Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best Moment of 2009 . . . Do You Have One?

As 2009 comes to a close I can't help but think about what a year it was. I always spend some time reflecting at the end of each year. The good, the bad, and the ugly. This year I want to focus on the positives. So I got to thinking. . . what was my favorite moment?

I don't have just one. It is hard to choose. There were many moments that were good. The one that stands out in my mind is the rerelease of my book Breastless in the City back in May. It has been my most exciting experience of the year. Having the wonderful opportunity to work on a new edition and share more of my life with others is a blessing to me. And the wonderful people I have met along the way has made it even more fun.

This was also a year I reconnected with old friends. Friends I hadn't spoken to in 20 years. That certainly has been another highlight of my year. Realizing that no matter how much time has passed it is like you can pick up where you left off. We may have more wrinkles on our skin but we are still the same inside!

It goes without saying that I am grateful for yet another year of good health. I celebrated my 8th year cancer free and my 6th wedding anniversary in May to a wonderful man.

I look forward to 2010 with hope for good health, good times, happiness, and love. And that is what I wish for all of you...

What is your favorite moment of 2009? Do you often reflect as one year comes to a close? What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Years Resolutions. . . Do You Make Them??

It is hard to believe that in a few days it will be a new year.  As this time rolls around I always think about new beginnings and a fresh start.  One thing I do not do is make resolutions.  I never have.  Although I do think about changes I want to make in my life and wishes I have for the new year.  I think if I were to make a resolution I would not stick to it.  Then again, it is hard for me to stick to anything lately!

Looking forward I wish for more peace in my life, more fun, less stress (don't we all)  and to worry much less than I do.  I want to get organized and really clean out stuff, not just physical things but the stuff in my mind that holds me back.  And that my friends is that hardest part.

I want to spend more time doing what makes me happy and brings out my creativity.  For me that means pictures, paper, beads, colors, stickers, and words.  I don't want to take things for granted.  I don't want to relearn lessons from the past.  I want to leave the past in its place.

This list is a work in progress for me.  I need to make a vision board as a daily reminder of the places I want to go. . .

Do you make resolutions?  What is on your list for the new year?  

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Rockefeller Proposal

I am standing on the sidwalk staring at my mittens.  My hands feel so cold I don't want to take them off to refasten a button.  Its the button high up on the neck of my new grey and pink stripped wool coat.  My fingers feel numb and I think maybe I should invest in a new pair of much warmer mittens.  The wind whips through my long hair.  I feel it burn my cheeks on its way past me.  I refuse to wear a hat as not to mess up my hair.   I am wearing lipstick so a much needed scarf across my face just won't do. 

He is standing next to me.  I can feel the warmth of him coming through his winter coat.  It is my first time seeing the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center and I am in awe of its beauty.  The lights are twinkling so bright I can feel the corners of my mouth burst into a smile.  It feels like I am somewhere else.  Somehow transported to another place.  I am thinking about how magical this time of year can be.  I feel his arm slip around my waist.  I am home is what I think.  We have known each other for so long how can it not feel that way.  The crowd is two deep at this point.  It is like we are the only ones here.  I barely feel him grab my mittened hand as he is leading me over to the other side of the tree.  I am glancing up at the angels so bright and white.  I am unsure of where these steps are taking me.  

The wind is kicking up again blowing the smell of roasted nuts from a street vendor toward my nose.   We are both silent.  I am wondering if he can read my mind.

"Hey Cat...take your mittens off. " I hear him say.  

"No way!  Its freakin freezing out here!  My hands are cold as it is."  

"Just for a minute.  Please..."  he says.

I don't want to but I do it.  Anything for him.  I am hoping he will hold my hand to keep it warm.  I feel him slowly grab my hand.   

As I am turning around to hug him I watch him lower himself to the ground.  

"What are you doing?  Its freezing!  Did your shoelace come untied or something?"

He is now on one knee.  And I still don't get it.  My heart is racing.  I am not sure why.  I think that maybe this is the moment.  My eyes are beginning to widen despite the cold hard air blowing into them.  He is glancing up at me with the smile of a wide eyed child.  It is happening too fast.  I don't want to miss it.

"Cathy, I love you.  I want to spend the rest of my life with you.  Will you marry me?"  he asks.

I am wondering if this is really happening.  And I don't want it to end.  I am in shock.  I see only him.  The tears are welling up.   I am afraid they may freeze on the way down my cheek.  My lips are quivering now.  

"Yes!  Yes!  Yes!!"  I say.  

I feel the ring slide on my finger and then become intertwined with his hand.  As he is pulling me up to him I am thinking about how happy I am.  I almost feel giddy.  I can see the tears in his eyes too.  I can feel them now as his cheek is touching mine.  His arms are holding me tight.  And I am thinking again how good it feels to finally be home...

That was 20 years ago today...Still hard to believe he is gone...Funny how time flies....And where it can take us...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Miss Independent

I often wonder if the circumstances of my life made me very independent or I was born that way.  The classic nature vs nurture debate.  I however take it to the extreme and at times can be so independent that I refuse others help or get angry at the offer.  That of course depends on what state of mind I am in at the time.  The weaker I feel the less I want the help.

During my first marriage and the years of our relationship before the wedding I was very dependent on Paul.    Mostly emotionally.  I didn't realize it at the time but I almost lost myself in him.  My self-esteem was so low that I depended on his view of me to help me feel better about myself.  Of course I didn't realize any of this until years later after he was gone.  During that first year of my widowhood I went to the other extreme.  I didn't want help from anyone certainly not my family.  I was depressed, angry and so dam sad.  It was like I wanted to prove to myself that I could survive.  That was it...I totally fell into survival mode.  My dad was the one who came around the most when Paul died.  And at the time I resented it.  I didn't want anyone's help.  Least of all him.  

And then came cancer.  7 years later when I was diagnosed with breast cancer I was still single living alone.  I instantly jumped back in to survival mode.  I was yet again angry and terrified.  I wanted to prove to myself I could somehow survive on my own.  My dad once again stepped up to the plate and was instantly in my face wanting to do everything to help me.  From spending everyday in the hospital with me and wanting to move in with me when I was discharged home.  I told him no.  I wanted to struggle and survive on my own.  I often wonder if we had not had such a difficult relationship if my reaction to his offer would have been different.  Of course there were times that I wished I had help but I only wanted the help of the husband I had lost.  And then was angry at him all over again for leaving me.  

Why do I go to such extremes?  Even today, cancer free, married to a wonderful man and I still have a tough time with having support or help when I need it.  Is it that I feel undeserving of it or that I want to prove to myself I don't need it?  Sometimes I think that it is part of me heading back into that survival mode for when the other shoe drops....

During the tough times in your life did you welcome help from others or go into super independent mode?  How did you react when others offered help?  Did you ever ask for help during those times?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cancer and Relationships Part One. . . Has Cancer Left You Feeling Unworthy??

I realized for me the answer to this question is a resounding yes unfortunately. During my cancer treatment I was out there in the online dating world which as we know is tough enough without the added stress of being bald and boobless. I tried to be hopeful and wanted to continue with the parts of my life that I enjoyed and were important to me. Dating was one of those things. In my book Breastless in the City I share many of these dating experiences as well as the reasons why I stayed with men that were bad for me. One of those reasons had to do with cancer.

I didn't realize it at the time but I felt so unworthy because I had cancer that I made some pretty bad choices in men. I began to feel as though cancer made me instantly undateable. I felt like no man in their right mind would want to date a girl with cancer. Beyond the hair loss and losing a breast there was that tiny issue of survival! I wondered who would want to date a girl who might not survive another year. All of the self-esteem issues I struggled with my whole life really rose to the surface during that time.

So I met the guy who didn't mind I had cancer. He told me so. He told me he wanted to be the one to see me through it... the one to be by my side. It almost seemed to good to be true. And I would come to find that was exactly what it was. I began to dismiss the anger he had towards me, the unkind words, his thoughtless behavior, and how he was verbally abusive to his children. All that began to matter to me was that he was with me despite my cancer. I realized I felt so dam unworthy that I let myself stay in this bad relationship. And then I wanted out. It was then that he finally showed his true colors during a fight that went a little something like this...

"I just can't do this anymore. . . this isn't working" I said

"What are you talking about? What do you mean?" he asked with a puzzled look on his face.

"You know what I mean. I don't think we should see each other anymore. I'm sorry."

"What? After everything I did for you? This is how you thank me? Like this?" he said with an angered look on his face.

I stopped and wondered for a second just what he meant by that and almost didn't want to know. Unfortunately he quickly cleared up my confusion.

"You have no idea what I have done for someone like you." he said.

"Just what do you mean someone like me?" I asked

"You know. . . someone with cancer. You think there are alot of guys out there who would want to be with a girl who has cancer?"

In that moment he confirmed every fear I had about no man wanting to be with me because I had cancer. I had put him on some sort of pedestal he didn't deserve. I wondered if he was right.

Although I was angry at myself for wasting precious time with someone who was not worthy of it I did feel proud of myself for being strong enough to walk away despite all the fear.

How did cancer affect your relationships? Did you ever feel undateable because of cancer? Have you let yourself stay in a bad relationship because of your cancer? Did you find yourself reacting different to relationships than you had before your diagnosis?

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Do Over. . . Would You Want One??

I recently saw a preview for the new season of Being Erica.  The premise of the show is a young woman who is in therapy and her therapist sends her back in time as part of her treatment.  She then has the opportunity to change her past and learn more about her family in the process.  I haven't seen it but I find the concept intriguing.  The concept of a "do over". The chance to change your past, how you treated others, things you may have said that you wish you could take back.  

So in thinking about my life I couldn't help but wonder if I would want to be in Erica's shoes.  I wondered if I would want that chance.  The I asked myself  if I was ok with my past as is.  The answer I came up with to that question was  yes.   Although there is one moment in time I have regretted for many years.  

It was the moment the Paul walked out the door the morning of his accident.  The last moment I saw him alive.  We had a fight that morning.    Nothing major, just a stupid quibble however it was enough to make both of us forget to say "I love you".  I took for granted that I would see him later that day.  And for years after I wished I had told him I loved him before he walked out the door.  Fifteen years later that regret has eased and I realize that he did know how much I loved him because I told him all the time.  But these days before my husband Lou leaves the house I always say "I love you".   And I always live with a little fear deep inside that it could be the last time.  

I try hard to not live with regrets.  I try to remember that the past is over and the future is uncertain but what is most important is to live in the moment.  And most of the time I talk a good game because that is the hardest part for me.  I watch my dog and realize how for him life is about moments and nothing more.  All he longs for is to laze around, go for walks outside, to lay in the sun, to eat, and to lay in our laps at nite.  I wish I could be more like him in that sense.  Just be in the moment.  And because of that he teaches me alot about life just through living his own.  

Would you want a "do over"?  Is there a moment in your life you wish you could change?  What is your biggest regret?  Have you seen the show "Being Erica"?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Soy. . . Does It Make A Body Good??

After my treatment for breast cancer I began to really look at what I was eating.  And in the process made significant changes to my diet.  In my quest for healthier foods I became interested in soy.  I had never eaten soy before, no edamame or tofu, but I was willing to try.  I had always heard that soy was good for women.  Women I knew were drinking soy milk and eating Luna bars.  The only soy I had ingested at that point was the type included in processed foods which I suppose is not the good kind.  Everything in a fresh state is best.  

What I became concerned about was hearing that women with breast cancer should avoid soy.  Reason being that soy, a plant, when it is ingested gets processed as a form of estrogen.  For women with estrogen receptor positive tumors this would not be a good thing.  Or so I was told by my doctors.  I am one of those ER positive women.  So I began running from soy.  Reading labels like a lunatic and becoming afraid to ingest any food or dietary supplements that included soy as an ingredient.  

That was 8 years ago.  Since then the verdict on soy and breast cancer has been mixed.  I found a recent article revealing the results of a study about soy.  It says that soy is safe for breast cancer survivors and may even reduce mortality rates.   However, in the medical community there is still debate about the topic.  One MD says that he feels soy as part of a balanced diet is safe however he would not go so far as to say it will reduce mortality rates in women with breast cancer.  Read the article here.

I am a big believer in moderation.  Over the years I have stopped running in fear of soy.  I was glad to hear this news although you never know what the next verdict will be...

As a breast cancer survivor do you include soy as a part of  your diet?  Did you ever fear soy after your treatment?  How do you maintain a balance in your diet?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I'm Sitting And I Can't Get Up. . .

That was what I spent most of this morning screaming to myself inside my head when I jumped off of the couch and felt a stabbing pain shoot down my right leg. As my right leg longed to buckle under me I thought to myself "Dear God just don't let me hit the floor!" And luckily I didn't. I grabbed the wall edge as my dog ran over and stared at me with a furrowed look on his face. He certainly was not going to be of any help to me. I was all alone. Somehow though I was able to hobble over to my couch to sit. Then the fear washed over me and tears ran streaming from my eyes. I felt frightened and sad.

I suddenly flashed back to when I was sick. To when I had cancer. I thought about how bad I felt in the hospital after cancer surgery being unable to walk on my own. I thought about having to sit on a shower chair and needing help to wash myself. And then I thought about being stuck on the couch after my first chemo treatment with a headache so bad I hoped I wouldn't die that night. I was all alone. The lonliness became palpable once again. And although I was thankful that this was nowhere near as bad it was enough to bring those sucky memories rushing back.

So I cried. And then cried some more. So much that I thought I would never stop. As I sat there on the couch I noticed the pain in my back was gone but I must have been crying over the pain in my heart. Crying over the fear. And it just snowballed from there.

As I sit here and write this I am feeling better. Partly thanks to Advil. And I am sure my crying fit did nothing to help the stress in my back muscles. I hate feeling this way. I haven't yet figured out how to handle the associated reactions better...

Have you ever experienced a flashback similar to this? How did you react? How did you handle the emotion?