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 na├»ve 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