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My Cancer is Shrinking

Yesterday I got the results of my PET scan, and in the words of my doctor, the scan was “excellent.”

I have had decrease in size and/or decrease in melanoma activity everywhere. When going through my scan with me, my doctor showed me the decrease in activity in my pulmonary tumor in particular and said the difference since June was “huge.”

My pills are working. And now I have concrete evidence that shows I’m getting so much better. This is the best news I could have hoped for.

To celebrate, my mom and I went to Serendipity and I got a caramel hot fudge sundae as big as my face:


Thank you so much everybody for all your prayers and support. It’s meant so much and gotten me so far.


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My Performance

I’ve always been a performer, ever since I was little. I craved attention, still do. Dancing, singing, putting on a show — it just came naturally. But not just onstage. I’m a performer in everyday life. It’s not on purpose exactly. I think we all do this to some extent, but I know mine is quite a lot. My family and close friends could probably tell you that they can see the switch flip when I’m “on.” I’m at least self-aware about this.

It’s not that I’m being fake. I’m just presenting as being in my best state. It is subconsciously done. I don’t even think about what I’m doing — when it’s time, I’m just on.

Part of this must come from my desire to manifest positivity, which I think is of utmost importance. It makes me feel happier and more in control. But the rest of it, I have no idea. I think most people have a fear of vulnerability, so that may play into it. But it honestly comes so naturally that really don’t know why it’s my go-to. I certainly don’t feel like I have to act like I feel good all the time (so save me the lecture). I just do.

To be clear: I am good. I am emotionally doing pretty well, and a lot of the time I do feel good. But some of the time I physically do not. Especially lately, I sometimes feel very fatigued. But when I’m on, I don’t act like I’m tired. By all appearances, I’m normal. And I just go.

I don’t know the point exactly of sharing this; I suppose it’s just an observation. I’m unclear on the “why” (and sometimes on the “how,” to be honest), but I know that it’s what I do, and it probably won’t change significantly. Maybe I want people to know that I do get tired and I do have bad days, and you may not see it. But I’m sure that’s true for a lot of people. And we’re just going. And whatever way we choose to handle it, that’s OK.

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Pills, Pills, Pills

On a normal day, I take at least 8 pills. Four in the morning, four at night. Inhibitors (for the cancer), a steroid, and my regular anti-depressant and birth control. I’m prescribed numerous other pills to take on an as needed basis, including pain meds and manna from heaven that comes in the form of a tiny dissolving pill called Zofran. Thank you God for the sweet relief of Zofran. Plus, since five of the lovely little daily pills tend to bring on fevers from time to time, I’m also getting very well acquainted with Advil and Tylenol.

I used to be bad at remembering to take pills. Now I’m very good at remembering. These pills take up so much of my head space — how are you going to forget to take meds that you pray every day are saving your life?

It might seem like a pain to have to take so much medication per day. But I am so, so happy to take these pills. These $18,000-per-month pills that cost me the most minute fraction of that because I’m fortunate enough to have good insurance. I’m even happy when I start to get joint pain that makes it hard to bend my knees or use my feet. I’m OK with being tired. As much as the fevers can knock me out sometimes, I’m even fine with those. Hooray for side effects! OK, maybe on Saturday when I was curled up in bed shivering and sobbing from fever chills and actually crawled to my shower just to try to get warm … maybe at that moment I wasn’t cheering for the fevers. But these are things I can handle. When it comes down to it, I’m just glad the medicine is doing something inside me.

Today they’ll put me back in a big machine to see just what that “something inside me” has been. And tomorrow I’ll know if my doctor thinks these drugs are working well enough to keep going or if he thinks we should switch to immunotherapy treatment. I don’t really know how I’m supposed to feel going into this PET scan other than that I really hope my tumors have shrunk. That’s the best I can hope for, so there it is. It feels weird to vocalize, like maybe you don’t say that right beforehand so you don’t jinx it or ask too much or something — but that’s what I want. I want to be getting better.


Material Reactions

Like many, when I move to a new home, I’m forced to acknowledge a painful reality: I have way, way too much stuff. People who know me well know that in my case, it’s pretty bad. I have a strong attachment to things — things of many different kinds. I’ve always been materialistic. I enjoyed shopping from a young age, but not because of an addiction to the transaction itself — rather I have an addiction to possessing items. Particularly pretty items.

I’m a homebody, and I find great comfort in being surrounded by my things. I’m sort of a hobbit, really. I like having my space and my things arranged just so. Organizing and decorating after a move is actually a dream come true for me. I’m sure this comes as a shock to no one.

But the actual moving of the objects, the lugging of boxes and small furniture and random bits and pieces to storage and then back out of storage, through halls, in elevators (thank goodness for elevators), and even in some cases rolling a few items down the street several blocks … it all gets to be a bit much. I had to come face to face with my addiction to stuff. My parents had to come face to face with it too. My dad loved that.

Before I moved, I started reading a couple of books on feng shui. I find the concept really interesting but didn’t know much about the principles. Maybe I could use my stuff and my space to create calm and healing energy. Hey, if there’s even a remote possibility it could help my health, I’ll do it. I mainly needed some kind of change from my dreary, cluttered, sad-feeling dorm room where I’d been lying in bed sick for weeks. There just wasn’t good energy there anymore. I didn’t know anything about chi or all that, but even I could tell.

Then I started reading Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, recommended by a friend who told me it was a “crazy book” that told you to get rid of tons of things and thank you shoes at the end of the day. Tons of people are going nuts over Kondo’s “Konmari” method, so I thought I’d give myself a chance to buy into the insanity. And with moving, it’d be the perfect time to de-clutter.

The book is indeed crazy. Kondo talks about starting her career in tidying when she was five years old and tried to organize everything in sight. I was like that too as a kid, but that’s just because I was weird. She insists that the way to go about getting your stuff clean and organized is to go through each item and ask yourself if it sparks joy. If it does not, you get rid of it. Instead of “what do I get rid of?” you’re supposed to think, “what should I keep?”

This is the part where the people who helped me move will read this and go, “why didn’t you do this BEFORE we moved all of your stuff??” I tried. I got rid of a bunch of clothes and a few small household items I knew weren’t worth keeping. But I had about a day and a half to pack after the bar exam, and so I didn’t have time to really try her method. But I’m trying it now, and so far, I have to say: it works.

I’m not going to be a minimalist. I just can’t see that happening for me. I still have a strong attachment to material things. But this method is helping me let go of that a bit. Really, it’s based on the idea that your possessions should exist only to your happiness and wellbeing — not just to be there. So, I can still like my things without being so materialistic that I must have all the things or keep things I no longer need or care much about.

So far, I’ve gone through my clothes, shoes, bags, and the like. I knew this would be difficult but probably the most rewarding category for me because of how much I like buying and wearing cute clothes. But between what I eliminated before moving, in my stock at my parents’ house, and the past two days since moving in, I know I’ve gotten rid of more than half my clothes. Possibly two-thirds. And I feel so happy about it. Everything fits where it belongs. I followed the Konmari method of folding clothes and actually enjoyed folding my socks. I’m not kidding. And it’s not just because I’m weird. Before this I would have told you that no normal person should ever enjoy folding socks (or really even fold socks at all). But this method is genius.

So, I’ll keep going with it and see where it takes me. I already feel less burdened. And maybe this will make more room in my life (and possibly my budget) for other great things.

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First Breakfast

first breakfast

First solo breakfast in my new apartment. Feeling somewhat calmer after a long flurry of activity.

I feel like everything has clicked and I’m in the perfect place. So many things have serendipitously worked out for the best, and so many other things have come together because of the immense kindness and generosity of my family and friends. I’m especially grateful to my parents, Mat, and my dear friend Max for helping me move. I’m so appreciative to have such conscientious and giving people in my life.

It is my hope that I can in turn pay the kindness forward and be more attentive to others’ needs. I feel like I’ve lost sight of this a bit the last three years. In law school, it’s easy to put yourself in an academic bubble. I’ll read about and discuss social issues, but only in an abstract sense. Seldom do I actually act to mitigate these problems. But as I sit here today, surrounded by comfort, happily fed, and with so many other blessings, I have the resources to make a difference. And I choose to try.


Life Isn’t Fair

I believe strongly in the power of positive thinking. I try to stay away from “it’s not fair.” It doesn’t do any good to think that way, I tell myself. But there are some moments, when I’m tired of it all, when the thought creeps in.

Sitting in my parents’ living room this morning, thinking about all the times I sat here with Mona and talked to her while cancer loomed over us. I don’t know why, but I felt like it hung over our heads. I feel ashamed to admit that, like I was letting her down to think that way. But knowing this thing was ever-present tainted everything.

The last time I was here, seven months ago, missing Mona was what tainted everything. Her absence was what hung in the air over me. Every thing made me think of when we used to sit here and talk — talk about nothing, a lot of the time. Exchange funny stories. Laugh at each others’ silly moments that we appreciated in each other. Losing her just changed everything around me.

No way could I ever have imagined that the next time I came home, I would be taking cancer pills while I sat on this couch. It hangs in the air again. It’s so frustrating that it has infiltrated every corner of my mind, seeping into everything that I do. It’s always there. I want to tell myself, get over it! Stop thinking about it all the time. Stop bringing it up in conversation. Stop letting it control so much of your mind and your day. I’m certainly more than having cancer. So why does it just take over? It’s like it does the same thing to my thoughts as it tries to do to my body.

And that’s when I start feeling like it’s not fair. Cancer isn’t fair. We just went through losing Mona. And now it’s come back into our lives. I think, I’ve always been healthy. I try to do the right things. I think I’m a good person. I’m young and have so much ahead of me. It isn’t fair that now, I have cancer.

And then I think about how easy my life has been up until now. I’ve been extremely fortunate, privileged, had everything handed to me. I’ve never had to go through anything very difficult. Does that make this less fair, because I’m less equipped to handle adversity? Does it make it more fair because I’ve had everything else so easy?

Then I think about the luck of the draw. I was born white, upper-middle class, heterosexual, cis, in the United States, into a very stable and loving family. I controlled none of that. Everything was stacked in my favor before I even got here. Cancer isn’t fair. neither is it fair that people, children and adults, are murdered for being black. Murdered for being trans. Murdered for being gay. Terrorized for no good reason because some privileged person has decided they are inexplicably less than human. None of that is fair in any sense of the word. Life isn’t fair, and to get caught up in the unfairness of my diagnosis is to ignore what happens around me every day. And to do that would be shameful.

Of course, human nature brings emotions of self pity, even when it isn’t rational. So I can’t pretend that I won’t feel this way again. I’m not trying to be self righteous. I’m sure I’ll be plenty angry and sad as I continue the journey. But I hope I can take this healthy dose of perspective to heart when those times come, and soldier on.