Sunday, October 2, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness Part 1

So it's October again. My second October since I was diagnosed. I am sorting my files & much of them are medical papers. I hear so many fellow survivors/warriors talk about having DCIS (Ductual Carcinoma in Situ), and I realized months ago that I was never entirely clear on my exact diagnosis. I know I had Paget's disease of the nipple, which I was told is rare (you can see below how rare & understand how special I feel about that one!) So, as I went through my stuff, mostly by accident, I spotted my diagnosis on this paper: Infiltrating Ductual Adenocarcinoma. I had no idea what this really meant so I Googled it & found the best information on the American Cancer Society's website. I've pasted it below. I do not support breast cancer research that isn't researching diet and natural substances as cures for cancer because these ARE cures for cancer but they won't make anyone any money. What I do support is education on how to avoid getting cancer & how to find it if you have it or suspect you have. I also support organizations that give money to those who cannot afford tests and treatment. I am writing this because I think we all need to be aware of what breast cancer is; I feel that is the purpose of this month (no, it's not just wearing our pink wigs & passing out pink ribbons!).

Learn about what it is & how to be prepared if it happens to you. Right now "they" state it's 1 in every 8 women who will get breast cancer in their lifetime. It seems like it's effecting far more young people these days. I ask myself why? The only thing I can guess is diet, lifestyle (AKA stress), environment. Sure there are genetic factors & other things, but those three I listed seem most important. For more information on the various types of breast cancer you can read more on the American Cancer Society's website:

Next week I'll post about the treatments & what the term chemotherapy really means. In the meantime, here's my diagnosis:

Invasive (or infiltrating) ductal carcinoma

This is the most common type of breast cancer. Invasive (or infiltrating) ductal carcinoma (IDC) starts in a milk passage (duct) of the breast, breaks through the wall of the duct, and grows into the fatty tissue of the breast. At this point, it may be able to spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system and bloodstream. About 8 of 10 invasive breast cancers are infiltrating ductal carcinomas.


This is a term used to describe a cancer that begins in the lining layer (epithelial cells) of organs like the breast. Nearly all breast cancers are carcinomas (either ductal carcinomas or lobular carcinomas).


An adenocarcinoma is a type of carcinoma that starts in glandular tissue (tissue that makes and secretes a substance). The ducts and lobules of the breast are glandular tissue (they make breast milk), so cancers starting in these areas are often called adenocarcinomas.

Paget disease of the nipple: This type of breast cancer starts in the breast ducts and spreads to the skin of the nipple and then to the areola, the dark circle around the nipple. It is rare, accounting for only about 1% of all cases of breast cancer. The skin of the nipple and areola often appears crusted, scaly, and red, with areas of bleeding or oozing. The woman may notice burning or itching.

Paget disease is almost always associated with either ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or infiltrating ductal carcinoma. Treatment often requires mastectomy. If no lump can be felt in the breast tissue, and the biopsy shows DCIS but no invasive cancer, the outlook (prognosis) is excellent. If invasive cancer is present, the prognosis is not as good, and the cancer will need to be staged and treated like any other invasive cancer.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Discriminating Behaviour

I feel like people either believe I am okay and can manage on my own now so they don’t offer help, OR they have decided what my disability is and base their decisions/expectations/judgments on their perception of my limitations.

I know my limitations; I know stairs and heavy boxes are my enemy; I know what to do when I get winded or dizzy, and I know that I feel better and heal more when I am on stage and involved in theatre.

Not hiring or casting me based on your perception of my limitations is discrimination. Additionally: it’s fucked up.

Being treated like that is like when I go into restaurants with meat eaters who know that I am vegan and they spend 20 minutes listing all the “vegan” stuff I can eat. Hey, thanks, but it’s my diet and I know how to manage it; let me worry about that.

I realize these people mean well—or that they don’t recognize how rude what they do is—but doing it feels to me just as bad as not understanding what I am dealing with. I am in pain pretty much all the time. Nerve pain, joint pain, bone pain… and the best things for it are massages, swimming, and any kind of dance/movement. These things renew me and invigorate me. They also get endorphins flying which lifts my spirit and fights the depression I’m dealing with as well.

So, please don’t make judgments on me based on what you think I cannot do. How will that encourage me to do more? I can’t deny I am disappointed that this is being done to me. I don’t ever expect anyone who hasn’t had cancer, gone through chemo and dealt with the follow-up medications to fully get the picture, but if I say I can do it the least you could do is give me a shot.

xxo M

Friday, August 19, 2011

Maura Tierney

Maura Tierney is currently on the show Rescue Me. She is playing Kelly, a woman who Tommy (Denis Leary) knew a few seasons ago who had lost her daughter, and now she's just finished her chemo for breast cancer, and had a mastectomy (all just like me).

In 2009 Maura had breast cancer for real, and she helped them write a lot of the things she says. Whether you watch the show or not I say at least watch her parts (although the whole show is really great). She's truly amazing (as she has always been when she was on News Radio & ER). She is what inspires me.

Here are 3 of the pieces I'm talking about:

Chaos and Excitment

Chaos and excitement
Arts and crafts late at night
I’m dwelling in some underworld
Scaring myself.

Alone to ward off ghosts and demons
Not sure who really wants me near
I’m afraid to go outside sometimes
The fear is almost real.

Dark thoughts, sad thoughts
Creeping in on queue
Speak to me of what I’ve lost;
Of whom I cannot be.

These are the nights
Filling guilty tomorrows
And tired, oh so very tired,
Of it all.


The feeling when it goes in,
Look away, look away,
And out,
And out comes the needle
Like a cramp searing my vein,
And the IV is in again.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011



The aftermath of cancer and the realization of surviving something so enormous is often overwhelming. I find myself spending days battling with each part of myself. One side is this wounded child who needs constant comfort and attention, the other side is this strong adult who wants to defend against injustice. Lately they have become rather extreme, often feeding each other. The adult protects the child in a way I never got as a child. But who is caring for the adult? And where is the balance? This is a fear that goes beyond just average fear; that I may never find that balance or anything resembling a comfortable life. As much as I despise complacency I sometimes want to embrace it if for no other reason than to feel less alone and less isolated and less judged by others. There is no one I fully trust in this world. All I want to do right now is scream and kick, but the adult keeps telling me to settle down. I want a mom to cuddle me and read me a story, but I am 35 years old. It's like age (and societal norms) robs us of our natural animal tendencies. It's not easy to deal with life when you spend each day thinking about death. I feel trapped. Every day I keep hoping to escape but to be honest, it is me that is my own captor and it is me that is my own cell. How do I let go of 35 years of me? And what happens when I do?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dream About Eggs

I dreamed last night that all the girls in my class were sitting in the student lounge peeling hard boiled eggs. Natasha was doing it really carefully; dainty, and I think she had a tea coaster underneath, as if the egg were a little tea cup. Miriam was doing it very German (I'm not sure what that means but she was talking in German); I think she was singing in German at some point. Julia was picking pieces off bit by bit with her fingers and when no one looked she'd use her teeth and spit the shell on the floor. Vanessa was whispering sexy things (or sweet nothings) to it and ripping off each piece like you would pull a feather off a chicken or a petal off a flower you were mad at (“He loves me, he loves me not). I believe Lize was praying on or to hers and possibly dressing it up in little clothes. Jeremy (the only guy there) was holding Jasmins’—there were two. Lara was sitting on one egg and had a basket of several others (that seemed to be coloured in pastels, like Easter eggs) on her lap and she was trying to balance them all, and I think Shanty had hers balanced—one on her head another on her foot, and one between her boobies, maybe even one on her back but that might have been Zeb. Aya was smashing eggs somewhere in the back & stomping on them or throwing them against the wall, and I think Ally was watching her. Schuyler was sort of an egg herself and was uninterested in the egg peeling so she just sort of watched while standing on her skateboard. Emma was just peeling at random, and then said “I used to reach in and peel my own eggs.” And no one was surprised. I was walking around watching the peeling saying “I don’t eat eggs.”

Wolf Dream

(from a few weeks ago)
I had a dream last night that a wolf burst through my door and chased me down a hall & I closed the door just in time for him not to get in, but I knew my mom had been out there before & a wolf had "got" her. Then I noticed the other door was unlocked & there was no lock on it & the wolf was right outside. I just kept hoping that he wouldn't realize that the door had no lock.
Sorry I haven't been posting much lately. I just realized I've skipped over the first two months of 2011 without a single post. I think part was that I was away in CA for a month and got busy, and part is that I've been using my writing time to work on my play. Right now it is two plays that may or may not mush together. I'm also thinking about turning more of my dreams in plays, like I did with An Exercise in Futility in 2006. I have a few dreams I will post here as well that will become part of the play/s I am currently writing and maybe short plays of their own. Maybe I'll add more dance portions to the mix! ;)


March 8th, 2011

In this weeks research (and no, I'm not over doing my research. I do some then I move on to watching mindless TV after hitting my head against a wall a few times--- just kidding!). This week I discovered that there is a conection to Tamoxifen reducing and/or eliminating the manic side of manic depression, aka bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed with this a million years ago as a kid & again as an adult. My symptoms subsided after my mom died.

Since getting cancer I've been on the roller coaster, or "cancer-coaster," and it's difficult to tell what causes what at this point. But I am more down than up. I keep telling my friends at school that I am really tired or depressed & they all respond by saying "Yeah, me too. All I want to do is watch a movie and sleep in." It doesn't help anymore mentioning it because 22 year old pot head students are all going to say they are tired, but they don't fully get what tired really means to a bc survivor (I do cringe when I use the word, but I'm at a loss here for alternatives).

Anyways, I searched a lot online & discovered of course that there are extremely limited options for anti-depressants while on Tamoxifen, and somewhere in my research I came across a drug called Modafinil that is used to treat people with sleeping disorders so they can get more energy & be awake. It stands to reason that if Tamoxifen is reducing and manic symptoms in the bi-polar patients that this Modafinil might reduce my depression symptoms and possibly increase my energy. So I Googled the two together to see if there are any connections or interactions and I found this article. It sounds like, not only will it increase energy (which in turn MIGHT help us sleep), but it also improves memory and brain function. For those of you with chemobrain you might want to ask your doctor about this one!


I’ve got a confession to make: I’m a failure. All my life I’ve been failing at one thing, quitting another. All my life I can’t make a decision on my own that I really trust. I can’t work hard at anything, not enough, because I always know in the end I’ll fail, or my family will just laugh as I fall on my ass. They all expect me to fail. They know I’ll fuck up at some point and need money or help or something. So I never try stuff I really want to do; I never go all the way because there’s no point. I stay in school studying acting so I can avoid really going out and getting an acting job. I’m too scared. Because failing out in the real world of acting is really failing big time and I can’t handle that. I say I don’t want to be on TV or in films, but that’s all I ever wanted since I was a little kid. Falling in love with theatre was a fluke; I went to college for acting and theatre is what they taught and I fell in love with it. But I got to the top and then I graduated and I had no idea where to go next. So I got a stupid job in an office and I sometimes would take some acting classes or go to an audition not knowing what the hell I was doing. Then I got to New York; I got into this school and this one teacher noticed something in me immediately; something most people overlook. And because he saw it I got more confidence to let other people see it, and before I knew it I was at the top and I felt great. I was succeeding and my family was far away so they couldn’t shit all over it and remind me that I’m really nothing… and then I got cancer. I thought, ‘shit, I failed again.’ It was like cancer was my punishment for being happy and working hard for the first time in my life. But because I had created this strength in me and worked so hard, and because of that confidence I gained, I weighed it all out and the old me would have given up, but the new me didn’t. I got up and fought and I beat cancer. I yelled at every damn person at the doctor’s offices and I cried a lot, but I got through it. The thing is it’s not the cancer that made me better than I was before it’s the acting. The confidence I gained from acting and the fact that people at school saw me as a winner gave me the drive to keep succeeding. But… the cancer… it’s what’s made me feel weak again. I am so scared I will go back to who I was before I got to New York, before I got a taste of success and a taste of what it feels like for someone to support me. I keep thinking about this teacher who pushed me and inspired me to work so hard at what I love, and, on one hand, I am so glad that he did, because without him I would never have had the confidence that I could succeed against cancer. But on the other hand I am so terrified that he will discover that I’m really a failure and a fuck up. It’s one thing for my family to see me that way; I’m used to it, but for someone I admire so much to see who I really am and that it’s nothing good is just… too scary. I mean, I guess the cancer and the chemo and everything I’ve been through is something that reminds me daily to keep trying to work harder and be better; it’s not all because of my teacher. But all this stuff happened at the same time, or, like, one on top of the other, and I mean, I get scared about going into the real world at the back of the line behind all those other actors already out there, and even though I have talent, I still get really scared because what if no one else sees it like he did; what if I don’t stand out? Because I never really have, not for anything good. But, then, even with that fear, I remember how scared I was when I found the lump in my breast, and I think: ‘Shit, I got through that, what’s a fucking audition gonna do to me?’ It sure won’t kill me. And maybe it’s not up to some random person at an audition taking notice of thing I have that’s special; maybe now that my teacher showed me it’s inside me I can start showing it other people without being so scared. It’s the success inside me, and I guess I should learn how to share it with everyone. Maybe now I am all tapped out of failure. Maybe.