Archive for the ‘Stupid cancer’ Category
Have you ever looked up your BMI? It sucks. Not only does it suck, it’s kind of mean. Isn’t this supposed to be a scientific measurement? Can’t you come up with fancier, gentler words than “overweight” and “obese?” When Molly was undergoing chemo the nutritionist at the hospital told us not to worry about her loss of appetite– our family seemed to have a fair share of reserves. See, that was nice. And clever. No need for name calling.
The BMI scale ranks me as obese, for the record. I think that’s a little harsh. And I don’t think they’re accounting for my big booty and awesome tits. Can I get a recount?
Now I’m not about to argue that I’m in perfect shape or that I look fabulous, but I certainly make an effort. I workout 3-5 times a week usually for an hour or more at a time. I eat balanced meals that keep me full and satisfied. I stay away from processed food as much as possible. I eat my fair share of cookies, but they’re always homemade and free of white flour, granulated sugar and butter (thanks, Bethenny!). I can’t help but wonder what a girl’s gotta do around here to be considered just “overweight?”
I’ve been concerned with body image and how it affects women psychologically ever since my sister was diagnosed with cancer. Most people know our story, but no matter how many times I explain what happened it seizes to amaze me. My 14-year-old sister had a tumor the size of her head in her upper, inner thigh. She didn’t show anyone because she thought it was fat.
What kind of world do we live in where a child is embarrassed to reveal a life-threatening tumor because she thinks it’s her fault for eating too many Ho-Hos? Oh, that’s right. A world where women judge each other’s size, where the media makes fun of puberty and where an active woman who wears a size 12 is obese. Okay, time to step off my soap box. Or stumble off as it crashes out from under me because I’m so heavy. *snark*
I read a book last year that really opened my eyes to America’s attitude toward body image as well as our country’s anti-fat mentality. The book was Hungry, written by “plus size” supermodel Crystal Renn. The autobiography chronicles Crystal’s battle with the modeling world and eating disorders, but also presents a lot of unknown information about our bodies and fat mentality. For example, did you know that the BMI system was reorganized a few years ago by a panel of dietitians? The system was adjusted by 5 points, making all “healthy” people “overweight,” and making all “overweight” people obese. As a nation, why do we accept a system that is so easily and arbitrarily changed? It seems inconsistent that one day you could be “average” then you wake up the next morning and you’re considered “overweight.”
As I mentioned, Crystal is a plus size model. Why the HELL we need to include the “plus size” distinction is beyond me. Check this sister out:
Girlfriend is smokin’ hot. I would date her (sorry, David!). And yet our BMI system and our society labels her as fat. I guess if Crystal Renn is fat I’m honored to be in the same category as her. Ridiculous but true.
All of this is not to say that America doesn’t have an obesity problem, or that we should eat whatever we want. But there has to be a balance between healthy and reality.
Unfortunately it’s going to take a lot more than an angry blog post to change the ideology of a nation. *Le Sigh* In high school I completed a massive research project about Female Genital Mutilation. Aside from the graphic descriptions and disgusting pictures the one detail that stuck with me from that project is this: FGM is perpetuated by women. It’s not the men demanding young girls have their clitorises scraped out with a dull razor, it’s their mothers, aunts and sisters.
When you think about it, our fat mentality and our body image issues don’t come from men: they come from women. They come from us judging each other, from making comments about one another’s weight. The desire to be thin does not so much fulfill a male fantasy as it does a fabricated, nearly unachievable female ideology. Yikes. We might as well be mutilating each other.
So ladies, next time you see a “plus size” model on TV, or you spot a curvy woman playing with her kids at the pool, keep the comments to yourself. Better yet, reprimand yourself for giving into the cultural expectation to judge one another. Regardless of size or weight all women are strong and beautiful. Please don’t make me fight this crusade alone. For my sister’s sake, for my future children’s sake, let’s stop calling each other fat. Period.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned through the frustrating process of planning a wedding, it’s that I define family differently than most people. As David and I grapple over the final edits to the guest list the phrase “but they’re family,” is being thrown our way quite a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I intend to invite every single member of my family to my wedding. Who I view as family does not follow a specific bloodline, though.
I’m starting to realize that my upbringing really shaped my definition of family. To me, “family” includes the people I’ve grown up with, the people who have been a constant in my life since as long as I remember. My parents were very good at embracing and prioritizing our immediate family growing up. We were never rushing off to a distant relative’s house on Christmas, or buying presents for people we didn’t see the other 364 days of the year. Luther, Sandy, Ethan, Molly and I are family. I learned early on that although you don’t get to choose your family, you do get to define your family.
I also learned at a young age that family doesn’t mean someone is directly related to you.
Family is the honorary uncle who comes to every holiday, because we’re the only people he’s got.
Family is the gangle of second cousins that visit at least once a year, filling the house with activity and chaos.
Family are the friends you go on “Belly Bunch Weekends” with, and invite over for picnics in the summer.
Family is your mom’s best friend who buys you a gift card to Bed Bath & Beyond before you move into your first apartment, because your mom can’t take you shopping while your sister is in the hospital.
Family is the uncle who writes you a letter from your beloved aunt who passed away years ago as a graduation gift.
Family is the sister-in-law who sits in the waiting room with you for 18 hours, waiting for your nephew to be born.
Family is the guy, the girl and their puppy who hug each other every night, laughing as the puppy licks the guy and the girl back and forth. “We’re a family,” the guy says, looking down at the love of his life and their crazy dog.
Yes, we’re a family.
As strong as the family argument might seem to others, it just doesn’t work on me. I don’t have time to worry about bloodlines and unknown relatives– I have a wonderful, full family all my own.
Ever since Molly had cancer I’ve tried to be more sympathetic and more understanding toward other people. I constantly remind myself that most people are doing the best they can, and that today might be the worst day of their life. Seriously, think about it. Have you ever felt so sad, stressed, or overwhelmed that you didn’t even think about your actions or your tone of voice? Some days I would be so wrapped up in Molly’s blood counts or our impending weekend at the hospital that I couldn’t waste another ounce of energy pretending to be nice to someone. People were understanding and unnecessarily kind to me when Molly was sick. Therefore it’s my responsibility to pass on that kindness, and to try to approach everyone with an open, understanding heart.
I didn’t wake up one day glowing like Mother Theresa, though. It took a long time and a lot of reflection to not want to rip someone’s head off anytime they posted about how they’re getting a head cold on Facebook. It’s hard to describe how it feels to have a gut-wrenching secret bubbling inside you while others go about their day-to-day routine, complaining about the weather and whining about their commute. I developed a strange mix of self-pity and annoyance with other people while my sister was undergoing treatment– it took all my strength to not thrash out irrationially anytime someone complained about something petty.
You hate your job? Shut up and quit. You gained 2 pounds? Get on the treadmill, Wilbur. Your toddler wet the bed last night? At least their pee isn’t orange from the chemo coursing through their body. Your part-time job is so stressful? See job advice, above. You have a big test coming up that you didn’t study for? No one CARES.
And those were my nicer, PG-rated thoughts.
The tipping point for me happened in early December 2008. That Friday I attended my classes, hopped in the car and headed to Akron Children’s Hospital. On my way I picked up food for mom and dad (Molly hated all food while in the hospital) and settled in for a long night of unplugging Molly’s IV and wheeling her to the bathroom every 47 minutes. No, really. They were pumping her with fluids and I timed it one night for fun.
This was our typical chemo-weekend routine. I would spend Friday evening/night with Molly, then mom would come relieve me after work on Saturday. I would usually hang out for a few more hours, then head back to Alliance in the evening, balling my eyes out the entire way.
This Saturday though I decided to stop at The Strip in Canton to pick up a few Christmas gifts. I figured I was right there, and a quick run into Best Buy wasn’t going to set me off schedule. Once in the parking lot I realized just how packed the shopping center really was. People littered everywhere, cars trolling for the closest spot. I was coasting in my car looking for one of those coveted spots when I pulled up behind an SUV. The SUV was stopped, with its turn signal on, ready to pull into the soon-to-be vacated spot. The lot was crowded and it wasn’t worth the risk to try and go around the SUV, so I waited. While waiting another couple got into their car and started to pull out. I put my turn signal on, excited that I was going to get a close spot, too. See, patience does pay off!
As soon as I clicked my turn signal on I saw it: the red brake lights of the SUV lifted, and the large vehicle started traveling backwards. The SUV had to see me back here, right? Where did they think they were going!
Once I realized they weren’t stopping I laid on the horn. Surely if they didn’t see me they would hear my horn! Nope. Next thing I know, my car was bouncing on its tire shocks, and I had been hit. This is where the story gets interesting, and this is why I knew I had to change my attitude and overall outlook towards others.
The SUV driver jumps out of her car and runs back to see the damage. She had one of those awkward tire cases with a picture of a lion on it attached to her rear-side, and because of its placement my car was more smooshed than smashed. I stayed in the car, not moving, and called my dad. I told him what happened, and he confirmed that I should call the police because it needs to be on record that the SUV hit ME. Still in the car, I called the police. Once I knew an officer was on the way I finally got out of the car.
“Oh my god, I can’t believe I just did that. Of course this would happen to me. This is the worst day ever. Oh and I have my dog in the car and now she’s all upset.”
“Do you have insurance?” I asked.
“Yes but my husband has my card and he’s coming to bring it to me. He said that we should move and that when he gets here he’ll take care of everything. Don’t worry, we don’t live far from here. He’ll take care of it.”
“I already called the police,” I stated. Fumes started to puff out of the woman’s ears.
“My husband said not to call the police because it wasn’t a big deal…”
“I already did,” I interjected.
The lady insisted on moving our cars to the back of the parking lot where it was less crowded. I insisted on taking a few pictures first to show the police when they arrived.
Needless to say, this lady and I were never going to be friends. For the next 20 minutes I listened to this woman bitch and moan about what a horrible day she was having, how upset her dog was and how her husband was going to be mad. Keep in mind, this woman hit ME. And she hit me because she was inpatient and greedy and wanted a freaking parking spot.
It took all my strength to not start screaming at her to shut the f— up. Had she been up for the last 24 hours watching her sister get chemo? Did she spend all afternoon listening to doctors talk about white cell counts and plasma? Did she really think that everyone else’s life was so peachy keen compared to her own situation?
After a lot of reflection (and clearly a lot of angst) I came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter. She didn’t know what I had been through that day anymore than I knew what she had dealt with. That day could have very well been the worst day of that woman’s life.
There’s a quote which I will now paraphrase, botch and not properly attribute. But I think it captures the essense of this post: “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is facing some kind of battle.”
So true. So very, very true.
I LOVE Disney World. Actually, everyone in my family loves everything related to Disney (the World! The movies! The merch! The magic!). Interestingly our love affair with Disney did not come to fruition until 3 or 4 years ago.
Just HOW much do I love Disney?
1. I (along with my siblings, fiance and mom) will be traveling to the World in 7 days (ONE WEEK!) for a vacation in lieu of Christmas presents. What more could anyone want than a vacation to the most magical place on earth during the holiday season?!
2. David and I will be honeymooning in Disney World in May. We have selected an amazing one-bedroom villa at Bay Lake Towers for our 8-day stay, and can’t wait to wake up as newlyweds with a view of Cinderella Castle.
3. David and I have annual passes to Disney World. That’s right. We shelled out the big bucks this year, because we knew we were going to take at least three trips in one year’s time (Next week- family trip, May- honeymoon, Fall- Food and Wine Festival). Once you factor in the AP discounts and the points from our Disney Visa AND Chase Disney Debit, it just makes financial sense for us.
Clearly I’m a Disney freak. I want to share with you why I’m so crazy about Disney. I didn’t just wake up one day all hot and bothered for Mickey– there’s more to the story. It all started in April, 2008.
April 2008: Grammy Johnnie calls to tell me and David that we can’t come down to South Carolina and stay with her in May. One of my uncles already claimed that week and can’t move his vacation (Grammy’s house is basically a timeshare). Can we change our week? No, David can’t get off work. We already have lots of money saved for the trip– where can we go last minute?? I whine to Sandy. Sandy recommends we go to Disney World. She just took Molly and Ethan in March and they had a blast. They have great value resorts and discounts– she’ll help me find a good deal.
May 2008: Good deal found, Disney trip booked! David and I start getting excited. Sandy also starts to get excited. Sandy wants to go to Disney again, too. Fight ensues: my mother doesn’t understand why I don’t want her vacationing with me and my boyfriend. Separate corners. New solution: Sandy decides she’s going whether I like it or not, in June. David and I go to Disney World.
June 2008: Sandy books a Disney trip. We find out my cousins and Grammy Johnnie will also be in Disney during that time. Sandy realizes she’s not going to have fun without me (wink wink). Disney allows us to upgrade the ticket package I just used in May for an annual pass. Now I have an annual pass. Sandy wants an annual pass, too. In the end, Sandy, Molly and I get annual passes to Disney World. We head for the Kingdom, and the magic continues.
July 2008: Yay! Disney was so fun! We can’t wait to go back in winter!
August 2008: Large lump. No, not a lump, a tumor. Synovial Sarcoma. Chemotherapy. cancer sucks.
September 2008: “Hi, my name is Sandy and I’m an annual passholder. My daughter was recently diagnosed with cancer. Can we put our annual passes on hold until she’s better? We’re just not going to make it this year.”
Mom called The Walt Disney Company to see if there was anything they could do. She was told that someone would call her back. We thought that maybe if we provided a doctor’s note and confirmation of diagnosis they could put our annual passes on hold. That way we could at least go when Molly was better, and get one more trip out of our passes. Needless to say the passes were the least of our concerns during this time. But then something magical happened.
Disney called back. Not Disney himself, of course (although how cool would that beeee?? Walt’s supposedly preserved on ice somewhere, right?) but a guest relations cast member. Let’s call her Minnie.
“Sandy?” asked Minnie when mom picked up the phone. “My name is Minnie, and I work at Guest Relations for Disney World. We received the message regarding your situation. We will happily put the annual passes on hold for you, but we’d also like to do more. I’m going to add some instructions to your account. The next time you make it down to Disney World, just go to any Guest Relations counter. They’ll be able to reactivate your annual passes. When they activate the passes they’re going to automatically renew for an additional year. I hope your daughter get’s well soon.”
All of a sudden there was one less thing to worry about, and a whole year of magic to hope for.
March 2009: The entire Millsaps family went on Molly’s Make-A-Wish trip. We renewed our Disney passes while we were there.
April 2009: After all the chemo, radiation and surgery Molly achieved NED status (No Evidence of Disease). She’s been NED-ed ever since.
May 2009: David and I went back to Disney to celebrate the end of a crazy, emotional year filled with ups and downs. We ran around the Magic Kingdom like kids. We held hands. We kissed in front of the castle. We went on Kilimanjaro’s Safari 3 times. We rode Toy Story Mania 9 times. We remembered what it was like to be a normal couple, not worried about chemo or the emotional well-being of everyone around us. Oh, and David ate BBQ. LOTS of BBQ.
October 2009: Sandy took me back to Disney to celebrate my 21st Birthday. (Yes, I picked Disney over Vegas. After reading this post could you blame me??)
November 2009: Sandy took Molly and Ethan to Disney during a long weekend to get one more use out of our annual passes.
I don’t know if Minnie knew what she was doing when she granted us an extra year of magic, but her kindness and generosity made us Disney devotees for life. Minnie didn’t have to renew our passes for free, no questions asked. Nor did she have to put them on hold. Hell, that woman did not even have to call my mother back if she didn’t feel like it. She works at one of the world’s top media conglomerates, amid the hustle and bustle of corporate America. But she did.
Disney didn’t have to do anything, but they did.
So there you have it: the origin of my relationship with Disney. It’s a love story that I know will last a lifetime.
My darling sister Molly and I have a secret phrase. We learned it at the hospital a few years ago and it describes our relationship perfectly. Of course, you have to understand the whole story to really get it.
While Molly was undergoing chemo at Akron Children’s I would stay with her on the weekends. I usually took the Friday night/Saturday morning shift, because it helped my parents out and because the cafeteria served really good breakfast on Saturdays. Oh, and because I lurve my sister.
Each morning, just like on TV, the doctors and residents would complete their rounds. Rounds sound much cooler than they really are. It’s basically a group of 5-8 doctors huddling in your room, reading aloud your weight and pee levels and asking if you have any questions. Fun, fun.
One morning a group of residents came in led by Dr. L. One guy (a ginger, nonetheless) confused his resident title with “resident funny guy” and tried to crack a joke.
“Wow,” he exclaimed, looking back and forth between me and Molly. “You guys look identical– practically like sisters!” Good one, wise guy. Molly and I basically look the same. The only distinguishing features are that I have more freckles and she has nicer nails.
Not picking up on the joke, Dr. L looked back at the resident, confused. “Sisters,” he tried to explain in his thick Chinese accent to the resident. “75% genetic match.”
75% Genetic Match. A humorous and frequent reminder that Molly and I are more the same than not. That measly 25% does rear its nasty head quite often, but the other 75% balances it out.
Genetic match, indeed.