Wonder Woman’s Daughter

I’m not really in a competition with my mother (because, let’s face it, she’d always win), but dang, sometimes it feels like it.

I visited her today at the UCSF Medical Center, where yesterday she had her surgery to remove the mass from her kidney.  Not even 24 hours after the surgery – closer to 12 hours, actually – she was up and walking around.  When I arrived, she was sitting in her chair, with a lovely view of downtown SF, eating a lunch of solid foods.  The pain management team came in to talk to her about her epidural and weaning her from that, but don’t worry, we’ll have oxycodone for you.  And my mom looked at them and said, “I’m not really into that.  Can I just have some tylenol?”

Ok, so 15 hours after my surgery, I hadn’t gotten out of bed.  I had only had some warm broth.  And I was seriously attached to my pain medicine button.  SERIOUSLY.

So, as with so many parts of my life, I can only dream of equalling my mom, and instead, just settle for admiring her and trying to do my best.  Parenting, marriage, community involvement, kidney cancer.

The kidney twins

The kidney twins

But none of that matters, because my mom is doing well, and her cancer has been taken out of her body.

The most wonderful time of the year

OK, everyone take a deep breath.  Hooray!  School has started!

This summer was not terrible.  This summer was not great.  It just was.  There was a lot of learning how to care for the kids while caring for myself.  Lots of reflection, therapy, getting through the first wave of dealing with having cancer, accepting death (while doing what I can to keep it at arm’s length!)

And now the kids are in school and my days can once again be about me – what a luxury.

I want to set some goals for the semester to try to keep myself moving in positive directions.

  • Keep on hiking and walking – at least 3 times a week, but more would be just fine.
  • Sketch/paint/other art daily
  • Write at least 3-4 times a week, with at least 2 blog posts each week.
  • Start cooking again – at least one meal a week from scratch.  (And by scratch, I mean that it is OK to open up cans or boxes.  I just need to start planning my own meals again.)
  • Daily smoothies, or most days.
  • Meditate/Guided Imagery – daily?

Dang.  When am I going to have time for my trash TV?

Also, as I write this, my mother is at the UCSF Medical Center, where she is undergoing surgery for her renal cell carcinoma.  They aren’t taking her whole kidney (since she only has one – born that way), but will remove the mass, which I think is a slightly more complicated surgery than I had.  So, please, keep her in your thoughts for both of us.

Come hiking with me!


I said I wanted to do it, and I have.

Announcing Together on the Path, a group of cancer survivors and caregivers who hike the Bay Area for fun, exercise and support.

If you’re in the area (or are going to visit the area) and want to join us, please do!  You can sign up for hikes on the website or Facebook group, or you can just show up at the trailhead.  (But if we don’t know you’re coming, we can’t wait for you or contact you with any changes.)

Please feel free to forward the information to those who might be interested.  Thank you!


I pity the fool

We dropped the kids off at Camp Kesem this morning. Camp Kesem is a network of summer camps that are designed for children with parent(s) who have/had cancer. And it is free. Nice, huh?  At check in, they had a breakfast spread – muffins, bagels, etc., and while the counselors led the kids in songs and activities, the parents got to mill around talking to each other.

We saw a couple of families from our family support group, and started chatting.  At one point, another woman walked over, and our friends introduced her to us.  She asked about my diagnosis, and when I told her “Kidney cancer,” she got a look on her face that confused me at first.  And then I realized what it was – pity.

Why did this surprise me so much?  That she, too, was in the cancer community?  (And, from what it sounds like, lost her husband to cancer.)  It was obvious that she immediately understood exactly what my diagnosis means, which many people both in and out of the cancer community don’t.  So I appreciated not having to explain.  But, pity?

Although I know my lot is not something to be desired, I have a difficult time viewing myself as someone who needs or wants pity from others.  Love, support, back scratches, and hiking buddies?  Yes.  Pity?  No.

I think what I was hoping for, after seeing the initial spark of recognition, was something more like “Yeah, I understand.  I’ve got it.  And you’re going to do just fine, no matter what the outcome.”

Because I think that’s kind of where I am now.

But maybe I’m the fool?



Thanks to being off the pazopanib for a couple of weeks, my hair is coming in brown again. So I’m going to end up with those stripes I’d joked about after all. And now, instead of freaking out about how to deal with hair color maintenance, I’m interested to see how my hair will look in a few days, a few weeks.

I started bleeding again this week. I didn’t get upset. I didn’t email my doctor in a panic. I just double checked that it wasn’t in my urine this time, but was, in fact, my period.

I have difficulty hiking up hills now. I’ve decided to not worry whether it’s because I’m still out of shape or because the nodules in my lungs make it hard to breath. I just stop, enjoy the view, catch my breath, and keep going.

Just about anyone who knows me well knows that I haven’t often lived in the moment. There were always things to worry about, plan for, mull over to death. This happened. What does that mean? How will it affect me in the future. Ad nauseam. I’ve just never been that good at putting thoughts down.

When cancer hit, I worried. I worried about my kids, my husband, my cat. How was I going to die – in a hospital? at home? On and on.

Now I seem to be at this place where I feel like I’m getting used to this life with cancer. It’s not I feel there’s a new status quo, and I understand it and am used to that. Rather, I can look at how things are in just a given moment. “My roots are brown, interesting.” “I can’t breathe, so I should rest for a bit.” It is more restful to think this way. I can experience something and then put it down, move on to the next moment.

I know some of these moments to come will include grief and pain and fear. And that’s ok. Those moments will come, and I will handle them. But not right now. Right now I have other moments to deal with. The moment where I’m writing this post. The moment when I’ll draw in my backyard. And by letting go of the moments that will come later, I can just focus on the now.

By the way, if you’d like to see some of what I’ve been doing, check out my Instagram account.

Bucket List #34 – Start something

Is it just that I want to leave a legacy or do I want to make connections or do I just want to have fun?  Probably all of the above, but another item that I’m adding to my bucket list is to start something that allows me to give back a little.

Start what?

What is calling to me today is to start a local hiking group for cancer survivors and caregivers.  Seems sort of like a no-brainer, right?  And it serves me – by giving me hiking companions and connecting me with other cancer folk, while also serving the community.  But really, I think I’d get more from it, just in case anyone were to think I was becoming all civic minded and such.

I’m thinking that I could start off with weekly or monthly hikes around the SF Bay Area, with varying difficulties, based on the abilities of those involved.  If it actually took off, maybe I could follow in the footsteps of Live by Living, the awesome group that runs the hiking retreat I’ll be going to in September, and start up some retreats, as well.

What do you think?

Bucket List Item #72 – Wear a bikini in public

I haven’t worn a two piece bathing suit since I was 2 or 3 years old, way back in the 70’s.  I was a skinny little thing back then, kind of cute, too.  My sister and I were like fish.  If there was a body of water around, we were in it.


I’d like to wear a two pieced bathing suit again, but some serious changes would have to take place for that to happen.

You see, I’m overweight, and have been since I was in college.  And we all know how fat women look in bikinis.  Now I’ve also got this large red gash across my torso, remnants from my nephrectomy last April.  That’d be front and center if I wore a two pieced bathing suit.

So changes must be made.

Not to my body, mind you.  I love my body, even though it’s not totally cooperating with me these days.  (Yes, cancer, I’m talking to you.)  My body gets me here, it gets me there, it gets me everywhere.  It allows me to reach the high shelves.  It allows me to reach the tops of high hills (sometimes even high mountains.)  I’m sturdy.  I’m not frail.  Hiking up hills, I might have to pant more than I used to since the cancer is in my lungs, but I get there.

The scar across my left side is a scar I wish I didn’t have to have, but I’m thankful I do.  It’s just a part of who I am now, like the scar on my finger where one of our guinea pigs bit me when I was in elementary school.  Like the tattoos on my ankle and my wrist.  Like the white hair that has, in a matter of just a few months, taken the place of my natural brown.

So, no, the changes don’t have to be made to my body.  They need to be made inside my brain.  I need to be rewired against these stupid societal rules that only skinny minis with “perfect” bodies can show themselves in public in a bikini.

At the springs in New Mexico, I saw quite a number of not young, not skinny, women in two piece bathing suits.  The only thing they had that I didn’t was a bit of bravery.  Yet, here I am, bravely dealing with this stupid cancer – probably the scariest thing anyone will ever face.    And still, a little piece of fabric scares me more.

We’re going to Mexico in November, right around the time of my birthday.  Maybe a trip to the pool or the beach, dressed in a two piece,  will be my birthday present to myself.

I mean, if it isn’t too cold.