Changing your view

The call came out for tips and tricks, so here are two tips that helped me get through chemo and after:
When I was in chemo I mostly spent time in one or two neighborhood cafes--writing my blog, reading, working. A nice way to get a cheap vacation, though, is to go to a different part of town and hang out, either in a coffee house you haven't been to, or, if the weather's nice and you feel like it, on the streets and sidewalks.
I think people like going to new cafes and restaurants partly just to feast their eyes. Oh, of course, there's our obsessive focus on the minutiae of food and on finding the top 10 [fill in the blank]s, a trend that was spawned, supposedly by the start and rise of city magazines, and that helps us forget the polis, and the great world around us, but there is something in us that loves a new place. If we had all reached enlightenment maybe we wouldn't need this stimulation; home or our monk's cell would be enough, but until then, it's nice to get out every once in a while. A change of scenery can liven you up. It does something to the brain. Don't ask me what. Today we went to the National Museum of Mexican Art to see two exhibits. One was small and unfortunately partly amateurish, about the kidnapping, torture and murder of more than 500 women in Ciudad Jaurez. Both of us liked this piece, Broken Dreams by Rocío Caballero, very much:

The other exhibit was so so well-done and interesting, on Mexican and American muralists, and how they influenced each other. There were even three pieces by Jackson Pollock, including the painting above. Afterwards L and I walked around and went to a restaurant where we split a burrito. It felt like we were in a different country, or at least in the Mission in San Francisco. It's still hard for me to explain to people why I can write more when I go to Ragdale or another artist colony. Part is the expectation. Part is the change of scenery. The brain knows it's elsewhere.
I love this museum because it's very small and good and has a great gift shop. In the fall it's got altars for Dia de los Muertos, and you can watch people make sugar skulls.
TWO. If you're a woman in Chicago who's been treated for cancer in the last year, you can get five free massages and five free spa visits at Thousand Waves Spa. If you're in chemo you won't want to use the hot tub because you're more susceptible to germs and infections, but you can use the sauna and steamroom and sit in the relaxation room and read magazines and drink tea. It's all very lovely and quiet. And free. Though if you can afford to, it's nice to tip the massage therapists, who are students.

Alma Mater

The editor of my college alumni magazine asked me to write an essay about going public. I did, and now it's out. Read it here.

A note to any of you who are insecure about your writing: As I write more and more, I get more and more insecure. I wrote three versions of the piece and sent them all in to the editor. This is not really professional behavior, but it was all I could do.

See, even with Effexor and generic Buspar, I still have a residual amount of anxiety.

Zen Tow

This is from my breast-cancer group rowing coach, used with permission. She's now in South Africa but will be back soon. And in two years plans to row around the world.

Tonight I left practice to attend CRU practice in Skokie (the new coaching job I took so I can do ROW full time), and on the way there I kept thinking about what a beautiful night it was....and how I'm so blessed to finally have the opportunity to do something I love for a living--and how I just got off the water...and the practice was great, and I felt like I could really help them as a team, and then I thought about Monday night and how amazing it was....and blah blah blah, heart was full and I was smiles all around.

Then my car went crazy and wouldn't accelerate--and all the lights started flashing and I had to pull off the road because it wouldn't continue. So I stopped, and pulled over. I started freaking out because it wouldn't start--and of course a million things start running through my mind. Mostly worrying about money (which is so stupid), about how I was going to pay for any repair to my car with leaving my job and taking a pay cut to do ROW (I just found out great news though--I'm totally eligible for food stamps!!! :) -- anyway-- I got really upset. The tow truck comes by and he goes to start my car--and it turned right over! So we laugh about how I could have done something silly with the gas or something like that. So I get in the car again, he gives me his card (I find out his name is Zee) and I thank him for being so nice and patient. I start driving down the highway again and it stops in the middle of the expressway--just before the Diversey exit, there's cars going 60 mph all around me. Everyone is honking and going crazy, I'm freaking out and trying to get my car to start again. I tried for about 5 minutes. I call Zee--he says he'll be there in ten minutes. I'm not going to last ten minutes! It's crazy--semis are freaking out I keep trying--it finally turns over. So I get off the highway as fast as I can (at the Ogden exit) and the car stops, again. So I call Zee, I'm in tears, scared and feel like a total GIRL at this point.

Zee comes to pick me up and he sees I'm upset. He asks me why I'm upset, I said "I just quit my job and I can't afford to fix anything and...." he asks me, "why did you quit your job?" and I said, "to do something I love", and he says "Jenn, you have no good excuse to be crying right now"....the tow truck man from HEAVEN! So he tows my car to a place up north I know and trust but they're lot is full and I can't leave my car there so he drives me all around the city--we spend an hour and a half in the car together. He tells me his life story--about how his mom just had a mastectomy and how she is battling cancer. I tell him about ROW, we talk about life and how it's so funny--that you can get so upset about the stupidest things and that here I am freaking out--when I'm healthy, and happy--and I love what I do. I get to help people and wake up and enjoy my job every day (starting Monday!). He told me about how he used to work for Jiffy Lube and how he started this towing business because he wanted to help people (which I never would have thought about that way). We talked about how it takes guts to do something you love--that you have to believe in yourself and take a leap. We both commended one another for being brave in our entrepreneurial pursuits--I'm telling you--a real heart to heart--who knew? He told me more about his mom and we talked about how breast cancer touches everyone. Everyone! When we got to my house, I was better off that I started (well, without a car), but I was so thankful for him and the two hours in his truck. I don't know what's wrong with my car--but I'll try to get it in tomorrow...and that's all I can do!

I invited Zee and his mom to join us at our fundraiser in September as our guests--I hope that he comes!! Anyway--I'm sitting here crying because I'm so happy that I had something happen that made me see what really matters--and that everything is going to be okay. You can't plan everything and you can't control everything-and life is too short to hold on to everything that doesn't matter--especially too short to spend any energy worrying about things so much you can't see the big picture right in front of your face.

The Cashier

[Anne Taintor image/caption]

The staff at Trader Joe's is friendly. We've tried to figure out whether the people hired are friendly to begin with, or whether the atmosphere or corporate culture, as they say, encourages informallity, relaxedness, banter. Probably all of that. In any case on Friday late afternoon L and I went shopping there and the cashier asked us what we'd done that day. L said he'd left for work at 8 and had finished early, at 3.
I said that I hadn't gotten dressed until an hour ago but that I had worked too.

Later, on the way to the subway, I asked L: Do you think he thought I was a prostitute?

It took him a moment to get it. No, he said. I think he thought you're a housewife.

I thought: I should have explained that I had been arranging a conference.

The next day L conducted an investigation into the recent history of clothing in the laundry room. He concluded that I had left wet clothes in the washing machine for four days. Today I said to him, See, more proof that I'm not a housewife.

Not a bitch?

I'm not a bitch, just really, really observant, says Ms. magazine blogger Paula Kamen.

Lynn Redgrave, 1943-2010

Lynn Redgrave has died of metastatic breast cancer. The photo on the left is by her daughter Annabel Clark, August 2003, after surgery, chemo and radiation.
Here's a link to a post from Ms. magazine blog, which includes a list of her films.

She wrote a book about her cancer experience, which was published with her daughter's photos. In 2005 they were interviwed by CNN's Paula Zahn:

ZAHN: You were much more troubled by losing your hair than your breast?

REDGRAVE: I really was. I think if I'd been younger, the breast would have been more of an issue. It is still strange to only have one. I didn't have reconstruction. One of them is one of those wonderful prosthetics. I've gotten used to that.

While going through chemo, she never missed a performance.

[Photo below of Redgrave by daughter Annabel Clark after surgery, with drains, January 2003]

Get out and row!

My rowing coach met a guy in a bar, and one thing let to another, and this is the result:
an article about ROW by the guy from the bar. It's from Gaper's Block and gets a lot across about our coach and team. Here it is.

Save the date, Sept. 11, for our fundraiser and silent auction in a Chicago gallery to be named later.

Chicago-area readers, are you breast cancer survivors? Do you want to get more active? Try rowing. If a pre-Title IX asthmatic wimp such as I can do it, you can do it. Each one according to her abilities...

Karl Marx was a southpaw. Would he have rowed starboard?