I’m 40! It’s Fabulous!

You guys, it’s my birthday! I MADE TO 40!!! I was hoping to have a big blow-out birthday like I did for 30 (rounded up my girlfriends and went to Mexico on a cruise–man, dual income no kids was a good time, amiright?) but of course I’m back in chemo world again, so that’s not possible. But I thought of something better anyway, because back in 2006 I didn’t have a blog, and I hadn’t founded a grassroots organization committed to changing the landscape of metastatic cancer through direct action. 

So here’s my big birthday wish, and I need all of your help to make it come true. I want you to go to metup.org, and click on the donate button. It’ll take you to a donation page for METUP’s fiscal sponsor, Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs. (We’re proud to be a project of SEE and very glad they’ll be filing all the tax paperwork for us next year instead of us having to file it!) And then I want you to donate, but not just any donation amount because it’s my 40th birthday. 

So, donate $4. Your latte costs more than that.

Or $40. That’s like 4 bottles of wine. I know it’s a sacrifice but I also know how much wine you drink.

Or $400, #bestdocever who just got back from a vacation to JAPAN.

Or $4000. Yeah I see you tech worker high roller driving a Tesla to work in my husband’s office. Don’t pretend like you don’t have the cash

Or $40,000. Hi Joan Lunden’s staffer who is so nice when we DM on Twitter! OK, at least retweet this one, will you? 

Or $400,000. Shut up, it could happen. No YOU’RE being delusional.

You get the idea. 4’s. Because 40 is FABULOUS. Or it will be, if you make my birthday wish come true!


Peaches come in a can

This post is not about cancer. This is a classic Cult of Perfect Motherhood deprogramming post. It’s about my grandmother, who happened to have breast cancer, but that’s not what this story is about. It’s about peaches. Canned peaches, to be specific. 

Recently, I tweeted while having a blood transfusion that I had canned peaches with my hospital food brunch, and that they reminded me of my paternal grandmother, and then I thought, I should tell you all this story because it explains a lot about the sense of humor I’ve inherited from my family. And it also gives us a lesson that will help us all do a little deprogramming.

So, my grandmother was your typical 1950’s style housewife living in a small town in Oregon, and every year, she’d can her own peaches. She’d go get a bushel of them from the local growers, and do all the work that’s involved in canning peaches. Which is a lot of work, but since my grandfather loved them, she made them.

Then one year, my grandmother missed the peach harvest. You know, because she was busy raising four kids. So, she went down to the local grocery store and bought canned peaches, you know, like, the cheap store brand ones. And she brought them home, and she hid them in the cellar. And anytime my grandfather said, “Honey, how about some peaches with dinner” she’d say “Sure thing, I’ll go get them from the cellar.”

Then she’d go down to the cellar, open a can of peaches, dump them in a mason jar, screw the lid on, and bring them upstairs and say “Honey, can you open the lid for me, it’s so tight.” And my grandfather would open the jar, and they’d eat the peaches, and my grandfather would say, “Sweetheart, nobody cans peaches like you do, these are the best peaches ever.”

So, now my grandmother knew that her husband couldn’t tell the difference between her peaches and the cheap store brand canned peaches. So she was like “The fuck I’m gonna do all that work anymore.” (Except, she NEVER would have sworn, but you get the idea.) But, she also wasn’t going to tell my grandfather she wasn’t doing all this work and lose all the compliments about the peaches. So she just bought the peaches at the store that come in a can because they were put there by a man in a factory downtown. And she kept putting them in mason jars and fooling my grandfather. For, like, 30 years.

The only person who knew this was going on was my aunt, who was sworn to secrecy. My grandmother made my aunt promise not to tell anyone until she was dead. So, my grandmother passes away in her 80’s (not from breast cancer, from regular old age stuff) and like five minutes later, my aunt’s like “Dad, there’s something you need to know about your wife.” And she tells him about the peaches, and he thinks it’s the FUNNIEST THING EVER. Literally the next time I saw him, he was like, “OMG I have the best story about your grandmother.” (Except he didn’t say OMG, but you get the idea.)

When my grandfather died, my local BFF left a can of peaches on my doorstep, which made me smile. And every time I eat canned peaches, I think of my grandmother, and what a sassy, awesome woman she was. And I think, “What peaches thing am I doing because I think it matters to my family, but really they don’t give a shit?” What peaches thing are YOU doing right now?

A White Dress and Your Sweatpants Are Both OK

I’ve been feeling really uncomfortable about how a lot of the moms in my world reacted so violently to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and her post-baby outfit. It feels like a pack of wild hyenas have descended on Kate and her white dress. And anytime I feel like a woman is under attack for her parenting choices, I get completely skeeved out, and I feel compelled to defend her.

You guys, Kate Middleton is fucking gorgeous. She just is. She was fucking gorgeous when she first met Prince William, and she is fucking gorgeous now. She wore gorgeous expensive clothes before she married Will, and she wears gorgeous expensive clothes now. That she came out of that hospital looking fucking gorgeous and wearing a gorgeous expensive dress was completely not shocking to me. It’s who Kate is. It’s how she rolls.

I almost never wear makeup. I also love to wear yoga pants. I left the hospital after both my deliveries wearing yoga pants and no makeup. Because that’s how I roll. 

Neither Kate’s nor my choice of how to dress ourselves is wrong. Neither of our choices has any impact on anyone else’s life. Just because we chose differently, doesn’t mean either of us is a traitor to the sisterhood of moms. It’s not like either of us went around talking smack about other women and putting them down for having different wardrobe preferences, now did we?

Now, some folks have expressed legitimate concern that Kate isn’t actually the one making her wardrobe choices, that this whole perfect-looking-royal thing she’s been rocking is being forced upon her by Will’s family. And if that’s what’s really going on, well that IS shitty. Feminism is about personal autonomy, and if she doesn’t have that, then yeah, I do feel sad for her, and we should come to her rescue, the way someone should have come to Princess Diana’s rescue. But I personally don’t buy it. Everything I’ve seen from Kate over the years suggests she is her own woman in a way Diana wasn’t able to be. And frankly, if you looked away from the outfit for a minute and saw her face, I mean, she looked pretty damn happy to me. Like most new moms.

Which brings me back to the haters. 

Look. I get that it’s easy to feel like a failure when you see a celebrity mom looking that good, when you’re struggling to find time for a shower. I really do get it. But I implore you to realize that that feeling of failure is because The Cult of Perfect Motherhood is trying to convince you that you live up to an idealized feminine beauty standard that 99.99% of us will never achieve, since we weren’t born looking like Kate and we don’t have a team of support personnel to help us look that good. The Cult has worked hard to convince us that we should look like Kate, because that’s how they get you to waste your money on beauty creams and shit. By making us feel like failures. 

The thing is, once you get deprogrammed from The Cult, you no longer feel like shit when you see Kate in that $3000 dress. You just see a woman who’s just had a baby with a big smile on her face and an adorable child in her arms, and feel joy. Even though she’s doing motherhood differently than you. Because, her choices are hers, and yours are yours, and neither of you is wrong. You’re just different, and that’s OK.

Telling the Truth: I Hate Cleaning

It’s time for some deprogramming, y’all! Let’s go back to the beginning and remind ourselves of the four ideals that the Cult of Perfect Motherhood forces us to try to achieve: perfect femininity, never putting yourself first, freaking out over the latest parenting research, and domesticity. It’s the last one of those that I want to talk about today.

My house is a complete and total disaster area most of the time. I married a slob–I knew it when we started dating and I saw his bedroom in his apartment, where his stuff was literally in piles everywhere and there was only a path to his bed. He’s toned it down quite considerably since then, but the truth is, he doesn’t see the mess, and if he does see it, he usually doesn’t care much about it. Is it my favorite thing about him? No, but it’s sure as hell not a deal breaker. He tells me I’m hot even after I’ve lost a boob, and he’s a great kisser. Guy’s a keeper.

That said, the slob tendencies that run in our family and my level of fatigue these days mean our house is, as I said, a disaster area most of the time.

Before cancer, I used to clean up quite a bit before people came over. Not for everyone–even before cancer, I had friends for whom I didn’t clean–but for many guests, I’d put everything away, EVERYTHING, and sweep and vacuum, and clean behind the toilets, and maybe even mop. Now? I’m tired. A lot. I don’t have the energy for all that, and frankly, after a long day at work, neither does The Hubs. So, I pick up the kids’ dirty underwear from the living room floor (not kidding, there’s two pairs of it there as I type this) and clear the toys off the couches so there’s somewhere for everyone to sit. That’s basically it.

And you know what? Not one of my friends has given a shit. Not one of them has said “Gee, you’ve really let this place go, haven’t you?” They just plop down on the couch and start chatting.

Here’s the thing: I think we’re all afraid to let down our guard about this whole domesticity thing, and tell the truth: some of us like cleaning and feel a sense of accomplishment from it, but some (many of us?) don’t like it. It’s not where we find our joy. And that’s OK. It doesn’t make us bad mothers that we’re not finding our joy in domestic tasks. Let me say that again: it doesn’t make us bad mothers that we don’t like cleaning.

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: a key way to escape from the Cult and its pressures and expectations is to be honest about how you feel about them. If domesticity isn’t your thing, just say that. If you give no fucks about being feminine, tell your friends. There’s so much fear among women about telling the truth about our lives, for fear we’ll be judged, and shunned. But I’m telling you now: the truth is liberating, and I think you’ll find that your friends will express relief when you speak your truth, and say, “Oh thank goodness, I’m so glad I’m not the only one.”

More or Less

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of stuff by moms that makes me feel…uncomfortable. I keep wondering why I feel this way. And I realized that it’s because I need a refresher on one of the key concepts that helps free us all from The Cult.

Did you know even I need a refresher now and then? It’s true. When you have to live surrounded by people who have drunk the kool aid, it’s easy to think “Maybe I’m the one who’s crazy.” But no, it’s not me.

Let me back up a minute. What is it I’ve been reading that bothered me? I’ve been branching outside of my usual circle of awesome bloggers I follow–the ladies from The Book, and some other bloggers I really admire. So, what I’ve been coming across lately is a lot of stuff about feeling like you’re not doing enough as a mom. That the kids aren’t perfect; that the house isn’t perfect; that the family photos aren’t perfect. 

I keep reading these kinds of things and thinking “I do less and less all the time as a mom. Fatigue sets in by 3PM every day. I can’t even get up with them some mornings because I’m too tired. Am I even a mom anymore? I don’t have a breast anymore. My hair is still so short, it looks like a guy’s. Am I even a woman anymore?” That shit hurts. Those feelings are right under the surface, because as treatment goes on and we add new drugs to my cocktail, the side effects get worse.

So I would quickly click away from their words. And I would feel more and more isolated. And more and more like a failure. 

Until one night, I thought, “It’s not you. It’s them.”

It seems to be deeply embedded in the American psyche to be constantly striving for more. Bigger house, higher test scores, more trophies. Nothing is good enough. Nobody is doing good enough, not when there’s room to do better. And we lie to ourselves and say that more is possible, even when it’s clearly not. Harvard is hovering off in the distances if on,y you sign Little Sally up for enough sports teams and community service experiences and foreign language classes.

Well, I don’t want that kind of more. I don’t want a life spent running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I don’t see how that life would make me happy.

I’d settle for the more I had before cancer.  More energy. More years to come. More smiles. But I can’t have even that kind of more. I have less now.

Does that make me less of a good mom? Does my less make you say “She’s a shitty parent”? Are you an asshole? No, of course not. It makes you say “She’s doing the best she can, and her kids are turning out fine.” You say “Of course you’re a woman, look at how feminine Sinead O’Connor was with that bald head. And that chick from the first Star Trek movie in the 70’s, wow she was hot.” 

I think the real problem is this: we look at our lives, and we say, “I’m unhappy. Something must be wrong with me. Why can’t I seem to make this work?” But it’s not us. It’s the pressures the world is putting on us. It’s the feeling like you’re failing, but the only thing you’re failing at is meeting a completely stupid expectation that won’t make you happy even if you meet it. It’s that we’re not looking at our lives and deciding “These are the things that make me happy–what do I do to achieve them?” Instead, we’re saying “I think I’m supposed to do these things, because I see others doing them, and I can’t seems to do them. I am a failure.”

No. No more. Today is the day I stop looking at other families and judging my parenting by their actions. Instead, I will look at what is important to me, and what my values are, and what my limitations are, and choose my actions accordingly. If I’m too tired to make dinner, and too tired to fold clothes, I will remind myself that I value cuddles with my kids over a fresh made meal and unwrinkled shirts. If five nights a week practice doesn’t work for our family’s schedule, we’ll pick an activity that does work for us. If other families do it differently, it doesn’t matter. They do what works for them, and we’ll do what works for us, and it’s all good. 

I won’t keep aiming for more. I will be happy with less, because my less will consist of what is important.


I’m part of several mom groups, because finding support from other moms is seriously helpful. Not all mom groups are a good fit for everyone, but when you find one where the other women share your values, it’s pretty empowering.

I hadn’t talked about my cancer in one of those groups until recently. I find that when I disclose that I have cancer, and that it’s terminal, people react in predictable ways. There is a lot of “oh, I’m so sorry, how can I help, I wish I could hug you” kind of stuff, because most people are incredibly kind. Just, seriously, amazingly, beautifully kind. I suppose if I was in a group and they didn’t react that way, I’d know I was in the wrong group and I should run away from them.

After the initial outpouring of kindness, the secondary reaction is usually “You put my silly problems in perspective, I feel bad complaining about my challenges because they seem so minor in comparison.” And that’s when I wish I had kept on passing as a regular mom, one who doesn’t have a terminal illness. Because, I don’t want them to feel like they can’t talk about their struggles in front of me.

Folks who are different in a way that makes them “the other” often pass in our society, especially if their difference is one that will lead to oppression. It’s why gay folks sometimes live in the closet, and light skinned black folks sometimes hid their African ancestry in the era of slavery and Jim Crow. If lynching is something that could happen to a group you’re a member of, hiding that identity from the world makes a hell of a lot of sense. But there is danger in passing, too. If one is found out, the lynching can be even swifter.

Obviously being someone with cancer is nothing like that. Nobody lynches people for having cancer, or for pretending they don’t have it. Instead, my cancer merely makes people look at me differently than they did before they knew I had it. I feel like once they know, they don’t see me anymore; they just see the cancer. It’s written all over their faces. It’s incredibly isolating, actually, and sometimes I just don’t want to be “that mom,” the one the other moms pity, the one who makes their problems seem petty in comparison. I just want to be part of the gang.

I used to feel the same about The Boy’s prematurity. When people would ask me how old he was, and I knew the actual answer would mean I’d have to explain that he was born 3 months early, I’d sometimes just tell them his corrected age (that’s how old he’d be if he’d been born on his due date) instead of his actual age. Sometimes I wasn’t up for having that conversation, telling that story; it was just easier to pass as a regular mom, and hide my preemie mom identity. It was a relief when he was caught up developmentally and growth-wise with his actual age peers and the “how old is he” question didn’t lead to uncomfortable questions anymore.

I wish we lived in a world where being different wasn’t so isolating, where our differences didn’t separate us. I also wish I could win the lottery and buy a bungalow in French Polynesia, but I’m not gonna hold my breath that either will happen. So, I’ve learned that coming out as someone with a terminal illness, rather than passing as a regular mom, means that I need to know how to re-establish the sense of community that my difference can destroy.

I do that by reminding the other moms of what we have in common: a mutual hatred of doing the laundry; children whose tantrums make us want to pull our hair out; sleep deprivation. And I also specifically say, every time, that it’s OK for them to bitch about what’s bothering them. Parenting is fucking hard, for everyone, and everyone should have a space to complain about it when they’re struggling, a space where they can ask for support, even if others in the group are struggling in different ways than I am. If my illness helps them feel like their lives aren’t so hard, I mean, that’s fine too. But I sure as shit don’t want to add “I feel guilty for complaining” to their list of stressors, and I don’t want to feel like The Other.

I still pass as non-disabled sometimes–at the grocery store, at parties with people I don’t know that well, that sort of thing. But where I am part of a community, I try to be as open about who I am as possible, and encourage the rest of the community to do the same. Coming together to celebrate our sameness, in spite of our differences, makes us all stronger, and makes all our lives richer.

Enjoy Every Moment Redux

Last year, I wrote a post about how I hate when people tell you to enjoy “every moment because they grow up so fast.” And since The Cancer, as my worldview has become increasingly unique, I have begun to hate it even more, for two reasons.

First, as I explained in my post last year, it’s absurd to expect moms to enjoy even the shitty moments with their small kids. It’s absurd to tell me to enjoy the moment when I have to tell The Girl that I can’t pick her up because my arm is still too sore after my mastectomy. It’s absurd to tell me to enjoy the moment when The Boy acts out because he isn’t getting enough time with me, because I am too tired from the chemo.

When I actually do have an enjoyable moment with the kids, even those are tainted by The Cancer. I think to myself, “I am so grateful to have this moment, because I know I will feel like shit again soon.” Yep, that’s how fucked up this experience is, that even when you’re happy, there’s this layer of sadness underneath it. The NICU was like that too–even in a victory where The Boy made progress, they were victories because of how shitty the situation was. The good felt so good because of the bad that came before it.

Second, my kids are not growing up fast enough. I don’t mean that I wish my kids would be more worldly or act older than they are, because that would suck. I just mean that even in the best case scenario for my illness, I don’t have as much time left in my life as your average mom. I will be really lucky to see them both graduate from high school, and that has become my dream, the thing I long for more than anything else–to see them both to adulthood. And that feels like it’s so. painfully. far. away. Especially when The Girl STILL is not interested in being fully potty trained. They aren’t growing up so fast–they are growing up so slowly.

I feel like when you have cancer, you’re supposed to be all positive and really get the most out of every day and all that shit. Like, you know, that cancer is supposed to make it so you don’t waste a moment of your life because you don’t know for sure how many moments you have left. For me, that’s just not how cancer makes me feel. I’m not cashing out my bank account and going on that vacation I always dreamed of, or whatever. Because the thing is, it’s not like the rest of life stops when you have cancer. Your kids still pee on the couch and spill finger paint all over the kitchen. Your spouse still gets a cold or throws out his back. There is still a mortgage.

And lots of days, I just don’t even feel like going on that vacation anyway. I just feel like sitting in my recliner and playing 100 games of solitaire, to distract me from The Cancer. Sometimes being distracted is the best I can hope for. Expecting enjoyment from me is just unrealistic right now.

And the thing is, every parent has reasons to not be happy sometimes. Most aren’t as dramatic as cancer, but the everyday grind of life can be pretty darn hard. And in this world of smiling advertisements and Xanax and being grateful every day, we also need to make room for us to feel sad sometimes. It needs to be OK to be sad, not just when you have cancer, but whenever the situation warrants sadness.

“Enjoy every moment” tells people it’s not OK to be sad. But it IS OK. It’s normal, and human, and perfectly OK to be sad sometimes.

10 reasons why I don’t read click-bait-y parenting articles

This is a list of the reasons why I don’t click on articles with titles like “What one mom wished she knew that might have saved her child’s life” and “10 things you are doing wrong as a parent.”

1. Every time you read a parenting article with a click-bait-y title, a puppy dies. Seriously.

2. All parenting articles are filled with information I can live without. Nobody ever accidentally turned their kid into a serial killer because they didn’t read some article on attachment parenting on the Internet.

3. When you click on click bait, the terrorists win.

4. I’m secure enough in my OK-ness that I don’t need to read things on the Internet to validate my world view.

5. Reading click-bait-y articles may give you The Clap.

6. I’m not kidding, I got a weird rash after clicking on some click bait article one time.

7. If we all stopped reading click-bait-y articles on the Internet, maybe they’ll stop writing them? Haha, I know, I am so naive.

8. Most of those articles claim to be based on scientific studies that only show correlation, not causation, and the authors of the articles are too stupid to know the difference.

9. Just as reading beauty magazines will only make you feel ugly, reading articles that promise to make you a more confident parent will only make you less sure of your parenting skills.

10. Because I got enough guilt in my life without the goddamn Internet giving me more of it.

A Year of Deprogramming

YOU GUYS! It’s my one year blogiversary! And now I will wax philosophical about writing, and sisterhood, and The Cult.

I feel like in the past year, I have noticed a change in the world. I feel like I run into less Judgy McJudgersons, and more…well, I haven’t coined a term for the opposite of Judgy McJudgersons yet, have I? How about we call her Ms. Awesomesauce? Ms. Awesomesauce does stuff like finding support for a friend who she worries has postpartum depression. Ms. Awesomesauce tells everyone that her friend’s house may be a mess, but it’s cool because the friend is focusing on what is important: spending time with her family. Ms. Awesomesauce calls out a Judgy McJudgerson when she meets one, but in a non-assholic way, because she knows we are all stronger if we come together as moms and support each other.

The best part of this last year of writing has been the amazing community of bloggers I have joined. You may not realize this if you’re not a blogger, but when you start a blog, and other bloggers hear about it, they come read your blog and start sharing the things you write that resonate with them. And they tell you how much they loved a particular piece, and WOW, does that feedback feel good! And I do the same for them, because we are all stronger if we come together as writers and support each other.

I am not a big-time blogger. I just write whatever comes in my head, not wondering “will people like this” because I am not making money off of this. If you read much of what I write, you can tell that it’s clearly therapeutic for me to be writing my blog, especially since The Cancer. So, I don’t really worry about trying to reach new readers or page views or whatever. I just spew out some stuff filled with typos and call it a day. Which is why it is all the more amazing to me that there are so many of you who DO read what I write, and say nice things about it. And it makes me feel stronger, because in this space on the Internet, we have come together as people who support each other.

So, thanks for being so Awesomesauce, you guys! And here’s to another year of fighting The Cult!

On Aging

You want to know what’s most ironic about me having Stage IV cancer? For years, I have been dreaming about how awesome it’d be to be an old lady. No, seriously, old age kicks ass. Let me explain why.

The Hubs and I have been on a lot of cruises, and one of the things I like best about a cruise is that the age of passengers tends to skew pretty old. Old people have the BEST stories, so they make the most interesting dinner companions. One cruise, The Hubs and I sat with a couple of old ladies from England, and man were they a trip. It was so interesting to listen to them talk about their lives, but my favorite thing about them was that one of them would always order an extra side of ice cream with her dessert. Because she’s already lived this long, what’s it gonna do, kill her? Make her fat? Who gives a shit, she’s old.

Old is being a badass. Old is not having to care what anyone thinks of how you look or what you wear. Old is being able to tell it like it is. Old is freedom.

I went to Vegas last December with some girlfriends and we sat for a while in a bar at the Paris casino, and listened to one of the most awesomely bad lounge singers I have ever heard. Guy had a guitar and a karaoke machine and you just KNEW it was gonna be good when he started playing Margaritaville. And I turned to my girlfriends and I said, “When I retire, I am totally gonna be a lounge singer in Vegas. If this guy can get a gig, I sure as hell can.”

You know what else I want to do when I retire? Live in a senior community. It’s just like a college dorm except with Hoverounds. All your friends are in one place, and there’s a cafeteria so you don’t even have to cook, and you can hang out all day in your PJ’s, and when you feel like it, there are enrichment classes to go to and movie nights and shit. See? Just like college, plus HOVEROUNDS.

Now that I have The Cancer, I don’t get to dream about my old age so happily. I can’t just think about the future in a breezy way anymore like I used to. Old age has become my deepest desire, one I am almost afraid to hope for, because there is a good chance it won’t happen for me.

Actually, I already have the shitty parts of old age. I’m tired a lot, my hair fell out, and I spend all my free time at doctor appointments. It would be really nice to get some of the perks too. Like a Hoveround. And getting to be a lounge singer in Vegas.

So, now when I hear people complain about aging, about their wrinkles and the hair growing from their ears and whatever, I dunno. I try to keep in mind that my perspective now is all fucked up, and most people can’t see their wrinkles and their aches and pains the way I do. But mostly I just want to tell people to shut. the. fuck. up. Because there is a lot of awesomeness that happens when you’re old. Old is fucking beautiful.