Monday, January 20, 2014


January 15th would have been my mother’s 78th birthday.  Nine months ago, she passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack while riding in the back seat of a taxi cab en route to a standard doctor’s appointment.
The emotions surrounding my mother’s death are still unpredictable and sometimes surprising.  She and I had grown apart by the time of her departure, but the underlying ties that bind; these threads of my very existence sway from a non-existent tether of mother/daughter to a nagging tug of a heart string, to a jarring jolt of reality. 
As mentioned in RIP Mom, my relationship with my mother was drastically different than your typical mother and daughter union.  My  mother’s mental illness did not allow her to have a standard relationship with me or my half-siblings.  Throughout my lifetime, my mother was on the outs with any one of her three daughters at any given period in time; with me being the most recent (and at my choosing to keep her at an arms-length for MY sanity).  Ironically, I was also the closest to her out of her three children.
The harsh words delivered regularly by my mother (i.e. “You want to know why you are fat……”) are now cushioned by memories of positive occasions with my children instead (i.e. “Did you know that Blueberry Hill was Grandma’s favorite song?”).  The searing pain of the large wooden dowel cracking down my backside and across my skull, slowly being faded by happier thoughts (i.e. “Kids, I bought you some Stella D’Oro cinnamon twists!”  “Oh, just like grandma used to share with us!”).
The pain from the multiple beatings from one of my mother's bi-polar downs is etched into my brain and scarred onto my body.  The sadness of not knowing why or how a mom could hurt her own child remains confusing to me and may have more of an explanation of some of my less than stellar character traits.

My mother’s death, and her recent birthday, just reaffirmed that sometimes I just want my mommy.  Of course, my mother was not that person for me but it’s an euphemism for my desire of having that normal mother/daughter relationship.  Several women around me have strong bonds with their respective mothers, of which I am envious.  However, instead of lingering in my past, I am applying the facets, incorporating the pieces, and establishing the kind of mommy I want to be to my own children.

I am tough and I set high expectations for my children in basic family values such as displaying good manners, succeeding in school and in their activities, and being compassionate and caring human beings.  However, I am soft, cuddly (ask my youngest about my “figgy pudding” – aka squishy belly) and offer them unconditional love.  I am their friend who laughs about farts, burps, inappropriate Seth Rogan movies and wrassles with them until we are all out of breath and pleading for a reprieve.  I am their parent who can dish out a frightening “Momma face” and they know that their actions or words better cease immediately as I do not hesitate to dole out a consequence.   I will be their biggest cheerleader throughout their lives, I will help them cushion their blows, and I will be their Mommy when they may need it most.

Perhaps forgiveness is key.  In 2014, one of my goals is to face my fears head on.  Perhaps, one of the deepest fears is by letting go of the way my mother treated me that I will absolve her of her actions and words.  However, with my mother's recent passing birthday, I have realized that this is not about my mother and post-death, it is irrelevant whether or not her actions are absolved by me but rather, forgiveness of my mother will allow me to move on and create a new chapter.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

She Said What?


The day after my 40th birthday, I had a scheduled annual physical.  You know, what better time to get on the scale after a couple of weeks of Christmas, New Years and birthday celebrations and libations.  Happy Birthday!  Oy.

For the past decade, the scale has NOT been my friend.  Alright, what woman IS friends with her scale?  I hear you moaning and groaning in agreement.  Further, I hear my scale moan when I step on to it.  I am confident that I am NOT one of those women bound by the numbers on the scale.  Seriously.  I am not.  I have no desire to weigh the beautifully perfect and lithe 135 lbs that I was at my absolute most fit self in college.  I recognize that returning to a range of 145-155 would be ideal and a dream come true.  However, I will publicly announce that I get on the scale nearly every…..single…  (Yes, it bellows at me each time with a consistent reliability).

When I finished the third and final batch of chemotherapy, the medical staff informed me that the weight I had gained as a lovely side effect would indeed be more challenging to remove.  I really wish they would have told me it sticks to your bones like freaking wallpaper paste and it is nearly impossible to remove EVER.  (Yes, I have tried to steam it off in the hottest, most rocket fueled showers ever). 

In any event, after questioning my oncologist about the stubborn Michelin tire that remains around my middle, despite regular works outs and low glycemic nutrition, he simply said, “You will be one of those people that this is always a challenge for.”  BOOM.  Knocked my ass to the floor with a dose of harsh reality; but I took that as a literal challenge and dropped about 25 pounds before getting stuck in yet another plateau.

As life will have it, more curveballs came my way and I have come to realize that I am an emotional eater….or rather an emotional over-eater.  Those aforementioned 25 pounds lost, yeah, well, they “snuck” back on as I dealt with the skeletons in my closet……the emotions I *think* I know how to cope with, but rather I find it easier to shove those ugly emotions way down into your deepest core (which creates the Michelin tire affect around your mid-section).  I would not recommend it.

People ask me, with some trepidation, how I can be the size that I am with all the working out and the healthy eating I do.  I have had a doctor tell me it is in my genes; I am genetically pre-disposed to being a giant because of my Welsh/Polish and Russian heritage.  I have had a doctor tell me, “Your parents are fat, therefore, you will be fat.”  Remember, my oncologist even said it was chemo and just the way it was? 

Yesterday, at my physical the new doctor I saw asked if I had any other concerns after announcing my clean bill of health.  I said yes.  After spelling out the reality of my habits, including a refreshed 2014 perspective on clean eating for my training regimen and upcoming races, I asked her if there was anything else I could/should be doing and if there is any truth to the lamest of excuses people have been offering me (“It’s hormones, women at your age have NO metabolism and hormones screw it ALL up!”).  She looked me square in the eye and said, “Can’t you just be happy that you are healthy?”  BOOM.

I was speechless.  Yes, I had nothing to counter her response with.  I was confused.  I did not know how I should process this question/statement this new doctor had just uttered to me.

Am I happy that I am healthy?  You bet your ass I am.  Sorry, but once you have had cancer, a healthy body is the most compelling desire you would ever wish for.  Am I thankful every day that my amazing body continues to function and perform well enough for me to carry out my daily activities AND to work out in multiple types of exercise?  You bet I am.  Do I wake up every morning and count my blessings that my heart is ticking, my lungs are compressing, my blood is surging…….yes, my blood is surging as I think about that statement more and more from this physician.

As fit as I am, regardless of the miles I can run or the monstrous weights I slam around, I am overweight.  As long as I am overweight, my perspective is that I have the ability to be even healthier.  Those extra 20-25 pounds that seem to come off and sneak back on, come on – we all know they are an added burden to my heart, to my lungs, to my bones……..yet, she thinks I simply need a perspective re-alignment.

With that, I am kicking this weighted (pun intended) negativity out the door – these ugly emotions will not be shoved down into the tire for added girth this time.  Once again, the challenge is accepted.  I refuse to ACCEPT the carelessly tossed statement from a medical professional that I should basically give up and be happy with my current state of health.

I will not focus on losing weight this year.  Instead, I will focus on how this powerful body needs optimal fuel to perform and that is by clean eating.  I have switched to a local farm for our meats (, so that I know my HORMONES are not being affected by hormone-laced meats tainted with antibiotics and more.  During the cold, harsh New England winter when my CSA is not available, we make the trek to Idylwilde Farms in Acton ( for fresh, vibrant and full of flavor vegetables and fruits to make it through the Artic Vortex.

I will continue to push my personal limits of strength, endurance and resolve at my local gym with the trainer that motivates me beyond any one before him and with the friends who share blood, sweat and tears by my side through grueling workouts (   I will run my long runs with my music pumping at hearing damaging levels (hey, I’m already hearing impaired) and enjoy the solidarity of the mental break these routes afford me.  I will run the Boston Marathon a good deal lighter than I am right now, because honestly, I do not wish to carry an extra 25-30 lbs through 26.2 miles.  I will walk into that doctor’s office again in a year and simply say “Boom!” because no one shall set limits for me nor do they tell me to give up or become complacent.

Have you ever been told something silly by a medical professional?  How did you react? 

Have you ever been told to give up on something in your life?  What did you do?

Friday, January 3, 2014

40 - Are You Ready?

"I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing."

--Agatha Christie

I do like living.  Why did it take me to 40 years of age to realize this?  Okay, it did not take that long, but it certainly took desperate and trying times for me to swallow that wake-up pill in my thirties.

Two days from now, I will be forty years old.  F..O..R..T..Y.  When I was a child, forty seemed so OLD.  My dad was forty when he had me and my mom thirty-seven (but turned thirty-eight some ten days later).  Forty should not have seemed ancient to me when my parents were just starting their lives with me in their fourth decade of living.
Much like the recent cliché, I do believe that forty is the new thirty.  Many of my friends are just now kicking off “living” their lives in their forties.  As our children enter their double digits, the constant restraints of littles at home gets a wee bit easier (and our time constraints are more bound by the endless taxiing of these big kids to their activities).  Our marriages are more grounded and the ability to focus on activities for ourselves is balanced between spouses with said older children.  Not to mention my husband has realized active wear is my preferred look and he seems to find it sexier than stilettos.  Seriously, have you seen my confidence as I strut in my favorite Athleta pants?  Much more exuberant than watching me try to tip-toe through sky high heels, with arms out plane-style for balance coupled with the idiotic, psychotic giggling as I try to walk with some sense of balance -  much as I imagined our evolutionary ancestors did on two legs for the first time.

The aforementioned confidence is something that comes hand in hand with turning forty.  I am less afraid to try new things at forty than I would ever have been at twenty.  At forty, I know it is not what have I got to lose, but it’s I’ve got everything to lose!  My life is nearly half over and I am AFRAID of the clock winding down, ticking out before I have had the chance to accomplish as much as I can. 
Sure, staring that cancer monster in the face is more than an enlightening moment – not unlike the scene from “Scrooge” and being paid a visit by the Grim Reaper as the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.  Yes, it is true that it took me getting a bitch slap in the face by cancer to realize that I was merely existing and not living.  I took my amazing body for granted for thirty-something years.  No more.  I will be living proof that this body will be the best it has ever been by the end of 2014!
My thirties really did suck.  There is no better word that describes the rawness of the decade other than it was rotten beyond the core.  Being the in the sandwich generation and caring for elderly and sick parents is an unfortunate reality for many of us.  Add a cancer diagnosis and nearly a full year of treatment and you have a less than textbook chapter for your memory banks.  The positive out of my thirties is I had an unexpected pregnancy, a child that saved my life so I may sit here and embark about what a trip my forties will be.
Children, please sit and watch as your Momma takes on the world.  Limited only by money and adult responsibilities (aka work), no experience should be left undone in this decade.  (Ahhh, well, I have not quite yet decided if something like sky-diving is on my bucket list….and that tattoo………). 

(Yes, that's what I am considering......thoughts?)
Friends, please join me for the ride through the Fanabulous Forties, literally and figuratively.  What are YOU waiting for?  Is there an experience you have considered but have yet to undertake?  Let’s do it.  You name it, let’s get ‘er done.
Here are some of my adventures I am committed to thus far in 2014:
·         Cupid’s Undie Run
·         Disney Princess Half-Marathon
·         Boston Marathon
·         Reach The Beach Relay
·         Warrior Dash
·         Huff & Cuff 5k
·         Multiple PRs at Crossfit978
Putting the exercise related goals aside, I do hope to do a better job of balancing my life.  I will ALWAYS be a breast cancer advocate as long as this disease is a threat to my community.  We CAN do better and we have been making an impact on the lives of so many.  In 2013, we collectively made a difference and continued to pave the way for change in the world of pink.  My passion for spreading the lesson learned (I totally ignored my symptoms of my disease) will be louder than ever.  However, I must balance my advocacy with work commitments and my young family.
My goal is to enhance my friendships and do a better job of spending quality time with close friends.  Because of a busy life, I often tend to wait for others to ask me to get together and instead, I hope to do more of that myself.  Pro-active instead of reactive in 2014 and finding friends who not only love me unconditionally but those who fuel my inner Goofy Goober (or give me a run for my money).
Watching my best friend from childhood battle cancer herself has reinforced my desire to kick off this next decade with a fierce ambition.  Therefore, I will share my forties with you:  my adventures, my triumphs, my slips and my falls.  In this new year of 2014, I will be launching a new blog:  “Authentically Bold: Rebecca” for you to journey along with me, if you choose (and I *really* hope you will or I will bat my eyelashes at you relentlessly until your power is weak).
Are you ready?  I am open - so let's run, let's climb, let's paint, let's dance, let's laugh, let's cry (okay, not really, I hate crying), let's conquer the time we have and let's make our lives spectacular.
Let’s be alive together.   You in?

Monday, December 30, 2013

Beauty in 5 Minutes- Guest Blogger- Kate

I was just drying off from my shower. Naked. Glancing at myself in the mirror. Hearing the familiar voice start up in my head about what I am not doing or what I am over doing. Or it may have been the lament of "Time" this go round. How years, gravity, and wear and tear...

Ev, my 8 year old, walks in. 
I was surprised and caught in the headlights. 
White blinding light of: Now what? Cover up? Stand, revealed? A mix of the two maybe with a dangled towel here and there? 
She was just looking in my eyes at first, talking to me. Then her eyes started roving. She stared at my belly button region that raged a war, time and again. Her hand went to her own extremely tight and etched gymnast abdomen. My hand went to mine.
"This is where you guys lived, nice and cozy."
She giggled.
"You are soft." was her reply.
"In some ways. But that is good for a hug. In other ways I am hard." and I mocked yelled at her, reminding her of how tough I can be. Breaking the intensity with a laugh as always.
Unabashedly she kept looking and I went about my getting ready.
"If you are too muscley- your hugs wouldn't be good." she decided.
"Well, a hug has all that love to help keep it soft, too."
My thighs were wiggling into pants. She watched.
I gathered all the back flesh I could into the front of my bra with what remains of my breasts. She watched.
"Why do you even wear that?"
"It gives me some shape up top. Most people wear them to support their breasts."
"Why bother wearing it at all? For you? I wouldn't bother."
"Sometimes I don't. Sometimes I do."
She kept standing there. I was basically clothed, but my openness and vulnerability, even with my own child, had reached it's max. 
I asked why she didn't run along and play. 
She shrugged. 
I didn't know how to end the scene. I don't know why I thought it needed an ending other than my discomfort and feeling of being on a very vulnerable limb of exposure, openness, and responsibility to show myself as a real body with no shame or disparaging remarks, all the while not putting down a body toned, tight, and different than my own. No doubt the body she will have.
So, I just said, "And that is me getting dressed."
And she said, "You are beautiful."
She left happy. 
I was left winded.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Better, Not Bitter

Adversity is something we all face at various points in our life, correct?  Maybe you call it one of the following terms instead:

 Misfortune, ill luck, bad luck, trouble, difficulty, hardship, distress, disaster, suffering, affliction, sorry, misery, tribulation, woe, pain, trauma or more.

However you describe your challenges in life, it is safe to make the assumption that our hardships certainly mold our characters and our suffering changes our life path.  For me, my traipsing through life in thirty-nine years has afforded me a great deal of misfortune, if you will.  My “bad luck” has crafted my inner-being to nearly define resilience.  Would you like to take that journey with me? 

In "What Did You Say", I shared briefly the story behind my hearing loss.  At the age of four, my parents realized I was having a hard time hearing when I asked them to turn around so that I could hear them.  I had adapted and learned how to lip read so that I could hear the world around me.  On my fifth birthday, January 5th, 1974, I received two hearing aids – alas, the gift of hearing but that “gift” also came with a mound of limitations placed upon me by the medical profession.  Fortunately, the true gift was courtesy of my parents , the support that I could literally do anything I set my heart on – regardless of restrictions imposed upon me by others.  My hearing loss was an affliction, but then unknown to me, this particular adversity early on would be the concrete foundation that paved my strength for difficulties in later years.

As a child of a parent with a mental illness, the pain is two-fold.  As a young child you do not ever understand why your parent, the one who is supposed to love you unconditionally, goes on rages and beats you.  As you nurse the welts, the bruises and wipe up the blood, you try to understand and you try to justify the outbursts for your parent.  The flip side is you feel immense guilt and embarrassment once you start to learn that other families do not beat their children and you are shamed into keeping quiet.  In "Not All Mothers Are Created Alike", I share more of the details of the abuse I suffered at the hands of my own mother.  Once again, the trauma of wooden Dr. Scholl sandals crashing down upon my youth limbs, the searing pain of wooden dowels making forceful contact with my skin, the sickening clang of cast iron pots against my bones…..has added to the firmness of my core’s strength for the years that lie ahead.

Not unlike many of us as children, I was bullied as a child.  Namely, because my hearing aids were so large and so uncommon that name-calling and jokes flowed regularly from my peers.   Once people got to know us, my mother’s behavior and my subsequent bruises became a focal point for rudeness and for public inquiry by social service agencies.  Time and time again, the strength of my character was built upon through adversity.

 My half-sister abandoned her children, three boys, and my parents took my nephews in permanently.  Unfortunately, the abuse I had experienced as a young child was now repeating itself as my mother tried to parent twin twelve year old boys and a small six year old boy who all came with a myriad of issues from an unsettled and dysfunctional home pre-abandonment.  As a teenager myself, my role in the family immediately shifted and my responsibilities included caring for my three nephews as my parents both worked full time to support the additional family members.  Many times I lost out on some typical teenaged activities because I had to babysit my instant three “brothers” and cook not only for three mouths but now six.  The misfortune was converted into maturity and again added to my resilience in life.

Somehow, despite the abuse as a young child and my tumultuous teen years, I firmly believed that my relationship with my parents was important and I took them in as my dad’s health declined for the worse.  We had a large enough home with an in-law space and I envisioned my parents living their golden years whilst making terrific memories with my children, their grandchildren.  My grandparents died when I was young, so I longed for my children to have that relationship with all of their grandparents.  I was grossly naïve as my mother’s mental illness was still in full force and the upcoming four years would be akin to living in hell. 

Nursing my parents through dialysis, a kidney transplant, MRSA, countless cellulitis infections, weekly ambulance visits, regular falls with injuries, poop everywhere……and more, after balancing a ridiculously demanding full time job and two little children was about the limit of distress I could handle.

Little did I know then, but I now understand that all of these tribulations were little preparatory missions for what would be, by far, my hardest challenge yet:   a fight for my life in the war against cancer.  Had I not had enough misfortune in my life but I would be the one to be diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer while pregnant with my third child?  Geesh, what the heck wrong did I do in my former life to deserve all this adversity?  Kill a pope?

 In my character enhancement (as I like to refer to it), the same lesson I keep learning throughout all of this woe is that regardless of any limitations set on me by said challenges, I can come out on top.  I am strong, I am powerful and I do believe.

 As part of my desire to destroy the boundaries placed upon me, I was a stellar runner in high school and I dreamed, like many other runners do, of someday running the Boston Marathon.  The 26.2 mile course from Hopkinton to Boston is more elite than running the Olympics.  Each year during college and beyond that I went to watch the race, I felt empowered and promised myself that I would someday be a runner on that course.  Since I was sixteen years old, I have dreamed of doing the race and have yet to add that to my list of barriers I have broken through.  I thought about it often, but I let the excuses get in the way:  I work, I have kids, I cannot qualify therefore, I have to raise money and I cannot do that, I am getting too old…..yadda, yadda, yadda.


April 15, 2013 was a day that most of us in Massachusetts will never forget.  I was in Florida on April vacation with my family and during the day at the beach, I checked my phone to see who won the marathon only to get a news alert that there had been a bomb at the race.  Disbelief and shock set in as I devoured the news and realized the severity of what had happened in my home state that day.  Two bombs, hundreds injured, fatalities including a young child, oh, my god……….what has happened.  My mother died suddenly two days later.  As much as I had previously grieved for the loss of my mother during the fall out of her behavior when I needed to fight for my life and my baby’s life, her death took me by complete surprise.

 We had driven to Florida, so on our very long ride home, my mind tried to process the ugliness of the week – the authorities had captured the remaining terrorist who tried to destroy our city and I would be coming home to put absolute closure to the emotions I had about my mother.  My mind swirled and twisted after the endless miles back up Interstate 95.  Perhaps it was an epiphany, but I decided at that point – somewhere in South Carolina, that I was going to run the 2014 Boston Marathon.  I did not yet know how, but the factors of why I needed to were overwhelmingly compelling:

1.       My five year chemoversary was June 2013.  What better test of my health and the control over my life that I had not only survived cancer but I was thriving?

2.       My 40th birthday will be January 2014.  I am not too old to accomplish my bucket list!

3.       How dare some deranged terrorists think they can dismantle and inject fear into MY city, OUR city, Boston?  Do they not have a clue about just how STRONG we Massachusetts folks are?

4.       26.2 miles of reflection – 26.2 miles of shirking off limitations -26.2 miles because I can.

 A few friends have asked me how I am so strong, especially when I do not use a religious faith in my darkest hours.  I have years of experience.  My foundation has been built and reinforced time after time.  My life path was paved first with me losing my hearing. 

With that, I am honored and blessed to be a part of Team Eye & Ear for the 2014 Boston Marathon.  I was chosen to represent what Boston Strong truly means to so many of us.  Massachusetts Eye & Ear was one of the fine facilities to treat many of the injured last year after the catastrophic day of events.  Somehow, it is very fitting that I will be representing an institution that provides care for the very type of afflictions that first set my life path in place – and I have chosen the fundraising dollars I obtain to be funneled into their ear clinic – for research and patient care.

 I will run because I can, yes.  I have dreamed about this day for twenty-four years.

I will run because I can, yes.  My body is healthy, cancer free and an amazing machine.

I will run for my best bud, Karen as she battles for her life against leukemia.  She rode her bike for the PMC Challenge to honor me during my cancer, so now, I will run to honor her and show her just how strong life after cancer can be.

I will run because I can, yes.  I will run for every person affected by the bombings last year because I have two very capable limbs to do so.

I will run because I can, yes.  I will run for you, to represent that fear is not a limitation that we will allow to control us.  We will be BOSTON STRONG in 2014.

I will run because I can, yes.  Resilience is my middle name.  I am better, not bitter.



Help me believe, please support me because you can by donating here:  Rebecca's Page - Team Eye & Ear

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Strongest Girl I Know

October 3rd, my life forever changed – yes, yet again.  I received a phone call from my best friend telling me she had just been diagnosed with cancer at the age of 39.  The overwhelming feelings of that phone call nearly knocked me to my knees.  My heart broke into pieces that day.  My stomach hurt as if it were internally on fire and being pummeled by a heavyweight boxer.  My bowels seized.  My brain ran into overdrive and subsequently turned to mush at the very same moment.
We were in a parking lot getting food for the youngest while waiting to go to my eldest daughter’s varsity soccer game that night.  Suddenly, our car would not start.  However, my world had just ceased – totally stopped in time - with the utterance of a few short words from the girl I consider a sister.
As my frustrated husband started panicking about the car, I simply grabbed my youngest daughter’s hand, took off and started walking to the field about one-half mile away.  I was in the twilight zone.  Beyond the teary words my buddy had just voiced to me about leukemia, my ability to comprehend anything was non-existent and a total blur.
Karen and I became best friends our freshman year in high school.  We met the year prior, after I moved to Massachusetts from Oklahoma, but we solidified our bond during Mr. Morano’s freshman English class and during band practice. 

(She will likely kill me for sharing this picture, circa 1988.)
Prior to the internet and cell phones, Karen and I spent at least two hours on the old-fashioned telephones with the stretched out cords talking to one other every single day.  I cannot recall all that we talked about, but I do know the time was filled with non-stop laughter over boys, farts, music, sports and other then-relevant thirteen year old topics.
Karen was an athlete even back then, excelling in swimming by gliding through the water like the most aero-dynamic fish I had ever laid eyes on.  At the now defunct YMCA, I often tried to swim with her, even though my sport was running, and I literally sank to the bottom of the pool much like a runner would. 
Karen was also a champion at Tae Kwon Do.  I know this first-hand because she always practiced her non-contact sport on ME.  Countless times, I ended up on the ground nursing a striking blow from Karen as she practiced her karate chops using me as her “dummy” .  Her direct hits to me were always softened by her ensuing giggling at my subsequent ass-dropping.
The friendship between Karen and I has always been enhanced by the fact that we both do not like boring.  We both go all out when we tackle the facets of life; especially Karen.  The two of us friends have always pushed our personal limitations in our respective lives, a unique trait that always permits us to circle back to one another.  We both admit a sick sort of fascination in not only partaking in these adventurous experiences but in sharing the sordid details with one another.  We both recognize that the other one truly understands our respective insanities, without justification and explanation,  and we continue to cheer one another on in our escapades.

Karen was there for me during my own cancer battle.  A friend indeed, reminding me that I was a kick-ass warrior and there was nothing I could not do.  Karen was present during the actual birth of my third child, a miracle delivery placed smack dab in the middle of my treatments. 
In typical Karen-style, she fist pumped and yelled something like “rock on” after I pushed my baby out in two pushes.  She was disappointed that the birth happened so quickly that she had to stand by my stubble growing head instead of holding my leg and being upfront and center in the action. 
Moments after the exhausting and marvelous birth, Karen wasted no time to remind me – in between her now infamous aforementioned giggles – that I screamed “F^^^^^^^^CCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKK!” right into the doctor’s face in that last push.  Only Karen.  <Hey, I give birth with zero pain meds people……….something’s got to give!>


How is it some five years later, I am there for Karen in HER cancer battle? 
STOP.  Right here.  Two best friends.  Both having to battle cancer?  This has got to be a nightmare.  There is no possible way this story, this version of events, can be true.
My emotions ran very rampant and very high this past month as my best buddy battles for her life.  I range from “WTF!” (rather frequently) to tears of utter sadness, to supreme confidence and back around again.  Part of the healing from my own cancer experience has witnessed me struggling with my emotions when those I know are battling a different variety of the disease.  Man, WTF.
After I completed my battle, I believed with an utmost confidence that no one close to me would have to battle cancer.  I felt like the token child, the sacrificial lamb….I went through this horrible suck-fest so that no one else I love would have to.  On October 3rd, life pulled that giant rug out from underneath me and I landed squarely face down on some pretty hard concrete terms of reality.
How could this be happening?  Karen is the strongest girl I know!  How is she now battling for her life?  Leukemia?  Bleeding internally?  Whoa.  I feel dizzy.  I am nauseous.  My heart aches.
Just a few months earlier this year, my personal superhero competed in the Patriot Half Ironman; she not only finished, but finished second overall for the women!  There’s NO way this girl has cancer. 
Nope.  Refusal to believe.   Denial.  Fine.
What I do know, what I firmly believe, without a figment of doubt is that Karen will not only beat cancer but she will kick the tarnation out of it and come through unlike anyone before her.  My heart continues to break into smithereens as I watch her suffer, yes, SUFFER through many of the similar side effects of cancer treatment that I dragged myself through.  I wish that I could take that pain away for her, even knowing how awful it was for me.  With her immune system depleted by chemotherapy, it takes every ounce of strength and will power for me to refrain from holding her, loving her and helping caress her through these dark days. 
My memory returns to the days of my bald head, the ugliness I felt when Karen’s husband Jeremy shaved my head in anticipation of the fall-out from my own chemotherapy.  I recall Karen crying and complimenting me on what a beautifully shaped head I had. 

Now, five years later, I sit here crying myself and complimenting Karen on what an absolutely beautiful woman she is and what a perfectly shaped dome she has.  Poor Jeremy, probably never comprehending his skills of shaving heads would apply not only to his wife’s best friend, but his own gorgeous wife.

In typical rock-star style, Karen reassures me through her spirit that the warrior IS deeply embedded within her very core and she will prevail in this latest challenge.  Karen will come out ahead and stand on the grandest podium there is – the grand podium of life and knowing she crossed that finish line in the race against cancer.  I will have long since moved aside from my spot on said podium, but I will remain very closely behind her every inch of the way.  I will cheer her through the fight of her lifetime.  As I fret, as I worry, and as I know that Karen’s latest competition is fierce, somehow with her indomitable spirit and in these dark days of cancer, Karen is still taking care of me.
She is the strongest girl I know.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Inspiration: Even You Can


noun \ˌin(t)-spə-ˈrā-shən, -(ˌ)spi-\

: something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone

: a person, place, experience, etc., that makes someone want to do or create something

: a good idea

(Source:  Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

We all have that ability to deliver a gift.  A gift -  you know - something given involuntarily without payment in return.  Please, continue reading – there are so many ways to deliver a gift and I hope you will engage me in considering what gift you will distribute today, this week, this month and this year. 
You are an inspiration!  Yes, you!  You have the ability to influence someone’s day, is that not empowering?  Imagine, for a moment, our world, our people filled with gift-giving.  It really IS that easy.  The question is why do we not do it more often?
A gift is not necessarily a purchase of a commercial product to present to someone as a present.  A gift may be in the form of a few choice words, wrapped with a figurative bow and transported to a deserving recipient.  Think about it, when is the last time you conveyed a message to someone that was kind, supportive, uplifting, and maybe just the very sentence that warmed that person’s heart that day?
There’s a favorite quote of mine:

Battle may be very loosely defined and may differ not only from person to person, but from day to day.  We are surrounded by those who are fighting for their lives from disease and it seems easier to step up the kindness at those times.  However, what about the other battles?  The mêlées of daily life that often knock us from the safety zone of comfort.  Often times, the individuals wading through the muck of life are the most perfect recipients for an inspirational gift from you. 
Humans, by default, seem to be keener on knocking each other down instead of lifting each other up.  Newspaper headlines reflect such cruel behavior on daily basis.  November elections clearly bring out the worst in people – when toxic verbiage spews from one political party to another and the mission shifts from rallying a favored candidate to being down-right, viciously malicious to another human being.  Such behavior that has me asking why?  Why do we publicly cast such irretrievable words at each other? 
The efforts to convey kind words take exactly the same energy that it takes to emit vile verbosity; in fact, it may be less effort on the former.  Are we that naïve?  Are we so hard-wired to swing to the negative side of verbal engagements that it takes a conscious action to engage on the positive end of the spectrum?  Are we seriously just pre-disposed to complaining (Seriously?) that it seems unnatural to focus on the positive of our discussions?
Circling back around, we all do have the ability to be an inspiration. YES, WE DO!   Being an inspiration is not unattainable nor does it require exhaustive measures to achieve the end result.  Embracing my best Uncle Sam, I am here to say, "I WANT YOU!"

Like many other facets in our lives, any action that is done regularly certainly becomes habit.  Let us use our ability to inspire, to provide the gift of kind words to one another on a regular basis.  Start by casting a smile at those you encounter on a daily basis.  Expand those smiles into affirmative words.  Instead of staring at the Dunkin Donuts menu while you wait your place in line, give the person next to you a warm smile.  You will be surprised at their reaction and often times get a gift of a smile in return.  (You may possibly be deemed crazy, but that is good fun as well).  From that smile, perhaps you may compliment that person on their cute sweater or their hair-do.  Stop laughing at the thought and do it.  I promise you, it is so very worth-while.  Your kind words may start that person’s day on a better note and you will feel so good about delivering such a gift; a gift that cost you absolutely nothing.
Toss the stone of kindness.  Watch the ripples as your friends mimic your behavior.  Be proud as your children exhibit compassion to their peers.  Receive the benevolence as it comes back around to you.

Be an inspiration.