21 December 2007

So Long to a Fellow Survivor

Tyler was my age. Ten years ago, he was diagnosed with a rare form of throat cancer with a high mortality rate. (He never smoked.) Tyler went to my friends at M.D. Anderson, where he received radiation treatment, followed by surgery to remove the tumor. He went about the business of surviving.

Three years ago, after an argument, his wife killed herself. He had spent the night at a hotel and came home the next morning to find her sleeping. He noticed that her head was lying at an odd angle on the pillow, but thought nothing of it. Tyler went out to run some errands and came back to find his wife had shot herself. When the autopsy was completed, he was told that she apparently took an overdose of medication and, waking to find that her suicide attempt was unsuccessful, she pulled a gun out of the bedside table and shot herself.

Tyler struggled to regain his equilibrium the past three years. I'm not sure that he ever really did, though. As a suicide survivor, I know that road is long and treacherous. I can't imagine how it's possible to recover when your wife shoots herself, in your bed, after an argument. He went on and tried to find a new life.

Every year since his surgery, Tyler had to go back to M.D. Anderson to have scar tissue from the surgery removed from his throat. He had his last surgery about three months ago. He left a message on our machine a couple of weeks ago, wanting to hear how I've been doing. It was something Tyler did regularly.

His message sounded almost like he was on a respirator. I could hear his labored breathing in between phrases. There's only so much you can do with scars. Ultimately, removal of scar tissue only creates more scar tissue. For Tyler, the scars finally made it impossible for him to breathe and he died in his sleep.

Here's to you, Tyler, to your long struggle to survive. Here's to your will to endure your wife's death. We walked the same paths, but now you've left me far behind. Would you have guessed that I'd be crying for you? I am, just as I'm celebrating your courage and tenacity.

So long, Tyler. We'll all see each other soon.

19 December 2007

The Kielbasa Report

The Crazy Land fete didn't disappoint. Kielbasa suggested that we maintain a charged-up defibrillator for occasions like this. Death food abounded and the Sausage partook heartily, given the fact that she's swaddled in spandex.

In brief, Owner offended many times.

*He corrected one of our foremen when he made the mistake of using "ain't." There was general grumbling from all of us about Owner's need to browbeat. This from the guy who calls me on the intercom regularly to use me as his own personal dictionary and Thesaurus.

*Owner made a snide comment about Kielbasa's hubby (childhood friend). He insinuated that Hubby is bitter about the divorce from 35 years ago. I was baffled and speechless, a rare event. Again, the natives were mightily offended.

*He compared the Information Superhighway's older son to a former University of Texas coach not known for his comeliness. Superhighway was furious, having already been irritated by Owner's previous snottiness.

There were a couple of additional offensive comments, but I'm too befuddled by cholesterol-laden food to remember what they were.

The luncheon was further enlivened by the Shunner displaying the stitches in his hand from a recent surgery. Noel, noel!

There was lengthy discussion about Mitt Romney, Mormonism and everyone's dissatisfaction with our choices for President. As you know, these subjects are required fodder for any festive occasion, brimming with opportunities for people to be aggravated. Luckily, no one was choked or beaten about the head.

In a surprising turn of events, death and layoffs were never mentioned. That's how you know it's the holidays.

The Kielbasa jingled from all appendages and was thoroughly amused by Owner. The hand was good, too.

New Weblog

I have a new weblog, but if you don't like poetry, don't bother. (It's not my poetry. Be grateful.)

This So Voiceless Flesh
(from a poem by Kenneth Patchen)

Hark, The Festal Sausage Cometh!

"Humor is the instinct for taking pain playfully." ~ Max Eastman

Today, I'm stuffed into what used to be known as "foundation garments." I remember, as a kid, trying to figure out what the hell those were because, in the olden days, you never saw bras or girdles on television commercials. It was too risque even to offer a definition. It seems so quaint now.

I saw my physical therapist yesterday, which is a tantamount to paying someone to abuse me. All of my scar tissue always hurts (and I have a lot of it, everywhere), but after she finishes massaging and pinching, I'm ready to start confessing to things I've never done. I'll say anything, but please don't torture me anymore.

This morning, I woke up feeling more than a little ragged. I'm exhausted and it seems entirely possible that an army of little demons stabbed me with forks all night long. I am not at my best.

PT told me that, if I wore my special compression bra and girdle (the one I wore 24/7 for three months), I'd have a lot less pain. Damn. I was in no shape to be stubborn about it today, so I'm packed into my underwear like a kielbasa. "Less pain" is the operative phrase here; I have a lot left over, despite my discomfort.

I wore one of my festive shirts today, the one with a reindeer who's holding a martini while he has one hoof perched on a beach ball. It's a little loose, but you can still tell there's something weird going on under there. We're having Owner's birthday party today, so I wanted to amp up the merry for the occasion. Not feeling particularly convivial, I knew special effort would be required to get through the Crazy Land lunch. I'm not sure the shirt's going to help much, but I've done all I can. I'm a kielbasa with a reindeer and jingle bell bracelet, earrings and necklace. Hark, the festal sausage cometh!

PT gave me some new exercises to do, specifically aimed at regaining strength and range of motion in my rotator cup and pectoral muscle. The exercises feel just dandy, too. I've added them to my daily 25 (25!) minutes of stationary bike and 20 minutes of yoga. After I finish with those activities, I have self-massage to do. That takes another 30-40 minutes. In a way, my life is still all about breast cancer. Not that I'm whining. All of this is far more bearable than the chemo and recovery from multiple surgeries. Nonetheless, how annoying. How very un-holiday.

When I got home yesterday from physical therapy, after getting stuck in college basketball game traffic, Hubby was hanging around waiting for me to make dinner. I'd gotten some tamales, so all he had to do was cut a couple of holes in the packaging and stick the damn things in the microwave. The brown rice was microwaveable, as was the refried beans. I'd already mixed the salad. Would any of this be hard to do? If your wife was being tortured, wouldn't you want to microwave the damn dinner for her? Yes, you would.

Not my Hubby. My level of pain made it hard to focus on what exactly needed to be done and in what order. While I wandered around the kitchen, getting things together, Hubby was in another room checking his email. Santa will be delivering a lump of coal for Hubby if he doesn't shape up. During dinner, I mentioned several times how exhausting the pain is after physical therapy. Hubby made a sympathetic face, but I assure you that, if it were he who was suffering, there would be no tamale dinner. There would be plenty of whining, though.

That will be about enough from me, too. Here's hoping for a fun, if not jolly, Crazy Land lunch. Owner's been in a funk the past several days, so he may be entertainingly annoying. Mr. Moneybags is weighing in with some serious crotchety, too. The cake has already arrived. Oh God. I just heard the dulcet tones of Loathsome. Looks like we're headed for some choppy waters. The Kielbasa* will keep you posted on the Crazy Land festivities.

*Finally. I think I've found my very own nickname: Kielbasa. Or Sausage. Hey, Mimi, it's the answer to the question you posed so long ago! I've officially earned my own Crazy Land nom de guerre.

17 December 2007

News Flash

"Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall. We traditionally do this in my family by driving around the parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2,000 years ago followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space." ~ Dave Barry

Completely unrelated to this post: I spent three hours on Saturday trying to get my mom's DSL set up. There were problems with the provider, so the entire three hours was spent on the phone with a couple of guys from (probably) India. Their names were Barry and Brian, though. It's nice to know the Indian people have started giving their kids names we can pronounce.

News flash: I got a bonus. I never get a bonus. I've been missing so much time the past two years that just getting paid was a huge bonus. They didn't have to pay me for all the time I missed. I'm grateful. Now I can build that new swimming pool (see National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation).

On Wednesday, we're celebrating Owner's birthday. He was a Christmas baby. He has specifically requested canned frosting on his cake. Other than that, I have no idea what we're having for lunch. Just checked intra-office email and there's no word on the food choice. Isn't it sad what I've been reduced to? I always used to scoff at the people who lived for those fabulous office lunches. I may have boycotted a lot of Crazy Land festivities, but never ever have I missed the cake.

I have one more gift to get. It's for my mom. I tried really hard to get her to sign up for another session of Tai Chi (I paid for the last session as a birthday gift). She's having none of it, though. That means Plan B is in effect--a cd player and her favorite perfume. Now if I somehow manage to make these purchases without her knowing it, Christmas will be a fait accompli.

I wrapped up my Crazy Land shopping on Sunday. Foot Lady's getting a calendar with Lhasa photos. She got her Lhasa at about the same time as my two original huskies joined the family. The Information Superhighway's gift is a sterling silver angel for her charm bracelet (she really is one of my angels). Loathsome mentioned months ago that he drinks chamomile tea every night and I think I revealed in an earlier post that he's a faux Buddhist and has a shallow love of all things Asian. I marched myself over to the Chinese healing/Buddhist/Hindu/new age store and bought some Chinese chamomile tea in a lovely little tin. For the son (IT Boy) and daughter, chocolate. Those are the only two impersonal gifts. I have no idea what to get them, so I finally gave up trying to dream something up.

It's a beautiful day today and Christmas songs provide a festive oasis here in my office. Yep, I'm wearing my jingle bells again. Sometimes I'm just insufferably merry.

14 December 2007

Stage 3, Step 3

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful. ~Barbara Bloom (I'm not sure this quote goes with this post, but I like it anyway.)

It dawned on me last night that I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Oh shit...how did I not know that? I reviewed what I know about breast cancer staging, just in case I'd jumped to a hasty conclusion. No. Stage 3. Then I called my mom this morning and told her I'd just realized I have Stage 3 cancer.

"Well, they told you that at the time," she said. "I don't think you could handle it then. There were too many things happening too fast to deal with it all."

Well, hell. I wish someone had mentioned it more than once. Seems a little silly to be terrified now. It actually seems kind of funny. Or maybe that's just the hysteria talking. Epiphanies. What a riot!

Today, I have step 3 of the new plan. I thought of it last night in between panic attacks.

What do I know about suffering?

I know that, no matter how good things are, we are never satisfied. We're filled with a restless hunger. Have the perfect job? If only we liked our kitchen more. Have the kitchen redecorated? If only the sun would come out. Sun shining? If only we were having a better hair day.... It's endless, this longing.

We want to push change away, halt time in its tracks, because with change comes loss. We don't like loss; it never feels good.

We yearn so much for feeling good (in all its possible manifestations) that we are unable to accept each changing moment as it comes. That is the solution to my suffering. I have to relearn it every so often. I thought I'd gotten it down during chemo, but no.

I am mourning the loss of my breast. The breast is gone and the new one is scarred and hardened in places. I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer and now I'm afraid. Things are as they are.

I can let go and experience these truths without judgment, holding close to me in loving embrace the sorrow, anger and fear. I can stop rejecting the breast and love it. I can stop rejecting the body and love it. It is my oldest friend, it will be with me until I die. I can feel some empathy for this skin that carries me around in it.

I can remember that, as much as I don't like this moment, it's perfect, nonetheless.

13 December 2007

One More Thing...

I'm not angry with my beloved Dr. Ross. I still have him penciled in my datebook to elope with whenever he has time enough to think about it. Well, time and...you know...interest.

Jingle jingle.

Steps One And Two Of The New Plan

" Man performs and engenders so much more than he can or should have to bear. That's how he finds that he can bear anything." ~William Faulkner

After physical therapy, my day is almost gone, even though I've been at Crazy Land since 6:15 today. (Purely accidental, I assure you.)

Step one of the new plan has already been implemented. I've been listening to Christmas music and wearing my jingle bell bracelet. Okay, I confess. I always wear my jingle bell bracelet from Thanksgiving until Christmas. I make it tinkle whenever I walk around the office. I do what I can to annoy the natives in Crazy Land. Of course, they'd never mention it to me if they found it irritating, but it's bound to get under somebody's skin.

Step two of the new plan is to sit with the sorrow, to maintain some inner silence while I feel the loss. It's hard to write or talk when I'm listening to the sadness, so I've gone missing this week from everyone.

When Dr. Ross told me that I had to have a mastectomy, his physician's assistant told me that a year from treatment, no one would know anything ever happened. I held onto that prediction as if it were a lifeline. I don't think I ever really dealt with the loss of my breast. I didn't have to; I believed her.

It dawned on me last night that Dr. Ross actually talked to me about the problems I would face with reconstruction. He said he would discuss them in conference with his colleagues and try to find the best way to deal with them. I assumed all would be well.

The type of breast cancer I have is not the kind most women have; only 10 percent of diagnosed breast cancers are like mine. There were cancer cells throughout my entire breast, extending very close to the chest wall. After the breast was gone and chemo endured, there was an enormous amount of radiation to the area. My doctors feared the proximity to the chest wall and the neck. We were unable to save any skin, which would have made reconstruction easier.

I'd rather be alive than dead. I'd rather have this breast than none. Nonetheless, I'm angry and frustrated. And sad. So, so sad. I'm present with the heartache; I'm silent as I mourn.

The new plan will continue to unfold and, inevitably, I will be better. As Julian of Norwich said, "...all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."

Tinkle tinkle.

11 December 2007

Searching for a New Plan

There will be no more surgeries (aside from nipple reconstruction on the new breast). That means the hard, necrotic tissue will remain where it is, perhaps for years.

Dr. Kronowitz did inject steroids into the chelated areas on the new breast, navel and donor site. That may help with the way the scars look.

I started physical therapy today in hopes of improving strength and range of motion in my left arm.

There's not much else for me to say right now. I'm coming up with a new plan to come to terms with this new, permanent reality.

04 December 2007

Return of the Inner Fascist

"For most of us, the state we're in most of the time is distraction" ~ Joseph Goldstein

Hubby is out of town until Wednesday, researching an article he's writing, so I was left to my own devices last night. I enjoyed the silence, caught up on some reading and then watched television for a little while. That's when things started to fall apart.

My Inner Fascist made a reappearance. She's been under control for months, but she made a reappearance last week, relentlessly reminding me of what a terrible person I am. It's good to know she hasn't lost her edge. Last night, the little Black Shirt reviewed some memories and found me lacking. The harangue began and I started crying.

At first, I thought I was crying about the television program I'd been watching. The program were a little sad, but since I raised my antidepressant medication, I haven't been crying much. It finally dawned on me that it was the terrible words, the crushing failures enumerated that brought me to tears.

I discussed the Inner Fascist with my with therapist last week. She asked me how I manage to stop that critical voice left over from childhood, when perfection was required in order to survive. I told her that I'm a master of distraction. I've lived my entire life coping by distracting myself. I'm a pro. She wondered whether the Inner Fascist is a manifestation of that very survival mechanism.

What a concept! Of course! Instead of hating my parents when I was a child, I found it easier to hate myself. When my life was too terrifying, I distracted myself by launching into a litany of my own faults. All children, on some level, take responsibility for all of the bad things that happen to them, to their parents, to their world. Many, many bad things happened in my family.

Life would be better, my family would be better if I were better. I could ease my mother's pain and sadness, I could calm my father's rages, if I could only be more obedient, smarter, kinder. My father would have no need for a second family living in my own house, he would cease to find other children more worthy of compassion than I if I could be more worthy of love.

The Inner Fascist came along to help me focus less on the real causes of my anguish and to make me toe the line. She believed that rigorous criticism could still save the day. As time went on, the voice became more insistent and the list of requirements grew. There was a long period in my life when nothing I ever did met her standards and she noted each and every one of my imperfections, no matter how small. She noted them loudly and without compassion. The child who needed her help to survive became consumed by a constant cruelty. As if the outer dark wasn't cruel enough.

The Fascist lives on. When I'm anxious or angry or sad, she chimes in with the many ways I've failed. She stomps on me with her boots, rages against me and, by doing so, forces me to focus on something other than, say, going to Houston tomorrow.

I was unable to silence her last night, though I returned to my book about an NBA player to distract me (from her distraction). I slept very little. Today, I'm too tired to worry about Houston. The Inner Fascist has taken off her boots and black shirt. I hope she sleeps long and peacefully.

03 December 2007

Dreams of Crazy Land

I dreamed of Crazy Land last night and woke with a rapid pulse. It was an anxiety I couldn't identify at first. Why, I thought.

I was fully awake and wondered why Crazy Land is so scary today. And then it dawned on me. Thursday. Houston.

Working frantically on some Crazy Land business so I can finish by the end of the day on Tuesday. I guess I'll be catching up on everyone on Monday.

30 November 2007

Steady Now

Steady Now

Although things vanish, are what mark our vanishing,
we still hold on to them -- ballast against the updraft
Of oblivion -- as I hold on to this umbrella in a world of rain,

of heavy wet greens and grays dissolving into a new
atmosphere, a sort of underwater dulled electric glow
off everything, the air itself drowning in it, breath

thickening, growing mold. Yesterday I felt the smell
of grass greeting me as across a great distance, trying
to tell me some good thing in an underglaze of memory,

some forgotten summer trying to speak its piece. It is
the way of things and it never stops, never calls a halt--
this knocking and dismantling, this uprooting, cutting out

and digging down, so tall oaks and honey locusts are
laid low and drop to earth like felled cattle, shaking
the ground we've taken a stand on as if it were a steady

establishment, a rock of ages to outface ruin itself, not
the provisional slippery dissolving dissolute thing it is --
which we have against all the evidence set our hearts on.

~Eamon Grennan


"Self acceptance comes from meeting life's challenges vigorously. Don't numb yourself to your trials and difficulties, nor build mental walls to exclude pain from your life. You will find peace not by trying to escape your problems, but by confronting them courageously. You will find peace not in denial, but in victory." ~ J. Donald Walters

I've been feeling numb a lot lately. Dissociated. I'm not sure what the problem is, but it's making it hard for me to generate much interest in anything. Maybe the prospect of writing more about my early life has stopped me dead in my tracks. It certainly wouldn't be the first time.

I don't have to write about it.

It could also be because of my pending trip to Houston. I'll see Dr. Kronowitz on December 6, to take a look at his latest handiwork. We're going to have to talk about the necrotic tissue. There is no good answer to the question of what's going to happen next there.

If we're going to leave the hard ridge, I'm going to be very very unhappy. This has nothing to do with anyone other than me. Dr. Ross promised me, two years ago, that at the end of all of this, no one would be able to tell I ever had a mastectomy. Well, guess what? Anyone could tell something terrible has happened.

On the other hand, if we're going to do something about it, more surgery is guaranteed. I don't want to have more surgery. I'll never get back to even a semblance of my former physical fitness level if they don't stop cutting. Then, of course, there's that other thing. Stop hurting me.

I know this seems trivial compared to the possibility of dying from breast cancer. It's not trivial. I'm happy to be alive and well. I'm happy to have hair. I don't want my breast to look like a bride of Frankenstein breast. Not trivial.

In case I haven't said it lately: I hate having breast cancer.

Now. Back to being numb.

29 November 2007


"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares."~ Henri Nouwen

28 November 2007

Dark Matter

When I originally started this weblog, I had a couple of ideas in mind. I lost my best friend of 30 years to a heart attack and this was a means of continuing a "conversation" with her. She knew me when I was an angry, rebellious, hip young woman, when I was still an independent spirit unencumbered by adult relationships and responsibilities. We grew up together. I would write posts as if I were still writing letters to her.

I also thought it might be a good place to examine the path from there to here. I was a strange, isolated and abused child. My future shouldn't have amounted to much other than a life of drug abuse, prostitution and physical/emotional abuse. And yet none of those things have come to pass. Against all odds, I'm a productive member of society, my husband isn't allowed to even raise his voice to me. I earn my own money (even though I do so in Crazy Land). I've never been addicted to anything other than Diet Coke and nicotine. The only prostitution I've ever engaged in was limited to renting my soul to Crazy Land (or other wonderland places I've worked).

The only way to figure out how my trajectory landed me here in this moment seems to be to retrace the arc of my life. It's a tough path to follow, dark and disturbing. Sometimes I'm unable to wade through the underbrush to get to the seminal moments that lead to this present. Many memories are lost to me, buried away by trauma. It's also been my hope to reclaim some of those memories, no matter how brutal that unearthing may be.

Last week, my therapist reminded me of that intention. It was as if she'd wakened me from a deep slumber. However, I think my heart was already leading me back to my original path. My ongoing examination of the events leading up to my father's death fit into the original plan. Aside from breast cancer, nothing has defined the latter part of my life so much as his suicide.

Some of my friends who are kind enough to join me from day to day have read the posts from long ago, when I was trying to set down the bare facts of my early life. Some of them have come to know me during my two-year (and counting) breast cancer ordeal. Some of them love to visit Crazy Land.

Because I've grown to care about so many of the people who visit me here (and whom I visit regularly), I've become reluctant to expose them to the past. Most people can't tolerate knowing about much of it. (My best friend was one who could.) Nonetheless, I'm going to try to retrace my steps and get back to that original intention. It requires a lot of inward focus and, though I always try to be entertaining, sometimes I may not be.

Crazy Land will always be with us. I don't anticipate being freed from the asylum anytime soon. And let's face it, if I didn't write about Crazy Land, it might cause me to have to make an involuntary visit to a long-term mental health facility.

Some days I won't be able to walk backward into the darkness. I'll no doubt find other things to talk about. Some days I may blither on about what's going on in my life outside of Crazy Land. Who knows? Heaven forbid that I should be rigid about this.

I'll always want to hear from you. I can't tell you how many times, especially lately as I talk about my dad's suicide, that comments from you have made me pause and rethink things. Comments have caused me to question my own assumptions and conclusions. You raise my spirits and make me laugh. You renew my faith in human beings. You, the new people to whom I speak, are treasures beyond compare.

Because of that, I wanted you to know that the nature of the blog is going to shift a bit. Be forewarned. I know that some of you carry your own traumas and I don't want to add any more to your burden. If some of you choose to let go, if things become less entertaining or so weird that you must turn away, I'll be very sorry. I would wish it not to be so, but I will understand. I will continue to visit you in your own weblog worlds.

If you're interested in my previous posts about the past, please take a look at the following links.
Just the Facts, A Timeline
Sexual Abuse, Again
The Past Falls Away
Just the Facts, Part 2
Just The Dreary Facts, Even More
Deeper Into Darkness
A Small Bright Spot
My Own Good Reasons For a Suicide
Nothing Left Untouched
You Just Can't Make This Shit Up
The Baby Comes and My Father Finds Someone Else He Likes More Than Me

Well, this is about all I can do today. If you've made it through this many posts, you're a real trooper. Maybe I can finish tomorrow.

26 November 2007

The Decision, Part 3: I Hardened My Heart

"Rage cannot be hidden, it can only be dissembled. This dissembling deludes the thoughtless and strengthens rage and adds, to rage, contempt." ~ James Arthur Baldwin

I did as my father asked and called Shannon. I left a message on his voice mail and he called me back a couple of days later.

Several months earlier, my father showed me a recent photograph of my half brother. He looked startlingly like my father. I wished that I had never seen the image. I wished that I could destroy the memory it created in my mind. When I heard Shannon's voice on my answering machine, I wished to obliterate the sound. Hearing it awakened all the old demons, the memories, the rage. The images unfurled themselves behind my open eyes. I hated him. I'd never met him, but I hated him.

Shannon's mother had taken my own mother's place in my house. She had attempted to make me treat her as my stepmother. Grace. Her name is Grace. Amazing how even typing the name is almost more than I can bear. If I hated him, I hate her a thousand times more.

I called him back and left another message. I told Shannon exactly how to get in touch with me. At that point, playing phone tag was a very expensive game for me. I needed to just get it done, get the contact over with so that I could get my father off my back. My illness left me with little energy to get through my day and the pressure was eating up all I had left. I was exhausted and enraged. I tumbled through flashback after flashback as I moved through my days.

Meanwhile, my father was still haranguing me about talking with Shannon. The only thing that would have made him happy was for me to get in my car and drive there, wait for him outside his house and have some big, fake happy family reunion with this person I'd never met. The more he goaded, the angrier I got.

I made myself clear. I called Shannon. I told him how to get in touch with me at work and at home. If he chose not to call, that made him a coward. You know, if you want to talk to me, then do it. Otherwise, leave me alone. This is what I told my father. I had done as he asked. I refused to pursue Shannon any further. The suggestion that I might made me want to set a building on fire and watch it burn.

My father dropped the issue for a while. Then he called me in the middle of a chaotic afternoon and demanded that I call again.

"No," I told him. "Not only will I not call him again, I don't want to hear from you, either. Ever."

My father was astounded. I'm certain he never expected to hear those words from me. I was prepared to enforce the separation. He continued to try to negotiate with me, but he'd finally gone too far. We ceased to have regular contact.

21 November 2007


"Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you cannot bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond the pain." ~ St. Bartholomew

I hate the holidays. I can't remember a time when I didn't. I think, for a while when I was very young, I imagined that there was some possibility for "happy" holidays, but I don't think the vision was well-developed or lasted very long.

When I was a child, the holiday season always meant at least a solid month of my dad enjoying his favorite sport even more regularly than usual. His favorite sport was hurting people. My birthday, the days leading up to Thanksgiving, from then until New Year's day, Easter--they were all really fine excuses to engage in torture. Sometimes it would last for an hour or so, sometimes a day, sometimes many days. He tortured my mom. He tortured me. He tortured us both. Sometimes he tortured my pets.

It's funny that I'd forgotten how easy it is to dissociate when I think back to those times. I feel blank. My brain has clicked to a different channel. The channel is called "Numb."

Just to add some extra zest to the whole holiday festivities, my dad upped the ante by killing himself nine days before my birthday, a bare month from Thanksgiving. That event has cast a lovely glow over the holidays, too.

The weather is changing. Right now, the sun is shining and I'm watching leaves being blown off the trees. Tomorrow, it will be cold and windy. While I get ready for Thanksgiving dinner, the past will be replaying itself in the back of my mind. No one will hearing it buzzing around in my brain like a wasp.

I hate the holidays.

19 November 2007

Monday in Crazy Land

Owner was out of the office a couple of days last week while his office was being painted. He's back today and unhappy with the paint job. That's entirely predictable. Owner is one of the pickiest people I've ever known. Hemorrhoid Guy, as a joke, left the vacuum cleaner and some Pledge furniture polish right outside Owner's door. Owner's attention to detail is legendary. (Note to self: If you're going to call him that, try to learn how to spell the word, "hemorrhoid.")

Even though he hates the paint job, Owner sashayed over to my office a little while ago to ask me if I'd like to have my office painted. Not particularly. That means I'm going to have to move a bunch of stuff and probably end up working in Loathsome's office in the interim. After I move back in, I'll have to inhale paint fumes for a week or so until they dissipate. He asked me that question two weeks ago and I told him then I'm fine with the way things are. He's decided we're going to paint my office.

Then Owner made me follow him around, pointing out to me how much the entire place needs paint. Maybe we could paint everything else first and get to me sometime late in 2008. Or early 2009.

"What if someone were to come here?"

Well, people come here every day and we try to distract them from noticing by making them fill out employment forms and lecturing them about safety. No one yet has commented on that smudge above the copier.

I received an injury report a little while ago. Yes, I love getting those. One of our female employees was lifting a pallet on Friday and hurt her back. Did she report it then? No. Why? Because she didn't think it was a big deal. I called her foreman and told him to have her call me.

Hurt Girl called me in about half an hour. After some time-consuming pleasantries, I asked her if she'd seen a doctor.

"Well, no," she said, "I think I just strained it on Friday and I soaked it in the spa all weekend and it's not any better. I thought I'd report it just in case."

"Well, 'just in case' I need for you to see a doctor." Yes, I'm a bitch.

"I don't have a regular doctor. Can you recommend one?"

I told her I can't recommend one, but I can find her a doctor who's listed on our worker's comp HMO list. I gave her the name of someone we use regularly.

"But I live in (fill in name of small town about 20 miles from here). Can you find me a doctor there?"

The answer to that question is that I should be able to, by checking in on our insurance company's website. I typed in the URL and waited. This is the message I got:

Firefox has detected that the server is redirecting the request for this address in a way that will never complete. (Most of my requests in life have apparently been made in a way that will never complete. How appropriate.)

I tried it again. Same message. I told my injured employee I'd call her back. I called my insurance company and asked them to find a provider. I sat on hold for 20 minutes, then the woman got back on the line and said she was having problems. Really? I asked if she'd like to call me back.

I received an email 3 hours later. Let me repeat. Three hours. It's a good thing no one's bleeding to death. She couldn't get access to her own company's website so she sent me an excel spreadsheet with names of doctors. They were not organized by name, by specialty or by city. Yeah. This is mighty damn helpful.

I located some potential doctors and called the Hurt Girl back. I gave her a couple of names and told her to see them so she can start feeling better and I can complete my report. She called me back in 10 minutes to tell me that one of the doctors doesn't accept workers compensation patients (even though they're on my list) and the other didn't answer the phone.

I gave her some more names and now I'm waiting to hear that none of those doctors accept worker's comp, either. Our insurance company is a nationally known, highly reputable provider. They do an excellent job of taking Crazy Land's astronomically high monthly premiums. This whole HMO thing was supposed to be the way Insurance Company was going to keep a lid on those ever-increasing medical costs. I guess the best way to do that is to make sure no one ever sees a doctor.

Well, Hurt Girl hasn't called back. In exactly one hour and 25 minutes, my day here will be over. The time can not possibly pass quickly enough.

16 November 2007

Just Another Day In Crazy Land

"In individuals, insanity is rare, but in groups, parties, nations and epochs it is the rule." ~ Fredrich Nietschze (He got at least part of it right.)

It's been a busy day here in Crazy Land. Work, work, work. Don't they know I have more important things to do?

Good news: Loathsome is back on the big project and out of the office. Bad news: He's been calling about every 30 minutes with computer problems. Lying Boy (our fabulous IT "professional") has been out, so I've been the designated go-to girl. Basically, that means that I listen to him whine for a while, tell him (for the umpteenth time) that I can't help him, then I wait for his next call. The scuttlebutt around the office is that he's unhappy with the onsite printer he's been given. It's old. Loathsome does not do old. Unless it's really, really old (like antique Tibetan Buddhist altars) or he can dress it up in coordinated, tasteful clothing.

Mr. Moneybags swears that Loathsome is sabotaging the printer so he can get a brand, spanking new one. I don't know. Mr. Moneybags has an obsession with co-workers sabotaging things from databases to (now) printers. It could just be another manifestation of this particular nuttiness. I do know that Loathsome only wants the shiniest, newest, most aesthetically pleasing everything. That would, of course, include printers.

I'm officially taking wagers on how long it will be before he drops another multi-million dollar tool. Second wager is how long he will hide the fact that he's done it again. Get your dollars in now. You snooze, you lose. My best (based on previous experience) estimate is about a week until the accident. We won't find out about it for two or three.

I've been filling out Environmental Health and Safety forms (part of my ever so eclectic job description) all morning for Hemorrhoid Guy. Every last one of our clients asks for different information. The same client can require different types of information from year to year. It's fine; I only have to search through old files to ferret out the bits of data to suit their capricious desires.

Hey, I'm versatile. I'm flexible. I have no problem with said searching. The hitch in the whole process is that, though Crazy Employee has graced us with her presence, she's too busy making personal calls to answer the phone. The Information Superhighway and the receptionist were both out this morning, so I was answering the phone. (Hence the ongoing Loathsome encounters.) It slows down the data search considerably.

That brings me to the final Crazy Land anecdote for the day. It's time for Crazy Employee to update the employee manuals. We have new workers' comp insurance forms that haven't been included in all of the old manuals. When Information Superhighway told Crazy that she'd given the last of the manuals to The Ladies' Man, Crazy replied that she'd just had the receptionist put some more together. Superhighway repeated the problem, then took Crazy over to show her the empty cabinets where the manuals should be.

No, this time Crazy Employee did not cry. Let me not understate the significance of this show of self-control. However, she did grab a handful of hair from both sides of her head and moaned "Oh God, no!" Even the residents of Crazy Land are baffled by her hatred of the dreaded employee manuals.

Crazy doesn't have to copy them; we send them to Kinkos. She doesn't have to punch holes. She does not have to collate. All she has to do is place the main text in a binder, with pages that require signatures in the front pockets. The back pocket contains special information (like workers' comp insurance information, for instance). And it turns out she's delegating the task to the receptionist. That's what we all love about Crazy Employee. She's completely incomprehensible.

I have therapy today, so it's an early day for me. I probably won't get around to checking in on my blog friends or even responding to comments and posts. I'll be back to my regular routine as soon as possible.

15 November 2007

Veggie Platter Has Been Located

Apparently, veggie platter was lost in the refrigerator. It has been located and people are now eating it. I guess that means I'll have to bring something next time. I guess that means I won't be spitting in it, either. It's a mixed blessing, really.

Why My Dad Made The Decision, Part 2

"I believe that more unhappiness comes from this source than from any other--I mean from the attempt to prolong family connections unduly and to make people hang together artificially who would never naturally do so." ~ Samuel Butler

I didn't see my dad for about a year before he died. He'd been married before he met my mom and had a son from that marriage. They never had a relationship while his son (Shannon) was growing up. My father liked to cry and feel sorry for himself about it every once in a while.

I spoke with my parents for an hour every day after I moved out of their house. A year before Dad checked out, he started calling me a couple of times every day, haranguing me to get in touch with Shannon. It was critical to the development of their relationship. My father had always made me feel that he'd sacrificed having a boy to provide financially for me. When I was a little girl, I believed it was my fault. It made me angry. It bruised my soul.

I've never had any interest in getting to know Shannon. I resented him, the Golden Child left behind. I do not feel connected to him. For me, sharing a genetic link doesn't imply a relationship, although it's likely that Shannon is possessed by the same madness that infected my father and everyone else in his family. Why would I invite that into my life? It's a terrifying possibility.

Furthermore, I thought my father used his blossoming relationship with his son to carry on with his first wife. Before he started nagging me about it, my father had gone to the state where his son and ex lived (and where virtually all of my father's family lived) for a visit. He stayed at his ex-wife's house and my mom stayed at my aunt's house. When I found out about that, I was enraged. I didn't want to do anything that would encourage that kind of behavior.

My dad didn't have a lot of good things to say about Shannon, most notably, that he had a drinking problem. I've had a rule since I was a teenager: I don't have relationships with addicts who aren't in recovery. I was very ill at the time and the thought of receiving some of those 3:00 a.m. phone calls that alcoholics like to make ratcheted up my already-high anxiety level.

Nonetheless, I finally gave in. I called Shannon and left a message.

13 November 2007

Thanksgiving Follow-up

Follow up to Thanksgiving event.

No, they did not eat any of the vegetable platter. No, they didn't even take it out of the refrigerator.

What am I bringing next year? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And I may spit in it.

Thanksgiving in Crazy Land

"Work may include battles of will as Metal brings intensity and inflexibility to the day." ~ my Chinese horoscope for the day

We're celebrating Thanksgiving in Crazy Land today. It's our usual comedy of errors. Crazy Employee sent out an email telling us the company is buying the Honeybaked Ham and soliciting side dishes. Owner immediately answered that he doesn't want any Honeybaked anything. He either wants a ham that someone has cooked in their own home or he wants nothing at all. Surprise. No one went home, bought a ham, glazed it and baked it. Mr. Moneybags wonders if Owner will boycott the whole affair. What a naive thing to think for a man who's worked here at least a decade now. The inadequacy of the ham is all the more reason for Owner to be there. Prepare for torture. Owner will spend the entire hour (or however much time it takes for everyone to gulp down their food) talking about how bad the ham is. He will also probably be unhappy with all side dishes. There's no half way with Owner.

I have my own issues with Crazy Land Thanksgiving. About ten years ago, when I was in the depths of my three-year stress-related illness, I summoned what little energy I had to spare to bake a pie for the office Thanksgiving party. I make my own pie crust. It was a lot of work and left me completely depleted. Back in those days, I still felt very emotionally connected to Crazy Land and the people who worked here. See how far I've come?

I brought my lovingly prepared pie and, at the end of the lunch, no one had touched it. There it sat, uncut. A couple of people came up to me and said they were saving room and looked forward to tasting it. No one did. I was deeply hurt. Do I hold a grudge? Not usually, but when I do, I never ever let go.

Since that day, I have never prepared even a morsel of food for any Crazy Land get together. When I opened the email asking people to say what they'd bring, I thought about reviewing this whole incident and informing everyone I'd be bringing potato chips. Yes, I know no one wants potato chips with ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes and green bean casserole. This is exactly my mean-assed point.

When I discussed it with my mom, she suggested that, since I have an extra loaf of sandwich bread at home, I should have just brought that. I could plop it down on the sideboard and dare anyone to comment. Woe to the person who would be so foolhardy.

Then I thought maybe I should have Hubby make his famous chicken tenders. He likes to use unbreaded chicken breast, stick them on the George Foreman grill and press down on that lid until they're so dry that it you can't even cut them with a steak knife. You can chew on them for an hour or so and they still retain their hard, stringy quality. They're like petrified wood. Sooner or later, you just have to swallow and hope no one has to Heimlich maneuver you. Since no one would touch them, though, it would be hard to really enjoy my little joke.

I took the high road. I brought a pre-prepared vegetable platter from my local grocery store. If no one touches it, I can always take it home and eat the carrots and celery, etc., as afternoon snacks. See? I hold onto grudges, but I'm not vindictive.

I'm in a bad mood about the whole business and don't even wish to attend. On the other hand, I have Owner's sarcasm to look forward to, because I know it will put a serious damper on everyone else's fun. There's always that.

12 November 2007

The More Suffering, The Better

"Where does discipline end? Where does cruelty begin? Somewhere between these, thousands of children inhabit a voiceless hell." ~ Francois Mauriac

My mom and I were watching a Thanksgiving-themed program on the Food Channel this weekend. She reminded me that my dad wouldn't allow her to have a potato masher. When we had mashed potatoes, she had to do it with a fork.

It's a small, mean thing to make one's work harder than it has to be. It was just another way my father enjoyed making her life miserable. I have to remind myself periodically: My father thought it was fun to watch other people suffer. The more suffering, the better.

Remembering that fact always makes me feel like someone has stabbed me in the heart.

Other Duties As Assigned

One day, many years ago, Owner made the Golf Pro follow him around all day with a can of air freshener. I will leave it to you to figure out why.

09 November 2007

Thank you

This is from my wonderful friend, RubyShooz. Please pass it on to the people who make a difference in your life.



“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
-Melody Beattie

06 November 2007

Meet The Golf Pro

"Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired." ~ Jules Renard

The Golf Pro is connected. I've been friends with Owner and his wife for 30 years now and he's even more connected than I am. He's the stepson of Owner's ex-brother in law (Human Slime). What? Why does that matter? Human Slime owns 20% of the business. Big deal, you say? Well, that's what I say, too. Owner is paranoid that Slime will sue him for paying his employees too much, not generating enough profit or simply creating a trumped-up crisis that will inevitably end up in filling his coffers with a few more pieces of gold. That's just how Slime rolls.

Owner fears that Golf Pro will serve as a spy in Crazy Land, who will provide Human Slime with information that will bring the company to its knees. He's also afraid Golf Pro will start his own Crazy Land company and steal all of our customers. Neither of these things is going to happen. Because neither of them wants to work. Why would you go to all the trouble to litigate or take customers away when you'll just end up working after it's all over?

Golf Pro has never worked, even though he's been employed here almost as long as I have. For years, as I handled all of the day-to-day business affairs, Golf Pro entertained himself by re-enacting Seinfeld episodes for me. I prepared sales tax reports and Pro reminisced about playing golf in college. I struggled to reconcile complex weekly billings with our primary Client in Wonderland while Pro left the office for hours to buy pants. If all that wasn't bad enough, when profit sharing time rolled around, Golf Pro got the same amount I did, even though I actually did all of the work. To be fair, though, Owner has treated Pro poorly over the years (in hilarious ways, of course). I'll share some of those incidents with you when I'm able.

Everyone who's ever worked here has disliked Golf Pro. They know he's not doing anything. He's become one of the main sales people now and we only see him maybe three our four hours a week. That's right....he's out buying pants. To be fair, he does take our clients golfing regularly, too, but I don't think that qualifies as work in his case.

Loathsome and the Pro almost came to fisticuffs in the office several years ago. I don't remember what provoked the fracas, but I do recall hearing Loathsome yell, "You wanna piece of me?" Nothing like working in a civilized, professional environment. Loathsome has always hated Golf Pro because he's a slacker. Pro hates Loathsome because he's arrogant and haughty. It's hard to pick a side in that conflict.

Mr. Moneybags, whose wife coincidentally happens to be Hispanic, thinks Golf Pro is racist. I've tried for years to point out that Golf Pro's mom is Hispanic and I happen to know he's not a racist. You know how it goes, though. Mr. Moneybags never likes to be confused by reality when he's decided to activate the hate button.

Owner and everyone else who works here (and most of the people at Client in Wonderland) know Pro is a shirker. That's why, when Owner wants to irritate everyone in one fell swoop, he lectures us about what a great job Golf Pro is doing. Works every time. Unfortunately for the Pro, it makes everyone hate him even more.

I don't hate him. I was enraged with him for many years, but then I retired from my job as chief slave after I suffered from a stress related illness for three or four years. After that, I was highly annoyed with him. Then my dad killed himself and I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now, as far as I'm concerned, Pro can go buy as many pairs of pants as he pleases. It's a big job. What with all that not working and the copious amounts of alcohol required to play golf with clients, Pro adds on more poundage every week. Finding the right sized designer khaki pants gets harder all the time, I'm sure. It's a big job, but I know Golf Pro can handle it. You know. He's got some time on his hands.

05 November 2007

I Am The Snake

This is my Chinese astrological sign. No, I am not vengeful.

Tuesday, November 03, 1953



Chinese Name

Lunar Years of the Sign
1917 1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989

Description of the Sign Personality
Depth and charisma make the Snake a formidable presence. What you see is not what you get. The Snake's many interests and insatiable thirst for knowledge result in an increasingly complex persona. Furthermore, with the Snake's penchant for secrecy, they're not likely to let us see how much there is to know about them. More than any other sign, the Snake knows how to present itself, when it wants, in the most favorable light. The downside of this is that the Snake is likely to tire of and discard us lesser mortals. An even bigger danger is the Snake believes in revenge; so, don't cross them. Like the Dragon, the Snake is a karmic sign and likely to experience lots of extreme highs and lows in their lives.

Description of the Sign-Element Personality
More than any other sign the Water Snake has intuitive abilities. You are not only a keen judge of character and observer of humanity, but you tend to just "know" things. You can wow us almost as much with your witty conversation as with your charisma. As a member of the more flexible and easy going variety of the species, you make wonderful companions and partners--- if we can win your respect. You are a deep thinker who is articulate and persuasive. You have a philosophical nature and may appear to be wise beyond your years.

Description of Home Life
The secretive nature of the Snake makes their home one of subtle surprise. Your furnishings are usually of the highest quality while leaving detail to be discovered. We have to be careful how we tread through your household as we might unknowingly offend and become subject to your occasionally revengeful nature. Ah, but the ambiance and luxury is well worth the risk.

Hours Ruled by the Sign
9am - 11am

To find out about your own Chinese astrological sign, go to Firepig

02 November 2007

A Good Time Was Had By All

"Autumn arrives in early morning, but spring at the close of a winter day." ~ Elizabeth Bowen

I'm short on time today and I'm answering the phone because (Sad) Crazy Employee is out today dealing with her mom's estate. I wanted to to let you know that the birthday party was a roaring success. Owner didn't venture into any inappropriate ares and everyone had great fun giving me a hard time. I made a reference to undocumented workers and one of my co-workers educated me as to the correct label to attach to them. I had referred to them as "illegal aliens." I meant no harm by it, but it's not a politically correct term. I stand corrected. It provided everyone with the opportunity to make a few jokes as my expense, but they weren't hurtful in any way.

I ended up sitting next to Owner. That happens pretty frequently. My mom sat on the other side. Hubby was unable to attend because he was out of town on business. Because there were 13 of us crowded around a conference table meant to accommodate probably half that number and because I was sitting next to Owner, I couldn't get very close to the table. I kept dropping crumbs on my lap and on the chair. Again, everyone enjoyed noting my pigginess. Yes, I was amused, too. Laughing at myself has never been hard for me.

It's a beautiful day here and I'm occasionally catch glimpses of squirrels racing through the trees. The autumn morning is crisper, but not cold. The animals are feeling festive and energized. I'm feeling a little rowdy myself.

01 November 2007

Celebrating My Birthday in Crazy Land

"Fly free and happy beyond birthdays and across forever, and we'll meet now and then when we wish, in the midst of the one celebration that never can end." ~ Richard Bach

My birthday is Saturday, so we're celebrating today in Crazy Land. The birthday person gets to choose a restaurant, then everyone else gets to pick their entree from the menu. We're having Italian food today. I've lost a lot of weight since my surgery 8 weeks ago, so I thought fettucine alfredo would be a good choice. My arteries probably wouldn't agree, but if I have a stroke in the middle of lunch, at least I'll die happy. My birthday cake is chocolate Italian wedding cake.

The best thing about Crazy Land birthday parties, of course, is the fun of watching everyone interact with each other. Mutual dislike runs rampant through the ranks and you know how I love a tension filled get-together. As you know, I make an effort to avoid most of my co-workers, but when they're all in one room together I'm usually ready to have fun. It's Crazy Land at it's best when everyone is jammed into a little conference room.

There will be the usual jockeying for seats. I'm very popular to sit by, as is the Information Superhighway. Unfortunately for everyone else, Superhighway and I tend to sit together because we actually like each other. No one wants to sit by Loathsome, Mr. Money Bags, The Foot Lady or Owner. None of them (except Owner) wants to sit by each other, either. I don't mind sitting by Owner; he's an old friend, remember.

Owner loves to use these opportunities to harass people. He makes extremely far-left political comments to Mr. Moneybags, who's both a Rush Limbaugh devotee and who hates virtually everything. Moneybags doesn't present much of a challenge to Owner, but that doesn't diminish his enjoyment.

Owner pokes fun at Loathsome's taste in clothing or food. Loathsome prides himself on impeccable taste in both the sartorial and culinary arenas. It's hard for Owner to make much of a dent in Loathsome's self-absorbed armor, but I get the joke and that's enough for me. One year, Loathsome chose as his birthday confection a praline cheesecake that had a caramel topping with pecan pieces on top. Owner spent the entire lunch speculating about whether some of those "nuts" weren't bugs. That got under Loathsome's skin a bit. I love it when that happens.

The Hemorrhoid Guy is always singled out, too, but I can't recall the nature of his soft spots that Owner likes to poke. H.G. gets every bit as enraged as Mr. Moneybags, though, which is always a surprise to me. He has an exuberant sense of humor, along with his obsession with his hemorrhoids. I'm sure that will come up at lunch today. Owner loves to yammer on about topics I'm certain his mother told him not to discuss while people are eating.

Foot Lady is usually home free. Her contribution is to unintentionally annoy everyone else. When we're all in a group, we're generally able to restrain her from talking about her feet. I've never known her to try to put her foot up on the conference room table. She has other ways, though, of making people want to stab her with their plastic forks. Owner doesn't seem to find any fun in picking on her. Maybe he can't figure out what gets on her nerves or maybe it's too much trouble.

When he wants to annoy all of us, Owner launches into a litany of the many contributions Golf Pro has made and continues to make to Crazy Land. I don't think I've introduced you to Golf Pro before. I'm making a note to devote a post to him very soon. Since my breast cancer ordeal, I've developed a sense of humor about the Pro, so I'm now immune to that form of Owner's torture.

Best of all, Owner does not pick on me. We share the jokes, he and I. I used to get irritated with him for consistently, without fail, being disgusting or morose or fatalistic. Generally, he was all of those things in the short space of time it takes to mow through an entree and some birthday cake. I'd have to step in and make him stop it (since I'm the only one who can do that). I don't care about that anymore, either. That's not such good news for the rest of Crazy Land. Now they're at his mercy.

You know, writing about all of this has put me in a great mood already. If you find yourself in the vicinity of some cake (or other verboten sugar-laden food), have some on me. If you find yourself hankering for Italian food or some other artery-clogging death food, do not deny yourself. If you have some crazy co-workers, go hang out with them and be entertained. It's my birthday (almost). Celebrate with me.

31 October 2007

Just Because It's Over, Don't Forget

This is officially the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Just because it's over, don't forget. Specifically, don't forget to take care of yourself. Don't forget self exams. Don't forget mammograms. Don't forget to arm yourself with reliable information.

Today, an article from a British website, one of the few I've found that discusses alternative treatments. Not everyone wishes to undergo chemotherapy and radiation. Visit their website, CancerActive, for more information on breast and other types of cancer.

This article has been compiled by Chris Woollams from worldwide research and expert sources*

The CANCERactive Difference: Intelligent Information. Independent Voice. On this web site you will find more information about more treatment options (Complementary and Alternative, not just Orthodox), and on more 'possible contributory factors' to the development and maintenance of your cancer, than on any other UK cancer web site. Some experts believe that approaching your cancer in this 'total' way can increase an individual's chances of survival by as much as 60 per cent.
The very latest research evidence from all over the world in our news section Cancer Watch supports all this.
We can do this because we are not hide-bound by vested interests, and so we can always put people first. We are not influenced by companies who seek to make financial gains from patients, we have no trustees working for, or sponsored directly or indirectly by such companies, our directors take no remuneration at all. This is our true independence, from which you benefit directly.
But this comes at a price – we rely on you, and people like you to support our work. 47,703 people visited our site in March 2007, viewing 11 pages on average. Every month we add 20 new pages to this site. If you feel an independent voice is essential in cancer, please, please help by making a donation. Every little helps.

Donate button

Who gets breast cancer?

Issue 1 coverDespite the high profile cases of Pop stars in their twenties and thirties contracting the disease, the plain fact is that usually 80 per cent of all cancers come in the over 60 age group. Sadly, with ageing comes increased deficiency in cellular replication systems, more chances of genetic mistakes, reduced hormone levels and a build up of toxins.

Breast cancer, however, has seen a gradual lowering of the age of diagnosis with approximately 40 per cent of diagnoses in women below the age of 65, and 60 per cent above that age. So there is more to this cancer than mere ageing.

The breasts are made up of ducts connecting the nipples to glandular tissue containing the lobes. Some of the breast tissue extends into the armpit where lymph nodes are found. All this is surrounded by fat and here in lies some clues to cause. Fat is a wonderful solvent and will dissolve and hold all those chemicals, toxins and hormones (your own and ingested ones) that you really should be excreting. Being overweight will not help as that will increase the percentage of fat, nor will a lack of exercise as this helps stimulate lymph flow and excretion, whilst helping provide more cancer hating oxygen to the tissues. Certain deficiencies in minerals have been found in women with breast cancer, as have vitamin deficiencies.

Although still small numbers, increasingly men are being diagnosed with breast cancer.

But doesn’t breast cancer run in families?

Another concern you often hear is that Breast Cancer ‘runs in families’. Whilst it is true that some people have a genetic ‘weakness’ – genes that weaken the immune system’s ability to spot a cancer cell, or genes that prevent the cell’s ability to repair its own DNA (you may have heard of BRCA1 and BRCA2) - these types of genes are present in less than 7 per cent of women. More genes linked to a higher incidence of breast cancer are still being discovered – for example PALB-2 - but these also seem more to do with the repair and immune systems than the breast tissue itself. Even if you have these genes estimates suggest that the risk of getting breast cancer is less than 70 per cent, although – more clues here – this figure has risen from about 40 per cent 50 years ago, quite probably along with increased levels of toxins around us, poorer diets and less healthy lifestyles.

bbb1By and large prevention (See Breasts, Breasts, Breasts ) is still largely in your own hands with breast cancer and if you have had breast cancer and been given the all clear there is so very much you can do to prevent a recurrence.

Putting together a treatment plan

Fret not – there is so much you can do – mostly to help yourself. When my daughter developed her brain tumour and was given just 6 months to live we found out so many things that could help – but it took at least 6 months hard work and a pair of science degrees. The aim of this site is to short circuit all this for you and to empower you – to pass on all our knowledge, our research findings, the expert studies and the possible causes so that others can benefit immediately. This is also why, when the doctors asked me, I gladly wrote ‘Everything you need to know to help you beat cancer’. The book has been a best seller in the UK for three years – and you cannot even buy it in a shop – only direct from the charity!!
Now, let’s first try to understand what is going on, and what factors might be maintaing this cancer, helping it progress in your body.

The possible contributory factors to breast cancer

Various epidemiology studies have shown that smoking increases risk, as does increasing levels of regular alcohol consumption.

Dietary factors are clearly important. Various global studies show that women with breast cancer have lowered levels of vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin B-12 and long-chain omega-3. Professor Hollick of Harvard has stated that 25 per cent fewer women would die of breast cancer if they took adequate daily levels of vitamin D. Research shows that tocotrienol vitamin E, fish oils and garlic Garlic appear to be protective. Studies have shown that women with a history of breast cancer have lowered levels of the mammalian lignans enterodiol and enterolactone, which are made from plant lignans in the intestine. These have been shown to be made from plant lignans (e.g. in Flax seed) by the beneficial bacteria in your intestine; both reduce your oestrogen levels.

BB1LadyWomen who exercise regularly (the best is a little every day) have less breast cancer – and those with it have 50 per cent less mortality if they take daily exercise.

However by far the biggest risk factor is a heightened level of the hormone oestrogen. ‘Oestroge-driven’ cancer may well account for over 80 per cent of all breast cancers. Cancer Research UK has stated that Breast Cancer rates are rising at 2 per cent per year, while oestrogen levels are rising in women by 7 per cent.

There are a number of possible reasons for this. For example:

Women are having less children and breast-feeding them for shorter periods. Both factors (more children and breast feeding for 9 months or more) decrease risk. This may well be due to decreases in the lifetime levels of natural progesterone, a known oestrogen balancer

  • Women are starting their periods earlier and ending them later. Modern woman has almost twice the number of periods of her 16th century predecessors.
  • bbb9Women in the Western World consume large amounts of Dairy. Several research studies from the Swedish experts at the Karolinska Institute suggest that the critical factor is the cow’s hormone Insulin Like Growth Factor (IGF-1), which seems to stimulate hormones such as oestrogen and other localised cell factors to make your cells grow rapidly. The more dairy you consume, the greater your breast cancer risk according to Karolinska. Another study, this time by researchers in Denmark, amongst 117,000 girls showed that those who put on a big growth spurt between ages 8 and 14 eventually had a higher risk. Again a finger was pointed at dairy.
  • Women now have more stressful occupations; many of these lead to sleep irregularities and deprivation (e.g. Nurses and Air Hostesses). Research shows that this results in lowered levels of the hormone melatonin, which seems to counter excess oestrogen under normal conditions.
  • The finding that women who had taken more than 25 doses of antibiotics in their lives (Journal of the American Med Assn 2004, Feb 18; 291) started people questioning antibiotics. However the truth is far more likely to be the destruction of Beneficial Bacteria in the intestine which results in decreases in vitamin K, vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins, reduced effectiveness of the immune system plus likely infestations of yeasts (Symptoms like cystitis and thrush may indicate this). Over 100 clinical trials now suggest we ignore the contribution of beneficial bacteria at our peril. You simply must have adequate daily levels of a variety of strains of beneficial bacteria (Probiotics). See below.

Open quotes We ignore the contribution of beneficial bacteria at our peril Close quotes
The US State of Evidence report 2006 summarizes the findings of more than 350 experimental, epidemiology and ecological studies and recommends new directions for the future in disease management. In particular it looks at the growing and vast amount of research on the effects of chemicals and EMF’s on the risks of developing the disease:
  • There is increasing evidence that various Electromagnetic Forces can also reduce these levels of melatonin whilst stimulating levels of IGF-1 and other hormones. This is not a modern myth. Scientists are growing increasingly worried by the electronic smog that surrounds us all – from masts, to mobile phones, to WiFi – even electric blankets!
  • The use of synthetic oestrogens: CRUK has provided data on the increased risks of breast cancer when women take the contraceptive pill – especially if they take it after the age of 30. HRT is also a risk factor. Indeed new research from the USA has shown that breast cancer levels have declined by 7 per cent in 2005 as a direct result of women giving up HRT.
  • Xeno-oestrogens: Increasingly, chemicals that mimic the action of oestrogen in the body are believed to be a significant and modern link to risk. Pesticides like DDT and Lindane, toiletry and personal care chemicals like DEHP and toluene, BPA from white lined cans and even kiddies toys, and Phthalates from plastic bottles and packaging are all thought capable of mimicking the action of oestrogen in the body by experts. Worse Dr Ana Soto of Tufts believes them to be cumulative.

All in all, there may be many factors that contributed to your breast cancer. On this web site we also cover possible links to the thyroid hormone, Thyroxine, plus an article from Eileen O’Connor who is so convinced EMF’s from a local mast gave her breast cancer that she is now a leading campaigner against such EMF’s.

OestrogenbookNow, the important point is that we are not listing the possible contributory factors so that you dwell on things that have happened in the past. We want you to understand what factors might still be present in your life and might be contributing to the maintenance of your cancer. Then you can formulate an action plan. You might try to cut EMF’s out of your life, or you can act to lower the oestrogen (natural and synthetic) in your life – oestrogen that might be fuelling your cancer right now. (We have a book ‘Oestrogen – the killer in our midst’ that tells you the simple steps you can take to cut your natural and synthetic oestrogen levels today). After all that is exactly what your oncologist will try to do with Aromatase Inhibitor drugs like Arimidex. Then there are minerals you can take, like selenium, or complex compounds like chlorella that can help you eliminate heavy metals, or increase levels of Vitamin B-12. And articles on why breast cancer patients should take vitamin D and other natural supplements. You can find out comprehensive information on these topics and more elsewhere on this site.


About 40,000 - 44,000 cases of Breast cancer will be diagnosed in the UK in the next 12 months. However, if you are pre-menopausal and your diagnosis comes from a mammogram you should read our article on screening mammograms immediately, and understand the high levels of false positive readings occurring. Do not under any circumstances have any treatments until cancer has definitely been confirmed through a means other than screening. (You could use Thermal Imaging, even Iridology as a back up). A biopsy is the most reliable method.

breast cancerYou should check your own breasts regularly. You are looking for lumps, or thickenings especially behind the nipple, sudden inversion of a nipple, dimpling on the skin surface, a rash, or a swelling under the armpit.

Most lumps are not cancer and are benign. Most often they are cysts, which are sacs of liquid randomly appearing in the breast tissue, or they can be benign ‘fibroadenomas’. Either way they are easily treated and no cause for concern.

If a cancer is suspected, the normal procedure is to have a biopsy. This may take tissue from under your armpit as well as from your breast. Only after tissue has been taken can anyone correctly tell you the spread (the Stage) and aggressivity (the Grade) of the cancer. After analyzing the biopsy tissue, the experts should be able to tell you clearly

A Whether the tumour is oestrogen and/or progesterone sensitive
B Whether you are HER-2 positive


There have been articles in the Lancet about biopsies possibly spreading the disease, but it is a small risk.

There have been research studies covered in icon on abortion and whether it increases risk of breast cancer. Absolutely no evidence of increased risk has been reported by expert studies.

US research on Swedish women with silicone breast implants (Yes, seriously!) showed that while they had no higher risk of breast cancer, cases of lung cancer were higher than expected (Journal of the Nat. Cancer Inst. 2006; 98; 557).


Mam2About 50 per cent of the anomalies shown up by mammograms are Ductal (DCIS) irregularities. There seems total disagreement around the world on this. The team at Christie Manchester sent us a press release stating that they were going to test various drugs on women with DCIS to try to halt this very aggressive form of cancer. Meanwhile US experts were claiming that DCIS is neither cancer nor pre-cancer but calciferous particles blocking the ducts. The lead Professor at the 2004 US Breast Cancer Symposium told everybody that only 20 per cent of cases go on to be full breast cancer. If these are calcium deposits, it might explain some of the issues with dairy and the benefits of fish oils and vitamin D.


Surgery: If you are pre-menopausal, you must try to have your operation in the second part of your cycle not the first, for then progesterone, not oestrogen dominates. Two studies from Guys have shown significant long-term survival benefits.

You may have a lumpectomy, or a full breast mastectomy. (You may be advised to have chemotherapy prior to surgery to reduce the size of the tumour and increase your chances of a lumpectomy rather than full-blown breast removal). If you have lymph node removal you should find out about lymphatic drainage, which may help you in the longer term.

Reconstructive surgery may then be proposed and effected at the same time, although US research suggests waiting.


Radiotherapy is most commonly used after surgery to kill off any localised and remaining cancer cells. It may also be used on the lymph glands under the armpit if they were infected. We have a good article on how to maximise the effectiveness of your radiotherapy. (Look under ‘Treatments’ – radiotherapy.) You should continue to take all anti-oxidants and supplements during this time. We also have reports from MD Anderson and UCLA that they increase the effectiveness of Radiotherapy.

Although dosage is much more targeted, you should be clear that radiotherapy to the chest region could cause problems with the lung and heart tissue. In the past these were quite common and could be pronounced with up to 20 per cent of lung tissue damaged. Modern techniques have reduced this.

Chemotherapy: The actual programme of chemotherapy depends totally upon the individual (age, health etc) and the state of the cancer. Several drugs may be suggested at the very outset, before a very specific plan is drawn up. You can find a full review of the most common drugs on this site (Click here) and a clear analysis of what diet you should be on to maximise its effectiveness.

Be clear. The purpose of the drugs is to try to kill any remaining cancer cells and especially to try to PREVENT a recurrence in the other breast or spread to secondary organs like the liver (Vitamin K has been shown in Japanese and US research to reduce the dangers to the liver).

The two standard therapies that are most commonly talked about are:

1 Tamoxifen (for five years) followed by three years of an Aromatase Inhibitor (e.g. Arimidex).

CRUK has opined that by the end of the 8 years your cancer will have gone away. (We think it may, but only if you have altered the factors that gave it to you in the first place). Tamoxifen aims to sit on, and therefore block, cellular receptor sites that in breast cancers are attacked by oestradiol. ‘Blocked sites means no attack’ is the theory.

Since over 20,000 women in the UK are currently taking Tamoxifen, we thought it wise to say a few words here about this drug:

Tamoxifen: When told the possible side effects less than 1 in 5 US women want to take the drug

Open quotes When told the side effects less than 20% of women want to take Tamoxifen Close quotes
(Cancer 2005: 103; 1996-2005). For example: Recent research by CRUK on cancer of the womb, which has risen by 30 per cent in a decade and is now twice as common as cervical cancer, implicates a number of factors like being overweight, not having had children and Tamoxifen usage. Dr Bushnell of Dukes, USA reviewed 9 studies on Tamoxifen and concluded that it more than doubles a woman’s risk of ischemic stroke.

Research results carried in icon (Vol 3 Issue 4) from the University of North Carolina showed that it had a minor effect (6-8 per cent) in breast cancer prevention in women with no cancer but at higher risk; however the conclusion was that side-effect risks outweighed the benefits..

US research has shown clearly that the use of natural vitamin E in its total 8 forms reduces the need for Tamoxifen doseage by 25 per cent – as it increases its effectiveness.

It is however the first line drug, the Gold Standard, in oestrogen-driven Breast cancer and blocks sites on cells that oestradiol would normally bind to, and then cause havoc inside the cell. Recent US research shows that its effects continue for 5 years after the last dose. Normally prescribed for 5 years, followed by an Aromatase Inhibitor for three years, many of the makers of these latter drugs are questioning why the patient is not moved more quickly from Tamoxifen to their drug. But then they would, wouldn’t they? There has already been a study (American Soc. Clin. Onc) which suggests better long-term survival results if women come off Tamoxifen and go onto the Aromatase Inhibitor Exemestane earlier.

2. Herceptin. Let’s be clear – about 20 per cent of women are HER-2 positive and this drug will work well for about half of them. Yes, and it does cost 20,000 pounds per year. A recent trial (Lancet 2006) confirms that Herceptin offers benefit with early stage breast cancer patients too.

Open quotes Ask whether the combination of drugs proposed for your chemotherapy have been through clinical trials Close quotes

The side effects of any chemotherapy are very individual, not insignificant and depend upon your condition and the drug. You should also ask whether the combination you are on has actually been through clinical trials. Sometimes only the individual drugs have been.

Treatment for anaemia: Managing and counteracting anaemia can reduce death from anaemia by 50 per cent. Research published by the Cochrane Collaboration showed that epoetins (alfa and beta epoetin) show significant survival benefits. Particularly striking were the results for patients with solid tumours (Breast, lung, colon) where risk of death decreased by 51 per cent). In a second study (European Soc. For Medical Oncology- 31st Oct 2005) epotin beta was shown to reduce risk of tumour progression in patients with anaemia.

bbb10Treatment for fatigue: icon has run several pieces on fatigue. A qualified naturopath will be able to suggest dietary changes to boost energy levels. Qualified homeopaths may be able to suggest ways to counter fatigue. Energy therapists (e.g. acupuncture, cranial osteopaths, Reiki Masters) may well be able to help. Italian research showed a lack of acetyl-carnitine which supplementation could correct. UCLA scientist report that a series of genetic markers become blocked either due to the cancer or due to the chemotherapy treatment. The California team note promising results with Etanercept. Apparently 30 per cent of women who have had chemo for breast cancer have long-term fatigue, even after the cancer has ‘gone’. This may well be true for other cancers.

Other useful tips and therapies.

Professor Howell, of Christie Manchester and one of our Patrons, at our Cancer Prevention Conference told the audience all about the new drugs designed to prevent the return of your breast cancer. Well, good diet, exercise, mental therapies and much more are available for you to start as soon as you wish – all with the very same aim: Preventing this cancer returning. And they can be extremely successful.

Professor Ben Pfeifer has clinical trials on his Diet Therapy. Originally developed from Prostate cancer it has proved so successful they are extending it to Breast cancer treatment. You may be interested in the Gerson Therapy, or the clinical trials of Dr Gonzalez in New York – both are diet based. You can read about Jane Plant who beat her breast cancer by developing her own diet therapy and avoiding dairy completely.

Open quotes Living Proofs - where women who beat breast cancer tell their stories Close quotes
You can also go to our Living Proofs – where women who beat their breast cancer tell their own personal and very individual stories – you might find some useful tips and insights. You might also want to know about Phytoestrogens and their relationship to oestrogen. Try reading Pillar II of our 4 Pillars of cancer (you might find it worth reading them all).

The most aggressive oestrogen is oestradiol, which can increase sodium levels and reduce potassium and oxygen levels inside the cell, causing havoc. Oestrone is its less aggressive sister (about 40 times less potent) and plant oestrogens – called phytoestrogens – are even weaker still. Many people argue that the lowered rates of breast cancers in Asia are due to large levels of circulating plant oestrogens – well which one would you rather have sitting on your breast cancer receptor site? The best sources of plant oestrogens come from ‘greens’ and pulses (like chickpeas, kidney beans and soy) and red clover. The British Journal of Cancer (2006) reports on the benefits of one such phytoestrogen, genistein. Apparently it can increase the repair proteins in a cell – even those in short supply due to the presence of BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. Some people prefer to go this route than take Tamoxifen.

IndoleOther foods can make a difference. For example, polyphenols: Like those in Green tea and olive oil, and Indole 3 carbinol (broccoli, ‘greens’) have been shown in research to turn nasty oestradiol into its safer sister oestrone. The same study above on Genistein, showed that Indole 3 Carbinol can also increase repair protein levels in cells. Sulforaphane, also in broccoli and brussel sprouts, can inhibit the development of breast cancer cells. US Dr Keith Singletary and his team claim it works as well as the chemotherapy drugs, by causing the release of certain cancer killing enzymes. Our book, ‘The Tree of Life – the Anti-cancer Diet’, will tell you much more, and even give you a shopping list and recipes.

Recently there has been an enormous flury of research on the role of beneficial bacteria in our bodies. You really shouild read our article on the subject, and the links to cancer. Over 4000 research studies and 100 clinical trials have shown that Beneficial Bacteria in the gut:

  • stimulate and strengthen the immune system
  • help produce certain cancer fighting vitamins like B-12, folic acid and vitamin K
  • help produce short chain fatty acids which reduce harmful fat production (like chlorestrol)
  • can actually chelate to (bind to) heavy metals and help excrete them
  • can actually neutralise and eliminate harmful chemicals like oestrogen and nitrosamines

BB1 There are over 800 strains of bacteria in the gut – about 400 have been identified and a dozen or so seem, according to the research so far, to have the greatest impact on our health. 60 or more years ago we would consume daily supplies of a number of strains – but we no longer live on farms nor drink raw milk and, , instead, we chlorinate our water, fill our chickens with antibiotics, irradiate our food and pasteurise everyuthing. Worse we take drugs, antibiotics and anaesthetics which deplete our stores further.

There is another school of thought that explains that these Beneficial Bacteria at night feed off the yeasts, microbes and non-beneficial bacteria we accidentally consumed during the day. Yeast infection is now endemic. It is estimated that 70 per cent of the population has excess yeasts – signs in men include bloating after meals, yellow toe nails and athletes foot;
in women it’s thrush, cystitis, bad breath and/or bloating and problems trying to lose weight! Try reading Can Candida cause cancer? on this web site.

Consider this quote: “Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy did not ultimately succumb to cancer, but to an infestation of Candida albicans”. That comes from the 1993 Spring edition of the prestigious US medical journal Contemporary Oncology. Topping up with probiotics (strains of beneficial bacteria shown in clinical trials to deliver a benefit) and following a prebiotic based diet – lots of whole foods and whole grains – with no sugar, dairy or alcohol and certain yeast killers will help defeat the Candida albicans. It’s all in the article. The recent finding that women who take more than 25 lots of antibiotics in their lifetimes have twice the risk of breast cancer, is just one more factor pointing the finger at yeast infection and a lack of enough beneficial bacteria in the body.

Several US studies (Seattle, Integrative Cancer Therapies, Philadelphia Uni.) have all shown the importance of exercise and complementary therapies. Moderate daily exercise can reduce mortality

Open quotes US studies show that exercise and complementary therapies are important Close quotes
rates by 50 per cent according to this research. If you want to know more about complementary therapies start with our ‘kiddies guide’ prepared for us by the London Breast Cancer Haven.

According to the American Medical Association, women who take more than 7 aspirin tablets a week reduce their breast cancer risk by 29 per cent. Many ‘solid’ cancers involve prior inflammation. Aloe Vera would also provide salicylin plus other anti-inflammatories. Since the work by Sir John Vane on localized inflammatory hormones called eicosanoids, we now know garlic, ginger and long-chain omega 3 (fish oils) can reduce inflammation too.

15stepsIf you are not sure where to start try reading our summary ‘Cancer – your first 15 steps’. We even have a helpful book by the same name. Both allow you to start planning your ‘integrated’ or ‘holistic’ therapy programme.


40,000 women get breast cancer every year in the UK and it’s rising. Eurocare 3 shows that England has a 73 per cent 5-year survival rate but the figure is lower in other areas of Britain. These figures are all below the European Average, and below France and Germany at around 81 per cent. Sweden has the highest 5-year survival rates at 83.3 per cent.

Research by the US magazine Integrative Cancer Therapies has shown the benefit of building an integrated programme of complementary therapies around your orthodox regime. Some experts state that it increases survival by as much as 60 per cent.

PDTOn this site you can find out about alternative options (and all the research) like Ultrasound (HIFU) instead of surgery, Photo Dynamic Therapy, the truth about vitamin B-17 and the Oasis of Hope, and even John of God.

Or go to our Home page to find a list of the ten hottest topics we have covered recently – we promise one or two will definitely be relevant to you.

On this web site you will find more information about more treatment options (Complementary and Alternative, not just Orthodox), and on more 'possible contributory factors' to the development and maintenance of your cancer, than on any other UK cancer web site. Some experts believe that approaching your cancer in this 'total' way can increase an individual's chances of survival by as much as 60 per cent.

This is all supported by the very latest research evidence from all over the world in our news section Cancer Watch.
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* Cancer (and its related illnesses) are very serious and very individual diseases. Readers must always consult directly with experts and specialists in the appropriate medical field before taking, or refraining from taking, any specific action.
This web site is intended to provide research-based information on cancer and its possible causes and therapies, so that you can make more informed decisions in consultation with those experts. Although our information comes from expert sources, and is most usually provided by Professors, scientists and Doctors, our easy-to-understand, jargon-free approach necessitates that journalists, not doctors, write the copy. For this reason, whilst the authors, management and staff of CANCERactive,
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