An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

In a family way

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for my side of the family starting when my cousin (and DORJ!’s brother), Robert, and his wife gave birth to their first child, Maci.

DORJ! is one of three sons, and the birth of this granddaughter has turned my Uncle Danny, Curdled Turd Bump of Incomprehensible Stink, into a vulnerable heap of goo. Danny was visiting my mother when she was watching Leta during our trip to Amsterdam last month, and reportedly it was then that his hardened interior began to liquefy. He was so taken with Leta that he drove to McDonald’s every morning specifically to buy her a couple of greasy hash browns. There is significance in this gesture because it marks the first time in Danny’s life that he ever did anything nice for another human being.

Last week Robert sent me an email to give me an update about Maci, and he had this to say about his father: “You should see Grandpa Boone with her. I have never seen him smile so much. He holds her for hours at a time. I’ve never seen anything like it.” That’s the miracle of babies, their ability to lay bare the tender, beating hearts of raging assholes.

And Danny says he doesn’t like my website! HMMPH!

Also this week my sister, September, had her hair colored back to its natural brown. There are not words to adequately state how huge a step this was for her, bigger perhaps than if she had agreed to watch a single minute of a Michael Moore film, something she sees as the equivalent of having her hands chopped off at the wrists. I’m so proud of her, and not a little jealous that even though she is five years older than I am her skin is so smooth that it makes mine look like the obituary photo of someone who died of old age.


Finally, today my mother’s sister, my Aunt Lola, is having a mastectomy. She was diagnosed with breast cancer only a few weeks ago, and this has affected me in truly surprising ways. I am of course deeply saddened and torn apart that this has happened to her and what this means for her body, for the way she has to live the rest of her life, for the years that may have already been cut from her life. At the same time this is bad news for the rest of the women in my family who have up until now enjoyed the luxury of telling our primary care physicians that no one in our family has ever suffered breast cancer. The magnitude of what this means for us is still unknown, and that frankly terrifies me in almost indescribable ways. It is that terror that surprises me, but it is also that terror that has renewed in me a devotion to keeping myself healthy, a devotion to celebrating my heritage while at the same time fighting what that heritage could possibly mean.

  • Velma

    I ran your aunt’s situation past Mr. Velma (who is actually Dr. Velma, and an oncologist to boot), and he says that having a second degree relative with breast cancer doesn’t measurably increase your chances of developing it yourself.

    I told him that this was not the warm fuzzy advice I was hoping to pass along to you, and he said, “Tell her to get a baseline mammogram at 35 instead of 40 if she’s worried.” Shrug. Yawn. “She’s got no reason to worry.” More shrugging, but I’d say you probably don’t have any more reason to fear breast cancer now than you did a few weeks ago.

  • Heather:

    You may feel that your sister’s skin is more beautiful than yours, but MY GOD, you got to sleep with a famous soap star!

    Also, I did about 9 months of chemo two years ago. It’s not fun for anyone but it changed my entire outlook on life…in a wonderful way. And I’ve been healthy ever since. I hope your aunt has a similar experience.

  • It is absolutely amazing how babies can change people and lives. I had four and each one was unique. They’re all now teenagers and continue to change lives daily.

    It is also amazing the effects cancer has on the lives of the one diagnosed as well as those surrounding them. In Oct 2005, at age 38 and with no family history of any cancer, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer and honestly worry more about my loved ones than myself. It’s so hard on one’s family. And so very hard on the parents of the one with cancer.

    I absolutely love the openess you have on your blog and phooey on anyone wanting you to change! If there happens to be something they don’t like they can skim over it. Life’s too short, life it like YOU want.

    Give Leta and Chuck big sloppy kisses from Lisa.

  • New babies are wonderful.

    And my prayers are with your aunt.

  • When my niece was born NO ONE expected my Step Dad to fall so hard for her. It’s almost scary how much he dotes on the kid. His nieces were afraid of him (ok the 35 year old is STILL afraid of him) and they look at my niece with a mixture of awe and disgust when they see her and him together.

    I too have witness the awe that comes with the melting of a hard hard.

    and that is why everyone laughs when my 4.5 year old niece calls for her Grumpy.

  • savvystorm

    Hi Heather,
    I love your sister’s hair. It looks beautiful.
    I’m sorry to hear about Aunt Lola. I hope she gets better and feels like herself again soon!

  • Your sister is very pretty…congrats on the new baby family member! And I’m sorry to hear about your Aunt. Take care of you and your family…health is fragile.

  • Leslie and Clover

    The words “breast cancer”, I can’t describe the way they affect me. In my life time, my grandmother (my mom’s mom) and all of my aunts (my mom’s sisters) have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Four years ago, my senior year in college, my mom was also diagnosed. While every one of them survived, they all had to go through different degrees of treatment (from a mastectomy to extensive radiation and chemo). I sat with my mom during most of her treatments and she never missed a day of work during it. She was trying to be strong for her four daughters and three granddaughters because most likely one of us will be diagnosed as well. Our family doctor has given us a 25% (or greater) chance of acquiring the disease. Every single woman on my mom’s side (starting with her mom) had been diagnosed. I’m only 26 and I have no children yet. I want children someday but I’m worried about the idea of having a girl and what I might end up passing along to her (as I’m sure you are concerned about too). While I know it isn’t a death sentence I can’t help but be scared to death. I wish the best for you, your family, and your Aunt Lola. If there is anything you need feel free to contact me.

  • It’s extraordinary how one diagnosis becomes the domino for so many things. My mom had breast cancer 11 years ago. Now she’s fighting myeloma (and kicking its ass thankyouverymuch). With diagnosis comes new vocabulary and new vocabulary leads to new concerns.

    It’s a slippery slope and you can end up in a dark, dark place when you begin to think about the impact to your kids… daughters more so.

    So, is it better to know or not know?

  • My condolences on your Aunt Lola’s bad news. I think September’s hair looks great!! Do you have another sister. I don’t remember that being her name. Hmm

  • jes

    Is that a plate of corn with a barbequed porkchop in the background?

  • kljmom

    perhaps you can take some comfort that only 10% of all breast cancer cases are due to family history/genetics….definitely not has high as people think.

  • Talon

    Heh…like I tell my mother (I had skin cancer 9 years ago, she had breast cancer four years ago)…

    At least when I get cancer, it doesn’t raise YOUR risk factors…

    You have to laugh about it sometimes. It’s the only way.

    Meanwhile…I hope your Aunt Lola comes through everything just fine. 🙂

  • gorgeoux

    When I was 21 y.o., dad was diagnosed with something simple that needed a 2hrs surgery. It took 9hrs and he came out with 1% chances to live. Colon cancer. He doesn’t know, or he wouldn’t have ever been able to survive it.
    When I was 28 y.o. mom finally shared with my sister and I the ‘small’ detail that, when we went to see daddy in the hospital many, many years ago (I was perhaps 4-5 y.o.) it had also been cancer, a different one–testicles.
    Several weeks ago, dad had his 1st–and hopefully last–heart attack. We came close to losing him that day, twice. We are preparing for new surgery.
    Do you think I may be insensitive? I didn’t freak out for one second, thinking of him, or thinking about myself, my heritage. I believe he will be around much longer, and I definitely believe I will be around much longer.
    Do you think I may have lost my mind at birth? I haven’t run any medical exams since any of the above. And I won’t even start with the rest of the family track record. The one I know of…

  • I am simultaneously happy and saddened re: your family news.

  • laila

    So sad to hear your news about Aunt Lola. I’ll add my good vibes to all of the internet good vibes headed her way. In terms of your health history, although her cancer will change some of it, your risk statistics do not increase much because she is not a first-degree relative (sister, mother) and I’m assuming that she is post-menopausal. In terms of hereditary risk, post-menopausal breast cancer is much, um, “better” to have in your family. That said, get all of the details of the cancer from her (estogen-sensitive or not, stage, type, etc…) so that you have a more complete record for your own health history. Good luck Aunt Lola, we’re rooting for you!

  • Your sister is beautiful, like you.

    I did a blog entry recently about the breast cancer terror, which is hitting me bigtime right now. Several friends have gotten it in the past few years. Women younger than me, who unlike myself have no family history, who eat organic, who exercise.

    To reassure you, it’s turned out okay for all of them at this point, but it makes me want to put my hands over my boobies and run away screaming, frankly, and I think this kind of fear is visiting lots of us right now.

    What I’m wondering is what this fear does to us. And what does always living with it and feeling around for lumps all the time do to us? And what does the constant exposure to the radiation of mammograms do to us?

    Where do we turn when so many of the wonderful chemical products and medicines of the recent past are today’s known carcinogens? How do we find a way to relax with it and not flip out over every little twinge in the tittie?

  • At 26 years old, I am the only woman on both sides of my family for several generations with all of my lady parts complete at this age. I had panic attacks a couple of years ago when I realized this, so I can sympathize with you now. But after two years and way too many doctors none of them seem to think this is as big a deal as I did back then. My point is that it’ll be ok, just be careful and thoughtful of your own health. But don’t fret about it, it will just make things worse. Like Ketty said, hang tight.

  • Your cousins are simply adorable. You just want to hug them. So very sorry about your Aunt having to have a mastectomy and your own medical history being somewhat shattered. Going through it myself with finding my fist lump. It’s scarey.

  • shredbettie

    Argh. This is worse than chicken little being voted off of American Idol. My mom died of breast cancer at 55 when I was a teenager. She was an unhappy person. I’m not implying anything by that. It’s just how it was.

  • Marie

    I am 27 years old. I have NO family history of breast cancer. Six months ago, I had a lumpectomy and breast biopsy. Women (especially young women) need to be very aware of the fact that breast cancer doesn’t discriminate between who has a family history and who doesn’t.

  • I find it amusing that most people have that one grouchy uncle that is turned into a goo ball when they become a Grandpa. I was stunned when it happened to my uncle…stunned.

  • I have had several family members who have had breast cancer. My grandma had a double m. For a long time I was terrified of what that meant for me, but it turns out that even though it is happening a lot in my family, no one has had the type that is hereditary, so there is hope yet. But that opens up a new world of questions – what is it about our lifestyle that is causing this to happen? Hang tight.

  • crzylady

    ahhh, i know the terror and eventual resignation that you will have to live with the knowledge that cancer has krept into your genes.

    My great-grandmother passed away from breast cancer and I grew up wondering when I would be diagnosed. I had a breast reduction 4 years ago and no sign of anything nasty.

    Unfortunately my great-uncle passed away from cancer the same evening 2 years ago my grandmother was admitted into the hospital and they found lung cancer (not a smoker). Late last year my Aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. She finished up her chemo treatments in december and is gearing up for a cruise next month.

    I pray constantly my father won’t ever get it, nor my sister, and now, my 3 month old daughter. How do sickeningly HEALTHY Norwegians get cancer? I don’t get it.

  • i am sorry to hear about your aunt, happy to hear of the new cousin, and jealous of your sister’s faboo skin.

    may your aunt have a speedy recovery.

  • You could get a genetic test calld BRCA to see if you are at a higher risk. Doing your regular self-exams is the most important though.

  • Starla Dear

    I love the name September. What I don’t understand is with a sister named September and a brother named Ranger, how Dooce ended up with “Heather.” 🙂

    I like September’s hair better this way — what a gorgeous color! I hope I look this good in my mid-thirties!

  • Chloe

    Would Aunt Lola wear one of these? I like the wristband but one of the t-shirts might be more suitable.

  • It sound like Uncle Dany may be misunderstood, much in the same way that I am a majority of the time. Some of us have seen so much tragedy, and have made it through so many bad things, that we forget that there is anything else in life to look forward to. Then, we encounter a wonderful and innocent being that reminds us that there IS hope in the world. That hope is the secret ingredient to unlocking the goo factory.

  • I’m so sorry to hear the news about your Aunt! Best wishes to her for a speedy recovery, I’ll be thinking of you guys.

    And why must you show me such beautiful skin on a day when I feel like I have morphed into an alligator? Stupid winter.

  • Baby Maci is adorable. And September’s hair is awesome! Quick question – do Mormons typically give their kids offbeat names? I have never come across anyone with the name September. And I once knew a Mormon kid named Hill. Not the last name Hill. First name Hill. Don’t get me wrong – September is very pretty, just wondering about the whole Mormon/strange name phenomenon.

    I am sorry to hear about your aunt. The loss of a breast is tragic, but I am sure she will now be able to live a long and healthy life. Go Lola!

  • I am sorry to hear that your aunt is going through this terrible illness. My aunt passed away of Cancer quite a few years ago now. She really wanted to deal with it in ways that were alternate to the suggestions of her doctors. Her passing was very difficult for me because in the last years of her life we had become much closer.

    I also experienced a lot of the feelings that are plaguing you now. I felt sure that her illness was my death sentance. I think it will always worry me, but now I realize (as you are) that maybe this is not such a bad thing. Maybe these feelings will encourage me to be dilligent about breast exams and help me remain on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary. If I am ever diagnosed with cancer hopefully these very things will greatly increase my chances of being a survivor!!

    My thoughts are with you and your family.

  • heather
    my heart goes out to you and your family. i know the feeling of which you speak. last january my nephew was diagnosed with leukemia, and its one of the most helpless feelings in the world – one that has this incredibly huge impacts on your life. you didn’t ask for this, and yet, without being consulted, your life has forever changed. cancer is now a part of your family history, and it looms there on the horizon, sticking its tongue out at you as if to say “you really thought you could avoid me forever?” and truthfully, yes, you had thought that.
    because its not just the medical ramifications, its the emotional and psychological ones that have the most impact.
    your family will be in my thoughts (much more than as i stalk you via the internet).

  • My thoughts and prayers go out to your Aunt. I too have a maternal Aunt who had and beat breast cancer. You are absolutely not alone in feeling the fear, my sisters and I also felt it. There are so many new treatments and cures these days, I am sure your Aunt will be well taken care of and win the fight.

  • Great pics, and September’s hair is just beautiful. Congrats on the family addition and babies do have a way of melting even the hardest of hearts. Especially when they are the Grandpa’s hearts. I cannot quite figure it out!

  • Oaky

    Hang in there. My mom had breast cancer a year ago. The day I found out was the worst day of my life. She is my best friend. She has gone through some rough days with chemo and is now cancer free a year later. You will be amazed how many people know someone who has had it and doing great once you start talking about it.

  • Want to see your sister die of a heart attack?

    Have her watch this:

    uh oh.

  • gribblelite

    As per usual, glorious news (the birth of a child) is tempered with the horrible reality of cancer for your Aunt Lola. So happy about the birth, so sorry about your aunt.

    God really has some crappy timing, doesn’t he?

    Love the descriptive of Danny, classic. Yeah, we have one in our family, too.

  • julezy

    Best of luck to your Aunt. This must be a major blow to your family. I know how much it stings to hear that news as all of the women in my family (short of my mom, sister and myself) have battled breast cancer. My grandma fought for 22 years! She was told that she would never live to see my mom get married, and she finally gave in to the disease MY senior year of high school. If your aunt has the will, she can fight it!

  • Curdled Turd Bump of Incomprehensible Stink?

    Stop, you’re killing me here. I just blew a green apple Jolly Rancher right through my nose.

  • My mother just finished a year-long treatment for breast cancer that included months of chemotherapy. A mastectomy followed by another one when the doctors didn’t like the look of the second breast. Topped off by radiation treatments which required her to drive 45 minutes each way through the snowy Sierra Nevadas every day for weeks.

    I was 800-miles away and terrified for my mom and for myself.

    She has always been the healthy one while my dad always the sickly one.

    I hate cancer … I hate it a lot.

    But she survived and when I had a nice long visit with her recently, I realized how lucky I am to not only have my mother but to have such a wonderful mother at that.

  • I know the feeling. Those questionaires are so scary… it would almost be easier if they asked me to list out the female relatives who DON’T have breast cancer.

    On a happier note, here I thought I was being all original when I named my little girl September. But your sister is gorgeous, so I guess I don’t feel too bad about the name-sharing. =)

  • My Mother had breast cancer and thankfully did not have to have a mastectomy, which makes losing your hair from the chemo seem like a drop in the bucket, since hair grows back. But it had a terrible affect on her self-esteem even with the countless wigs she bought. I’ll se saying a prayer for Aunt Lola. (hugs)

  • I’ve got to start checking over here before I comment on flickr.

    September looks really beautiful. Tell her the internet says so.

    Saying a prayer for Lola. She sounds like a spunky gal, and I bet she’ll walk through the whole process with humor and grace. (unlike me who would run around and scream a lot)

  • literatigirl

    Heather, my sympathies are with you re: Aunt Lola. It is a terrible disease and you are right to sympathize not only with its impact on her longevity but also on her body. This aspect of the disease is often overlooked and it is only right that we mourn the loss of the parts of our bodes (uterus, breast) that are such a part of our conception of ourselves as women.

  • Meg

    Cimilar? Good god.

  • I really REALLY like the name September.
    That is all.

    yay DJORG!

  • Heather, I forgot to mention:

    I came across this amazing study about why Polish women’s rate of breast cancer increases three fold when they move to the US. I wrote a little bit about it on the new site.

    I don’t know why something that can so easily reduce your risk of breast cancer isn’t being made more public.
    If you’d like more info I could email you the article.

  • Meg

    We’ll be thinking of her, you can be sure. A cimilar cancer issue came up in my life last year, and it was a hell of a wake-up call. I hope the best for all of you.

    And what is with y’all and shiny hair? Good lord.

  • Warm wishes for your Aunt Lola.

    And I think you oughta have this: “That’s the miracle of babies, their ability to lay bare the tender, beating hearts of raging assholes” made into a sticker.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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