What I found in my old document files …

Written By: sherridaley - • •

Look what I found while deleting old files.  I have no idea why I had any sense of humor back then, but clearly the drugs the doctors prescribed were very good.  It was serendipitous that I should run across this as it’s been five years.  That 5-year cancer thing.  Supposedly cured.  So they say. Who knows?  I just know I couldn’t delete this without posting it.

Incidentally, I never did send it back then.  I must have dozed off.


January 2009

Dear friends,

I have never written one of these Christmas update letters before; I used to write personalized notes to everyone. Granted, sometimes my Christmas cards didn’t get out until April, but  still.

Anyhow, this year is a little different because I have absolutely no idea what I have said to any of my friends over the past year. This is probably partly due to getting old and, frankly, not giving much of a shit anymore; but also because of the amazing mind-numbing prescriptions drugs I have been taking  and have gotten fond of.  These pills, combined with the vats of cheap white wine I have always consumed with admirable constancy, have made 2008 a rather, say, “cottony” year.

That said, here’s an update.

I am still teaching 7th grade in an urban school district where the students have consistently scored so poorly that we have earned the “failing school” label from the federal government.  No one knows that that means. It could be anything from mass firings to closing the school altogether, but we are safe for another year due to a loophole no one I know can adequately explain.  It has to do to what they refer to as a “successful” AYP.  This stands for “adequate yearly progress” although most teachers call it “annual yearly progress” and think nothing of the redundancy.  Basically, this means the kids are still dumb as patio rocks, but have improved a few percentage points from the past year.  I haven’t really seen any improvement.  Just last month, a student held up a collection of Edgar Allan Poe stories (appallingly abridged for middle school readers) and asked, “Did he write all this before he died?”

The kids are not as dangerous as they were a few years ago when we were routinely confiscating knives, BB guns, and air pellet weapons, and there were no teacher injuries this year.  This may be explained by the fact that last month, we caught 22 students drinking gin and Gatorade with their lunches in the cafeteria.  Although this was quickly taken care of with suspensions, expulsions and a couple of arrests, the teaching and custodial staffs were quite miffed that we too were not allowed cocktails at lunch and this dour mood had not dissipated  as of the Christmas holiday.

Everything you are reading about the mortgage crisis usually uses Michigan as a poster child, and that is where my brother is.  He is a real estate agent.  Actually, now he drives a truck delivering auto parts parttime, but considering the state of the Big Three automakers, he may soon move here and live in my garage.  At the moment, since mom died and left the house to us, he is living in his half of our inheritance. He promises me that he is not in my half of the house, even though the bathroom is in my half.  As soon as the market improves, we can sell it and I can get the place in Manhattan that I have always wanted. We are both hoping that we will happen while we still remember that we are siblings. I love my brother.

In this sinking economy, my continued employment has been a real source of contentment, especially since Smith got fired by Citicorp last spring.  He spent a couple of months interviewing in NYC at places he had no business qualifying for since he did not attend an Ivy school or grow up with the Hearsts or anything, but he is a great networker, well-met, and handsome, if I do say so myself. 

He was offered a ginormous job in Dubai which he turned down because that was when I got my diagnosis of breast cancer, which I did not handle well and he spent lots of time following me around the hospital while I spent a lot of time keening and swooning. He did damage control when I swore at well-meaning nurse practitioners. (e.g. “Go fuck yourself. I don’t need your help. Can’t you guys just let me DIE, for Christ’s sake?” I was charming.)

After the surgery (a lumpectomy with clean margins… anyone who’s been through this – or knows someone who has – knows that is good news, but I know there are still millions of cancer-ridden white blood cells with tumors on their minds in my bloodstream), the Dubai people came back with an even better offer and Smith left for the Middle East right after all my hair fell out.

Chemo sucks wang. Furthermore, I know other cancer victims who lose weight and become beautiful and wan and ethereal. I,  however, gained ten pounds, and after my eyelashes fell out look like an alien lesbian or giant peach of indeterminate gender.  I worried for months about my runny nose, thinking I had contracted yet another allergy, until my brother noticed that I do not have any nose hairs. In case you do not know this, nose hairs are what makes boogers possible, and boogers handily catch snot before it runs out on your upper lip.  Only a family member would think to examine the inside of your nostrils for clues as to why you have a runny nose.  For this I am eternally grateful to my brother as I am tired of allergies and I know my nose hairs will grow back, hopefully not long after my eyelashes and eyebrows. Please do not inquire after my pubic hair.

It goes without saying that my lovelife sucks, too. The man I had been seeing off & on for years and who was unquestionably wrong for me in the first place has drifted off my dance card, and quite likely off the planet, having polished his drinking habits into something rare and remarkable.  I should have known not to get involved with a man who had spent 3 months in a mental institution before I met him, but hey.

I am current with my mortgage, and radiation is over although I have another 6 months of milder chemo and my hair is growing back.  I got a new kitten I named Kimo (get it?) and she is adorable.

I am going to visit Smith in Dubai in February and then he is coming home with me for a visit. I am surrounded by friends who love me and have carried me through my diagnosis, treatment, and evil moods. My literary agent has hired an editor to help me write another book, even though we haven’t sold it yet.  People believe in me, and I am, inexplicably, happy.  I wish I had my hair back, though.

Happy new year.  Be happy.  You have hair.

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One Comment

  1. Ron says:

    Sherri, I like your sense of humor. My wife had cancer several times and we went through the chemo process with thin veins. Unlike you, she lost weight and couldn’t get it back. It’s amazing how few people sympathized with her.

    What’s also amazing is how mild mannered old elderly people, who think the word “shucks” is an expletive, can become combative. In a Sloan Kettering waiting room a couple felt that someone had been taken ahead of them and they raised hell. These were the kind who never got angry.

    Anyway, I like the slant you put on your memory.

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