October 2, 2012

The Monsters under Some Beds

Say hello to Laramie, the Chihuahua mix we got from the Kentucky Humane Society on the next-to-the-last-day of my high dose radiation for breast cancer.

We adopted her because when I woke up the day after my surgery my first thought was, "I need to get a Chihuahua."  And so it came to pass.

This morning that cheerful little dog coughed up a hairball the size of my fist on the leather couch, jumped down, ran into a corner, upchucked, and then took a nap to recover from the excitement.I cleaned up after her and then loaded the dishwasher. When I was done, I turned on the disposal. Fairly soon I noticed that the garbage was bubbling up on the other side of the double sink. Then I noticed that the bottom of the dishwasher held several inches of water and garbage.

Meanwhile, the big-ass Mitsubishi television in the living room blew a gasket today and now produces only static and crackling. I'm torn between wrestling the thing to the sidewalk for the trash men (it's huge and DOMINATES the living room) and waiting for my beau to get home from work to test the thingamajiggies (I nearly said tubes, but that's so last century).

Dog, sink, and television all  in one morning. Our "things fall apart" experience continues unabated.  It began on August 30 when, ten minutes before we were to go out of town, my Jeep, which we were to take with us, broke down. Since then, empty jars, the Crock Pot, the Jeep again (it actually has had three breakages, two of which were fixed, the third of which awaits a spare thousand dollars to fall from the sky), a small end table, a piece of my mother's china and more have all broken.

All of this is to say that I had an annoying morning, which may be the reason I had a minor fit when I listened to the noon news and heard yet another half dozen reports related to the upcoming Susan G. Komen walk/run.I hope to God it's this weekend because I've had all I can stand of the sacralization of breast cancer that accompanies the annual event.

The White House was lit up in pink, for God's sake.

I've been on edge about the topic since last week, when two different magazines came to hand in which the editors whinged on idiotically about breast cancer

In the first case, the editor said every woman is scared before a mammogram.  Oh, please. I've never been afraid of mammograms, not my first one in the late 1980s through my most recent one two days ago.  In truth, I feel a great deal of affection for mammograms, what with them saving my life and the lives of zillons of other women.  I even love the room where my mammograms are done. Drunk on painkillers and Valium, I was taken to that room the day of my surgery and found the sight of five people hunkered around a tiny screen discussing my own personal left breast hilarious. Whiffs of left-over good humor greet me each time I return.(Obviously, my not being dead contributes to my good feelings, but isn't that true of all of us?)

The second editor had the audacity to say that the thought of breast cancer frightens every woman.

Where was I when she became my spokesperson? Beyond that, why do people act as though breast cancer is the worst thing that could happen to a person?  It's nothing but a disease. Yes, some people die of it; and everybody hates when that happens; but how does that justify grown women acting as though a monster is hiding under their beds?

If you want to talk monster, I'll give you a monster.  It's name is multiple myeloma. In 1998, life expectancy after diagnosis was 28 months.  Geraldine Ferraro got lucky; she lived for years following diagnosis. My late husband, on the other hand, only lived for 22 months.  Multiple myeloma is an orphan disease, far less common than breast cancer, but one hundred percent of the cases are incurable and fatal. If you want to be scared, that's a far more logical disease to fear.

And some things are far worse than that.Not long after he was diagnosed, Fred told me that he kept asking himself "Why me?"  I'd pastored a church for the three years prior to his diagnosis and conducted more funerals than I'm going to count up. I'd spent quality time, in great quantities, considering the idea of death; and I'd reached one absolute conclusion.

"I don't mean this ugly," I told dear Fred, "but I'd rather you have cancer than five people I can think of right off hand."

Fred blinked, and then he uttered two healing words: "Me, too."

The five people?  Our grandchildren. If you need something to be afraid of, don't bother with breast cancer.  Rather, be afraid that a child - any child: yours, mine, a friend's, a neighbor's, a stranger's - will be diagnosed with cancer tomorrow.

A mammogram is a diagnostic test, no more worthy of drama than that moment  when the dentist pulls your tongue forward during a cleaning to examine your mouth for cancer.  If you want to over-dramatize it, leave me out of the conversation. I've got a Chihuahua to clean up after and a no-monsters-allowed-beyond-this-point life to enjoy.


Susan said...

Mary, what a bold post! I applaud you for your honestly and happy to know a survivor. I had so wanted that for my daughter, Kelly...she deserved to live and I would have changed places with her in a heartbeat. As they say, "shit happens" and life is too short. No matter what happens on a daily basis--I keep that in mind. XOXO

Mary Cartledgehayes said...

Susan, I'm sorry to hear about Kelly. Yeah. Shit happens. Thank you for saying the post is bold. I'd said on facebook yesterday that I wasn't going to answer anybody because I was feeling snarky. A friend who's a Quaker answered, "Snark boldly." I left out the part about the people who talk so glowingly about the positive things cancer brought them aren't the people who died from it.
Sigh. Be well. xxoo Mary Jo

Loki-Lou said...

Wow Mary...this post should actually be sent to the squabbling editors! I would love to hear their reactions!

Mary Cartledgehayes said...

Good idea, Loki-lou, but I don't know if I can find the magazines. I think I was in doctor's offices both times and forgot to steal the magazines. Also, I don't think the editors are alone in their attitude . . . Thanks for your comment. xxoo

Cameron VSJ said...


I have a quick question about your blog, would you mind emailing me when you get a chance?