Flight & Farms

I wrote my last post on my phone, which is something I do a lot these days.  I hate typing on my phone. I am trying to instill more discipline in my work life by not logging onto any of my personal sites on my desktop. They told me they don’t care as they know everyone has Gmail and Facebook open in other tabs, but I know that if I do the same, the next time I look up, it will be time for lunch.

Back to year ten…I underwent my annual neck ultrasound last week. My age is wrong in the results, and I realized it’s been that way a number of years now.  I am listed as a year younger than I am, and it always says “thyroid gland absent” as if this is a revelation. There have been years I was indifferent, and years where I have been wound up so tight  I explode at someone, usually myself. I hate myself for this. I am unable to forgive myself for this. Despite everything, I still think I control my fate.  This year I was indifferent, through the different transducers. the color doppler studies that were only performed on my left side, the tumor’s side. And when the results came in that said I am 37 and my thyroid gland was absent, there was nothing else to say.

Clear. Next.

For the last five years of my working life, I’ve been hoping for a recurrence. I want to be pulled out of the limbo of a “biochemically incomplete response.” I also don’t want to go to work and would rather have cancer again then continue on in my current career.

I’m going to say that again.

I would rather have thyroid cancer again than continue in my current career.

I remember how happy I was to go back to work after the first time. I was amongst friends, it felt normal, and very little was asked go me in those days. Since then, none of my workplaces have felt that comforting. It was likely an anomaly. I was a sympathetic figure of course, 28 years old, losing weight (yay women who find a way to meet conventional beauty standards!) and coming into my own. Or so it seemed. In hindsight, I was veering off the road. My life in Los Angeles can be summed up in one word: isolation. In every sense of the word. My only connection is to the mountains and the hiking trails I race up and down on weekends.

I have examined the reasons for my leaving many times; it was an idea I was already trying to put into motion pre-cancer; I needed a change; I needed to leave the place where I had been sick; I needed a new challenge at work (let’s be honest- I can barely work; I spend more than half of the week doing nothing because I can’t focus); and of course, I needed to save myself from the Dr. Overinvolved situation and physically removing myself was the only way,  as my own dysfunction and damage pulled me towards him with a force that felt as strong as gravity itself. I knew I was the one who had the power to change our fate.  But I’ve missed him everyday since. I thought I would meet someone appropriate who looked at me the way he did, who made me feel seen and heard, who was comforting, whom I wanted to know back.  But I’m invisible, back to not being seen, and so lonely.

What do I do? Go home? Go somewhere else?

In 2011, I was accepted to a post-baccalaureate program for pre-med. I didn’t go. Because money and fears about health insurance. And fears in general.

In 2015, I was accepted to a dual degree MSW/MPH program at a top five university. I didn’t go. Because I would have been destitute.

Given the cost, further education is no longer an option. I also believe I have lost the patience to tolerate the grind of such rigid structure. The rhythm and predictability of the professional office life is part of what I am chafing against, after all.  Forced into this, forced into that; it doesn’t feel like something I am doing willingly at all anymore. It never felt this difficult before and that’s how I know I am at the end of this road. I thought it was just my last role, but it’s this entire field. It’s everything.

One of the drawbacks for all the travel I have done is that I want to keep moving, see more, then pick up and see more, rinse and repeat. But that desire doesn’t fit with how I have to live, or how it seems I have to live, in order for all of my other needs (money and health insurance) to be met.  I have enough money to do this on the short-term, to move out, lock it all up and hit the road, but it’s not sustainable of course. When I draw the escape map, it always lacks an ending because the road ends at another cubicle farm.


Ten Year Loneliness

I stayed in bed an hour past the time I should have arisen. What if, I thought, what if I just don’t go, what if I just never go back? I thought about my savings account and how I could live off that money for five or six months. But I eventually kicked back my blankets and made it into the shower, skipping breakfast and throwing lunch together.

I have this conversation with myself nearly every weekday since I started the new job. It’s fine but I don’t want to do it, or this career, anymore. I’m tired of the petty jealousies and criticisms, of being forced to sit here all day, of being so worn out from forcing myself to hold it all together, from hiding my true feelings. I just want to scream.

My ten year follow up testing is this week. I want it to be bad. Because then it could finally be treated, then it would be okay if I just stayed in bed and never went back. I would be allowed to burn it all down and start again.

I’m trying to just get through this before I make any decisions. No one knows. My family doesn’t know, my colleagues have no idea, and BFF Melinda is too busy hanging out with guys and being tattooed to talk to me. I don’t know if anyone knowing would help. Other people are usually not at all comforting. I wish I had a husband.

A deep loneliness is at the heart of my emotional state overall. My prior colleagues were my friends and we were all up in each other’s business. I haven’t heard from them. That’s how it usually goes- rare is the work friendship that becomes a real life friendship once the work association has ended.

A Dream Without Armor

I dreamt about you last night, standing behind the pharmacy counter and handing me my bottle of Levoxyl. But you don’t test my Thyroglobulin anymore, you said.  No, you don’t. You haven’t tested it in eight years and your test was wrong anyway, creating a false sense of relief, of safety.  You were too young in my dream, but your voice, your frame, your gut feeling of presence was all accurate.

I feel inspired to write you a letter, a real one on paper, with details of my travails and my woes, of how my greying hair finally makes me look the age I feel inside, about the grief I sit with everyday over what could have been and now what never will be. It is year ten, so a retrospective feels appropriate, yet I imagine you will be disappointed I didn’t make more of myself.  I could have, with someone like you, but it was all me and one person can only take themselves so far. Despite knowing that, I still believe I can do it all.

In your gaze, I always saw myself without armor. Now my own gaze only reflects my armor and my weapons. I have lost her again, I know, I can tell. Maybe you can help me get her back. The years will always be gone, of course, but the ones ahead would be so much better if I could be the girl without armor again, to feel that wonder, lightness and optimism, instead of being hard and grizzled, with all of that behind me. I believe it is lost forever. I cannot imagine ever feeling that way again.

My #metoo

Yesterday’s statement from Eliza Dushku about being molested by her stunt coordinator when she was twelve really messed me up. Especially, “…my life was literally in his hands…whereas he was supposed to be my protector, he was my abuser…that over-the-top special attention he gave me… ”

What Dr. Overinvolved did to me was so lightweight but he still breached the trust, the boundaries,  he still assaulted me and then continued to groom me. I knew it, I saw it and that’s why I ran, while at the same time basking in the attention. Like the abused child I was, I was desperate for positive attention and support. I wasn’t getting it from my crappy family and my friends were all inept/scared.

My stomach hurts.

Everyday, especially since #metoo has taken the news cycle by storm, I expect physicians to start decorating the headlines with their indiscretions and abuses finally being known to all, and him in particular, because it never happens once. Each day, I think, “Is today the day?” But it isn’t because they literally have our lives in their hands; they have the real power, so much more than a Harvey Weinstein, a Matt Lauer.  When women can speak out about their abusive physicians and how their behavior wasn’t “bad enough” for the medical board to act on, then I know a true reckoning will be upon us.

I want to stand arm-in-arm with all of the others- strength in numbers. I cannot and will not stand on my own with name and face, then medical records and sexual history shortly to be known to all.  My PTSD history, and many other things, will be used against me.  My anonymous complaint is as far as I can take my activism alone; the deep ambivalence written into that complaint is a red flag to anyone who knows how sexual abuse victims act and how abusers ply their trade. But years on from that complaint, he still gets up in the morning and treats patients, some of them just like me- vulnerable young women with thyroid cancer who have no support system.

I know I have done all I can do to draw attention to Dr. Overinvolved’s abuse, so it is now up to someone else to pick up the whistle and blow on it as loud and as hard as possible until his name, and other physicians like him who have been getting away with this for far too long, are all over news headlines.

Catch Up

My silence hasn’t been deliberate, but more the product of too much going on, too much to write about it, too much spinning through my head.

I still cannot believe Tom Petty is gone. That was my last post and his is a cosmic absence that I struggle to comprehend.

I left my job for a new one in health care, non-clinical, pediatrics.

I followed my band to Europe in between jobs, after I said no to everyone- old job wanted me to stay longer, new job wanted me to start sooner- and I had three weeks off.

My immune system swooned from the jet lag and lack of sleep and I have been sick twice, new fevers appearing ten days apart, and I am still not well. My throat is very painful, but it is a deep pain, low in my neck and it is worrying me at present. With the new job, I have no sick time and no vacation time, so it would be a grand time for a cancer recurrence. I took a flu shot in October, but the second sickness was influenza-esque, the first more like a bad cold.  I get sick like this perhaps every two or three years; twice in a month seems excessive. I am around a lot more people in a new environment and perhaps I was immune to everyone’s illnesses at my old workplace!

I underwent a mammogram two days after I came home from Europe, an experience that enraged and upset me in countless ways. It truly was “A Tale of Two Cancers,”  as I compared and contrasted the experiences in my mind. That will be a future post. It all turned out fine, there was nothing to see and now I have a baseline. No regrets about it at all.

Now with the new health care job, I feel like I am hiding in plain sight. No one knows my history and my scar is essentially invisible to strangers. I have a hard time going into the hospital and steel myself each time, yet I can think of no better way to help make the world better, no more worthy cause then helping these children get the healthcare they need. I truly think that’s our purpose; or at the very least, my purpose; in the world- to make it a better place.


I went home last weekend to be with Melinda for the first anniversary of her husband’s death. Those 24 hours turned out to be about so much more than that.

Where I thought there would be tears, there was alcohol. As I lay in Melinda’s former marriage bed, now exiled to the guest room, I listen to her repeatedly throwing up. Later, she tells me she passed out on the bathroom floor. I wondered why the bathroom fan ran for so long. I am stone cold sober.

Meanwhile, her sister in law is audibly moaning in the living room, as she is drunkenly hooking up with a man who claims to have been a friend of her brother’s. I doubt the veracity of his story as any man who really was friends with her brother would not be having sex with her right now. The next morning, she will say she has no recollection of being with him. I recognize the extremely problematic nature of this entire situation, seeing as she was clearly blitzed at the bar and not able to consent. I do not say anything, as she isn’t enlightened about these matters to the extent I am and I don’t believe it’s my place to say anything now.

It’s 7:30am and I am the only one up. I get dressed and get in my car, driving to the nearest Starbucks. I want to return to Los Angeles right now. But Melinda is actually sleeping, and I don’t want to wake her, nor leave without saying good-bye. I am in Carlsbad. It’s cookie cutter gross, the rolling coastal hills packed to the gills with stucco tract housing that surely costs seven figures. My skin crawls. I feel claustrophobic. I take my time returning to the apartment. I decide to leave at 10am if Melinda is awake. She is, but then I feel guilty just running off so we hang out in her room and talk.  I wait until 10:45am, then I make my move.

“Traffic will get even worse if I wait much longer,” I say.  Pulling the traffic card always works when you are an Angeleno. She doesn’t resist. Her sister-in-law is throwing up in the bathroom while we talk. Melinda herself is hungover, her eyes drooping.  She walks me out, we embrace and I cannot get out of there fast enough.

“I was a rebellious asshole! And you were always so nice! I’m sorry I was so mean.” I am in the bar with Tracy, someone I have known since middle school. She bullied me. Now she is a dissatisfied mother of three, holding her beer in one hand while yelling at me about her alcoholic mother and how mean she was Back in the Day. I’m nodding. I’m not really enjoying her mea culpa; this is not something I think about all that much anymore.  What I am thinking about it is a night out in Hillcrest over ten years ago, where I am the designated driver and at the end of the night, my Honda is filled with people from my high school graduating class.

Nothing has changed. It’s like any other night out with Melinda when I lived there. We are older and that’s about it. It’s 12:30am. If my bag were in my car, I would drive the 90 minutes home right now.


“Come home! Come home you cunt!” Jena is yelling at me, her hands on my shoulders. “We’re your family and we’re here! I know you aren’t happy!” She’s not wrong, but I have no desire to go back to the future. That’s been made clear.

Two days later, I am sitting in traffic on the north 110 on my way to a job interview at an academic medical center. I look on the horizon and I see my San Gabriel Mountains, the downtown LA skyline, the faint outline of the Hollywood sign. I relax. I am home. 



So many times in this life we stand at a crossroads and years later, can trace the consequences of the direction we chose back to the present day. I had a choice to have a colonoscopy, or to not have one, based on a vague change in bowel habits that persisted for a few years. Despite my fears, I decided to do it. I might have saved my own life by making that choice. Of the two polyps that were found and removed, the largest one,  5mm, was pre-malignant.  Standard screening age is 50. I’m 37.

To say I am spinning out over this would be a massive understatement. I found out the day before I left for a great vacation. The pathology was released to me, at my request, through the EMR. No interpretation or recommendation came with it. The official channel is to send a letter through the U.S. mail two-three weeks after the procedure. I emphasized this because, to be blunt, it’s a thoughtless and outdated practice. I told my GI this, after letting her know it was released to me in this fashion and she implied it was my fault for asking it to be posted to the EMR.  I had to google “sessile serrated adenoma.”

The recommendation is for a colonoscopy every three years. I want genetic testing, and I want it now.  No more surprises.  There are huge holes in the family history. I don’t even know my paternal grandmother’s name, let alone her medical history. My so-called “mother” doesn’t believe in getting medical care, so she’s a useless source of medical history.

Speaking of my “mother,” I never told her I was having this done after she told me not to do it. So I told her after the fact and about the pre-cancer. Then she made a terrible joke about it. I am truly Nobody’s Daughter. I have no one to go to for comfort. It’s a terrible feeling.

Of course my thoughts turn to Dr. Overinvolved at a time like this, but thinking I can go to him for comfort is just a myth my brain likes to run with based on that tiny moment in  time. There are hundreds of me’s and just one of him; he wouldn’t help me in the present, or even remember me.

A few months ago I felt a lump in my left breast. I have not seen a doctor about it. I keep thinking it’s going to go away, but it’s still there and I don’t feel anything like it on the right side.

My vigilance and commitment to my self-preservation is laughable, really.  There’s not a lot of enjoyment in my life. There’s no love, no sense of purpose. No one needs me. In addition to being nobody’s daughter, I am no one’s mom, no one’s wife, no one’s girlfriend, no one’s mistress…  No matter what I do, something will get me, like it does all of us, eventually. Why get in the way of nature? That is honestly how I feel right now. I am invisible and irrelevant.

I was much happier last week when I was on the road. I followed a band I love, and have loved for twenty-five years, to every show they did for a week. It was glorious. Each day, I would find my way to the next city, sometimes I drove, sometimes I wandered airport terminals, then I would check in to my hotel and go to the show. That’s all I had to do. It made me happy. Very little does, which was why I chose to do it.