Two More Videos

So…. I’ve been playing in digital storytelling all day. Someone gave me a blue stuffed elephant. She’s fanciful, and squishy, and soft and lovey. She reminds me that all of us need to engage the child-spirits inside of us. So, here’s two more. It’s been fun. In the morning, though, it’s back to writing-job-applying-article-editing-reading-book-proposal-prepping-course-planning. So, an old-school stop motion made in stopmo from the night before the lumpectomy, and a Videoscribe animation from today, the day after the lumpectomy….



worry dolls and making things

When I was a little girl, some well-traveled family friends brought me back a headband from Guatemala that was covered in tiny worry dolls wearing long jewel toned skirts and pig-tail braids. Sometimes I wore the headband, but I knew too, that the minuscule dolls were supposed to live under my pillow, and each night I was supposed to whisper worries to them for safe-keeping.

Fast-forward two decades, and I found myself at the Callanish retreat, sitting around a table listing cancer-worries. On a sheet of nice, thick, art paper- the kind that feels smooth and strong beneath your palm- I let the cursive writing flow with worries, beginning each sentence in purple and highlighting the worry with red, using, of course, those special colored fine-tipped felt pens I take everywhere. I wrote in structures, form, creating angles where the worry felt sharp, writing long lines across the sheet and criss-crossing where the worry felt like it intersected with a previous listed worry, making structures, squares, shapes out of words. All these worries of course, architectural as they were, needed a home, a home outside my body, somewhere to be safely tucked away and hidden and held tightly.

And so we made worry dolls. A basket of yarn balls was passed around, and we formed our dolls out of rough, cream-colored fabric and pipe cleaners. My hot pink gittery and zebra stripe pipe cleaners weave throughout my little doll’s arms and legs, making sure she can stand and leap and swing and sit on her knees. The rainbow ball of yarn brought her to life, tightly wound around her little body and colors seeping into one another seemlessly. I added a magenta skirt and lace belt and green worry pocket, and sized her up. Her hair grew quickly, long strands of yellow and red and orange and sparkly yarn and wool and ribbon, strands that would flutter out behind her when she flew through fairyland, hair that she could sit on in the forest in case she forget her sitting pillow. Her hands and feet were born of glass beads and hot glue, and her face remains blank, creamy cloth that invites others who encounter her to imagine, to write her face happy or delighted, terrified, scared, sad, wise, curious, hopeful, thoughtful, pensive. For certainly she is all those things, and I didn’t want to force her into being any one feeling-facial expression!

And so she took off. She became magical, as I wove her together in my hands, she came to life as I sewed a pocket onto her dress for holding worries. I knew she was a forest nymph, one who played in the morning dew drops and who was friends with all those little forest fairies. A little bit of stuffing popped out of her leg, and the white scar in her otherwise rainbow-leg was just proof she was real, real like me, a tiny body with all kinds of things to do in the world and a not-totally perfect leg.

And so I finished that little worry pocket, and I started to cut the worries from the giant art paper, and I decided the little creature’s name was Ada Mi Worry Doll, like hada in Spanish, which means fairy. And of course since I love technology and she had pipe-cleaners in her arms and I had a whole afternoon to do with as I wished, I made a stop motion animation of Ada Mi Worry Doll, and together we played on the swings and in the creek and atop the mountain, and it was SO FUN. The last few years, I do all the facilitating and not a lot of the making, and making this little doll and stop motion reconnected me to the absolutely sparkly joy of creating something and animating and storytelling in ways that are unconstrained and silly and pure. And also, there’s something therapeutic and centering in storytelling, in capturing an imaginary narrative on video, in telling a story in a format that is rough, uneven, wonky, gritty. And stop-motion is all of that, especially when it involves rainbow dolls, cancer worries, and shady river-forest.

So be kind when you watch this silly little stop motion, which I began to make a oboe-sound-track to, but did not finish. You’ll see how the sound is there and not, matches and does not, is empty and too much. I actually decided to leave it that way, because life is kind of like that. Sometimes there’s sound, and sometimes when we least expect it the volume is shut off. Sometimes the key matches, sometimes there’s dissonance, sometimes it sounds weird. Life is weird, and cancer is the weirdest part of life. So here’s the video:

It seems silly, making a worry doll and a stop-motion. But we adults need more silly. And besides, it’s not silly. It’s serious business, making and crafting and imagining and processing. The worry dolls hold a space for worry, for concern, for not-knowing– and when we can give our worries over to our little worry dolls, we make room for hopefulness (not pink ribbon hope, but gritty, grounded hope) and for playfulness, for gentle curiosity and surprising encounters. I think the wisest of us all know what children know- that making things, painting pictures, dreaming up stories, molding materials is a way to reflect our experience to the world, to give voice where words fail, to engage our playfulness in spite of the most challenging of circumstances.

What do you do with your worries? Do you hold them in your belly, shreds of fear scribbled on scrap paper and blocking the light? Do you release them in tears, and run scared like I did from my fear of death? Do you whisper them to worry dolls that live under your feather pillow?

I am grateful to have this little Ada Mi Worry Doll, with her pocket for worries. I love fantasies and magical stories, and I imagine she takes all those worries and flies around with them, until she ends up in her fairy house* in the woods (did you see it in the video? It’s made of sticks), and there she dumps all the worries, and she covers them with moss and pine needles, and she sleeps on top of them. Her little worry-doll fairy house is in the kingdom of the worry dolls, and I imagine she lives in the same tree as some of the other worry-dolls from other people on the retreat. I can see their worry dolls in my mind, each perfect reflections of the makers’ spirit, and I imagine which ones live upstairs from me, and which ones burrow underneath the trees’ roots where it is cold and damp, and which ones live down the pine needle lane. I imagine them flying with all our worries, and shaking them out each night, so we can charge forward, move on, live without them while knowing the worries are all cared for. Ah, the fantasies.

So I hope that you make things. That you imagine stories that link you to other people and experiences and worlds. That you pull out your glue and that you let your mind wander to soft yarns and cool clay and stop-motion animation. Let’s all keep creating.

*Fairy houses. It’s a thing I learned from Tajar. Tajar is a mythical camp creature, part tiger, part badger, part jaguar. Tajar loves to play tricks on people, and Tajar is insanely silly and very mischevious and so very kind. Tajar is full of love. Tajar is everyone and anyone and no one all at once, and Tajar lives at every summer camp and touches the lives of all the summer campers everywhere. So, fairy houses. Tajar told me once, when I became a camp director, that there were indeed fairies living in the woods. I didn’t believe Tajar, but Tajar promised that if I began to build tiny little fairy houses, the fairies would come. Fairy houses can be a little bit of moss and three sticks leaned against a tree, or they can be elaborate and multi-storied. Fairy houses must only be made of natural materials, and often the wind can blow them over. But if you build them, you will see the fairies, Tajar told me. So I started, and I never stopped, because Tajar was right, as Tajar always is. If you want to see the fairies, you must build fairy houses everywhere. What a magical way to bring light and sparkle into our everyday lives. Have you ever seen a fairy? If not, it’s probably time to build a fairy house.

got married, got cancer, got Ph.D.

That’s how it went: I got married, I got cancer, and I got a Ph.D. We could say the cancer treatment was bookended by marriage and a Ph.D.. Highest highs, lowest lows, weirdest moments, sweetest love. That was the last year. As we approach our one year wedding anniversary now as Dr. & Mr., (did you know Dr. always goes first, and it’s kind of effed up that we require a piece of guidance for what to do in formal situations when (gasp!) she outranks her husband, but I’m also fist-pumping because it seems like we doctors bucked the patriarchal ettiquete system and I love being first and I love bucking the system, so it’s a win.) it seems appropriate to reflect on the sheer madness of this life we call ours.

The sheer madness, the absolute horror, the queer fortune we stumbled across in the darkness. Some people say that getting my Ph.D. is a silver lining, or building a wide cancer-support network is a silver lining, or that finding all the young writers and poets and media makers who had breast cancer is a silver lining. I completely disagree. Maybe it’s a queer fortune. But it’s not a silver lining. I will not, and I repeat, will not ever cast this queer fortune a silver lining. I’m absolutely unwilling to participate in a system that tries to appreciate, celebrate, or otherwise make pink, pretty, and palatable a disease that has manifested in our bodies because we continue to ensnare ourselves with capitalism and we get sicker and we yet we refuse to take the kind of radical political action that would hold transnational companies accountable for causing pain, illness, death, horror. So, I’m unwilling. I won’t engage that way. No silver linings. But maybe I can think about the support of my community as queer fortune. I have found friends, I have found role models, I have found celebrators and I have found people who can cry their eyeballs out with me. And besides, now I have a Ph.D. so I’ll base my resistance to silver linings in research and theorize my way out of ever needing to relate in even the most subtle ways to some mystical duplicitous gratefulness for cancer, and then I’ll run into the sunset with my queer fortune.

Because guys, I got the Ph.D.. I have wanted those three letters after my name since I was like 20. I remember asking a young professor I had my senior year at Pitzer College again and again, how she decided to do the Ph.D.. She told me her story, which involved communities of Asian American baseball players, more than once, until she tired she turned to me and asked, “Haven’t I told you this before?” Truth be told, she had. More than once. I just wanted to keep hearing it, I wanted the words to wash over me, I wanted to imagine myself in her shoes, each time she recounted how she got her Ph.D.. But I got my Ph.D., and I don’t need to imagine myself in her shoes anymore: I got my own big-girl heels in which to do my Ph.D. dance. Maybe she has an inkling of the sort of impact her story had on me. Maybe I should tell her.

On Dr. day, I was nervous as nervous could be. I arrived early. I was too nervous to drink my jar of perfectly juiced organic vegetables, but I guzzled my almond milk latte. I flipped through my slides. I stared obsessively at my theory and concept maps. I could only half-acknowledge each new person as they arrived in the room, the committee members settling in around the table and everyone else taking seats on the periphery. I made sure my supervisor had a secret hand gesture in case I was going way off track, a gesture that would scream to me and only me “re-focus!” I listened on repeat to wakawaka, channeling all the AMIGOS spirit I could muster.

And then it began. “The exponential rise in access to networked media has paralleled a research trend that celebrates participatory practices….” And the nerves calmed in about thirty seconds because I realized, DUH, I’m talking the stuff I dream about at night. And I do mean dream at night. This is theory with which I have a deeply embodied relation: in fact, there’s one book that whenever I open it, I want to climb inside. I want to get my body between the lines of text, and know how it feels to lay inside of those ideas, I want to taste the words and eat the ideas and snuggle up really close with the sentences. I want to climb inside the pages. I’ll let you imagine if its this book, or this one, or this one, or this one.

And you know when I relaxed, at the defense? I relaxed when I got to the methods slide, and the bullet point reminded me to “explain AMIGOS,” and I could feel all those people, that vast community, that gigantic network of people dancing to wakawaka and planing youth workshops and feverishly believing in a world that doesn’t yet exist.¬† I could explain AMIGOS backwards, upside down, and inside out. So when I got to the bullet point, 75 seconds into the presentation, I took a deep breath and in that AMIGOS explanation, everyone who was ever with me in AMIGOS was present. My host mom from the Dominican Republic who used to braid my hair every morning was there, and board members with whom I’ve struggled over the meaning and mission of AMIGOS were there, and Maribel, who I ran the Boaco project with was there, and the girls I went through AMIGOS trainings with were there, and my staffs and youth were there, and my Boaco truck driver Alfredo, who got into and out of so many pickles with me was there, and the Plan Boaco team was there, and the communities that loved me, and the youth that I love were all there, in those words.

And so I could breathe. The rest was history. It felt so good.

Then came the exam period, during which the committee poses questions for the candidate to answer. And the questions were so generous, and so insightful. I got to talk about practice and theory and movements and ideas and evaluation and hope and democratic practice and agency. I could not have asked for more glittery, exciting, hopeful, engaging questions. I loved every single one. They were light and playful. The external report was magical and exciting, and magic in the form of a report from someone who’s work I admire so much makes for so much bright, hopeful energy. And my supervisor with the secret-code-for-refocusing? She never made the signal, she only nodded and smiled really big, and I so I knew we were golden. I know so well the way she peers over her glasses with one raised eyebrow as if to say, this isn’t good enough yet, right before she dismantles my theory like someone pulling the wooden piece out of a jenga-tower that makes the whole thing crumble. And so the smiles were a big deal.

You know what was especially awesome? My supervisor said this whole thing about being able to do critical work without extinguishing the passion-flame, about being able to do post-structural and feminist critique and still believe in the power of young people to play with revolution, and about being able to write a critical diss and still be hopeful for something outside of capitalist structures. There have been times when I have doubted AMIGOS. Moments when I have wondered, wow, is this too colonial, too racist, too gendered for me to associate with? And yes, sometimes, it is all of those things, but even in the face of that stuff, I have to say my belief in AMIGOS is still brilliant and passionate and willing. I believe. I love youth and technology and democratic practice. I am hopeful. And I think I can ground that hope in theory, in Tsing’s friction and Zerilli’s democratic practice. Knowing that my supervisor M thinks so too is really, really cool.

And then the committee deliberated, and we waited outside and chewed our fingernails, and finally they came out to get me, Dr. Hauge! And there were no revisions. And it was only 70 minutes long, which is about 50% shorter than every doctoral exam ever. And so now I just need to turn this thing in, brush my hands off, and figure out what on earth is next.

But what is next can wait. We went out, we ate, we drank, we celebrated, we slept. And the whole time, I was thinking, I’M A DOCTOR! And I got to celebrate that with people I love so dearly and so much and it was awesome. And I still am on a kind of high, because well, I’m a Ph.D..

So when people say “you know what cancer cannot do?” I say bullshit. Cancer can take and ruin everything: it definitely can cripple hope, shatter love, and erode friendship. It invades the soul, steals life, and conquers the spirit. It is insufferable. It seeps into every corner. But I got a Ph.D. anyway. Not the same Ph.D. I would have gotten without cancer, for cancer forever changed everything. But a Ph.D..

People often ask how. They want to know how I finished writing, held committee meetings, and re-drafted chapters between chemotherapies and mastectomies and blood draws. I never really know what the other option is that everyone seems to refer to, that would have been “easier.” I missed that memo. It always seemed like this was the only choice. My supervisor never blinked at the cancer. She just listened and then kept pushing the theory, as she always had. She had breast cancer, and maybe she knew that the consistent distraction my dissertation work provided was comforting and safe. It is very weird I got breast cancer while working under someone who themself had breast cancer, and who now writes about the cultural politics of cancer. Maybe that was some kind of queer fortune. It is odd, wonky, and uneven. But it was something to grasp and hold steady in the cancer-tilt-a-whirl. And in the end, I can say, had cancer, have Ph.D.. Had cancer, have Ph.D..

I hate cancer. Getting the Ph.D. is not a silver lining, but it is a moment of really really awesome achievement. The people around me are not a silver lining, but they are so full of love and sparkle that we are all covered in metaphorical glitter. I am grateful for these people, but I didn’t need cancer to get them: I had them before cancer. Now I just have them and cancer. I wish I just had them.

It started with a wedding, and it ended with a Ph.D. What a crazy 365 days it has been in my life. So to sum up, the year in review: got married, got cancer, got Ph.D..






party in my body

The first time I went to yoga, just shy of three weeks after my mastectomy, I felt like I would never be able to do yoga again.

I thought I would never be able to lift my arms. I thought I would never be able to lay on my belly. I thought I would never be able to swing my arms into twisted up postures or hold my ankle in my hand and kick high above my head. I thought I would never be able to do these things again, ever. Just before the halfway mark of this yoga class I went to, I gave up. I couldn’t do anything. Though I was advised to take six weeks off yoga, I didn’t heed the advice: after all, I did yoga through chemo and I always adapt, or interpret doctor recommendations, anyway, and who likes rules like that?

But. I had not realized how you pretty much use your pec to do everything in yoga, and I couldn’t move my left pec muscle without terribly aching pain. My side ached, my arm hurt, everything was stiff, and I couldn’t do any of the postures. I walked out in tears. Dr. Yoga-Surgeon was there, and when I left she stopped making evil eyes at me for going to yoga before I was “allowed” and followed me out of the studio to reassure me that leaving was the best course of action, and that I would be able to do yoga just as soon as my body had a chance to heal the internal trauma. How kind of her. I half-believed her. I was horribly embarrassed. It sucked.

But now, the glory! Turns out the doc was right about waiting for my body to heal. Now, I can do many of the postures, almost as easily as before. Sure, I still have to modify certain poses because things are still very tight and everything gets very sore very fast, and I can’t lay on my belly, but every time I can do anything, or even part of anything, a gigantic surge of OMG! I CAN DO THIS! runs through my body and it is awesome. I get so excited I cannot stop smiling even though I feel like a total dork with a big old grin on my face in the middle of yoga class for no apparent reason.

It feels like a party in my body.

It happened again today when I forgot my dongle and had to dash from a meeting back to my office. I ran. And it didn’t hurt. And I couldn’t stop smiling and so I started skipping instead. And that didn’t hurt either. And it was awesome. Another party in my body.

I know what it feels like to have millions of my cells systematically killed. I know what it feels like to need to sleep for an entire week from chemo. I know what it feels like to shoot up my belly fat with medicine to make my white blood cells blossom. I know what it feels like to be so exhausted that watching a movie takes too much energy. I know what it feels like to collapse to my knees after five minutes of yoga. I know what it feels like to watch the nurse put on protective clothing to inject me with toxic medicine. I know what it feels like to wonder what, and how, and when to disclose. I know what it feels like to believe the yoga practice that has been a coping mechanism throughout cancer might be gone and impossible forever.

And now, I know what it feels like to get that yoga practice back. I know what it feels like to skip around UBC without aching pain. I know what it feels like to wear a wig with a couple centimeters of hair underneath. Mostly, I know what it feels like to move around this world and discover something new, something glorious, something marvelous, something amazing about my body. The past many weeks have been full of getting to know an unfamiliar body, a body I do not know, a body that feels like it is not mine.

There’s more to be discovered. For now, each time I go to yoga or the gym I learn I can do something new. Last night at yoga, I lifted both my arms over my head for half moon, and it was so amazing I couldn’t stop smiling for the whole class. I’m certain everyone thought I was a lunatic. I still am grinning about it, so delighted with myself. The little things. And the parties in my body, after my body was so devoid of parties for so long.

I have now to discover so much more about my body, the body with a breast I cannot feel, the body that has been battered such that I have had to radically alter my life plans, the body that has marched with me through the halls of the cancer agency, the body that is mine. It’s an odd thing, to have a body that is mine but with whom I don’t totally identify. It’s a slow process, bringing myself back into my body, becoming accustomed to this body. When I look in the mirror, the body I see isn’t the one I expect to see, and the vision of me I hold inside doesn’t map onto the material reflection. I shake my head, trying to clear the confusion and the surgeries and the chemo and the cancer residue and the life fuck-up, but the material reflection of someone I think I am not stares back.

And so for now, I just go to yoga. I relish the good feeling when I run and skip. I delight in being able to reach above my head and swing my arms. Party in my body. It’s what I got right now.






Cancer-cation is when you leave cancer behind, sort of. Of course, it’s still in you. It still defines you. It’s still the lens through which you see the world.

But during cancer-cation, you don’t talk about radiation decisions or mastectomy what-ifs, and you don’t answer when the Cancer Agency calls, and you don’t give a f*ck snowflakes are falling on your scalp. During cancer-cation, you order room service and take private ski lessons and talk about which drum-set stool your husband should buy. During cancer-cation, you spend lots of money and use your parents’ credit cards and don’t worry about the consequences. During cancer-cation, you see the First Person You Knew Who Had Breast Cancer, before you knew all the People With Breast Cancer, and you don’t really talk very much about cancer, because it’s not very fun. During cancer-cation, you drink lattes and don’t always ask for almond milk instead of regular milk, and you eat nachos that have corn in them even though the naturopath put an X over corn consumption, and you imagine coming skiing every Monday, and kind of think, maybe you should do that, and really believe it. During cancer-cation, you come home and the kitten has not destroyed a single role of toilet paper and the tulips are still alive in the vase on the table, and there is no laundry to do. During cancer-cation, you get a sort-of-cancer-break, even though you still have to be cancer on the inside of the cancer-cation.

But you don’t totally get a break. The little hammering men that have taken up residence in your bones, thanks to the latest chemo, refuse to stop hammering, though all the exercise makes them tired and they take naps. The skin flap between your fore-finger and thumb still is swollen and painful, and the skin on the bottom of your feet continues to peel off in the grossest possible side effect you could imagine. When you’re skiing down the mountain, you still know you have cancer, and on the massage question-sheet, there’s a spot to check “cancer,” and you do. And then the masseuse takes it upon herself to give you a hundred cancer-tips even though she’s never had cancer, and so you leave her a very reduced tip and a note explaining being told to juice daily and read certain health food books is not very relaxing. You still wonder if the pain in your finger nails means they will fall off, and you wonder if your ski goggles are enough to camouflage your eyelash-less eyelids, and then later when you see people without the goggles you wish you’d glued on eyelashes. You still wonder if maybe you should just tell the plastic surgeon to fix your cancer boob up with the belly fat, and leave the healthy boob untouched, even if that means they are uneven.

But, it’s still cancer-cation. It’s still kind of awesome. It still means you get home from cancer-cation and take bubble baths and eat canteloupe and berries and cheese. It still means you’re so excited to only have three chemos left. It still means wine means something special. It still means you had a whole ton of fun with the Argentine ski instructor and Sammy on the slopes. It still means there’s no dissertation and no grading and no music composing and no students and no postdoc apps until tomorrow. We like those things, but they’re better when you get to come back to them after the spa and ski. It still is awesome.

My body will be tired tomorrow, in that awesome kind of “I did something” way. I’ve been tired that way for the past few days, thank you kick-boxing. A word on kick-boxing: I think all the cancer-people should do it, and everyone else, too. As the yoga teacher who took me put it, “it’s great for the rage.” She’s absolutely right. So satisfying. Hitting things is really, really awesome. Loved it, and my calves felt it for a day or so. Enter, spa. Problem solved. Generally, though, sweating a lot, working my ass off, risking whizzing down mountains, trying to hold postures longer, kicking pads, hitting tennis balls, lifting heavier and heavier and heavier weights- awesome, makes me feel better, more alive. Less dead.

I think I need more active moments in my life. More kick-boxing. More yoga. More outside. More ski. More swim. More hiking. More movement. More, more, more.

Cancer-cation, I want more of you.

P.S. As a side note, this is Presidents’ Day in the States. Which means it was a great weekend for us to escape, though Canada doesn’t celebrate Presidents’ Day weekend, because this is the weekend my fam always went to “the snow,” a.k.a. Tahoe, though this weekend I think I’m the only one anywhere near the snow….


Today, we’re relaxing a la grandiose. We spent the afternoon at the Scandinave, soaking in hot tubs and relaxing in saunas while the sky dumped buckets and buckets of snow on us. It was delightful. Now we’re snuggled in at the Fairmount, and we’re watching the Olympics, and we ordered room service. Oh la la! Tomorrow we’ll be on the slopes.

I’ve been thinking a lot today about passing. Passing as healthy, that is. I went bald at the spa. I soaked in the hot water and the snowflakes fell on my head and melted right away, and my pate was cold. I didn’t pass. That’s why some women wear wigs, but not to the spa. They wear same wig everyday, wigs that look like their hair. Any dumbass should be able to figure out I don’t have hair. I mean, I wear a different wig everyday. And sometimes I wear a purple wig. Come on, dudes. If you can’t put two and two together I probably need to find smarter friends. Kidding. Sort of. Last week, a colleague who doesn’t know (well, I haven’t told her explicitly) that I have cancer saw my wig, different than the wigs I’ve worn on the last two days I’ve bumped into her, and asked, “Is this a performance?” I shrugged. I don’t know what it is. I wear wigs, too, but I today I recognized that act as explicitly not about passing. It’s a lavish, extravagant not-passing. Maybe it’s a performance. I kind of like thinking about it as a performance.

I don’t want to pass. I don’t want to go around telling you, “I have cancer,” but obviously¬† I’m not healthy, and despite the advice from “Look Good, Feel Better,” which could be more aptly named, “Try to Look Normal, Make Everyone Else Feel Better,” I don’t have an insane desire to fool the world. I don’t care if people wonder. It’s fucked. Maybe if people wonder they’ll do something. My wigs- and this weekend on the slopes, my hats- are an extravagant not-passing.

I mean, sometimes I worry. Like I wore the long platinum wig to the bank, and the teller who goes to my yoga studio asked “how I got my hair like that.” I shrugged. Then I worried if I would have to wear only the long platinum wig to the bank, so she wouldn’t ask more, and I wouldn’t have to provide cancer-explanation about why my hair was blonde, then red, then purple, then short. Then I worried she’d find me out, see me bald at yoga and think I lied to her. And then I stopped for a second to think about if I cared if this girl thought I lied to her? Nope. Besides, I didn’t lie. I just didn’t explain. Explaining, educating, it’s exhausting. Often it leads to me consoling the other person, and hello folks, I’m the one with cancer. So, no, I don’t care. She’ll see me at yoga eventually. Who cares.

I don’t want to pass as something I’m not. It doesn’t seem fair to me, in fact it seems cruel, to ask me to participate in becoming who I’m not. It seems cruel because it denies my reality, it denies the horror and the fear and the madness. Cancer is real. It’s real in young people. My baldness is that realness. My body is invaded. It forces you to think about walking around, healthy, and it forces us all to think about the privilege of health, and to think about plastics and pesticides and health care. It’s brilliantly, horrifically, real. I hope.

So no, I’m not interested in passing.

I’m interested in playing. I’m interested in performance. I’m interested in real.


Today, sunny. Finally. Awesome.

I got up early and I wrote, and I had a orange-berry smoothie that was delicious. I drank it all and it tasted like sweet magic. I it’s got to go to morning yoga, and I could do all the postures, and it was warm and familiar and I felt so powerful and centered. Now I’m sitting in a cafe, without a single commitment to anyone this afternoon. I have the whole rest of the day to listen to classical music and work on my dissertation. Even better, I want to work on my dissertation, and I feel well enough to work on my dissertation. Tomorrow my best friend comes to visit, and it’s supposed to stay sunny.

Remember in the Land Before Time, when Little Foot found that leaf in the desert, with the droplet of water in it? Well, if you also grew up in the 80s and 90s and watched Land Before Time as much as my cousins and brother and I did, then you probably remember. It’s a lovely moment, and he looks into that water in the leaf in the desert, and Little Foot finally has something to drink. Today isn’t exactly like that, it’s just a little like that. It’s a handful of sunshine and feel-good in a place where there isn’t a whole lot of awesome.

Sure, I’m still tired. My stomach turns if I think about the next chemo or whiff the wrong smell. But I feel a thousand times better than yesterday, and five thousand times better than the day before yesterday, and…. Now, that’s all that matters. Feeling well enough to do things I love in the world. Feeling well enough to get excited about the urgency with which my diss awaits. Feeling well enough to hole up in a cafe to write. Feeling well enough to stop and buy the cats treats. Feeling well enough to walk from yoga to the cafe and let the sunshine fall on my freckled skin. Feeling well enough.

So here’s some random wig pics…

wiggin’ out with lacey bras & cowgirl boots

We all have power outfits. Clothes that, when they slip onto our bodies, breathe force into our footsteps and make the day a little bit brighter. First day of school socks. Lucky t-shirts. Magical headbands. I decided earlier this week, as soon as the requisite four-day chemo exhaustion passed, that I needed some power outfits to propel me through the next ten days, into which I must squeeze the activities, to-do lists, and writing of the chemo day and four exhaustion days.

Sitting down to write, I needed something more. The yellow cowgirl boots in the hall closet beckoned. And lingerie. Lacy and red, or a playful black tuxedo bra? Favorite jeans, new Christmas sweater. Dangley earrings and a fun hat topped it off. Now I was ready to sit down and write. It’s amazing what a little costuming can do! Evidently, it can convince me I’m ready to rock and roll.

And then I added a little something I thought I’d never add. That long red wig, sitting on a styrofoam head. I fit it to my head, tossed the curls. Huh. I was only planning on wearing a wig for job interviews (who wants to hire a bald assistant professor?!!?!) but what the hell, after all, I’m writing this dissertation conclusion so I can get a job, right? But really, I thought to myself, this is kind of silly. I already had decided how I felt about wigs: fake. Also, I hate the word wig: it sounds so nasty and so dirty, like flakey heads and horrendous baldness, and like grease behind the ears. Why would I ever associate myself? I already decided I didn’t need a wig to make me “feel normal” or disguise my baldness: after all, shouldn’t people have to confront the reality that cancer is invading our bodies? Shouldn’t they be made uncomfortable by my bald head, by the mundane nature of cancer in the everyday? Before her death from breast cancer, Audre Lourde wrote of her decision not to have breast reconstruction or wear a synthetic breast after mastectomy, deciding instead to bear the scars and show her body as a marker, an embodied political statement about cancer, and obvious sign that she was a warrior. Wasn’t being bald kind of the same, my bald head symbolizing the toxins and plastics that have invaded my body, destroying my bodies’ own knowledge about how to make cells? Besides, so many of the young women I know, just slightly ahead of me on this journey, have shared with me their own stories of rejecting the wig, rocking the bald head, being what one called “authentically bald.” Katie writes beautifully about this decision.

When I sent my brother the pictures of me in my now rapidly expanding wig collection, he responded by telling me which wig looked “most believable.” Of course, he picked the long red one, as most of the people who have known me the longest have. I had long red hair, for a long time, and so naturally, that particular gorgeous wig looks the most like what they know to be me. And isn’t that the point? Isn’t a wig to cover up something embarrassing, to make me feel like a “woman” again (uh-oh, now we’re back to gender….), to hide what’s underneath, which invariably is all that is dirty, ugly, ear-greasy, so no one knows? Oh, the stigma of a woman without hair, a woman with a wig. So isn’t a wig to cover it up, whatever “it” may be?

Well, no, no it isn’t.

It’s not really about believability. In fact, it’s not about believability at all. Nor is it about trying to recreate some image of me such that I forget I’m bald. I’m not trying to fool anyone here, and folks will definitely notice one day I’ve got long curly red locks and the next I’ve got a short blue & platinum ‘do. It will be especially confusing when I intersperse the wigs with my ever growing awesome hat collection (thanks, friends!) and then, sometime when I’m feeling brave, a henna-tattooed bald head day here and there.

When I donned that long red wig yesterday, suprise of all suprises. It was so fun! The curls were like, real curls. It was long, and flip-able. Full of body. Great for twirling. Next thing I knew, I was picking out a second wig from the Cancer Agency free wig bank. Mostly, the Cancer Agency wig bank is full of wigs that made me look like I was trying way too hard to be a middle-aged real estate agent, but I got lucky. My second wig is for those days I need to feel like Brittney Spears. It’s platinum and has dark roots and has sweap-ish bangs, and it’s long and straight. And best of all, it was free!

This morning it happened again. I woke up and bam, I needed to go to this wig store people have told me about. Immediately, I was on my way, head clad in a red cap, to Vancouver’s famed wig store, Abantu. There were wild, long, sweepy wigs. And purple wigs. I could go for inches and inches of tightly wound curls or a mohawk. And the price, the price! Affordable! I walked out with the two shorter wigs, one tinged with blue. I am itching to go back. I cannot wait. I want them all. I want color and spikes and curls and highlights and bangs and dreads and bobs.

So no, believability is not high on the list. I can say f*ck you, cancer and f*ck you, companies releasing toxins and f*ck you, systems that rely on plastic with anything on my head. It’s all about the performance. It’s about the guts to wear different hair everyday, and the playfulness in having too many wigs, the silliness in going from dark to platinum and bobs to waist-length.¬† Can you engage my hair drag? An endless parade of head-decorations- be they scarves, wigs, henna tattoos, or hats (and i will wear them all)– is to parody the absurdity of cancer. That is to say, to laugh in cancers’ face. To be careless with death. To dress up politics with morbid sparkle.

It’s a charade. A performance. A pantomime. A make-believe. An improvisation. A theatre. An experiment.

It’s grounded in the now, the present, the moment. That’s all we got. It’s not about hoping for a cure in the future. It’s about now.

It’s an assertion that something isn’t right in the world, and it’s way past time to notice.

It’s an insistence that we imagine something new. That cancer dis ease explode and shock. That we notice. That you notice. That something be done with morbid sparkle.

So engage my wig drag. My hair drama. My hats and my henna. We’ll see where it goes. Right now, it’s powerful, and there’s cowgirl boots and lacey bras, too. So f*ck you, cancer. F*ck you, plastic. F*ck you, toxins.

Wigs, though, love you.