“Cancer Bitch” – week two

Nightfall in the Land of Cancer Bitch

Nightfall in the Land of Cancer Bitch

We got back late last night, coincidentally from the city of our “Cancer Bitch” author, Chicago.  I had just enough time to write the first part of this post.  But my copy of the book is still packed away and my wife is asleep.  So I will list the discussion questions for next week in tomorrow’s post. In the meantime you can start reading the next 40 pages or so. We were in the Windy City to attend a BMT InfoNet meeting for transplant survivors.  I hope to write more about that in the Tuesday post.

Did you find that a sense of humor and irony helped you at times while going through diagnosis and treatment? I think that this kind of attitude can be helpful in leavening an otherwise heavy situation.  Irony struck me in getting to see the first installment of the movie version of “The Lord of the Rings” and wondering if I should have since I might not live for the other two installments.  I also joked about renewing subscriptions for magazines if I might not be around to read them all.  Then there are the jokes about having the opportunity to lose that extra weight.

~ She describes her mastectomy, her followup care, and her experience with drainage tubes and post-surgery camisole.  What were some of your reactions to surgical procedures? to adoption of this new patient culture with special clothes, prostheses, and rituals? I always thought most leukemias were fairly elegant in not requiring any major surgeries.  But few of us can escape the knife with the need for biopsies and central lines.  Having to have an line like a Hickman, triple lumen catheter or a PICC certainly marks one both internally and externally as a patient.  As a nurse I was always on one side of the healthcare equation.  Becoming a patient introduced me to that whole other culture marked by all its customs and rituals – lab draws, side effects, bottles and bottles of pills, routinely submitting to being poked and prodded while wearing the most meager clothing.

~ The author explains her choice of the title “Cancer Bitch” in a little “forward’ . When the term ‘Cancer Bitch” is first used in the journal, did it seem to fit the author’s personality? Since I only read with one eye I may have missed an explanation of the author’s chosen sobriquet.  It seemed like it appeared to suddenly in the text without reference or context.  In the short forward she mentions that “Cancer Vixen” was already taken.  But I would have liked to hear more about why she chose “Cancer Bitch”  What meaning, what power does the phrase have for her?  It’s how she signs her emails.  Perhaps she’ll expound on this for us…

~ When was the first time you used “the cancer card”? (March 12 entry) Use it early and often. I used to mention it in stores and restaurants“I have cancer”. Maybe it’s because I thought I looked so bad – still had hair but looked gaunt and sallow.  Maybe the burden of what could be a terminal cancer was too much to bear, maybe I wanted to spread that burden around.

~ Many of us lost hair to chemo.  Even though the author does not seem a vain person, the issue of hair is given a lot of space.  What are some of your own issues with alopecia? (you all know what that word means) I think there are some strong gender/culture issues at work here.  Losing my hair during transplant was not such a big deal for me even though I have had long hair.  Very short hair is an accepted, even hip style for men.  Not so for women.  On the other hand losing the beard I wore for 34 years, the beard that had seemed an intimate part of my physical persona, was more difficult.  I though I looked old, misshapen and weary. I thought that I looked too much like, oh my gosh! … a cancer patient!  I would like to hear some thoughts from our female readers!!

** (Apologies to the author.  I misspelled her name in several recent posts.  She is S.L. Wisenberg.  I have made the corrections.)


About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.


“Cancer Bitch” – week two — 2 Comments

  1. I swipe the cancer card so regularly with my husband, he just rolls his eyes and ignores me – I have cancer and a bad back, the cat has diabetes, and he has nothing! The hair issue is probably one of the biggest emotional stressors. I just didn’t look in the mirror at myself without a wig or cap for months.

    Two things about cancer – never give up hope and never give up your sense of humor… We all have to laugh sometimes and sometimes it can be very hard to laugh, but you need to let go and be silly.

    Now I have to read this book. It isn’t available around here and I’ll have to order it.

  2. I was in SF while you were in Chicago. As for the name “Cancer Bitch”–I was talking to a friend/student about doing a blog. I knew about the “Chronic Babe” blog so I asked what he thought about “Cancer Babe.” Then I suggested “Cancer Bitch.” He thought that was much more interesting. And I feel more bitch than babe.

Leave a Reply