Gathering Rosebuds

I’ve decided to practice what I teach (<–nope, not a typo).

When I teach writing, I harp endlessly on the need to write often, to keep the muscle memory of writing flexed and supple. It’s like playing an instrument, I say, or practicing a sport. 

That’s why at the beginning of each class I provide my students with two quotes and ask them to write about them for a bit. Mostly they’re writing for themselves–I might read a few when I collect at the end of the semester, but it’s spotty.

They love it.

But do I do it myself? Eh, not really.

Here’s another thing I tell my students: we are always writing for an audience, even if that audience is our own self. We tend to be more precise writers, however, when that audience is another person. So it’s a great idea to get feedback on writing, to hone our skills and broaden our perspective.

Do I do that either? Nah, not enough.

That’s why I’m going to try to revive this blog. I’m tired of stowing my writing in a drawer like it’s some dirty secret, of being jittery when anyone reads it. I need to toughen the calluses of my writing muscles (<–that probably doesn’t make sense anatomically, but you get the drift).

This blog started out as a way for me to frame what I was researching in the 17th century with current trends and my own (sometimes random) pairing of historical ephemera and political and social trends. Hence the name of the blog–Out of Time.

That name has taken on a new meaning for me after being diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer.

I’m not out of time, not yet (did I just tempt fate or the gods or something? Yikes).   My cancer was caught very early and I have an excellent prognosis. But an experience like that changes you, ya know? 

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may and all that.

So if you’re reading, thank you. You’re giving me the gift of flexing my writing muscles and overcoming my writerly cowardice. 

I’ll be back in a few days. Take care and gather those rosebuds, my dears.

My breasts tried to kill me.

12 Signs of Breast Cancer — #KnowYourLemons Breast Health Education provides a new way to notice, think about, and assess any breast changes or weirdnesses

I don’t have cancer. I have had cancer. I maybe will have cancer, and I maybe will have had cancer.

In the end, I may die of cancer. Even if I don’t, I’ll still be what they call a cancer survivor.

I guess when I was diagnosed about a year ago (the day before my birthday, which COME ON UNIVERSE, REALLY?), I didn’t think about how intimately cancer would be entwined with my identity.

And the thing is, my cancer (<– see how it’s “my cancer,” not “the cancer”) is one of the easily treatable ones (<– there is no such thing as an “easily treatable cancer”).  I had two tumors, one on each side, both tiny, both non-aggressive, both hormone positive. And I’m BRCA negative.

At first, I was just going to have a lumpectomy, radiation, and 5-10 years of the hormone blocker tamoxifen. Then after some genetic testing, my oncologist recommended chemo as well.

“During the lumpectomy,” my oncologist said, “in addition to the tumors, we also found some ductal carcinoma in situ.

“Oh?” I said.

“Yeah,” she said. “Basically, you have busy breasts.”

It’s okay, you can laugh at that. I did. She did. We laughed like crazy.

So I went through chemo, as well, which is a whole other set of stories.

The thing is, I’m here on the other side of it, and while I try to let my body rest and recuperate, my brain seems to be constantly working to make sense of what happened. How did I go in for a routine mammogram, with no suspicion of anything out of the ordinary, to where I am today: fatigued, scared, and to be honest the teeniest bit paranoid?

What the hell just happened?

And while my survival-centered lizard brain tries to make sense of that, the rational part of my brain scolds me, reminds me that I’m crazy lucky, that it could have been so much worse, that I’m blessed, privileged, fortunate. And I am. God, yes, I am.

I’m not complaining, really. I’m just trying to make it make sense.

I read about cancer survivors running 5ks within months of finishing chemo.

That ain’t happening.

Any cancer-related internet search is filled with medical advice to stay positive, to eat well, to exercise—I know this because I Google while lying on the couch eating an ice-cream sandwich.

The positivity message is good and wise and helpful. But I’m so damn tired. A long walk today means two days of muscle pain and fatigue tomorrow.

And I’m just so freaking sick of hearing myself whine about it. And yet I can’t stop whining about it.

And that’s it. That’s where I’m at. It is, as they say, what it is.

There you go, brain—I gave you space and time and words to think through this. Now I guess I’ll get up off my bum and go for a walk.