Archive for the 'My latest greatest' Category

Dating a younger man

My inbox was humming yesterday after a story I wrote a couple of years ago about dating younger men popped up on Yahoo’s home page (the piece originally appeared on Match’s online magazine, Happen).

In the story, I talk about the good, bad and ugly of a Michael May/Debbie December match-up. On the up side, dating someone young helps keep you young (and yes, the sex is usually great), although on the down side, younger guys can sometimes be tres immature (one gal’s boytoy used to call her at 3 in the morning, asking her to bring over pizza).  

My readers, however, had a few additional insights (most of them quite positive) about life in what some like to call “Cougar Town”. Check ’em out:

I met my wife of now 13 years when I was 20 and she was 43 and we started seeing more and more of each other (dating, I guess) when I was 24 after we found so many common interests. Even as a man, I knew early on I didn’t want kids, but I did go through the mental struggle for a period before I realized that I’m too selfish … One of the more interesting points in the article was the woman who didn’t want a man who was trapped in adolescence, so to speak. Even as I crest over my 40s (and she’s 69 and still the love of my life), I’m still that kid at heart, making decisions fit for a 20 year old. My wife is always telling me to grow up, but I keep reminding her that I’m going to be 12 forever, so she’s going to have to grin and bear it. Just thought I’d let you know how an older woman/younger man’s relationship is doing so far well into the next decade of marriage. — Michael

 * * * 

This is story you wrote is about me, but the ending has changed. I never was looking for younger men, but if someone did interest me, I didn’t really care about their age. When I started seeing Brian, he was 30 and I was 42. We started seeing each other in March and were married by June. I had moved to the small town where he grew up, so he knew everyone, and I think his family and most of his friends thought it wouldn’t work. In addition to the 30/42 age difference, he had a 5-year-old son and I had an 18-year-old daughter. Plus, he is Catholic and I am Jewish. There were so many things that could have gone wrong, but we will have our 22nd anniversary in June … I don’t know how we got to 22 [years], but I don’t think our differences would have pulled us apart. Keep up your good work.  — Norma

* * * 

I have a few friends who have married older women and have been with them for over 20 years. There is one thing you did not mention about their future together: their health. I have a friend who is now 60 and has been married to his wife, who is 80, for over 20 years. He is still very vital and she can hardly get around. He feels like he is married to his grandmother. —  Bruce

* * *

I’ve been dating a woman 17 years my senior for over 5 years now. I’m 41. We met online, and she didn’t believe I was in my 30s until we actually met. All I can say is dating an older woman is AMAZING! First, because you’re curious, the sex is amazing.  I can barely keep up with her … Second, there is no worry about a ticking biological clock, which is a big downer when dating a woman in her 30s. Third, she knows all about herself, so she’s relaxed and not worried about what her friends might say. Hell, her friends are jealous. — Steve

* * *

So, what’s the scoop with you, dear readers?  Have you ever dated someone significantly younger than you? Did it work? Not work? Cause you to question your sanity? Cause you to pull a groin muscle? Enquiring minds, as always, want to know.

Burn, witch, burn

I don’t know if it’s the Halloween season or the fact that I’m currently going through radiation treatment (burn, baby, burn, radiation inferno!), but I’ve been feeling a lot like a witch in one of those old Vincent Price movies lately. You know, the ones that feature a variety of tortures for women accused of witchcraft. Or maybe they’re just accused of being women. Or single. It’s hard to keep all that straight.

Anyway, the bottom line is, it’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between breast cancer treatment and torture.

When I was diagnosed back in February, one of the first things I learned was that I was going to lose my breasts, i.e., in order to get rid of the cancer, they had to take away the most symbolically female parts of my body. Presto chango — no more boobs. If that doesn’t sound like something straight out of the Spanish Inquisition, I don’t know what does.

After that, there was more “good” news. The surgery showed that my tumors qualified me for additional treatment, i.e., chemo and radiation. For those unfamiliar with chemotherapy, it’s basically a concoction of poisons that are pumped into your body through a port.  In my case, the port was surgically placed just under my right clavicle (where it still resides to allow easy access to my blood), a walnut-shaped lump that reminds me at times of an alien eyeball.

A third eye, if you will. Very witchy.

One of the worst side effects of chemo (at least for breast cancer patients) is complete and total hair loss. In other words, you’re shorn of your womanly locks, your crowning glory. That fabulous blonde stuff you flick over your shoulder and fluff whenever an interesting man comes into view suddenly starts to come out by the handful. Just as in the good old days of stocks and imaginary spells that supposedly caused some farmer’s milk cow to dry up, you’re robbed of yet another symbol of your womanhood. (You’re also robbed of your strength, your appetite, your dignity and so many other things during chemo, but we’ll save that for another time).

Losing your hair is the worst, though, probably because for a woman, losing your hair means you’re being punished. You’re a witch, a Nazi sympathizer, a prisoner. As Wikipedia puts it, “prisoners commonly have their heads shaven, often ostensibly to prevent the spread of lice, but clearly also as a demeaning measure.”

Head shaving, it goes on, “can be a punishment prescribed in law, but also something done as ‘mob justice’ – a stark example of which was the thousands of European women who had their heads shaved in front of cheering crowds in the wake of World War II, as punishment for associating with occupying Nazis during the war.”

In other words, when you lose your hair as a woman — not when you shave it yourself during that bad punk rock phase — but when it’s taken away from you without your consent, it ain’t good.  

But wait — there’s more.

After that, the witch — excuse me, the breast cancer patient — is burned. Not at the stake, mind  you, but in the bowels of some type of radiation machine. In my case, a new tomography wonder that my professional and attentive rad techs refer to as Tina.  It’s all very clean and technologically impressive. The treatment I receive at their hands is friendly and, yes, even comforting. But the machine still burns you, causing your skin to redden and blister and peel and throb so much that it takes your breath away at times. Sometimes, it causes the skin to harden enough that reconstruction becomes impossible. Or requires additional torture … er, surgery … to achieve.

Again, maybe it’s just the Halloween season. Or the fact that I’m in the last few days of my treatment and I’ve reached critical mass. Who knows, maybe I have a gigantic plastic bug up my ass.

I know that I have a vivid imagination. I know that the people who are treating me are not trying to hurt me, but get rid of this horrific disease so I can live a long and happy life. I know that researchers are desperately trying to come up with better solutions — solutions that don’t require this kind of torture — each and every day. But truly, I can’t help but wonder what the frigging hold-up is. Or whether this tortuous treatment for breast cancer is somehow considered acceptable. Because, after all, we’re just women. And women have been taking this kind of shit for hundreds of years.

But this particular woman — who happens to be feeling particularly witchy (and yes, even bitchy) this particular night — would just like to say, one thing.

I’ve had it. Seriously. I’m done.

In fact, if I have to take any more of this crap, I may just break down and turn somebody into a frog.

Cancerspeak: the good, the bad, the you gotta be kidding me!

My latest (and perhaps last) essay about life with breast cancer went live this morning on Today/MSNBC.com.   Here’s how it starts:

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I was a wreck.  I tried my best to keep it together, to keep a muzzle on my hyperactive mouth, but inevitably some highly inappropriate comment would come tumbling out.

“Would you like paper or plastic?” a grocery clerk would ask.

“I have breast cancer,” I’d answer. “They found three masses and now they’re saying the masses are tumors and that I have to have a double mastectomy. I didn’t even know how to pronounce mastectomy until this happened! Oh … uh … paper would be great.”

After awhile, though, I didn’t have to worry so much about the inappropriate things I was saying because others were coming up with their own questionable cancerspeak.

Don’t get me wrong. My friends and family (and even a few kind strangers) have been there for me 100 percent — bringing by meals and flowers and homemade pies; taking me for walks and checking in to see how my 173 doctors’ appointments went that week.

It’s just that getting sideswiped by cancer — not to mention spending all of your time thinking and talking and waiting for test results about cancer — can make a body oversensitive.

Not to mention testy.

I certainly was the first time somebody made the mistake of wishing me well on my “journey.”

My journey? I wanted to yell at them. I’ve got breast cancer. I’m not going to Acapulco!

To read the rest, click here. To share your own stories of Breast Cancer Comments Gone Wild, send me a comment!

 

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. 

 

Mastectomy and the single girl

I’m still not sure if this was really brave or really stupid, but whatever the case, I decided to write a series of personal essays about my battle with breast cancer for Today/MSNBC.com.  The first, “Mastectomy and the Single Girl,” went live today. Here’s how it starts:

Most people cry and cuss and rage at the universe when they’re first diagnosed with breast cancer.

Me? I scheduled a pin-up shoot.

Not that I didn’t do all of that other stuff, too, along with cracking bad jokes and mocking any and all medical personnel within spitting distance.

When the radiologist — aka Dr. Debbie Downer — came into that small dark room to tell me that the ultrasound had found three masses in my two breasts, I cried and raged plenty. I also told her I couldn’t have cancer because I was health writer, as if knowledge comes with a protective shield.

But just like the other 230,000 plus women diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. every year, I had no shield. What I had instead was a needle biopsy, which confirmed that the masses were all positive for invasive lobular carcinoma, a “sneaky” cancer seldom found in the early stages because it doesn’t create a lump.

One of the tumors had caused a tuck, though, a small dent under my left nipple. That dent — and the fact that I had checked it out — undoubtedly saved my life.

To read the rest of the piece, click here.   To find out more about Old School Pinups, the people who did my pin-up shoot (including the attached photo), click here

My next essay, “Love in the Time of Chemotherapy,” will come out next week (I’ll post another link when it goes live).  As always, folks, I look forward to your thoughts on the piece.

Unless your name happens to be “SueinTX“.  Sheesh lady, lighten up. I got cancer here!  ; )

Single Shot gets double whammied

As some of you may have noticed, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything new on this blog. Part of the radio silence was because I was really busy with my writing; in addition to my usual freelance assignments, I started working on a novel.  

But in February of this year, I was sidetracked with something else: breast cancer.

I don’t know if breast cancer and the single life are all that intertwined —  there are plenty of studies regarding breast cancer and age, ethnicity, geographic location, etc., but nothing on marital status — but I thought I might as well start posting a few of my thoughts and stories on the subject. What the heck, it’s my blog.  ; )

But first a few vitals for those who might be interested.  After finding a weird “tuck” on my left breast, I went for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound on February 4, 2011 and was told I had three tumors in my two breasts. A needle biopsy the following week found yet another tumor. On February 11, my radiologist called to tell me all of the tumors were positive for invasive lobular carcinoma. On February 18, I met with my surgeon for the first time and she told me I would need a double mastectomy (talk about a bad first date). After two very rough months, that took place on April 18. 

While at first my surgeon thought I might be able to get away with “just” the double mastectomy and hormone therapy (i.e., tamoxifen for the next five years),   more fun awaited me when the post-surgery pathology report came back. Due to the size of the tumors (the “two” tumors in my left breast were actually one) and some minor lymph node involvement (again on the left side), I was told I would need further treatment.

So what did I do with my summer vacation?  Chemo, which is not nearly as much fun as it seemed on Sex and the City. I had four infusions total — my particular cocktail was taxotere and cytoxan — with my last infusion taking place August 8.  Chemo was every three weeks with only the first week being the really bad one. But it does wear a body down, so much so that by the time I was done, I could barely walk up the four flights of stairs to my apartment without stopping to rest about eight times. Thankfully, after a few weeks’ recuperation, I was up and running again – literally. At this point, I’ve been able to kick all of the chemo side effects to the curb (except for the hair loss, grrrr) and am halfway through radiation. Woo hoo!

So that’s the scoop on that.  As for the single life – particularly life as a single woman with breast cancer — I’m doing a series of stories on the subject for Today/MSNBC.com. I’ll post them as they go live. And I look forward to any questions you might have about this whole breast cancer thing, which I’m personally trying to treat like a really bad case of the mumps.

That’s it for now. Cheers to you all and thanks for reading.

Dating is murder

Jeremy Richards of Seattle’s local NPR radio station, KUOW, was kind enough to ask me onto his show, KUOW Presents, the other day to discuss dating and relationships in some of the current fiction I’d been reading. Ironically, most of my reading these days has been in the literary crime category, so I jokingly suggested a “dating is murder” theme. And wouldn’t you know it, he bit.

Herewith, a link to the show, where we discuss two books by the award-winning Irish author Tana French (In the Woods and its follow-up, The Likeness). Obviously, no one reads books about murder specifically for insights into dating, but I do think you come across as many relationship truths in crime fiction as you do truths about other human behavior. Not to mention some interesting insights into those supposedly “happy” marriages, many of which end with a leaded crystal vase to the side of the head.

One thing I didn’t mention on the show which is sort of interesting is that detectives —  often the narrators in crime fiction — are usually single. They may have occasional flings (sometimes with the wrong people, including suspects) but they always seem to start the book alone and end the book alone and that’s just fine with them. Their true relationship is with the case; finding the killer – as opposed to a soulmate — is what brings them happiness and satisfaction. But it’s not easy. Along the way, they get lied to and manhandled and led down countless blind alleys.

Hmmm, now that I think about it – maybe detective work and dating aren’t that different. What do you think — has your dating life been murder lately? Time to ‘fess up.


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.

Follow me on Twitter!

May 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031