The Sonia Show

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

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Dinner party panic attack

Yeah, so, I had another panic attack.

Once again, nausea was the trigger. Nausea reminds me of chemo, which reminds me of cancer. Fuckin’ chemo. Fuck you, cancer. Cancer/chemo PTSD is a real thing, you guys. Here’s what happened …

Friday I was going to a chick dinner at my friend DH’s house. Once a year, my friend DH invites a bunch of her lady friends over for dinner. I look forward to it. It’s really fun to chat with a group of smart, funny, interesting women. It’s really fun. I baked bread and everything. See?

I’m practically a professional baker now, you guys.

So, yeah, I was planning on drinking several glasses of wine at DH’s place, so I took a Lyft. But, when I got into the Lyft, it was 100 degrees. He had the heater cranked all the way up. I’m going through menopause hot-blooded and sweaty all the time, so the heater is not really my friend. I immediately took off my scarf and coat.

“Can you turn off the heat? And can I roll down the window?” I asked, because I’m polite AF.

It wasn’t too long into the ride that I started to feel nauseous. I don’t know why I started feeling sick. Maybe from the heat? Maybe I just wasn’t feeling well? Either way, it wasn’t good. I started to panic.

“Oh my god! I’m going to throw up in this car. I feel nervous. I’m going to have a panic attack. I’m going to throw up in this car and faint, and then the driver is going to rape me and ditch me in Glen Park Canyon.”

Of course, my mind immediately goes to the sunken place, which means my driver isn’t a nice man, but a horrible man who will rape and kill me. (Spoiler alert: He was neither of those things, as far as I know.)

In the car, I just kept repeating to myself, “Keep it together. Keep it together.”

Thankfully, I didn’t throw up in the car, but even if I did I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be the first person to throw up in a Lyft.

When I got to DH’s house, I was in full panic mode. I walked in, and it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t OK. I explained that I was feeling nauseous and having a panic attack, and I needed some time to settle down.

“You’re in a safe place here,” DH reassured me. “Have some wine.”

I had some wine. It was delicious, but it didn’t help. The anxiety was so awful, and the nausea wasn’t going away. I was so bummed. DH’s house looked so lovely. It’s decorated for the holidays, and she had her nice dishes out on the table. It was really nice.

“Her house looks so nice. I’m going to throw up all over her nice house,” I thought to myself. “I am TOTALLY going to throw up all over her nice house!”

All the ladies were gathered in the living room. It was a small gathering, so it wasn’t overwhelming … if I wasn’t having a panic attack. I just blurted it out, “I’m having a panic attack. I’m really sorry.”

Everyone was so sweet and understanding. I felt so embarrassed. They tried distracting me by talking about Chris Pine, Chris Evans and Chris Pratt:  a conversation that I would have been ALL ABOUT if I wasn’t freaking out.

“Keep it together. Keep it together.”

Eventually, I gave up. The nausea wasn’t going away, which meant the panic attack wasn’t going away. I called my mighty, mighty good man David and started crying.

“I feel nauseous. I’m having a panic attack, and you need to come get me,” I said, crying.

“Oh no! Calvin is wet and naked,” he replied. “Are you sure you don’t want to take a Lyft. It’s faster.”

“The idea of a Lyft makes my anxiety so much worse. You need to get Calvin dressed and come get me. I’m so sorry,” I sobbed.

“Of course! Of course! I love you. I’ll be there as soon as I can,” he said, and even though the nausea didn’t go away, I felt a little better knowing he was coming.

Then I walked into DH’s kitchen where she was prepping some food, and I immediately burst into tears again.

“David is coming to get me. I’m having a really bad panic attack, and I’m so embarrassed,” I bawled. “I feel so stupid.”

DH was totally understanding: “If I had cancer twice and did chemo, I’d probably have some triggers. You’re OK here. You’re safe.”

I sat with the ladies until David arrived. I smiled and did my best to not send out my crazy anxiety vibes. When David arrived, I politely said my goodbyes and headed out. When I got to the car, Calvin was peeing on a bush.


“He couldn’t wait,” David laughed.

On the way home, I took an Ativan, which I always have in my bag. I didn’t take it at DH’s house, because I was afraid it would make me fall asleep on her couch.

When we got home, I instantly crawled into bed. Shortly after, the Ativan kicked in, and it was like a knot was untying. My mind and body just relaxed. Good god, I love Ativan. It’s the fuckin’ shit.

I fell asleep, but woke up around 11:30 p.m. David was still playing his new video game, South Park: The Fractured But Whole. I kissed him. “Thank you for coming to get me.”

“Of course. I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

And then I kissed sleeping Calvin and then climbed back into bed.

Ugh, panic attacks.

I feel lucky that it had been more than a year since I had one. They are so awful and frustrating. I can tell myself, logically, “Dude, you’re fine. Calm down. Who fuckin’ cares if you throw up?” If I threw up at DH’s party, it wouldn’t even be the most embarrassing thing I did at a party. I went to Chico State. It wouldn’t even be the sixth most embarrassing thing I did at a party. I used to get drunk, dance and sing “Cool Rider” from “Grease 2” at parties.

But, my body and another part of my mind doesn’t like logic. It’s just thinking, “We’re totally going to die!”

Panic attacks are the fuckin’ worst.




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.


What a difference a year makes, right?

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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.


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:


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.


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!


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I want to be the Honorary Bat Girl for the San Francisco Giants

Yeah, so, I need you guys to help a sister out. I want to be the honorary bat girl for the San Francisco Giants, so I need you to vote for me.

Every year holds a contest, in which people share their stories about “going to bat against breast cancer.” The winner gets two tickets to the Mother’s Day game, and they get a special shout out on the field. I entered last year, but I didn’t win. Let’s see if I can win this year. I’ll wear my orange wig.

The San Francisco Giants mean a lot to me. They have helped me through both of my fights with breast cancer. They are the very best distraction, and they give me something else to talk about other than cancer. I went to a few games last year during chemotherapy I wore my orange wig. In fact, I wore my orange wig to chemotherapy. I wore that orange wig a lot.

Orange wig and good buddy Kate at the Giants game last summer.

Orange wig and good buddy Kate at the Giants game last summer.

I’ve gone to bat against breast cancer twice and won. I think I’m a worthy candidate … if I don’t say so myself. It’s super easy to vote.

You click this link to vote:

Then you select the SF Giants as the team, and then click the arrows below until you see “Sonia M.” – it’s a photo of me in my orange wig and good buddy Corso at a Giants game last year.


You can click the photo and read the essay if you like, and then vote for me. See? It’s so easy.

Thank you in advance for voting. I would totally vote for you. I really, truly appreciate it, you guys. Also, go Giants!


Hair goals

Yeah, so, it was about a year ago that my hair started falling out.

I had completed my first round of chemo, and about two weeks later my hair started falling out. It sucked. While it didn’t physically hurt, it was emotionally draining. I was shedding all over the house for about a week or so before I shaved it off.

After that I wore a series of fabulous wigs, which were fun for a while.


My hair slowly started growing back in July when I started taxol, and I finally felt comfortable ditching the wigs by September. It was starting to get warm in San Francisco, and wigs are really hot. If you have never worn a wig, try one on and wear it when it’s 80 or 90 degrees. It kinda sucks.

I haven’t really had a hairstyle for a year. I’ve had wigs and then fuzzy hair. I felt like I still looked like someone who did chemo and was growing out their hair. This week I got my hair colored and cut, I feel like for the first time in a year like my hair has a style again. I don’t look like a former chemo patient. I look like someone who chose to have a pixie cut. I’m pretty happy about it.


I’ve been getting some compliments on my pixie cut – usually by ladies saying it’s cute and asking if I plan to keep it short. My answer has been “No, I plan to grow it back out to where it was pre-chemo.” But now I’m thinking about keeping it kinda short. Is that crazy? I’ve always felt like my face is too round (too fat) for a short haircut, but now I’m kinda like Janice in Accounting – I don’t give a fuck. Ginnifer Goodwin has been my hair goal. I think I’d be happy with it at that length. In fact, I really love her haircut.


Do you have any hair goals? I’d love to hear ’em in the comments!


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.


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 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!


Manic pixie cut dream girl

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


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.


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.


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.


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.



The Art of Mentally Tidying Up

Yeah, so, in the spirit of the New Year and fresh starts and shit like that, my mighty, mighty good man David read “The Art of Tidying Up” and has been going through all the closets, boxes, drawers, and random piles of stuff in our house and asking himself, “Does this spark joy?”

I am happy to report that mighty, mighty good boy Calvin, the dog and myself have made the cut … so far.

My mom was kind enough to let Calvin spend all day Friday and most of Saturday with her so we could have a full 24 hours to do whatever we want. David chose to go through all of his things and declutter his life. He does have a lot of boxes of random things, a ton of clothes he doesn’t want (mainly T-shirts with tech logos on them) and books that he read but was never going to read again but you hold onto, because we’ve been trained to hold on to books for some reason. I, on the other hand, chose to throw a few books on the pile, watch a little TV and write this blog post.

I have a lot of clutter, too, but most of my stuff is mental. So, while David went through boxes and got rid of things that don’t give him joy, I went through my mental boxes and tried to cast away the thoughts that don’t bring me joy.

Last year was a tough year. I lost three friends; two of them to cancer. The year started with my second breast cancer diagnosis, which resulted in a mastectomy, followed by almost six months of chemotherapy and a breast reconstruction surgery. After the mastectomy in January, I was told I was cancer free. I did chemotherapy as an insurance policy, because – unlike the first time when I had breast cancer in 2009 – there was more cancer and it was more aggressive.

Chemotherapy was rough, but I tried to keep a positive attitude and focus on the good things in my life – my amazing family and friends who rallied around me. It’s difficult to be down when I’m surrounded by the best people on the planet. It reminds me that I’m doing something right. Throughout chemotherapy I was relatively good spirits. I watched a lot of TV shows and movies, and spent time with friends and family. I did have one stay in the hospital and suffered my first-ever panic attack. It was very scary.

I didn’t really let myself deal with how shitty my year was until recently. Actually, that’s not accurate. It’s more like I still wasn’t dealing with what happened to me, but my subconscious mind and my body was like, “Hey asshole! It’s time to deal with your shit.”

I’ve had three panic attacks in December.


The first one was triggered by a small brown spot I found on my back. It was new. Instantly, my heart started pounding. I felt dizzy and faint. “This brown spot is totally cancer, and I’m going to die,” I thought. I saw a dermatologist. She removed it. Kaiser tested it. It’s an atypical mole, but it had a few abnormal cells that could turn into melanoma in situ. It’s not melanoma in situ. There’s just abnormal cells. They are going to take a bigger piece of my back around where that mole was just to be safe, given my history. I’m fine, though.

Of course, this is the third time I found something in/on my body, and the third time it’s resulted in me hearing the word “cancer.” At least this time it’s not cancer. I didn’t even let it get to that point. You guys, my advice to you: Know your body, and advocate for yourself. I’m really glad I didn’t ignore it.

Still, while this mole turned out to be pretty much nothing, it has played on my greatest fear: That I’m going to die and leave my husband and boy all alone. Also, in December, a friend died of melanoma. She was my age. We went to her memorial service, and I had a panic attack that lasted all day long. It was like my nightmare was playing out in front of me, and I was so broken hearted for her husband, one of David’s oldest friends, and their family. All day long my heart was pounding, my feet and hands were tingling, and I felt dizzy and faint. I thought there was something really wrong with me, and that I was going to die, but I didn’t want to be drama queen. I kept it to myself. Well, until now.


I told good buddy Kate about what happened next day, and she said, “That’s what a panic attack feels like. You’re not going to die. You just feel like you’re going to die.” It was a relief to told, “You’re not going to die.” It’s mental, not physical.

I can handle it.

Then it happened again last week, and I have no idea what triggered it. I felt dizzy and faint. My hands and feet were tingling. My heart was pounding. I recognized what was happening, because Kate has described it so well. I got myself a big glass of water, sat on the couch, breathed deep and waited for it to pass. When it was over, I started crying.

I can’t handle it.

I don’t have the tools to handle it. So, I went to my first-ever counseling appointment last week, and the second I sat down in the chair I started crying. It goes against my very nature to talk about my shit before I’ve worked it out for myself. I like to talk about my shit after I’ve figured out how to handle it. I don’t like to burden people with my unprocessed thoughts and feelings. But when I sat down in that chair it was like the entire year just washed over me and the tears wouldn’t stop. I described my panic attack symptoms, and she handed me a pamphlet that basically says, “So, you’re having panic attacks” and it listed every symptom I had just described.

We talked about how common it is for cancer patients and cancer survivors to suffer from post-traumatic stress. She offered some advice on how to deal with the attacks if they should happen again, and I want to work on dealing with my shit so maybe they won’t happen in the first place. I’m also debating whether I should have some Xanax on me at all times. I hear that one of the things that can trigger panic attacks is the fear of having another panic attack. I think having the pills with me would lessen that anxiety.



I debated whether or not to write this post. I actually wondered if panic attacks are a dirty little secret that we’re not supposed to talk about. But that’s not what I’m about. I like to talk about shit. Literally. Remember the time I wrote about how I took a shit on the delivery table while giving birth? Why hold back now, am I right?

What about you guys? Do you have panic attacks? How do you deal with them?