, Miss Pegged, Miss Claudia, Camille, Mairead, Monkey Gurl, Annika, Sarabarakat, Bev,
Eddie, Jesse, Chris, Chad, Tracy, Shoes, Turtle, Fox, Dust Bunny

Jay and MOnkeyME

my beautiful daughter Lindsay - what a gift she is

Monkey Gurl, Trombone Shorty, MonkeyME

Steve, Miss Pegged, MonkeyME, Ling, Monkey Gurl

Spitfire Steph

A Tale of Two Shannon's

Annika, MonkeyGurl, KiKi, Miss Pegged, Ling, Torrey, Steph, Drew, Nukki

MonkeyGurl, Miss Pegged, Sarararabarakat

Love and Light, MOnkeyME

There are four questions of value in life...
What is sacred? 
What is the spirit made of?
What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? 
The answer to each is the same.
Only love.

Johnny Depp

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Belly Down

Silent Lake by Arbebuk

It was the final stretch of winter when chemo ended. My body mirrored the spindly twigs of barren, river birch branches. 

Overexposed, vulnerable and weak - I rest, belly down, in silence.

For months I forged my way through murky water not knowing what hid on the bottom. Through it all my inner circle was fierce but like any absurd, tragic memoir, there was betrayal.

Karma will take care of the bottom feeders - the people that tried to capitalize, emotionally and financially, from my suffering.

I never saw it coming and I'll never know how to defend or deflect it because my heart and mind doesn't work that way. This is a side effect of soaking in a steady stream of goodness.

If I wrote fiction I'd tell you about a mature "mountain woman" - a mother of two grown girls who selfishly beds a man knowing his wife is battling cancer.

If I wrote fiction I'd tell you about  a women who struggles to bring peace to a man who has shown his weakness time and time again. Forgive... Release... is her mantra.

(She wants to punish him.)

If I wrote fiction, I'd tell you about the business associate who deliberately attempted to deceive and coerce clients - the bread and butter of her business - away from a women in the pit of her anguish.

He lost. Shot himself in the foot. It is a slow bleed. He is bleeding still.

But I don't write fiction and I don't like casting myself as a victim, so I have no stories like that to tell. 

Today the air is heavy and moist. And I am here with you. And I have missed you.

All the ridiculousness that is cancer is behind me. I am free.

Celebrate with me!

xo, MonkeyME

My Fuck Cancer - End of Chemo Party
With Trombone Shorty and Friends at The Capitol Theater
Port Chester, New York

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison