Thursday, December 20, 2007


In 1997, I did a COMICS episode for CBC. Ten years later it is still running. It just ran the other week. I have people (I'd like to call them fans, but that would be presumptuous) approach me saying they loved my act. I had one foxy young man look me over and ask “what happened?” What happened? I put on ten years. I haven’t put on any weight, but I’ve let the hair go a lovely shade of silver. To hell with dyeing the hair. I’m 45 and quite proud of the fact. I’m alive, despite my best efforts. Now that I don't imbibe intoxicants or partake in recreational drugs, I have turned to fitness for my high. I hope to die in an avalanche. Okay, I hope to die in my sleep, but an avalanche is a distant second.

Be that as it may.

It’s strange seeing your former self replayed every couple of weeks. I wonder if Arnold Schwarzenegger's sister calls him up saying “I saw Kindergarten Cop AGAIN the other night on TV. I’m sick of you.”

Must admit, I was good. Not great, but good. And now as I embark on the standup trail again, I hope to be good-to-very good.

As you can see, I need a PR person badly…

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Of Brown Bags and Paperbacks

One of the unexpected pleasures of this nine-to-five job I have for another two weeks is the morning commute. I adore a full-to-capacity subway train in the morning. I burrow my way through the crowd and prop myself up against the glass door in between cars. NO ONE ever heads to this oasis of calm. Why? Why does everyone cluster around the doors where people enter and exit? They seem poised to stampede.

Safe and snug in my cubbyhole, I produce a paperback from my satchel (yes, I have a satchel -- what's it to ya?). For the fifteen minutes it takes me to travel to my lucrative yet deadening employment, I am happily immersed in the world of the particular author I'm reading. Lately it’s been Dickens and David Copperfield, but I’ve had to say au revoir to Peggotty in favour of a library book that’s just come in—Joe Keenan’s “My Lucky Star”. Keenan was a writer/producer on “Fraser” and this is his third novel. Show off. It’s every bit as sophisticated and witty as his television work.

As for brown bags, I must say I’m getting a little tired of taking my lunch to work. I ran out of lettuce today and added parsley to my cheese sandwich. Why I would have a bunch of parsley and not a head of lettuce in my fridge I can’t say. SEE WHAT THIS JOB IS DOING TO ME? It’s sheer madness! Some days I feel like driving my head through my corner office window, just for the physical sensation.

Marketing geniuses have suckered the unwashed into purchasing high end condos that will go up at the corner of Yonge and Bloor, in the not-so-near future. The bastards! They are going to knock down a perfectly ugly block of low rise offices and cheap ethnic eateries so some debt-ridden patsies can bed down in 300 square feet cubicles/nestings. I’ll tell ya – that’s gonna be one disappointing view from the 35th floor. Stollery’s on one corner and the Bay on another. Wowee. Oh so chic. Idiots! Meanwhile where will the stupefied go for six dollar chicken thali? Why didn’t the city consult with numb and bored neighbourhood office drones first? Developers – they don’t know nothin’ from chicken thali.

Two more weeks to go. How do people do this all the time?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Initiative, Innovative, Developmental Capacity

I have been derelict in my duties as one in a faceless horde of bloggers jotting down thoughts for a public both real and imaginary. I apologize for my slacking off but I have a good reason -- I have been employed at a job that requires me to go into an office and write. I am a government communications hack. Yes, I have given up on myself. For another two months. Then the contract ends and I'll be back to being a freelance goofball.

There's a lot to be said for being a freelance goofball. The dress code is not as strict. A person can peruse dollar stores in the middle of the day. The mind can drift.

Who would have thought I wouldn't be able to let my mind drift on a government job? Who would have thought government workers actually did anything? Not me. I bought into all the stereotypes. Lordy, how do people multi-task all the time? It's bullshit, it really is. To quote Charles Emmerson Winchester from M*A*S*H, "I do one thing at a time, I do it very well and then, I move on". I must admit I enjoy playing adult, going into an office and being accountable to a team of people. But I also love being a free range artist, pecking and scratching at dirt.

Do you know what I look forward to most days? Deciding what colour of shirt I'm going to wear to the office. Should I wear blue or green?! Today I freaked out and wore yellow. YELLOW. Try having a serious conversation with a peer when you're wearing yellow. The shirt was soft, too. I felt like a newborn.

The only thing that sustains me through hours of deciphering mind numbing bureaucratic language is knowing that I have an agent who has taken on my first novel. Joy. Once this contract is over I'll get back to squeezing out meaning through my own syntax and style.

I hope I never see the words "initiative" "innovative" and "developmental capacity" in a single sentence ever again.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Live and Alive, Live!

I’m back on the standup trail again, after a long hiatus spent writing and having various surgeries. It’s different this time around. I’m ten years older and my hair is “executive blond”. I am no longer the fresh young face on the circuit. Instead, I am the battle-worn 45 year old face on the circuit. I’m lucky though, two litres of water a day has kept this battle-worn face baby smooth. So has not smoking and quitting drinking. I look like I’m in my thirties. Just ask guys in their 20s I’ve courted. Why am I back in the clubs trying to make audiences laugh, when I should be home curled up in front of the TV watching gruesome footage of the latest suicide bombing in Iraq? Because if you watch enough footage of suicide bombings, followed by stories about celebrity misbehaviour, juxtaposed with commercials for banks and skin crème and pizza pops, you’ll go mad. Doing standup comedy is like being a part of a fight club. You feel every joke bomb like a blow to the head, and every bit kill like a sweaty embrace. You feel. I’m learning that in middle-age, having brain and body totally engaged at once is a rare and pleasurable sensation. I am greedy for it now. I have been reborn.

Yes, the standup world has changed. Audiences are younger. My frame of reference may need sharpening. I don’t have a cell phone, I don’t have cable, I don’t have a satellite dish, I don’t have high speed internet. I am on Rogers Most Wanted list. It takes me 25 minutes to download four pictures. Why am I not more wired? Simple. I don’t want or need these things. Yesterday’s convenience is today’s necessity. Tomorrow we may find robots essential. But for today, I prefer to give the kid down the street ten bucks to mow my lawn, rather than a cyborg. Come to think of it, with his IPOD taking permanent shape in his ears and his trigger-happy text messaging fingers, the kid down the street is already a cyborg. Get a jump on the competition, Billy! Why not.

It is hard for me to relate. I like listening to birds.

But I persist. I’ve enjoyed riffing on middle-age, how I used to line up for Clash and Sex Pistol tickets and now I line up for a two dollar box of Bran Flakes at Price Chopper. There’s quiet satisfaction in saving a dollar fifty on cereal. That ought to stick it to the man! No need to protest at G8 summits. Younger audiences intimidate me a little. They can be quite conservative. What I may lack in celebrity knowledge they make up for in ignorance of world events, politics, science, religion and anything that doesn’t revolve around their own precious selves. In short, nothing much has changed since I was a pus-filled youth. The only thing different now is the accelerated speed of stupidity and lack of regard. Plus ca change and all that.

I’m not interested in playing only to the Bran Flake set. One of the hippest comics out there is George Carlin. At 70 he’s as relevant as ever, a sharp social satirist who’s not afraid to tear into American culture (or lack thereof). No subject is off limits: suicide, genocide, natural disasters -- all are fair game. Age shouldn’t matter when it comes to comedy; voice and originality should.
So come to the cabaret mein chum. Check out some live comedy. You never know, you may see someone in your demographic on stage, live and alive.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Diary of an Insomniac

July 5, 2007. 3:45am.
Dear Diary. Or should I call you a journal? I think journal sounds more mature somehow. What do you think? I can’t decide. Why don’t we just leave it for now.

My bedside clock says it’s 3:45 A.M. Wait – now it’s 3:46 A.M. I’ll have to be awake in another three hours. I’m debating whether or not to get up and do something productive like vacuum or drywall. I’ll debate another hour and exhaust myself into a twitchy semi-consciousness. Sounds like a plan.

I know why kids are afraid of the dark. In the void they see the spectre of their future as monsters and goblins. Adults know these spectres as loans officers and employers. Fear looms larger in a darkened room. Your own inevitability is clear.

Maybe I should have some milk.

July 6 2007. 4:25 A.M.
Dear Journal. Hmm. I kinda like “Dear Diary” better. “Dear Journal” sounds too 1984ish, too bureaucratic. What ever happened to the Orwellian predictions of 1984? I suppose brutal conformity did happen. Everyone wore pastels.

Mortimer at work said I did a good job on the report. What did he mean by that? What was he getting at? I don’t trust him. He has crystals in his office. He has an office. It’s all a ruse to trick me into a false sense of security. I’m on contract for God’s sake, I could be out the door in a second, panhandling on Yonge street with punk kids from Richmond Hill. Or worse, I could be doing amateur night at a stand-up comedy club. I have an idea. I’ll smile more often. I’ll walk down the corridors, smiling. All the time. My co-workers will either think I’ve been promoted to a staff position or I’ve gone insane. Flip of the coin.

Maybe I should have some warm milk.

July 7, 2007. 5:12 A.M
Dear Journal/Diary. Can’t sleep, but for a solid reason. The people upstairs are blaring techno and “whooing”. ‘Tis the season. Then again, every couple of nights is the season for them. It sounds like one of the party guests upstairs is either throwing up or having sex. It’s been so long for me it’s hard to tell the difference. They say having sex helps you sleep. That’s the way I used to sell it to my ex-husband. Maybe that’s why he’s my ex.

Maybe I should go knock on the neighbour’s door, not to tell them to keep it down, but to be louder. If I’m up, I’m up.

July 8, 2007. 2:57 A.M.
Dear Diary/Journal. Sometimes you just can’t sleep. They say women are biologically lighter sleepers that men. We always have an eye and ear open in case a baby cries. I have an eye and ear open for my own crying. My eyes feel like they’re calcifying. I’m so tired I can feel my skeleton turning to wire. Electricity darts under my eyelids. When I do manage to fall asleep, it’s invariably on public transportation. A passenger usually jostles me because I’ve drooled on their shoulder. Maybe that’s what I should do now – get on the streetcar! The mundane anguish will lull me.

July 9, 2007 3:54 A.M
Dear Diarnal. Get it – Diarnal? I’ve mixed Diary and Journal to form a Diarnal. Sounds like a sleeping pill. July 9th sounds like a sleeping pill. My adrenal glands must look like pillows by now. How can one person have so many stress hormones. And what’s with my pituitary gland? Isn’t it where melatonin is produced or whatever the hell hormone helps you sleep? I can’t keep track of my glands. Mortimer at work suggested I do yoga. What’s he getting at? What does it matter? The earth is scorched, the sun is angry, the environment is turning to dust. Then why does it feel like winter? Am I hot or cold? I’m confused. Screw people and their cars – they’re killing the planet. I don’t want stuff – I want other people to have stuff I can rent. My brain is a centrifuge of obsession, an amusement park ride that won’t stop.

July 10, 2007. 4:21 A.M.
Hey. Monday, or Tuesday morning. No, Tuesday. Good news. I’ve been let go from the office and my new landlord is moving into my apartment. Most people would lose sleep over this, but it doesn’t affect my nocturnal habits one bit. This news would kill a person accustom to eight hours of uninterrupted slumber, but not me. I feel great.
I’m hoping this crisis will have the reverse effect on me. Maybe the enormity of the stress and my chronic insomnia will cancel each other out. Maybe I’ll fall into peaceful, fretless sleep and have sweet dreams. I’m only losing my livelihood and home, it could be worse. I could have the flesh-eating disease. As far as bad things happening, this is bad, but you know, uh, I could have the flesh eating disease.

Maybe I should have some warm milk with a shot of rum. Wait - I don't drink. Remember that.

June 11, 2007. 11:55 A.M.
Dear Diary. I just woke up! I went to bed at midnight and slept solidly, the whole night through. Without meds! So this is what it’s like to be clear headed and rested. If I could manage a coma like this once every couple of weeks, I think I’ll be fine. I have nothing else to lose. But sleep.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Kickin' the Bucket

“My father died.”

My best friend’s voice was flat. Clutching the receiver, I sighed. Although it’s presumptuous to say I know how she felt, I did know how she felt. Fourteen years ago my own father dropped dead while driving his car. The shock of losing a parent I had just talked to a day earlier kept me numb for weeks.

“Uh huh.”

Now, I know the weather is nice and everyone’s out inline skating or catching festivals or calling in sick to work, but, in fact, death does not take a holiday. Death can happen at the most inopportune times, like when you’re stuck in traffic or when you’re walking to the store for a litre of milk or when you’re having sex. Every now and then I’ll be on the subway, perusing that Metro rag, trying not to look at people, when I’ll gaze over the heads of passengers and think, "I am going to die. And I don’t know when".

“Gotta find a flight back.”

“Try American.”

No hysterics, no sobbing and weeping. This was a time for logistics, of organizing a far flung family and hastily putting together a service and an interment. To complicate matters, my friend’s father married three times.

She caught a milk run from Louisiana, while her brother drove up from Virginia and her two other siblings drove in from Montreal. As per her father’s wishes, the body was cremated immediately. Sitting in the beige pews of a middling funeral home in Kitchener on a Wednesday afternoon, my friend and I stared at a photo of her father propped up against the urn.

“My brother’s going to speak.”

“Ah, yes.”

Her brother is an evangelical Christian preacher and, most decidedly, the black sheep of the family.

“He better not…start.”

“There there.”

Several of my friends have lost family members in the last month. I went to my first Shiva last week. I found the evening poignant. Members of my friend’s synagogue led the prayers. And I thought French was hard to understand. I think I was the only goy there. I felt privileged to be invited, to witness this communal sharing of grief. Ritual, whether you believe in what is being said or not, connects us to each other and to history. My own father was barely mentioned at his own funeral. Now that’s old school. No one person is bigger than the resurrection in the R.C tradition. Eulogies are for cry babies.

As we listened to a cheesy rendition of Amazing Grace on the organ, I thought about how my friend must have felt looking at the urn that housed the ashes of her six foot, seven inch father. Five months ago they were fishing in Algonquin Park.

The eldest brother blubbered through a rambling tribute than ran well over 30 minutes. Then the preacher brother spoke. My friend rolled her eyes at her sister, who also rolled her eyes. I admire my friend’s militant secularism, but felt I had to pay attention to her brother, seeing how I would be one of the only people in the small chapel to do so. Her brother (at one time the preacher to the Montreal Expos) launched into a passionate sermon. He knew his scripture, the boy did. He also made everyone squirm. At one point my friend grabbed my arm and loudly whispered “when will this end?” I patted her arm and stifled a yawn.

The service concluded and my friend bolted toward the door for a smoke. This is modern dying, the secular and the sacred jockeying for position, families and friends struggling with their beliefs or lack of belief, or indifference. Meanwhile the deceased is off somewhere, or nowhere, or like City TV, everywhere. Fin.

I call my friend often to see how she’s doing. To my surprise, she never mentions her father. Her grief will come eventually, through a soft summer breeze or a smile from her daughter. It will hit her hard, this transient mystery. Maybe then she’ll develop a gentle tolerance for her brother.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Dishonourable Carolyn Bennett

I’m Carolyn Bennett. Not the doctor and Member of Parliament, but the writer and comedian. I’m about ten, maybe 15 years younger, similar in colouring, hair length and height. My friends say I’m better looking, but they’re my friends. Dr. Carolyn Bennett makes ten times what I do, so okay, I’ll take being better looking. It’s difficult having the same name as a person more famous than you, especially when you’re in the fame business. I’m not nearly as well known as Dr. Carolyn Bennett, although I do get the occasional stare in the subway. Then again, who doesn’t? I’ve had a modicum of national exposure (my own CBC Comics special, spots on CBC Marketplace and various other odds and sods around the dial) but I can’t compete with a woman who is both a doctor and a member of parliament. Maybe I should have studied medicine as an undergrad, instead of the bottom of a beer glass in the school pub. Oh well. Then again, maybe she wonders about all those years she wasted delivering babies and campaigning for political office. She could have been telling jokes at the Beefeater Inn in Lethbridge, Alberta.

I think having the name Carolyn Bennett sometimes works to my advantage. I always seem to get a good table in upscale Toronto restaurants. I only had to wait two weeks to get an MRI. The best of all was when an invitation to the opening reception of an art exhibit at the AGO surfaced in the mail. A dreadful mistake was made, for it was addressed to Carolyn Bennett. Besides the occasional foray to the gallery on free evenings, I tend not to expand my mind in that particular establishment. My name must have been mixed up with her name on a mailing list. I don’t think the MP for St. Paul’s would have lived in the former Legion Hall turned flat that was my abode. But I did what any good comedian would – I went. Mark Breslin, the owner of Yuk Yuk’s, accompanied me and we mingled with the event elite. Every so often he called me “the honourable Carolyn Bennett”. As for the exhibit, Matisse is not my favourite Fauvist, but the flowing champagne and delectable nibbles pleased. I wonder if Carolyn Bennett ever receives mail for me? Maybe that would explain where my subscription to “The New Curmudgeon” goes.

I pity the poor actor or musician or comedian who is saddled with a name like Joe Clark or Stephen Harper.
There was a player in the NHL named is Jim Carey. Imagine how many comedians named Will Smith are trying to make it as comics.
Inevitably, I have thought about changing my name. Every so often, I’ll go on stage as Ginger Beef. The name Rufus Bennett has been suggested. I hearken back to my high school days though, when my principal said, “Carolyn Bennett – that’s a stately name,” as he handed me a suspension slip. It is a stately name. It’s my name. I don’t want to change it. It suits me. I wish Jennifer Lopez suited me, but it doesn’t. I am intrinsically, tragically, thankfully Carolyn Bennett.

Now if I decide to run for parliament and get a medical degree, watch out Carolyn Bennett.

- originally published in the National Post

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Promoting the Self

In the most recent issue of Canadian Screenwriter Magazine a column appeared about using blogs as a means of self-promotion. Let me make one thing clear -- I only have a blog because everyone else is doing it. I am following the herd on this one. I have no problem proclaiming that I have a gift for writing. What I have a problem with, and have always had a problem with, is promoting myself. My self is a mishmash of painful memory, something I actively try to escape through writing and performing. I'm reminded of the film Amadeus, when Mozart pitches himself to the Court, saying something to the effect of "I am a silly, irreverent man, but my music is pure, is glorious." I understand that sentiment.

I have just completed my first novel. Now it will go through the rounds at publishers. I feel like I've just begun. If it goes no where, at least I will have written a novel. But dang, it's good!

My best to this year's WGC nominees. You're all winners. You have perservered.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Times Change

There comes a time in every freelancer’s life when they say “enough”. Sure, the advantages of freelancing are many -- the 10 second commute to the home office, being able to concentrate without interruption, the freedom to sing when the urge strikes. The downside is the office politics. I can be cruel to myself. There are days when I take myself out for lunch and find it impossible to make small talk. Complaints to the boss fall on deaf ears. Sometimes it gets really bad, when I can hardly stand my own shallow breathing. The slight rise and fall of my chest, ugh, make it stop.

One day while trolling the internet to avoid writing, I stumbled onto the Times Change Women’s Employment Service website (or as I lovingly call it, the Shit Happens Employment Service). Times Change offers career counselling, job search workshops and computer workshops for women who by choice or necessity are in the market for new employment opportunities. These services are all offered free of charge, thanks to funding from the federal and provincial governments, as well as the United Way and the Trillium Foundation. The word “free” motivated me enough to check out their office on the 17th floor at 365 Bloor St. E. It’s been years since I’ve had to circulate my resume and I figured a little help gratis couldn’t hurt.

I’m a little amazed by my own change of heart. Ten years ago the thought of participating in anything female exclusive would have been anathema. I balked at doing all female standup shows, thinking the concept was unnecessary and coddling. Now, having being broken and humbled on a few occasions, I have changed.

I went to Times Change, over the federally run Employment Resources Centre, because I wanted to be in a nurturing environment. There – I said it.

“Times Change is a less intimidating and more supportive atmosphere,” says Julie Warrington, TC’s intake and outreach coordinator. “We may be a not-for-profit service, but we are as every bit professional as other employment centres."

The only catch for women who want to use TC is that they either have to be unemployed or working no more than 20 hours per week (or the feast or famine type like me). However, the resource centre, an up to date library of everything you ever wanted to know about the working world, but were too apathetic to ask, is available to anyone. It’s a cornucopia of labour market data, career tomes and occupational workbooks – everything I’ve ignored for 20 years.

Julie, a university educated former massage therapist, was once a client of Times Change herself. “We have a huge range of clients, from women with high school educations to those with Masters Degrees. New immigrants and refugees come to us because we make them feel comfortable. Our goal is to inspire women and give them the confidence they need to find work. Times Change helped me chose a different career.”

I participated in the Job Search Workshop, a thorough crash course in how to identify and pursue job opportunities. Self-marketing (never my strong suit) was a key component. I learned that there are different resume formats and that potential employers actually look at these things. In my workshop there was another freelance writer, two newly arrived immigrants and a woman who had been out of the workforce for ten years. By the end of the four half days, I had a better head for presentation skills and a deeper appreciation for the immigrant experience.

“We need a women’s employment centre because of the reproductive aspect,” says Holly KirkConnell, one of TC’s employment counsellors. “Women leave the work force more often. We have children. We are still the primary caregivers. I remember the days when there was no maternity leave. Paid maternity leave only came about in the late 1970s. That’s not so long ago. After using our services, 70% of our clients are either employed, self employed or have returned to school.”

TC’s approach toward employment is wholistic. For instance, its career planning workshops aren’t based on assessment testing. Rather, the workshop draws upon the personal stories of each woman to reveal their dreams and aspirations and then gives them the tools to pursue those dreams. Without dreams, what are we?

Go to the website for more information.
Now what do I do with this resume thing?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bow Wow Yowsa

Just when I’m finally out of my childbearing years (due to miraculous surgery that has rid me of mind-bending endometriosis) and eager to embark on life again unfettered, my 30-year old neighbours recently saddled me with their dog for a week. Why? They went off and had a baby. Not only do they have a dog, now they have a baby. Show-offs. I have managed to elude both dog and baby. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like the aforementioned – but to house, feed, nurse, educate, guide, discipline, soothe, entertain, wash, stimulate, groom, indulge and train not to shit on the floor, well, that’s where I’m a spectator and not a participant. Call me cold, but I just don’t get it. Why buy when you can rent? Why tie yourself up? Maybe I’m deficient in a vitamin or something.

Perhaps saddled is too harsh a word. Entrusted. They entrusted me with their dog. Max, a cockapoo of advancing years, has the insane energy of a rowdy pup. The first night he camped out in my living room, howling like he’d killed a moose. At 2am I took him for an extended walk, trying to calm him down. He yanked me through the empty streets, plunging his nose in every shit and garbage pile he could find. At 3:30am my neighbours took Max back upstairs. At 5am, my neighbour’s water broke (better than the pipes, I always say).

For the rest of the week Max stayed in his apartment and I stayed in mine. A civil arrangement, similar to the one I have with my lover. I’d go upstairs four times a day to rouse the mutt for toilet breaks. I’d pour sad looking food pellets in his dish, mix them with hot water, say bon appetit and leave. Eventually a creeping guilt won out. Was I being a bad caregiver? Perhaps.

So off to High Park we went to join the dog people, the people who treat their pets like children and chat with each other about their dogs. I had to let William’s sitter go – she didn’t engage him enough… Max was no match for the Great Danes, Chow Chows, Dobermans, Labs and other assorted purebreds. I felt inadequate. I can only imagine how Max felt. But that’s what’s great about being a dog – you can put on weight, stink and have no money and still get laid. Even get laid in public. No wonder people love dogs. We envy them.

What surprised me was the response of other pedestrians as Max and I walked by. For the first time, I was on the leash side of a dog, a very different perspective. People would smile. Some would smile broadly. That never happens to me when I’m walking alone. Very hard to scowl or look pained when you’re walking a pooch. Some people would muss up Max, pet him affectionately. Eventually I told people he was mine. I beamed with pride. Maybe that’s what I’m missing out on by not having a dog or a baby – the ability to beam with pride and not look like an asshole.

My neighbours came home with the new baby yesterday, an eight-pound girl. Living perfection. And I’m happy to report that for the first time in a week, I got to sleep in. Through the ceiling I can hear the wee one cry on occasion. Max, on the other hand, has gone strangely silent.

I hope they can co-exist in peace. Like dog, baby and neither-dog-nor-baby people.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The 12 Days of Chemo

My beloved sister Diane is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. She never smoked, drinks on occasion and lived in the Rocky Mountains for 20 years. Her diet has always been nutritious. Her first mammogram ever was eight months ago and after futher tests and a lumpectomy were done, stage 2-3 cancer was detected. Bewildering and frightening.

And funny.

I talked to Diane before Christmas over the phone. I asked her "where are you as far as your chemo treatment?" "Day twelve post treatment," she said. Twelve. Twelve days. "The Twelve Days of Chemo," I offered. She laughed. We riffed a bit and then I came up with this Christmas carol for my sis:


On the First day of chemo my doctor gave to me: A, C and T.

On the Second day of chemo my husband gave to me: 2 buckets to barf in and some A, C and T.

On the Third Day of Chemo my body gave to me: 3 bouts of nausea, 2 buckets to barf in and some A, C and T

On the Fourth day of chemo my husband gave to me: 4 salty crackers, 3 bouts of nausea, 2 buckets to barf in and some A, C and T.

On the Fifth day of chemo my body gave to me: 5 bowel movements, 4 salty crackers, 3 bouts of nausea, 2 buckets to barf in and some A, C and T

On the Sixth day of Chemo my body gave to me: 6 bleeding mouth sores, 5 bowel movements, 4 salty crackers, 3 bouts of nausea, 2 buckets to barf in and some A, C and T

On the Seventh day of Chemo my stylist gave to me: 7 different wigs, 6 bleeding mouth sores, 5 bowel movements, 4 salty crackers, 3 bouts of nausea, 2 buckets to barf in and some A, C and T.

On the Eighth day of chemo my body gave to me: 8 hours of sound sleep, 7 different wigs, 6 bleeding mouth sores, 5 bowel movements, 4 salty crackers, 3 bouts of nausea, 2 buckets to barf in and some A, C and T

On the Ninth day of chemo my children gave to me: 9 friends a’ mooching, 8 hours sleep, 7 different wigs, 6 bleeding mouth sores, 5 bowel movements, 4 salty crackers, 3 bouts of nausea, 2 buckets to barf in and some A, C and T.

On the Tenth day of chemo my husband gave to me: 10 minutes of cuddling, 9 friends a mooching, 8 hours sleep, 7 different wigs, 6 bleeding mouth sores, 5 bowel movements, 4 salty crackers, 3 bouts of nausea, 2 buckets to barf in and some A,C and T.

On the Eleventh day of chemo my oncologist gave to me: 11 pamphlets about radiation, 10 minutes of cuddling, 9 friends a mooching, 8 hours sleep, 7 different wigs, 6 bleeding mouth sores, 5 bowel movements, 4 salty crackers, 3 bouts of nausea, 2 buckets to barf in and some A,C, and T.

On the Twelfth day of chemo my family gave to me: 12 rounds of hugging, 11 pamphlets about radiation, 10 minutes of cuddling, 9 friends a mooching, 8 hours sleep, 7 different wigs, 6 bleeding mouth sores, 5 bowel movements, 4 salty crackers, 3 bouts of nausea, 2 buckets to barf in and the hope that I’ll be cancer free!!

Cancer can be beaten -- or at least mocked.