thoughts on living with cancer


Midwest, USA
May 20
At the midpoint of the journey's life I found myself lost in a dark forest with no straight path I could see anywhere. M.L. Rosenthal's translation of Dante's La Commedia Divina Diagnosed with ovarian and bladder cancers, I received an entirely new subject for writing and a challenge to intensify the second half of my life.


JANUARY 26, 2015 8:08PM

The Value of a Life

A friend died last week—of many things, cancer among them. She won’t have the treacly obit about how she courageously battled cancer, though she did, and has been in remission for more than five years. But the last few months, she’s gotten too tired and sick to fight everything else… Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 18, 2014 9:07PM

The Ideal Comprehensive Cancer Center


OS friends: I've been asked to think about designing a comprehensive cancer center. I have no real power, but my input was requested, so I've started a list. I'd be grateful for ideas that you--especially cancer survivors--have to add before I turn this in. Many thanks!


Basic assumptio… Read full post »

JULY 16, 2014 8:56PM

Cancer as Teacher


I’ve had a rough week and have not responded well in my head or my heart. (My body seems to be fine, always a relief.) My responses to events have been less than what I would have preferred—which is to say, not perfect. Regardless of what I know intellectually… Read full post »

JUNE 24, 2014 9:38PM



Two X-rays of my left breast were hanging on a light box when I walked into the room on Monday. Surely I’ve seen X-rays of my breasts before, but what struck me this time was the way the white strands and clusters resembled the Milky Way. And there, circled… Read full post »

JUNE 14, 2014 11:14AM

Another Body Part Goes Rogue


This week I had the annual mammogram. Because I have had ovarian cancer, I am at greater risk of breast cancer (also colon cancer). I tell this to the tech, and also mention that I have dense breasts. “Be brutal,” I tell her. “I want it to be clear… Read full post »

FEBRUARY 8, 2014 9:18PM

Anniversary Month



They were afraid of a serious reaction to the poison, something beyond gradual cell death and destruction of gut flora. So I duly reported the growing prickliness and numbness on my face, to which the nurse responded kindly, “Oh, honey, that’s just nerves.”

 &nRead full post »

JANUARY 11, 2014 5:17PM

Another Year, Another Surgery


Reporting in: It’s been more than a month since the last surgery, so I’m cleared to drive and return to work, though I suspect I still have some of the anesthesia roaming around my cells. I’m not back to eating as usual (that’s not a bad thing), and I… Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 22, 2013 9:04PM

One of the Lucky Ones


I’ve not posted for a while, because frankly sometimes I get tired of my own drama-trauma. About this time seven years ago, I began really worrying about the growth in my abdomen and the consequent pain, though it would be several months before surgery and then a confirmed diagnosis… Read full post »

AUGUST 21, 2013 7:12PM

Outsourcing the Fear


In my youth, we called them “prayer warriors”—godly women and men known to spend time in prayer. Now, in a liturgical church, we say “Prayers are available at the healing station.” There’s a wooden icon of Madonna and Child that feels Renaissance in its style…

Read full post »

JUNE 17, 2013 10:09AM

The Single Woman's Great Fear


When I was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer, more than six years ago now, I did not expect to live much longer. The odds were stacked against me: stage IIIB, classified as late stage, harder to treat. One of my thoughts was that at least I would have time… Read full post »



“And just what was so wrong about her?” my friend asked with some anger after my mother, whom he’d met twice, died.

            How can I explain that her smother love wasn’t for me? That what was wrong wi… Read full post »

MARCH 6, 2013 6:57PM

Just Another Routine Check-up


For a week or more, I have been touchy and weepy and jittery and grumpy. In other words, I was facing another cancer check-up. The night before, I had medical nightmares; things went very wrong. I would like to think that cancer would leave me alone, but it does not,… Read full post »

FEBRUARY 9, 2013 3:34PM

Letting it Go


 This week I talked to a lawyer  about the possibility of bringing a suit against my urologist for medical negligence. It’s a non-starter, partly because at least in my state, maybe nationally, there’s a one-year statute of limitations for malpractice. Unless I find out… Read full post »

JANUARY 31, 2013 8:34PM

Escape, Reading


Right now, Regency romance novels are getting me out of my own life. Any chick lit is good (and I do not mean by using that label to denigrate genre fiction), but the stories set in Regency England have the advantage of another time and place. Language differs too;… Read full post »

DECEMBER 3, 2012 10:19AM

Getting My Two-Wheeler


To call the bike pink would have been an insult. It was more the color Crayola called thistle, a purplish cast to the paint, not a boy’s bike, certainly, but not a sickly sweet girly bike, either. It came with training wheels, even at 24 inches. My parents would… Read full post »

NOVEMBER 8, 2012 12:24PM

The Week Before Surgery


“It’s best if you can just be still after the surgery,” an acquaintance counseled, when I asked for advice about how to deal with the impending removal of my left kidney.

This woman donated a kidney several years ago. To call us friends would be stretching it, but… Read full post »



I last went to Florida during late winter of 2008, after two cystoscopies that led to a diagnosis of Stage I, noninvasive bladder cancer. It was my second cancer, the less dangerous one to offset the scariness of Stage III ovarian cancer, for which I’d finished chemo… Read full post »

OCTOBER 8, 2012 8:55AM

The Women Going With Me


 In Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, when the king unjustly accuses his wife, Hermione, of unfaithfulness and condemns her to prison, she asks,

Who is’t that goes with me? Beseech your Highness

My women may be with me, for you see

My plight requires it.Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 23, 2012 9:42PM

The Inequities of Cancer



The month of October will be swathed in pink, as if for a national Christo installation. I am not opposed to fighting breast cancer, or any other kind of cancer. I just wonder if anyone knows that September is National Ovarian Cancer Month, or that our color is… Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 17, 2012 9:16AM

An Untenable Situation


“Sorry to crap in your Cheerios.”

No, this was not a glib apology I recall from a boy in junior high. This sentence fragment came from my urologist, an eternal boy who will be talking like this when he is seventy. He’s a sports nut, a gambler, a… Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 8, 2012 12:44PM

Forgotten Details of Surgery

“You do not feel well,” said one of the pharmacists as I slowly walked to the back of the drugstore clutching my scrip.

“You look like you’re walking the Green Mile,” another pharmacist offered.

If I’d felt better, I might have smiled for them, but walking was al… Read full post »

AUGUST 19, 2012 7:13PM

A Note for Caregivers


When a friend went through chemo several yars ago, I tried to be helpful. When I went through chemo myself, I apologized to her. I did not know, could not know, what it was like. So here’s a list for those of you who want to help, a… Read full post »

AUGUST 13, 2012 8:58AM

Choosing My Life


“I don’t need you to worry for me, ’cause I’m alright.

I don’t want you to tell me it’s time to come home.

I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life.

Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone.”

Billy… Read full post »

AUGUST 5, 2012 10:04PM

Trying to Outrun Another Cancer

Journal entry February 29, 2008

I think I’m depressed, possibly a phase of grieving, even though the biopsy says the bladder cancer is noninvasive. I’m facing (just a bit) the reality of what this second cancer means in terms of follow-up, circumscribing, the sense of a door closing on aRead full post »

JULY 15, 2012 3:02PM

How Long is Happily Ever After?

“And after the chemo ended, she lived happily ever—for six months.”

I determined that if I had less than five years to live, I was going to live them on my terms. I took a few vacation-celebrations with friends, ate a lot of celebratory meals, saw a dermatologist and got… Read full post »