Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I’ve heard about The Healing Process in tones that make it sound like something to be approached with lots of Prayer and Yoga and Sprouted Grains.  For me, it’s a little more like getting over an intense crush: I mark progress by how long I go without thinking about it.  Perhaps eventually I’ll go an entire day without thinking about Grazelda, but that day has not yet come and maybe it never will: After all, in some way, the aftermath of Grazelda is the rest of my life. 

I do mark my milestones, though.  One year to the day after my last chemo treatment I got a tattoo on my backside, about at the height Grazelda used to reside.  On my front I have a 7-inch scar from my belly-button straight down because one egg in my right ovary attacked me.  And now on my back I have a mark that reminds me of how I got through.  g. reminds me of how well I can endure, my ability to write a darn good blog, and the sense of peace that I found pervaded my life throughout illness and treatment. g. reminds me of all the cards and emails and prayers and scarves and visits and meals and even the blog-lurkers.  g. reminds me of the selfless love of my parents and sister: the time and the tears they spent and the rugs and the eggs and lasagna they made.

Why g.?  Right now it’s a g for grazelda.  Lower case because she doesn’t deserve the respect of capitalization, or maybe because I usually sign my own name on e-mails in lower case as some bizarre form of e-humility/rebellion.  A period because she’s gone, or maybe because I got mine back.  g. could mean so much else, too: an initial of a future lover, a nonplussed reaction to the world as it is, or 9.8 meters per second squared.  Yup, I now have a universal constant on my butt.
Photo by Melissa

Some dear friends made this beautiful and delicious cake in honor of the occasion, one candle for my first un-cancerversary.   

Photo by Jennifer
This year, at the All Soul’s Procession, I walked in memory of Grazelda again.  [see last year’s post]  I refashioned an old pair of pants so that the world could see the g. (and nothing else!).  I wore the same shirt, but left the front down, so my scar was not the focus.  This year held more closure because I know that she’s dead and gone and not coming back. 

Today is not a cancerversary for me.  My life is not very much about cancer any more.  I spent this fall dancing a lot, finishing up pre-nursing classes, working and biking and cooking good things to eat.  One year later that’s all that remains: 2 scars, 1 tattoo, one less ovary, and a crop of hair that’s less curly with every trim.  I have begun to associate with the Tucson chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, and am grateful for the camaraderie of fellow survivors.  I will continue to work alongside them to raise awareness, so that women can catch ovarian cancer early, and be cured.  That’s one cancer-y thing that will remain in my life.  But this blog is about Grazelda, and she is gone.  So this will be my last post. 

Wishing you plenty of greens and plenty of hair, 
peace and health,
and good friends when those things fail,


My Favorite Cancer Comics

This blog is about to come to an end, for real this time.  But I found these (like most comics at express two things I tried to say throughout Grazelda's residence - stick figures are so articulate!  So here they are, inspiration for you:

Friday, September 24, 2010

More Toes!

Aunt Gayle's Toes

Grandma's Toes

Dad's Toes (above); Mom's Toes (below)

Thanks to everyone who has painted your toes (and it's not too late!).  Your bold adornment is helping to fight cancer by raising awareness.  And, as promised, triple bonus points go to DAD!  Thanks, Dad!

(If you have no idea what this post is about, read the Teal Toes post).

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Teal Toes

For the first time in probably eight years, I've painted my toenails.  And not some innocent shade of red, no, no, the bold, beautiful, still-feminine-if-somewhat-ambiguously-situated-between-blue-and-green color known as teal.

Why would Margaret be waltzing around with blue-ish toenails . . . and why is she writing about it here??

Mainly so people will ask, because then I can tell them (and you) that teal is the "color" for ovarian cancer, and September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.  I had ovarian cancer, and it sucked, but I got off relatively easy: the 5-year survival rate is under 50% if it's not caught at an early stage (NOCC).  You should know the symptoms, so if you or someone you know has them for more than 2 weeks, you can get to a doctor ASAP.  The big bummer about ovarian cancer is there's no screening for it (your PAP smear is an important screening for cervical cancer, but cannot check for ovarian), symptoms are often fairly general and not acute, setting on gradually, increasing the odds that it's misdiagnosed.  As with so many cancers, catching it early is the key to surviving. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms include (and these are quoted directly)
  • Abdominal pressure, fullness, swelling or bloating
  • Urinary urgency
  • Pelvic discomfort or pain
A woman may also experience:
  • Persistent indigestion, gas or nausea
  • Unexplained changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
  • Changes in bladder habits, including a frequent need to urinate
  • Loss of appetite or quickly feeling full
  • Increased abdominal girth or clothes fitting tighter around your waist
  • Pain during intercourse (dyspareunia)
  • A persistent lack of energy
  • Low back pain
  • Changes in menstruation
 I was relatively lucky in that I experienced almost all of the above and very suddenly, so there was no ignoring it.  But unlike Grazelda the SuperOvary, most ovarian cancers grow slowly. 

So, there's your public service announcement for the month.  And no, I didn't make up the Teal Toes bit; I'm part of a movement (, and you can be, too.  Just pick up some nail polish, do your toes, and when anyone asks, tell them you have a friend who had ovarian cancer, why it's so hard to catch it early, and what the symptoms are.  Bonus points if you send me picture (I'll post it here, unless you don't want me to), and triple bonus points if you're male.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Curls, curls, curls!

One year later, I am healthy.  I am strong and fit, with a head full of hair that still definitely qualifies as curly and is long enough to have already warranted a haircut.   I don't have any more foreign objects in my veins, and I've been told that my big scar kind of makes it look like I have well-defined abs.  Last month I had my 3-month (that's right: it had been 3 months) oncology checkup.  Going to the familiar office was a little like a reunion, and my nurse Shirley took time to have the sort of visit that leaves me feeling full, encouraged, connected, and loved.  My AFP tumor marker was a perfect 3.8, and there are no other signs of return, AND I don't go back until October.

For the past month I've been playing the "One year ago today . . ." game.  Sometimes emotional, sometimes hilarious, sometimes mind-blowing.  This summer has been rather busy, so when yesterday I finally sat down to write this entry, I found a need to read the blog from start to finish.  It's quite a read, and yet there is so much that I didn't post: lots of pathetic/dramatic stories from before diagnosis about the experience of being profoundly sick, some hilarious stories that are inappropriate for the public forum, and there were so many other people who did so much and were never mentioned. 

Looking back, in the beginning I know I was so overwhelmed with gratitude, helpless gratitude, that I couldn't even write about all the people who were so kind and thoughtful and giving.  During those first few weeks, my parents and my sister and my roommate Jodi were right there all the time, and I was surrounded by love from near and far with visits and cards and emails and phone calls, which all brightened my spirits, even when I didn't return them. I wish I'd have written more about other people.

What am I doing to commemorate these cancerversaries?  Mostly, talking about it, turning over memories with my family and friends and re-reading emails and posts.  I have impressive plans for Nov. 4, one year since the last chemotherapy treatment [Hint: I'm not getting HANK (my oncologist/surgeon/encourager) tattooed on my bicep with a big heart].  That should also be my last post.

Thanks to all who noticed the 1 year mark and wrote or called or thought about me.   You were wonderful a year ago, and you are wonderful still.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Green Party

The party was a great big, green hit! 

Along with the Great Green Vegetable Pasta came salads in all forms: Broccoli Salad, Greek Salad, Nuts 'n Greens Salad, several Spinach Salads, "Joan's Fantastic Green Spinach, Almond, and Strawberry Salad," "Kyle's Salad With The Rocking Dressing," and others.

We had ¡KALE PESTO!, Parmesan Kale, Kale/Chard Quiche, Kale Stirfry, Spicy Kale Chips, Brussels Sprouts, Spinach Deviled Eggs, Black Eyed Peas, Broccoli Soup, Spinach "Brownies," and Shifted Mint Brownies.  (Can you tell I made everyone write creative labels for their dishes?)

Everything was delicious, although I have to say that my favorite (=good+simple+healthy+novel) were the Spicy Kale Chips by Carol.  The recipe was about like this.  Unlike your typical "Covered Dish" event, there were almost no desserts, and I don't really think they were missed. 

Of course, better than the food were the people.  My duplex has never had so many people inside, and certainly not so many people dressed in Green!  Even without cancer, I am surrounded by people who care about me enough to indulge my green fantasies, and together celebrate our victory over that odious tumor-ovary Grazelda.

I wish that each of you readers could have been there, too, but I am grateful for your thoughts, virtual devotion, and even green recipe recommendations.  I am still averaging 2 bunches of cilantro a week, and I feel great: I run at about 110% on days that I get enough sleep, and I'm hitting the ground running in my summer class of chemistry.  And my hair?  Still very curly.  I still haven't shampooed it.  I still haven't cut it.  Yes, it's headed swiftly towards the 'Fro Stage.  

And here's my favorite Green Party Picture:

Bonus points for finding Bryce's spoon!

Monday, May 10, 2010

You're Invited to the Green Party

In honor of the demise of Grazelda the deviant ovary, to celebrate the close of chemotherapy, coumadin, and cancer, for the general merriment of all and enjoyment of foods rich in Vitamin K, if you're reading this blog post, 


to a potluck of foods that are green.

What: The Green Party
When: Friday, May 21.  6:00 pm.
Where: Margaret's House.  Tucson.  Email me for directions.
What to Bring: a dish to share that contains some substantial amount of Vitamin K (ingredient suggestions below)
What to Wear: Green, of course!
Why: "Because I'd rather eat spinach than chocolate.  Well, most of the time . . . " -mp

There are rumors of the Great Green Vegetable Pasta, maybe some All-Green Twister, and Jodi's in town!

RSVP if you get a chance to pennermk AT gmail DOT com 

A Dozen Foods Containing Lots of Vitamin K:
Leafy Greens (except iceberg lettuce)
Brussels Sprouts
Green Onions
Black-eyed peas
Green Peas

(because I had to do an image search to find out what an endive looks like)

An exhaustive list can be found here:

Oh yeah, as far as I can tell, my physical health has never been better.  Yanking the port went well.   My scar is healing nicely, and I'm working on a necklace - if anyone has experience converting medical devices into jewelry, drop me a line.