Enough is Enough

I have had the privilege of sharing my stories with Female Storytellers!, a local organization that provides monthly writing prompts and gives women (however they define that identity category) to share their stories with a live audience. This month’s prompt was “Enough.” I was drawn to this prompt because I have had enough time on chemotherapy to speak from the heart about the impact is has made on my life.

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Clean Slate

The year is coming to an end, and what a year it’s been . . . for all of us. Trump has dominated the headlines, but I don’t want to talk about him. I want to talk about me. It’s my blog, after all.

I have had a good balance between positive and negative experiences in 2017. I went to Rochester, NY in January to attend the March for Women’s Lives with my brother and his daughters. I was so excited to see people coming together to celebrate the importance of women’s history and women’s leadership. The icing on the cake was watching my nieces making their own posters. They were eager to be a part of social justice activism. My heart melted when my oldest niece told me she was a feminist without any prompting from me.

My tumor is stable. I’m cutting my chemo treatments back to once a month. MRI’s will be quarterly, rather than every other month. I’ve graduated from speech therapy and have been enjoying the challenge of intense physical therapy to help me maintain my balance. My quilting skills have grown, thanks to volunteering with Project Linus Tucson. I get to drive once a week to run errands. These may sound like small victories, but it’s the little things that help us create and share positive energy. Just think of the atom. It’s miniscule, but it’s the basis of all life. [Read more…]

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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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The Benefits of Speech Therapy

I was diagnosed with a Stage 3 astrocytoma brain tumor three years ago. While many brain tumors can be surgically removed, my tumor is located in the cerebral cortext, which controls speech and reading comprehension, as well as short-term memory. My brain surgeon removed as little brain material as possible to confirm the diagnosis so that my brain would be the least compromised.

One thing that helped me recover from the effects of radiation is speech therapy. Speech therapy is about more than retrieving words. It includes strategies to retain information (secondary memory) and finding ways to communicate when you can’t remember words that make you stumble.  My speech therapist has challenged me to do at least one hour of mental exercises a day. I’m a nerd, so this is a great excuse to do crossword puzzles, wordsearches, and memory exercises. I’m such a word puzzle junky that I’ve decided to start writing my own puzzles and sharing them with others. I’ll be sharing puzzles on my blog. I you have as much fun as I do getting a neuro workout!

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