Wednesday, August 25, 2010


People ask me how I’m doing and I try to stay upbeat. But the truth is I’m sad, I’m angry, I’m scared, I’m optimistic but then I’m pessimistic, I’m tired, I’m drained, I’m confused, I’m anxious as hell, and I’m lonely. I write about all the horrible yuck I felt on chemo and how this has been a tough journey & I'm getting through it, but for all the pain, discomfort, nausea, needle sticks, IV lines, lost body parts, and everything in between, the hardest part of having cancer has been having cancer alone. I have no one by my side on a daily basis making sure I’m okay or hugging me and telling me it’ll be alright. I just have myself. It was fine at first because I had a lot of energy and I was determined to beat this. Now I’m exhausted and I feel like I just returned from a battle, my roommate is a cunt and I’m finally truly seeing how hard she’s made it for me, and it only makes me angrier that I’m alone. I had friends there sometimes but I felt like I was burdening them and I think the glamor of the “friend with cancer” wore off and everyone got too busy to care anymore. I feel like people would like to just move on and pretend I’m okay, especially since I appear to be okay. Did anyone stop to think that I’m a great actor? I’m okay sometimes, yes, but right now I’m not. I scared, sad, angry, tired and lonely as hell. The worst part of cancer for me has been the last one on that list. If anyone else wishes my cancer were gone now & I'm totally okay, imagine how I feel...

Of course I always feel a little bit better after writing how I feel, and now I feel sort of better for writing it & worse for posting it because I feel better now that's it's out. See: confused!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I was really afraid when my mom died that I would suddenly be overcome with some need for God or religion. I sat there for weeks as they turned into months and I eased my way out of the shock of her being gone, and it hit me that her cancer and her death were random, just as everything else in this world is, and that my fear was unfounded and I am just as atheistic as I was when I was three.

So, two years later I get cancer and I begin looking for someone to blame. I start thinking I must have done something wrong and this “God” figure is smiting me. I even thought that my mom was up in her “Heaven” laughing her ass off and saying “I told you so!” while petting my cat and hanging out with dead tennis players …, but here I am, over seven months after being diagnosed, and I see once again that life is random on a daily basis; everything is random; my getting cancer only proves randomness more. Anything can happen at any time and anyone can die. Everyone will die. I think I never really got that as a kid because I never really knew anyone who had died. Funny, I said a line like that in a play once and I remember telling a friend that it was the most truthful line I had ever spoken on stage (or off). What it meant to say back then and what it means now are so different. You lose someone close to you and suddenly you are on the other side of something. It’s the same when you get cancer. It happens daily with so many things though, good and bad: the first time you eat a certain food, the first time you kiss someone you really love, your first sex, your first sex in the back seat of a tiny car, first visit to anywhere; daily we do new things or we do old things with new people, and it’s a new experience and suddenly we are on the other side of it; the side where we now know what it’s like to have had that particular experience. It’s just that some of the experiences are more significant like your wedding day or the day your mom dies. We are all here, alive and breathing and death does not discriminate amongst the living; it gets us all someday.

I really had no full concept of death before I lost my mom. She was probably the most important person in my life. Then I lost my soul mate seven months later and the numbness of losing my mom that was just wearing off returned like a bat to the back of the head. All the tears I had stored up poured out. Losing Lou was easier; and not because I loved him less in any way, I just loved him differently. Actually, I loved him more: he was my baby, he was my life, he was my everything, and I told him all of that daily; I showed him all the time that he meant the world to me, whereas I really failed to do that with my mom. Even as she was dying I couldn’t get out all the things I wanted to say to her. Louis knew, well as much as he could, that he was worshipped by me, and even though I could totally have been a better mom to him, he had a really great life. I was happy he wasn’t suffering anymore and there was no unfinished business between us (well, besides my forgetting to say good-bye that last time I saw him, but I forgave myself for that a while ago). With my mom I had a lot of unfinished things and open wounds and what-not. I had two months I could have worked it all out and I didn’t. I hadn’t realized the finality of death until she was dead. I still have trouble fully wrapping my mind around the fact that she will never come back and I will never get to tell her anything ever again.

Maybe that’s why I think about religion and I almost want to believe in it. I think that if I tell myself there’s a heaven that I’ll go there after I die and I’ll see my mom again. It’s a comforting thought. That’s why so many people believe in gods and afterlives; it’s comfy and cozy and keeps them warm at night. It keeps them from going totally nuts realizing that there is truly no one looking out for us; we are absolutely alone and life has no meaning besides the arbitrary meanings we apply to things. We serve no purpose besides what we choose, and when we die we are dead. Most people are bothered by that idea. Sometimes I am too. Being cozy sounds nice. Sometimes I dream of complacency so I can just fit in with the world and not be that “weird Marie girl.” Why can’t I just be one of the herd wandering with the tide? Wasn’t it enough that my hair was red and stood out in a crowd? Nope, I have to care about animals so much that I see eating them as murder, I have to see our established political system as corrupt, I have to believe that nature and mind heal our bodies better than chemicals, I have to be sexually attracted to women almost as much as I am to men, and I have to believe that this generally accepted idea of some eye in the sky monitoring and controlling our environment is a completely insane, irrational and implausible concept. How easy it would be to be ignorant! I almost want that, but only because I’m lazy. It’s the reason I occasionally eat at Taco Bell: I know it’s bad and ruining the world but I want something stupid in me and that’s the best I can do without fucking a moron. Of course I get the only vegan option I can so it’s not like I eat a steak once a year or anything. But how easy life would appear to be if I could just marry one of these “regular Joe” guys, and have my 2.5 children and work my nine to five job doing something like teaching math or science or history by the book without questioning their truth, their relevance or their accuracy? No, I was born me, and I am too full of questions and skepticism to simply sit still while everyone else zones out and stifles progress by spreading insane ideas about meat being healthy, homosexuality being wrong and Jesus being the saviour of sinners like me.

I’m too smart for my own good, something I was told a few months ago, and it holds true throughout my life. I am not, nor have I ever been or ever will be, a religious convert or a blind believer. There is no one up in the sky looking over my every move, and I’m okay with that. I could die tomorrow, but I hope I don’t because I’d really like to have my hair when I die. Plus, there are a lot of things I would really like to do before I die. I’m sure everyone feels that way. So why wait to do them? You could die next week and never get to. There are so many things people fail to say and then they lose the chance. I lost my chance to tell my mom what I was thinking; and this year I could have died and I feel like my family was waiting for me to die in order to say how they felt sometime after I was gone. Why wait? Say it now when it actually matters; once I’m dead I won’t care anymore and I won’t be able to respond. I can actually see my brother, Bill, crying at my funeral and trying to hide that he’s upset. The joke’s on him though because if I know I’m dying like my mom did, I’m going to have my funeral before I die and it’ll be a huge party, and if I die suddenly I expect everyone to throw a party and celebrate my life. But, no matter what happens in this random world, God (in any form) is not invited to my party!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Can See Almost Clearly Now

Coming out of the haze I am beginning to see what I really went through. The past seven, months -- well actually eight if I started from the day I found the lump -- were sort of a whirlwind of insanity, and the past four were basically a total blur. Did all of this really happen? I got cancer and had my breast cut off and let the doctors inject me with poisons for four months which caused me to lose my hair, nearly shit my pants every half hour, puke from the depths of my soul-- or at least feel like I might at any given moment--, lose my period (which is the least of my vaginal issues), get hot flashes left and right, possibly lose my ability to ever get pregnant and have my own baby (which I spared my left breast in order to breast feed), lose nearly all sensation in my toes and fingers that may or may not return any time soon, lose mobility in my right shoulder, get dizzy spells, have trouble seeing straight, feel weak and tired most of the day, get severe and crippling joint pain so bad that I have to walk with a cane, feel like my skin is too tight all over, forget things constantly, get confused easily, misspell words I know really well, and overall feel completely crappy and be forced to sit around watching movies and TV for days and days in between the screaming in agony and the crying for my dead mommy to come and take care of me. And now I feel like that cartoon character who was hit the head with an anvil or a frying pan and is shaking it off and trying to regain balance; all the little birdies tweeting around my head in a circle.

How the hell have I gotten through this? It really is like war. I mean I say that, I have said that before, but now I see it from a little bit farther away and it makes more sense. It’s like a Monet painting: it looks clearer when you back up a little bit and look at it from across the room. I’m standing back right now, almost three weeks out of chemo, and about to return to the chemo room for my tri-weekly Herceptin injection, weeks away from new boobs, and I’m scared shitless. I’m scared for me. I’m scared for anyone who has or ever has to go through this shit. I’m scared of the future, sure, but I’m more scared of the past. It’s this thing I do all the time where I decide to do something and I have all this drive and determination and I go do it and everyone around me says I’m brave or crazy and I don’t care because it’s something I want so badly I just decide to go get it. Then, when I’m all done, I sit back for little bit and at some point it hits me that the shit I just did was fucking terrifying but I did it before I had time to be afraid; or maybe I had so little idea of how terrifying it was so I just leapt right in. Like when I went skydiving for my 30th birthday and my initial parachute didn’t fully open so we had to use the back up one. The idea of jumping out of a moving plane way up in the sky is rather nuts in itself but a malfunctioning parachute adds a certain element of “Marie’s Crazy Life” to it (not to be confused with Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride) that goes just a few steps beyond explainable. But hell I did it and I wasn’t scared until April and my birthday’s in February. Then there was that time when I went to Europe by myself for two months. It seemed completely normal at the time, I planned it all out so well and spent the summer over there; I went to eight countries, twenty-two cities in just over seven weeks all alone, but by the end of winter I looked back at it and thought: Holy shit, I did that! I’ve been doing shit like this all my life and didn’t realize it. When I was in elementary school I remember the day of the talent show in second grade: they called my name as a performer and took me to get prepared. My whole class looked totally shocked and I kind of recall being surprised myself even though I knew it was going to happen. I swear I can’t even remember signing up to be in it and I never really prepared my act, I just planned to sing my favourite song and I knew it so well so I figured that’s all I needed. I had no idea the reality that there would be 100 people watching me, including all the asshole kids in my class who hated me already and my mean big sister. I’m not sure what I was thinking because this was ammo for them all to torment me with forever, but I got up there and sang “On Top of Spaghetti” in front of that whole school. The fear hit me once I realized what I’d signed up for, and I stared at the floor the whole time I sang, but I must have been fearless and determined when I signed up.

And since then I’ve been doing weird shit like that all my life, either on the small scale or on the larger one. Hell, my whole life is like that! I’m trying to become an actor and expect to get paid for it. Sure I know I’m good enough to get paid for it; hell I’m better than half the people who do get paid for it, but is this whole profession not a total joke? How do people make it at all? The funny thing is I don’t see any other choice. I never really did before either, but after cancer I see nothing else but acting. I’d rather be dead than work a desk job 9-5 or, even though I love kids and loved teaching, I can’t imagine doing that for the rest of my life. I need to be on stage. Not for the attention or the acclaim, but for the work and the constant focus it requires; for the ability to have control of my choices and actions but never really be in control of anything because you never know what my happen on stage. I love the working and re-working of the scenes, of the lines, right down to every single word I say having a real purpose and a true intention behind it. That’s why I chose life when I got cancer: because it is my life. I can act without my boobs; I can be an actor with fake boobs. There sure are a lot of other ones out there and they aren’t as talented as me, so maybe my fake tits and my talent will make me stand out above the actors who only have the fake tits. A girl can hope.

So was my crazy head-first behaviour a sort of preparation for cancer? Or a preparation for acting? Or maybe my cancer was a preparation for acting. Or maybe my acting was the preparation for cancer. Fuck! I don’t know. I’m still forging my way out of the haze. All I do know is that having cancer and getting through all this shit I’ve been through has only made me more determined to be a professional actor; it’s all I want. Well, it’s all I want to want but thanks to the damn faerie tales I was read as a kid I’ll admit I’m still waiting for Prince Charming to show up and rescue me. I would like to not be waiting for that and only be focused on acting but I can’t seem to shut off the lonely so I’ll just have to ignore it and dive head first into every possible piece of work I can. I have one more year to learn and bust my ass as a student and I plan to make the most of it before I dive head first into the real world of the aspiring actor. Or in my case “actress” which is just a demeaning term really; it implies diva or bitch, and I’d rather play one on stage than be one in life.

Nope, as the haze is lifting and I’m seeing clearer, I know I want to breathe more and be happy more. I’m only lonely because I believe I am so why not choose to believe I’m not? I am choosing to ignore and erase the mean, negative and unavailable people from my life and be grateful that I still have a life and that the people in it who have stuck around and have been rooting for me from day one are the people I deserve to know, and the kind of people I choose to be around. Like R.E.M. said: “Why Not Smile?” --- they also said “It’s the End of the World as We Know It and I feel Fine,” which is somewhat equally fitting. This may explain why R.E.M. is still my favourite band after all these years: they are both inspiring and right on target! But thanks to chemo I can’t remember if they have a song about climbing out of the haze… if they do it’s totally my anthem for the current moment. Once the fog clears I’ll be walking straight forward to reach my goals. In the meantime I know what I want but I might be heading towards it like a blind man on a staircase; but that’s okay because I’m alive! Insert Jimmy Cliff's "I Can See Clearly Now" here. :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hypocrite Kittens or Michelle Lies

Awaiting your arrival in terror
The itch creeps up my bones
As you approach the door

Blast in, take over
My lovely shell is broken
But I still feel alone, trapped here with you

I want to be by myself again
If all the company
I’m offered is yours

You are an infection
Eating away at my complacency
Tearing up my happy mood

Your smells, your sounds
The mess you create
And the hate…

You spread it over everything
You pretend to care
But I know you lie

You are a lie
Telling the world you’re someone who matters
I know you’re evil; I know the truth

What I've Been Thru

All week people keep saying to me, “Well, you’ve been through a lot,” or “It’s okay to feel crappy considering what you’ve been through.”

First of all: What the hell does anyone else know about what I’ve been through? Only I really know, and other women who’ve battled breast cancer and done chemo have a pretty fuckin good idea, but everyone else is just guessing and I’m gonna make my own guess that they are really far off from how it all actually went down. No it wasn’t a fucking picnic and it wasn’t nearly as fun as having the flu or food poisoning. Yes, it sucked ass but not in any way most people can compare to anything they’ve dealt with. Maybe soldiers in war can relate but the difference is my body tried killing me from the inside and I never signed up for that shit!

But that brings me to the second point: I don’t wanna hear about it! I know what I’ve been through and I am still going through it and the last thing I wanna do is think about how shitty it is. I wanna keep that shit in me a little longer so that when it finally bursts out I’ll be prepared and in a safe place to deal with it. That is far from where I’m at now in my shit-hole apartment in Brooklyn with my control-freak-psycho-mood-swing roommate fucking with my head left and right; that’s where I was while I went through it & it’s where I still am while I’m still going through it, so I’m in no place to be reminded how hard it is cause this place has only made it harder.

So to maintain what sanity I have left, and to survive the approaching surgery and terror of living beyond cancer and everything that fucking entails, I would happily like to have my peace and my cozy moments and not be reminded that I just returned from war because I’m not there yet. I know I’m out and I’m okay, but I’m not entirely okay and I will never really be out. So everyone else can cheer for my victory on the side lines but I’m still in the game and the game is not over.