if you give a girl breast cancer

If you give a girl under 35 breast cancer, then you can expect she will need a mastectomy.

If you give a girl a mastectomy, then you can expect she will need to cry buckets of tears, for which she will need a lot of shoulders.

If you give this girl a lot of shoulders, then you can expect she may eventually cry her way to laughter about her mastectomy.

If she cries her way to laughter about mastectomy, then you can expect this stupid-cancer-anthem will make her dance like a wild-woman.

But if she dances like a wild-woman, she will tire herself out and again she will need to cry buckets of tears, and this time she’ll need the phone numbers of everyone you know who’s a young woman who had breast cancer.

If you give the girl the phone numbers of some other young women who have/had breast cancer, you can expect that eventually she will FaceTime one of them, and they will talk for a very long time about the cancer haunted house they walk/ed through, and she will feel so very understood finally. And at the end of this conversation, the girl may need you to help to mark time around her pending mastectomy.

If you encourage a girl with an idea to mark time around her pending mastectomy, then you can expect an intimate boob farewell party involving boob-cake, fuck cancer tank-top decorating, and boob-shaped chocolates.

And that is what happened. So we will be doing boob-farewell things, very soon. We will iron-on FUCK CANCER screen prints to our tank tops and we will be eat boob-cake.

What I am really grateful for, tonight as mastectomy looms and cancer sucks, are the people in my network who know people who know what is up. And I don’t mean people who have been around with me in this treachery (though I am endlessly thankful for you people too!!!), I mean people who know people who have been through this treachery, and connect me to them.

Today I spent almost two hours talking to someone I only just met, Catherine, who is the partner of someone I know through academia, someone who writes me reference letters and who has read some of my work, but who I don’t know incredibly well beyond that. But. Catherine had breast cancer, she’s young, she’s through it, and she’s rocking at life, according to my definition of rocking at life, which is a pretty good definition, and involves: being alive, being healthy, writing some things, and showering the world in compassionate justice.

The point though, is that there are ways we can connect to each other that we never expected, there are people connected to people we know connected to people we know who share the deepest, most intimate experiences with us, and when we share our lives and are open to connection with each other we get something totally awesome. The universe tosses people in our paths who are just what we need- but we have to be able to see them. All too often fear, shame and uncertainty make the water murky and it becomes hard to connect.

I was very hesitant to tell the person who connected me to Catherine that I have breast cancer, but today, I know it was a hundred times the right decision, because well, look what happened. If we could measure how much better I feel now as opposed to before I talked to Catherine, it’d be off the charts. And yet, it took me months to reach out, though I’ve long known Catherine has breast cancer, and I’ve long-since binge-read her blog. I was tentative- I know the person who links me with her through a professional relationship only, even if we exchange emails with emoticons in them. I didn’t want to reach beyond or outside of professional relationships. I didn’t want to mess up the amazing reference-letter-skills of this academic, or dampen good will.

But you know what? F*ck that. We need to do away with the whole “professional” thing where it keeps us- and by us, I mean young women with breast cancer, but also, folks dealing with challenges that would be made easier by dealing with them in community- apart from each other. We young women are already so few and far between in breast-cancer-land, and there are so many grannies with breast cancer taking up space in between us it’s really hard to see through them all and find each other. So I’m delighted to have smashed those kinds of boundaries to let another kind of connection emerge. I still have the professional relationship. Now I just also have someone who’s experience is more like mine, someone who totally gets the unique contours of this experience I can’t quite yet grasp.

I am going to open my eyes. I am going to fling wide open my networks. I am going to make sure I connect people who travel similar roads. I am going to share what’s going on in my life, and soak up the connections. If not, what else is there?  And universe, if you give a girl like me breast cancer, please also give her the people in her network to connect her to the other girls like me with breast cancer. We need each other desperately.

airport cancer

Did you know it was a thing? Airport cancer, I mean. It’s a thing. I’m in Salt Lake City, on a layover en route to San Diego. And I’ve met a total of three people because of/about/surrounding cancer.

First there was the lady. I parked myself at a restaurant bar and ordered what would turn out to be flavorless pasta and a glass of wine I couldn’t finish. As I flipped through my emails, I felt her hands on my back. You are beautiful. I want you to know you are stunning. Where are you in your treatment? She was in the know. I knew she knew in the visceral way only other people who have/had cancer know. I finished the chemo, and I have a mastectomy in two weeks. She nodded. And again. You are so beautiful. I had breast cancer. I did it all. You are going to be just fine. And then as soon as she appeared she was gone, though I felt her watchful eyes on my back until I finished my dinner, paid my bill, and turned to wave goodbye- and found her seat empty.

The bar was mostly empty. But this youngish white guy rolls in and picks the seat right next to me even though my suitcase that’s really too big to be a carry-on is taking up all the room between the two stools. He maneuvers around it. He makes small talk. He’s from San Diego. He was in Vancouver. We were on the earlier flight together and are on the flight to San Diego together, too. After twenty or so minutes of strangely persistent small-talk twists and turns, he tells me he’s a researcher. Another Ph.D.. One who works on hormone-sensitive cancers. Prostate. Ovarian. Breast. Bingo. Is that why he sat next to me? How strange we ended up sitting next to each other- I have breast cancer. Is it ER+ positive? Is it in your nodes? (It doesn’t feel invasive, this line of questioning, and I feel like I need to say that, because as I write it sounds invasive.) But he knew what he was talking about. You’re going to be fine. No markers in your blood, nothing in your nodes? Best case scenario. He likes my young breast cancer cultural politics research plan. He knows what #bcsm stands for. He’s so clearly in the know. When you’re that in the know, the questions are informative. When you’re that in the know, you know how to cut the bullshit, talk particulars, and be clear and hopeful about the outcome. We talk more. He tells me about a receptor-chemo he is working on for metastatic breast cancer, and about a trial to shut down and eliminate the ER receptors (or something like that). I am so relieved to know this person is working on breast cancer research behind the scenes.

Finally, I board the plane. There were no empty seats, so I am stuck in 22C even though I tried to play the cancer-card and get moved, as I did on the last flight, to an empty row or even better, an empty first class row. And as the last few people fill up the seats, a boy in his late teens approaches. Look, he says, I really want to sit with my girlfriend. Want to move to first class and take my seat? Who are you, I think silently, a lanky, pimply twenty year old with a first class seat? OK, I nod. I’ll do it. Wouldn’t you? The flight attendant moves my suitcase. I move up to the third row. Mr. Tall-Lanky-Pimply-Boy-In-First-Class left a note on the seat. You look like you need this seat more than me. What? This is so weird. But I do. And I have this seat now. So OK. Maybe he knew I had cancer. Maybe the note wasn’t even for me. Maybe it was a random act of kindness I suppose I could ask, but I kind of like it this way, not knowing, magical anonymity.

What is this dreamworld I’m living in? Oh, I forgot, it’s not a dream-world. It’s America (as my friend Ariana always calls the US). So this is what its like to have cancer in America. I didn’t know. This many people would have never spoken to me in Canada, even if I walked around bald. Even in yoga, the many strangers I practice work don’t say a word, even though they watch my eyebrows melt off and see me paint them back on after the grand sweat and stretch.

America. As soon as I cross the border, each and every time, it feels different. The city is irrelevant. Doesn’t matter if I fly into NYC or drive into Bellingham or land in Oakland or pass through Salt Lake City. It’s like a release of breath I didn’t know I was holding. It’s easier. The servings of onion rings are bigger. I can understand the second language around me- and it’s Spanish. More people wear flip flops. No one says sorry in that Canadian twang. It’s home.

But lately I’ve disavowed this place I’ve called home. I’ve announced I never want to return. I’ve proclaimed gratefulness at being treated in the Canadian system. I’ve waxed horror for my American young breast cancer afflicted peers. Tonight makes me think again.

Americans get right up in your face. The old lady put her hand on my back and didn’t take it off. The flight attendant inquired about the surgery date. The guy asked questions I felt I needed to defend for being invasive when they didn’t feel that way (have I become entirely aculturated, Canada?). Americans care in their abrasive way, and while in Canada people stare but stay silent about my baldness, here even a wig invites conversation, comraderie, questions. Certainly, it also invites too much curiousity at times, too much in your face grittiness, too much. But I gotta say, it’s a breath of fresh air, too. Or better articulated, it’s a release of breath I didn’t know I was holding.

I’ve learned lately, over and over and over again, that its always better to do something, say something, respond, try, ask, reach out and f*ck it up wildly than do nothing, retreat, be tentative for fear of f*cking it up. The person to whom you’re offering can always turn you down or simply not respond. That should be absolutely respected each and every time without question- it’s called consent. But that’s why you ASK. That’s why you REACH OUT. That’s why you DO SOMETHING. It’s an invitation, a provocation, a caring, a smile. It doesn’t have to be returned, accepted, responded to. I’d rather throw it all into the universe, shower the people I care about with feeling, and let them decide what threads to weave into our friendship. Better to offer a hundred different yarn colors than only blue or yellow or worse yet, none at all. And yet— that’s just what the tons of people have done. They’ve offered nothing. They’ve retreated, rolling up their ball of yarn and running.

I think it’s classed, cultural. The Canada I know is enmeshed with British reserve. There’s a upper class value haunting privacy. Privacy, keeping to oneself, discussing body-matters, health-matters, relationship-matters in whispered phone conversations and presenting a facade of collected presence- it’s something you perform to show you belong to the middle-upper or upper class. It’s proper. That plays out in Canada, in the vein of British reserve. And as soon as I cross the border to America, there’s a brashness, a willingness to engage, a rawness that can horribly wrong and that can be horribly endearing. I’m the first one, almost always, to tell you effed up the States can be. But man, tonight I was reminded, as I meandered through the very American Salt Lake City airport, that there’s something awesome about Americans, that there’s a reason I let out the held-breath when I arrive here, and a reason that I can identify with a wink of the eye as American. Maybe there is actually reason to be hopeful.

Oh America. You’re so weird.

 

my cancer card

So I am headed to San Diego- cousin’s-wedding-week-writing-retreat-college-buddy’s-wedding. Yesterday, a friend emailed me, discussing airport-ride options from the second wedding. She asked if I was flying out of Palm Springs airport, a 15 minute drive from our hotel for the second wedding.

Umm.

My flight was out of San Diego. GoogleMaps revealed this was a two hour drive from a hotel, and it was a 6am, Sunday-after-the-Saturday-wedding flight. I called and ask to change it. $600, they said- the same amount the ticket had cost me in the first place! After a little freaking out, Sam poured me a glass of wine and I went to bed.

In the morning, I called the airline. Still $600 to change the return flight from San Diego to Palm Springs. And then I said “Look, I have cancer. I can’t do all this late night traveling. Is there any way you can help me out here, compassionately waiving the fees?” AND THEY DID. They waived the whole thing- the change fee and the flight difference. OMG. I swiped the cancer card and it worked. They quickly emailed me my new flight, exactly as I wished- flying into San Diego as planned and they changed my return flight to leave from Palm Springs. Thank you, Delta!

My brilliant and very funny brother thinks I should tell them, today when I get to the airport, that I need to be secluded. It’s true, I cannot get sick, and it’s true that my white blood cell counts are probably still a little below normal from the chemo. And it’s definitely true I wouldn’t mind be bumped up to first class…

…. and, update. Now I’m at the airport. And all I had to do was say, truthfully, “I have cancer and I don’t want to get sick! Can you make sure I have a seat as far away from everyone as possible?” And boom, I was seated in first class and they let me carry on my bag even though it’s too big.

Cancer sucks. At least I got the airline to change my gigantic mistake for free! And to seat me in first class! Hey, one could argue chemo brain led me to book a last minute ticket out of the wrong airport. You know. =)

 

American Horror

I am horrified. Mortified. I have no way to understand why my outrage is not shared with the general American public enough to have already incited a massive revolution years ago.

My friend with good health insurance in the US found a breast lump. She required a mammogram and ultrasound. In her early thirties, she was referred for these tests by her doctor.

She had to pay $700 for these tests, because she is under forty. Are you fucking kidding me?!?!?!?! No, no, no, I’m not.

She doesn’t have breast cancer- thank god- but she’s out $700. Fine for her, but what about everybody else?!?!?! What about the people who don’t have an extra $700?!?!?!?

Now about that Canadian residency application….

 

Knowing

Rationality. It exists in the mind, not the body, the white man scholar who lives in the ivory tower declared. The female body in particular is made of flesh that can steal rationality or tilt the balance upon which rationality rests. Women are constantly written off for being emotional, irrational, because of our bodies. Rather than be in our bodies, we need to get outside of them, survive them, be awesome in spite of them- be emotionless and rational and neutral in spite of the female body (read: endeavor to be like a man, and call it neutral, even though it’s not, its thinking/being/doing like a man).   Patriarchy has built a particular looking glass, and in this looking glass, being enmeshed with the body is a function of being woman, or being other than man. Elizabeth Grosz, one of my favorite feminists, writes of this patriarchal looking glass, “Women are somehow more biological, more corporeal, and more natural than men” (Grosz p.14). Challenges of the body- embodiment, the body and knowledge, knowing from the body, knowing without the body, knowing through the body, knowledge traveling through the body- figure large in feminist arguments about the construction of knowledge that dismantle the way that rationality has been heralded as an out-of-body, emotion-less, male quality.

As a scholar, I try to stay in my body. I try to acknowledge the way my embodied privilege informs my writing. And as a breast cancer patient, I notice all kinds of tensions happening in between my body and my mind. I’ve disengaged from my breast. In preparing to have it removed, I’ve stopped relating to it entirely. Sometimes, I am frustrated I care so deeply about a breast, and I roll my eyes at myself, rationalizing the decision and feeding my mind statistics and information. I shouldn’t care. I know gender is socially constructed. I’m a feminist, I know I am more than my breasts. I tell myself to be rationale: this breast actually tried to kill me, of course it should be kicked to the curb. Just the other day, I admitted to an ardent feminist who had breast cancer, that I wish I didn’t care, I shouldn’t care, a feminist should know she didn’t need to care. I shouldn’t care.

But I do. And in the tension between stats, information, and surgeries I recognize that my own disregard for feeling and for my embodied experience of my breast and breast cancer is reflective of so many of the rationality/embodiment/gender conversations feminists have been having for decades. There is very little space, in the medical world, to account for the embodied experience I am having.  I am constantly showered with opinions, stats, rationale decision-making, suggestions, ideas, recommendations. I am tired of rationality and I am tired of being told rationality is neutral. I am tired of being given stats and listening to numeric explanations. I want to shake some of these people, and ask them to stop trying to rationalize my body away. My body is here.

I am a body. A body marked female at a birth. A body that is supposed to have a pair of breasts. A body that has cancer growing inside one of those breasts. I am also a scholar, a partner, a friend, a kitten-foster, a writer, a dissertation candidate with an external identified for my defense, a lover of artichokes, a crafter, a world traveler, an organizer. But here in cancerland, my body is constantly assaulted with rational claims, claims that, even though they are about my body, deny my embodiment. The onslaught of claims are launched at me, the cancer patient, and the claimants mostly refuse to acknowledge me, everything else. So much is denied, and in the end, even my body as a cancer patient is denied, and I’m supposed to acquiesce to someone else’s mathematical calculation of what I need. Seriously.

Just this morning, I stood on a treadmill at the cancer-gym and prepared to start my cardio. A grad student came over (I’m part of a study and there are all these grad students/volunteers who run the exercise programs) and asked me if I wanted to try intervals. Actually what I wanted to do was read the book on my kindle, but what was I to say? So she stood there, and she narrated this whole story about knowing exactly what rate and incline I needed to get to a particular heart rate from my previous exercise test. She went on and on. And then she wrote this information down on a yellow sticky, smiled, and left me to do her perfectly calculated intervals. Stupid calculations. I didn’t get my heart-rate up to my target, even though I followed their calculations exactly. And worse? Then I didn’t get the work-out I wanted, so I was pissed off.

Who cares? Me. I care. I care that I cannot fit myself into a calculation.

As this grad-student-person’s words came at me, staccato and punchy and happy-happy, I willed myself not to roll my eyes. She has no idea. A calculation can’t account for the horrible cold I had during the test she is calculating from, or for my late-night Easter escapades, or for the fact that I only got on the treadmill at all because my cancerfriend was on the one next to it. A calculation can’t account for my body. It seems absurd as I write this, that someone would actually believe they could tell me how hard I should work to achieve a physical goal, from outside my body, doesn’t it? I mean how could she possibly have that information? Obviously, she didn’t. The calculations were wrong. I knew they would be from the second she stuck that stupid yellow post-it with the stupid smiley face on my treadmill. And that is how it always is. People telling me all kinds of shit about my body, that they apparently know because they are some kind of expert.

Any feminist can tell you that expert knowledge is situated, embodied knowledge. And that the person most situated, most embodied, most full of expertise about a body is the person living in that body. And yet- here I am, day in and day out, being denied expertise about my own body. People telling me, every single step of the way, that they know better about my own body than I do. The world of breast cancer is absolutely excellent at stripping from each patient her own set of relationships to her body, her knowledge, her epistemology. In this warped world, smiling and “helpful” people, fliers, information is available at every turn to share with me their particular expertise about my body. Not about their body. About my body.

My body is constantly being assaulted by these staccato pieces of information from “helpful” people. It’s not the doctors. Nurses. Family. Friends. Grad students. Do this, try that, maybe this, maybe that. I feel like a tin can, and each directive feels like a tiny bullet has been launched from a slingshot. My tin can is riddled with pings. It’s a battle of tiny assaults, a residual wearing down until I’d rather just hide my tin can somewhere away from all these helpful people. Most people have not even looked closely enough at the tin can to know what kind of tin it is, or how the light glints off of it in the late afternoon, or how it’s anchored to it’s base. No one else is inside the tin can, so continuing to ping me with slingshots only increases the ping marks, even if the pings are meant to help me rally back into a good-tin-can shape.

It reminds me of an old song, about a pile of tin… “I”m a little pile of tin, nobody knows what shape I’m in. Got four wheels and a running board, not a Chevy, not a Ford.” Yep, no one knows what shape I’m in. And so they try to ping me into the shape of an older woman with breast cancer. Fail. And so they try to ping me into the shape of a healthier young woman. Fail. And so they just keep pinging. And it’s beyond intrusive.

My body is tired and riddled with helpful, stupid, pointless, smart, weird tidbits everyone unleashes onto me all the time. And so when I think about my pending amputation, and how I shouldn’t care, it’s also like I don’t want to care, I don’t want to feel and know from inside this banged up and out of shape tin-can-body. I don’t want to justify that I’m not being irrational. Patriarchy is so seductive, and I’d rather slink out of this body and slither around without a body, only a mind, and then I can use patriarchy’s rationality to know that all is well. Knowing from my gendered body, knowing from a feminist place, knowing I am terrified to know in such a way that engages the breast to be amputated. Knowing that I am angry and it is easy to reach to my bookshelf and disappear in critical texts that explain things away. Knowing that I don’t want to do embodied, knowing that inside of me, misogyny is alive and well, embodied in my sometimes-refusal to engage with my body. Knowing that patriarchy is alive and well in the breast cancer world. Knowing that I will write from this embodied place, and that soon, I will write from another kind of body all together. Knowing.

 

 

i have to write about cancer

Well, the title says it all, doesn’t it? I have to write about cancer. I have to write about women under 35 with breast cancer. And I don’t mean write, like blog. I mean write like, research.

I’m so desperate to read something critical, brilliant, something smart about breast cancer in young women. Something about how we negotiate breast cancer. Something like all these rock-star blogs, but something academic. I’m insanely enraged that this has happened, especially because if we (as in, humans) treated our earth a whole lot better cancer would be preventable! It seems like something is begging to be researched.

I want to write about how young women navigate breast cancer. I want to write about the media communities that we flock to, and about the spaces we carve out for each other in private facebook groups and chats to talk in ways that are not “happy happy” breast cancer survivorship, and about the scattered but strong network of young adults with cancer. I want to write about why young adults with cancer become activists, and what the figure of the young adult cancer survivor turned activists looks like and means in cancer research. I want to research and write about sex and tamoxifen and gender in breast cancer in very young women. I want to write about why this happening in very young bodies, and why it’s tied to politics and capitalism.

You see, last night I was at yoga. I went to not-my-favorite-teacher, which was a leap for me, and I thought about the future while we did poses. I want to live somewhere with clean air. I want to live close to the mountains and to the ocean. I want to wake up and be able to walk down the street for a coffee. I want our children to be able to walk to school.I want to live somewhere warm enough to bike ride casually, as I do, in many of the summer months. I want to work on breast cancer. I want to write about feminist politics. I want to write about young cancer. I want to make a difference about the cancer invading breasts and bodies under 35. That is what matters to me.

The sharpest fighting tool I have is writing. And I am enraged. And so I will write. Bring it.

on money, working, cancer

Some people are always shocked- happily so- when they find out I continue to work and teach and everything as I do cancer. It seems to satisfy their need for me to be OK- “Well, she’s working, she must be OK!” I want to be clear about why I continue to work.

I have to.

I am a graduate student in the end stages of my dissertation. This is work. Some people have the wild idea that doctoral studies are not really work, and I’m not even going to get into that. I work harder as a doctoral candidate- between writing my dissertation, teaching courses, doing service work, collaborating with other grad students, supporting an academic unit, and participating in various conferences, talks, and other scholarly activities- than I ever did when I worked in non-profits and in schools. This is not the topic.

As a graduate student, I do not have access to paid leave. My Vanier Fellowship only provides paid maternity leave. There is no paid sick leave, not even when you have life-threatening cancer. When I was diagnosed, I did call around my university, wondering what sorts of resources and supports were available. I called all of the appropriate departments and centers and people who oversee graduate studies. There’s really no safety net for students who have life-threatening illness during graduate school. Had I taken a leave of absence, I would have had to pay back funding I had already received in the semester where the leave began. I was welcome to take a leave, but my funding would be put on hold. If I took a leave, I would be ineligible for any university based work- no teaching, no supporting academic units, none of the things available to me as a graduate student.

I decided I did not need to be stressed out financially on top of being stressed out about cancer. Was this a decision? Yes. But would you decide to take a leave when it meant that none of your sources of income would be available to you? And so, I continued working on my Ph.D. It did not seem I had a choice, and even now, six months into cancer, I don’t know how I would have managed the decision to stop working.

Financial stress is one of the major differences between young adults with cancer and everyone else. Often, we do not have the resources to take time away from work in order to heal. Of course, there are plenty of older folks who face similar challenges, but particular to my experience is age. Cancer survivorship is classed, and those with more resources fare much better. But this is about relative age and about youngness. Trust me, it sounds great to be able to watch movies all day and spend more time exercising and crafting perfectly organic meals, and my body would thank me times a million if I could take off time to rest and heal. The thought, though, of having no income at all made my skin crawl at the beginning of this, and the last thing we needed was more stress on top of the cancer. I need to justify this decision to myself and to everyone around me, and so I remind myself what a good distraction the dissertation is, I remind myself I really want to defend in June, I remind myself I want to get on with my life. And it’s true- I do want those things. I just might want something else had there been another option.

So, when you ask why I continue to work, and applaud the decision, take a moment to consider what isn’t said. Think about the financial impact, on top of the cancer, of not working. This comes up with other young adults with cancer all the time. Everyone is stressed about finances. Many of us are working. Others moved in with Mom or Dad to save money and to have access to people who could care for us while we are sick. Those of us who don’t live in the same city as our parents, like me, often ask the parents for financial help during this time, and some of us, like me, are lucky enough to have parents who can help, but many of us are not. I am unsure why finances are so taboo, but let me tell you, cancer burns right through any savings, cancer eats up extra money, cancer makes money really, really tight. For some reason, it seems like the world wants cancer patients to take it easy, do nothing, rest, but the world never whispers about the financial strain of resting. It seems like those around us want to believe in this mythic world of resting and relaxing in the face of cancer, and in this mythic world there is enough money for organic groceries and naturopathic care and expensive post-surgery clothing. It’s a myth, guys. Please join me in reality, where I spend my time with other young adults with cancer who tell me stories of  watering down yogurt to save money, sewing their own drain-holders into camisoles since they can’t afford the post-surgery clothing, moving in with their parents because their resources have been obliterated, and, in my case, teaching a course starting ten days after my mastectomy surgery. Don’t tell my surgeon.

Finances considered, I think there are better and worse times for getting cancer. A worse time is when you are not financially stable enough to take time away from work to heal. A worse time is when your barely existent savings are wiped out entirely by cancer costs. A worse time is when you worry about how much parking and wigs and mastectomy camis cost more than you worry about how long you have to nap or which kind of reconstruction you should have. A better time is when you are much older, have a secure job and nest egg, and can take time off work without worrying about how you will pay for the organic cucumber juice your naturopath recommended. Sure, it’s never going to be great, and it’s always going to be a horrendous time because cancer is horrendous.

For many of us young adults, cancer smashes the heart and the piggy bank at the same time, and we are left to wonder how to start picking up the pieces from this particular kind of ruin. It seems good, productive, helpful, necessary to acknowledge these distinct challenges. Don’t assume that a working young adult with cancer is working because they want to, they need to be distracted, they like their work, they are doing “well,” whatever that means. They have cancer. It’s probably a very complex decision, and there are probably layers and layers of challenges underneath the decision to work. For me, there are. I am glad I am working on my dissertation, I and do hope to finish in June. But that is not the whole story, and somewhere a little bit of the road that led to the decision to continue work should be illuminated for everyone else, should be heard and seen and considered. I don’t know why we cringe so much at the mention of finances- and even I was worried, as I began writing this post, about exposing our financial situation, about discussing money. But really? That’s what our world is built on. Why would it be any different in cancerland? Cancer bodies play in capitalism, too. You would think that would be obvious, with all the products marketed to us, especially to breast cancer patients. Our buying power is coveted, but we forgot to talk about our piggy banks. Broken hearts, broken piggy banks. That is young adult cancer.