Mission: Accomplished

Three women.  Of single mind and purpose.  Once the date and location were agreed to – three months ago – it was a battle fought madly to keep life from impinging upon the calendar.

Driving.  Four hours.  The cities and interstate highways melting  away, into an unfamiliar landscape.  A two-lane paved road, weaving through wooded hills.  Signs advertising “Deer Processing”, “John Deere” and “Sunday Beer” punctuating the brown and gray autumn palette.

Housing is a mix of trailers, modern tri-levels and victorian homesteads.  Corn and soybean fields harvested and barren.  Barns with open, gaping wounds in the rooftops.  Homes with faded, peeling paint jauntily sporting brand new satellite dishes.  Laundry flying outside a shack that should have been abandoned.  SUVs and pick up trucks out numbering cars ten to one.  Pressing onward into the twilight on a Friday evening. 

The destination appearing around a bend in the road, like a mirage.  Out of time, and out of place.  A galaxy of lights and sunny yellow brick facades.  The Grand Resort, built at the turn of the century – the previous one. 

Just about the last thing you’d expect to discover in the economically starved hills of southern Indiana, the place is an oasis of glamour from a bygone era.   Past the town of Floyd’s Knobs, and about 30 miles after you cross Sinking Creek Road.  There is this…


We were celebrating.  The retirement of a lovely wig, and the return of hair.  My two “breast cancer grannies”, Leontine and Doris, invited me for a weekend at The Grand Resort.  Doris finally ditched the wig, so it was time for a party.  We packed in provisions…  mostly liquid. 

Leontine and i booked spa time, while Doris won big at the slots in the casino.   Shopping was also on the agenda, including some antiquing and a visit to the Discount Liquor Emporium.

On the surface, we don’t have all that much in common*.  Doris , 68, is a widow.  Remarkably, she worked though three surgeries, radiation and chemo as the administrator of a local pre-school.  Leontine, 66, is the wife of a retired dentist, and is active in the community – most recently volunteering at the H1N1 vaccination clinic for our county.

They schooled me this weekend.  On many fronts.  Doris, who emigrated from Germany during WWII at the age of four, kicked my ass into next week at Scrabble.  Sort of helpful, with just a hint of cutthroat, she seemed to enjoy the fact that she was the only one of us with just a high school education.  Never mind that English isn’t her native language.

Leontine taught me some travel tricks.  Namely, how to pack mule single malt scotch and other assorted booze in your checked luggage**, without spills or wasted space.  She also explained to me the benefits of using vodka, or apple brandy, when making a pie crust. 

They both explained to me the best ways to take calcium – which will be important for me when my estrogen takes a crap in a few years since i can’t do hormone replacement therapy.  Oh, and they both chastised me for bashing my extremities into hamburger while rolling my bike. 

For my part, i was prepared to give something back.  Packing in the proper gear, i taught them how to make – and eat – jello shots.  Maybe that’s why the Scrabble got a little rough after the third game.  i don’t cook, i distill.  It was all i had…

They were staying over another day, but i drove back tonight.  It occurred to me after i called to let them know i’d made the trip safely that my relationship with these two gals is evolving beyond “breast cancer buddies”. 

Surrogates.  They both have daughters my age.  They know my family situation.  My Mom has never taken care of herself, so she’d have no idea how to teach me about calcium supplements.  Mom was also not the greatest cook.  She did share her secret “Shake and Bake” pork chop recipe, and where to buy the best deep fried mushrooms in town.  That’s something.  But they’ve gently stepped into the gap.  And i like it…

When i called, Leontine said “Thanks for calling to let your two Moms know that you are home safe and sound”.  Maybe i’m just a little hormonal***, but it made my eyes just a little bit squishy.


* We have at various times called ourselves the “Three B’s”, for “Boobs, Booze and Brie”, or more recently the “The Four and a Half Tits”, noting the remaining number of breastages amongst us.  A member of Leontine’s bridge group wanted to join, but Leontine told her “You’ve got too many tits”.

** It’s called a “Platypus“, and it’s a hydration system for endurance athletes.  There are endurance athletes, and there are ENDURANCE athletes… This is a clever use of gear…

*** As my son would have said “enjoy it while you can, Mom.  It ain’t gonna last much longer”.

Get up offa that thing…

Leontine found me through an article in the local newspaper  – a nice fluff piece about the importance of early detection*.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer when i was, and she found resonance with my words. 

It was about risk management, “getting on with it”, and about not letting yourself be a victim.  During our surgeries and treatments, we’d meet up monthly to slog through an assload of wine and brie and compare notes.  Mostly, counting our blessings for getting off lucky in the grand scheme of things.

On the surface?  Not much to build upon.  She is in her mid-60’s, the wife of a local dentist, and mother of three grown children – happily spawning a flock of gorgeous grand children.  We found we had a lot more in common than just cancer nuggets buried in our titties.  We drink.  And we dish.  And we play.  And we travel like there’s no tomorrow…

Although our prognosis was similar, she opted for more aggressive treatment, including chemo “just to be damn sure”.  Leontine and i looked forward to our monthly sessions – swapping stories about living aggressively, and dishing gossip on the locals**, as well as discussing the merits of a merkin for a chemo patient!  To celebrate her one year anniversary?  She showed up with a tattoo on her left tit – a pink ribbon with the words “I won”.

Last year, we added a new member to our posse.  Doris, a good friend of hers, was diagnosed with her own pesky little cancer nugget.  And so we meet.   And we drink.  And we dish.  Doris – a lovely 68-year old grandma – is now sporting a smokin’ hot blond wig since she’s bald as a cueball from her chemo.   It is a replacement wig, since she burned the crap out of her original wig by leaning a little too close to the stove.

Last Thursday, the three of us met for another session.  It wasn’t easy to arrange, as we beat through our busy schedules to pick the date.  Doris was looking fabulous – meticulously dressed, matching outfit – right down to the coordinated earrings in her triple-pierced ears.  She’s been dealing with weekly chemo for six months, and is looking forward to being done at the end of June. 

i was surprised to learn that Thursdays are her worst days.  She receives chemo on Mondays, and says she feels ok through Tuesday, but by Thursday, she’s hitting rock bottom, recovering a bit to be able to enjoy her weekends.  Didn’t slow her down much from what i could see***.  Her words: “What’s the point of staying in bed and whining?  Life is out there!  Live it!”

i love these women.  Not to mention the fact that i’ve got friends named Leontine and Doris.  How cool is that?


* It also provided an opportunity to get some shameless publicity for the show i was in at the time of my surgery.  Pimpin’ my cancer to get butts in seats.  No apologies…

** Dentist’s wives know shit about everyone.  Big fun… especially the dirt on the local politicos…

*** We killed two bottles of wine and two plates of brie in about 90 minutes… We are nothing if not efficient!