Writing/Posting/Paste-Up

It probably just means I’m old, but I’ve realized that how I write is inevitably shaped by what I think the final format might be. I realize that doesn’t really fit into current ideas of “content,” but screw that — I don’t have a media conglomerate lording over me, so…

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Anyway, I made a comment last week about writing things down to deal with life. It’s weird for me because, once upon a time, writing was most certainly the way I dealt with the entire world. It was the way I processed things that had happened or were happening. But, then I got into making metal stuff, and prints, and music, and had various different outlets. But I think writing is still a really particular one for me.

…but although I am into the general idea of living and learning in a very open way in public (see We Learn in Public, my short-lived school-related project a few years ago), I’m also not 100% there. Way back when, I was more comfortable with diaryland or livejournal than other formats. Most comfortable of all was still the physicality of creating something on paper, and mostly, it still is. Block printing, collages, and paste-up feel good to me, even when largely assisted by computers.

So, if you’re interested more in what a certain week and a half of time felt like, shoot me your mailing address (mbcherem AT gmail) and I’ll send you a copy of the zine I just made for the AMAZING Zine Show some rad friends just put together last weekend.

surprise!
surprise!

I mean, 19 people actually bought copies of a zine that included stuff about cancer, so it must be somewhat interesting, right? It was basically me practicing being completely open and honest in a way that is difficult but, I think, important.

I can’t promise I will mail it this week, but I love real paper mail and plan on sending a bunch while I’m recovering after Nov 12, so expect something then if you request a copy…

Sharps, Signs, and How The Kool-Aid Man Gets Things Done…


I could write a lot about needles, and about my changing relationship with them throughout the last 20+ years. Maybe I will consider them in that, more thoughtful way, in another place. I’ve realized that I write differently based on format. I’m trying to keep this-y-here site more “here’s what’s up” rather than personal essays.

But yeah — needles. Right now, I am comfortable with them, mostly.

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 8.01.32 PM

This is good, considering that I’ve been giving myself injections for the last week. Mixing the medications together seems easier now, less confusing and certainly goes faster. I don’t necessarily need J as my chemistry assistant now, even though it’s nice to have someone to say “man, that stung way more than usual,” to, or exclaim “look at that wild bruise!”

Depending on how you count, there are between 9 and 11 items required for this little ritual every night. Our first sharps container is full, and more medication is on its way to our house today.

Looking at those giant initial boxes, I found it hard to believe it was all medication (though let’s be real, there’s a lot of packaging involved) that would end up in my body. But I’ll have even more stuff to put into my body through at least sometime next week. Then they’ll “harvest my eggs” which sounds very autumnal, but also is such a weird word and makes me feel like a farm field or livestock.

After Sunday’s tests, the nurses upped my dosage, which meant that by mid-week, the body aches were getting more intense. This morning, I felt like I had the flu. A heavy, everything-hurts-ache sunk into my bones and joints as I was sleeping.

Our pre-op visit on Wednesday gave us some details on surgery and recovery, but honestly, the biggest takeaways I had were:

  1. Thankfulness for hilarious stoner dude at check-in
  2. It sounds like it will take me 2-3 weeks to recover
  3. Reassurance that clip-art on bootleg signs in medical offices is almost always HILARIOUS
Splash Zone!
Splash Zone!

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 8.01.06 PM

I was too tired between then and now to write much of anything. Tired from the medication, but also just worn out by the number of phone calls, hours on-hold, mis-transfers, voicemails, portal messages, etc. that ate up a good portion of Wednesday and Thursday.

The doctors and most other people at the Cancer Center are great, but it’s in the handoffs  between other UMHS departments, among staff and nurses, in working with outside organizations, in working with pharmacies, etc. where inevitably something gets dropped.

I’ve dealt with all this sort of stuff plenty of times before. The circling back and being assertive and my own advocate, etc. But never on this compressed of a timeline, which makes it all feel different, and more stressful — particularly because I know it’s never the scheduler/clerk’s fault — it’s usually the people up the chain who have to check a box or fix the fact that I’m on the wrong list.

At one point, I just wanted to ram through a wall — ala Kool-Aid Man — into one particular clinic and exclaim “WHO is in CHARGE here?!” I didn’t, but that might have been kinda awesome, right?

Me, in my imagination
Me, in my imagination

But, thankfully, by the time Thursday was done, prescriptions were called back in correctly and on the way, and clinic visits correctly on the schedule. I rewarded myself with a chapati (and J got pizza), courtesy of a kind gift card from our pal Tom (thanks, Tom!).

When the nurses originally told me I’d add a new drug into my regimen tokay, I joked that because it was Halloween maybe I’d turn into a werewolf.

ok, so i’m WAY too old for a bat mitzvah…

Doesn’t look like we’re far enough along for that to happen, though, so sorry, friends, I will not be becoming a werewolf tonight… OR WILL I?

Given how my body feels at the moment, I think Mulder might be on to what is *actually* going on...

Given how my body feels at the moment, I think Mulder might be on to what is *actually* going on…

Although I was totally nerdy and kinda LIKED titrations, in Chem class, I was relieved when I didn’t have to do them anymore. So, too, I’m thinking I’ll be relieved when we don’t have all sorts of vials to combine and mix and then connect with Q-caps and various types of needles.

J is a champ, and his notes & memory were better than mine when we did the first night of the 2736-step shots last Thursday. Now, after a week, preparing everything seems like second nature.

But being a week into these shots at the highest doses means I’m also feeling swollen, puffy, exhausted, like I have a low-grade flu, and — perhaps understandably — a little cranky. Also, I cried at a radio ad (!?!) and I’m really not much of a crier.

I am sure this level of discomfort pales in comparison to chemo,  though, so I’m just trying to appreciate where I’m at right now and roll with it the best I can.

I’ve got a couple of appointments today, including the main pre-op visit. So, there we’ll learn a little more about the details of my first (and hopefully only/main) surgery on Nov. 12.

Physically crummy as I feel, I am super thankful to even have this option to try to save some eggs, etc, pre-chemo.

Also, I’m feeling waaay fortified & supported – between a firepit visit with great friends (2 from far away, 2 bearing amazing soup, ALL the BEST people with great hugs), notes, songs, cards, and the HUGE outpouring of support last week.

Thanks, dudes. It helps!

A HUGE thankfulness…

thank you!

I feel like I have been absolutely swimming in gratitude over the last few days… even when on the phone setting appointments, when getting nervous trying to be sure I’m prepping my injections correctly, while trying to help folks on the reference desk at work, while sitting quietly on the porch with my dog — the whole time, I have been overwhelmed with thankfulness.

I’m bowled over, honored and humbled by all the support I’ve received over the last week — first through the google doc (I honestly thought we’d get like 12-15 folks and felt pretty good about that!) and then through people contributing to help us get through while I’m in treatment.

The day my friends Onna & Pete launched the GoFundMe campaign, I literally cried (with gratitude) into my lunch.

I always feel tremendously lucky to have so many great people in my life, but to feel the generosity and support of those folks (you!) so personally is really amazing. Thanks to Onna & Pete for doing this even though I was stubborn at first. (I am very very stubborn, perhaps too much so) ❤

Thanks to you all. I know the months ahead won’t be easy, but not having to worry as much about bills after medical stuff ate our savings last year (I was successfully treated for another totally unrelated condition last year, but that wiped out our rainy-day fund and left us with a balance) is a big weight off our shoulders.

I thought I might end up feeling embarrassed or sheepish asking for help (I am VERY — perhaps at times foolishly — independent) but this swell of support and love has made me realize that I don’t actually feel those things after all — gratitude completely has eclipsed them and left me feeing far less alone.

Thank you for the love, whatever form it takes or has taken. I am humbled.

Boxes o’Drugs

What have I been doing? In the words of Tig Notaro, you might think “Oh, just sitting around having breast cancer…,” and there are certainly days where it feels like I am in limbo, or would be better off sitting around being a blob, but there is also a LOT happening.

Appointments, forms, labwork, more paperwork, patient education, scans, trying to fit in work (because I love my job and coworkers) and MAIL! I’ve gotten a handful of really amazing paper/snail-mail notes, which have been SO appreciated and loved. ❤

But then, there’s the official/medical mail too. Friday and yesterday I received one GIANT box each day. Each was full of drugs, but NOT the type that you use for fun.

Still, they ARE kind of cool and exciting simply because treatment has now gotten to the point where younger (me! i’m considered “younger” – believe it!) women diagnosed with cancer potentially have options if they might want to try have have a child eventually (after they are well out of the woods with chemo, radiation and other treatment)…

1/2 of the total drugs go in the fridge. good thing we got that new fridge!
1/2 of the total drugs go in the fridge. Good thing we got that new fridge!
TWO of these GIANT boxes (fitness ball and folding chair for size/scale) arrived, thanks to the LiveStrong Foundation, UM and Walgreens
TWO of these GIANT boxes (fitness ball and folding chair for size/scale) arrived, thanks to the LiveStrong Foundation, UM and Walgreens

Of course, although fertility procedures like egg-freezing and IVF have been practiced for many years now, none of this is covered by insurance, so I am amazingly, startlingly grateful that we applied for/were granted assistance from the LiveStrong Program/Lance Armstrong Foundation and UM, which will cap costs at just a percentage of the usual fees.

Tomorrow we start the process by which ALL (well, 3/4, probably) of these drugs will be injected into my body over the course of 10 days. So if you see me in that time, please know that I will kind of be a walking science experiment, a bundle of hormones, and I will try to eat enough chocolate so I don’t cry at you or anything! ❤

Then, sometime the week before surgery (Nov 2, surgery is Nov 12), I will have a procedure. I never really considered having to use IVF or anything like that at all, so this still feels somewhat sci-fi, but I know I am in very good hands, and coincidentally, the main Dr. in charge of my case at UM did a fellowship with one of my all-time fave docs — Dr. Milad — who performed my surgery this July at Northwestern Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago.

Thanks for all the love, friends — responding to individual messages here and there as I can!

T Minus 24 Days

We’ve got a surgery date. It’s good we’ll have a few weeks, since there are quite a few appointments and tests, at least one minor related procedure, and some other things that need to happen between now and then.

As of right now, at least (this could change), surgery is scheduled at the University of Michigan for Thursday, November 12.

Hello World…

It’s been a heck of a year. And a heck of a month.

One week ago we got the news that I have invasive breast cancer. Ever since, we’ve been getting more pieces to that puzzle. The good news is that signs so far point to it being relatively early-stage (and hopefully more treatable), though we won’t know that for sure until surgery.

Things are moving pretty fast.

We wanted to get a small blog going just to keep people in the know. As goofy as a blog may seem, most of the pre-made/template sites seemed even cheesier, so here we are on good ol’ WordPress.

Want to help but don’t know what to do?

We’re not sure what’s most helpful* quite yet either.
*(other than supportive emails/notes/mail or non-bummer mixtapes)

…but we’ve been assured things will get hard over the next few months, and that yes, we WILL need help.

If you’re feelin’ it, put your name and contact info down here, and we’ll have a friend reach out when we get to the point where we might need meal delivery, a ride to an appointment, a Sparky-Coupon-dogsitter, or just someone to buy J an emergency bottle of whiskey.

We have been — and are — so amazingly thankful for so many things, and particularly for SO many people. We are intensely lucky to have some fantastic, tremendously supportive, funny and smart friends, family and folks all around us, and even just knowing y’all care and are out there means a lot right now.

So, from the very start, thank you.

If you’re reading this, there’s a very good chance we love you, or at the very least, think you’re pretty damn cool.
-M&J