Cinderella after the ball

I went out the other night with some friends. We went to hear a swing/lounge type act  and because my girlfriend is glamorous and loves to dress up (much as I do), I put on the dog. Nothing too fancy, mind you, but simple and classic:  black pencil skirt, black V-neck shirt worn backwards to hide my radiation burns and a vintage cream sweater with a fur collar (a gift from a sister, who works in antiques).

Plus fishnets and black patent leather platforms.  Plus fake boobs. Plus a wig. Plus powdered on eyebrows, etc., etc.

And I had a lovely time. Probably drank a little too much (i.e., one and a half martinis), but then I’m in my sixth week of radiation and alcohol helps take the edge off the pain. Right now, my chest – especially the V of my neck — is lobster red and aches and itches and throbs all the time. One of my armpits is also deepening from a lovely tan to a dark brownish red and I’m starting to go about with my left arm a bit crooked all the time, as if I’m a pirate. Or just feeling rather jaunty.

I guess you could say I was feeling jaunty the other night. Loved the music. Loved my friends. Loved the venue, although considering the talent,  it should have been packed (Hey Seattle, what gives?). After the band shut down, I got a lift home from my buds, then got a phone call and spent some time with a recent suitor. Nothing too scandalous. We sat in his car outside my building talking … for the most part. It was a lovely night, a tipsy night, and thankfully, a night when I was able to  forget for five minutes the cancer and the daily radiation blasts and the fact that I’m bald and that my chest looks like somebody dropped a piano on it.

At some point (midnight, perhaps?), I left my suitor in the car and hurried upstairs. Where I took off my wig to reveal my ashy gray stubble. And stripped down to my skivvies, unveiling my flattened red chest. Then I put on a camisole, nothing too fancy since I have to grease up every night with special Eucerin cream that’s made for burn victims. Days back, I’d mistakenly used some of the cream – or my other standby, castor oil – with a lovely black satin nightgown and it had loosened the dye from the cloth so I woke to black smudges all over my sheets. As if I’d cleaned a chimney before bed.

This night,  I looked into the mirror at the end of it all and the glamorous blonde from earlier that evening was gone.  Disappeared — as if by magic. No sexy black silhouette, no halo of blonde hair. No hair at all, except for the wig perched on a white foam head on my dresser. I was the ash and cinder girl again. Complete with chimney stains on her bed sheets.

In some ways, it feels Grimm. In some ways, it feels grim. But for the most part, it feels like my life. And on nights like this, it ain’t no fairy tale. 

 

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13 Responses to “Cinderella after the ball”


  1. 1 Teresa Masters October 28, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Diane,
    I have read two of your blogs today. One via my MSNBC News start up page, and one direct from your mailing. the first, on the news page, expressing your feelings in return for some things said to you, directly mirror how I feel at this moment, 12 days post breast cancer surgery. I have yet to meet with the radiation oncologist, that is on the first, on the third two appointments, surgeon and primary. Perhaps the bandages come off that day. On the 14th I meet the medical oncologist. The oncology team will be in control of my life for the next 5 years.
    I do not yet have a therapy counselor, so am doing this cold turkey. Not sure about a support group.
    I am not a happy person, wonder if it is all worth it.

    • 2 singleshot1 October 31, 2011 at 10:08 am

      Thanks for writing, Teresa, and I hope you’re doing okay today. I was not a happy person yesterday when everything just sort of crashed on top of me — the loss of my breasts, the loss of my hair, the radiation burns which are really starting to heat up, if you know what I mean. (Well, perhaps you don’t now, but you will in days to come … ).

      Kicking breast cancer’s ass is not easy, it’s not fun and it’s certainly not what I had in mind for 2011. It’s a frigging marathon and it seems like it’s never over. But you do get through it. You just do. I’ve had those moments where I wonder if it’s all worth it, too, but then I think of my sisters or their kids or my friends or my cat or my piano or running or whatever it is that does it for you — Aretha Franklin, George Clooney, a new coat, an old movie — and I keep going. Sometimes, the only thing that keeps me going is my anger and determination to grind cancer’s face into the dirt.

      FYI, I don’t have an in-person support group, but have sort of a virtual support group via Twitter (I’m double_whammied there). I also have a breast cancer psychiatrist that I check in with every few weeks. Both of these outlets have proved invaluable. Truly, the only people who will understand how you’re feeling and what you’re going through are other BC survivors/thrivers/warriors/amazons (I can’t keep all the euphemisms straight). Anyway, try to connect with other BC women. Try to be good to yourself. And if all else fails, try a little Aretha.

      All the best,

      -Diane

  2. 3 Dennis Rojo October 28, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Diane, what a great story teller you are. At first I look in my email and look at “Single Shot Seattle”…and thought have I been spammed? Oh then I remember your story and open the email and read on to be pleasantly surprised. Especially liked the part where you were so into the moment, you forgot your illness. Have more of those. Even us who are not ill should. big hugs from virtual friends in Germany.

    • 4 singleshot1 October 31, 2011 at 10:10 am

      Thanks for the lovely note, Dennis! And no, I’m not spam. I feel like Spam a bit these days (specifically a big slice of fried Spam, thanks to the radiation), but it’s just me, bitching about breast cancer from all the way across the globe. ; )

      Hope all is well in Germany and thanks for all of your kindness and support.

      Best,

      -Diane

  3. 5 Jody Schoger (@jodyms) October 28, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Writing your way through is the only way to go – especially with a voice and talent like yours.

    From one piano flattened chest to another (I still have a footprint from one o the legs),
    Jody

    • 6 singleshot1 October 31, 2011 at 10:11 am

      Thanks for the note and the extremely kind words, Jody. Don’t know what I would have done without you and the rest of my Twitter BC buds.

      Best,

      -Diane

  4. 7 AnneMarie October 28, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Diane,
    I love the way you brought us right with you….. from the lovely evening complete with the fishnets (damn you, photos in order!!) and back the place where you began. fyi…. I didn’t miss “for the most part” and I hope whatever the “less part” was, … was fun…. 😉

    xoxo
    AnneMarie

  5. 8 Alma Winkler October 29, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Aloe gel, probably bought by the case, would really help the burning from the the Rads. Being half Puerto Rican, I’m sure I didn’t burn as much as you, Cinderella.
    Just imagine, you are being “reborn” like the pheonix, rising from the “ashes” of radiation, into a beautiful bird again.
    Hugs,
    Alma

  6. 9 Singlutionary October 29, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I am so glad you were able to find your moment of forgetting before the clock struck midnight again. May you have more and more of those moments.

  7. 10 Vanessa October 31, 2011 at 9:43 am

    I can so relate to the ash brown stubble and penciled on eyebrows. Luckily most of my eyelashes are still intact.

    It amazes me how many times people ask “How are you feeling?”. I mean I feel like a dish rag and I don’t see that changing until I’m finished with treatment.

    I don’t know how you have the energy to go out but I love reading your stories. Keep up the great work!

    BTW, my mom told me yesterday I could dress up like Uncle Fester for Halloween…all I needed was a brown robe and a light bulb. Got to love your mother!

    • 11 singleshot1 October 31, 2011 at 10:49 am

      Thanks for the note, Vanessa, and I hope you can speedball through treatment and begin to feel like you again very soon. Chemo kicked the sh*t out of me. Not just those bad first weeks (I was on a three-week cycle), but after it was all over, too. I thought once I was done I’d immediately start to feel better but instead, all the accumulated poison just decided to wreak a bit more havoc before finally dissipating (although I have a hunch it doesn’t truly dissipate for months/years).

      After a month or so, though, I was able to start running and tap dancing again, etc. Now I’m trying to make it through my last week of radiation (and again, the cumulative effect of the treatment is catching up with me). I’ll get there, though, as will you.

      As for Halloween, I totally thought of the Uncle Fester motif – along with GI Jane, Sinead O’Connor, and that alien woman from the first Star Trek movie (V*ger). Instead, I decided to go in drag, as an old-timey newsman, complete with fedora (and news badge), suit coat, trousers, suspenders, reporter’s notebook and flask. And yep, I left the wig at home: first time out of the house “commando” (except for my runs). Hope you have a great time tonight and again, thanks for reading and writing.

      Best,

      -Diane

  8. 12 Ella November 2, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Your strength is awesome and contagious and your humor is divine too. Thanks SO much for your story, your humor and your honesty. Astounding and awesome you are.

    • 13 singleshot1 November 2, 2011 at 7:51 pm

      Hey Ella:

      I don’t know who or where you are, but I totally needed that. Am having sort of a down day. Really helps to hear from people who think I’m powering through this with strength and humor! Sincerely, you inspire ME!

      -Diane


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What’s the story?

Meet Diane Mapes, your friendly neighborhood freelance writer. My beats include health (with an emphasis on cancer prevention, treatment and survivorship) and lifestyle and singles issues, but I also love writing about history, natural history, pop culture and TV/film. On this site, you'll find links to stories, praise for my writing (*blush*) and the odd bit of social commentary about the single life. Also here, a few shameless plugs for my books (hint: see links below). Have fun, glad you're here and hope to hear from you soon.

Oh! And if you're looking for my breast cancer blog, go to Double_Whammied

Check out my books!

How to Date in a Post-Dating World A dating manual for the modern, mangled single.

Single State of the Union
Single women speak out on life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

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