Glancing down at my iPhone told me what day it was. September 11 is like a bookmark that reminds you of every detail of that day with stunning clarity. Waking up to an NPR reporter yelling: “Explosions heard inside the Pentagon.” Watching footage of a plane hitting and falling backwards realizing it was a passenger plane. Waddling around work in downtown Portland the size of a football mascot pregnant and wondering what world I was bringing a baby into? Watching two fighter jets slice through an eerily quiet, empty sky. Remembering the way my prego belly pressed against the glass as we watched a man lower the flag on the building next door. Today, I’ve got the love of my life, two kids and my life back. If my life flashed in front of me, images of dishes being washed, a keyboard and a dog wearing a mullet would play. How lucky am I? Today marks straight appreciation for me – that I get to worry about things like writing assignments and dishes. And compassion for anyone who lost someone or experienced 9/11.
1- My dog is wearing a mullet. I’m going to wear it Sunday for Race for the Cure as part of our AC/DT rockin’ look.
2- Air conditioning. The house is delightful inside. It’s 93 degrees outside.
3- Met with my super-rad friend Jillian yesterday who helped me think through my next book while wearing a Wonder Woman t-shirt. It will be an unofficial “guide” to surviving cancer treatment.
September is intense. Steven went to his first day of middle school; Liv, first day as a fourth grader. I burned through so much energy being annoyingly happy at drop off, I’m beat now. I’ll bet thousands of parents go to bed with visions of their children’s homework dancing through their heads.
1- Nothing says romance like the Prince of Puke. In honor of our 18th wedding anniversary, Brian got us tickets to see John Waters. Can’t even WAIT! The promo says he’ll discuss turning some of his films into seasonal children’s classics. Serial Mom is a no-brainer.
2- All through cancer, Brian and I would go get coffee and check in with each other at Grand Central on Hawthorne. So it was especially cool to walk there today and have coffee with 85% less ringing in my ears and 85% more body hair. The lady behind the counter is a cancer survivor and super nice.
3- Both kids went to school well prepared and happy. They came home excited. If only that feeling would last all year. So proud of them. May they have a year folding in and being just like the kids who don’t have parents with cancer.
AM NW interviewed all the baldy women who are appearing on Race for the Cure ads. This is my third time talking to KATU, and I’ve got to say they are super nice. After Brian saw it, he said, “You all are so positive because you have to be.” The biggest negative I’ve experienced is watching my family in agony. Other than that, it’s been life-changing in a positive way.
As for Race for the Cure, Sept. 15th. Boy howdy do we have a lot of room on our team for you. If you want to join, go to:
My friend Kelly Wilson is one of the funniest people I know. Who else writes a book titled Don’t Punch People in the Junk? She’s walking the Portland-to-Coast Relay in my honor, which is so incredibly nice. Thanks, Kelly! Here are the details:
We went to the wedding of our super-cool friends, Frank and Rosemary. Get this, my hair looked intentional, thanks to Trina. She told me to load it with product and blow dry it. Wha? A blow dryer. What’s that? At the wedding, there were no weird looks. No questions about whether I’m a monk. No tilted heads of concern. Might be on the road to normal looks and bad service.
2- 48 hours from OVER. At 3:30 tomorrow, I can kiss this parking pass good-bye!
3- Looking ahead now. Everything around me feels like cluttered anticipation of back to school, back to work, back to life and it’s all good.
Just FOUR more sessions of radiation. I was cruising along thinking I could beat the radiation system and escape with just burns. After five weeks, my skin broke down all at once. Nothing prepared me for what that would feel and look like (an audition for Walking Dead). The nurses at Good Sam have tried everything. The radiation techs even felt bad seeing me in that much pain. My deepest appreciation goes out to them for helping me. It’s better now, thanks to some new medical pads they got me. Everyone keeps asking what we will do to celebrate. I have no idea. I’d just really like a six pack of new skin cells.
1- Got some new cancer jokes for ya:
2- Narcotics make back-to-school shopping much more tolerable. Check it out, Livvie kicked me out of her dressing room at Old Navy. One minute later, another mom got the boot. Good thing there’s a reject-mom bench at Old Navy. And, good thing Brian was driving that day. Geez, I look like a stoner.
And the oven. And the car. Five weeks of radiation has finally taken its toll. Yesterday, I sent out an email to everyone I know, including the entire elementary school list, vowing to: “increase the changes that another family will get breast cancer.” Nice. While I was at it, I spelled my own Race for the Cure team wrong. No wonder I didn’t get interviews for those senior copywriter jobs.
Now I’m in a mood. It’s a perfect day outside, but I’m sad because I don’t feel like going out there. Brian said: “There will be a whole lot more perfect days because you’re going through this right now.” That’s true. For now, my skin is absolutely destroyed to the point that everything I do sends shards of breathtaking pain through my chest. Plus, I can’t let my arm down because the skin will touch each other, which is freaking blinding. Monday is my last day of full-area radiation. Then, I get another week and two days of a different kind of radiation. For my next act, I put biscuits in the oven and entered 15 hours. It’s Einstein day here at the Sturkies.
1- Went to the 99W Drive-in with the family last night. SO love that place. (Despicable Me 2: Excellent. Grown Ups 2: Seriously. Beat me.)
2- The kids discovered the Vine app and keep making mini movies. I might not ever see my phone again.
3- I caught the biscuits before they erupted into flames. So thankfully, I’m the only one well-done around here.
The word “awaay” was an intended typo, in case you thought I was at it again.
It was a swell day for bike riding to the river. All four of us saddle up, get overheated and end up in a Burgerville parking lot. While Brian and the kids go in to fetch lemonades, I stand under a tree and watch our bikes. Around here, an unlocked bike is a stolen one. I notice as I get near the tree, a bunch of crows squawks at me. When I back up, they quiet. To amuse myself, I get closer, then back up…about 20 times. Then, I see a teenage crow on the ground. Oh, thinks the near fail-out biology student. They were protecting this poor guy. Did he fall out of the nest? He looks too big. Did he break something? We tell a guy at the front counter, who responds flatly: “Want me to put it out of its misery?” Clearly, an avid bird passionate. We call a guy at the Audubon Society, who says: “If it’s awkward looking and has scruffy feathers, it probably jumped out of the nest and will live on the ground for a while. The family will take care of it.” Crap, is he talking about the crow or me? I look closer. With half-fluffed feathers, wings folded in about-to-go-nowhere position and one eye slammed shut pirate-style, we look a lot alike. Just like me, I have to trust the family will take care of it and some jackleg won’t try to “rescue” it and get all Alfred Hitchcocked.
1- Week five of radiation. My last session I think is August 12. Now the beams are really starting to leave a mark. A new guy showed up yesterday and said, “What are all these doors for?” So I answered: “Pick a door and get a prize!” That’d be a backless gown.
2- Kids are making signs for an epic lemonade stand and the debut of PIE FACE tomorrow at our house. Hoping to get that action on video.
3- Xena is sleeping and not eating wood chips today. Awesome.
We knew this would happen. The kids would actually get along, form a bond and gang up on us. Today, they secreted a bottle of raspberry dressing out of the refrigerator and streaked their hands with it, screaming, “I’m hurt! Oh, my hand.” It’s my fault. I’m the one who said whoever draws blood first gets more screen time.
We’ve been spending a lot of time together, which has been very cool and exhausting being the cruise director. Every day, our activities end at 3 so I can get to radiation. My chest is just starting to look like someone bought a cheap leather purse in like 1974 and left it out in the sun ever since. It’s week four out of six, and I’m already thinking ahead to tweaking my business so I can be available for my kids. Finding out that Livvie was hurt and mad that I missed every field trip, every volunteer opp and her music performance did the trick. That’s not going to happen this year.
1- Set up our Race for the Cure team! We’re AC/DT, the Abernethy Cancer Dream Team. Brian and the kids signed up too. We’re on for the no-pressure, un-timed walk.
2- Livvie got upset. I led her through some exaggerated yoga breathing. She refused, saying: “It’s a lot funnier when you do it.”
3- The kids played in the pool while Brian and I had an actual, uninterrupted conversation. Or, maybe they were plotting their next move?
It just hit me that today was so normal. I took Livvie with me to St. Honore Bakery, where we watched them make bread. Liv said, “It’s like his hands are dancing.” Then, she waited for me at the acupuncture office and drew a “Candyland” girl on the white board. Next stop: The paint and wallpaper store to change her gray walls to pink and aqua. Last: Lunch at Nicola’s with pita as big as the moon. I took Liv home after that, then reluctantly cruised to radiation by myself. It’s not lost on me how lucky I am to have days like this. But more importantly, to have a daughter like Liv. She’s such a cool person and budding designer. I loved her most definite taste while working with the designer at the paint store. Go girl!
1- When I told the radiation nurse that someone said the pain I experienced from only one treatment was in my head, she said, “That’s wrong. Everybody reacts differently.” So I’m not crazy. Today, the hotness cooled down really fast, which was great. I did find out I’ve actually got 33 treatments total, when I thought it was 30. Great, now I’ve only got 30 left.
2- Brian took Steven to a historic car race, the most under-attended, super-cool event in Portland. He saw a restored Studebaker race, which was the highlight.
3- To top off my super-girl day, I met Jackie with an e at Starbucks. Thinking about how Jackie set up two websites to help us just blows me away. The money raised from the sites and the auction Trina headed up added years back to my life. Thinking about that turned my day from ordinary to extraordinary.