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.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Never Too Old

Halloween 2013 in my home was greeted with a nearly sixteen year old, a thirteen year old (who looks sixteen) and a five year old.  Halloween is great fun in our family, as it is my favorite and we cover much of the inside of our residence with a variety of decorations to reflect the season.
Our fall was so overly packed with extra-curricular activities and an international wedding, that it was October 28th before it dawned on me we had yet to get costumes.  We were one of those – the cluster of people in the local Halloween store the night before the event itself.  My usually organized self has been way behind the eight ball these past few months.
Throughout the store, all three of my children were oohing, ahhing, laughing and being grossed out by the left-over, picked through assortment of costumes remaining.  Wait, a minute.....what?  A thought crossed my mind:  are my oldest two children too old to partake in the candy mooching this year?
A sophomore in high school and her brother, who in 7th grade is climbing just shy of six feet tall and sprouting facial hair.
No.  No, they are not. 
I used the excuse that we were going to our old neighborhood for Trick-or-Treating, therefore, they both could “get away” with walking the streets and collecting candy.  You see, it was not about the candy collection for my kids.  Honestly.  As I watched my children pick their respective costumes, their eyes were lit up with that innocent child-like behavior.  I understand this joy as their own Momma loves the excuse to dress up as something we would otherwise never be.  I watched the exuberance come from their bedrooms as they slid the polyester over their growing bodies.  I reveled in the laughter as they checked one another out and tried to decide what the orange skin-suit on my newly minted teenage boy really made him look like. 


As we watched the collections of kids that made their rounds through the neighborhood last night, I realized that my children are not too old.  I will not tell them they cannot trick-or-treat.  I will respect them when they decide they have outgrown the custom, but I will not issue a cease and desist. 
Life goes by way too fast as it is, why should we encourage our young ones to stop doing something they enjoy?  Should this not apply to us adults as well?
Lately, I find myself saying certain behaviors of mine or certain actions of mine are perchance unbecoming of someone about to be my age (that fortieth birthday is looming just over the horizon).  However, upon a moment of consideration, I realize if it’s something I enjoy who says I should stop doing it?
Are we so caught up in our adult-hood that we are missing out on the very moments that we enjoy, that keep us young at heart and bring grins to our faces?
So what that those awesome Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle knee socks are marketed towards kids/tweens/teens – I like them!  Michelangelo was my favorite (yes, because he was orange) and I want a pair!
Who cares if snow angels were meant for over-bundled little kids who fall and cannot get up?  The world needs life-sized angels, too!
Tell me you do not enjoy trying to count how many licks a Tootsie Pop takes!  (*I lose count after three…)
Does it matter if during a long run, a particular song just forces you to break out into a little jiggity-jig in your pace down Pleasant Street?  Maybe that passerby just needs a little giggle/smile today after your running bust a move!
Speaking of a run, experiencing the Electric Run (a 5k “race” throughout Gillette Stadium) wearing loads of glowing things:  glow sticks, glow necklaces, glow bracelets, glowing fiber optic mohawks, and more affirmed for me that no one is ever too old for fun.
Never ever too old for fun. 
There has got to be something you enjoy that is perhaps not tell me....what is it?
Disclaimer:  Yes, I did, in fact, try on my son’s orange skin suit.  No, it was not the least bit flattering (when is spandex EVER?) but the ensuing laughter from each respective member of my family made me consider going Trick-or-Treating myself next year (no, I will not but the thought was fun).

Friday, October 18, 2013


October is a crazy month.  The children and their schedules are in full centrifugal force with mothers and fathers engaging in their best juggling and balancing acts, hanging on for dear life with gas fumes in their cars on the non-stop commutes and last minute meal plans at odd hours of night.  Professional workloads seem to ramp up in anticipation of the looming holiday season and festive periods on the horizon.  For those of us in the world of PINK, October is a month-long to-do list of advocating, fund-raising, public relations and a mission to change the “awareness” into action.

October is also apparently the month of complainers.  Yup, I said it out loud.  Whoa, did I miss the memos and the memes announcing October as the month to air all grievances?  National Bitch About Everything Month. 

Here’s my disclaimer:  maybe I am a bit frazzled and frayed around the edges due to the aforementioned non-stop days filled with fifteen hours of responsibilities.  The little “things” are like subtle sandpaper rubbing with gentle friction until my nerves are screaming: out  “SERIOUSLY!?”

Our local prelude to the Mayoral election in early November is getting pretty messy and the cesspool is enlarging by day.  Politics is ugly; always has been muddy and always will be.  We have an incumbent who has done a pretty decent job since 1994 – nearly twenty years.  The man has a pretty sordid personal life, one that would certainly make fodder for reality TV fans and spawns much of the town drama.  Is a public servant subject to the same rules of morality in his ability to do his job?  I would not want to be judged on my ability to do my career based on the skeletons in my closet.  Personally, I am good at what I do in my day to day means of earning a living.  Is it my boss’s business what I do behind closed doors?  I have my own heavy judgments on said incumbent candidate, but as an “educated” voter, is it not my duty to weigh the pros and cons of each candidate and determine who the best person for the job is? 

When the campaigning began, I knew very little of the opponent – the person brave enough to face the long term resident of the mayoral office.  I have been doing my research and soaking up more information about this relatively unknown person who has actually been sitting in a civil seat.  However, the election ramp up has become a vat of uber-toxic mud-wrestling and frankly, I have had enough.  I am very eager to hear both sides and listen to the debates; but unfortunately, the negative campaigning has overruled any rational logic.  My thoughts of moving to a deserted island, where none of this “BS” exists, is surmounting and immensely appealing.


How about we stop the complaining?  Instead of steamrolling one another with what we do not like about the opposing party, how about we start cheerleading for the candidate we think is best?  I love Mickey Mouse because he's such a leader and always comes to the rescue.  More palatable than Donald Duck sucks because he wears no pants and mumbles in that grating voice.
I really dislike being told what to do.  Therefore, telling me not to vote for the incumbent because you think he’s a scumbag or that he’s a typical politician does not sway my vote one way or another.  Telling me that I should not vote for the relative new-comer because she’s a bitch, not invested in our community and is a scapegoat for another candidate down the line also does not sway my vote on the matter.  Tell me why your candidate is the best person for the job!  Tell me why your candidate can continue to make my home town community the stellar place it is!  Otherwise, I may simply turn my hearing aid off and start singing, “Puff The Magic Dragon” (which, by the way, my thirteen year old son informs me is “stupid” and “about drugs”.  WHAT?  I loved that movie as a young child, it’s not about drugs!)

Of course, as I continue my personal efforts to make a change in my society through my charitable endeavors, the complaints rifle through my pretty pink pathway as well.  The phrase, “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished” is ripe and relevant as we surge through the third week of the month of breast cancer causes.  The critics, the nay-sayers, the haters, and local friends are mouthing off about so much……, stuff.  I apologize if my eyes involuntarily roll up backwards into my head as the simultaneous toxic verbiage spews out of your mouth.  I do not intend to be disrespectful whatsoever.  I simply choose which negativity gets any of my attention or not.  (Usually the latter).

Perhaps my own “adventure” through cancer land has given me a different set of tools in which to navigate life.  As much as I am working on the eyeball roll thing (I know it’s not flattering), I am about as clichéd as it gets and I do not “sweat the small stuff”.  While the complainers may be sitting high on their bitching bandwagon, I prefer to go my own way, even alone if necessary. 

Yesterday, after my own oncology visit, I quickly scooted over for a visit with a loved one who is currently waging her own war on the hematology oncology floor at the hospital.  While my friends are engaging in verbal battles of town politics; or blaming others for what makes them angry at life – my world stops so I can take in a warrior simply trying to stay alive.  Side effects from the very poison that will keep her alive are raging rampant on her body.  Her now non-existent immune system does not allow me my nurturing nature of wanting to hold her, rock her and comfort her with my human touch.  The strongest girl alive is now weepy because she does not feel well and in fact, she hates to admit that she feels so very weak.  My heart breaks off into a million little pieces and my own eyes are filled to the brim with tears.  I suffered horrifically during my cancer treatment so that no one else I loved had to ever face the same awful torment.  Yet, here she is – falling apart – so that she can come back together again, stronger and more beastly than ever before……but she has to experience it and we have to watch it.

My perspective has been re-aligned, yet again. 

As I was feeling angry about the trend of the recent weeks becoming 2013’s Bitch-Fest, I was overwhelmed with the task of calibrating my feelings and emotions.  For all the good going on in the world, my rose-colored glasses were fogging up and fast.  I needed help. 
And then it came.

A fellow soccer mom showed me her young daughter’s social media post in which she talked about being inspired to make positive change in her world.  When I was about to lose some of my own hope while nursing my broken heart, the bright light lit me up and filled my very being.  Based on my own personal choices and the roads I choose to embark upon, a young girl thanked me for showing her the way.  Suddenly, my vigor is re-fueled and I know what I have to do......what a gift from her to me!
October is a beautiful month, filled with changing leaves and comforting stews.  Yes.  Life is also a  spectacular opportunity to embrace change and comfort one another.  I am ready.  Are you?

Here's a great way someone else started:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Graphic Look at PINK

I do not hate pink.  In fact, I find it to be a flattering color for me and the several shades of pink represent so much more for me in my life post-cancer. 

I do hate the way pink is used.  Pinkwashing.  Have you heard of it?  Tell me  you have not walked into any box store in the month of October and you have not been drowned in pink as it is everywhere.  Pink has been branded into a commercial enterprise of its own; namely for many corporations to jump on the breast cancer “awareness” bandwagon and ultimately, reap the benefits of its bottom line profit margin.

Debates abound with some die-harders telling me that a pink ribbon on their bucket of fried chicken does make them stop and think about their breast health for a moment.

 Come on!  <Insert my most dramatic, sarcastic eye-roll right here!> 

Seriously, is it not infuriating that the pink ribbon – a symbol of a horrendous disease and a cause to “cure” the same – is somewhat misplaced on a bucket of obesity inducing fried chicken?  How does that pink ribbon on a bag of cat food or cat litter help women with their breast health?  Personally, I have seen the ribbon on everything from toilet paper, bubble wrap, Italian sausages, yogurts, duct tape, and countless other items of merchandise for sale.
We KNOW, we KNOW, we KNOW breast cancer exists.  Can we all safely say we are very AWARE that breast cancer is a profound problem currently today?  Um, yes.  Do not even get me started on "the cure".....that is another blog post in and of itself.

Have you read the label to see how much of your “donation” by purchase of said item actually goes to the purported cause?  Maybe ten percent, or maybe ten cents or maybe the disclaimer is as vague as “a portion of the proceeds from the purchase of this product goes to a breast cancer charity (or to breast cancer research).”  Wait, what?

Where is YOUR money going?

Buying pink does not necessarily do anything for the hundreds of thousands battling breast cancer each year.  In fact, many of the so-called pink items actually contain ingredients that may CAUSE cancer.  Yay for a cure! 

Come on!  <Insert my most dramatic, sarcastic eye-roll right here!> 

We CAN do better than this!  We can, we can, we can!!!!

Let me tell you a little about breast cancer.  Your brain will permanently etch the sound waves of your surgical oncologist calling you to tell you that you have cancer.  You will hear that voice in your head for the remainder of your life.  You will never, ever forget the dread, the fear, and the pit in the bottom of your innermost core knowing you have a disease that may possibly take your life.

Your eyes will never erase the image of a nurse donning all but a HazMat suit to come administer the insanely toxic and potent poison right….into…your veins.  The fear of watching the gelatinous “Red Devil” (aka Adriamycin) arriving in the largest syringe you have ever laid eyes on (bigger than a turkey baster, people) being slowing pushed into the IV port and the feeling of the cool toxic substance surge into your body is similar to what you envision being tortured may be like.  You will also panic at the sight of a technician coming in with a metal lockbox containing the radioactive isotopes they inject INTO YOU.  Anything that must be under lock and key in a protective safe and deemed *radioactive* (I think Chernobyl if you will), must not be thrust into your bloodstream.  Oh, yes, it does.

Despite drinking gallons of liquids to counter the effects of the noxious chemicals soaring through your system, you will not forget the feeling of not being able to poop.  That is right.  You insist to yourself that what goes in MUST come out.  However, trying to poop on chemotherapy is nearly impossible.  You actually consider an emergency room visit because it….just…..will…..not……come…..out.  You cry.

Your breasts will never be the same.  Ever.  Not only will you show hundreds of different people your boobies on a daily basis, you will not be able to pull off the name Misty Rain and get tips in your thong for displaying these beautiful mounds.  Oh, did I mention that about ninety-five percent of these people who gawk at your boobs will also touch them.  Yup.  Men and women.  Young, middle-aged, and old.  You cannot help but wonder how many boobs they touch every day in their professional lives.  Seriously, your mind goes there.

Your armpit will be scarred and lymph nodes taken for good.  Your breasts may be one or all of the following:  scarred, misshapen, lopsided, tattooed, puckered, dimply, discolored, numb, plastic, radiation-induced firm, mis-matched nippled, lumpy, filled with scar tissue or fatty necrosis or even reconstructed from tissue from somewhere else on your body.  Your emotional outlook on how your feminine breasts are now far from how you were made naturally may take a huge hit causing you to hide your breasts from your husband or not want to date for fear of disgusting them.

The bone pain from the other poison, called Taxol, will make you contemplate suicide.  Take the pain of childbirth and delivery but maximize that by 1000% and pretend you are getting run over by a gigantic Mack truck crushing all of your bones slowly.  You will ponder if death is a more palatable alternative.

You will have countless side effects long after the treatment has commenced and your support teams have dispersed.  The emotions shift daily and as if on a roller coaster in the Marianas Trench.  The residual bone and joint pain makes you shuffle like a ninety year old.  The phantom striking pains in all of your surgical sites.  The fog brain.  Yes, you will not remember anything like you used to.  Words you know will be stuck…..somewhere… you try to complete your sentences.

Welcome, my friends, this….is……PINK.

In an effort, myself, to do better about the world of pink and to make the lives of my fellow cancer counterparts more comfortable, I had to find a way to ensure that change was being made.  I could not ask people for donations to support pink and not be able to tell them where their money was truly going.  With a passionate cancer advocate who has bulldozed change herself, we founded PINK Revolution Breast Cancer Alliance.  Our mission was to ensure that monies that come into our pink world actually go right back out in its entirety (yes, 100% of those monies – no skimmed fat executive salaries of these so-called NON-PROFITS; no operating expenses to cover extravagant five star hotel functions to “rally the troops”; no cents of the dollars actually coming back to the ultimate cause) to help patients you may very well know yourself. 

How can a woman try to fight for her life when she has no disability insurance and cannot work because of the aforementioned “side-effects” of chemotherapy and surgeries; and the assistance she is given through our local social programs is $27/month in food stamps?  Oh sure, what little she will try to eat given the projectile vomiting and constant nausea may amount to $27/month. 

Come on!  <Insert my most dramatic, sarcastic eye-roll right here!> 

Our world has become a fast and furiously paced place to live.  However, we are all humans and we all have the capacity to love one another and to help one another.  Let us bring back the human touch.  Let us take a moment from our busy lives to care for each other.  It truly does take a village, so let us bring that back.

Donations are immensely helpful and help PINK Revolution fund a number of necessities – from local research at UMass Memorial Medical School Research, to leading edge technology (one of five in the world sophisticated tomosynthesis (3D) machines for betting diagnostic imaging) at UMass Memorial Comprehensive Breast Center, to improved patient care and funding for items such as wigs, lymphedema sleeves, prosthetics and so much more.

Make your pink dollars count.  Know with confidence that your donation is making a huge difference in the life of a very real breast cancer warrior.  If you cannot make a donation, there are endless other ways to pay it forward:  make a meal for a family going through cancer treatment, give a patient a ride to their chemotherapy, mow their lawn, rake their leaves, watch their young children, clean their house and set the ripple of pervasive change in place for our future generations.
Let us all be passionately pink. 
Let us all be the start of pervasive change.