The Monsters under Your Bed
By Mary Cartledgehayes on October 03, 2012
I'd like to introduce you to Laramie, the Chihuahua mix we got in 2010 from the Kentucky Humane Society on the next-to-the-last-day of my high dose radiation for breast cancer.
Nine years old now, Laramie has dirty-blonde hair, a wide open, "where's the party?" personality and a stubborn streak. (Once, while we were out on a walk I turned around to start home before she was ready, and she stopped dead and stared beseechingly into the eyes of a man in a silver sedan stopped at a red light, begging him to take her home.)
We adopted her because when I woke up the day after my lumpectomy my first thought was, "I need to get a Chihuahua." And so it came to pass.
Today that cheerful little dog coughed up a hairball the size of my fist on the leather couch, jumped down, ran into a corner, upchucked, and then took a nap to recover from all of the excitement.
I cleaned up after her and then loaded the dishwasher. When I was done, I turned on the disposal. Fairly soon I noticed that the garbage, rather than being chewed up and flushed away, was bubbling up on the other side of the double sinks. I mucked around with it for a few minutes and then noticed that the bottom of the dishwasher also held several inches of water and undisposed-of garbage.
I was interrupted when Laramie pattered into the kitchen. She hadn't been outside yet, so we leashed up and headed for the door. She didn't bother to wee before proceeding to the more serious business of a walk. You know what that means, right? It means she'd taken care of the wee-ing before we went outside and that I need to walk around in my socks until dampness reveals the location she'd chosen.
Meanwhile this morning, the big-ass Mitsubishi television in the living room blew a gasket and now produces nothing but lines of static and a very loud crackling. I'm torn between wrestling the thing to the sidewalk for the trash men (it's huge and DOMINATES the living room) and waiting for my beau to get home from work to test the thingamajiggies (I nearly said tubes, but that's so last century).
Dog, sink, and television all in one morning. Our "things fall apart" experience continues unabated. It began on August 30 when, ten minutes before we were to go out of town, my Jeep, which we were to take with us, broke down. Since then, empty jars, the Crock Pot, the Jeep again (it actually has had three breakages, two of which were fixed, the third of which awaits a spare thousand dollars to fall from the sky), a small end table, a piece of my mother's china and more have all broken.
All of this is to say that I had an annoying morning, which may be the reason I had a minor fit when I listened to the noon news and heard yet another half dozen reports related to the upcoming Susan G. Komen walk/run.I hope to God it's this weekend because I've had all I can stand of the sacralization of breast cancer that accompanies the annual event.
The White House was lit up in pink, for God's sake.
I've been on edge about the topic since last week, when two different magazines came to hand in which the editors whinged on idiotically about breast cancer
In the first case, the editor said every woman is scared before a mammogram. Oh, please. I've never been afraid of mammograms, not my first one in the late 1980s through my most recent one two days ago. In truth, I feel a great deal of affection for mammograms, what with them saving my life and the lives of zillons of other women. I even love the room where my mammograms are done. Drunk on painkillers and Valium, I was taken to that room the day of my surgery and found the sight of five people hunkered around a tiny screen discussing my own personal left breast hilarious. Whiffs of left-over good humor greet me each time I return.
(Obviously, my not being dead also contributes to my good feelings, but isn't that true of all of us and every thing?)
Getting back to editors, the second one had the audacity to say that the thought of breast cancer frightens every woman.
Where was I when Women elected her our spokesperson? Beyond that, why do people act as though breast cancer is the worst thing that could happen to a person? It's nothing but a disease. Yes, some people die of it; and everybody hates when that happens; but how does that justify grown women acting as though a monster is hiding under their beds?
If you want to talk monster, I'll give you a monster. It's name is multiple myeloma. Over all, life expectancy is 28 months following diagnosis. Geraldine Ferraro got lucky; she lived for years following diagnosis. My late husband, on the other hand, only lived for 22 months. Multiple myeloma is an orphan disease, far less common than breast cancer, but one hundred percent of the cases are incurable and fatal. If you want to be scared, that's a far more logical disease to fear.
And some things are far worse than that.
Not long after he was diagnosed, Fred told me that he kept asking himself "Why me?" I'd pastored a church for the three years prior to his diagnosis and conducted more funerals than I'm going to count up. I'd spent quality time, in great quantities, considering the idea of death; and I'd reached one absolute conclusion.
"I don't mean this ugly," I told dear Fred, "but I'd rather you have cancer than five people I can think of right off hand."
Fred blinked, and then he uttered two healing words: "Me, too."
The five people referred to? Our grandchildren. (We could as easily have been referring to the five children we had between us.) If you need something to be afraid of, don't bother with breast cancer. Rather, be afraid that a child - any child: yours, mine, a friend's, a neighbor's, a stranger's - will be diagnosed with cancer tomorrow.
A mammogram is a diagnostic test, no more worthy of drama than that moment when the dentist pulls your tongue forward during a cleaning to examine your mouth for cancer. If you want to over-dramatize the test and the disease, have yourself a big time, but leave me out of the conversation. I've got a Chihuahua to clean up after and a no-monsters-allowed-beyond-this-point life to live.
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