Chemo Dance Party: Don’t Wait To Live

I got a little crazy even for me yesterday during chemo. I decided to have a Chemo Dance Party.

First, I did a little pole dancing:

Then I moved on to the Twist:

Chemo, Chemo––Cha-Cha-Cha!

Followed by the Bump––

Mambo Italiiano––

“All you Calabrese do the Mambo like-a crazy…”

It’s Just A Jump To The Left, And Then A Step To the Right––

Put Your Hands On Your Hips And Bring Your Knees In Tight––

Hey, Macarena!

And partway through this post, the edit-photo utility fell over and died––probably overwhelmed by Dance Party Excess––so the last photos are a bit in-your-face large. No, don’t explain how I can fix it, you’ll only confuse me. Software baffles me. I’m a hardware girl––I can build a pc but I know just enough to tell you whether you have a hardware problem or a software problem. If it’s a software problem, I can’t help you.

And those photos sure are in-your-face large. I hope they haven’t sent anyone running into the streets screaming in terror. Because that’s a whole lot of cancer patient filling up the screen. I’ve never been this heavy in my life.

This was me some twenty-odd years ago, at a science-fiction convention in Texas::

which, at my age, is not that long ago. I had hopes of preserving that jawline. Well, we all get older and sometimes the things that happen to the body are things we have no control over––no matter what you’re told by all those magazine articles and skinny young people who think “I’d never let myself go like that.

Yeah, I’m a little defensive about being heavy. I was too heavy before I developed cancer and the form my cancer took made me even heavier. (What, you thought all cancer patients looked tragically thin and wasted? Ha!) The good news about how well the chemo is working on diminishing the cancer cells does not mean my body will automatically rebound to its pre-cancer state––I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me after chemo. Not that I think I’m going to restore myself to that younger woman in the above photo. I have to get myself in condition to walk a block without needing to rest my back, so I can put on my clothes without being so winded that I have to sit down. So I can just run out to a shop on Green Lanes when I want something instead of asking Chris. So I can go shopping with my friends and not bug out and taking a cab home so I can lie down. No doubt my appearance will improve but I’m in my 60s and I’m not Madonna. Anyone who thinks I’m hard to look at can stop staring and look at something else, thank you so much, I’m sure.

Yeah, a little defensive. Just a little.

Women are judged on their looks. We know it; we all do it, no matter how we ourselves look. And men aren’t immune. A plus-sized man at a club/concert was enjoying the music and gettin’ down with his bad self when some wretched bastards put a stop to his enjoyment by making fun of him. That got him to stop enjoying himself––how dare he feel like dancing in a body like that? No, he wasn’t bothering them or hitting on them––they just objected to his appearance. Fortunately, a group of women decided to make it up to him by inviting him to a dance party in his honour, where they would all dance with him. (Google this; I’m too lazy to do it but it should be easy to find.)

That’s a wonderful thing to do. But I don’t think we’ll see the opposite––men giving a party for a plus-sized woman––any time real soon.

When a fat woman walks down the street, no one thinks, Poor thing is probably so busy working a job and taking care of her family that she has no time to eat right or get enough exercise. It’s usually more like, God, didn’t anyone tell her women her size shouldn’t wear such loud prints and Christ, look at all that cellulite.

And if she dares to eat in public, it gets worse. I was at Heathrow one night waiting for a friend to arrive and I was eating an ice cream bar, the first food I’d had since breakfast. An older man came up to me and said, “A minute on the lips, a life-time on the hips!” Being me, I replied, “That may be true, but it’s tacky to point it out.”

Judging from the look on his face, it was the first time a fat woman had dared talk back to him.

It’s rough for us out there. It’s rough for any woman; even most women who aren’t fat are sure they’re too heavy. People talk about obesity as an epidemic, like it’s a disease. If so it’s a rara avis––a lot of people will blame you for catching it. It’s your own fault for sitting around eating so much.

Right. Because everything tastes so good that we’d rather be fat than stop.

Lots of things put weight on people. Antidepressants are notorious for weight-gain. Ironically, they can also reduce appetite. So you get a lot of people who aren’t that hungry suddenly packing on the pounds. That’s right, there are drugs that reduce appetite and cause weight gain, and they’re prescribed to people who feel like killing themselves. What’s wrong with this picture? If they’d just figure out how to switch that around––increased appetite and weight loss––they wouldn’t even have to put in the anti-depressant part.

I’ve been taking antidepressants for twenty years; it’s how I got fat. I can deal with the weight better than the depression. It’s hard to lose weight but not totally impossible. Depression, on the other hand, is just…No.

Antidepressants aren’t the only things that have this effect. Various illnesses will put weight on you. So will plain old misfortune. If you’re over 40 and you’re in a car accident in which you break your leg badly enough to land you in traction, you’re not going to like what you see when the cast finally comes off. Or all that time you set aside for the gym and personal training may have to go to caring for an elderly parent, an ailing spouse, or a child who develops leukemia or some other nightmare of a problem.

It doesn’t even take a disaster. Sometimes it’s just getting older and the body you’ve worked so hard to take care of suddenly turns on you––the ungrateful bastard––and decides to blow up like a zeppelin. Bastard.

So what does any of this have to with the Chemo Dance Party, which is pretty damned silly?

Well, it’s not really meant to be an apologia/excuse for my Reubenesque proportions. It’s more to do with having cancer, one with a prognosis that more often not doesn’t end in smiles all round.

Chemo Dance Party is about living while you can––not just living but Living, with everything you’ve got. Chemo Dance Party is don’t wait to live. Don’t wait till your hair grows back; don’t wait till you lose weight; don’t wait till you get everything arranged the way you’d like it to be.

Don’t wait to live till it’s perfect. Live in such a way that makes life turn perfect. Don’t wait for the sun to shine––dance your heart out in the rain. (Hey, didn’t someone even write a song about how great it is to do that?)

Don’t wait to live. And don’t let anyone try to shame you out of it.

If I can’t have Chemo Dance Party, the terrorists win.


20 thoughts on “Chemo Dance Party: Don’t Wait To Live

  1. This is the best fucking post I’ve read about anything anywhere. I adore you. You are my soul and my heart’s inspiration (wait, isn’t there a song about that?). Leave it to you, Twinlet, to grow more magnificent, inspiring and empowered through every moment of life, no matter what the circumstances. ROCK ON!!!

  2. That sound you hear is me, blushing audibly. You’re a sweetheart, Twinlet, and friends like you are why I can keep my spirits up.

  3. I’ve often thought antidepressants were a bastard like that – but frankly I’d rather be fat than dead, which is pretty much what the alternative would be. I’ll take fat over suicidal any day.

    The Chemo Dance Party is a great idea – and you’ve got some great moves there. 😉

    • Thanks, Arkady. I don’t know why antidepressants have to do that but like you, I can handle gaining weight better than wanting to die all the time.

      Glad you liked the Chemo Dance Party. Haven’t figured out how I’m going to follow that but I’ve got 20 days to come up with something…

  4. Brava, my dear. (I haven’t been checking the web as much as usual in the past few days-deadlines & soon to travel-so I just caught this). You are the best. Love you!

  5. Bravo! I hear you loud and clear. When I was in my late 20s and a thin, fit person, I developed seriously high blood pressure (congenital, not anything else — I was tested…). The drugs to get the BP down were notorious for causing weight gain, which is really bad for HBP patients. But, the choice was have a stroke or get fat. As much as I wish it weren’t so, alive and chubby beats the hell out of being dead. Add to that the car accident and all the subsequent back issues — I can’t walk and run and go to ballet class anymore. And there you have it. But we live in a culture that doesn’t forgive getting older, getting fatter, and just not being young anymore. Tough beans, kids. we’re here. Get used to it.

    It was a joy to see your dance photos, too. For all my adult life I have believed that dancing is a celebration of life and all its joys. Weight, age, whatever, have no bearing on the wonderfulness of dancing. It’s for everyone.

    We should all dance, have adventures, and laugh as much as we can — definitely enjoy the moment. Besides, it’s more fun.

    • I’ll drink to that, Geri!

      I know number of people who have the same congenital hypertension––it’s just there, like brown eyes or height. The effects of the treatment is like some kind of bad cosmic joke. But alive and chubby definitely beats any kind of dead.

      I used to teach bellydance in Lawrence, Kansas with two women friends back when I was at KU. Women would take the class and some of them were absolutely sure they couldn’t dance but they wanted to try it. We encouraged movement over perfection––first, you had to allow yourself to feel the joy in the music and let yourself have fun. There was no kind of competition or prize for best dancer or even most improved––just a bunch of women getting together once a week to let themselves out to play. For a lot of them, it was the only two hours they had away from classes and/or their family obligations, where the only people they had to please were themselves. It was great fun and it was wonderful to see women dancing because dancing felt good. And the thing about bellydancing is, the more you do it, the better you get at it, no matter how old you are, or what size you are. We had everyone from college students to grandmothers, in every size and shape.

      I’m still in touch with one of the women I taught with––Hi, Cindy! We also ran a bellydance club on campus. I’ll never forget the night we danced for a heavily Iranian audience at a multi-cultural event on campus. Believe me, there was peace in the Middle East *and* the Midwest that night.

  6. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present than this post in all it’s wonderfulness.Thank you so much – my year is definitely shaping up to be excellent if it starts with this.

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