Nov 20, 2012

A College Campus Without Eyes....

A college campus without eyes is a photo and audio essay that explores the lives of those whose personal experiences with the blind community can open the eyes of sighted students. Blindness is often associated with a walking cane, or a seeing-eye dog, however it isn’t often one will trip across a blind college student reviewing a calculus book sans brail. However in the 21st century, technology is enabling the physically handicap to compete head-to-head with their peer set.
Because this was such a fascinating topic that deserved further investigation, a second group focused on a more documentary-type version to learn more. However, I chose to use this photo essay as an opportunity to ask the provocative questions about how it feels to be blind in a sighted community. My personal philosophy is that a documentary provides more factual insight and less wiggle room for interpretation, so can easily convey objective data. What I’ve learned through watching many photo essays, is they are truly a medium that can capture the depth and essence of emotion, emotion drawn out from experiences, facial expressions, and how long a viewer has to rest his or her eyes on a photograph.

While news writing is an incredibly difficult endeavor, the art of capturing emotion in a conversation, translating that to photography, editing sentences and minutes into digestible sound bites is a tenuous, but rewarding process. Clipping the sound, adding the photos, then choosing music to emphasize the combination of words and photos, and finally choose the transitional details that would bring life to my photo essay was a journey I hope to take again and again.
The three people who offered to speak with me about life as a blind person on a college campus, or someone on a college campus whose career has been focused with students whose disabilities included Michele McCandless, the Director of Disability Services Program, Dave Thomas, an Academic Counselor for the Learning Effectiveness Program, and Jesse Workman, who is a PhD candidate for the Theology/Philosophy program at Iliff School of Theology. Michele McCandless, who you’ll meet in this video expressed her frustration with the typical student body who “parts like the red sea” when navigating their way around a blind person. She also discusses college programs that try to simulate the challenges a blind person faces by blindfolding students or putting cotton balls in their ears fails miserably to help students connect with their peers. She unapologetically explains that students only feel more negatively saying, “Thank God I don’t have disabilities, or else I’d kill myself.”
The hour I spent with Dave Thomas was special primarily because of his gentle and calming demeanor, but also because he spoke openly about his life as a blind man. Dave lost his vision when he was 20 years-old. Before then, he was just like the rest of us. He tells us about his life, love for his job and his seeing eye-dog, Hatchet.
Jesse Workman, a candidate for the PhD Theology/Philosophy program at llif was born blind and has lived inside the academic world for more than several decades. He candidly tells me about what it feels like to be different and how even though he cannot see people staring at him, the awkwardness he intuits is just as painful.
All in all, the interviews for this article did in fact dive into the technological growth of tools and learning aids for the hearing and seeing impaired, however during our talks occasionally someone revealed a stark truth, imploring a stereotypic or touching a topic many feel so uncomfortable to investigate, my photo and audio essay needed to expose those hidden moments.
It is my belief that before someone can appreciate a technology, or read a fact-based article full of statistics and first-hand accounts of how technology or a service or even a nonprofit is bettering the lives of those affected, one must see and experience the struggles of a person actually involved in those efforts. Through this photo essay my goal is to put you in the place of a blind person, a blind student whose goal is to graduate just like you, but must do so without seeing a thing.

Jan 26, 2012


Last time I checked Jesus wasn’t an advocate of infidelity?

Warning: The following contains curse words, unadulterated opinions, and direct insults to the majority of the male species. So if you will be offended by any of the above, I recommend you stop reading now.

It is snowing outside this window and the traffic passes slowly. Two men are bantering about the presidential primaries. Their vernacular doesn’t suck, they have a general understanding of top issues, but it’s disconcerting how they sound like forty-something puppets, narrating what TV editorialists said on television last night. One of them is rambling about Newt Gingrich and his amazing qualifications for presidency. I agree, the resume reads well, the problem is that it is rotting with narcissism, rampant infidelity and oh right, hypocritical faith-based excuses.

I felt the need to inject my opinion, “Excuse me… just thought I’d let you know that he had an affair with two of his former wives. “ The guy responds, “That stuff is in the past, he is the only candidate who can beat Obama.”

My response, “Dude, it’s January and skeletons are climbing out of Newt’s closet in full force. I can’t fathom how much money is thrown to dangerous mouths… and eventually the blackmail cash will run out and the really fishy, creepy secrets will be exposed and I guarantee, Republicans won’t stand a chance. A man capable of that is capable of more. Oh and, his third wife? The aerosol from her bleached helmet is probably a health hazard. Sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt you guys.” I smiled sweetly and put back on my headphones.

They sat pensively. Are Americans, the literate, innovative country that all other countries aspire to be no longer capable of thinking about moral? Are we so decisive that professional and personal ethics share no common ground at all? So I put my school assignment away for a minute to begin this tirade, this questionnaire to anyone who can offer a solution? We operate in this beautiful, territorial, glorified commercialized bubble, where our international sparkle comes from celebrities and how entertained other countries are by our politician circus acts. There are lions, tigers and bears, and Newt Gingrich. It appears that those who are the people who should run this country, take a stake in our future, are smart enough not to involve themselves in such shenanigans.

Writing is comprised of several elements. Unless you’re disseminating information and reconfiguring it for an essay, anything worth reading generally requires emotion, perspective and a taste of the raw truth. So here we go.

For the last year I’ve devoured the “spiritual” and “learning to live happily” section of Barnes & Noble, I’m madly smitten and post-magazine have returned to a life of academic normalcy. I was recently treated at Mayo Clinic, and experienced a litany of other life-altering experiences, all of which challenged me to be grateful for my blessed life. I’m an official Jesus-lover. However, I’m scribing this quasi-negative diatribe not as a whimpering citizen, but rather as a self-respecting female who is desperate to encourage women to rethink their votes, their men and our consumption of culture. My goal is to indict the idiocies of Newt Gingrich. (Let me mention a few more: Clinton, Kennedy, Eliot, Edwards, McCain, Hart, Roosevelt, Schwarzenegger, Trump, Woods, oh the list goes on and on.)

Who does this man think he is? Well, a typical, American-prescribed presidential candidate/celebrity/athlete. He makes Mormon, ethical, financer Romney look like a virgin, assaulting Romney’s “so-so” leadership with voracious grin, entertained by his own insults. However, has Romney snubbed Gingrich’s pious extra-marital affairs, No. Why? He isn’t a douche bag. Gingrich cheated on his first wife, who was enduring chemotherapy, and the second with whom he requested an open relationship. Nice. And sure, he whimpered a half-ass apology to his evangelical continuants, but come on? The Lord is forgiving, he promises us forgiveness, and while it isn’t the right of democrats, Christians, or Americans to judge Newt on his betrayal, the big guy can take on that way… Newt hasn’t hit the golden gates’ verdict, so in the meantime, might it be prudent to say sorry to the ex-wives, the children, and the public who were indirectly screwed as a byproduct of his screwing?

Newt Gingrich is eating caucuses alive and the crowds of South Carolina and Iowa slurp down his saccharine, grotesque speeches like ice cream. So these populations, who in great masses pontificate their evangelical morals to the rest of the sinning world, I have to scream from the Rocky Mountaintops, “hypocrites”. Last time I checked Jesus was not an advocate of infidelity. As a Christian, as a most-of-the-time Republican, I urge you, I beg you to not vote for the lesser of two evils, but eradicate evil all together.

Give me a single reason why we are supposed to respect the international diplomacy of a man who doesn’t have enough respect for his children and his wife to keep his pants zipped. Apologies for my blunt and rather curse descriptions of the realities haunting our country, but maybe for the first time in the history of the world, we as American women (who make up 51% of people) can put a stop to the disturbing, growing epidemic. I get that testosterone = smarts, or whatever biological excuse there is, but what happened to sheer maturity and self-discipline?

There has been the long-held adage “boys will be boys,” and forgive me for my feministic tendencies, but check your watch: Women in the media, women at home, WOMEN EVERYWHERE please start treating the genre of cheating men as what they are, little boys incapable of keeping a simple vow, “thou shall not cheat”? And I get it, this isn’t a new trend, for centuries women have dealt with men, submissively forgiven, or ignored adulterous affairs. These men, some politicians, others business tycoons, or popular athletes, are stripping women of years of life, women sacrifice earning power, hours and hours of their twenties and thirties and forties nurturing healthy, happy children; children only to be tarnished by the gaffe of their daddies. Talk about a ROI.

Most say that cheating was worse in the 1950s. This is not a fallacy; mistresses have been rampant since BC. The difference is that these affairs weren’t plastered on the front of magazines, web pages, and dominating dinner talk, where children are present and incredibly vulnerable. Sure, Marilyn Monroe and playboy had their place in society, but strip clubs have grown by the dozens, movies revel in topless scenes, and pornography can be located on my cell phone. WAKE UP AMERICA: women are choosing to spend more in breast augmentation than health insurance. Women, both teens to fifties suffer from more eating disorders than ever-in history. In 2010 nearly a third of all babies were born to single moms. Even if men were hiding mistresses in hotel rooms, mistresses now come out with fake body parts and embrace the role of wife, round two! I’m not stating opinions; these are facts. Decide what you want to make of this reality, but how fair is it to toddlers to witness their fathers cheat on Mommy with a bunch of prostitutes. However, this has become the new norm.

My solution: If all smart, self-respecting women could stand up to the inappropriate power-riddled men and leave them, pack their bags and kiss the past goodbye, it could help generations of women to come, and then maybe men would have a reality check. And if the male species were abandoned by smart chicks and stuck with dumb chicks who relish being treated like doormats, and walk around on stilettos excited to be physical objects, maybe they'll think twice. It confuses me how women who marry cheating men don't understand wearing that ring might as well be a hand grenade tied to their futures. A note to the women who pride themselves on being the third wife; your new man will probably die in thirty years and then you’ll passed up the opportunity to have a family, albeit step-kids. Sorry to shirk the courtesies, I don’t care enough to acknowledge women who cheat children out of families. IF we can do this as a gender, then maybe we, as a nation who prides ourselves on equality, on rights, on gauging a women’s worth far more than the functionality of her ovaries, can have a revolution. The Old Testament, Afghanistan has polygamy, with the number of affairs men have these days, America might as well be knocking on that disgusting door.

Women have been burning bras, fighting against dozens of men in the workplace; we’ve battled for voting rights, for the right to open our own checking accounts. Etc. And just to add to the icky paradigm are the recent books upon books written about generation X men, the MBA guys who are sprinting from the word matrimony; they still have one foot in fraternity-life and the other is exploiting bachelorhood. They figure they’ll settle down with a woman ten years younger, in ten or so years. SO we have a bunch of awesome women now stuck with population of thirty-something little boys, and childbearing years might as well be a ticking time bomb. Why? Women surrender so much for our children, for our children’s children, so where is the fight for HONEST relationships? Why have we allowed, hell, endorsed strip clubs, pornography, open marriages, and leaders with proof of extramarital affairs? Where does it start and how does it end. How can we restore the hope that our children can one day experience a respectable marriage, when people like Newt Gingrich can run for office?

Dec 13, 2011

Why you should write something too.

Writing is nothing more than tossing experiences onto a page, with the solitary hope that those words will help one person feel a little bit more understood. I urge you to toss vulnerability to the wind and share your days with the world. I promise, they will not fall on deaf ears.

It is still dark outside.
Surgery was scheduled for early that morning. We were told that surgery could last from three to twelve hours. I stare at the hands on the clock hanging above the sink. Next to the sink are different types of tubes and red see-through toxic containers.

The door opens. The surgeon is tall with an understanding gaze and a calm demeanor. He walks into the small room, he presses the hand sanitizer on the wall with the dexterity only years of practice can produce. Last week he was wearing dress pants and a white jacket; today he is wearing blue scrubs head to toe. Several nurses and a fellow follow with clipboards, there are in scrubs and clogs as well. One of the nurses hands me two small white pills and a cup of water. I relish the cold. The small waiting room is getting smaller. My parents and Andrew sit in the chairs across from me. I sit cross-legged in sweatpants waiting until they hand me the forbidden hospital gown.

He shakes hands with all of them. And then he pats my back before sitting on the classic swivel chair and says, “You all get enough sleep last night?”

We respond, “yes” in unison. He then asks if we have any last questions. We had four appointments and numerous emails and telephone calls with him in the last seven days. The biopsy was nineteen days ago. The diagnosis was seventeen days ago. The MRI was thirteen days ago. We flew to Mayo for the first time eight days ago. There were the catscans, more MRIs, blood work, and PET scans. There were no more questions.

His hands are large. I imagine him with knitting needles, or mending a button. I’m curious if that is a prerequisite before he could start sewing on humans. I look down to my chest and imagine that it will never look the same again.

The thoughts are cloudy. They’re not coherent. The medications were moving through my blood stream. The nurses usher my parents and Andrew away. My Dad stands up first and kisses the top of my head. And then Andrew lightly kisses my forehead. They walk out together. I know they’ll find the chilly waiting room and read the WSJ on their ipads. I watch my mom hesitate. She bends down, so we are level with each other. She holds my chin softly and looks into eyes in the same way I imagine she has since the day I was born. She says, “Sweet Angel, I promise this will be over soon. I love you so much.”

I hear the door click behind them. The nurses help me into the thin hospital gown, the kind that opened in the front. They reach to cover my naked feet in ugly socks with white rubber soles on the bottom. I’m led into the clean sterile room, which doesn’t register as the operating room.

I vaguely remember the nurses tucking my braids behind my head and laying the white chair back, pulling the gown down and across my shoulder. I remember the chill of having my breast exposed, the texture of the cold washcloth gently rinsing off the area. Then there was the sting of needles, which broke the pain into seconds and then into hours.

The bright lights and voices had long since faded, when I felt intense pressure on my chest. Deep in my conscious I knew that the incisions were being made.

The first segment of the surgery lasted two hours. The first round was to remove the tumor. And then they would take it to the pathologist, they would stain the slides, they would “bread loaf” the cells, the hope would be he would return to the waiting room with good news.

Two hours later, he explained to my parents and to Andrew that they the results were still positive. He would need to remove more.

He cut deep into the muscle. Physically detaching the roots of the tumor, which had begun to wrap around my clavicle. The cells were stained and sent back to the lab. It took another two hours.

It was early afternoon by then. The nurse was slowly putting a straw in my mouth. The juice drenched my thirst. My head throbbed. I waited falling in and out of darkness.

It is all fuzzy. I hear the surgeon talking, he sounds so far away, “Auna. Auna can you hear me?”

I mumble through the ice melting on my tongue. I’m not sure I can hear him.

Auna, the margins tested clear of cancer. It's over now. It’s time to sew you up.“

It’s foggy. They’re explaining why I need to stay awake. Then I feel needles, pain is searing through consciousness, and suddenly I’m sobbing. He is giving directions to the nurses, “the local is wearing off, we need to wash the wound and set the internal antibiotics.”

He says softly, “This might hurt a little bit, but we’re going to do our best to keep you comfortable.

My body doesn’t want to move, the needles enter my body, I know the syringes are going deep. My body convulses in pain. These thoughts aren’t registering on the surface, but deep in my subconscious, what they’re doing, I envision them sewing my muscle together, the innocent muscle, the skin that did no wrong. I fall asleep again, but the pain doesn’t end. It stings.

An hour later… A female voice is in the room. I know it isn’t one of the nurses. She is talking to me. I want to see her, but I'm caught in the dark. Then I hear my Dad talking, and then I hear Andrew, he is asking someone when I will wake up.

Then my mom’s voice feels closer; I can sense her, “Honey?

The light bleeds into the dark room. I squint. I expect a sunny room, but the windows are dark, dusk had since left us, and the room was lit with the cool tones of ambient medical lights. I try to sit up, but I hear my own scream before I can register my pain. It shoots through my chest, I am afraid to look down.

There is gauze. There is tape and white taped from my breast up to my neck. I cannot see anything. I don’t want to see anything.

We all sit in silence for a while. We’re not in a rush anymore. There is no hurry to see a doctor. To find specialists. There are no more scary Google searches. No more biopsies. They’re waiting for me to say something.

It’s gone.”

Nov 22, 2011


At 3:10pm I was a healthy, carefree 26-year-old. And around 4:10pm I wasn’t.

One week ago
“Do you see lines, or at least that one line? Can’t we Botox that?” I lift my chin and point to my throat and say with excitement!
“The imaginary lines, right?” She laughs. “You’re not getting old, I promise.”

The large mirror is reflecting a woman with green eyes staring out from a thick, white, gooey facial mask. Ahem, me. I’ve seen the same eyes behind various masks for the last ten years, but the woman hiding underneath has changed drastically. From where I call home, to where I work, to my beau, to my weight, to my friendships, and even to my goals and desires. I love how even when our ages chance numbers, our noses and ears grow, our skin sags and smile lines frame our face, our eyes stay the same.

Tanisha has been the skin-care solution, a savior to every woman’s blemish or sunburn in my family. I began visiting her warm office that always smells of sweet citrus when I was thirteen and teenage acne was galvanizing my face. Pre-emptive was my motivator. Tanning beds were for quitters. I was determined to be the hot and sexy chica, well forever. I was frustrated because I spotted some freckles under my clavicle bone and sunspots on a twenty-something were gross. I was a fan of micro-derm… eye crèmes, latisse.

She places cool cucumber slices over my eyes. She asks, “So what are you doing for Christmas?”

“We’re actually going to the Caribbean. Maybe go scuba diving; my family hasn’t done a vacation in years. I’m excited for the ocean breeze and dolphin watching. I’m headed to go swimsuit shopping tomorrow.” I said with a grin.

I was counting down the days until we could abandon reality as the five of us and disappear into the British Islands. It had been a hell of a few years and I was ready to laugh and play monopoly with my mom, dad, little brother and sister. Adulthood hasn’t turned into strangers, but communication now consisted of phone calls and organized dinners. I missed wholesome spontaneity of the nuclear family.

Last week my biggest problems included finding a swimsuit and finishing a term paper. And I thought my life was over when I noticed a solitary crinkle above my nose. This week I’m trying to find specialists at Mayo. And I’d give anything for a few wrinkles.

It’s 7:41pm in Denver. It’s 9:41pm in New York. I’m in the first row of a plane and we’re flying somewhere over Kansas, but the clouds block any signs of life below. I know there are Moms and Dads, young couples, friends pushing shopping carts through the grocery store picking out that special Turkey. There are kids doing homework, dogs being brushed, people falling in love. However the signs of life inside of the airplane are prevalent and very loud. There is a woman knitting a blanket with the red yarn with silver threads woven in. There is a woman feeding twin babies, switching breasts every thirty or so minutes. A man eating some sort of chicken salad. And Andrew is sitting next to me engrossed in his Travel & Leisure. And I sit here with my headphones keeping me company, trying to figure out how to describe the event that unfolded a few hours ago.

After we got the phone call on Friday I walked into his office armed with optimism. In theory I relished the image of me smiling and beaming, embracing the idea of surgery. I’d be a rock star. But once I felt the cold chill and heard the hum of the air conditioners, and then saw the man in a white jacket holding a clipboard, the image of me being a badass disappeared.
I’m shivering. Why do doctors always keep their offices so freaking chilly? I guess it’s a more conducive environment to misery. There is no possible chance of feeling cozy on metal chairs with plastic cushions.

Andrew then turned to me and kissed my nose softly, “You know I’m not going anywhere, right?”
“I hope you’re not going anywhere.” I say quietly.

The surgeon walks back into the room handing us several sheets of papers, they’re typed with complicated terms and directions. There are orders and names of specialists. Titles under the specialists include “limb preservation”. His white jacket giving him the feeling of authority, I’m safer when he is near me. I always feel safer in churches and hospitals.

He turns to me and then turns to Andrew and then turns back to me, “This isn’t something that is an emergency, but let’s get this taken care of in the next week or two.” He says sincerely.

“So it’s like a really bad cyst?” I say. Trying to better understand what’s going on.
“No, actually this is a tumor.” He says.
“But it’s benign, right?”
“I don’t want to call it that. These quickly can become malignant, so I think it’s best to operate sooner rather than later. The specialists can better answer that specific question.”

Andrew interjects my lame questions with, “Can you explain the surgery to us?” he asks.

I squirm.

“Do you see the biopsy area?” He lightly touches the bandage under my clavicle, where there are ugly black stitches and gauze. It’s difficult to miss.

“We’ll remove the skin around that entire area and then we’ll cut out the tissue up until the fascia, and then we’ll scrape the fascia for any remaining cells. And then we’ll also cut a 3-5cenimeter margin around the affected area.”

“And then will they put her skin back on that area?” He asks.
I’m silently pleading for the conversation to stop. I need a break. I need a soda. I need a week. “Actually, no. It is important that her skin is permanently removed in that area; that’s why we’ll do skin-graphing.”
“What skin will you use?” He asks.
The surgeon pats his own thigh. “The donor skin will come from her leg.”
“And then that is sewn into the area?”
“Precisely. And we’ll actually sew in a protective layer for two weeks while we wait to see if the body accepts the graph. The patch will be around 4x4 inches in total and then there will be about a ¼ indention. And obviously there will be discoloration.”

I pipe up, “Isn’t there a way that they can do a filler or something to even the skin out?”

He looks at me with gentle eyes, “I’m afraid not. The skin will be very thin and fragile area and they’ll need to be paying very close attention to the area to make sure the tumor doesn’t come back.”

Andrew interrupts, clearly not concerned with the aesthetic issues, “What will be the time in the hospital, the recovery, etc…”

Their voices become fuzzy and I’m caught in a hazy realization that what they’re talking about isn’t skin, it’s her skin, and her is me. This isn’t just a conversation. They’re talking about a procedure. And there isn’t an option. I like my choices. It’s one of the reasons I dig being American.

I walked into this office several weeks ago with a bump on my chest. It’s a bump that a million doctors have always said, “it’s a fluid-filled cyst. It’s nothing to worry about.” Every single dermatologist, family practice, nurse said, “leave it alone.”

But whenever I put lotion on and felt the raised area I would shudder. I didn’t like it. So I visited a plastic surgeon, “Do you see this bump?”
“I want it out. I know that it isn’t necessary and insurance won’t cover it, but I think it’s just, I just want it out.”
“It’s going to leave a very visible scar. Are you okay with that?”

I went home and slept on it. I figured a scar was worth the peace of mind. I called the next morning to schedule the appointment. When I arrived at the office several days ago to get prickled with local and a few milliliters lighter, the surgeon said, “I think it’s a good idea for us to send this to a pathologist, just in case.”

“Sure.” His suggestion didn’t even register.

He started off by numbing my chest with reassuring comments about how it would only take a few minutes. But fifteen or twenty minutes into the procedure his eyes were incredibly focused, and his voice wasn’t one of reassurance, in fact he was silent until he asked his nurse to, “We are actually taking two samples. Can you label the second sample? And then let’s sew her up.”

The word sample is when I realized this wasn’t a stubborn pore, or scar tissue.
“Okay Auna, well this is much larger than I suspected, however we got enough of a biopsy for the pathologist.”

And then on Friday night we were packing for Vail and received a phone call that the made the insomnia come back. It made the stupid stuff in life more stupid.

They both turned to me. What am I supposed to say? It’s requiring every iota of effort to keep the dam in place, to prevent the landslide of tears that will submerge my mascara if I’m not careful.

So I fake the biggest, toothiest smile I can muster, “Sounds great. Thank you for all this information. I will start making these phone calls right away.”

Their expressions are startled. But they don’t understand why I need out. I need fresh air. The cold office that smells of sterile gloves and iv’s are all too familiar. I’ve been here before. I had staph infection that nearly stole my life and my leg five years ago. I got it. I was an expert in things not normal.

I feel shallow now. When a woman is standing in line at Nordstrom and there is something weird or wrong with her face or neck, I notice. Who doesn’t? We’re all used to seeing the norm and so when something atypical arrives it takes a few seconds to adjust, to calculate; to observe.

I used to feel bad for myself because I had a massive dent in my hip, but now I’d take a dent in the other hip than an indention in my chest. It will be ugly and it won’t go away, or get better. This is one of those forever things. I don’t want to be ugly; I don’t want to be abnormal. I want to be pretty when I dress up and get fancy. I don’t want to be the one girl who people can’t figure out what’s wrong with her chest.

But the second thing is more… there is a tumor growing next to my heart. It sits under my skin, slowly snaking around the muscle tissue, creeping near my arms and my throat. It’s foreign, it’s uninvited and yet, it stays. I don’t know how or why this tumor found residence in my chest, but for some reason it did. I want to run away from it, I want it to disappear, but tumors don’t work like that. They get comfortable, they’re bossy, they’re insensitive; they cause pain and anguish and scar people’s lives.

And I guess I’m no exception.

I’m supposed to be enjoying a week with my boyfriend’s family. Tomorrow I’m supposed to be spending the night in Manhattan catching up with my dearest friends. And now, we’re trying to schedule an MRI over Thanksgiving. I can kiss the Caribbean goodbye, no working out, golf, skiing, etc.. For a while.

And so final question is… I so desperately want to be the optimistic person shielding shallow fears with a grateful attitude, but I can’t shake it. The bible says that God hands us troubles because he loves us. In so many ways, I have to agree. Usually our success stories impress others, we leverage ourselves farther in the great ladder of life, but success doesn’t teach us to love ourselves, it’s survival that puts up that test.

It’s when we have no choice, but to endure. And then I get grateful. It could be so much worse, I could be so much sicker, less fortunate, without insurance and so on… So maybe this will give me a different reason to look in the mirror and smile, not because my eyes are green or I can’t find any lines, but because there will be a reminder that I endured.

Nov 19, 2011

Green, Green Grass

You know it’s going to be an awesome night when your surgeon leaves his cell phone number on your voice mail.

It’s hard to call yourself a writer, if you don’t write anymore. At some point, I’ve sold myself to magazine articles and then to term papers. Somewhere in the process I’ve forgotten about creative grammar, spelling errors so ridiculous they can only be made past 3am, and the words spilled across the pages solely for the purpose of being said. Pure writing is for the soul, however antiquated and cliché it sounds.

It’s late. My significant other is slumbering in the room over. Ambien seems to be broken and my mind is on fire. This white couch is comfortable, cozy, it has years of stories, naps, kisses, long conversations huddled over apple spice decaffeinated tea. The periwinkle and silk blanket covering me was a gift several Christmas’ ago. My tortoise shell glasses perch on my nose, and fingertips glide over the keyboard as effortlessly as a classical pianist finds her notes.

Thank GOD for plastic surgeons. This scar won’t be too bad. I’m stubborn as hell and so insist on local anesthetic. All those stories of patients who wakeup mid-surgery make me shudder. I don’t want to be interviewed by the Channel 9 guy on with a microphone shoved in my face, “So, what type of conversations did you over hear? Did you feel anything? Did you have an out-of-body-experience?”

I say no to all of the above. So instead I voluntarily clench every muscle as he injects the painful poison past my epidermal layer. To numb me. He leans over so closely the scent of altoid fumes fill my nostrils. I assume his hands are cold, but the skin on my chest is anesthetized, so I’m not sure. I insist upon bringing my iPod with me. Everywhere. Dentist included. Jim Brickman strikes his final thunderous cords and the harmonious meditation soundtrack is about to quench my nerves and send me into a relaxed state of mind. I’m undergoing a minor surgery to get a cyst removed from my chest. I know, gross. Usually when you trip across my blog I’ll feed you stories about dating or democrats, but today is a happy story about feeling positive when shit hits the fan. Or not. I was told the results from the pathologist would be back by Tuesday or Wednesday.

It’s Friday night. I’m not sad or angry. In fact, the Christian and optimist in me is thrilled! Yay! But, the realist in me and the aesthetic fashionista who likes her scoop neck tees is scowling in the corner. Andrew and I are supposed to be in Vail with our friends right now. We’re supposed to be hitting the man-made snow-slopes in several hours. However due to the lovely phone call we received several hours ago, our plans have been rerouted to the couch and pizza boxes and we’re staying in tonight. I’m jealous that my friends aren’t enduring this. The grass, or I guess the snow on the other side of i-70 always seems a bit more beautiful.

Message from Said Doctor: “Auna, Hi. I just received the results and had a long (emphasize long) conversation with the pathologist, well. I want to talk to you. So the good news is that it isn’t malignant, but I have some other news. So the other news (clarifying there is more news) is that the cyst has the potential to become malignant. (I’m praying he can stop using the M-word). We need to take the rest out, as you know I was not able to do before. (I’m now staring at the huge patchwork piece of Frankenstein skin on my chest from two days ago.) Which is a more invasive surgery and will probably require skin graphing. (Yay!) I want to get you in on Monday so we can begin calling specialists. Here is my cell phone. (He repeats the number.) I’ll be available all night.


My first reaction is to jump on the “wah wah wah” bus. News is funny, ironic, whatever. Here I was, expecting to hear option A: “Benign” B: “Malignant”… but instead I got option A with some additional insight. Nobody said, “Auna, you should get this cyst removed.” In fact, every single doctor has said, “Watch it. See if it grows.” But something deep inside my psyche told me to get it out. And that’s when I learned the power of trusting oneself. Which freaks me out even more. Western medicine, my arse…

Reaction B: I turn to my boyfriend, who not only threw me a surprise birthday party at a country western concert, he engulfs food I attempt to prepare, and also has told me I look beautiful at 2am with eyeliner spewing from my tear ducts, and a runny nose… and I cry, “You will love me with a dent in my chest, right?”

He responds, “Of course. I would love you if you had three eyes.”

I'm lucky to have such a romantic. I’ll go into the doctor on Monday and then I’ll go one step at a time. I cannot go any faster. I’m a bit bummed about not going scuba-diving over vacation, but I’m also not starving in Africa, so I’m sure I can get over it. Scars are the reliable reminders that you’re durable. Scars are the souvenirs of life. They’re like photographs and stories you can tuck in your back pocket, so if you’re bummed, alone, frustrated, you have proof there you’ve survived hardship, and you can do it again.

Life is great. And while it took a little (big) pep-talk to remind myself of the obvious; I have the most amazing, healthy and supportive family and friends and lover. (He loves it when I call him that.) Albeit the warm and fuzzy stuff just mentioned, I’d be a liar to say there isn’t something unsettling about the phone call I received earlier tonight. I guess it boils down to making peace without having to make peace about something. I'm aware that sleep is a distant activity far, far away, so I thought I’d do what I do best; type about myself.

I intend to write more. I’ll be raunchier, risqué, whatever you want next time. But in the meantime, I wish something for you.

I wish for you blue skies, true love, a long life and the kind of grass that only grows greener with time.

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