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.

Ursula

I acknowledge that this is an image of Ursula from Disney’s “Little Mermaid,” not of Medusa, the snake-haired gorgon of Greek mythology. I’m not against the idea of snakes as hair. My tumor is a full-bodied, short spiky hair kind of water dyke. Ursula took Ariel’s voice, and Medusa took mine. There are parallels.

I met brain cancer four years ago. To be specific, I met a 6 centimeter anaplastic astrocytoma named Medusa. Medusa sneakily moved into my cerebral cortext when I was in high school, but she never gave me any hints she was there. She patiently weaved her tentacles around my brain matter, setting up permanent residence in my skull.

Medusa started tapping on my skull in 2012 and I began having petit mal seizures. I didn’t pay attention to the knocks because I was busy building my freelance career and starting a nonprofit organization. I ignored Medusa, but she wasn’t going to sit idly by anymore. Medusa busted down the door with two grand mal seizures. Shannon insisted that I needed to go to the ER. After a Super Bowl Sunday filled with MRIs and CT scans, we found out that I had a brain tumor. I didn’t have an actual biopsy until August because I didn’t have health insurance yet. As soon as I did have insurance (Go Obamacare!), my neurosurgeon sawed into the left side of my head, used some teeny, tiny pliers to extract enough of the tumor to make an actual diagnosis. I started preparing for six weeks of radiation treatment as I recouped from brain surgery. I amassed a fabulous collection of hats and scarves so that I could wear something fabulous every single day of the laser light show.

My first interaction with chemotherapy was a pill named Temodar. I dated Tem five nights a month for a year. Our monthly hangouts were fairly easy to handle, minus the nausea and fatigue. Our MRI pics showed that Medusa had been held at bay – no shrinkage, no growth – so Tem and I broke up in December 2013.

I rang in the 2014 New Year with a followup MRI. The photo session revealed that a second tumor had staked a claim in my corpus callosum. The blip on the radar was only half a millimeter in circumference, but the speck had to go. Five sessions of intense radiation treatment eradicated the squatter. I accepted the fact that Medusa and I would always share a domicile, but I made sure that we had clear boundaries.

I started dating two different types of chemotherapy when the second edition of radiation concluded. Avastin (aka “Avi”) resided in an IV bag. CCNU was a pill. I went on one date with CC and had to kick her to the curb. She totally messed up my intestinal tract and left permanent damage. No way was I going to see her again.

Avi was surprisingly chill, considering the fact that ze was chemical poison. Avi and I had a standing date every other Friday afternoon. I had quite the entourage join me in the festivities. The entire chemo team at the cancer center was friendly and upbeat. I felt worn out for a day or two after each treatment, but it was no worse than the days when I used to go clubbing.

My MRI results were the same for two whole years. Stable. No movement, no growth. Medusa was placated, but I grew tired of scheduling my life around chemo appointments. After two years of working the pole (without getting tips), I told Avi we were finished. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was excited about moving onto new things. I was ready to go back to school, revive my writing habit, and get a stable job so that I wasn’t an economic burden for my true partner, Shannon.

Three months without chemo. No tethers, no poles.

June 13th arrived. It was a Monday, not a Friday, but it was still an ill-fated day. I posed for more brain pics.

This was a strange MRI session for me. The computer that controls the giant magnet machine was having audio trouble, so the techs couldn’t play any music while I was in the tube. Meh. After four years of rolling in and out of the cavern, I figured I could make up my own music based off of the tone, beat, and tempo of the technical sounds. I even imagined the lighting I would see in a dance club that coordinated with the pulse of the machine. I imagined topless gay guys swaying their hips, and hot butches with spiky hair eying me from across the dance floor. I remembered my favorite mullet dyke from my clubbing days. And I thought about Drag Bingo at Hamburger Mary’s.

Fast forward to Tuesday. I got a call from my oncologist. Medusa has put on weight. I don’t hate her for that. Please believe that this lezzy loves the curves. But I thought we had a bilateral agreement about how much space Medusa could co-opt in my noggin.

I have no conclusion to this cross-current stream of thought. I do, however, have Diana Ross’s voice to help me keep my head up and focus on my roller skates.

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