Monthly Archives: October 2013

I’m 26 and My Boobs Failed to Kill Me, Despite Their Best Effort

A really long time ago I wrote a post where I lamented in an aside that no one had ever thrown me a surprise party. Specifically, I said:

I remember when I was in junior high school and a big, awkward loser (or more accurately, a tiny, awkward loser – I think I weighed about 75 pounds), a girl who was more popular than I was had a surprise party thrown for her. I was jealous, because nobody had ever thrown me a surprise party, and it seemed so fun.

Well, I can’t whine about that anymore! Because I got the BEST SURPRISE PARTY IN THE WORLD (!!!) for my 26th birthday!

On my birthday – which happened to fall on a Friday – my best friend Katie Bo told me she had planned a fun evening for us. So I met up with her on the Lower East Side, thinking we were going to go out to dinner. I kept guessing what she had planned, but despite her hints, I couldn’t seem to figure it out.

“Will people be talking?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

Me: “Will there be speeches?”

KB: “There might be some speeches.”

Me: “Is it a wedding?”

KB: “No! Whose wedding would it be?”

Me: “Will I have to give a speech?”

KB: “Umm…probably not….but I’m not sure.”

Me: “Oh my God, Katie, IS IT AN INTERVENTION? Do you all think I need an intervention?!?!”

KB: “NO! There will be so much booze there. You will be pleased with the quantity and price of the booze, I promise.”

Me: “Is it an improv show?”

KB: “Okay, stop guessing, it’s time to go.”

Me: “WHAT THE F–K COULD THIS BE???”

She led me down the street and into a restaurant, and when we climbed some stairs up to a balcony, I suddenly saw twenty of my coolest friends all seated around a table. “Surprise!” they yelled as I immediately burst into embarrassing tears.

BUT THEN! IT GOT BETTER! As I was standing there, unable to believe that all of these people had come out just to celebrate my birthday, my PARENTS AND MY BROTHER stood up. They had flown 3,000 miles to be there with me. They had planned the entire thing, using my friends in New York to make it come together. My friend Tyler gestured down the length of the table and said, as I cried, “Look how many people love you.” Double-cue the waterworks, y’all.

The best thing about my birthday slash I-Beat-Cancer party was that it gave all of my different friend groups in New York City a chance to interact. My friends from study abroad, my friends my college, my friends from graduate school, my work friends, my roommate, friends of friends – all sitting around one table getting to know each other. I pretty wanted to tear up with joy as I sat there thinking about awesome every single one of those people is, and there’s nothing better than introducing awesome people to other awesome people.

Then the food started. Not only was there an OPEN BAR (Lord help me), but there was a SIX COURSE MEAL that ended with DONUTS THAT YOU DIP IN NUTELLA. So basically I died while eating the pierogi but then came back to life to eat French onion soup dumplings (?!) but then I died again sixty times every time I ate an ahi taco, some wasabi salmon, a kobe beef slider, I can’t even remember what else because I think I had a food blackout. In between stuffing my face with all of this I also had like 1,000 cocktails. The fancy kind with silly names and muddled fruit in ’em. I actually would’ve had more to drink, but I ordered this habanero margarita because YOLO only it was more like OHNO because it took seven hours to drink due to the spice factor. Like trying to drink molten lava. Like swallowing the red hot center of the earth, you guys.

After dinner we all left to go to a dive bar around the corner that’s taxidermy-themed and plays weird dance hits from the 50s and 60s because New York. It was an awesome time, especially when my dad bought a round of Patron shots for everyone. EVERYONE. Then even more of my friends who couldn’t make it to the dinner started trickling in, and I was happier than a bird with a French fry.

Here’s a super-blurry picture of me and my amazing family tearin’ it up on the dance floor because we are so all about that life, enjoy:

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That’s the only picture I took all night, and I’m kind of proud of it. I was so surrounded by so many people I love that I just wanted to live it, not document it. Also, I was mildly intoxicated. Although I admit that now I’m mad I don’t have more pictures for this post. Anyway.

Back when I was in the thick of my sickness, really mired down in the mud and sludge of it, there were so many times when I felt like I’d gotten such an unfair shake. I was filled with hate and fury and anger and sadness. But it’s true, what they say –  that cancer isn’t the worst disease in the world. Princess Diana once said, “The worst disease in the world is the lack of love.” And I certainly have no lack of that – no lack of receiving it from my amazing family and friends, and no lack in returning it, either. So just in case I didn’t make it clear: I LOVE YOU, MOM AND DAD, I LOVE YOU, RYAN, I LOVE YOU FRIENDS, I LOVE ALL OF YOU GUYS. All of you who came to my party. Who wanted to come but couldn’t. Who are strangers who just happened to be in that restaurant at the same time. Who are strangers who just happened to be at that bar at the same time. You, reading this. You’re all amazing people!

So now, I’m 26 years old. And my boobs didn’t kill me. I’m alive. And that’s amazing, because every single day I think about how close I came to not being alive anymore. And I just feel happy.

PS. I’m officially running the Richmond Half-Marathon – again – on November 16! Suck it, cancer!

Musings on Breast Cancer Awareness Month, etc.

It’s October, which means it’s breast cancer awareness month! YAY and BOO, simultaneously.

I have incredibly mixed feelings about this strange little tradition and its deluge of awareness and action programs – one of which I’m actually actively working on at my job, and which will go live shortly! I think you’ll all really like it. I’ve never been one to be overly serious about cancer, so this isn’t serious, either. Natch. I think it’s much cooler than a pink ribbon on a salsa jar. So check back soon to hear all about it.

I kind of forgot that breast cancer awareness month was a thing until I was back home in Los Angeles the other weekend for a film shoot for my job. Since I don’t drive in NYC, I never listen to the radio (thanks for the Spotify Premium subscription, Brandcenter friends! It’s all I listen to!) – but sitting in traffic in LA, fiddling through the stations, I was bombarded with commercials touting every company’s breast cancer initiative in honor of October. And then I was sitting there on the 110, staring at some palm trees, and wait…am I crying? WTF?

A representative from Phillips Healthcare contacted me recently and asked if they could sponsor a post of mine in honor of their breast cancer awareness programs. I keep it super-real on this blog, so let me be real for a minute: Honestly, I was skeptical at first. I once saw a truck drive by advertising a WATER brand that was dedicated entirely to breast cancer research, which makes zero sense. I don’t need to be reminded of cancer every god damn time I buy yogurt and hair products, okay? I’m not trying to get ambushed by emotions every time I’m in the grocery store. Do you want me to cry in the dairy aisle, D’Agostino? IS THAT GOOD FOR BUSINESS? I mean, I just flew back from Los Angeles and had to stare at all of the flight attendants’ pink buttons and ties for six hours, and while half of me was like, “Yay, solidarity and support!”, the other half of me was like, “STOP REMINDING ME,” and those two sides of me duked it out all the way to LaGuardia at 30,000 feet up in the sky.

The Phillips rep was kind enough to send me some materials about what their company accomplishes each October, and I was impressed. They’re not paying me to talk about this, and let me be clear that I wouldn’t do it if I thought what Phillips was doing was BS. But along with a lot of other products you probably use every day, Phillips makes mammogram machines that use MicroDose Technology, and they sponsor a Mammography Truck – and mammograms are probably the most important tool we have in the fight against breast cancer right now. Because here’s the thing: When you catch breast cancer early, you can cure it. Yes, I said cure. As in forever and ever cure it, and go on living your life. And that is amazing.

I’m fully and completely supportive of any and all initiatives that work to make sure women have access to early detection. There is simply nothing more important. And while mammograms won’t help girls like me because we’re weird medical anomalies, the message is the same: Be diligent about your health. Whether that means getting your boobs squeezed between some plates, checking yourself in the shower or going to the gynecologist regularly. And if something doesn’t seem right, for God’s sake, follow up on it. It’s funny to think about how many times in my life I knew something was off, but put off doing something about it – not just healthwise, but in my relationships and my decisions and so on. When I really reflect on it, my gut feeling has been right probably upwards of 90% of the time. I’m not saying I always did what my gut told me to do. I probably almost never do what my gut tells me to do, because it’s usually the harder thing. But dammit, that stupid gut knows what’s up.

So yeah, breast cancer awareness month is a time of great internal conflict and strife for me. On the one hand, when you’ve got a disease that 1 out of 8 women is going to be diagnosed with in her lifetime, is there any such thing as too much activism? With numbers like that, virtually every one of us will know someone who will be affected by this disease. It’s awesome that companies like Phillips are so dedicated to improving the technology we use to keep women healthy, and working to provide resources for women whose lives are impacted by breast cancer. The community of support around breast cancer is truly humbling, even if I sometimes feel like a bit of an outsider in it because I’m 25, unmarried and a drunk degenerate and not 50, married and a mom.

Also, let me take a moment to say that I know that hatin’ on pink ribbons is a pretty popular activity these days. I’m not trying to do that. Because I know that women deal with this in all kinds of ways – and while I laugh-cry at pinktivism and 5Ks and inspirational Pinterest quotes, a lot of women find it truly empowering, and I am completely in favor of that. And I am all about people doing whatever they can to help other people. There’s no one way of dealing with a deadly disease that’s any better or more valid than any other. Rock on. I’ll just be over here writing random stuff all up in this blog.

On the other hand, I had no idea that hearing the words “breast cancer” and seeing pink ribbons all over the place would be this emotional for me. And I kind of resent a lot of companies for putting me through that when they have no logical reason to. Are you listening, D’Agostino? Please let me grocery shop with relative emotional stability. Please.

One other, totally unrelated thing: It’s almost my birthday! Which means I’m going to be 26. Do you think I need to change the title of this blog? What’s a gal to do? Time marches on.