Positively Radioactive

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Today was my last day of having my body invaded by lasers that can only come from a UFO or a bad music video, of watching the flaps of my skin sizzle then turn to chicharrón. The last day where I quote Clueless around my radiation therapists and hear the clacking of my heels as I’d strut down that painted white line on the floor that leads to the Radiation Department, all while feeling like Indiana Jones, hoping that my blind faith in my ability to wear heels wouldn’t allow me to fall off the straight and narrow path.

I will no longer have to be responsible for my orange radiation card, which must be presented at check-in and at the radiation treatment area in order to confirm that the photo of me in their computer system matches the name on my card. It was like being carded by the bartender once you’re already inside the over 21 club. It made no sense to me, but I complied, after I made them retake the photo of me. For this reason, I had to treat it like a credit card, but I gave it the Weaver Library card treatment and immediately had a duplicate printed.

The constant posing and the holding of my breath for a clear X-ray has made me forget about my weight. My interpretive dance performances before the overwhelming presence of a dressing room mirror, for the purpose of unzipping my meticulously coordinated ensemble to change into a hospital gown that resembles the color of my name, has helped my relationship with the new scars.

Finding daily wardrobe inspirations gave me something to look forward to again. It also just made me feel clever putting together an outfit that makes me look as impressive as a drag queen but still have it be kinda easy to remove in order to expose my chest area. It was a challenge, though my body is radically different, the clothes fit differently in places that are not so completely obvious.

At least someone will finally be able to sit in front of the snack bowl since I always did, unless there were only saltines left then I’d sit elsewhere, and dig for the fig newton bars with the same fearlessness of children as they fall to their knees into the concrete floor to snatch the first few drops of candies before the piñata explodes into a downpour by a thunderous crack of a broomstick.

Now, I don’t have anywhere to go. I no longer have any one or any place that is expecting, much less, anticipating my presence.

This excites me.

Doing Time…

EmptyCancer is a prison. I’m here doing time.
In solitary confinement for my own good,
even I need time away from myself

The meaning of Freedom
burns along the edges

Cancer is a prison, I’m here…doing time.

Outlived the girl saying
I don’t belong here!

There’s the difference between
getting used to it
and learning to
turn it off
when news travels fast
where Life keeps moving on
and I am in
the shittiest fuckin’ place…

Not moving, not exactly standing still
Trying to remain, to never change
and giving in anyway.

Sins for Breakfast
Guilt for Lunch
Hunger pangs are now replaced
with the longing for
a fucked up normalcy.

 

Putting the “Rad” in Radiation

 

Celeste Gonzalez

Celeste Gonzalez Top: RADiation – Day 1 Bottom: RADiation – Day 2

…I figured, why stop at Chemo? Why stop at all? Never really seemed to be my style anyway.

I’ll be driving from the Eastside to the Westside for radiation for 28 days, 5 days a week at 11am.

This morbidly excites me. Radiation is just a step closer to being completely done with cancer, that I can drive on my own again, but mainly, it means I have a radical amount of energy to do whatever the fuck I want.

So I’m putting the RAD in radiation.

I know I’m still in a shitty place. I have fucked up ass body issues, scars, hair growing faster in other places than on my head, and a fucken repressed animalistic sexual appetite that sorta makes me want to jump on top of anyone with a pulse. I’m lonely, broke, slightly past my expiration date (accelerated by stupid cancer!), and goddamn clueless about the future of my writing.

We can all agree, this is unstellar. A shitty hand.

No one wants this to be done more than me. I’m all about instant gratification so fuck you, Time! However, what do you do when you can’t overcome nor overpower Time?

As of late, I’ve been struggling with term survivor. I’ve been trying to understand it and, for me, having cancer wasn’t about surviving it. I thought it would be. I’ve been surviving everything in my life, it’s been all about overcoming. Jumping hurdles, ducking for cover, disassociating.

Surviving is just not enough anymore.

For me, it’s about living through this. I suppose that’s always been the point. Breaking boundaries, hitting brick walls, falling through that emotional floor into some dark abyss. I hit every single thing head on and the crashes have been spectacular. Stretched in so many different directions that it’s been a clusterfuck of grand proportions. But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t make for an awesome story at a cocktail party.

I’ll live through this and I’ll do it my way…

because I’m a bad ass motherfucker.

 

The (Reluctant) Breast Cancer Survivor

I should be happy, but I’m not. I’m still shell shocked. Officially a survivor. Well, what the fuck was I before? I think it’s a strange term as I can’t coherently recall nearly the last year of my life.

It’s been a month since I have had my bilateral mastectomy and I have been a social leper. I was in the hospital for four days and released on a Monday. Again, I should be happy because I have been deemed “cancer-free” but despite walking out of the hospital in five inch heels or that I could have the energy to walk 2 miles the day after coming home from the hospital, I don’t consider myself a survivor. Cancer isn’t over just because it’s gone.

Pinup Cancer SurvivorCancer left its marks all over me. So when I would step out the shower, I’d wrap the towel around my waist and I stare in the mirror for as long as I can make eye contact. I’ve been trying to do this since the bandages came off. I try to look at the incision marks, place my hand over the the loose skin and press my fingers down on the warm, tender chest muscles. Then I’d move it over my chest bones and remind myself that I’m just discovering a new part of myself that never existed now that my breasts are gone.

I hate to admit how much I have cried during this entire experience. I cried for clean margins. For the overwhelming response I had gotten through this blog. For feeling my life standing still while others are moving on. For people not picking up the phone or bothering to call. For not living. For not dying. For existing. For everything.

I’m everything.

All My Insecurities & Other Things

I’ve been inside my head for a while trying to talk myself off of the ledge of batshit insanity that people don’t know what’s been going on. There have been a lot of emails, texts, messages that have gone unanswered on my part.

Celeste Gonzalez

Do I look sick?

I’m going to finally play my cancer card. I can say with a religious-like conviction that I am sick and tired and lonely and desperate and anxious and hopeful and scared and isolated and irritated and fabulous and heartbroken and…and logical and Amazonian and hysterical and fucked and loved and ready and not ready. I’m everything.

I don’t want to feel any of this for the simple reason that I don’t want to. I’m still clawing at it and resisting like a deranged hellcat when it’s cornered, but there’s nowhere else to go but forward.

I met with my doctor the day of my last chemo, which was April 3rd. According to my charts, there was definitely a lot of tumor shrinkage. However, I had to be aware that since it was so large it may have gone into other areas of my body. It is not uncommon for ER+ breast cancer to still be present in the body after surgery. He urged me to schedule surgery within six weeks, but no later as he suggested I have it done as soon as possible. I robotically agreed. I suppose that’s a grey lining to breast cancer because it was far from silver. And the following played inside my head as I’d nod at my doctor like any makeshift adult:

“You may still be sick and die. You can die? What if you die? This is it! You’re gonna die! You’re being a dramatic cunt! Suck it up! Be strong! How can I be strong all I notice that nothing fits. I’ve gained over 15 pounds since I started chemo. Fuckin’ Taxol! Where the fuck are my priorities? I’m more concerned about my weight than my health. Wow…did I just admit that? That’s not my style. Remember how so and so makes you smile on command. Why doesn’t he call? Come back to me, Celeste! Bite your tongue and just focus on the doctor’s forehead. Focus. Focus. Wait…what just happened?”

Yeah, I take frequent swims at the negativity cesspool. After repetitive laps, I come out with a lot of shit trapped in my ear. Some days, it’s a lot. Some days, it’s not.

Celeste Gonzalez

Do I look sick?

When I met with my plastic surgeon, I told him I agreed with my surgical oncologist on a bilateral mastectomy and that I wanted to go from a DDD cup to a single D cup. Though my plastic surgeon comforted me and I have total confidence in him, my visions of skipping through the fields in a backless sundress were replaced by my own fucked up insecurities: 

Looks like someone isn’t going to have sex for a long ass time. Whatever, I’m having a hard time looking at myself, why do I need someone else’s validation when I’m trying not to lose myself? When was the last time I ever had sex? Like I give a shit, like it even matters. Why didn’t so and so want to? How did I get here? Focus, Celeste. Expanders. Implants. Skin sparing mastectomy. Nipple and areola reconstruction. No more breast sensation. I’m never going to have sex again! I can get nipple piercings! I don’t want anyone to touch me. Lies. I want so and so to. Lies. Wait, what’s going on?

I don’t want to feel any of this anymore and definitely, more than ever.

My doctor called scheduled me for an appointment on Monday, I was assuming for pre-operative procedures. My genetic testing came back positive for the BRCA 2 gene mutation. As he handed me a folder that breaks down my entire life into percentages, I couldn’t hold my tongue to the roof of my mouth or had an acid quick wisecrack. The tears just took control and I asked my doctor to hug me since I didn’t want to hold myself up anymore. I smeared my noir black eyeliner all over his good suit. It was a really nice suit, probably not his favorite since he didn’t mind the stain.

What does my BRCA 2 gene mutation mean?

It means that the likelihood of my having breast cancer by the age of 50 was nearly 30%. The risk for the general population is 1.9%. My risk of developing breast cancer by the age of 70 was 84%. No matter my lifestyle choice, cancer was going to happen to me. I also have a high risk for developing ovarian cancer; nearly a 30% chance by the time I reach the age of 70. When I discussed my results with my surgical doctor, she said that the chances of developing a second cancer in my left breast is 30% and reassured me that my decision for a bilateral skin sparing mastectomy is my best choice. I also agreed to participate in the research studies she’s conducting.

I don’t want to feel any of this. I don’t want to feel anything that involves having cancer anymore or a bilateral mastectomy or a gene mutation or secondary cancers or percentages. I hate growing pains and as much as I want to be wise or mature about this whole situation, I’m stumbling to do so in this fuckin’ chaos. I hope I’m still coming in loud and clear because I can’t really hear myself anymore.

Prepping For Surgery

When I first began this blog, I wrote that there would be a time I would assess the damages I have incurred since this whole breast cancer bullshit started. I haven’t kept my word. I don’t want to.

breast ultrasound post chemo

At my breast ultrasound

After a fundraiser event a friend of mine put together for me in March, my body was exhausted. It was an amalgamation of added weight, overall fatigue from nearly 16 rounds of chemotherapy, and the fact that I can manipulate my image so well that even I had a hard time remembering I was sick because I never “looked” sick. Trying to squeeze into my chemo couture dresses reminded me very well that I was and still am. When the make up and the wig came off, it was just me, by myself, with cancer. I stopped taking calls, responding to the messages of staying positive, and rejected all invites. Instead of having a lot on my mind, it became too much on my mind.

I wanted to be alone, but not in the rabbit hole. I have been writing broken thoughts, but none that are coherent enough to put on this blog. I only feel I’m coming through in waves anyway.

I’m realizing now, maybe it’s what I needed and what I’m still denying that I need. I’ve been alone with everything, but my cancer. And now that my surgery date is set for Friday, May 2nd, I feel numb. I don’t want to feel anything.

I suppose we all want to be alone and comfortably numb sometimes.