Well, I can tell you that her talent doesn’t come from her formal education. She dropped out of that as soon as she could, so she didn’t have many people telling her what she couldn’t do or say, and trying to squeeze her onto some shape she couldn’t fit in, which she wouldn’t have done anyway — but her going her own way saved everyone a lot of hassle. But she was a voracious reader, and a discerning one. And she was always happily juiced up. She would have been outrageous if she weren’t so good natured. That’s what gets her through the tough ones like this. She’s a lot like her mother, come to think of it. As one of my sons said, “I’m not sure I could even be a fraction of that upbeat, but that’s her and I’m me.”

Comments have been enabled, and I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Please Share with me and each other!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

You have to try, when you're a girl and you're fighting cancer. It's hard, and believe me I'm not talking about blowing my hair dry and putting on mascara before I wake up my husband in the morning. I'm talking about taking my hair out of it's ponytail and putting on clothes once in a while. Still, you gotta make an effort. It's hard when all the things that have happened have happened to your face, when it's all scarred and crooked, and your lips are just busted up, but you gotta.

It's six weeks since I limped home from the hospital, feeding tube up my nose, IV pole permanantly attached, cast that weighed as much as a kettlebell dragging my arm down, and a drain draining....something, I don't know or care what, from my neck.
I'm having lunch. The bandage on my neck is
holding a drain in place

    Last week I cried at the doctors office. I did, I broke down in tears, and had to reach for a tissue from my purse.

    I always have napkins and paper towels and bits of rag and washcloths stuffed around. Since the radiation I've had problems with extra saliva (but that's only when I'm not suffering from excessive dry mouth. Listen, I am the list of side effects on the drug commercial) In fact my poor exercise class had developed a special etiquette to cope with the fact that it had become pretty common for me to slobber like a St. Bernard every time I did a move that required bending over. They pretended not to notice and in the next move I would hop over to stand right on the spot where I had drooled on their floor. God, I love that class, I miss them so much.

Then I had the effing fistula to worry about. That required me to really amp up on the paper products because if I ate or drank anything with a consistency more liquid than a cinderblock, I was going to have to mop up my neck and chest, goddam evil disease.
Dr. Hector, Vascular Surgeon who gave
me good news and made me cry
. You can see
that the scar starts at my lip and travels down to that
drapey part under my neck. You can also see
my bra strap, because I'm a professional model
    One time Bruno and I were driving home from a medical appointment at the National Health in Tlajamulco  and I wanted coffee. So used was I to the absurd condition I was living in I took off my blouse and rode home in my bra, napkins tied around my neck with a bandana. Never thought twice about it. Gross. But I can tell you that after a few months of that, the idea of reaching for a paper towel, dabbing the hole in my neck, and then throwing it away before reaching for another a second later was absurd. I was using handfuls, all the time, and I've grown very careless about their care and storage in between uses. Also,  I've developed the habit of adding tumeric, a well known anticancer superfood, to practically everything I eat..
So when I reached for a hanky to dab at my misty eyes in the Doctor's office, I came up with a vile and over-used paper napkin, ripped and wrung out and dotted with mustard colored tumeric stains. A girl had forgotten to make an effort. Oops.

But why was I crying, and leaving tumeric trails on my cheek?
   Because I'd gotten a break, that's why.

For some reason, I am often complimented on my courage and positive attitude. I feel guilty for the deception I've managed to perpetrate, because believe me when I tell you that I spend most of my day shaking my fist at God, and wondering why I'm going through this, or swimming around in the murk of a depression so deep and muddy that continuing on to the next event ( chemo! yay!) just seems like a waste of effort. I've done everything already, and I keep having to do more shit. I'm sad, a lot. I'll never be the me I got to know again, and I never said good-bye.

    So when Dr Hector explained that I had gotten a break, it was a powerful relief in a pretty bleak landscape.

I didn't even know that I'd dodged a bullet, because nobody had seen any benefit to advising me of the utter unlikelihood of this operation working. But now it's been six weeks, and ....oh God, I'm scared to even talk about it. Here is what my husband wrote the day of the appointment.

Today actually the surgeon revealed how complex the operation had been, and until now we didn't know that the risk of failure had been very high. he recounted most of what transpired during the eight hours, how the lead surgeon had stopped everything half-way through, advising the team he needed to remove a three-inch diameter area next to the tongue, which was subsequently grafted. the graft was at high risk of failing, but is now safe and we all breathed a lot easier.

Dr. Delgado had excised all of the tumor that was visible, including scraping and cleaning the jaw. Not to get too technical, it was a major operation, and the team now is saying that we have a very good chance the cancer was removed. What happens next is evaluation by the team whether to move forward with chemo as preventative measure, which is likely. We will know more after the appointment at Centro next week.

At some point in the future, Dr. Orozco will perform surgery for the stretching and lumpish appearance, because they decided to leave in all the healthy tissue that they could. The procedure will be done as an office surgery under local, and is purely for cosmetic purposes. After everything he'd heard today, Bruno said "I could care less what she looks like after all of this miraculous work you've done!" No leaks, the grafting is secure, we are truly grateful.

Dr. Hector is checking out the integration of the skin graft on
the inside of my mouth. I could tell he was happy...although he still
had to tell me a scary story before I left.

Bless his heart, we truly are grateful, and he really doesn't care about the "stretching and lumpish" appearance-- which is revolting, by the way, but I have noticed that it's getting more and more normal looking as time goes by. Six weeks isn't that long. I'm getting better, I really am. Even without trying.



  1. Oh Elliot, I cried too for the break you've received. You ARE strong, how many people would share their story? That right there speaks volumes to your strength. Strength isn't about never being angry or sad or depressed, it's about pushing on anyway, finding joy where you can, being kind to yourself and others, letting others help you and all the other little things you do so naturally that you are not even aware of. I'm with Bruno, the battle scars mean nothing as beauty is, has been and always will be from the INSIDE. And inside you are a beautiful person. Scars will heal, doctors will make things look more normal but no one could fix your soul if it was ugly! So go ahead, cry, rage, be depressed, but never give in or give up, we all need you.

  2. Natbug, thank you so much, what an inspiring and comforting comment.. You're pretty good at reading between the lines!

    1. Funny that I show up as Natbug, I am actually Shannon, from zombie dancing. As others have said, you are a wonderful writer. I think your new career might be writing books. Every challenge can have a silver lining, maybe showing you what a powerful writer you are is yours.

  3. GREAT, GREAT news! So happy to read this. You continue to be an inspiration to all of your adoring fans. We love, admire and respect you so much! I continue to marvel why cancer seems to attack the wonderful people.

    I am in awe as I watch you travel this amazingly difficult journey. I can imagine you have your moments when you are low and depressed but nothing can keep our Queen Elliott down for very long. You are the "unsinkable Elliott Joaquim".

    You know I truly believe in the strength of positive and healing energy. Many send it to you daily and you are living proof that it is working. Of course, your inner strength is what carries the most power and you have that covered.

    Can't wait to see you!

    Love and hugs,

  4. This comment is being copied and pasted from Facebook, because I thought my friend Joann Weiss has a pretty masterful point of view on the subject:
    So, I'll just say it here. There are cancer survivors like me lucky enough to been forced to run a 100 yard dash, whereas others like you have been forced to run a marathon. I avoided reading your blog, knowing that, despite the sparkling humor, it would resurrect my nightmare of hearing that cancer, that psychopathic, deranged monster of a disease, has come back to someone who thought they were done. The treatment of cancer is grueling. Beyond grueling. (I never felt the cancer, but man, did I feel the treatment of it!) And once you're done, you just want to reclaim your life, even though it's different, and move away from that black cloud. To have to deal with it again? No, no, no. Hell no. God, I just hate that you're having to go through this crap again. Elliott, your writing is heartfelt, humorous, honest, vivid, and deeply inspiring. Your writing is you. I'm so so happy that you've gotten a reprieve, a break. Yay!! Stay in the moment. If your mind goes to a fearful place, reel that thought back in and send it skyward. This 100 yard dasher is sending you a big hug!

  5. Elliott, I do not have a way with words, like you do.. All of your posts touch me to my inner core. This one just made my day. I look forward to visiting Joanne in Ajijic and seeing you again. I'm sure, once again, that we will meet on the dance floor and have a wonderful time. ~Missy, Joanne's Jazzercise Instructor from Texas