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[cancer] Home, looking ahead - Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2009-11-03 05:17
Subject: [cancer] Home, looking ahead
Security: Public
Tags:calendula, cancer, health
I am home in Portland. Spent last night in the quiet of my own space. Surprisingly, I slept well, with no memory of either dreams or nightmares this morning. My body perseveres even while portions of my brain panic.

Nothing more happens til the Thursday surgical consultation. After that, well, I'll know more. Episodic uncertainty is certainly the name of the game here, and that uncertainty runs in epicycles as well. Smaller worries spiral about inside of larger ones, which are themselves folded into metaworries. My fundamentally optimistic nature has largely resurfaced, but still the wheels turn.

A mixed response to my thought about getting cancer tattoos. As ozarque and others have pointed it out, writing its name permanently upon my body can be seen a grant of power. Yet I write cancer's name here on the Web, and in hundreds of conversations. And in doing so, I steal away the power of secrecy and shame which with cancer is invested by our society. I continue of two minds on this. (Speaking as someone who wears ink, I am also wise enough to know that one does not get a tattoo while feeling double-minded.)

I did suggest yesterday to calendula_witch that I might cut off my hair and shave my head before chemo, and in doing so get the tattoo on my scalp. She was not even remotely enthusiastic about this plan. Again, to me it feels like an owning of the shame and fear and grief and anger. Perhaps my thoughts are too extreme?

For the nonce, I indulge in comfort eating; an old, old stress response which is bad for the weight, and at best of transitory benefit to the soul. I have decided to just let go of this worry until schedules are settled and fates are sealed, especially so long as I continue exercising.

Finally, as I will never catch up to all of you individually, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to everyone who's approached me with support via these blogs, over email, chat, text, Twitter, in person, at conventions, via postal mail. As I've said before, if love could cure cancer, I'd be the healthiest son of a bitch in North America.

The ones I love most are at the center of my world, but you all are an army marching into my future. On the wings of your regard, I could fly free for a thousand years.
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wyld_dandelyon: great wizard by djinni
User: wyld_dandelyon
Date: 2009-11-03 13:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:great wizard by djinni
In writing the cancer's name in your writing and speaking its name with your voice, you are not symbolically making it a permanent part of your body. I like how you name it as a way to have power over how it affects you and others.

Symbolically, I've always seen tattoos (like a new name, be it a religious name, a marriage name, or a pen name) being symbolic of things a person is welcoming into his or her life.

But I think it is very significant that a tattoo becomes literally a permanent part of your body. I would think your body is the one place you would most want to banish the cancer from.

Perhaps instead of symbolizing the cancer itself, you need a symbol for living well despite it.

However, it is your life and your body. My reflections are only useful if you find them helpful.

Edited at 2009-11-03 01:49 pm (UTC)
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scarlettina
User: scarlettina
Date: 2009-11-03 16:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Perhaps instead of symbolizing the cancer itself, you need a symbol for living well despite it.

This is a good thought.
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User: cypherindigo
Date: 2009-11-03 14:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Cutting you hair once you find out if you need Chemo isn't a bad idea. Having it fall out and clog up the shower drain is just a pain.

How about a nice buzz-cut?
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threeoutside
User: threeoutside
Date: 2009-11-03 14:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Just leaving this in order to get my fightin' elf back in your thread...
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ozarque
User: ozarque
Date: 2009-11-03 14:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm glad that you're home, in your own space. And we are all holding you in our hearts.
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cathshaffer
User: cathshaffer
Date: 2009-11-03 14:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You won't need chemo!

I have a friend (whom you may also know), who had a mandala tattooed at the nape of her neck many years ago when she was afflicted with some health problems. The mandala is considered to be a symbol of healing energy, and the back of the neck (I guess) is a significant location in some eastern healing tradition (ayurveda)? It is a beautiful tattoo, and one she would have no reason to regret later.
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martyn44
User: martyn44
Date: 2009-11-03 14:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Tattoo? Later. A historical scene, St Jay slaying his dragon.
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Leah Cutter: Stress lab 2
User: lrcutter
Date: 2009-11-03 14:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Stress lab 2
You continue to be in my thoughts, Jay, and I wish you the best.

::hugs::
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User: barbhendee
Date: 2009-11-03 15:25 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Kitten and chick
Hi Jay,

I also think you should wait before cutting your hair. You might not even need the chemo.

If it turns out that you do need to do chemo, you can "revisit" the idea of cutting your hair and then consider some cool-looking handkerchiefs tied over your head with the knot at the back and the points hanging down your neck.

I think you could pull that look off quite well (smiles).

I'm with Shannon on the tattoo though.

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User: deborahjross
Date: 2009-11-03 15:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:hands
I rather like the idea of a tattoo-in-stages. One could begin with "cancer" and then add "I beat ..." or "... survivor" or "... sucks."

If you shave your head (which isn't a bad thought in terms of empowerment/choice) or undergo chemo (and not all chemo agents cause hair to fall out), I'd be tickled to knit you an outrageous cap. I have had lots of practice. Ah -- you could assemble a collection of outrageous caps, each one stitched with love, each one suitable for a different mood.
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pmrabble
User: pmrabble
Date: 2009-11-03 15:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've had friends shave right before chemo as part of the psychological procedure of maintaining as much control as they could under the circumstances. This part does sound like a good idea.

But a tattoo should be an indication of hope for the future.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-11-04 13:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The likelier chemo course has "limited hair loss" as a side effect. The less likely chemo course is old school bald-throwing-up-ten-times-a-day stuff. So we shall see, I'll know once the biopsy is in. My contemplation of the hair cutting is at least as symbolic as practical, though.
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mcjulie
User: mcjulie
Date: 2009-11-03 16:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Shaving your head before chemo is probably a good idea, because it means you can be shaved-headed-Jay instead of hair-falling-out-Jay.

The thing about a tattoo is that it is a way of reminding yourself of something, like that guy in Memento. You put it on your body because you don't want to forget. So, imagine yourself ten years from now. What will you want to remember?
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calendula_witch: arms
User: calendula_witch
Date: 2009-11-03 16:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:arms
My strong objection to the hair-shaving (other than the obvious), is that, even if you do have chemo, you will have the kind that is *not* likely to make your hair fall out. So why do that to yourself if you don't have to? Your hair is a great joy to you, and to me, and to many others. Why mutilate it?

The tattoo I feel less strongly about. Just, yes: lack of enthusiasm.

As for it all, though, as I said: it is your body and you must do what feels right to you. And I will love you no matter what.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-11-04 13:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Your love is my one absolute in all of this, Sweetness.

Thank you.
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brent_kellmer
User: brent_kellmer
Date: 2009-11-03 17:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
As for the tattoo -- it's easy to say "do the upbeat thing" but everyone with a tat has a different reason for putting it there, not just the generic "it makes me feel good" reason. I can easily see where having a cancer tattoo would be like naming it, giving you power over it (it'd no longer be "ssshhh... the big C.... ssshhh"). By doing that you can acknowledge that the 800 lb gorilla is in the room, but that you see it, nod in passing, and get on with living your life to the fullest. But as I said, everyone's got different reasons, and whatever works for you (and not everyone else)when you're not feeling double-minded is obviously the thing to do.

Personally, I'd hesitate about doing it on my scalp, though -- when your hair grows back and hides, it might feel as if the tattoo was a secret and something to feel shameful about. Again of course, your mileage may vary.
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Bob
User: yourbob
Date: 2009-11-03 17:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Regardin' the tattoo. Don't know much and am not among (and won't be among) the inked.

However. While I don't know what you might plan along the lines, I suggest something like a Crab symbol rather than anything word-like.

Regardless, you can always add a baseball bat or some cool weapon to the design in reference to "beating" the cancer (crab on a skewer?)
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When life gives you lemmings...
User: danjite
Date: 2009-11-03 17:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Once upon a time, the lead singer from B'last- a punk band we produced- got a skull tattoo.

Plan was, he would shave his head before a tour and let it grow back in, so he could go back to his job post tour and look "normal".

Then he started prematurely balding....

Skull tattoos are fine if you are going to have hair for life or be shaved for life.

Otherwise... no.

Also, if you intend to live a long time- Tattoos of discrete letters or words often don't age well. Bigger the better is the rule.

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