Wednesday, 27 April 2011


On July 29th, 1981 my mother woke me up at 4:00 am to watch the Royal wedding with her (incidentally, my daughter was born on the same day exactly 23 years later). I will never forget my mother's expression of pure joy and satisfaction when Lady Diana walked down the aisle in her ornate dress that required several handlers.  She collected all sorts of royal-related memorabilia but her most prized possession was a replica of princess Diana's sapphire ring that she bought from the Shopping Network when she was recovering from her mastectomy. I inherited this ring when she died and it is now my most prized possession.

I have to say that I am generally a woman of science but even I can't deny the seemingly ethereal connections at play here. I  am having my mastectomy tomorrow, and I will be recovering during the new Royal wedding. My original (pre-diagnosis) plan for tomorrow was to wear my ring to a friend's place and drink mimosas at 4:00 am. Instead, I will keep my ring safely at home (so that no one steals it when I am a drugged out disaster) and I will watch the wedding on my phone from my hospital bed. I can't imagine any other scenario that could make me feel closer to my mother.

Wish me luck. Or, better yet, wish me good science.


Monday, 25 April 2011

Thank you, Mike Seaver...

I am having surgery in three days. I don't think that I have stopped planning since I first received my diagnosis. I have written grant applications, submitted grades, commented on theses, and found back-up plans for my students. I bought a month's worth of supplies, arranged my house so that my things are within arm's reach, and organized my daughter's room so that she can maintain it when I cannot. I also drank, sang, danced on tables, and ate boob-shaped cupcakes.

I keep recalling the episode of Growing Pains where Mike stays home from school and realizes that the world continues on without him (his epiphany is represented by Boner laughing with others while he is left to stare at the scene longingly). I suppose that I should learn a lesson from Mike Seaver. I will try to let go of the things that usually occupy my thoughts and energies, the things that I do for others. I am going to try to focus on myself. Of course, I do realize that this will also entail having to accept that things will move forward without me, at least for a little while.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Boobs do not make a mom...

Over the course of my 6.5 years as a mom I have had two strikingly ambivalent moments where I was simultaneously concerned about and proud of my parenting (incidentally, both occurred during pretty trying times). The first was during a kitchen dance party when my then 18-month old daughter was caught dancing on the table to a Hank Williams Jr. tune, wearing nothing but a cowboy hat. I often joke that this was the moment when I realized I should not be in charge of raising a child, but it is truthfully also when I knew that we were going to be just fine.

The second occurred more recently when I broached the topic of my diagnosis with my daughter. I didn't want to scare her by talking directly about cancer so opted for a frank discussion about my surgery. I told her that I was taking this approach to avoid being in the same situation as my mom, so that I could live a nice long life. She put on a teary-eyed brave face and listened attentively to all the details and asked good questions about the surgery and about our lives in relation to it. I gave her honest answers and I let her have some control over the situation by asking her to decide whether she wanted to tell any of her friends (she didn't) and whether we should keep our nonchalant attitude about nakedness since she may catch a glimpse of my scars (she didn't think so).

And, after a bit more pondering she said, "Boobs do not make a mom"--a statement so sophisticated and astute that it made me question whether I was speaking with a child. It seems that I may have pushed my daughter into some kind of pseudo-adulthood by trying to raise her to be responsible, independent, and a critical thinker. Although I definitely appreciate her maturity (especially right now), I may need to bust out the Hank Williams Jr., host a kitchen dance party, and bring a bit of her childhood back.      

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

My favorite coping strategy...

To the surprise (and possibly horror) of many people in my life, I have managed to avoid being an emotional wreck during all of this. It would probably make them feel better if I were to be more visibly distraught. I am actually not one for crying, which might be pretty evident considering all of my intellectualizing on this blog, but I do still need some kind of emotional release. Thankfully, I have some amazing friends who are willing to support me in my cathartic venture, karaoke.