The Five Year Mark

I was officially diagnosed with Stage 3 brain cancer in 2012. I was told that I had a 5-7 year prognosis. I hit the five year mark in September. I believe that I will pass whenever I am ready to pass. For now, I have work to do. Every day is a gift, no matter who you are. I intend to spend each day as if it were my last.

The past year has been interesting, to say the very least. I’m only 37, but I have been thinking about what I want my funeral/s to be link. I want to be prepared to pass while I’m still able to make informed decisions about my health care, as well as what I want for end of life care. I guess I’m truly an adult now.

I want all of my nieces and nephews to know that I love them. I want my birth and chosen family members to know that I love them. And I want other cancer survivors to know that there are ways to keep your head up and stay positive.

Christmas music is one thing that makes me happy. When I had radiation in 2012, I listened to the same Christmas album every day that I went into the radiation tube. I took my stuffed monkey with me into the tube and I listened to the guitar playing old carols in a Baroque strumming style. I meditated with my eyes closed as I listened to the sound of the laser beams igniting, and I allowed the different colors of light embrace me. I feel the same way about MRI’s at this point. Music helps me stay centered, whether I’m at home or in a tube.

To all the folks out there who are working their way through some crazy health adventure, Goddess Bless. I haven’t given up, and you shouldn’t, either.

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Dear Senator McCain

Senator John McCain returned to the Senate floor today, after spending just five days in recovery from surgery to remove a brain tumor. Senator McCain’s office released a confirmation of his diagnosis on July 19th. He has a glioblastoma, one of the most difficult types of brain tumors. I applaud McCain’s tenacity, but I am very disappointed by his stance on the Affordable Care Act. This is my response.

Dear Senator McCain,

Congratulations on heading back to the Senate floor. I admire your tenacity.

I am reaching out to you as a fellow brain cancer warrior. I was diagnosed with stage 3 Astrocytoma five years ago. I was self-employed, and my partner was in graduate school when I received my diagnosis. We did not have health insurance. However, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect in the Spring of 2012, and I was fortunate enough to get insurance coverage through the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP). I paid for my policy, deductibles, and co-pays, just as anyone else does. My partner dropped out of grad school so he could find a stable job that provided health insurance. Thanks to the PCIP requirements, I was able to obtain stable health insurance when the PCIP expired.

I have been on chemo for five years. I have had three separate different sets of radiation. I have had bi-monthly MRI’s for the past five years. I have utilized speech therapy and physical therapy. If the ACA is repealed, I (as well as every other cancer patient in the United States) could be at risk losing health care insurance. That is unconscionable.

Please vote no for the repeal of the ACA. Healthcare is a basic human right. You owe it to yourself, your constituents, and all your fellow cancer warriors to stand up and speak out.

I look forward to your support and send you positive, healing energy.

Sincerely,
Serena Freewomyn

Dealing with cancer is hard work. I am blessed to have the support of my family and friends. However, I have wracked up over $300,000 of debt ($60,000 was from one visit to the ER) because of cancer. Please contact your Congressional representatives and urge them to keep healthcare coverage available for everyone, not just the one percent. We can’t say that the US is the greatest country in the world if we don’t have equitable access to healthcare.

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Third Time’s a Charm

The past month has been a series of ups and downs for me, primarily because of my recent MRI results. A gurl gets giddy when she thinks she’s done workin’ the pole. Sadly, that’s not the case for this cancer survivor. After a month of research, pondering, and prayer, I’ve decided to do another round of radiation, rest, recoup, and start doing chemotherapy again in September.

This wasn’t an easy decision. After four years of treatment with the same physician, I went to another cancer treatment center to get a second opinion. I got the same information that my current oncologist gave me. It felt good to have her opinion reaffirmed, but to be honest, I felt like I was cheating on my doctor. Does that make sense?

Today I am going to the radiologist to get fitted for my mask. I’ll be starting my third course of radiation in two weeks. I don’t mind radiation. In fact, I find it fascinating. I love the crew, I get to bring in mixtapes for them to play while laser beams vanquish tumor cells, and I’ll ham it up with silly hats. I’m a nerd. What can I say?

I’ve spent the last month hiding under a blanket and snuggling up with my dog and cat. My partner has been an awesome support beam, and my friends and family have helped me feel loved. It’s time to put on my Polka Face and make the most of every day.

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Breaking Up is Hard to Do

carrie big break upHave you ever broken up with someone, crossed paths with them somewhere down the road, rekindled your flame, then doused it, vowed to keep the flame at bay, and then run into the double ex AGAIN? I have. Twice. Both literally and figuratively.

When I first came out as a lesbian, I didn’t know many queer folks. I didn’t know how a relationship should function – gay, straight, or otherwise. I’d never seen an example. I also didn’t know if I was a butch or femme. I only knew two other lesbians. Where would I fit within the lesbian matrix? Did my attraction to a particular gender type define my own gender? (To be honest, I’m still trying to figure that one out.)

I dated my first girlfriend on and off again for about two years. At first I was afraid. Shoot, I was petrified. I had never had a serious relationship because I could hide behind my religious beliefs about “waiting until marriage” to avoid getting intimate with someone. I eventually figured out that I didn’t have to put up with anyone’s expectations about how I performed by gender, and that my attraction to someone was not restricted to their performance of gender or sexuality. I realized that love is not dictated by body parts, and that true love has nothing to do with sexual intercourse. Once I recognized who I was and what I was looking for in a partner, the dating process became much easier.

Online dating was a perfect mechanism for meeting potential partners. If someone didn’t bother to proofread their own profile, click. Move onto the next profile.

I met my partner/spouse eight years ago. We spent over a month chatting online before we actually met in person. We shared an interest in feminism, queer theory, and Family Guy. We went to Long Beach Pride for our third date. A round-trip drive through the desert gives you lots of time to get to know someone. It’s a make it or break it kind of situation.  By the time we got back to Arizona, I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Shannon.
[Read more…]

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Wonder Women Crossword Puzzle

whm_banner2Happy Women’s History Month! I’ve crafted a puzzle all about fabulous females to help kick off the celebration. The answers will be posted tomorrow, so be sure to come back for more!

Click here to download.

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The Common Link

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, this week’s puzzle deals with common links. We’ve all heard of the six degrees of separation. Lucky for you, this puzzle isn’t that complicated. There are only two degrees of separation between the people/objects in this game. For example, the link between the words “marching” and “saw” is band. Click here to download the puzzle and see if you can identify the common link.

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Paula Aboud: An Optimistic Voice of Reason

paula aboudI live in a very conservative state. It’s a fact. Despite living in a state full of households who hang Tea Party flags on their porch, I have hope. One of the reasons that I feel like Arizona isn’t a lost cause is because we have political representatives who defy the odds by speaking out in favor of women’s reproductive justice and equality for the queer community. Former State Senator Paula Aboud is a prime example of a rainbow-flag-flying feminist role model in the middle of a sea of red.

Paula Aboud was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. She attended Tucson High School and earned a BA in English from the University of Arizona. After graduating from UA, Aboud taught English and coached volleyball and tennis coach at Rincon High School. Paula’s devotion to education and sports eventually motivated her to get involved in local politics, and she served in the Arizona Senate for six years.

Senator Aboud explains that her involvement in politics was not a conscious choice. She left teaching at Rincon High School and moved to Maine. Soon after relocating, a high school student was beaten up by his peers and thrown over a bridge. He died just because he was gay. This ignited Paula’s motivation to get involved with the gay community in Maine. The gay community decided to form a community organization that was dedicated to passing laws to protect the civil rights of lesbians, gays, bisexual, and transgender individuals. Although she wasn’t teaching anymore, Paula was still coaching sports. She realized that coaching and teaching provided an opportunity to make a difference for young people, but that she could make an even bigger difference by getting involved in local politics. [Read more…]

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Go Hillary!

HRCLast week I talked about my love of word puzzles and the value they’ve had in my recovery from chemo brain. Last week’s puzzle was a simple word search. This week I’m kicking it up a notch by introducing cryptograms dedicated to Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton. I’ve loved Hillary since high school. She’s the reason I’m a feminist. Hillary told the UN Human Rights Council that “women’s rights are human rights.” There’s no arguing with that. These cryptograms are a tribute for the woman I hope to see in the Oval Office next January.

For readers who aren’t familiar with cryptograms, these puzzles use code. Cryptography has been around for thousands of years. Hieroglyphs were used by the ancient Egyptians to provide graphic information for people who were illiterate. Ancient Greeks used ciphers as a way to keep information secret. Fast forward to the 21st Century. Cryptograms are a form of entertainment and mental exercise.

To decode a cryptogram, start by looking for coded single-letter words, such as “I” and “a.” Then look for groups of common three-letter words, such as “the” or “and.” Look for repetition within the puzzle. Once you identify common words, the message will be revealed. (If you need more tips on deciphering a cryptogram, check out Cryptograms.org.)

Click here to download the Hillary Cryptograms puzzle. Check back next week for the answers.

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Star Wars Word Search

star-wars-the-force-awakensI have a brain tumor. That’s a fact. It doesn’t mean my brain can’t function. I had laser beams (aka “radiation”) shooting my brain (from multiple angles) for six weeks in the Fall of 2012. Although the laser beams weren’t attached to a light saber, they did cause serious damage. My tumor is located in the cerebral cortex of the brain. This controls speech and reading comprehension, as well as short-term memory. Thanks to The Force (aka “speech therapy”), I did my mental work outs, sometimes spending anywhere from 3-5 hours a day. I did word puzzles, played memory games, and started to feel like the Jedi inside me was back.

I am about to hit the four-year anniversary of my brain tumor diagnosis. I’m happy to say good-bye to the chemo pole and get back to kicking ass. I’ve graduated from Padawan to Jedi, and I’m ready to put the Dark Side in its place.

I will be posting a new word puzzle of my own creation each week. Get your Force on by solving the puzzles. Answer sheets will be provided at the end of each week. This week’s puzzle is a Star Wars Word Search. Have fun!

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Coal vs. Fracking: Dig a Little Deeper

There has been a lot of news coverage in the past few weeks about the environmental and health hazards caused by coal mining, the production of energy from burning coal, and the environmental impact of storing water in retention ponds at power plants. Heck – even the Pope has taken a stance on coal mining and fracking, saying that we are stewards of this Earth and we are destroying God’s creation by strip mining for coal and fracking for natural gas. But what all of these reports fail to mention is the fact that energy production keeps small, rural communities financially afloat.

According to a recent story on NPR, the state of Wyoming is the largest coal producing state in the nation. (The Appalachian Mountains are a close second. In the Appalachian region, strip mining literally removes the mountaintops with explosives in order to extract coal. This poisons the air and can cause black lung, both for the miners themselves, as well as community members who live in the areas surrounding the mines.) Coal-burning power plants produce heavy smog, this contributes to high rates of asthma, lung disease and lung cancer. Coal also has negative health consequences on the heart and nervous system.

Many people have responded to the Pope’s declaration by saying that God and science are mutually exclusive, but I have to disagree. (More on that later.)

Let’s dig a little deeper and talk about the pros and cons of energy production and zoom in on rural communities themselves. The low cost of coal has forced many mining companies to go into bankruptcy. This has meant layoffs for thousands of workers. In fact:

. . . bankruptcy will likely mean layoffs for some of its 8,800 miners in five states, including West Virginia. This state already has a higher unemployment rate than any other. Here, it’s 7.4 percent, compared with 5.3 percent for the rest of the country. And the coal losses are hurting the state’s budget.

How does this relate to the oil and gas industry? For starters, one of the reasons why coal is being phased out as an energy source is because natural gas has become the most prevalent source of energy production in the United States. It also reaffirms the need for proper training to make sure that workers are following strict safely guidelines for oil and gas extraction. (This, after all, is what AYUDA is all about.) [Read more…]

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