Saturday, March 23, 2019

Irish Eyes

Tomorrow is the annual Greenwich Saint Patrick's parade. I will not be attending. I'm not boycotting anything. I'm not against drinking, parading, good luck, leprechauns, pots of gold, or lewd behavior. This year, even though the weather forecast looks FABULOUS, I will be hiding at home as I recover from yet another round of anesthesia. A sedation vacation as they say.

I thought about dusting off my leprechaun costume (yes, of course I own one) and sporting a ginger beard to hide my face in progress but I don't own a red beard, (a black one, yes) and even if I did, it might aggravate my inflamed face.

Unlike some people, who deny or deflect any admission of cosmetic enhancement, I am flaunting it.

In June, I will be celebrating my 60th year on earth. It's been an interesting time here. I've overcome and grown a lot..... BUT, my face shows it. Besides, I often find myself attracted to (much) younger men and I'm tired of saying I'm 8 years older than I actually am just to hear, "Damn, you look good."

This is also the year I discovered I have a double gene mutation called CHEK2 that makes me susceptible to a multitude of cancers. I won't mention any of them specifically because I don't want to give them power. Besides, they already know what a proactive, bad-ass I am.

It took me a few weeks to process the information. I joined a group of us weirdo's on facebook. I notified my family (as directed), even the ones that won't speak to me. I met with my oncologist and forwarded my genetic reports to all sorts of cancer databases.

When I finished all that I decided to stay calm, carry on, and LIVE BIG. It's pretty much been my plan all along but there is still some tweaking to do and I'm on it!

When it comes to the issue of WHY ME, a question cancer patience often obsess over, genetics make up only 5 to 10%. The CHEK2 mutation is rare. A double strand is even rarer. So far, I haven't found anyone who has the same double strand as me. If you know me, you should not be shocked. I'm odd.

I imagine that when I do find that person with the same CHEK2 double mutation strand, he will be a handsome, successful, hilarious, seriously scarred man (internally and externally), and together we will live a somewhat shortened, yet deliberate life together.

WARNING: I do not give you permission to turn this post that is MY LIFE into a harlequin romance novel, or a major motion picture, or anything in between.

The good news is, the root of my 6 cancer diagnosis's has nothing to do with Jesus punishing me (as my sister informed me with the utmost certainty). It's not about my lifestyle choices, prolong exposure to playa dust, standing mindlessly in front of the microwave, or hours basking in blue rays that bounce off my computer screen. And to my surprise, it has nothing to do with the fact that I once "dated" two men on Good Friday (not a good day that fell on a Friday, the actual holy holiday).

I've made a deliberate decision to stay focused on living and part of that, for me, means putting my best face forward.

This gene mutation thing came shortly after my third melanoma diagnosis. When they told me they had to go back for a third operation because I wasn't healing and they weren't sure why, coupled with 6 new pre-cancer spots on my face, I elected to do a CO2 laser at the same time as the surgery. I had the option of having some sort of boring laser which would have eradicated the pre-cancer and was covered by insurance OR, the CO2 which removes the pre-cancer and has cosmetic benefits.

I thought about this for about 15 seconds and went with the CO2.

Because I'm odd (see how I'm repeating myself), I fell into the small group of people who developed a reaction to the CO2 laser that is similar to shingles. Besides the pain and blistering, I have a red rash around my mouth that makes me look like a bad clown.

I am now on medication that makes me weepy and tired. Here is the worst part... wine aggravates it and Vicodin gives no relief.  So while you are out there, living it up, think of me... clown down in the confines of my condo waiting, patiently for my new face to arrive.

Because I go big, I included a few other cosmetic procedures in this new, about-to-be-60 face, and I'm happy to tell you what they are, but I'm going to make you guess first. So, when you see me out and about, please play along. Winners get the name and number of BOTH my cosmetic surgeons.

One cancer perk is that you meet a lot of doctors and quickly learn how to weed out the good from the bad. These two, highly skilled, humble surgeons agreed to share me. One took the left side, the other the right.

Even today, in my vulnerable state of recovery, when I stand naked in the mirror, I see a fierce, brave, bold, Irish lass. I know my father is proud. And I know, in the end, I'll have no regrets.


xo, MonkeyMe

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison