Thursday, August 30, 2012

An Ode to Jane

Those of you who read this blog regularly have probably noticed the commenting presence of my good friend Jane. Those of you who know me well know what an important part she has played in my life. I've said it here many times, when it comes to friends and family, I have been abundantly blessed. I hope I have the friends I deserve, but often I think they are better than I deserve. This is especially true when it comes to her.

Maybe it is because it feels like it has been so long since I've seen her and had real, quality time with her, but she is very much on my mind these days. I've been lucky to have some other close friends come through town recently and having them here helped scratch that itch but with her, it has been awhile. We had a rushed visit when I was home after my grandmother passed away, but I long for the days of our childhood and teens, when our time together was never-ending. When we talked about nothing and everything, amused mostly ourselves and generally stayed out of trouble.

It is Jane (aside from my immediate family) who has been in closest contact with me throughout this cancer odyssey. I don't know how she managed but I've felt her presence the most in the last year, even though she is 8000 kilometers away. She was one of the very few people I told before I got the actual news - when I was still in limbo. She has been there for the best days of my life and for some of the darkest.

She recently shared an article about female friendships. So much of what we see and hear about female friendships focuses on women who are not supportive of other women, who are jealous and mean spirited. This has never been my experience. I have always found women to laugh and share with, to prop me up and make me better. If I ever have a daughter, I hope she can have her own Jane.

Jane, who sent me a beautiful card, licorice tea and some nibs at a time when it was the perfect gift. Jane, who is always there to talk about whatever and for however long I need. Jane, who was sadder about my hair loss than even me. Jane, who even when she doesn't share my beliefs or understand them, is willing to put her own on hold and just be there for me. Jane, who is amazing.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Awkward Questions About Babies

Babies. Let's talk about them. Everyone wants to. Paul and I have been married for 2 years so we are now right in prime "when are you two going to have kids?" territory. We understand that we are not getting any younger and that we aren't really spring chickens anymore. My knee reminds me of this daily. But here is the catch - for the next 4.5 years babies are not an option. It would be very, very bad to get pregnant while on tamoxifen. And it is entirely possible that once I'm done tamoxifen, I won't be fertile anyway (thank you chemo).

The baby question was annoying enough before I was diagnosed with cancer. Not everyone wants children (I'm firmly in the "maybe, probably, but I don't know for sure, oh maybe not" camp, by the way) but apparently that isn't a thing people actually admit to. When I say I'm not sure if I want children, the horror that crosses peoples's like a murdered a puppy before their very eyes.

I mean, I fully understand that people with children love their own children, that they learn about life through them, that they believe that because of their children their world is fuller and more awesome. I get it. But I don't believe that I have to have them. Sure, not having kids means missing out on some stuff. But guess what, having them means missing out on other stuff. In the kids debate, I'm a firm believer that there is no right answer, there is only the answer for you. 

However, it has become very clear to me that this is not the way many other people feel about children. Many people feel YOU MUST HAVE CHILDREN. NOW. I've actually had it suggested to me that I will never be a fully actualized person until I've had children. Yes, someone said that to me once, knowing about my diagnosis, although maybe forgetting about my current inability to breed.

So, pardon me while I roll out my pulpit and lecture you all about what I think you should do, if you like to ask young-ish ladies about their sexy times habits (also, seriously people, asking about babies is basically asking about sex. Yep, I went there.).

1. Ask "are you thinking of having kids?" not "when are you having kids?" if you want to ask. It is a subtle but important difference in the phrasing. One that allows room for the "we're not having children" option.

2. If you get an evasive or indecisive answer to the questions above, do not tell the person "oh but you have to have kids" or "why aren't you trying now" or "you know fertility declines after 35." Sometimes, I don't want to talk about why I can't have kids, and I hate feeling pressured into bringing it up because I have to defend my "choice" to not be pregnant at this moment. 

3. Don't assume that because someone is female and married that they must be desperate for children. Also, don't assume that even if they are desperate for children, that those children are an option.

4. Cancer aside, it is totally okay for a lady not to want babies. That doesn't mean she isn't a real woman, or that she is a bad, selfish person. I can't believe in 2012 I have to write that out but honestly, you would not believe how much I have had to talk about, heck, defend our lack of children since being diagnosed. I sometimes actually feel lucky in that I have an easy out - thanks cancer!

But seriously, number one is probably the most important. You can still totally ask, just don't assume every married couple you know without kids is just one romantic evening away from making a baby. You never know what is really happening in their lives. This world is full of people who don't want children and people who want children and can't have them - I'd bet they all have a very hard time answering questions about "when" not "if".