Chemo Brain

During the war on drugs decade, there appeared a rather clever commercial that showed a man holding up an egg. “This is your brain,” he’d say, solemnly. He would then crack the egg and drop it into a hot frying pan. As it sizzled in response, he would add, “This is your brain on drugs.” Looking into the lens of the camera, he would conclude. “Any questions?” Oh, how we loved those few seconds of television, using the slogan to poke fun at each other during temporary lapses in judgment. It became the anthem for every stupid answer, every inappropriate comment. Such is the stuff that pop culture legends are made of, right? Well, I have been on some mighty powerful cancer treatment drugs, and I

The Sisterhood

There exists, just a few clicks away from the public social media pages, where people regularly post pictures of their idealized life, a quiet world, a secret sisterhood of women from different backgrounds, cultures and skin colors, united only by one thing, a disease that has altered their lives in inexplicable ways. All of us have ovarian cancer. There is an adoption process to gain access to this portal. The initiation begins with a sharing of each individual diagnosis and treatment story. And although we are alike in many ways, the tales are as varied as the women who tell them. We compare and comment, as we sew another stitch in the tapestry that binds us. And although nobody really w

The Time Machine

My dad had a fondness for clocks. He was selective about those that he added to his collection, but his pride and joy was one he bought at auction in the early 60’s. It was impressive, intricately carved and huge, designed to sit on a matching shelf. The whole thing had been painted black, and as the story goes, his momma thought he had lost his mind when he admitted paying $75 bucks for it. It took him months, but he lovingly restored it, carefully soaking the tarnished gold plates in an ammonia solution and painstakingly removing the coats of offending paint. Piece by piece, he cleaned the internal parts, patiently fitting them into their proper place, until it sprang to life. With the tur

The Big E

A few weeks ago, my friend and I were discussing the meaning of life. I realize how dramatic that sounds, and yes, we usually talk about more mundane things, idle chit chat. But occasionally, we have a deep conversation, fueled by a beer or two, which often leads to some profound truth. This was one of those moments. I launched into an elaborate lecture on my philosophy as she listened patiently. Brevity isn’t my strong suit. When I was done, I turned to her and asked, “What do you think?” “It is empathy,” she simply said. It took me a while to process the idea, but the more I considered it, the clearer it became. She is absolutely right. Empathy is the why, the where, and the how of our e

The Follow-up

The new doctor’s reception area is tiny, a borrowed satellite office he visits twice a month. I am here because it is closer for me, although still over an hour away. I’ve traveled it once before and got lost then, too. I expect that I will soon know the route by heart. This is a long-term relationship. There are women silently sitting shoulder to shoulder. I take my place among them. I want to talk, to ask each one to share the story of her journey, but instead I reach for the lifestyle magazine I have brought along. I consider the fact that I am once again interested in decorating tips and garden projects to be a positive sign. I must be feeling better. The quiet is deafening. It feels aw

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