I did it. I took my doctor’s advice and took it easy. What a difference a few hours make. I have a few things to write and edits to do this weekend, but someone in my community garden posted the following status on Facebook: “Today is so beautiful, it feels like all the other beautiful days were only a rehearsal.”

That motivated me to pull myself out from under my laptop and doldrums, pack up my ridiculously large garden hat and head to the garden. I always feel better, no matter how stressed out I am that day.

I feel calmer and more refreshed, and I do feel like everything’s going to be OK. Sitting on the sun-warmed bricks and clearing the weeds from the garden path for a little bit did me a world of good.

I did manage to take it easy for a few days, and I went to Southampton for a friend’s art opening last weekend with another of her friends. The three of us marveled at the fresh air. I love New York City—it’s my favorite place on earth. But sometimes, you just don’t know what you’re going to get when you breathe in. Sometimes it’s the delightful scent of Linden trees on a summer breeze and other times, it’s just hot garbage. These smells co-exist in such small spaces and change from block to block. I crossed the Gowanus Canal on a hot day, when it smells like the chemical stew of a Superfund site that it is, and once I reached the other side, it smelled like a cinnamon pastry.

The smell inconsistency doesn’t usually bother me, but there is something to be said for the smell of flowers and freshly-mown lawn.

Today, I realized that it is possible to find those same smells—you just have to be close enough to the ground. The lawn smell came from the grass I pulled up. I weeded near basil and tomatoes, which made me yearn for a pizza or Caprese salad, even though I’m not a huge fan of tomatoes. (I know, I know. I think George Carlin once put my feelings about tomatoes into words most eloquently; skip to a few minutes before the end.) The garden offered smells of mint, cilantro, rosemary and countless other flowers, as well as that summer scent of dirt and sun.

And then there’s the song of birds and the buzz of bees—plus the sirens and honk of horns. It is, after all, Brooklyn. But it did my soul some good.

I’ve said it before: Whenever I garden, I never wish I’d spent my time any other way.

My doctor’s advice to take it easy has really been stressing me out. That’s not a good sign. In fact, I didn’t even think to ask if she meant physically or mentally because I was already planning to ignore her advice and wondering how I could make my boyfriend un-hear what my oncologist had just said.

He comes with me to my appointments to make sure I don’t ignore my doctor’s advice.

I got the results of my PET scan today, and I had asked if there was anything I should be doing to get better. I should have known that it would be the one thing I feel I can’t do, but that I definitely should do.

The doctor showed me the PET scan, starting with the first, taken in April, that showed the lymphoma as black splotches. There were quite a few of them—the large mass in my chest and neck, and a bunch of dots through my upper chest, as well as one big spot near my belly. The later scan shows just two spots—the one that had pushed my ribs out in my chest and the belly spot. It’s good news—they’re still shrinking and I won’t be getting stronger treatment, just the remaining four (now three, as of yesterday) ABVD treatments.

But whereas the first PET scan after four treatments showed dramatic improvement, the scan after eight shows moderate improvement. It’s slowing down, while I am getting impatient. So there might be some cancer left after all this is done. Maybe.

Since that second optimistic scan in late May, I feel like my life has been falling apart, mostly with the stress of finding a new job and new insurance. I can’t relax. Since June, it feels like I’ve had a heavy leaden pot of worry in the center of my being, roiling with a big worry and stress stew. I understand my TV cancer companion Walter White more than ever. I want control. But I feel like I have very little right now—not over my body, my finances, my emotions. The latter I can do something about. I still need to work on my attitude.

I don’t cry over hair, no matter what. I’ve cried over test results my whole life. I’ve always beaten myself up about not doing my best. One day In kindergarten, the teacher gave out little awards for being able to recite your address. I knew my address. I was so excited when it was my turn. And then, when all those expectant faces were turned toward me, I blanked. This type of performance anxiety still haunts me today. We had another chance the next day and I got my award. In the end, everyone got one, of course. It was a round piece of orange posterboard that said “AWARD” with a gold star and ribbons that the teacher had stapled to the bottom. I was extremely disappointed in myself for having to use my second chance. I felt as if I didn’t deserve it.

It was the only award non-sporty me ever received until my high school decided to give out letters for academic achievements, and I lettered in academics. I sat near one of my friends who was a star swimmer and track athlete and was in my AP and honors classes. She was really nice, so I know she thought I was also against the academic letters when she said, “What am I going to put on the back of my jacket? Nerd?”

I was secretly kind of proud, but I obviously didn’t have a letter jacket. I wondered if it was too late to join a sports team so I could wear my academic letter. I don’t care about sports much, though, and who gets the ball to wherever it’s supposed to be. I’d rather work myself up into a frenzy about grades and what people may think of me professionally. I really do need a nerd letter jacket. I still have the letter somewhere. The little symbol, instead of a football or volleyball, is a torch. Presumably to fend off the cool people with letter jackets who want to give you wedgies and shove you into lockers.

And so now I have test results that disappoint me a little bit. Today was like getting a B or C when you expected an A. Or not getting a tiny paper award when you expected one.

Yet the remaining spot near my belly is also a glaring example of how useless my previous worrying has been. I knew there was a spot below my diaphragm that was considered cancerous—it’s what put me in the Stage 3 Hogdkin’s lymphoma category instead of 2. But until I saw the scan, I had no idea where it was, and I assumed that it was a smaller area, late to the cancer party that had been going on in my chest and neck. I didn’t realize it was one of the bigger infected nodes.

For the past months during treatment, I’ve had pain pangs in my abdomen that I’ve assigned various possible causes in my mind, from liver failure to intestinal distress. It’s the cancer, probably (hopefully) shrinking —a variation on the same twinges I feel in my upper chest from time to time.  I picture it going down like this. Maybe the black dot on my PET scan is my heavy cauldron of useless anxiety.

I’m struggling now more than ever. Everything just got real. Before this week, I could still kind of pretend like this wasn’t affecting me. I had hair. I had insurance, which runs out at the end of the month.

I didn’t realize my veins were in such sorry shape. I have a little bump on my left arm where part of a vein has hardened. There’s been talk of a Medi-Port, which typically stays in for a year and gives me the heebie-jeebies, though it looks a tiny version of Tony Stark’s Iron Man implant. My other option is the PICC line, which also gives me the heebie-jeebies, but stays in for less time.

Tons of people have had this done, so I need to admit to myself that if I need one, I need one, despite 100 percent chance of the heebie-jeebies. I need to stop trying so hard to stay “normal,” whatever that is. I don’t mind the baldness. I wear my wig only for other people, so I don’t freak them out. The same with the headcovers—that and to shield my head from the sun. (The pork pie hat, I just ordered, though—that’s for me.)

I’m hoping that since I have only three treatments left, my veins will hold out. The nurse yesterday, when she saw my tiny veins, told me she didn’t see how I got away with not having a port. My left arm just wasn’t accepting an IV, so we used my right again—for the third time in a row. When she was giving me the first round of drugs, though, she seemed more optimistic and said I probably have at least three good veins left. That’s all I need—for now!

I’m a little disappointed in my left arm for giving out on me. My left side, where this started and where the lymphoma remains. Side of my spare rib, my weaker eye and the ear that sticks out like the handle of a pitcher. A new study shows that there may not be such a thing as left-brained or right-brained thinking, so at least my creative and thoughtful right brain doesn’t have to forgive the left brain for those shortcomings. It turns out I’m just bad at math. I have a hard time distinguishing my right from my left anyway. I always make that “L” with my thumb and forefinger, no matter what—in the middle of yoga class, while giving directions to people who visibly look alarmed and doubtful (as they should be) when they see me do the hand “L.” Oh, well. It’s about body teamwork at this point, I suppose.

I also talked to a social worker yesterday, about what I would be eligible for now that my income has decreased. That helped—at first because I had to pull it together to talk to her. It’s the first time I cried while I was at chemotherapy. And it wasn’t even about bad news, just OK news. I really need to take a lesson from my veins and toughen up.

Plus, the social worker reminded me of some of the programs MSKCC has in place that I should take advantage of, including the Visible Ink writing program and the Look Good Feel Better program. I told her I’m not really into wigs, but she said there’s also makeup application tips. I haven’t been wearing much since my recurring eye infections, not that I wore that much makeup to begin with. But I think the social worker stressed the “feel better” part of the program, probably because I was still a little teary when she walked in. I put about as much effort into my beauty routine as ever—very little.

I prefer to spend my time working out—at first, in my early twenties, it was always to stay thin or lose weight. It wasn’t until later that I realized I worked out because I truly enjoyed it. It’s odd that after years of not caring about sports (and I still don’t), I’ve found what keeps me grounded is physical activity. It balances me out.

I’m eager to get back to my classes and yoga. Yet how many times have I heard that yoga isn’t just the poses? It gave me balance and sanity, and now that I’ve been told to take it easy, I’m going to have to practice less vigorously, but no less mindfully. But that’s another post completely. I’m eager to get back to working out, but this new “take it easy” advice probably doesn’t include kickboxing. And a Medi-port or PICC might limit my mobility for a bit.

I was beating myself up about something last week, and one of my former writers said, “Time to practice some self-compassion!” She’s right. I need to update my to-do list. It still will have jobs to apply for and deadlines to meet. But I’ve added three more reminders: Self-compassion, take it easy and stop worrying.

Being bald is pretty great. I’ve always wondered why one of my friends, who ordinarily would have a full head of hair, has shaved his head since college. (Though there have been a few periods where he’s had hair in that time.) But now I see the appeal.

Sometimes, I forget that I’m bald and I startle myself when I walk past a mirror. My boyfriend envisions me calling the police. “Hello? There’s a weird bald lady in my house! But I can’t find her!”

I just did yoga, and I didn’t have a ponytail in my way. My head is nice and cool—though unprotected from the sun. In fact, I have a barely noticeable tan stripe on my head from where the part in my hair was located. It’s like I’m Pepé Le Pew or wearing a Cleveland Browns helmet. (Like most of the Browns, sadly, I’m also not very good at football.)

As I mentioned, I’m not someone who cries over haircuts. When I donated my long hair earlier this year, the stylists seemed concerned and checked on me after they took off about 9 or 10 inches. (I knew then about my diagnosis and that I had more hair to lose in the coming months.)

This Sunday, as my boyfriend sheared off my hair, he asked me several times if I was OK. He also gave me a glass of whiskey.

If there’s a time for having your allotted occasional alcoholic beverage during chemo, I suggest you have it while your head is being shaved. And I recommend whiskey. It’s immediate and makes you feel warm inside.

But once my head was shaved, I realized I liked it. It’s not even the worst haircut I’ve ever had. That was probably when my mom decided to cut my hair into a short bob and perm my hair when I was in sixth grade. The result was a hairdo that someone said looked like a spaceship. A fuzzy flying saucer.

That was just the beginnings of my tress troubles. In the early 1990s, when I was in eighth grade, my hair was full of split ends, so I went to someone my mom worked with at the time, a girl who also cut hair. This girl’s hair was curled and teased on top into a heavy metal dome—a little bit like the blonde in this picture, but with a slight spiral perm to it. It was structurally magnificent, but not the look I was going for. I wanted long, beautiful completely straight hair—like Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, as long as I’m on the subject of metal hair.

Anyway, she layered my hair—a lot—to get the split ends out. And since I didn’t have enough L.A. Looks to make my hair big, I had hair like Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes in the “Hard to Handle” video. (My teenage life centered around music videos and references.) Watching the video now, his hair looks fine. But it was not OK for 13-year-old me.

I silently and constantly fretted about my hair, as only a young teenage girl can, and waited. (Like broken hearts, there’s often not much you can do for a bad haircut, except let time heal.) Once it grew out a little, I could finally spray my bangs into a big, stiff wave, keeping the lower bangs loose over my forehead. You were supposed to use a curling iron to curl the top bangs back to create this tube of hair that curled backwards, then spray it up in place. I was too lazy to use a curling iron and make it look like this, so I kind of fashioned my own side wave and sprayed it into place.

After that, I made pretty wise decisions regarding my hair. Well, for the most part. I wanted to Manic Panic my hair a crazy color, but it’s dark brown, so nothing would show up and I was too scared to bleach it. By my junior year, I had moved on from my hair metal phase. (So had the rest of the world, post-Nirvana.) After a summer of painting all my furniture black, listening to the Cure and Nine Inch Nails and buying a pair of combat boots, I had become goth.

I tried dyeing my hair black with a temporary dye, but it wasn’t black enough. (Surely not as dark as my angst!) So I used permanent dye. Over and over again. And then I didn’t want black hair anymore by that spring. But permanent dye is pretty permanent, as it turns out. The salon tried to bleach it out but it worked only at the top near the roots—not the parts that had been dyed black so many times. Until the middle of my freshman year of college, I had an orange band of the bleached part slowly growing out through my hair.

Once that finally grew out, I dyed it black again during my sophomore year of college. (What’s that definition of crazy again? Doing the same thing and expecting different results?) This time, when I wanted to go back to brown, a stylist bleached chunks of my hair to make it look more like my natural color, and this worked much better.

I sometimes dyed my hair that reddish late ’90s color. In my early twenties, I dyed it bright red and purple, but it was temporary dye that lasted only a few weeks and it didn’t show up much on my dark hair. No one seemed to notice much, except for my boss. When she walked into my cubicle, she said, “Oh. You dyed your hair.” To which I replied, “Yes, it’s Pimpin’ Purple.” (A reply that now makes me cringe and laugh. Oh, to be 21 again.)

The following year, apparently no wiser, I got gum in my hair. Not at the tips where it might make sense that a grown woman with no kids would find gum. It was at the top of my head, near my hairline. I chewed gum all the time, and sometimes, I would take it out of my mouth and just put it somewhere before falling asleep. (On my nightstand, for example.) I’m still not sure how it ended up in my hair, but it seems inevitable now. I cut it out, and just kept a hair clip in place to hold that piece down—otherwise it would stick straight up. Like that orange band in my hair, the clip moved as my hair grew.

Since my sophomore year of high school, though, my hair has pretty much been the same: Long and brown. I briefly experimented with bangs in my late twenties and that was a terrible mistake, looking back at old photos.

Until my recent hair donation, I was a huge fan of long hair, and I never wanted short hair. (Certainly not this short.) But I got a lot of compliments on my chic bob. I said thank you and I liked the bob, but vowed to return to long hair soon.

Now, I’m thinking that maybe I wasn’t into short hair because I hadn’t gone short enough. Reflecting on my hair past, I’m not sure if I should have long hair—or hair at all. I don’t use fancy shampoos or gels or sprays. I rarely used a blow dryer. It took too long, especially on my thick hair.

When I did get compliments that my hair looked nice, here’s my secret: I had brushed it that day. I sometimes didn’t bother. (If you’d seen my childhood dolls, you’d see the pattern started early.)

Often, when I found a troublesome knot or tangle, I’d just cut it out, not having to answer to anyone about it until a stylist asked me why a chunk of my hair was missing. I always felt a little sorry for my stylists, when they asked me my hair regimen. “I wash it and I sometimes brush it.”

Now that I’ve been bald, there’s no telling what I’ll do once my hair grows back and it gives me trouble. I know where the clippers are, and I’m finally free of my hair—or maybe it’s finally free of me.

When I watched the first of the final eight Breaking Bad episodes on AMC last night, I had something in common with Walter White. We’re both bald.

Well, I guess we have two things in common, as I learned in the middle of the show (spoiler alert): It turns out Walt is going through chemotherapy too. I feel as if Walt and I have been through a lot together in the past few months, as he’s become somewhat of my cancer hero—or antihero. (Though I’m no Gale. W.W. is far from a shining star in my eyes. And perhaps Gale is the most obvious example of the dangers of loving Walter White.)

As everyone turned against him as the show progressed—from his wife to his former business partner to viewers of the show—I still felt somewhat of a cancer kinship with him. He was beginning to lose me in season five—but as we see so often with Jesse Pinkman or with Skyler—just when I thought I might be done with him, Walt pulled me back in.

In February, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and I’ve been undergoing chemotherapy at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center since April. In June, I started watching Breaking Bad, after hearing hype about the show for years. The show’s premise—a high-school teacher who makes crystal meth after a fatal lung cancer diagnosis—seemed timely.

Just as everyone predicted, I became addicted. In fact, when I watched all of season four at Lincoln Center during a recent Breaking Bad marathon, a fellow fan confessed he would sometimes skip work or lie to his friends about having plans when he wanted to stay home and watch multiple episodes.

As I feverishly caught up on the show in time for the new episodes, Walt became a cancer companion of sorts. There are the physical effects of the chemotherapy—the nightstand full of medications, the red urine, the PET scans—but it’s the psychological effects on Walt to which I could relate.

Anyone who has ever received a bill for cancer treatment has probably thought that they need to make more money—fast. Even with insurance—something that I may be losing at the end of the month—the bills for a biopsy, medications, scans and chemotherapy add up.

Obviously, making and selling drugs is no joke. But if you could do something to make enough money—even if it were illegal—to not worry about medical bills, would you?

I might. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s as if, from time to time, the snakes from the medical caduceus symbol slither from their post and curl up in bed with me and hiss into my ear, reminding me of the expense.

Fortunately, for society’s sake, I have no illegal talents. I’m also a terrible liar and a goodie-goodie at heart, so I’m not cut out for a life of crime.

The thing that resonates with me the most about Walter White, however, is his anger, always bubbling near the surface, and his need for control, which drives him as much as—if not more than—his love for his family.

Walt’s anger is always present, constantly bubbling near the surface. After his diagnosis, he tells off his boss at the car wash and beats up a teenager for making fun of Walter Jr.’s cerebral palsy. Most of us can relate to wanting to do these things—and a cancer diagnosis is just the thing to push you to actually do it. You often want to have a tempter tantrum over how this isn’t fair. The smallest things can set you off, because you find yourself thinking, “This happened and I have cancer.”

Sometimes, I find myself walking around daring the world to piss me off—just for the release of pent-up anger. While I haven’t blown up a drug den or even thrown a pizza on a roof, I did find myself hanging on to a cab’s door handle and screaming at a startled driver when he refused to take me to Brooklyn after my biopsy surgery in Manhattan. It was during the change in shifts for cab drivers, when they decide whether you’re on their way home or not. After being turned down by one cab, I vowed to not let it happen again. “I just had surgery and you won’t take me to Brooklyn!” I screamed, pounding on his window. If I had been close enough to the open part of the window, I would have tried to force my upper body into the cab, new stitches along my neck or not.

Most of my anger is reserved for insurance companies and bureaucratic entities that are out of the grasp of my wrath. It make me feel helpless and as if I don’t have control—which brings me back to Walt.

But pride and a need for control are what really drives Walter, more than anything, and that’s when he started to lose my sympathy. Had he accepted the offer of his former business partners, he could have avoided this meth mess completely. We finally learned this season that he’s always been haunted by his decision to sell his share of a company now worth billions for $5,000, and that’s when his reluctance to quit the meth business comes into focus.

Yet I relate to his need for control in the face of cancer. To me, cancer has felt like a betrayal of the body. Your own cells are going renegade. When you have so little control over your own body, then what do you have?

You want to be tough. I’ve assured people over and over again that I’m fine, that this is no big deal. You put on your badass black hat or your wig and you become Heisenberg, your alter ego who is always strong and in control and unfazed. Who doesn’t want to assert, “I am the danger,” and “I am the one who knocks” when you feel as if you have very little control?

As Walt sits in a hospital gown and socks for his PET scan—a test that determines the state of your cancer, whether the treatment is working or whether you’re in remission—he’s still struggling for control. As a fellow patient spouts clichés and grapples with his diagnosis aloud, Walt goes off—again there’s the anger—and asserts to this poor stranger that he’s in control.

During one of several Breaking Bad discussions this past weekend, someone observed Walt has become the cancer. He’s the danger, but as the body count piles up and the consequences of his actions become increasingly dire, he still doesn’t have the control that he wants.

In spite of all of Walt’s transgressions, I still wanted him to be happy. I often find myself defending unlikeable characters. So I was disappointed when Hank found that copy of Leaves of Grass, after it seems that poor Walt had only a month of what he finally wanted. And now his cancer is back—as is Heisenberg.

I am now bald. I have a black hat, though it’s more Holly Hobbie than Heisenberg. Am I the danger? Inadvertently. I almost set my kitchen on fire while baking cookies and two of my lab partners in high school science classes almost set our stations on fire. (I wasn’t responsible, but I still feel as if I was an accomplice.)

Before the premiere of the new episode last night, my boyfriend shaved my head. A lot of people shave their heads early in the chemo process, but my hair was so thick that the thinning wasn’t noticeable until this week. Within the course of a week and half, my hair suddenly looked really thin. It was time. And what better time than before the return of Walter White?

I didn’t cry, though I’ve done my share of it over the past several months. But I’ve never been one of those people who cry when they get their hair cut. It will grow back—though in this case it will take longer.

Right now, I’m waiting for the results of my most recent PET scan. If everything is on track, my last chemotherapy appointment will be September 27—two days before Breaking Bad comes to an end. Walter White’s story and my cancer journey will end together. I know better than to expect a happy ending for Walt, though I hope for one for the end of my own story.


Last month, I optimistically returned the wig I’d ordered from the American Cancer Society’s TLC catalog. Everyone seemed to think I’d be able to keep a good portion of my hair.

But within the past week, my head has been shedding like a tree in autumn. Big parts of my scalp are visible. I can’t look in the mirror without thinking of Donald Trump.

It’s not even the hair loss that bothers me so much as the fact that I paid $10 to ship my wig back, and now I have to wait again for it to arrive. My cheapness is helping to distract me from the real issue, which is that very soon, it will be time to shave my head.

Part of me wants to dramatically storm into a salon and grab clippers and shave my head like Britney Spears, circa 2007, or like Amanda Bynes…now (sigh). But, thankfully, I am not a troubled starlet. Yet the temptation is great to re-stage the famous tabloid photos.

As I wait for my wig to arrive, I might go ahead and purchase one in the interim from a wig shop. My insurance doesn’t cover a hair prosthesis, so these won’t be the fancy wigs, but they will be an improvement compared to the only wig I currently own, a purple asymmetrical bob from Ricky’s. I will probably forgo wearing wigs entirely, except for professional situations.

I’ve been wondering why I’ve been so reluctant to tell people I have cancer. Part of it is that it’s competitive enough to find a job without adding a disease to the mix. I have a link to this blog on my portfolio website, so I’m not hiding anything. And I’m well enough to work. But like a wounded animal in the wild, I feel as if I can’t show any weakness. I guess living in New York City for awhile can make you feel that way.

But then I wonder: Is this a weakness or is it a strength? Perhaps I just need a change in perspective.

This hair loss, in a way, is somewhat of relief. I have cancer, but I’ve been pretending that I don’t. I feel good, but I feel pressured not to make people worry, assure them I’m OK. And being bald seems like a big physical announcement: I have cancer. It forces me to admit that I’m going through something and though I’m doing well, it’s a big, difficult and complex experience.

With my hair so wispy and thin, I’m eager to shave my head, as I await my wig and stand. The idea of putting my hair on a faux head has fascinated me since I was about four or five, and we took a trip with my great aunt. (Technically, she was my grandfather’s cousin.) One of the things that impressed me most about the trip was that my mom and I shared a room with my aunt, who wore a wig. My mom told me this with explicit instructions not to stare and was very adamant about this, so I remember sneaking furtive glances at what I had previously believed to be my aunt’s hair sitting on the hotel dresser, on a stand.

My widowed aunt didn’t like children, something that was also imparted to me at some point. I loved visiting her because she had two cats, and I’ve always loved cats. I was pretty well-behaved and I spent most of my time around adults, plus I was pretty shy, so I think she liked me well enough. Until around the time I was eight and we were having breakfast before a family wedding. For some reason, I was playing with my glass of milk. I had something either that I was putting around it—a bracelet?—or maybe I was making a small toy dance around it. My mom told me to stop it, and I didn’t. And that’s when I knocked over the entire glass of milk into my aunt’s lap.

I knew that this was the very worst thing that could happen—that she, of all people, was the worst possible person to have been in the milk’s trajectory. This is why she doesn’t like children, I thought. And I saw her point. I knew I had confirmed her worst beliefs.

I think my interactions with this aunt were so burned into my memory because I sensed my family’s constant nervousness that i would upset her. And then the worst happened—I was a child goofing off and I doused her with milk while she was dressed for a wedding. But I think there was also a relief—our fears were confirmed, now what?

It’s like that, for me, with cancer too. While it’s far from the worst type of cancer, it’s still cancer, generally agreed to be one of the worst things. So, I have cancer. Now what? I get through it and move on and hopefully emerge stronger. We often live in fear of something bad happening, a series of “what ifs.”

Even though I try to stay calm and live in the moment, while looking for work and dealing with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I have become a full-time worrier. My boyfriend continually reminds me to not worry about things that haven’t happened yet.  It’s a twist on the quote: “Worrying is like praying for something you don’t want.” These words that resonated with me so much when things were good are harder to remember when life gets a bit tougher.

I don’t know if my aunt ever forgave me for that long-ago breakfast transgression. I don’t think so. I will take her horrified look as milk pooled into her lap with me to the grave. She passed away years ago, and I hope she knows that I was sorry—and I hope she never caught me staring at her wig.

Right now, I have two cats and a wig stand of my own. People think I don’t like children, but that’s a misunderstanding. I never really hung out with other kids much outside of school and I was an introvert, so my interactions with children are an extension of a lifelong social awkwardness that started in kindergarten. I hope I don’t inspire that same apologetic feeling that my family felt around my aunt. Kids are allowed to spill milk on me and even ask about my wig. I will respond with a rendition of this song from the B-52s.

Charles Dickens began A Tale of Two Cities with, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” I couldn’t tell you anything else about the rest of the novel. So I guess it’s fortunate that he put the best part right at the beginning like that, so I wouldn’t have to continue reading.

I’m a bookworm and goodie-goodie who always did my homework and the assigned reading. But when that book was required for 10th grade English, I just couldn’t get through it. It was my mom’s copy of the book, and I don’t think she read it either. Maybe I had a cursed volume. Judging from her high school copy of Much Ado About Nothing, in which she scribbled out the word “ado” to show her sentiments about the play, I would say I inherited her aversion to Shakespeare as well.

But the other day I found myself thinking about this opening phrase. While Dickens is talking about the time around the French Revolution, those lines can refer to almost any time. High school, for example.

There have been some good things that have come from this cancer diagnosis—the outpouring of support from friends and family, my realization that I need to be more confident and fearless.

But this will obviously not be the best of times. With the cancer diagnosis in February and the job loss this summer, 2013 really hasn’t been my year so far. Irrationally, I hope that this double dose of bad luck means only good things ahead, though I know there’s not a finite amount of sad things that can happen.

I wondered aloud if I’d appreciated what I had before the cancer diagnosis. I think so. I knew things were good and was grateful for what I had. I appreciated my good health and my great job.

In Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s, one of the young people with cancer notes that she felt she appreciated life. She didn’t need cancer to teach her a life lesson.

But then again, cancer is a cell aberration, not something you get because you need to learn something. Not that I’m saying you shouldn’t try to learn something from every experience.  Still, before cancer, I lived for the moment and mindfully and experienced daily gratitude, all the things that you’re supposed to learn in yoga. Now, I feel that is less so, but that’s temporary.

In fact, everything is temporary. I can’t even remember where I heard that the bad doesn’t stay forever, but neither does the good. Was it a yoga class? Something I read? The last part haunted me—even good things are fleeting. But we know that.

This weekend has been particularly hard for me, and I’m not sure why. Maybe because, as of Friday, I’m two-thirds done—eight treatments down, four to go. It didn’t bring with it the jubilation the halfway mark did. With the possible end in sight, I’m getting impatient. Only two more months to go, yet two more months to go. I’ve become a full-time worrier, when I know it doesn’t help. I worry about Wednesday’s PET scan. What if it turns out I need more treatment?

Physically, I’m starting to feel the effects of the chemotherapy a bit more, since it’s cumulative. I have an appointment tomorrow with a podiatrist to get my toenails lopped off to avoid infection. They’ve been separating from the nail bed and turning various colors, and it’s best that they go, for now. I’m also on some new medications to keep me from getting infections: Bactrim, Acyclovir (an anti-viral) and Fluconozole.

My hair is still falling out, and it’s noticeably thinner.  I was hoping it could hang on for the next few months. Knowing my deep love of pop culture and my current obsession with Breaking Bad, my boyfriend suggested I could time the shaving of my head with the premiere of the show’s final eight episodes next Sunday. I have to admit, that prospect cheers me up immensely. Shaving my head to be a Walter White superfan? I’m in!

I have a weird mark that looks like a bruise from one of my bra straps, and my doctor says that’s common with ABVD—a scratch or skin irritation becomes a brown mark on your skin. I have another on my arm from carrying a plastic bag yesterday.

I bruise like an overripe peach, yet inside, I feel myself getting bitter. Plus, I’m actually physically hardening inside. My veins are hardening from the chemotherapy drugs. The good news is that my left arm hurts a bit less, but now my right arm feels bruised, and it looks red and irritated. So I am getting physically tougher in some ways while falling apart. I’d like to get through these next four treatments intravenously without needing a chemo port installed.

Then the bargaining begins. OK, I’ll shave my head if it means I don’t have to get a port. Who, exactly, am I bargaining with? Life doesn’t work that way.

But it’s the bitterness that makes me feel the worst. My temper has been unbearably short. I know better than to act like this. I hate that I sometimes have to struggle to focus on the good now.

I will get better. This is temporary. Happy events have happened this week, including the birth of my best friend’s baby. If I focus on the bad, I’ll miss out on the good.

So this won’t be my best summer. I’ve never really had a bad summer, since it’s my favorite season. Even the summer of 1993, when I spent the summer painting all my furniture black, was OK.

I have some amazing things left to do and experience in the next few months. Maybe that’s my lesson, for today, at least—not letting the negative cloud the good.