Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The end.

Two weekends ago, I went to the planetarium at the Museum of Natural History Museum with Jenna. It was one of those Saturdays that pan out perfectly, despite lack of any planning.

After taking the subway uptown (on which we saw a woman wearing black pantyhose with absolutely no pants on over them) we bought tickets to a show called “Journey to the Stars.” If I wasn’t already really fascinated by space, the selling point would’ve been that it was narrated by Whoopi Goldberg. As it is, that was just an added bonus.

Whoopi took us back in the day, when most of the stars in the universe and our planet were just a glimmer in the eye of….whatever the universe is contained within. (A giant’s toenail? Is that from Lost? I never watched Lost.) We learned how everything around is the result of stars exploding.

We are all made of stars. I think Moby may have said that in the early 2000’s, but it is nonetheless a mind-boggling thought.

I had one of those “Life is SO IMPORTANT, yet SO MEANINGLESS” moments during the show that continued to haunt me through the night, enough to inspire me to hours later drunkenly type the following into a phone memo I found the other day when making a reminder to buy toothpaste:

“Everything is tiny and gargantuan at the same time. I know this isn’t an original thought, nor something I’ve just realized, but getting sick really let me flesh out all the small moments that lead me to here, yet also zoom out and realize this was just one year of my life.”

(By the way, I omitted the typos for everyone’s benefit, but I am definitely the asshole who writes the word “nor” in a drunken memo.)

I’m finally on the other side of this thing. It wasn’t enough for me to hear I was in remission. And maybe that’s a selfish thing to say, because for some, that’s all they want. But I needed to feel like I was truly involved with my life again—I needed a job I liked at somewhere I belonged, I needed to move back to Brooklyn, I needed to be independent again.

And I’m here. Here I am! I got a job I worked hard to get, packed up all my books and clothes and weird ceramic chicken sculptures I made in high school, settled into what feels like a new apartment now, and I’m so happy. Literally the happiest I’ve ever been in my whole life.

When last I wrote, I was in a really dark place. I felt utterly defeated. There were days when I didn’t get out of my pajamas. Why change when all I was going to be doing all day was sending out resumes to places that didn’t want to hire me? To places that would look at the year-long gap in my resume—which wasn’t impressive even without the gap—and toss my application in the trash.

That’s pretty melodramatic, but I really felt like shit for a while.

I finally caught a break when my friend Eva—who subletted my room in BK for me while I moved home for treatment—posted about a job opening at her company. After meeting with 12 different people over the course of a month and a half, I landed in a place that seems like a perfect fit for me—something not too corporate, but a place where people take work and progress seriously. The company is called Axiom—it’s not a law firm, but it provides legal services by contracting lawyers out to big companies who need some help getting legal work done. If you’d have asked me two years ago whether I’d ever work at a company that even resembled a law firm, I’d have laughed in your face. But Axiom is not the average place to work; they’re extremely big on cultivating a great working environment and making sure their employees are happy, well-rounded individuals. And everyone I work with is so smart that it makes me feel more intelligent and productive by osmosis. I’m working as an assistant to two of the top tier people in the company, which is actually very satisfying because it involves a lot of problem solving. Plus, I feel a nice sense of importance knowing I’m helping everything run smoothly.

I’m in the midst of my third week, and I’m still really loving it. I’m never counting down the days till the weekend. I’m not cursing audibly as I pad down the hallway to the bathroom in the morning. I just feel like I’ve finally planted my feet on a nice patch of ground, and I don’t intend to move them anytime soon.

There are two things I’m missing right now, first and foremost being my family. Getting sick was not just something that happened to me—it happened to them, too. How many times did my mom and dad comfort me when I needed it? Every time. How long would they have taken care of me? Forever. How much closer could we have grown in past year? We couldn’t have.

The second thing is free time to get some writing done. I haven’t been busy in so long that I’m really relishing making the most of my free time with my co-workers and friends. It’s been a nice change of pace to be living a full life and not writing about it than writing about my lack thereof. But I have to strike a balance and be more disciplined with it now.

This is going to be my last entry. Because I’m done. I’m over it. You know how I know? Because Bob Marley melded into Bon Iver on my iTunes and it no longer makes me think of being in the chemo room at my doctor’s office, but seems a perfect compliment to the cool breeze drifting through my window. Because my alarm didn’t go off this morning and I woke up an hour late and just laughed. Because I’m smiling more often than I’m not.

So yeah, I think I’m done. Almost a year later to the day I found out I had a big ole mess of tumors in my chest, it’s time to close the book on this one. Or X out the blog.

So that's it, folks! Thank you to everyone who read this, and especially to those who told me you liked it.

It meant a lot.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Offish in Remish

I got the call from my doctor last week that my PET Scan was A-OK, which means I'm officially in remission. Say it with me now: Whew.

I can't believe I'm coming up on a year of being diagnosed. I feel like I blinked my eyes and fall and winter almost completely passed. It's just been such a weird period--being done with treatment but not being able to officially say "I had cancer" and not worrying deep down if that was true or not; looking for a job I'll really love; going back and forth to from my home here to my home in Brooklyn. I just still feel really unsettled, like I can't look at this ordeal as truly over until I'm working and living on my own again.

But Spring is coming, and good things always come with that season. (Proof: Titanic is being theatrically re-released in 3D on April 6.) And at least I know there's almost no way my birthday can be worse than last year's, which involved waiting for my biopsy results and awkwardly eating ice cream cake.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Oh, hi.

It has been a while, which always makes it hard to know what to start my next sentence with. I guess I'll get right down to the reason I'm posting: tomorrow is my first post-treatment PET Scan. That's big news.

Back in October, after radiation finished, I was really anxious to get my PET Scan to make sure everything worked, but my doctor informed me I had to "give it time to work." The effects of radiation--the good ones and the bad ones, which I'll get to up ahead--continue to happen even months after you're done actually showing up to the hospital and sitting under the rays. So my doctor told me he wanted to wait until the end of January to scan me to have the clearest picture. I figured there was nothing I could do but wait patiently, but every now and then the thought would bob up from under the surface of all my other thoughts to remind me I'm not totally out of the woods yet.

And the woods have been a little dense lately. Like I wrote in my last post, the road to recovery (what a typical phrase, huh) has gotten particularly bumpy these past few months. The job hunt has been hard, but with any luck that will change soon. (I am currently in the interview process for a really exciting spot at a company that I would kill to work at, but the superstitious lady that lives inside my head already thinks I've said too much.)

But aside from that, I've also been dealing with the pesky side effects of chemo and radiation. My lungs really took a beating from everything that's been thrown at them over the past year. I get winded very easily. For a while, I couldn't actually take deep breaths without a sharp pain in my chest. After a visit to my doctor before Christmas, I was put on Prednisone, which is a steroid. It helped clear up the pain, but one of the most annoying side effects of steroids is weight gain, and girl put on some pounds. I've never been a skinny girl, but in addition to the weight I gained after stopping chemo, I'm now at a weight that I haven't been since I was when I was drinking 40's four nights out of the week in college. It ain't cute, and over the past two weeks I've been trying to really eat right to get back to a healthy weight. I have to look at it as another way of keeping myself healthy and cancer-free in the long term. But like I said, my lungs are a little feeble right now, so the runs I've been going on are more on the pathetic side than the Lance Armstrong side. But if I've learned anything over the past year it's that good, solid results take time.

Other things that have been happening:

I've had another story published in The Hairpin called "Conned by a Mom" and I've been writing in my other blog, singularladies.com.

The new season of American Idol started, and I'm apparently still into it? Well, ok.

I got my first haircut. Just a little shaping for the curly garden growing on my head. I opted for a faux hawk type-thing that Evan Rachel Wood sported a few months back.


I figure it's the time to have fun, because once these hairs grow any further, it's going to be a while before they see a pair of scissors again. This haircut has also made me pay serious attention to guys' haircuts because they tend to be more similar than the ladies' that I come into contact with. Example:

Yeah that's a baby, but he's still a dude.

My family got really sad news that our neighbor recently discovered she has breast cancer. While I think hearing you have breast cancer comes with many more worries than Hodgkin's, I remember those first few weeks after you "go public" with the news. It's exhausting. It almost feels like you have to make everyone feel better and not vice versa, because people just don't know what to say. But I now know that being in the position of having someone you care a lot about get sick is no picnic. My mom and I picked out a nice ceramic cookie jar for my neighbor, and I baked some chocolate chip cookies to give as a present, because when words fail, cookies are a decent substitute. Still, though, it didn't feel like enough. What could, really? Not to say that the comforting thoughts and well wishes are unappreciated. Quite the opposite; I got so many treats and presents during treatment, and even though they weren't necessary, they did so much to cheer me up. I'm not one to normally save cards, but I've kept each and every one anyone sent me. They're all in a box under my bed.

This felt like such a mish-mash of an entry, but I guess that's what happens when you neglect your blog. I'll undoubtedly be writing more tomorrow. Eeee!

Friday, January 6, 2012


I always promised myself I would be as honest as I could in this blog. Recently, I decided if I couldn't be honest, I just wouldn't write.

I'm in a very sticky situation--I am looking more diligently than I have ever looked for a job. And not just any job--a job that would utilize my writing and editing skills, or my PR experience. (Ugh, I've been writing so many cover letters, everything I type is starting to sound like one.) Something with a salary, and benefits, and paid time off. Something that would make me proud to answer the question, "And what do YOU do?"

I get it--I'm in the same boat as millions of other people. It's tough times, everyone's going back to school, etc, etc. But there's this issue I don't quite know how to deal with, and that's what to say when employers ask why I haven't worked in the past 10 (going on 11, going on a YEAR) months.

I remember writing so indignantly about how that head hunter reacted with disdain when I told her I revealed to a potential employer that I had just gotten over having cancer. I thought she was so wrong to make me feel like I exposed myself as a potential liability. Now, I realize she had a point--I think companies might be leery about making an investment in someone who was sick. I used to think that getting over a scary disease set me apart. I couldn't even fathom deliberately keeping it to myself, because it had so profoundly affected me and changed my life. Now, I get self-conscious that employers will see mentioning that I was sick as a way to get pity points, or that I can't be professional and keep my personal life to myself.

There's still that part of me that really wants to be true to my nature and be open and honest about myself. In almost every situation, I wear my heart on my sleeve because I think being open with people opens them up, too. It's just how I am. But lately I've been questioning whether that's a smart way to go about things. So I haven't written about this or how anything has really been going in so long. But I guess I'm going to be true to my nature and spew it out now:

When I got sick, staying positive was easy--I had my family and friends taking care of me, I had great doctors, a great prognosis. I never let myself question whether or not I'd get better. So I'm pretty disappointed in myself that I'm questioning whether or not I'll ever find a job I really love and am good at. But this period of getting back on track has in every way emotionally been harder than going through treatment. I just feel like I'm sending resumes and cover letters out into this giant cloud of unknowing, and with every application that goes out, the little bit of hope that went out with it depletes my natural store when I don't hear back.

It's not that I expect to snap my fingers and have the perfect life. I am just ready for the months of daily existential crisis to be over and to be doing something beneficial (and that pays my rent.)

I feel like I can't write how I feel without being "a liability." I worry that saying "I feel like I'll never find a job" will turn potential employers away if they find this entry. I question whether having this blog was worth it in the end, despite how beneficial it was for me emotionally and mentally, if it holds me back from getting a job somehow.

But here's the thing: you google me, and that Bust Magazine interview, the one I was so proud to do, comes right up. KT Kieltyka, Cancer Blogger is on the first page of results of Google. So there's that. And what's even more important is that I am attempting to get a job where my writing experience is paramount. Much of my recent writing--not all--but much of it, is connected to having cancer. I did start another blog (www.singularladies.com) that is in no way tied to the Hodge, so I've been having fun with that. But I can't erase this past summer any more than I can erase those Google results (because I am not a hacker.)

And when it comes down to it, I don't want to. Because there is that voice inside that keeps telling me to hang on and wait it out for the place that will be just as happy to have me as I am to be there. It's just taking a beating lately.

Monday, December 19, 2011

I think...

...that Robert Pattinson may be my new hair idol, for no other reason than because my hair is growing that way. Ahem:

I can't wait until I get to this stage:

Friday, December 9, 2011

Xeni Jardin

Last week a Boing Boing blogger named Xeni Jardin went to get a mammogram after two of her friends had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She live tweeted the appointment to bring awareness to the need for mammograms, but also to ease her own nerves, or in her own words, "to make the unknown and new feel less so." By the end of her appointment, she found out she had breast cancer.

I thought about her all day after I read that. I told Cody and Dad about it at dinner after we moved my stuff in, and we all just kind of shook our heads, lost for words, at the awfulness of it.

I imagine, even though she's a professional blogger, that it must've taken guts to reveal her diagnosis on Twitter, almost in real time. And then she wrote a really beautifully articulated piece on Boing Boing where she describes the outer body experience perfectly via an extended metaphor about space:

"I do not know all of what's ahead. I know a little. I know that there is a new kind of life on the other side of this thing. A changed mind and body. A new appreciation of time, and breath, and health, and life, and loved ones.

The gravity in this place is different. I've spoken to others who've traveled out here, too, and returned home safely. When you become one of them, you learn quickly that you share a language others can't understand."

It comforts me to know she seems to be looking forward to the positive ways in which her life will change. Mrs. Rapp always talked to me about "the other side" when I was diagnosed, and I can now say that it is definitely a Real Thing. There are moments when the thoughts whirring around in my head just halt to a stop and I think, "Wow, here I am. On the other side." I don't know if those moments--the ones where I stop to just appreciate the sensation of sucking air up through my nostrils--even existed for me before the Hodge. I don't think they did. But they do now, and I really hope they do for Xeni someday, too.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Some advice on sutures...

If you're showering a few weeks after you've had your port removed, and most of the weird glue bandage has dissolved, and you notice something that looks like the end of a string hanging out of one end of the wound, you should proooobably contact your surgeon after the full body chills of disgust subside. Because that ain't supposed to be there. (I'm not even going to write "don't pull it" because I hardly think that needs to be said/I can't stomach the thought.)

The good news is that once your doctor confirms that it is indeed a suture that your body is desperately trying to expel from itself, it's easy for him to remove it. A few yank yanks here and a snip snip there, and you're done.

Just in case anyone was wondering.