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Ah the sweet feeling of a vapid Success. Or something, that line just came to me, and I thought it sounded good.

I just turned 18, and like all birthdays, don't really feel much different. The extent I've used my new priviliges so far has been to walk into the porno sections of two used book stores, to look for about two or three minutes and then go on to whatever else I was doing. I've even thought of just buying some cigarettes or pipe tobacco or something, just because I can, is that sad or what? The main thing I find sad is this strange overwhelming desire to do anything, and I mean most anything to assert the fact that I'm 18, and I don't even know what that could be? Is it looking at disgusting porn? I certainly hope not.

Anyways, other than that, I'm feeling good, however a bit exhausted, mainly from being too active, too late at night. I recorded something like 6 songs on Monday night, and I'm still recovering in some way from that. Now I feel better though, and I'm very interested in getting into nature magic, which is a place I feel very comfertable in. However, at the same time I'm finding very gothic things exciting (think "The Vampire in Europe" by Montague Summers and Edgar Allan Poe, and Satanic things), so I'm sort of in many places at the same time. Which, I suppose is aparently the place for me, as I'm always there, doing many things, and trying to throw myself into each of them with the same ferver.

Now that I'm feeling that stupid desire to say "look I'm 18, and now I can do whatever sad thing I want to" is getting out of my system, I hope I feel even better.

(R) breast and (R) axilla

This story starts on the flight over to Heathrow. United Airlines has a design flaw in their seats, and the armrests don't fold up all the way. So in spite of the fact that the four of us, two adults and two kids, had 10 seats, it took a bit of maneuvering to get comfortable. I probably had the hardest time - because I'm tall, I end up with one armrest digging into either my spine or my ribs. Still, it was better than sleeping sitting up for the entire flight.

When I lay on my right side, I kept noticing this pinching sensation under my right arm. I reached over and poked around.

There's bump, the size of a large pea, under my right arm.

I poke at it for a bit longer, decide it's a swollen lymph node, and go to sleep.

Three weeks later, I did a more thorough breast exam. I know this is supposed to be a once a month thing, but I'm more of the "I do one in the shower when I think of it" type. The fat lymph node has not gone down, and now a second one has popped up next to it. Bother.

Sure enough, when I am more careful, there's a mass in the upper portion of my right breast. Also about the size of a fat pea, it's mobile (good) and slightly soft (good) but clearly there. Bother again.

So after the Monday holiday, first thing Tuesday I got one the phone with my doctor. She was only working in the afternoon, so I push paper around on my desk all morning, (and I truly cannot remember one thing about the morning - my body was there, but my brain was elsewhere) finally head to the doctor's office.

Yes, there's a mass. No, the doctor agrees with me that it has more of the characteristics of a benign cyst than a malignant one, but they have to make sure, so I'm scheduled for the whole joyride - mammography, ultrasound, and if necessary a fine needle biopsy. The referal sheet says diagnostic mammogram, mass in (r) breast and (r) axilla.

Thursday morning, I head in to the Sacramento Breast Imaging Center. I'm not kidding, that's really what this place is called. Playboy, eat your heart out. Boob Central, to all of us sitting around in the waiting room in our oh-so-elegant blue and green hospital robes. At this point, I have swum through a couple of emotional nights of "what if", and have gone past fear into pure hilarity. I can't tell what is likely to happen next, and after I've examined all the possible outcomes, it's time to start poking fun at the whole situation. I sign my e-mails to Kevin The One-Boobed Systyrs of the Apocalypse.

Several of the women sitting around are of the same mind as I am - we come out from getting a mammogram, and people make comments like, "Oh my god, my boob is HUGE", and similar sillyness.

The crowd thins out. The nurses come out, and say, so-and-so, you're done. You're done. You're done. Reactions vary from a little dance of joy, to someone bursting into tears with relief. They don't call my name.

“Christine, the doctor wants another set of pictures.” I’m starting to see the pattern. The sooner you are dismissed, the better. If the mammogram is fine, they dismiss you. A few people, like me, are called in for a second set of pictures. This means the radiologist wants a closer look at something. They do that with me, taking a finer-scale picture of the lumps in question.

Eventually, there are only two of us left. I’ve now been at Boob Central for about three hours. Mammography over, now an ultrasound.

The ultrasound tech is sweet, letting me watch over her shoulder, as she measures those little black lumps, like tar. 1.6 cm. 1.8 cm. A third lymph node, between the two under my arm, that I hadn’t felt. I wish they would reverse the color on the screen, so the background was dark and the masses show up white. Far less ominous.

The radiologist comes in.

“I’m worried about the mass in your breast. We’d like to do a biopsy while we have you here”. Good on ya, mate. So they call my doctor, get permission, and onward. Xylocaine, I think the same numbing agent dentists use, then a fine needle, coming in from one side, to take tissue samples of that lump. She uses the ultrasound to position the needle – it’s like a tiny, fine hole punch. Again, I watch the ultrasound, that very fine white line moving across the screen, stark contrast to the blackness of the mass.

They bandage me up, give me a cute little ice pack to tuck into my bra, and take two more mammograms. They leave behind a tiny chunk of titanium, so that they can see exactly where the biopsy was done. I get the ultrasound tech into giggles, explaining that this is the 6th or 7th chunk of titanium in my poor bod, and that pretty soon I’m going to be like the Tin Woodsman, clinking and clanking when I walk, and needing to be oiled if I get caught out in the rain.

Home. The waterproof bandage that I’m supposed to leave on for 48 hours of course isn’t, and leaks onto my top. Bother. I pull it off, cover the slice with a Hello Kitty bandaid. (Being that the only bandaids in my house are Hello Kitty, Sponge Bob, and Dora the Explorer. Can you guess I have a 6-year-old girl?) I’m far happier with the little blue plaster there – band aids really DO have magic healing powers.

Next morning, I have a black-and-blue spot about an inch over from Hello Kitty, about the size of a tangerine. Not very decorative.

And now I work, and wait for the phone call. My regular doc, who I really like, called last night after seven p.m., to see how it went. I admire her conscientiousness. Boob Central will give her the pathologist’s report some time today, and then she will call and translate it into English from Doctorese.

But for now, I work, and wait for the phone call.


Toughtitties. My doctor called back - and yes, I have breast cancer. Specifically, Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma. I see a surgeon on Monday, this almost certainly means a lumpectomy. I don't know yet if then I will go on to radiation or chemotherapy.

All being well, Kevin will be flying out to join us on Tuesday or Wednesday.


Last night when we left I looked up to see the temperature and it was NICE out. My brother asked if I wanted to play some electronic game but I decline because I always like to watch the scenery pass by. Once we got to the funeral parlor I saw dad’s Uncle D, who owns a lot of birds, one of the males plucked all of the head feathers off of his mate. He works at the prison where Michael Ross is being held. He’s a nurse and gives him his medicine. Sometimes Michael Ross says something but Uncle D can’t talk to him because it’s against regulations, and sometimes when Ross goes to get his medicine he touches his hand. Afterwards sometimes Uncle D goes over to some women workers and tells them that he said they have lovely necks. Sometimes they don’t appreciate my sense of humor he says.

Mom and dad knelt down to pay last respects to Uncle K (who isn‘t my uncle, but my dad‘s) as my brother and I stood behind them. It’s an open casket, always is. I always look away now because this is why I hate these things. I can’t stand looking at dead bodies. It’s not your friend or loved one in that casket, no one is in there, it’s empty.

I went into another room where some kids were playing, two were peeling off the face sides of Yu-Gi-Oh cards and drawing on the white side, creating new characters. Characters like Butt-monkey and Hick-dog. One said that his card’s damage is infinity, the other says his is fifty-seven billion, which is more than infinity. I looked at him with a tilted head and a squinted eye. My brother comes in and I asked to play his game. It’s a little racing game where you just hit a button for left or for right to avoid the other cars. I beat it a couple of times because it doesn’t take much then gave it back to him. He asks the kids who were peeling their Yu-Gi-Oh cards if they want to play and they said sure. They race a couple of times and laugh at it’s simplicity. One of the kids said to use the NOS, I looked at my brother then laughed. They give the game back and I see that one of them is wearing shoes that has flashing lights when he walks.

I decided to go back into the other room and look at the pictures tacked on the board. There was one where he had a giant frog on his head. My dad pointed out a picture of my great-grandmother, the first picture I ever saw of her. She died before I was born from a heart attack. I went over and sat next to Pop-pop, my great grandfather, this is the wake of his first son.

Uncle K died of cancer, had it for about a year. He used to be a welder, and whatever he welded my dad told me created these weird gases, maybe that’s what gave him the cancer.

I didn’t really know Uncle K, but I did go to his house once. We watched NASCAR on surround sound, and during commercials the History Channel. The last time I saw him alive was at a party during summertime, he looked real bad, but seemed to be fine.

I saw R, Uncle K’s son. We shook hands. He asked me how I was, I said I was fine, how are you? That was my automatic response, I’m programmed to say that whenever someone asks me how I am. After I said that today for the first time I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to say.

Later on we started talking to my dad’s second cousin, A, a tallish man with dry, rough hands. Played with sticks of dynamite when he was growing up, said he’d ignite one then throw it, he liked to see the explosion, didn’t know what it was. He owns a farm and has to make twelve-thousand pounds of kielbasa in a week. On his farm he’s got white-faced cows, chickens, pigs, emus, a pony named Buster, everything. Says he wants to get a couple of bison next.

We see Pop-pop’s neighbors, who have a pig, a dog, a horse named Willow, and a couple of sugar gliders that they’re thinking of getting rid of and maybe giving to us.

Today we’re on our way to pick up Pop-pop, we offered to yesterday because it was still supposed to be snowing now but it’s not. I look at the icicles because I like the way they look blue. I’m wearing a black suit so whenever I walk I walk a certain way and whenever I stand I stand a certain way because I remind myself of Jack from The Nightmare Before Christmas. On the radio something is said about a guitarist whose top hat was stolen. He always wears the hat at live shows so he’s offering fifty thousand dollars for the return of it. I laugh because this is contrast to what I learned this vacation; sometimes you just lose things and you have to let them go.

I’m thinking about all the other ones of these I’ve gone to, and most of them- if not all of them- have been in the winter time. More people die in the lonely months of winter.

Once we’re at the funeral parlor again, we all get out of the vehicle. Inside they do the little prayer thing. Inside Uncle K’s daughter cries and says he’s dead. My brother leans over and tells me it took her a while and I think this is extremely disrespectful and almost punch him. Pop-pop is going to ride in the family car but it’s full so he has to go into the pallbearer car. My dad is a pallbearer so he’s also in that car. Mom doesn’t know how to turn on the hazards so she tells my brother to run and ask dad quick. While he’s away she asks someone who works at the parlor and he tells her. On his way back my brother goes the wrong way but comes back and finds the car.

As we follow the leader I think it’s kind of funny because whoever is in that car gets to hold stop signs that say STOP, FUNERAL, although I know it’s parlor workers in that car.

As we walk into the church I see my dads mother, my grandmother. I haven’t spoken to her in…ever. I’ve seen her, but never spoken. I hear she doesn’t like crowds. I head she went to a supermarket one time to get groceries and came back a little later with nothing. She got mad at someone and got kicked out.

After the church part Pop-pop rides with us to the cemetery. He looks sad. I know this but I don’t know what to do, I‘m not good at this stuff. My brother takes his hand, he’s good at that stuff. Although he was in the navy, Uncle K doesn’t get a military burial, wonder why.

From here we go to a place called Nucchie’s, a place with no windows. It creeps me out because it reminds of some place they would kill the Romanov’s. My dad tells me that it used to be all windows. There we eat foods like pasta and chicken. People talk about things but I don’t really listen.

When we drop Pop-pop off we make plans to go out for breakfast on Sunday, and after breakfast go to A’s farm. We say goodbye and I love you. Pop-pop gives me a hug and gives my brother a hat.

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