Dena Taylor | breast cancer
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I say tomato

I was at a gathering for writers. The leader talked about whipping out x thousands of words a day, getting so-and-so to help edit the final manuscript, another to do the book design, etc. and getting it up on Amazon as fast as possible to get those sales made and dollars rolling in. Leader made writing and publishing a book--a whole book!--sound as easy as popping a frozen bean burrito in the microwave for lunch. Leader recommended using an online global freelancer site for editing and related services, and noted that he used someone from overseas because the people in the U.S. "just charge too much." Leader also mentioned a family member who has been working on a book for "three years now." And with the shake of the head said the family member, "is never going to finish." I've been working on my book for over seven years. I won't be going back...

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Yay! Memoirs!

  When I first came across a display of YAY! LiFE! magnets at Denver's Tattered Cover Book Store, I immediately thought of my friend Heather Kennedy. Heather has been saying "YAY!" for years. Not in a shouty way like the all-caps and exclamation point might suggest, but in a simple conversational way, a lighthearted expression of in-the-moment joy. "Yay, Champassion!" she would say upon receiving her favorite drink at Hotel San Jose lounge in Austin, where we both lived a few years back. "Yay! This is fun!" she said recently as we settled into our seats at a Rockies game, now both residents of Colorado. As you can see, you can apply YAY! to pretty much anything (although you might want to be careful about what you put on the back of your car; as far as I can tell, the YAY! DELOUSING! magnet has yet to be developed). YAY! serves as both mini-applause and...

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New oncologist, fading nerves – Part 2

Well that was weird. With one exception, everything I thought would take place at the new oncologist's office, didn't. In my last post I mentioned going to a new Denver oncologist (onco) for my annual followup. Since finishing treatment and five years of tamoxifen, I've been monitored with: Annual digital mammograms (despite implants, my previous surgeon felt that it would capture microcalcifications in any trace tissue, since technically, it's impossible to remove every last trace) Manual exams Tumor marker blood test Vitamin D levels (associated with cancer risk) Some sort of discussion about whether or not I'm peri-menopausal ("Are the heat waves I still get two years after finishing tamoxifen a sign? If so, when for the love of God will they stop?") I figured we'd knock out each item plus the following: Discuss whether I should take tamoxifen for another five years (studies have shown it to be beneficial for women who had early-state ER/PR positive cancer, like...

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New oncologist, fading nerves – Part 1

  I didn't always know how to talk cancer. When I went to a survivors luncheon just two days after my diagnosis in 2006 —or was it one?—the words were like rocks in my mouth, funny tasting, awkward and some had sharp edges. "The way they were talking so openly about it -- like you would a migraine or bladder infection -- clashed with my current state of shock. I could barely utter the words “I have cancer” let alone talk about its characteristics or plans for treatment. I was still reeling, still raw." — excerpt from I Don’t Wanna Be Pink I can talk about it now. I'm honored to do so if it will help others, and comfortable when it's within the context of my book, such as in my recent interview on Good Grief with Cheryl Jones, on my blog, via social media, or in my journal. That is to...

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Why today's mammo is different: Part 2

"Miss Taylor?" asks the technician. I'd guess she's in her late 50's, reddish bob, no makeup.  She reminds me of someone. Maybe an old friend of my Mom's. We are down to two in the mammo lounge now. The other woman is buried in her cell phone and two whispered damnit!'s indicate she's stressed. She's had her mammogram and it appears they want her to stick around, reason unbeknownst to me. Maybe she's answering work email, another diversion to the present ambiguity. I follow the tech to an exam room. She sighs trying to discern the history I scribbled on my form. "There's a lot of notes here," she says. "So you've had breast cancer?" "Yes." She opens my robe and asks which breast was removed. "Both." "Both?" "Yes." "Have you had a mammogram since then?" "Yep. Every year." She sighs and wonders aloud about which machine to use. "Every doctor is different. Let me see exactly what kind and how many...

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22 Ways to Occupy Yourself Before Your Name is Called for a Mammogram

Fear is real and I don't take it lightly. I sit with it, consider its origin, talk it over with someone, journal about it (check out Kris Carr's awesome post on ways to take fear for a joy ride). But at some point I've got to move on. The following is in order of how they arose in my brain while waiting for my name to be called for today's mammogram. Employ at your own risk. And if you do, oh, please, oh, please, do share! 1. Imagine that Betty White walks into the waiting lounge and sits next to you. Would you talk to her? What would you say? 2. Count in threes to 100. 3. Think of five things about the day so far that you're grateful for. (I had this amazing terra taco at a local cafe, and was glad to meet a deadline) 4. Do a crossword puzzle. 5. Bring...

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Why today's mammo is different: Part 1

“It gets better,” someone told me about the anxiety that comes with post-cancer mammograms. The first mammogram post treatment was naturally the worst. After getting normal CA 15-3 and mammogram results, I felt a little bit of everything: relieved they didn’t find anything but afraid they missed something; confident in my treatment but worried it would come back. It was a pendulum of feelings that would hijack my mammograms and follow-up appointments for years to come. But for that moment, I was given the green light. I could pass Go. I could blend back into the fold as if nothing was wrong. As if. — excerpt from my memoir, I Don't Wanna Be Pink. It's been 7 years since I was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, just under that since chemo, and nearly two years since I popped my last tamoxifen. While I have a good prognosis, I still feel trepidation come mammo...

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The Hunt for unPink October

I feel bad about it, crashing my brother Paul’s birthday like that. When I arrived, I was in tears, had major munchies, was practically naked, and so out of sorts that I messed my drawers. Then I slept it off without saying I was sorry. I would have but I couldn’t use my words. My brother was only three and I was only a few hours, but still, he’d never have his own birthday again, October 18 would forever be ours. We got used to sharing and for nearly four decades, October was my favorite month. Not just because it was our birthday month but because the trees were on fire with color — bold yellows, oranges and reds, the air was crisp and refreshing — the best to go running in, and slices of pumpkin pie were just around the corner. Yeah, whatever. It was mostly because of our birthday,...

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When I was sick. Guest post on Cancer, Cancer bo-Bancer

When I came across @DeeAnne_Barker on Twitter and saw the whimsy in her blog title, Cancer, Cancer bo-Bancer, and the spirit in her tagline, "I'm the boss of me!" I had to follow. When I learned more about her story, I was humbled and inspired. This incredible woman has faced cancer not one, not two, but three times, and maintains a sense of humor. In one of my favorite posts, her response to Facebook's blunder in failing to capture her most important moments of 2012, she writes: "Well $#%!&! you Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, I've got moments!" We can learn a lot from her. As her 500th follower, she allowed me to guest post on her blog. An honor. Thank you DeeAnne! ...

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Tamoxifinale

Sunday morning I sprung forward, first at 7:30 am (too painful, fell back), then for real at 10:07 am, and for the first time in five years — five years! — I didn’t take Tamoxifen, an estrogen antagonist (I love that) used to treat breast cancer. [caption id="attachment_1386" align="aligncenter" width="291" caption="Buh-bye"][/caption] I took my last 20 mg pill Saturday, commemorating the occasion by washing it down with water from a wine glass, but not before dropping it on the kitchen floor where it rolled under the stove, precariously close to two boric-acid laced roach tablets. Determined to see my prescription through to the end, I called the five-second rule, moved the (cheap, featherweight) stove, dusted the pill off and swallowed it, bringing my “adjuvant therapy” to a close. I recently expressed concern that once I stopped taking the drug tasked with keeping the evil-dividing cells at bay, I would feel like a sitting...

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