At the beginning of the summer, new research revealed what all of us in the Shitty Sorority already knew: Cancer makes you fat. It was a relief to read it in peer-reviewed writing instead of hearing my oncologist tell me that I’m just “menopausal” or “can never, ever eat bread again” or I should “exercise more.” Doctors and CrossFitters and SoulCyclers will also go on and on and on about this “exercise” fad, but I’ve found most everything that elevates my resting heart rate is unpleasant and sweaty. And I’m a lady. Sadly, my go-to weight management plan that included an evening bottle of Prosecco and magical thinking wasn’t working. But I maintained great faith that persistent fatness could certainly be fixed by doing something from the couch.

All of us have at least one Facebook friend posting before-and-after midriff miracle work, and attributing it to the probiotics they are peddling. These earnest salespeople promise the shedding of pounds as their power pills button up leaky intestines and soothe fat-inspiring inflammation. During graduate school, I spent four years dissecting Peyer’s Patches from mouse guts and have a fundamental understanding of microbiology. So, I stopped mocking the pseudo-medical speak long enough to wonder if maybe all of those poisons and steroids I took during treatment repopulated my innards with an eviler blend of bacteria that never want me to wear skinny jeans. I went to the Organic Market to ask Chad which probiotic would allow me to squeeze back into my size 2s the quickest.

Chad was very helpful and steered me to the packets of pills that don’t require refrigeration or put a significant dent in my fancy shoe budget. There are as many probiotic formulations as there are vague symptoms to thwart. I decided on a daily dose to promote “digestive balance,” but it was nice of Chad to steer me away from the geriatric blends and to inquire about my vaginal health. Right there. Next to the frozen edamame and organic EVOO. I washed my first capsule down with a cold-pressed kale juice and Chinese character tattoos appeared at all of my pulse points. I’m your life coach now. Namaste.

With a profound sense of self worth and calm gratitude, I twirled out of the Organic Market and embarked on an entire month of poo improvement. I was sure I already felt amazing, and immediately began shopping for a toe ring. With a swig of cold water each morning, I came closer and closer to complete insufferability and the real chance of posting an ab selfie.

But it must be cold water, friends.

Attempting to swallow the vegan capsule with hot coffee leaves you with a mouth full of sticky pus and a sudden awareness of how sad and deluded one is to voluntarily purchase and ingest shit’s main ingredient in the pursuit of Chloe’s Revenge Body. And after my 30-day trial, I can tell you this: I’ve gained 5 pounds. I’ve also endured some rather alarming moments that a lady would never put in writing. Respectable cancer research reports an extra 11 pounds is my reward for three months of chemotherapy, but no suggestions about how to get rid of them. An extra 50 billion bacteria a day doesn’t seem to work for this girl, so it’s time for a different approach that can be initiated from the couch.

Sober September. Results to follow.

Prosecco with berries might be the source of my 11 pounds, and also might be worth it.

Prosecco with berries might be the source of my 11 pounds… and also might be worth it.

Steve Gets Cancer… by Steve Safran

Britt’s blog gave me cancer. OK, maybe it didn’t– the science is still out on the matter. But the facts are this: I am now being treated for Stage 2C Testicular Cancer. I’m not acutely familiar with the shades of the term “irony,” but surely this is somewhere in the vicinity.

Testicular cancer is “a young man’s disease,” and for this, I am repeatedly told, I should be grateful. It is nearly 100% curable. “If you had to pick a cancer, this is the one to get,” an oncologist told me. That’s fine and all, but that’s like saying “If you had to be sat on by an elephant, you picked a nice, small elephant. Look – he balances a ball on his trunk!”

There is one question everyone wants the answer to when surgeons are removing your testicle, so I will answer it right now:

They do not replace your testicle with an artificial one.

I have been getting treatment for this since the beginning of May, and this is the first public notice I’ve given. This is a little strange for someone who can’t wait to post whatever ailment he has that day. On this one, however, I decided to go the old-fashioned route. I didn’t take to social media. I called my friends. It’s intimate when something attacks you from inside, and I needed to talk or, at the very least, privately email them. (So, maybe not so old-fashioned.)

Word gets out, anyway, and that’s fine. It’s not a secret. I have tons of great support. I’ve even given Britt permission to enlist her prayer warriors. That’s a first for this Atheist Jew, whose usual reaction to “We will pray for you” is “Please, don’t.” It’s not because I found religion, but because I realize that the faithful truly believe they are helping. I am not going to ask my friends not to do that which they believe helps. I am not going to ask my friends not to turn to that which comforts them when someone they love is sick.

Two weeks into treatment, I was struck with a pulmonary embolism. This is a blood clot that finds its tiny, sticky way into your lungs. The key sign you have an embolism is that you feel as though someone chose to put up a skyscraper on your chest and neglected to get a permit from you. That morning I took a shower and ran out of breath. That afternoon, I was back in the hospital.

As a result, I now get to stick myself with a needle twice a day with blood thinners. This is the fifth drug I have started taking since chemo began to ward off the side effects of cancer and chemo. My medicine cabinet looks like a Jenga tower.

I have many more dates with needles and chemicals. What you’re reading is a cutdown of a much longer rambling at least six times as long. For now, I’m out of breath. Britt’s blog is exhausting.

Me and Stevie:  Cancer-card-carrying pals.

Me and Stevie: Cancer-card-carrying pals.


This is wicked girly. I was hesitant to post it to hundreds, knowing this may only ring true with my curvy sisters. Then I remembered you signed up to read a Breast Cancer Blog. And even Stevie, if asked nicely (and promised beer), would hold my purse and hand me a pair of boot cut Levi’s over the door.

Jeans. Finding a good pair of butt-flattering, muffin-taming denims requires many devastating hours in dressing rooms (and a sore neck from all of that head craning to assess the rearview). I’ll insist that women who look fantastic in jeans are the same women who look slim in maxi dresses and athletic in yoga pants. Their jeans aren’t magic: they look great in everything. Buying their brand will only lead to disappointment. These women look good in spite of their jeans. And if you’re like me (and also not Jennifer Aniston), jeans are a squeezing, gapping, bulging garment of frustration. Me, I prefer to twirl around in skirts.

Unfortunately, most of us need a pair of dungarees in rotation. They’re necessary for snowy New England bus stops and for mulch spreading. But my 40ish physique does not appreciate clothing that toothpaste tubes me into unflattering shapes. And because I don’t normally stand around with my arms akimbo, back swayed, and belly sucked, jeans never live up to their fitting room promises. Dear friend Lisa recently lamented The Search for Jeans in a Facebook query that ran 27 comments long, offering a dozen options that could drag her from Walmart to Bloomingdale’s and still result in buyer’s remorse for pants that stretch two sizes after the first deep knee bend to rescue Polly Pockets from the Dyson.

Smarter (slimmer) women might bristle at this pant rant, wondering if all of this stems from unrealistic media pressure on aging women to aspire to the impossible. Which, in my opinion, is this:

Jennifer Aniston provides the gold standard for gluts.

Jennifer Aniston provides the gold standard for gluts.

But honestly, I have no self-loathing body hatred, I just don’t think the Citizens are approaching my midriff with anything resembling Humanity.  And absolutely everything else in my closet is flattering and pretty. (Except my prom dress. Which I’m saving for some future prom-themed party where I’ll win a gigantic wrist corsage as a prize for Most 80s Clichés Assembled in One Gown.) But, like many women, I have a pile of jeans that don’t really fit. I have only one pair of passably comfortable denims, but ultimately they’re going to get splattered with mud, boogers, and vomit, which then requires washing, and then carb-shunning or a well timed stomach flu to wiggle back into them. Reasonable (slimmer) women might wonder if I’m buying the wrong size or yo yo dieting in and out of my trousers. Nope, the difference between jeans that flatter and those that torture all lies within about 3 pounds and run through a hot dryer.

Quite possibly, the real reason jeans disappoint is because I still expect to see my sixteen-year-old ass in the mirror. I do harbor an unfaded, c. 1987 memory of that one perfect pair of Guess jeans that orbited my waistline at the ideal level, that pegged perfectly with little zippers, that sported a teeny triangle on my teeny tiny butt. No amount of overpriced denim can conjure that booty of another era. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who can still pull on jeans without sounding like a Williams sister returning a serve. Not me. Red Sox games, picnics, Gross Anatomy lab, steak-grilling, Costco runs… all these can be attended in a flippy skirt. I have no confidence that darling Lisa (who has a beautiful figure, by the way) will find success in the fitting room. So I will continue to urge her, and all my curvy sisters, to give up the search and twirl with me.