Sunday, December 30, 2007

Survivor Angels...

I wanted to share with all of you a great organization for those affected by cancer. Its founder is Jonny Imerman who at the age of 26 was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer. During his own cancer battle Jonny never met anyone his age who was going through the same experience. Isn’t that true for most of us young adult survivors? I know it was for me. I think it is all too common. Jonny took action and did something about it. He started an organization called Imerman Angels where you can be connected with a cancer survivor who is the same age and had the same type of cancer. Jonny wanted everyone fighting cancer to be able to connect with a survivor who would be living proof that they too can beat it. Isn’t that a great idea? I wish I knew about these angels when I was going through my cancer treatment.

Jonny founded his organization in 2003 and has accumulated a huge data base of angels from all over the country and the world that can be connected with a cancer fighter. So if you are a survivor who wants to help out and be an angel or if you are a fighter going through treatment now hop on over to his website and contact them. I have had the pleasure of speaking with Jonny personally and I can tell you that he is an amazing spirit and just a really cool guy! I am very glad that I found is organization and am excited to have recently volunteered to be an angel myself.

I know all too well as do most of you that connecting with other young adults with cancer is so very important to recovery. I hope you help me to spread the word about Imerman Angels so that no cancer fighter has to ever feel alone…..

Friday, December 21, 2007

Remembering Grandma...

Six years ago today we had to say goodbye forever. I had yet another chemo treatment that week and I always wore my wig when I saw you so you wouldn’t know I was sick. Mom and I didn’t want you to worry. I felt like I had lied to you. That broke my heart. Losing you would break it even more.

I got the call from mom that morning and sobbed till there were no tears left. They said they found you dead when they went in to give you your morning medication. I hated seeing you in that nursing home. Everytime I came by to visit you begged me to take you home. I wished so much that I could do that for you. For all you did for me. For all the love I had for you.

I remember when I was a little girl you would give me a pretty cup just like yours and put a teeny bit of coffee in it with lots of milk so I could feel like a big girl drinking coffee in the afternoon with grandma. I remember all the trips to the Bronx zoo chasing after Tom as he ran way ahead of us, so far we couldn’t keep up. I remember how safe and loved I felt around you, how you always had a warm hug and a big kiss for me no matter what. It made up for all the times my parents didn’t.

I remember when you told me I would be ok after Paul died. You loved him like your own grandson. I hope you know how much he loved you. I think you did.

I miss all of your stories. I could listen for hours to you talk about growing up during the Depression, one of 10 children and your parents who were off the boat from Italy struggling to make a life for all of you. I saw you cry each time you lost a sibling wondering how you ever got through it. You outlived 8 of them and I wished you could have been the one to live forever.

I can still smell the gravy you made every Sunday. Pasta was always my favorite and still is. I loved helping you cook. It was how I learned. The first time I made your gravy you took one taste and told me exactly what was missing and by how much. I thought about how I would never be as good.

The day you died I wondered how much more I could take. I wondered how much more I would lose. We buried you on Christmas Eve. It was the second worst Christmas of my life. I had your gift wrapped but had to return it. It took awhile before I could bring myself to do that. I didn’t want to let go.

I felt guilty for all the times I didn’t come visit you. For all the things I didn’t say. For not telling you I had cancer. I wondered if you knew. Because you always seemed to know in a psychic kind of way. You were always in tuned to the spirit world. I believe that is where I get it from, my heightened awareness of the other side. Sometimes I still feel you around me or I smell your Sunday gravy somehow and I just smile knowing that you are still watching over me.

This picture was taken on Christmas Day 1999. It is my favorite of us together. Who knew it would be the last…….

Friday, December 14, 2007

Survivor's Guilt

If you are a cancer survivor then you are probably all too familiar with survivor’s guilt. I myself have felt it many times over the 6 years I have been cancer free. Each time I would hear about a coworker, friend, or anyone connected to me that didn’t make it I would wonder about myself. All those recurrence fears reared their ugly heads from the all too close by place they were hiding. All those thoughts about why I was still here flooded through me. I couldn’t help but wonder what it was that made me different and worried would I be next?

There was a coworker of mine that helped me alot when I was diagnosed. She had finished her treatment for breast cancer which included a lumpectomy, chemo (the kind where you don’t loose your hair- I tried to bargain for that and lost!) as well as tamoxifen which I did not take against my oncologist’s advice. You see, on paper she looked much better than me. Her tumor was smaller and her cancer was not invasive like mine was.

After I left that job and moved on I had gone back a couple of years later to visit and I found out from a friend that she had passed away from a recurrence of her cancer with mets. I almost couldn’t breathe. I thought about her and about her kids who would never see their mom again. I thought about how she took her tamoxifen and did all the stuff she was told but still didn’t survive the second time around. I wondered what made her different than me. I wondered why I was still here and why she had to die. I wondered when it would be my turn.

Since then I have also watched my husband’s sister die of cancer at only 27 years old. My husband’s aunt passed away a year later. This year in April my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. And the question still remains……why am I still here? My dad’s recent diagnosis has hit me like a ton of bricks. I can barely write the words let alone say them. I can’t yet fathom the idea that another of the four of us in my family has the big “C”. Like we hadn’t suffered enough with my cancer stint. Like surviving his alcoholism wasn’t bad enough. And losing my husband, and the list just goes on….

At this point I really don’t have a concrete answer to my question. All I can come up with on a higher level is that I have more work to do here. I am not done learning yet. But dam it I am gettin pretty tired!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Tears Over Rudolph

The other nite I was channel surfing and I stumbled upon the airing of the Christmas classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on CBS. It was the last fifteen minutes but I was glued to the TV. As a child it was my very favorite Christmas special and I couldn’t wait till it was on. Back then Christmas was my favorite holiday. I loved decorating the tree, baking cookies, and my grandma’s lasagne dinner which was a Christmas tradition.

As I watched Ukon Cornelius and Hermie the wanna be dentist searching for Rudolph and his family who were captured by the Bumble I heard my mom’s voice circa 1978 saying to my brother and I “Rudolph is on tonite!” I heard us respond with “Yeaaaaaa” as we clapped our hands. It was like nothing else mattered in that moment then. As those memories came flooding back my eyes started to well up and tears began to fall. I thought to myself what an idiot I was for crying over Rudolph! But then suddenly realized what the tears were really about. I felt sad about the loss of innocence. I longed for the days before I knew what dying was, before I ever lost anyone close to me, before I even knew the word “Cancer”. I thought about how simple life was then. I thought about how exciting Christmas was when I believed in Santa, how excited I was as a child to leave my letter to Santa with some milk and cookies on the kitchen table. And even more excited as I came downstairs that morning to see all the presents he left under the tree. I remembered what it was like to go to Christmas mass and have dinner at grandma’s later that day with all of us together. It was before I realized what all the yelling and arguing was about, it was when that was just a part of the day.

Today the holidays are harder because I can’t help but think about all the empty chairs around the dinner table. I can’t help but think about what could’ve been….what my life would be like if I hadn’t gone through the tough times that were thrown at me.

But then again, I know I wouldn’t be the person I am now. I just wish I could figure out how to get back some of that innocence. To get back that ability to live so freely. I remembered what that was like for just one moment as I shed tears over Rudolph…..

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What I Should've Said...

What I should’ve said was “I love you” before you walked out the door. If only I had known it would be the last time I would see you. If only I had known that was my last chance. You were not yourself that morning. The spooning didn’t linger too long and you jumped up out of bed almost as fast as toast popping up when its ready. When I came downstairs to say goodbye I took in the image of you sitting on the couch wearing your favorite Giants baseball cap as you tied your high top sneakers. I asked if you were ok. You snapped back at me, something you just never did. It made me feel uneasy. I wondered what was wrong. I wanted to fix it. I always wanted to fix things then.

Your last words to me were “Hey Cat, can you at least take out the garbage for me today?” Cat was one of the many pet names you gave me. I told you that I would and looked at you wondering what I did wrong. I wondered why we didn’t say “I love you” to each other before you jetted out the door in a huff. I took those things for granted then. I took you for granted. For years I lived with many regrets, that was one of them.

Later on that day I would have the chance to see you again but it would be in the morgue. Then it would be your coffin. Then I would never see you again.

Today I am remarried and I never want to live with regrets. None of us knows what the future will bring. Every morning Lou leaves for work I always say “I love you”. And he always says it back. Then we hug before he walks out the door. I hope he will always come home to me where I will be waiting for him with a big hug hello…….the hug I never got the chance to give to you that day……

And sometimes I can still feel you hug me from heaven……

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Finding the Sun...

Here is my little boy, Bosco, laying in the sun. Wherever it is, wherever he can find it, is where you will find him. No matter how hot, he practically burns himself to fully worship the sun.

Over the weekend I was having a bad, panicky morning and as I sat on the couch worrying about stuff, the stuff I can’t control I watched my boy laying on the floor in front of our all glass storm door. It has become his spot, it is the spot in the house where there is the most sun. The sun is so intense at times that the wood floor gets very warm. There he was flopped on his side just laying there taking it all in and I could tell he was enjoying every minute of it. Peaceful and serene. That was what it looked like to me.

I couldn’t help but feel a little jealous. Which may sound crazy to some of you but its true. As I watched him soaking up the light and the warmth I wanted to enjoy it too. I thought “wow, he has it figured out” That is really all we need…..the sunlight, its warmth, and a place to just lay down and relax. We need to have more time in our lives, in our days to just sit back and face the light, enjoy the moments….the moments away from the chaos, the anxiety, and the fear. Sometimes it can consume us and when it does it can steal so much time. Time that is too precious to waste.

I think there is so much to learn from our animals. Bosco has taught me many things about life. In my many observations of him going through his day for him it is all about food, sun, love, and companionship and not necessarily in that order. I need to focus on more of those things during my day. Ok, maybe not the food but the others….yes.

I need to look for the sun in my day, in all the things that I do. If my dog can figure it out, than why can’t I?

Where do you go to find your sun?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Death Doesn't Take A Holiday...

That was the headline nobody wanted me to read….the news they didn’t want me to see on September 5, 1994. The day my life stopped.

I remember sitting at my dad’s house after we had just come back from the morgue where I saw Paul’s body, the last time I would ever see him, ever. Forever seemed impossible to me then, and sometimes still does. As I sat in the chair sobbing till I had nothing left in my body, till I was dropping to the floor there was a lot of bustle around me, I heard muffled sounds, voices that I couldn’t make sense of and yet they were so close. The news was on TV that nite and everytime I wanted to watch nobody would let me. Apparently Paul had already made a headline that nite. I was angry because I wanted to see it…nobody understood it was all I had left….all that was left of him.I was clinging to any thread of hope that he would come back to me….that I could see his beautiful face, feel his strong arms around me. The place where I felt safe.

Safety became something I would never feel again. Love was something I feared I would never experience without him in my life….until I met Lou.

The next day when the newspaper came out I got a hold of it somehow and read the headline…. “Death Doesn’t Take A Holiday”. It was like someone was cutting through a wound so deep, till more blood came weeping out of it. It was Labor Day that year, the day of the accident. What creative writing. I wondered if that person ever lost someone who was their whole life, I wondered if they realized the impact of their words….the words that have stayed with me for the past 13years, about the special person in my life who couldn’t stay…..

The one who went to fly with the angels……

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What I Didn't Tell You...

What I didn’t tell you then was that I had cancer. I didn’t look like a sick person yet. It was our third date, I had started my chemo and as I walked up the stairs to your apartment I noticed shedding hair on my white shirt. Luckily my boob sans its headlight was hidden underneath.

As I brushed the hair away and reached the top I felt my heart pounding and I was out of breath. And not in a good way. Not in the “I am excited to see you, butterflies in my stomach” kind of way. It was my surgery and chemo fatigue setting in and I didn’t want you to know.

As I stopped to catch my breath there you were in the doorway smiling. Smiling at me……the cancer patient. This was to become my new identity.

I didn’t want to tell you that I was afraid I might die, I didn’t want to tell you my hair was falling out. I just wanted you to like me. I didn’t want cancer to scare you away. I was angry that it was taking away my life but not by my death. Which is worse I wondered….actually dying or having a life and not truly living??

I didn’t want to tell you because I thought you would leave, I thought it would push you away……and that is exactly what it did.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Writing From the Heart

That is the title of a great book written by Nancy Slonim Aronie. It is one that every writer should read. I believe it will change you in many ways and not just in your writing. You see it is a spiritual journey that Nancy takes you on in both her book as well in as her workshops. Nancy has been a writer for many years as well as a commentator for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. Nancy does not believe that anyone can really teach writing. What she does believe is that she can provide a safe place to write because if one feels safe than they can achieve many things. And as someone who has attended a few of her workshops I certainly can attest to that.

I read Nancy’s book first which takes you on a spiritual journey of what it means to be a writer. In the book she shares her own experiences as a writer but more importantly as a human being. She includes many exercises throughout the book which are really good and fun. It is in no way an intimidating process. I for one can say that writing workshops/classes have always greatly intimidated me. As a writer I never felt worthy enough to attend a workshop, probably because I didn’t feel like a true writer! But what exactly makes one a writer? I believe that we all have stories to tell, stories that have the power to heal us. When it comes to writing do you write from your heart?

In her workshop yesterday I sat and listened to her describe the difference between the brain and the heart and how it relates to writing. She described the brain as the computer and the heart as the place where you feel emotions. If you just write from your head or rather your brain you may be getting the information down on the page but it will be devoid of meaning, of inspiration. It will be missing the poetry, the rhythm that our emotions can create as we bring our words to life.

The other unique thing about her workshops is that you are given a writing exercise which is a lead in sentence, you write for about 15 minutes and then return to a circle where you have the opportunity to share with the group your creation. Everyone is given the opportunity to give feedback to each other. But it is all positive, that is Nancy’s rule. By the end of the day, there was much laughter, and many tears. I felt bonded to those in the room with me listening to stories of loss, and even of love. Stories of tragedy and of triumph. But what resonated throughout it all was the emotion being conveyed through each person’s words. Everyone seemed to be sharing parts of themselves that may have been tucked far, far, away. I have had this experience with Nancy’s workshop on more than one occasion and am still amazed at this environment she creates where we all feel safe to write. Where we all feel safe enough to write from our hearts……

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


This is one of my fav pics of Lou and I. It is our wedding picture. We were married on May 31, 2003 which was the 2nd anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. It certainly wasnt planned that way but when I realized the irony I took it on as something I could put a positive spin on and to replace a bad memory with a new happy one.

Anniversaries can be happy and also sad. I have had way too many sad ones in my young life although I try hard each day to focus on the happier ones. I can’t help but wonder why it is that sometimes the sad ones get more attention in our minds. I know that to be true for me.

Today is an anniversary for me. One with a mixture of happy and sad. It is the date of my wedding anniversary to Paul, my first husband who was killed. Today would have been 15 years of marriage. Why do those rounded off numbers always seem like such milestones? We weren’t even married for 2 years. He was killed about a month before our anniversary. There is that word again “anniversary”! Anyway I always think of him on those days as well as many others. I have since stopped wondering about what life would have been like if he had lived. I just tried to focus on what I wanted my life to be.

Just as I was feeling a little down about today I was pleasantly surprised this morning when I found out that an article about breast cancer survivor stories that I was interviewed for was posted. It was written by Kate Taylor for CNN. It is a really wonderful article and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to share my story of survival. As I read the article and saw the picture of Lou and I teared up and yet smiled at the same time. I smiled thinking that somehow today was meant to be the special day that the article was posted. I smiled thinking about Paul and that he must be smiling too from the other side. I truly believe that he has been watching over me all these years during all of the difficult things I have gone through and cheered for me when I have overcome them. I believe that he heard all my little prayers to help give me the strength to go on. I do believe that he had a hand in guiding me down the right path.

I am so grateful that path lead me to Lou…….

Monday, October 29, 2007

Soothing My Soul

Here is a picture from one of my fav places….Ocean Drive in Newport, RI. My home away from home. I am blogging from Newport right at this very moment! I can hear the ocean waves crashing against the shore (a virtual lullaby to me) over the tick ticking of my fingers hitting the keys as I type. My guy and I are staying at a cute little beach cottage along the ocean. Every time we have been here to Newport and driven by the place I have longed to stay here and experience the magic of a room with a view of the ocean. (I will be adding my new photos from this trip to my flickr page so be sure to check back!)

From the seashell path, to the deck with weathered teak wood rockers right up to the dolfin doorknocker they didn’t spare any details. As we walked up the path crunching along the shells I felt like a kid on christmas morning when I caught a glimpse of the beach with the waves crashing along the sandy shore.

It is such a peace that rushes over me when I am in the presence of the ocean. To me it is powerful. To me it is my grounding. It has often been the place I am drawn to in times of trouble. My soul feels connected to it. It is why I feel I could never leave my life near the coast perhaps unless to go to another coast.

A couple of days prior to my mastectomy I drove up here alone and sat right here on ocean drive out on the rocks looking out to the sea. I thought about how endless it seemed. I thought about how my life had once seemed that way. Back then I thought all those possibilities were lost. That my life was lost. These days I still look out at the ocean as I did just a few hours ago and ponder where I want my life to go. I am able to look at things with a clearer mind here. The trick of it is how do I figure out a way to clear my mind without the crystal blue water! Therein lies the dilemma.

As I feel sad about leaving tomorrow to go home I will try as I always do to take a piece of the ocean with me. But this time I hope to figure out how to make it last a little longer than before. I hope I can find that peace of mind on my own.

What have you found to clear your mind, or soothe your soul?

Where are your favorite places that you find peace??

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Crazy, Sexy Tonite!!

Here is a pic of me and Kris Carr taken at her book event in NYC at the Open Center. Could I look more excited! In my last blog I posted about that meeting and today I wanted to remind all you peeps out there to tune in tonite to TLC at 8pm or 11pm for her documentary Crazy, Sexy, Cancer. It is the last time they will be airing it. But not to worry it will be coming out on dvd early next year.

It is an absolute must see! I will be watching again for the 3rd time! Each time I watch I learn something new. Even if you aren’t a cancer chick check it out. It has so many universal messages that can help everyone trying to just get through life!

Be sure to stop back here and share your thoughts!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Crazy, Sexy, Cancer

I have been wanting to gush about this girl for awhile now an don’t know what took me so long! Her name is Kris Carr and she is a cancer survivor who did a documentary about her cancer journey called Crazy, Sexy, Cancer with a book of the same name. She was diagnosed with EHE a very rare cancer that I can’t even spell never mind saying it! At 31 she received the devestating diagnosis of stage 4 cancer. That was 4 years ago! Her cancer is so rare there is really no treatment for it so she took it into her own hands and went on a journey to find her own healing. Cover Image

If you haven’t yet checked the documentary out or read the book you just absolutely have to! Run don’t walk to your local book store and grab a copy. Her story is beyond inspiring! Along this journey she explored alternative/holistic healing as well as spirituality. She has multiple tumors in her lungs and liver that have remained stable which she feels is partially due to all the changes she has made in her nutrition as well as her mind. I believe in alternative health and the connection of the mind and body and its ability to affect our healing. I explored alot of this after my chemo treatments as a way to deal with my fear of recurrence. My attempt to control what was so out of my control.

Her documentary is amazing and her book is chock full of great tips from the trenches for young women going through cancer. There are other stories of great cancer babes going along their own journeys. This is in no way a sad story. It is one young woman’s irreverant account of poking a stick at cancer! It is her journey of how she found her life when she feared her life would end.

You don’t even have to be a cancer survivor to relate to her story and what she learns about life. It can apply to anyone going through all the sh** that life throws at us. There are so many great lessons she shares in her book from nutrition to ridding yourself of that “stinkin thinkin”. Of course there was a happy beginning to her story but I won’t give that secret away. You will just have to find out for yourself!

Recently I had the grand opportunity to meet Kris at a book an event she did at the Open Center in NYC. It was her first Crazy, Sexy, Cancer Boot Camp! She also did a book signing. Meeting her in person was a moment I will never forget. She is such a kind soul, beautiful and glowing! Wow, do I sound like a stalker yet! lol But seriously if you ever get the chance and she is in your area…..try to get to one of her events.

Her documentary will air again on TLC on 10/24. Be sure to catch it! I know I will be watching it yet again! Oh, and she will be on Oprah this monday!! I am beyond excited for her. So be sure to check that out as well! Well, I could certainly go on and on about Kris but I shall stop now. I would love to hear your thoughts when you step into the crazy, sexy, cancer world along with me!

Be sure to stop back here and we can chat about it!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Show The World What's Possible

That is the mantra of Daryn Kagan a former CNN reporter who began her own website last fall to showcase inspiring stories that “show the world what’s possible”. She became frustrated with the lack of good news out there in tv land (aren’t we all), I know I am!

This week she is sharing stories of breast cancer survivors in honor of national breast cancer month. I am one of those featured stories! My story is the video of the day today. I was very excited to be interviewed and to have the opportunity to share my inspiring story! I hope it inspires many of you out there.

So hop on over to her site and check it out!

Do you have an inspiring story of your own to share? I would love to hear it!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hudson Ohio "In the Pink"

I have so much to catch you guys up on I don’t even know where to begin! I recently had some exciting book events for Breastless. I was invited to Cleveland Ohio where my publisher is at the Cleveland Clinic to do a book discussion/signing at their local Barnes and Noble as well as a reception for cancer survivor authors at a very charming independent bookstore called The Learned’ Owl in Hudson, Ohio. Hudson is a very cute new englandy type town and all of the storefronts were decorated pink for October. My favorite color and it was just about everywhere I looked. When I saw my book in the storefront window I was so excited! And in such good company!


I was very excited to be there and to be able to share my story of survival with others. However there was a little glitch that we didn’t know about till that nite. The baseball playoffs were going on and Cleveland was playing NY! So the turnout was not as expected. The streets were too quiet for a beautiful Friday nite in downtown Hudson. Leave it to sports! Although there weren’t many people stopping by I did meet some great people and gave some good advice to a woman who didn’t know what to do to help a friend of hers going through breast cancer at only 28. I provided her with some resources including Im Too Young For This! as well as a great book written by Kris Carr called Crazy, Sexy, Cancer Tips which I will blog about in a separate entry cause I have too many exciting things to say about it! So stay tuned for that coming up later in the week! I was tickled to be only a few books away from hers in the storefront!!

I also met another cancer survivor author who was quite an inspiration. She is a survivor of a very rare cancer called leiomyosarcoma and was treated 25 years ago with a drug that is commonly used for breast cancer called Adriamycin or otherwise known as “the red devil”. I had 4 treatments with that and am all too familiar with its potential to cause heart damage. Well, this powerhouse of a lady was treated with it back when it was not even FDA approved and was one of 200 people trying the drug for the first time. To make a long story short, she made it through her treatments, beat cancer, but 7 years ago need a new heart due to the damage sustained from the Adriamycin. As I listened to her story I was so amazed at her spunk, her ability to survive and how happy she looked. I wondered what the hell my problem was that I ever get upset about the little things anymore! I know I can’t be that hard on myself cause nobody is perfect but still…it really was yet another reality check for me. I was so honored to have met her and will probably never forget her. Truly an inspiration!

So for me it was all about taking in the moment. Breathing it all in. It wasn’t about the people that weren’t there, it was about the few that did show up. Even if I can make a difference in just one person’s life that is what matters. I was very grateful to be there for those evenings and I found out what nice people there are out west! Because lets face it….NYers can be tough! I speak as a pure bred NYer myself! But I think it is just a different lifestyle out here that makes us that way. I am glad to have spent a couple of days just taking it all in…..just slowing down a bit…..cause I don’t want to miss any of it……

Do you find the time to breathe and take in your own moments?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Dating With Breast Cancer

That is the title of an article I was recently interviewed for which is posted on Lifetime TV’s website and was written by Lisa Daily .
As you know my story is about my experience dating with breast cancer.
I was very excited to be included in this article. Lisa was fun to talk to and made it a great experience. I feel it is a very important issue facing young single women with breast cancer that I don’t feel is addressed often enough if at all. I was able to share many of my crazy dating experiences and the different reactions I got from men I was dating when I shared my diagnosis. Most importantly I was able to share with her the happy beginning to my story! She even included my wedding photo in her article!

This article came about to coincide with the premiere of a new Lifetime movie airing this month of breast cancer awareness that will focus just on that issue. Click here to find out more! It is based on the true story of a young woman who has a mastectomy and continues to date through it all. Sound familiar? I am sure there are so many of you out there that can relate to this story as I can. Way too many of us unfortunately!
I plan on checking out the premiere. Hope you will too. Then we can discuss our thoughts right here!

Friday, September 28, 2007

October Issue of SHAPE Magazine

A couple of posts ago I mentioned being interviewed for the October issue of Shape magazine. I am so very excited and honored to have been included that I had to post my quote from the article! They did a great section dedicated just to breast cancer with very helpful and inspiring information. The title of the article I am in is “The Best Breast Cancer Advice I Ever Got” written by Ginny Graves who I had the pleasure of speaking with back in April. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet grab one…..its a really good issue! Aside from being tickled pink that I am only a couple of pages away from Jaclyn Smith, I smiled when I saw Karen Lynch, writer and fellow blogger in the article as well! Hope you guys pick it up!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Butter On the Side

I often wonder about all the negativity I see in people out there in the world. All of the unhappy faces. I wonder what it is that makes them so miserable. Is it an unhappy marriage they are stuck in, or abuse at home, an illness, or a devastating loss they suffered? I can’t help but wonder if maybe it isn’t any of those things. But then I think, if not, what could it be?

Case in point….today my husband and I went to our local Dunkin Donuts for a cup of Joe. When I was on line ordering our coffee and bagels I noticed a woman next to me placing her order. She specifically asked for butter “on the side”. She looked as if she had a fire under her butt and was very ansy to get out of there with her beloved bagel. I sat down and enjoyed my bagel and coffee and conversation with my hubby when after about 20 minutes that same woman came barging through the door and beelined directly for the counter where the preparation station was. She looked as if she was ready to bust some heads! As I looked at her and wondered what bug could be up her a** she was flinging her butter soaked bag in the face of some teenager bitching about how appalled she was that she just left there only to find out that her bagel was buttered when she specifically requested butter on the side. I watched her tapping her feet and glaring at this girl as if it was a life and death mistake that had just occurred. I wondered what could possibly have caused her to be such a bi*** about something like that. As if the extra butter was the worst thing that could have happened to her.

I probably would feel differently if she had been nicer about it and somewhat polite. I wonder if all the things that I have suffered through made me more tolerant and less negative. Then on the other side of the coin I suppose all I have been through could have made me like her. Made me get crazy over not getting my butter “on the side”. Although I do understand that we all have our bad days, we all get up on the wrong side of the bed sometimes but does it give us the right to take our frustrations out on innocent bystanders?

I wonder if we each have the potential to go either way when we finally dig ourselves out of immense stress whatever the kind. What do you think??

Monday, September 17, 2007

Land of the Living

I was interviewed a few months back for an article that SHAPE magazine was working on for their breast cancer issue in October. The article is about words of advice from breast cancer survivors meant to inspire others currently in the trenches. I think it is a great idea because only someone who has been down in the pit where you have been will know just how difficult it can be and how hard it is to come up out again to see the light of day.

My advice was to not be afraid to date during breast cancer treatment. I am often asked why I continued to date during my mastectomy and chemo. I have to admit that I still pose that question to myself sometimes! More so in the frame of “What the hell were you thinking?!” And for a while I truly couldn’t answer that question when someone asked me back then in the thick of it. Now 6 years later looking back I realized that I did it to hold on to what felt “normal”. It was my attempt at feeling like a normal young, single woman. It was my attempt at holding on to my place in the land of the living. I had already given up so dam much to cancer … breast, my hair, and quite possibly my life that I was angry it was threatening to take away so much like doing the things that I found exciting and fun. Although I was feeling pretty low about myself at times I still kept putting myself out there. I continued to work as long as I felt ok, went out with my friends, and continued to look for love online. Even though cancer and its treatments were wrecking my body, my mind and more importantly my soul were still the same. Maybe that is what helped to keep me going. Going and doing as much as I could. I figured what did I have to loose? Cancer already threatened to take away my life, so anything else seemed alot less scary.

I think it is so important to keep doing the things that make you feel like you are still alive. That make you feel that you are still living life especially when going through something as frightening as the big “C”. Being a young adult going through it can be so isolating in itself since we tend to be the forgotten ones!

Think about what it is that makes you feel good, that makes you feel connected to yourself as well as the outside world. There can be comfort in the norm, comfort in routine. Embrace those things and look outside the box to find new things to focus on. During my treatments I found that some new hobbies I had discovered before I was diagnosed like photography and reading became a way for me to cope but more importantly a way for me to feel alive. (And of course there was always the standby…..retail therapy, which on some days came in handy. Cause you know, what girl doesn’t need a new pair of shoes?!)

What are some things that make you feel like you? What are some things that you do to keep your feet firmly planted in the land of the living?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Life In Fast Forward

I don’t recall just when this began to bother me or what exact time of year it makes me more crazy. Maybe it is when the summer is coming to an end and fall is just around the corner or rather my least favorite season, winter. Maybe because I am more of a spring into summer girl loving the time of year when the days are getting warmer and longer.

I noticed it about a month ago. My husband and I were in our local grocery store and I stopped dead in my tracks. Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw bags of candy corn on the store shelf. As my head nearly spun in a 360 I saw the entire display of HALLOWEEN CANDY! Before my husband could stop me I quickly grabbed a bag of the candy corn and tossed it angrily down to the floor. My husband laughed knowing that this usually happens with the changing of holidays and seasons. I can no longer control my rage over how people are riding on the fast forward button. Good thing he wasnt with me when I saw Christmas ornaments in the Hallmark store the other day! I had to do a double take and then run and find a dam calendar to remind myself it was still the beginning of September, a whole 4 months till Christmas!!

I think my rage may have gotten worse after going through cancer. When faced with death was when I finally realized it may be time to stop and smell the roses. (which I still have a hard time doing!) I don’t understand why people are in such a rush. A rush to get to the next big thing. The next holiday, the next day, the next month and the next birthday (well, maybe that depends on your age). What is it that makes us that way? Is it that we just don’t appreciate what is right in front of us that we keep speeding forward to find something better? Is it only when u are truly happy with yourself that you are able to finally put the brakes on? That you are finally able to hit the stop button?

Its something to think about. We all need to hit that stop button, or at least hit pause sometimes…..before someone or rather something does it for us……

Friday, August 31, 2007

My Furry Anxiety Pill

His name is Bosco and he has saved me on more than one occasion. Saved my mind that is. Last night I had another one of my panic attacks. I am sure just about everyone is familiar with that term and if you are not consider yourself lucky! When it first happened I didn’t even know what it was. I didn’t know why my heart was racing, palpitating, why my hands and feet felt numb, and I felt as though I was not present in the room any longer. Over the years that have passed since my first time (no not the good kind…) I have learned to notice the symptoms more readily which has enabled me to engage my grounding strategies so to speak.

One of those is my pug, Bosco. My furry little friend is almost like taking a xanax, or paxil without the nasty side effects! During a really bad panic attack one day a couple of years ago I didn’t know what to do with myself, I began my usual pacing and pulling at my hair, and mumbling to myself with my heart pounding in my chest. I happened to glance over at him and with his cute little sad expression (which he has most of the time btw!) I noticed he was watching me. I think pets always sense when we aren’t right. They can be very in tune to our energy good or bad. This time it was my bad. I don’t know what made me do it but somehow I was able to go over and scoop him up into my arms. Instantly as I felt his warmth, smelled the puppy smell, and felt his fur against my face I began to calm down. It was as though he was sucking all the crazy energy flowing through my body at that moment. I began to pace with him as he looked as though he were on a ride a the park, looking all around, up and down, but when he would look my way, I melted.

When I was sick with cancer Bosco would have made the perfect companion. He is my first pet ever and I don’t know what I did without him. I wish he had been with me when I was all alone after Paul was killed, and then when I was diagnosed with cancer, spending a year of my life as a sick person. But somehow I made it through on my own. I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit sometimes for what we are able to survive.

I have to say though, I am so grateful he is a part of my life now…..I only wish it could be forever….

How have your pets helped you out of a jam???

Monday, August 20, 2007

Passing of Time

Waiting for tomorrow
But what if it never comes
The moment is now
But what if it is never to be
The minute has passed
We are running out of time
Life is not timeless
As quickly as it runs
As quickly as we can go
Pick up your feet and get carried away
To places you never dreamed you’d go……..

Friday, August 10, 2007

Shoes and Syncronicity

I have often felt throughout my life that there are no accidents. That things happen for a reason. We may never know what that reason is but still I believe there is one. I have had some people around me try to debunk that theory, debunk what is known as “synchronicity” but I still stand my ground. I am a true believer and there is no way anyone can shake that as I feel it in my core, feel it in my soul. I suppose if I didn’t I really don’t know where I would be today, or rather what shape I would be in emotionally given all that I have endured.

In a past blog I wrote about my first experience with I’m Too Young For This! or i2y for short. If you haven’t yet checked it out shame on you! It is a great resource for young survivors, a great place for social networking, and a place to celebrate life after cancer! Most importantly though it is where you can connect with other young people going through the same experience. The Stupid Cancer Happy Hour was beyond inspiring and just plain fun!

I made a connection that nite that I believe was very meant to be. My husband and I were feeling somewhat out of place when we first arrived that nite which is no surprise as neither of us is very assertive in social situations where we don’t know anyone. For some reason there was a girl there who arrived a short while after us, who was alone and appeared to just be wandering about. I said to my husband “I like her shoes and I am going to tell her that. It will be a good icebreaker to begin talking with her.” His response was “No way! You aren’t gonna do that. Are you?” with a puzzled look on his face. “Oh yes I am” I replied back to him wondering what it was pushing me to do this. I still dont know what made me say it. It is just so not me, I am usually too shy for that. Something inside was just pushing me at her. I waited till she was close enough to me and looked right at her and said “Hey, I like your shoes!” Surprisingly enough though it was the truth. I did like her shoes. And I am not even a shoe person. I am not one of those girls that drains her bank account on shoes. Mostly because I have issues with my feet. They aren’t the easiest feet to dress up if you know what I mean. Anyway, those five words spun her and I into a long conversation and struck up a connection between two strangers that is developing into a good friendship. I felt like I have always known her. A cancer survivor herself she understands much of how I feel which is something that is just priceless. It is something I never would have experienced if it hadn’t been for i2y.

Funny thing is we almost didn’t go that nite. I was on the fence about what I thought it would be like and feeling uncomfortable that we wouldn’t know anyone. I had never attended anything before involving other cancer survivors certainly not those in my age group mostly because I couldn’t find anything of interest that didn’t intimidate me. I never found anything like that happy hour. It was mostly physical activities for the cure which for whatever reason turned me off. Talk about not being athletic! This though was something that seemed fun and was a typical Thursday nite activity for the young crowd.

I am grateful that I attended that nite. For if it wasn’t for i2y I would never have met another young cancer survivor who is becoming a new friend. And to think….It all started with “Hey I like your shoes”.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Simple Celebrating

Birthdays used to be the only day of the year I would celebrate my life. I really never thought about feeling grateful, celebrating life or anything else for that matter the rest of the year. This always created a huge sense of pressure for things to be perfect. I had to find the “perfect” way to celebrate. In the end the pressure for perfection always outweighed the actual moment. The celebration was tainted somehow.

Yesterday was my 38th birthday. I look at my birthday so differently now. I was dx’d with cancer at 31 and feared I would never even see this age. So while other girls getting up into their late 30’s along with me are whining about new wrinkles and grey hair, about their ticking biological clocks I am feeling just grateful to be “older”. It no longer feels like the curse it once had felt like. Thats not to say I am not surprised to be this close to knocking on 40’s door, I can’t believe I am this close! But age has now become a milestone I long to achieve. It reminds me of my survival, it reminds me I am still here.

My husband and I spent a nice quiet day together, went out to dinner and had cake for dessert of course! We came home and then watched a movie. At the end of the nite we shared a toast… good health, long life, happiness, and love. We try to do that more, not just on the special days to be celebrated but to celebrate all days. There was still the pressure from others asking “What are you doing for your birthday?” or “Doing anything exciting on your birthday?” which made me feel like I was somehow not living up to the challenge. The challenge I would be creating for myself based on others perceptions. Not realizing that the celebration could be simple. That simple could be great! If you are doing something you love, no matter how big or small it can still be a celebration.

These days I feel like celebrating so much. I no longer want to wait for the birthday, anniversary, or holiday to roll around to express my happiness for those around me. I want to celebrate life every single day in all that I do. I want to soak up the “moments”. Moments alone or moments spent with those I love.

You know that feeling you have on your birthday? The excitement for the celebration, the attention from those around you making you feel like the day is all about you? I want to feel like that everyday. I think I deserve it….

I think we all do……

Friday, July 20, 2007

Finally Getting "It"

Before cancer I really didnt think about moments. I just lived my life or what I thought was “living”. I moved along at a fast pace not taking much notice of what was going on around me. I never thought about savoring the moments I experienced. It almost felt numb. I think the numbness began when my husband died.

Over the years since his untimely death I think of him often. I think about all the things he missed and the things I miss about him. I think about how sad it is that he only lived to see the age of 26. But then I think about how much living he crammed into that short time. I longed to be like him. I wondered how he could so easily live in the moment. He taught me many things in a short time. And then cancer would teach me even more.

The rock music was vibrating the floor as well as my body last nite at the Def Leppard concert. I held onto Lou as we danced and screamed out the words to “Rock of Ages”. With every vibration I felt from the music and the energy of those around me I savored all of it. I thought about how lucky I felt to be there, how lucky I was to hear the sounds and see the sights, and feel the power in the arena. I thought about Paul as a tear fell from my eyes. I wondered what he would think, knowing how much he loved Def Leppard but never had a chance to see them live in concert. Something else I never got to share with him, something he never got to experience in his life. It felt like part of me was living it stronger because of him. I learned from his death not to take things for granted. I learned even more facing my own death.

I had a blast at the concert and can say I truly enjoyed every moment. It was like nothing else was cluttering my mind. The only thing playing in my head was the music and the only thing I felt in my heart was such gratitude and love. Love for Lou and gratitude for being alive. The worrisome banter was gone for those few hours and was replaced by the sights and sounds of the future. The hope became palpable as the fear began to fade.

For that moment anyway……

Friday, July 13, 2007

A New Kind of Happy Hour...

Last nite my husband and I went to the Taj Lounge in NYC for the “Stupid Cancer Happy Hour”. If you aren’t familiar with the term “stupid cancer” then you probably haven’t met Matthew Zachary. Matthew is the founder of I’m Too Young For This! an organization focused on the needs of young people with cancer. Matthew knows all too well about stupid cancer….you see he is a young brain cancer survivor. His organization hosted the event, the first of its kind!

It was my first time meeting Matthew and I must say that I am in awe of his dedication and enthusiasm. It was also my first time being in a room full of young cancer survivors. It was truly a unique experience for me. For the first time in the 6 years since my diagnosis I felt a sense of belonging that had been missing for so long. I met some great people and we all had something in common…….”stupid cancer”. It is the club none of us wanted to join and yet the camaraderie is something very unique and unexplainable. We shared stories, shared smiles, laughter, and even some hugs. My husband who is not a cancer survivor but has unfortunately been affected by cancer within the family also felt his own sense of belonging. He told me that he has never been to a bar for happy hour where the people there were genuinely “happy”! He said it was hard to put his finger on exactly what “it” was but he could feel it in those around him and see it on their faces, like nothing he had ever experienced before.

Over the years since my own cancer diagnosis I have not really been involved in any fundraising, running (maybe cause I hate it), or walking for the cure. I have felt guilt about it, have wondered why I just wasn’t motivated to get involved. Then when I found out about Matthew’s organization I was suddenly drawn to it. I feel very strongly about it and will continue to spread the word. What I really love and find unique in it is that the focus is on how to help young people “live” after cancer. There are many organizations out there that focus on money for research to find a cure not that research isn’t important, it absolutely is, but what about all the people living with cancer? There are many more young people surviving that need the support of others and help to figure out how to get back to living.

Matthew Zachary has certainly begun a revolution. He has created a positive place for young people to come together and laugh in the face of cancer. Now is the time to hop on the Matthew train. I am not sure where it stops next but what I do know for sure is that it will be a fun ride!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

For The Love of Chocolate

Ok I’ll admit it…..I am a chocoholic! Every since I was a kid. Anything with chocolate from icecream, to candy, to cookies, and cake. That was my downfall. Grandma always had the candy stash at her apartment in the secret cabinet. The cabinet my brother and I knew to run to as soon as we arrived for a visit. It was a virtual candylovers playground. She knew all the things we loved. From the Hubba Bubba gum (which was impossible to chew with braces btw) to the colorful, sweet, and creamy m&m’s. I don’t know about you but back when there were only 2 kinds…plain and peanut I was a plain lover. I would put some in a small dixie cup (like I needed a way to eat them any faster), so that I could pour them into my mouth. Don’t forget the hershey’s kisses in the oh so pretty silvery wrapping. Back in the day I used to slab some peanut butter on them when I couldnt get my hands on my other favorite, Reeses peanut butter cups….a match made in heaven!

Before I got off on that flavorful trip down memory lane the point I was going to make is related to health. I am sure everyone has heard about the health benefits of dark chocolate or “cacao” which is the actual cocoa bean used to make chocolate. Dark chocolate has antioxidents as well as heart healthy benefits. In my quest to become healthier since having cancer I have changed my diet in many ways but the hardest has been giving up some of the things I love. I think that we still need to have those foods we crave as long as it is in moderation to be successful at our diet and healthful eating habits. So I was happy as a clam to find out that dark chocolate was good for me!

Cacao is now pretty easy to find as an incredient in most dark chocolates out there. The labels will read “60% cacao”, “70% cacao” and that is what you want to look for. Cacao is the unprocessed chocolate straight from the bean. It is the main ingredient used to make all chocolate. I have also used raw cacao in recipes as that is the most healthy, unprocessed, pure stuff as far as chocolate goes although it is quite bitter to eat on its own. You can purchase it in a powder form which makes it pretty easy to use. I use it to sprinkle on vanilla icecream and it tastes great! I also use it in smoothies for the chocolate flavor as well as the health benefits.

Any other chocolate lover’s out there? What is your favorite way to enjoy the cocoa bean?

Friday, July 6, 2007

Letting Go

Its never really over
That which starts within
It begins with a whisper
Then begins to scream
When we listen we can go places
The places we feared
The places we dare not go
By showing up we are strong
Putting our best light forward
For as long as we can hold on
In strength we finally learn to let go…..

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The "It" Factor

I often wonder why it is not until we are forced to stare death in the face that we learn how to live. I wonder what it is going to take and yet can’t take anymore. I faced death many times before I was forced to face my own. It came in the form of losing grandparents, as well as other elders in my family. As difficult as that was it was still the natural order of things. It was just how the universe worked. Those older than you were expected to go first.

At 25 I never expected to become a widow. My husband was only 26 and his life reached an abrupt end. His was the most difficult death I had to face until I faced the possiblity of my own 7 years later. I often wondered why he was taken away so soon. I lived with many regrets. Regrets that ate away at my heart. All of the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s played in my head like a daily rant. Wishing I told him I loved him that morning, wishing we didnt have that little tiff before he left the house, and the worst of all wishing that I enjoyed him more. Why couldn’t I just live in the moment? Why couldn’t I just breathe, just breathe him in. I spent many years believing that I didn’t deserve him, that he was too good for me, like I was living a dream in finding such an amazing love.

It took a long time to accept things as how they were and to stop living with regret for the unsaid, the undone, the unlived life I had. The one I created for myself. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer 7 years later it was like a bomb was dropped on me. I was forced to face my own death. It was a lesson slapping me right across the jaw. I believe that lessons come in many forms and they will keep coming up until we get “it”. I have yet to figure out what that “it” is.

I am a work in progress. But aren’t we all? Some lessons I don’t want to have to revisit so dam often! Some lessons are too hard to face again. I have the awareness but I am still searching for the “it”.

As a cancer survivor nothing seems simple anymore. A simple cold becomes a huge monster. One that you are afraid is going to kill you. Every ache or pain is frightening. I need to realize that I am the same as all of the fish in the water now. All of us are in danger of anything happening at any time. For my husband it was a car coming toward him from out of sight. But I had cancer and I am still alive. Everyday I walk out of the house I dont know what is going to happen. And that should be the excitement of the day and not the fear in it. I now try to look at it as the excitement. The moments to be lived, to be cherished, and to hold on to. Moments alone or with those we love.

In NYC the other day I spent some time sitting in the park watching the children play. I listened to their contageous giggles, watched their hair blowing in the breeze almost as free as the smiles on their faces. I wondered what they were thinking. I longed to feel that free. In a child’s eyes I think I found the “it”. I just havent figured out how to get it back……

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I Should've Known

I should’ve known he was a jerk the day we met. But there I was, a widow, out there in the world of online dating trying to get my sea legs. I knew him from high school, not well mind you but I looked for any connection that would tell me he was “the one”. What I didn’t tell him was that I had breast cancer.

You see, on the outside you couldn’t tell. I still had my boob, still had my hair. I didn’t yet look like a sick person. I spent my 32nd birthday with him that summer as I waded through a sea of MRI’s, blood tests, and biopsies.

What could’ve been my last birthday was certainly not memorable. We went out to dinner where HE wanted to go, talked about what was important to HIM, as I sat there wondering what the hell I was doing with him. My luke warm feelings for him were quite the understatement. But as I faced my own mortality I was feeling luke warm about most everything that summer. I couldn’t even justify it by saying I was in lust with him. Nope, no physical attraction there on my part. Then what? The only thing I can come up with was fearing nobody would want me when I lost a boob, nobody would want someone with breast cancer. If I get him to like me enough when I break the news to him maybe he won’t leave.

But Paul should be the one to take care of me I thought to myself. This was worse than sloppy seconds. This was nothing. Nothing I was trying with all my heart to make into something.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Life Goes On

A big question I asked myself after I finished the grueling 6 months of chemo was “How do I get back to the rest of my life now?” The fear of not surviving was still there but it seemed a little bit bigger somehow. I wondered why. I think it was because I had spent 6 months, or rather an entire year “fighting” the cancer beast. Fighting it through surgery, reconstruction, and chemo. Now that the “poison” used to kill my cancer was gone what was I to do? That was the question staring me in the face. I knew my life would never be the same again. I just didnt know how to make sense of it . I didnt know how to live after all that time just trying to get through and survive.

I thought about the way I wanted to treat my body. I knew it would take time to heal from being beaten up for so long. I thought about how bad my diet was, how I never took time for myself to exercise, how my mind was too focused on bad stuff happening. I started to think about the relationship between the two…mind and body. I have worked in the medical field for many years and knew the “right” things to do but putting them into action was another story.

I then began a journey for my health. A journey I continue on to this day. Through this blog I will take you all along with me. I will share what I have learned, how I have struggled, but most important how I have survived in all aspects of my life. I will also post some of my poetry which is yet another way I have found to deal with emotions both good and bad. You may even get to read some stories that didnt make it into the book!

All the changes I have made to my diet, to my life, to help myself stay well are important not only for what it does for my body but what it does for my mind. It is what I have found as my attempt to control the uncontrollable! I figure the worst that can happen….is that I will continue to be healthy and be around for a long time!

So I hope that you will come along with me for the ride! Surviving is all about living! Living after cancer… after whatever has tried to take you down. It is what we learn about ourselves in the process that makes us who we are. It is what gives us the strength to go on.