Off Topic

Guest Post: Cancer – Then & Now by Debbie Pressimone

Guest Post: Cancer – Then & Now by Debbie Pressimone

Hi Everyone! Today I am pleased to present a guest post from my business partner/aunt Debbie. After my dad’s scare this year, cancer has been ever present in our minds, and my aunt is no stranger to this terrible disease. As a child, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and underwent significant treatment including surgeries and radiation to survive. My grandmother often told my brother and me stories about the tribulations the family endured and encouraged us to show kindness and compassion toward others regardless of their circumstances. In the 70s, a cancer diagnosis did not always receive the same rallying support cry it does today. My grandparents nearly lost their home paying for medical bills–an ongoing problem which has yet to change, and with no Go Fund Me or social support system, it meant sacrifices and long hours working multiple jobs all while carrying for an ill child. In some working class, religious areas like where my grandparents called home, neighbors and friends justified their often cruel behavior behind the guise of religious piety, claiming cancer was a misfortune brought on by the family’s failure to to be Christian enough or to show their praise to God. Rather than offer any help, they shied away from my family and considered them social pariahs deserving of whatever happened. Even the less religious were content to delight in the suffering of my grandparents and aunt, often pulling unspeakably awful pranks or spreading rumors that Debbie was mentally deranged or contagious. My aunt watched as all her play friends were quickly ushered behind closed doors, leaving her alone in a time when she was most vulnerable. Now, we send money, love, and prayers, even to strangers, but then, a person’s closest friends would abandon them. And so for today’s post, Debbie wanted to talk about her upbringing as well as her own cancer experience and how it changed her.

OT Post: All the difference a day makes

OT Post:  All the difference a day makes

(Trigger Warning: I’m finally ready to open up about what happened with my brother and how our family has been coping, but this will include potentially triggering topics like assault, PTSD, body image, depression, and anxiety. It’s also long. Without many pictures. You have been warned. *said in stern voice*)

September 19th was a glorious day. It was a busy Saturday at the shop, and I felt confident and happy with how much progress I had made in the last several weeks physically and emotionally. In fact, my optimism was at such a high that I snapped a selfie—a totally out of character move for me—and posted it on my private Facebook profile:

New OT Series: The Lactose Free Life — Kimchi

New OT Series:  The Lactose Free Life — Kimchi

For a while now, I have toyed with idea of sharing some recipes on the blog related to my lactose-free lifestyle, and even though they embody the definition of “off topic,” I figured it would be a fun and tasty break from our regular posts. When I first became lactose intolerant a couple years ago, the symptoms were manageable with lactose enzyme pills, but after a vicious stomach virus wreaked havoc on my system, the mere hint of lactose rendered me a balled up mess of pain. I ultimately gave up all lactose complete, which does not seem terrible until you realize that everything from spaghetti sauce to hamburger buns to crackers to potato chips can contain dairy. I along with anyone unfortunate enough to be picking up food I would need to eat were forced to become obsessive label readers at the grocery store. My patience wore thin with this lifestyle pretty quick, and I scheduled doctors’ appointments to determine what caused the issue in the first place. After a battery of tests, including blood work, a colonoscopy, and stomach lining biopsies, my doctor told me I was in amazing shape and probably had the catch-all diagnosis of “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” I was also offered to be tested specifically for lactose intolerance, but the test is expensive and not always covered by insurance. Needless to say, I declined and moved on with my life.