DISCLAIMER: The following post *may* contain material not suited for young children or those easily offended. Do not read if you're that sensitive.
There's nothing I can say that hasn't already been said. One of my best friends, 'Dre, has been plagued by the disease. First, in July, after a routine check up, her mom had a biopsy, followed by a double mastectomy. Because of this, 'Dre and her sister, Kim, were checked for the marker that tells if one has a genetic disposition for breast cancer. Both tested positive. 'Dre is only 36, and has episodic bouts with tumors of the female type, and Kim is only 32. [LESSON: If they had waited until they were 40 to get checked, it would have been too late. DO YOUR SELF EXAMS, and advocate for futher tests if you notice ANYTHING.]
Kim's test results also included indications that she might have cancer. She does. Kim being Kim, she went ahead on a planned humanitarian aid trip to Africa, then returned to NYC for a lumpectomy and further tests.
Kim is a balls-out kinda woman. She speaks her mind, frequently and with great passion, and has no fear. She is at the same time honest, loyal, neurotic, engaging, vivacious, dedicated, a righteous warrior for human rights, a poet, an artist, and an amusing party guest. Although my acquaintance with her stems solely from my friendship with 'Dre, I feel like I've known her forever. I was as crushed as anyone when I found out she was to be going through this ordeal. I decided to make her what I refer to as a "Kimmy Cap", since chemical warfare will figure prominently in her immediate future.
(Note: the camera photos do not do the colors justice; this is really a bright, happy cherry red)
Seems subtle enough. Red, the color for warriors.
But double knit for those times when red just isn't enough.
(Again, the green is a bright, cheery lime green.)
What? You can't hear me?!! I SAID:
There. Now I feel better. The following is a clip of 'Dre and Kim's experiences. Something about the dire circumstances contrasted with swathes of humor left me both entertained and inspired.
Update on Kim
i got back late last night. i am home but might be flying back to nyc on wed. not sure yet. it has been a long and trying week. kim had her surgery on thursday and finally got out of the hospital on sunday. they removed approx 15 lymph nodes and are waiting pathology, tomorrow hopefully. but doc told me that there is 80% chance it is in the nodes (how many is up in the air). Should the pathology come back positive then body scans. I asked the dr if I should fly back if that is the case and he said I should. She has been complaining off and on for almost two years now about fatigue, body pains and the florida drs found what they were calling benign lesions on her brain last year but I think the docs in nyc are now worried about all those other things. my parents are destroyed. they are both completely defeated. crying all the time. walking arounj in a complete incompetent haze. I have been having to try to keep everything going. Sister is not handling any of this well. depressed and emotional. She has a very very low threshold for pain and very very high tolerance for pain meds. she was on the morphine drip for three days, pain meds, sleeping pills, anti anxiety meds. Sunday morning I made them take her off the drip. when I got her up to start her moving. she kept saying she was going to pass out. her eyes rolled back in her head, limbs started flailing. I had to hold her up and keep her head from hitting the wall. i was so freaked out. I thought she had a seizure but I think her blood pressure dropped due to the meds and laying in bed and she fainted. we decided if she needs chemo (which again is 80%), she will come out to california to go through the treatments. My next year will be pretty much focused around that. I seem to be the only who can really get through to her. which is really bizarre given the way we have related. sorry to ramble on................ hoping for some good news tomorrow so things can turn around. promised the kids disney so I will be trying to talk to the docs while at the "happiest place on earth". i will be on the handheld tomorrow.
re: Update on Kim
33 lymph nodes removed in total......there were 8 positive lymph nodes. doctors said that the type of cancer she had should not not have gotten into lymph nodes. only happens less than 2% of the time. they said it is very rare and aggressive. they want to have her treated either at sloan or md anderson in texas. they said that she needs aggressive treatment and specialized "cocktail." doing bone scans today. we were at disney yesterday. i am officially wiped out
Subject: update (from Kim)
Today was the day I cut my hair. I have been lolling about for a week since out of hospital, wheezing in and out of a dilaudid haze...for those of you who don't know the drug, it has been featured in such great dramas as Drug Store Cowboy ("I went to the doctor to refill my dilaudid prescription,and he rejected me cause of the tracks on my arms, and legs, and toes, and neck and.........") and Hill Street Blues in the episode " Praise Dilaudid".
I read on the internet that the pills, depending on their type, can sell for $2 to $10 a piece. Pills like Dilaudid are very expensive selling for $50 to $60 dollars a piece on the street. I am not sure what street, but I am staying on the upper East side of Manhattan Â I bet I can do a lot better than that. Luckily, I have weaned myself down to two a day and am getting stronger by the minute.
My decision to cut my hair had nothing to do with the dilaudid, and everything to do with not wanting to see my long hair fall out in handfuls to throw at people in a few weeks, so I went half way there. In a few more weeks I will go even shorter.
Intense, intellectual banter ensued during the shearing as I sat Samson-like in the faux 18th century chair with my modern day Delilah, a fiery redhead with a raspy voice named Danielle, danced around me with her scissors.
"I don't want to look like a bull dyke."
"Oh Kim please!" my mother shouted.
"Or a soccer mom"
"Well" said Danielle, "I am not sure what is worse?"
Through all of this, my father stomped about the room with an open Vanity Fair (yes the one with Suri on the cover), thrusting a Prada ad in everyone's face of an androgynous young man in shiny shoes. "Is this a man or a woman? What is this?"
"Lets start with this, dad, are you attracted to it?"
"That's not funny."
"I think I would rather be a bull dyke" my Delilah says. "At least you wouldn't have to drive that van and probably get laid a lot more."
"Yeah, and you could have a great motorcycle. Is it a man?" My dad was obviously flustered and uncomfortable with the fact that he has never seen his daughter with short hair. He now stood in the room while my feminine locks fell to the floor, a week after my body lost another feminine appendage. Rough week for anyone.
My mom snapped away with the camera, always the positive muse with a smile. "You look younger! Your eyes look so big! Oooh I love it."
Then came the long walk to the bathroom mirror......the green mile......
Not so bad, not so bad. I held my long pony tail in one hand, grateful that the roots were not still attached, just in case of any voodoo shenanigans. Ellen Powers was present in the room, mind you.
Earlier this week I had a million tests to see if the cancer had spread to my organs and bones. In the lab, I sat with one boob, waiting for a nurse to inject me with a radioactive isotope to see if this creepy crawling cancer had skulked its way into my bone marrow.
I was shot up with some radioactive juice and sent to the lobby to wait for two hours while the radioactive creature slithered around either to find cancer or to turn me into a superhero. They didn't find any bone cancer, so now its just a matter of time before I discover my new powers by the way.
I sat in the lobby of the radioactive lab as raindrops sauntered down the filthy window, taking their arrogant time making it down to the sidewalk, where all of us cancer hopefuls will drop our soggy, desperate feet, full of radioactive syrup and dreams of well-being.
The lobby was all Russians and Arabs, and the walls were splattered with horrid paintings of neon origami figurines. The enormous television screen on the wall featured the black eyes peas on the Today Show singing "my lovely lady lumps..." Blasting... In a breast cancer center lobby.
It was a miserable rainy New York day and Africa seemed so far away, like it had left me.
I have kept it behind my eyelids thru all of this so far, but Friday, Africa had left me.
I didn't see much more than what was in front of my face, in my line of vision. X-ray machines, cotton swabs, needles, white ironed uniforms and shoes that sounded like used dog toys.
I sucked on a mint I took off the nursesÂ desk and looked around the hallway.
Cancer sure is an equalizer.
Today my hair is gone, Africa is slowly returning to my closed eyes, and I am more prepared than yesterday.