The Sonia Show

Writer. Podcaster. Beer drinker. Old movie watcher. Mother. Goober.


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Short Bangs Are Better Than No Bangs: I’m Talking About Hair So Get Your Mind Out Of The Gutter

Yeah, so, I went to get my hair cut and colored the other day. My hair dresser had to cut quite a bit. My hair grows pretty fast and it’s really thick now. It’s thick and curly!

I love the cut so much, but she did cut the bangs a little short. She cut them short with the idea that they would be perfect in a week. If she left them any longer I’d probably be bitching that they are in my eyes. So, yeah, they’re kinda short.

I came home from my hair appointment, and I said something to my mighty, mighty good man David.

“I love the cut, but the bangs are a little too short,” I said.

“Well, considering the fact that you were practically bald this time last year, I think you can live with short bangs,” he replied.

“Valid point, sir!”

He is not wrong.

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What a difference a year makes, right?


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Happy chemo-versary to me!

Yeah, so, a year ago today I finished chemo. I guess it’s my chemo-versary. What do you get yourself for a chemo-versary? Being cancer-free, a full head of hear and the knowledge that you don’t have to do chemo anymore? That’s a pretty great gift.

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(Left) Chemo curls a few months ago. (Right) A year after chemo, the chemo curls are starting to grow out.

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One year after chemo with a few trims to give it style.

Of course, chemotherapy is finished, but I’m still getting treatment. I go to Kaiser every three months for a Lupron injection, which is putting me in menopause, because I had an estrogen-positive cancer. I’m also taking Tamoxifen every night. The side effects have been pretty minimal – mainly hot flashes, which are not that big of a deal. They can be kinda intense, but I try to dress in layers and keep some water with me. I’m kinda addicted to lemon-flavored La Croix sparkling water. Often I have a can of it in my bag, because who doesn’t carry around a can of sparkling water in their purse? Am I right, ladies?

The main side effect I’m dealing with isn’t even from these drugs. I haven’t written about it in a while, but I have continued to have terrible anxiety and panic attacks. I wrote about it back in January. Basically, I have post traumatic stress disorder from having cancer twice. I mean, if you lose body parts due to cancer twice it’s going to fuck with your head, right?

The truth is since the panic attacks in December and January I’ve been struggling to manage my anxiety. I saw a counselor a few times, but after that I started feeling like I could deal it myself. The counselor and my oncologist both recommended that I could try an anti-anxiety med, but I was determined to handle my anxiety the old fashioned way … with beer. Just kidding. I tried to handle it by pretending like everything was fine.

But I wasn’t fine. I really haven’t been fine since the second breast cancer diagnosis in December 2014. I’ve been walking around since then thinking that my body is trying to kill me, and that I’m going to die young. Shortly after I started chemo last year I had a panic attack when I was in the hospital for a fever. It was awful. After that, I was just dealing with it. I just accepted it as the new normal. I had a few more panic attacks, and my level of anxiety was just high all the time.

Then last month, I had another panic attack. It was really bad; really, really bad. I started hyperventilating. My hands, feet and face went numb. My hands actually seized up. It’s hard to describe but a woman actually filmed her hands clenching up during a panic attack, which you can see riiight here. It was the scariest thing ever. Luckily, I was with my mighty, mighty good man David at the time, and he was able to give me an Ativan from my purse. He was so sweet and thoughtful. He was so calm. “This is a panic attack. You’re going to be OK,” he repeated. I couldn’t move my hands. He had to put the pill in my mouth and give me water. He opened my hands and rubbed them for me, and he talked me through it, because he’s a goddamn saint.

After that panic attack, I started having panic attacks about having another panic attack, because I’m so meta. “What if it happens when I’m alone? What if it’s just me and Calvin? What if I’m at work?”

It was just too much to carry around all the time. I’ve never taken any kind of anti-depressant or anti-anxiety med, other than the Ativan, which was prescribed to me during chemo. I took it during panic attacks on an as-needed basis. I just let the anxiety and panic attacks go on for so long, because I hate taking prescription drugs if I don’t have to. You take a prescription drug, which has side effects, and then you have to take another drug for the side effects, and that drug has side effects, and so on and so on. The next thing you know you’re taking 10 different pills, and you still feel like shit.

I also let it go on for so long, because I’m just so hard on myself. “Deal with your shit, Mansfield” is what I would say to myself. “You don’t even have cancer anymore. People have it much harder than you. Rub some dirt on it and walk it off.” This is the kind of assy shit I’ll say to myself. I would never say such awful things to a friend, but I will say the most terrible things to myself. Even though I can be so hard on myself I was never depressed. I truly love my life. I think it’s because I love it so much that I’m worried so much about losing it.

Finally, I reached out to my doctor and said, “I need help. I’m tired of dealing with this all the time.” So, yeah, I’m taking Lexapro now. I’m on a super-low dose: 5 mg. In other words, I’m just like everyone else you know. I’m on a mood-altering medication.

I started the drug about two weeks ago, and shortly after I started the drug, my anxiety actually increased, which is a really shitty side effect for an anti-anxiety med. The doctor assured me that I needed to give the meds time to get into my system and work. I needed to ride it out a bit. It sucked. But then I got a great idea: Acupuncture. It helped me with nausea during chemo. Maybe it could help me with this. And guess what? It totally did. I went three times in a week. After the first treatment, I felt better. After the second treatment, I felt even better. After the third treatment, I felt the best I’ve felt since, well, the second the diagnosis. I’m going to continue taking the drug and going to acupuncture once a week.

I’m feeling so much better, you guys!

So, yeah, that’s what’s been going on with me. It turns out I’m a human being who can handle only so much crap before I need something to help me shoulder my burden. Weird, right? I’m writing about it because I feel like some people think this should be a dirty, little secret. I’m not ashamed. I went through some shit, and I need help dealing with it. Some of my awesome friends have shared their stories with me to let me know that I’m not alone. So, I’m sharing my story, so if someone else is reading this blog post, and they’re going through some shit, they can see that they are not alone, too.

 

 

 


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F Breast Cancer: F This Movie’s 18-Hour Podcast-A-Thon

Yeah, so, when I was dealing with my breast cancer surgeries and chemotherapy last year, one of the things that really helped me get through it was F This Movie.

F This Movie is a podcast in which host Patrick Bromley and one of the writers from FThisMovie.net, including Adam Riske, Health Holland, Doug Schultz, JB, Melissa Uhrin, Adam Thas, Michael Pomero, and Bromley’s wife, Erika, talk about movies. They are not movie snobs, though. It’s kinda like listening to your friends talk about movies, but smarter.

I listened to it while driving to and from the hospital. I listened to it in the waiting room while I waited for countless appointments. I listened to it while I got poked with needles and underwent many minor procedures. I listened to it when I was hospitalized for three days with a neutropenic fever. I listened to it while laying around on the couch after my mastectomy, my reconstruction surgery and chemotherapy appointments.

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Here’s me listening to F This Movie last year while I’m waiting for my MRI.

I’m cancer free now, but I still listen to F This Movie every week. It’s my favorite podcast.

Without knowing it, F This Movie played a really important part in my breast cancer recovery. It kept me distracted when I needed it, which is why it’s so important for me to promote their fundraising event this Saturday.

F This Movie is holding an 18-hour podcast-a-thon on Saturday, July 9. It’s a fundraiser for The Magnolia Tree Foundation, a charity started by a friend of Bromley’s who passed away from breast cancer this year.

If you get a chance, you should listen. As someone who just started podcasting recently, I am in awe of an 18-hour podcast. Even if you can’t listen, I strongly encourage you to donate.

Click here to learn all the details about F Breast Cancer! Because, seriously, fuck breast cancer.

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I’m a Kaiser fan girl

Yeah, so, I have turned into a bit of a Kaiser dork. It’s perfectly normal to dork out about your medical provider, right? I’m sure everyone does it.

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I’ve spent a lot of time at Kaiser throughout the past couple of years. After being diagnosed with breast cancer twice, I’ve been to Kaiser countless times for appointments, surgeries, chemotherapy, acupuncture, more appointments, more surgeries, etc. And in the middle of all that, I got pregnant and now have a 4-year-old son that’s been diagnosed with autism. So, yeah, I like I said, I spend a lot of time at Kaiser.

We live in Glen Park in San Francisco, so I’m always hauling my ass to Kaiser on Geary. There’s traffic no matter what time of the day, so it takes me about 45 minutes to get there, and sometimes it can take an hour. I have to park in the world’s most ridiculous parking garage that is always packed with people who think they are going to find a magic parking spot that puts them right on the elevator to go inside. That parking spot doesn’t exist, just in case you are wondering.

I’m friendly with a lot of staff at Kaiser now. Several of the nurses and receptionists on the second floor and the eighth floor know me. When I was dealing with breast cancer the second time, a lot of the nurses and receptionists said, “It’s good to see you but I’m also sad to see you here again.”

I’m always chatting and joking with the nurses, because I have a nervous talking thing I do. My oncologist told me that he knows what exam room I am in because he can hear us laughing.

Sadly, Kaiser has turned into my Cheers, but it kinda sucks that everybody there knows my name.

It’s great that everyone is so friendly, and I’m glad that I make a positive enough impression that they remember me, but also whenever I go to Kaiser now I get an overwhelming sense of dread. It sucks.

I had an appointment last week to get my Lupron injection, and just being on the eighth floor, which is where I did my chemo, makes me feel kinda nauseated. It’s the smell – that hospital smell – and the bleeping of the machines. Ugh. I hate it.

I said something to the nurse about it when I was there last week.

“The smell here reminds me of chemo. You probably don’t even notice the smell anymore, but someday when you don’t work here anymore, you’ll come back and say, ‘Ewww, it smells like work here.’”

So, because of all the bad memories I have about Kaiser on Geary, you will not be surprised to learn that I’m really excited about the new Kaiser buildings in Mission Bay. In fact, I would say I’m downright giddy. When I found out that my dermatologist and my gynecologist moved into the new building, I jumped up down with excitement and clapped. I’m not making that up. I literally jumped around and clapped, and then I told David about it excitedly, and it turned into this:

ross-dancing-o

This is what I mean when I say I’m a Kaiser dork now. I got seriously happy that I got to see the new Kaiser building. It’s new! It’s different! I don’t have any bad associations. Woo-hoo!

I went to the new Kaiser building on Friday for a bone density scan, because being 45 and in chemically induced menopause is fuckin’ rad. It’s OK to be jealous.

OK, so, you guys, it took me 15 minutes to get there from my house. I know, right? 15 minutes! I was living the fuckin’ dream! Plus, there’s all kinds of parking. I got a spot on the second level, which are the first parking spots available for patients who don’t have electric cars. And, the parking garage isn’t a concrete cave. You can see the sky.

The buildings are all windows, so the building isn’t such a downer to be inside. There’s lovely murals and art all over the walls. The elevators are fast, and they don’t bleep at you. You get “Second floor” not “BLEEP!”

And here’s the really crazy thing … apparently, Kaiser patients don’t want to go to the new building. WTF?! I wish all of my Kaiser appointments were in the Mission Bay offices. My oncologist told me that they moved a bunch of doctors and departments to the new building, and Kaiser patients just switched doctors to stay at Geary.

Fine by me, weirdos. That means more readily available appointment for me. Wheee! I’m gonna thrive so hard, you guys.

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The side effects of side effects

Yeah, so, remember when I mentioned I was starting a new hormone therapy to suppress estrogen to decrease my chance for cancer reoccurrence? Remember? Well, it turns out that drug makes me sick.

Wheeeeeee!

So, a while back, my oncologist wanted to start this estrogen-suppression drug. I picked up the drug, but I didn’t take it for a while, because I needed to do my anxiety dance around it before taking it. Just in case you are wondering, my anxiety dance looks like this:

panic

After I finished my ridiculous dance, I started the drug. It made me occasionally light headed with a little nausea. I was not happy about it. Then mighty, mighty good man David had to travel for work, so I stopped taking the drug. I need to be fully operational when David is away. After David got back, I went back on the drug.  After more than a week back on the drug, the light-headed feeling returned, and then the nausea kicked in … hard. I left work on Wednesday afternoon, and even though I had stopped taking the drug, I was vomiting Friday morning. Not only was I vomiting, and vomiting is the fucking worst, I had to get a refund for my “Captain America: Civil War” tickets at the Alamo Drafthouse, AND I missed out on the cool pint glass. Not cool, Exemestane.

On top of that, the nausea reminded me of chemo, and it really upset me. In other words, I have been a goddamn joy to be around.

The good news is I’m feeling much better now. I spoke with my doctor, and I won’t be taking that drug anymore. I’ll be continuing the Lupron shots and restarting tamoxifen. You might remember tamoxifen from such blog posts as “Sonia killed a man, but that’s probably a side effect, right?” and “I want a new drug.” I was taking tamoxifen after the first mastectomy and was still taking it after when I was diagnosed with breast cancer the second time.

I know what you thinking. “Hey, if you got cancer while taking tamoxifen it must not be a very effective drug.” I know that’s kinda what I thought the first time it was recommended. However, it is possible that second breast cancer diagnosis may have been a lot worse if I wasn’t on the drug. Also, there was a huge chunk of time that I wasn’t taking the drug. I had quit taking six months before we started trying to get pregnant.

My doctor feels that with the mastectomy, the chemo, the Lupron, the vegan diet and tamoxifen is just as effective in preventing reoccurrence, so we don’t all need to freak out. Cool? Cool.

Shall we talk about something else? Let’s do it.

I went to one of those Paint Nite events again. Drinking and painting is fun. You should try it some time.

Look at how cute my sister is.

Look at how cute my sister is.

Here's my painting. It's not half bad, if I don't say so myself.

Here’s my painting. It’s not half bad, if I don’t say so myself.

What else should we talk about?

Oh, I did get to see “Captain America: Civil War.” I went in the morning on Mother’s Day. I thought the movie was really good. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about it, but you will have to listen to this week’s Pop Show podcast to hear what they are. Stay tuned.


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What an incredible smell you’ve discovered

Yeah, so, when I was getting ready to start chemo last year, one of my friends from college, Jesse, gave me some great chemotherapy advice. Eat whatever you want whenever you want it, because you may not always have an appetite. But, he warned me, be wary of eating things you really enjoy, because after chemo you may not enjoy it anymore.

Jesse knew what he was talking about. Jesse had been doing chemo for more than a year, which is as awful as it sounds. Sadly, he passed away last year. Seriously, fuck you, cancer.

The food I ate the most throughout chemo — Chef Boyardee Beefaroni and fettuccine alfredo — I wouldn’t eat now anyway, because I’m an awesome, totally not a pain the ass, vegan now. A few weeks ago, though, I opened a bottle of Vitamin Water Lemonade, took a sip and said, “Ewww. This tastes like chemo.” I dumped it all out. I can’t drink it anymore. I also can’t drink water flavored with those Dasani flavor drops. It also tastes like chemo to me. I drank SO MUCH Vitamin Water and Dasani-flavored water during chemo. Now, that shit is just nasty to me.

 

It’s not just food and drinks that remind me of chemo. Certain smells are a trigger. Last week, mighty, mighty good man David put out some hand soap by the kitchen sink. I used it and I almost gagged. It smelled like chemo to me. Since chemo lowers your white blood cell count, making it difficult to fight off germs, we were all crazy about washing our hands last year. Apparently, we used that hand soap a lot, because now the smell of it makes me want to puke. We have a huge jug of it at my house, so, ummm: Free hand soap to a good home. Actually, it doesn’t have to be a good home. Come and get it.

It’s interesting what triggers my chemo flashbacks and makes me feel nauseous. The “On This Day” feature on Facebook triggers bad memories by design. I roll by last year’s updates pretty quick and head directly to the years with baby Calvin photos. Speaking of mighty, mighty good boy Calvin, for a while after chemo every time he watched “Daniel Tiger” it made me feel a little queasy, because we watched it a lot while sitting on the couch together during my chemo recovery.

Speaking of cancer, I don’t have it anymore, which is awesome. As part of my ongoing treatment, however, I have been receiving Lupron injections, which shut down estrogen production. It’s about as fun as it sounds.

Seriously, it hasn’t been that bad. The main side effect is not getting a period anymore, which I like. Oh, also hot flashes, which I don’t like. But now we’re going to knock it up another notch, and I’ll be taking a daily pill called Exemestane, which will suppress estrogen production even more.

It’s OK to be jealous.

One of the big side effects of this drug, besides more intense hot flashes, is joint and muscle aches. The oncologist said, “It will make you feel old and creaky. The best way to prevent that is more exercise.”

I haven’t started the drug yet, but I’m preparing myself. I’ve been going to yoga twice a week, and I’m going to try to get more exercise into my life. Maybe I should get a Fitbit. Maybe I need to spend $100-plus on something that tells me that I’m being a lazy fat ass every day. The Fitbit would just be repeating what’s in the back of my mind most of the time anyway.

And on that note, it’s Friday, you guys! Let’s dance!

elmo


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Hot flashes are so hot right now

Yeah, so, I haven’t written much about my post-cancer recovery and my panic attacks, because — happily — there hasn’t been much to say about it.

I haven’t suffered any panic attacks since the ones I wrote about back in January. I think talking and writing about my feelings and shit actually helped me. Weird.

And as for my post-cancer recovery, everything is going pretty smooth so far. Since I had an estrogen-positive cancer twice, I have received my first two doses of Lupron, which is supposed to be shutting down my ovaries, stopping the production of estrogen in my body and putting me in menopause.

c3po

I say “supposed to” because chemotherapy has really already put me in menopause, so I feel like the shots are just making sure that everything is really shut down. The Lupron is just walking around my body and making sure all the lights are turned off.

“Go home, estrogen. You’re drunk. We don’t care where you go, but you can’t stay here. ”

This way if there are any cancer cells floating around, they’re not going to get the estrogen they need. In other words, fuck you, cancer. I hope you starve to death and die.

So, yeah, I’m now a 45-year-old woman with menopause. It’s OK to be jealous.

menopause

Menopause isn’t my favorite thing, but compared to the other things I’ve gone through in the past few years, it’s not that bad. Hot flashes are so hot right now. Plus, I don’t get my period anymore, which is kinda awesome.

OK, enough talking about periods and menopause. Let’s dance!


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Manic pixie cut dream girl

Yeah, so, for the first time in almost a year I got a haircut. Wheeee!

new-do

What do you guys think? It’s pretty OK, right?

My hair started falling out a few weeks after the first chemo treatment last year in March. It started growing back when I started Taxol in July. Since then it’s been growing at a pretty good rate. Obviously, I would like it to grow faster, but I can’t really complain — that would be selfish.

So, my hair hasn’t really had a style for a while. It was just my chemo hair. But, in the last month, it really started to turn into a mullet. There was a curly-fro party in the back, but barely any business in the front. I didn’t like it. It was the opposite of cute.

I’m pleased with the new haircut. I’ve got hair goals now. I’m going to keep it short in the back, while the front grows out. I’m kinda aiming for a Ginnifer Goodwin thing.

Ginnifer-Goodwin

The plan has been to get my hair back to its pre-chemo look, but I must admit that I do really like pixie cuts. They are super cute. I think when the front gets a little longer and I can play with it, I might really like it. I’m not ruling out keeping it in a pixie cut. It might be fun.

So anyway, even though this hair style is the shortest I’ve ever worn it, I somehow managed to spend $75 on hair products. I don’t know how I managed that. Anyway, I’m pretty excited about my new ‘do. It’s just another little thing that makes me feel like myself again.


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When being negative is a positive

Yeah, so, let’s start this blog post with the ending: I had a biopsy, and the results came back negative.

Dude! I’m fuckin’ stoked! For once, I found something on my body, reported it to Kaiser, had it tested and the test came back negative. It’s everything I dreamed it would be. Let’s dance!

OK, now, let’s go back to the beginning. Remember when I wrote about my panic attacks? Well, the thing that started making panic attacks a regular occurrence in my life was a spot on found on my back. It was removed and tested positive for abnormal cells. Remember that?

Well, last week I had to get a minor procedure in which they remove a little bit more of the skin around where that spot was. In other words, the doctor removed a chunk of my back and replaced it with about three inches of stitches. Now I have a Franken-back to go with my Franken-boobs.

jealous

Undergoing this kind of procedure is pretty minor compared to all the other surgeries I’ve had. It involved numbing my back and then they cut out a section. Still, I was kinda nervous, so I did my nervous talking thing that I always do, which the nurses and doctors seem to really enjoy. They always tell me how nice I am.

I ask how the day is going. I ask if they have any pets. I love to hear about people’s pets. The doctor was playing music during the procedure. I asked about that. It was the Counting Crows first album. Now I will never hear “Mr. Jones” again without thinking of the time I could smell my own skin burning when the doctor was cauterizing the skin before starting the stitches. Gross, right? I know … Counting Crows. Ugh.

Anyway, I like I said, I talk a lot during appointments because I’m so nervous, and the medical staff thinks it’s great. In fact, this time, when the nurse went to retrieve mighty, mighty good man David from the waiting room she told him, “Your wife has a wonderful disposition. She’s really nice.”

This makes me wonder — how awful are people being to nurses and doctors? I wouldn’t say I’m being overly nice. It’s not like I’m walking into these exam rooms and handing out cash and telling everyone how skinny they look. I’m just being nice, friendly and chatty. Are other people walking into these exam rooms and acting like such huge assholes that when someone is just friendly and polite the nurses and doctors think it’s amazing?

I mean, maybe my personality is so delightful that nurses and doctors can’t help but comment on it. (#humblebrag) But more likely, other patients are not so friendly that it makes even the most polite conversation seem above and beyond.

So my point is this: Keep up the good work, you guys. You are making me look awesome for doing the bare minimum, and that’s one of my favorite things.

 


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Buh-bye, 2015

Yeah, so, bye 2015.

I could say that it’s been fun, but then I’d be a liar. This year hasn’t been my favorite for obvious reasons. Sure, there’s been some good times. I got to feed the giraffes. My mighty, mighty good boy Calvin is doing so great with all his behavioral and speech therapy. My mighty, mighty good man David is doing awesome at work. I saw “The Force Awakens.” In fact, I saw a ton of movies and TV shows. I went vegan and loved it. I sang a Michael Jackson song with some random dude on Bart. I’m cancer free. I got to wear a lot of wigs.

wigs2015

I’m just so over 2015, and so ready for 2016. I’m feeling happy, excited and optimistic for the new year. I know that making New Year’s resolutions is lame, but I’m making some anyway, because I’m like Janice in Accounting, I don’t give a fuck.

In 2016, my #1 New Year’s resolution is to be nice to myself. I’m pretty nice to everyone else. Fuck you, if you think I’m not. Seriously, ask anyone and they will tell you that I’m a nice lady. Anyone who says different is an asshole. I say things to myself that I would never say to anyone else. In the New Year, I am planning to stop and take a deep breath before I start beating myself up.

My other big resolution is to consume a little less and create a little more. Whether that means writing more blog posts, cooking and baking more dishes, working on a healthier body and mind with yoga, or just creating new memories with my favorite people, I’m hoping I’ll spend less time on social media reading what other people are doing and actually do some things myself.

I spent a lot of my time this year on the couch: recovering from a surgery, chemotherapy and another surgery. I spent a lot of time on social media, specifically Facebook. And with the election coming up, I think social media is about to get really ugly. It’s a good time to limit my social media time. It will just make me angry, and you won’t like me when I’m angry, because then I start crying, and you can’t understand anything I’m saying and then I say, “Forget it. I’m fine,” but it’s really not fine, and I ball up all my anger and push it down and release it the next time we get drunk together or I get passive aggressive with you by not liking your Instagram photos and Facebook statuses. “I’m not going to like that status! That’ll learn him! Jerk!”

I’ll still be on social media, because I’m not an animal. Plus, there is a lot of great stuff out there. But I want to make an effort to use social media more wisely and thoughtfully. I don’t want to waste an hour sitting on the couch scrolling through Facebook when I could be writing, cooking, baking, reading, podcasting, watching a great movie or TV show or – oh, I don’t know – talking to someone.

What I’m trying to say is this …. During the past year, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I want to spend my time. I’m pretty sure when I’m old and gray, I won’t be thinking, “I’m sure glad I spent all that time on Facebook reading articles that pissed me off and liking people’s statuses about how [insert minor annoyance/popular singer/movie/TV show] sucks.”

Are you guys making any New Year’s resolutions? I’d love to hear ’em!

I hope you all have a rad New Year’s Eve. We’re doing our usual thing, in which David recreates one of our meals that we had on our honeymoon and then we watch “The Thin Man.” And seriously, I hope you all have a happy and healthy 2016.