Cancer Free, yay!

Today I had my 4-month dermatology and oncology appointments at Kaiser Permanente Mapunapuna and Moanalua locations, respectively. At dermatology, I was ready for every spot on my body (from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet) to be more melanoma. My right thigh is still numb from the surgeries in the… Continue reading Cancer Free, yay!

Immunotherapy is over!

I administered my last injection on Friday, December 16, 2016. I was so happy about that, and about Sophie arriving that day for her winter break from Reed College. Then I was convinced by my journalist friends Treena and Suzanne to string with them for Thomson Reuters for President Obama’s Hawaii vacation for five days.… Continue reading Immunotherapy is over!

The Interferon temperament

I could never be President of the United States, at least not this year, because the Interferon for my melanoma toys with my temperament. Fortunately, there’s my daily dose of stability to keep me grounded. I know it works because while subbing I am not as easily provoked by the kids as when I first started. That’s… Continue reading The Interferon temperament

Reed College, meet our Sophie.

Checking out the bed loft in her dorm.

Last week John and I accompanied Sophie to her new school in Portland, Oregon, Reed College. All summer long I have had worst-case scenarios playing in my head. All summer long I tried to hide my anxiety of this 16-year-old girl going off to college. All summer long I tried to come to grips with the… Continue reading Reed College, meet our Sophie.

Halfway through my treatment

I’m alive and I have a great and supportive family, for that I am grateful. Unfortunately, the Interferon for my melanoma plays games with my head and emotions, so when left to my own devices life can be a big black hole. Feelings, emotions, outlook, and attitude have all been tested. The physical side effects often include… Continue reading Halfway through my treatment

The slowest and the fastest year

Sophie shooting in Waimanalo at dawn.

I’ve always played with my hair, twirling the curls between my fingers until they were smooth, absentmindedly while driving, reading, or here, sitting on the sofa. Only now many strands come off in my hand and I build a pile beside me until I get up. I bury them in the trash so no one has… Continue reading The slowest and the fastest year

A Life on Hold

Better days in 2013: The Duke Kahanamoku Ocean Mile swim.

I am trying very hard to be OK with 2016 being the year of very little to happen to me. It isn’t easy to spend 56 years as an active person and then (boom) Cancer. I’m stuck in the house, limited in my activities, and shelving the triathlon training. Fortunately, I’ve got the strength to substitute… Continue reading A Life on Hold

The Leap Year Eddie Aikau

While it must have surely been nice to have been on the beach at Waimea Bay on Thursday, February 25, 2016, to watch The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau surfing contest, watching it on my computer, listening to the commentators, taking in the color, and watching my friends’ Julie Wassel and Mike Gordon’s Facebook feeds more… Continue reading The Leap Year Eddie Aikau

Refreshing Ginger Cole Slaw

I love slaw. I love it just about any way it is made. However, with mayonnaise not high on my family’s list of condiments, I had to find a way to have my slaw and they would, too. This mayonnaise-free slaw has ingredients that make you forget its humdrum white blandness. Fresh chopped ginger, fish… Continue reading Refreshing Ginger Cole Slaw

How it’s going: #Cancersucks

The cocktail ingredients for my injection.

I have been injecting the Interferon into my thighs and belly for two weeks now and I’m getting used to it. Since I was diagnosed with melanoma stage 3a las summer, have had my three surgeries and a month of daily high-dose chemotherapy, I have known that this was coming. I can’t say it’s easy, but… Continue reading How it’s going: #Cancersucks

Camp Chemo

This morning on my New York Times feed is a story about the treatment of Hep-C in Egypt with a new drug that costs considerably less there than in the United States. It replaces Interferon, fraught with nasty side effects. I would have to concur. Today was day eight of 20 daily Interferon-chemotherapy sessions at… Continue reading Camp Chemo

What do you train for?

The things you learn to do on your own, like flush your PICC line twice a day with saline and Heparin Lock. It's easy.

I am the sort of triathlete that makes the rest of you couch potatoes think you could be a triathlete, too.  I’m always bringing up the rear in races. It’s OK. My run is my weakest leg of the triathlon. For Honu Ironman 70.3 last June, I finished before they rolled up the lava fields,… Continue reading What do you train for?

Interferon inauguration. This ain’t no disco.

Bless their hearts, especially today, because it seemed the oncology nurses in the drip room at Kaiser Moanalua were short handed. They were constantly running around, ferrying cancer patients in and out, answering beeping machines, calling out to each other for assistance. Interferon is not your garden variety course of treatment, so it threw them… Continue reading Interferon inauguration. This ain’t no disco.

Thankful for Good News

Elated at my finish, pouring water over my head.

My plane ticket was purchased, my hotel reservations made, I was set to depart for Salt Lake City on the redeye Monday evening to be screened for a clinical trial that just started enrollment. My appointment was scheduled for Tuesday and I was to meet the trial principal in person. I was so excited. This… Continue reading Thankful for Good News

Not Letting Cancer Dictate My Life

White roses from my expository writing students, class of 2015. A sweet moment.

Although I am not happy about this setback Cancer has served me, I’ve decided staying home is boring. I miss out on so much. While we are alive, isn’t it a good idea to live? I’ve started substitute teaching again. What an absolute joy. Well, not quite. Some grades are easier than others. At this… Continue reading Not Letting Cancer Dictate My Life

Poem #10: Pleasure, Sonnet, Apostrophe

Sophie shooting in Waimanalo at dawn.

Generational Shift By Paula Bender I count her fingers, I count her toes, I smell her cheeks, I kiss her nose. My heart swelled when we first met. Becoming a mother took away my breath. As my daughter grows and becomes her own person, I must deny the urge to provide diversion. For I wish to stall her growing independence,… Continue reading Poem #10: Pleasure, Sonnet, Apostrophe

Poem #9: Cold, Concrete Poem, Anaphora and Epistrophe

I've had chili pepper bandannas for a long time to dab my sweat and tears.

Escape to Costco’s Cold Locker Paula Bender Chilly Mainland mornings call for pots of evening chili. Chilly Hawaii mornings aren’t that frequent but we like our chili. Sticky nights often turn into days that are just as sticky. Drops of sweat develop even as we towel off shower drops. So much heat and humidity, we need our relief… Continue reading Poem #9: Cold, Concrete Poem, Anaphora and Epistrophe

Poetry #8 Philly Cheesesteak

Foot-long cheesesteak Italiano: steak, provolone, broccoli raab, roasted peppers and onions. Take the canoli. Leave the sandwich!

Philly Cheesesteak By Paula Bender Ever since I left South Jersey In the late ’70s, My craving for a decent Philly cheesesteak Has gone unsated. Toasty hoagie roll, Transparently thinly sliced ribeye, Piled high with fried onions and peppers. Wit? Widout? To which one would say Whiz or (Of course) provolone. Your mouth really can’t go… Continue reading Poetry #8 Philly Cheesesteak

Poetry #7: Neighborhood, Ballad, Assonance

Comet blended in well with the rocks in our yard.

  The Cat’s Job By Paula Bender While several of our neighbors have dogs, You must consider this and give pause, That the pets in the ‘hood That do the most good, are the kitties with sharp killer claws. If there were a problem with rats or mice, Those dogs wouldn’t even think twice. But a fine family cat, a… Continue reading Poetry #7: Neighborhood, Ballad, Assonance

Poetry #6: Face, Chiasmus

Waves outside Waikiki.

Catching Waves By Paula Bender Paddling my surfboard into the lineup, I assess the lineup of game faces, and take my place. I search for familiarity: Eyebrows that twitch Wassup? I take my place a little to the left, a bobbing spectator. You don’t paddle out and catch the first wave you see. You wait.… Continue reading Poetry #6: Face, Chiasmus

Poem #5: Map, Ode, Metaphor

This is my view. Watching my girls in the pacific Pacific.

An Ode to a Lymph Node By Paula Bender A living map beneath my skin, Red arteries flowing away, blue veins toward The heart, command central, Pulsing between my lungs, Refreshing, reinvigorating blood cells. There are backroads as well, That are no less significant. They sweep and they catch Pathogens, fats and delinquents. My gratitude to my lymphatic system, Courier… Continue reading Poem #5: Map, Ode, Metaphor

Poem #4: Imperfect, Limerick, Enjambment

A late afternoon test ride down the Road to Nowhere and back.

All for Race Day Triathletes train every day of the week. Swim, bike, run. Perfection they seek. For months they prep for the big dance, Miles in the bank could pay a big advance. Unless of course, they short change their peak. Paula Bender poetry. Copyright 2015. #writing201

Poetry course day 3: Skin, Prose Poetry, Internal Rhyme

Kinder Microfashion statements.

10/7/15 #writing201 Assignment #3: Poetry course day 3: Skin, Prose Poetry, Internal Rhyme Dermal Connections Skin defines us and separate us. Gradations indicate graduation rates and whether neighborhoods have gates or walls of hate designed to bait those whose traits designate them into the lower substrates of our world. But it doesn’t have to be. Life marks… Continue reading Poetry course day 3: Skin, Prose Poetry, Internal Rhyme

Editing the Cancer Experience

Drain for the groin lymph node area. A tube is in place to remove excess fluid to prevent edema. I measure it twice a day and dump it out.

It occurred to me that I’ve been making it easy for everyone to read about my cancer. There are a few things I’d like to share that might make you wince, like this melanoma photo timeline. I realize I’ve made light of my situation, I’ve admitted I’m afraid, and I’ve shared my heart-breaking revelations and the… Continue reading Editing the Cancer Experience