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?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cancer and the Holidays. . . How Do You Deal??

The holidays are always a crazy time of year and sometimes they can bring out the worst in people.  That was true for those around me.  So when I was going through my chemo treatments back in 2001 I wondered how I would handle holiday craziness while I felt exhausted, sick, and depressed.  I was not looking forward to Thanksgiving meal not even the stuffing which was always my favorite.  Nothing tasted good to me because of chemo.  I seriously considered grilled cheese for dinner as it was the only thing I enjoyed eating that didn't really taste like metal.  

What was harder to figure out though was how I would handle my family and put myself first.  Putting myself ahead of others was not something that came easily to me.  But cancer certainly gave me the ability to see things more clearly.  I had to figure out a game plan that would allow me to get through the holiday with as little stress as possible.  I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to do.  How did I want to spend the day.  And what I came up with was not as appealing to my mom as it was to me.  I wanted to make a lasagna and eat it with my brother and his girlfriend at my place.  Not everyone in my family got along but I knew the 3 of us would.  I promised my mom that we would all go to her house for dessert.  She reluctantly agreed.  It was alot of work to cook but I was pleased that I could do what I wanted for once in my life.  I didn't eat much but I enjoyed the quiet dinner with my brother and his girlfriend.  After the meal we headed over to see my mom and grandma for dessert and it was short and comfortable. 

I got through the day with minimal craziness and was proud of myself for expressing my needs to those around me.   It was not easy however the benefits far outweighed the risks so to speak.  Going through cancer treatment is so very difficult and it changes you.  The experience also can change those around you good or bad.  I think it is important to draw boundaries at times like these and make your needs known.  Think about what you want.  Think about what would make you happy for the holiday.  And try your hardest to make that happen.  Drawing those boundaries is important and doesn't have to be reserved for the holidays although for me it is when those around me are all caught up in the craziness.  It is what I try to arm myself with in order to not loose myself.  I tried to focus on what I was thankful for that day.  And that was feeling thankful for still being alive.

How do you handle the holidays?  If you are currently going through treatment have you had to be more expressive with your needs especially during the holidays?  How have those around you responded?  Has having cancer made you say or do things that you normally would not?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines . . . What Do You Think??

As a young breast cancer survivor I am sure I will be in the minority when I say this but I am not alarmed by the new mammography guidelines released by the USPSTF. The recommended change is to increase the age from 40 to 50 for mammograms in otherwise healthy women. This debate has become so heated that even a well respected clinician like
Dr. Susan Love is getting alot of flack for her support of the recommendations. She addresses these issues on her blog. A great organization called Breast Cancer Action (BCA) includes their take on this issue via a statement on their website. They are one of the few in support of it as well.

I am an 8 year breast cancer survivor diagnosed at 31 years old. I was not at the age to get mammograms and did not have a significant family history of the disease. It was not something I thought about at all. That is until I found a lump in my breast. I went to the doctor who recommended a mammogram. No tumor was evident however the results came back revealing subtle architechtural distortion of the breast tissue therefore a biopsy was recommended. The diagnosis was Stage II breast cancer. I had a mastectomy, reconstruction and chemo. These days I go annually for mammograms as part of my post cancer followup. Mammography has been known to not be a good screening tool for young women because of the dense breast tissue. I have actually been told by a radiologist that my mammo's are almost impossible to read for that reason which leads me to question why I am having them done. Breast MRI is known to have a high false positive rate which is why it is not recommended for use in otherwise healthy women. I have had breast MRI resulting in a false positive which lead to an unnecessary biopsy. There is also the concern about radiation exposure from tests such as these causing cancer as the young age group is more suseptible to this than the older population. I have to admit this concerns me as well.

This change in recommendations does not address the lack of an effective screening tool for young women. Young women are in the same boat they were before as are most young adults. I think right now the most important thing women in our age group can do is be familiar with your breasts, know your risk factors, and if you find something abnormal get to the doctor and have it checked out. Kairol Rosenthal is the author of "Everything Changes: The Insider's Guide to Cancer in Your 20's and 30's". She is also in support of these guidelines and today has written a blog post more specific to the Breast Self Exam (BSE) aspect of those recommendations. I have shared my opinion with Kairol on that topic. Check it out here.

I think there needs to be less anger driven debates and more direction towards how we can reduce mortality rates in young women starting with finding a more effective screening tool for this population. I think that using an ineffective tool for lack of something better gives a false sense of security to the many women fearful of getting this disease.

How do you feel about the new guidelines? Do you think the debate has become too heated? Do you think people's reactions are fear driven? Where do you think the focus should be? As a young women what issue is most important to you regarding breast cancer screening?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Can Good Nutrition Prevent Cancer??

When I was diagnosed with cancer I was hoping for the cookbook recipe to ensure I would survive.  If I do this type of surgery, this type of chemo, take this medication then I will be ok.  There were alot of decisions to make under the advice of my doctors but what none of them could tell me with 100% certainty is how long I would live if I survived.  

When treatment was over the fear of recurrence set in.  I felt like all I was going to do was wait for cancer to strike again unless I became proactive about my life.  So part as part of my quest I began to look for alternative ways to maintain my health and improve my lifestyle.

Nutrition was a good place for me to start.  As I looked back on my life and the things I ate it became no surprise to me why I was sick so much.  I never drank water, never ate veggies and barely at fruit.  I can't even tell you what I was eating although I can promise  you it's nutritional value was barely existent.  Over the years since I finished my treatment I have made many improvements to my diet.  I even began juicing.  But what I did notice though is I tend to become obsessed with it all.  And I am well aware that this obsession stems from fear.  

And then I think about people in my family that never had cancer.  Like my Grandma who lived to the ripe old age of 85 and smoked since she was 16, ate white bread with every meal, drank coffee daily, enjoyed pizza, nitrite laden cold cuts, and even KFC.  She was never sick until 2 years before she died and was diagnosed with emphysema.  I also remember how often she prayed.  And how positive she tried to be.  She always gave up her worries to something bigger than herself.  And she always advised me to do the same.  Now that is the part of haven't had much success with.  It is what I struggle with the most.  I have an easier time controlling what I eat than the crazy thoughts that swim through my mind most of the time.  

So, do I think that good nutrition can prevent cancer?  I am not sure to tell you the truth although I do believe it can help.  I tend to believe it is not one specific thing.  I think it is about balance.  A delicate balance the body and the mind.  I believe that the thoughts you put in your head can affect your health just as much as the food you put in your mouth.  

Tonite I will be a guest on the Stupid Cancer Show.  This is the topic up for discussion.  So join me to listen in and hang in the chatroom with other young survivors!  It is sure to be an interesting show!  Check it out here

Do you think that what you eat can affect your health?  Since your cancer diagnosis have you made changes to your lifestyle and/or diet in an effort to stay well?  If so what prompted this change in you?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Impatient Patient

One would think that after 8 years I would have built up a stronger wall. But once I am in that orange striped gown open to the front I am instantly a half naked fearful patient. As scared as I am though I have much less patience for stupidity.

Yesterday I had my annual checkup with my oncologist. I have passed the 5 year mark which means that I only have mammo's each year but no more bloodwork. So it should have been an easy appointment. Then again, what about cancer is ever easy.

As I paced back and forth waiting for the doc I was startled when someone new walked through the door. She introduced herself as a Fellow and looked as if she were in her early 30's. She informed me that my doctor would be in soon. Hoping she didn't see me roll my eyes I thought about how I was not in the mood to be a lab rat again. I suppose that is par for the course when you go to a teaching hospital, a major cancer center. Still I would have appreciated more preparedness on her part. One of her first questions was about why I decided to not take Tamoxifen. All I thought was "here we go..." As I explained my reasons while she stood there debating them I wanted to ask her why this was even coming up now as I had this discussion 7 years ago with my doctor. She continued on asking tons of questions like what kind of surgery I had...all of which she could have found out had she thoroughly reviewed my chart.

As my patience began to wane I was quite startled at what came next. She stepped in front of me and opened my gown to do a breast exam. As soon as she saw my boobs her eyes bugged out and her mouth LITERALLY dropped open in amazement. At that moment I as a person ceased to exist. All that she was interested in was me from the neck down. It went something like this...

"OMG....that is amazing. Did you have a TRAM flap?" she said while still staring at my boobs with wide doe eyes.

"Yes" I replied wondering why she didn't read that in my chart.

"Wow! That is the best one I have seen....unbelieveable! Who did your surgery?"

When I told her who did it all I could think about was how bad I felt. I thought about how when I looked in the mirror I did not think it looked amazing. When I look in the mirror I am reminded of what I lost. I am reminded of how lopsided I look and how I can no longer feel anything on that side. Which lead to her next question...

"What does it feel like?" she asked with her eyes finally glancing up to meet mine.

"It feels numb all over." I said as I began to feel like something that should be working a side show.

What she didn't realize was how quickly she separated me into parts. It felt as though she was more interested in my reconstructed boob and not in the person it was attached to. Her bug eyed reaction to my boobs will be on my long list of inappropriate responses by medical staff. It made me feel uncomfortable. I only wish I had the guts to tell her so. She may have gotten all A's in med school but I would score her bedside manner a big fat F.

Has a doctor ever made you feel uncomfortable either through words or actions? How did you handle it? Have you ever been an impatient patient? Ever disagreed with your doc? How did he/she react?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Do You Remember Your First Kiss??

It was a very hot summer nite in August of '86.  I had just turned 16.  I could smell his Drakkar cologne mixed in with the exhaust fumes from his father's maroon Chevette.  As we quickly rounded the corner I heard the squeak of the breaks.  I didn't want to look up.  I didn't want the ride to end.  

Janet Jackson's When I Think Of You  was blaring from the radio speakers.   The windows were rolled down.  I felt the warm humid breeze blowing through my hair as I turned to glance over at him.  He gently touched my hand with his.  His hand was big and strong overpowering mine.  I wanted his big arms wrapped around me.  I could feel goosebumps riding up my spine.  As  his  hand lightly squeeze mine I felt very warm and tingly.  It was the first time a boy ever held my  hand.  I was too shy to look in his eyes but I could almost feel his smile.  The moonlight coming through the car window showered light on our hands.  The moment seemed never ending.  I wanted time to stop.

I felt his hand gently pull mine closer to him as if to lead me into his arms.  The other hand touched my face.  I was afraid he could hear the sound of my knees shaking.  And just like that I felt his lips quickly touch mine.  It was a soft, wet kiss that brought the goosebumps back again.  

So unsure of what to say or do I said goodbye and practically jumped out of the car.  I could feel my smile getting bigger as I approached my house.   I turned to look back at him and heard the whirring of the engine getting louder.  I was just about to wave when I heard " that you?"  in my mom's concerned voice billowing out of the kitchen window.  Rolling my eyes with a sigh escaping my breath I clicked the latch on the door.  I walked inside, headed straight for the stairs and up to my room.  As I felt myself bounce on my bed belly flop style I licked my lips.  I touched them as if something big had just happened.  I tried to remember the feeling, the softness of his mouth.  All of the other sounds in the house were quickly drowned out by the song playing in my head.   I began to replay that moment.  A thousand times would never be enough.  I could only hope it would happen again.

Little did I know at the time but I had just shared my first kiss with the man I would someday marry...

Do you remember your first kiss?  How old were you?  Is it a fond memory or something you would rather forget?  

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

News Segment On Self Breast Exams Featuring Bare Boobs. . . Necessary Or Not??

I have no doubt that doing self exams helps to save lives.  I was 31 years old when I found a lump in my breast that turned out to be cancer.  Although I was never vigilant about doing self exams I found the lump while in the shower one morning doing what I named the "poke around".  I was soaping myself up and was just being lazy I guess not using the proper clinical techniques but I found it nonetheless.  I think I first learned how to do the exam via an article in a women's magazine.  There were written instructions and diagrams.  Then when I began going to the gynecologist in my early twenties I was instructed in the proper techniques.  I believe there is enough information out there that putting a commercial segment on TV showing a woman doing a breast exam nude is just not necessary.  

A recent article on CBS discusses this issue about an ABC affiliate station in D.C. that aired a segment showing a woman doing a self breast exam and did not blur out the boobs. Check out the video here.   It also noted in the article that the station was airing the segments during fall sweeps week.  I found that interesting and couldn't help but wonder as many others whether the station is airing the segments for shock value to enhance ratings.  Of course they say that is not true.  What they do say is that the motivation behind the segment stemmed from learning through research that the majority of women don't know how to do these exams.  But I personally question that as there are so many other ways for women to gain knowledge about doing self exams without showing a young woman's bare boobs during the 5 o'clock news.

Have you heard about this segment?  What do you think?  Do you wonder if it is a ratings stunt?  When did you first learn how to do your breast self exams?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Boobbook. . . I Thought It Was Facebook??

I have to say I was unaware that women are joining Facebook to show off their boobs and men are only on there to check them out.   This  according to actor Kevin Connolly is the reason Facebook should just be called Boobbook.  I thought I was on there to meet up with friends and network.  But alas I was wrong.  
 Celebrities like Jack Black and Kevin Connolly are starring in ads to raise breast cancer awareness as part of the Men For Women Now Campaign.  If you haven't seen these ads head over there and check them out.  In one ad Jack Black is shoving his man boob into a mammo machine to show just how "easy" it is.  In another ad Kevin Connolly is asking  men to save some boobs cause "who doesn't love boobs right?"
Who cares about saving the woman lets just save some boobs cause that is the only part of a woman that matters right?  Maybe I am just sensitive about this subject but I am disappointed that some people feel that the only way to get men on the bandwagon to support women with breast cancer is to promote saving the body part in trouble vs the woman.  Women are more than their breasts.  To  face losing one is such a hit to your self-esteem and sexuality.  But it just seems to go along with how women have been exploited by men for many years.  

I like to believe that men are better than that and smarter.  I look forward to the day a campaign to raise breast cancer awareness led by men does not involve talking about just saving the boobs!

Have you seen these ads?  What do you think?  Do you think there is a better way to get the message across to men without exploiting women's breasts?  Are you sensitive to these types of ads?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Do You Feel Exploited By The Pink Ribbon Campaign??

I read a recent article in the Boston Globe titled "Sick of Pink" and it got me to thinking.  I began to wonder how many survivors felt exploited by the pink ribbon campaign and dread the month of October as I have begun to do in recent years.  It is no secret for those that read this blog how I have questioned the motivation of some companies who slap the pink ribbon on their products. I do feel exploited as a survivor and think that some companies use the pink ribbon to increase their sales.  Let's face it...the pink ribbon is much prettier to look at than the reality of breast cancer.  Some of the products are so ridiculous it makes me laugh at times.  Ranging from the pink snuggie, smartwater, sharpie pens, and recently this year the pink swiffer it has gotten to be out of control.  

Some companies even make you go through hoops to get that minimal donation from purchasing their product to the bc organization they support.  I recently found out that when you buy a pink swiffer the company will donate a whopping 2 cents and that is only after the consumer sends in a coupon.  There's a nice loophole.  Spend 44 cents to donate 2 cents if you even remember to mail it in.  At that point the consumer should just donate directly to the organization of their choice and call it a day.  

And then there's Yoplait who for years included the hormone RBST in their yogurt which has been linked to breast cancer.  I am glad that Yoplait has cleaned up the cows they are getting the milk from and are now hormone free but why do you have to require the consumer to mail in the lids?  More leg work for the consumer and stamps to waste for a 10 cent donation.  

To close this rant I have saved  Jingle Jugs for last which are posted in the above images.   Jingle Jugs are plastic breasts mounted on wood that jiggle to music picked by the consumer and they even have  a slogan for breast cancer month..."Jingle Jugs For Life".   How much more tasteless and raunchy can you get?  A company that is exploiting women's breasts and then hoping to use that to cash in on the cause marketing frenzy.  As a survivor this is just offensive to me.  I am all for raising money for the cause but to me I would rather pick the organization and donate money directly to them.  

As a survivor do ever feel exploited by the pink ribbon campaign?  Do you question the motivation of some companies who slap the ribbon on their product?  Do you purchase pink products or would you rather donate money directly to the organization you choose?  If you are not a survivor how do you feel about cause marketing during breast cancer awareness month?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Posing Topless After Breast Cancer. . . Would You Do It?

I came upon this story on MSNBC about a 49 year old UK woman who turned down Playboy 30 years earlier and recently posed nude after her mastectomy and reconstruction. She is wanting to raise awareness and give hope to other survivors. This got me to thinking about whether or not seeing another woman's breast cancer scars is necessarily the best way to do that.

A couple of years ago I was contacted by a freelance writer who was working on an article about young survivors who had breast reconstruction and wanted to share the stories of how they felt about their breast cancer scars. I gladly went through the interview and was excited to be able to share my emotional experience. My excitement quickly turned to anxiety when I found out after the fact that the writer wanted me to pose topless for the article. I decided not to do it. I had enough trouble looking at myself in the mirror and just wouldn't feel comfortable sharing that image with strangers who would be seeing my scarred boobs at their local newsstand. Now that is not to judge those who do choose to do just that. It was not the right choice for me. And I also question other than the shock factor to sell magazines how much that could help other women. To me I felt as though the story and emotion I could bring forth through words could help just as much.

I was very disappointed to find out that said writer decided to not include my story in her article because I would not pose topless. It made me feel as though my story was not as important as the shocking boob images she wanted to include possibly to garner attention for her article. I couldn't help but wonder whether other survivors felt the same. It made me wonder whether seeing those types of photos was crucial to raising awarness and whether it could give hope to other women with breast cancer. I felt as though it was exploiting breast cancer survivors just as magazines like Playboy have exploited women for many years. I think that a woman choosing to pose topless after cancer and using it as she sees fit is a personal choice however when magazines seek out survivors to pose topless for their articles it just comes off exploitative to me.

During breast cancer month I have see many a glossy with topless photos of women with breast cancer and wonder if it is really benefiting other women or serving to increasing sales for that magazine. If a woman gets diagnosed with breast cancer she will most likely see a plastic surgeon who will gladly show her before and after shots of women who have had mastectomies and reconstruction. That is what my doctor did for me. I just don't think it needs to be in a magazine at the local newsstand.

Would you ever pose topless after breast cancer? Do you think that topless photos of survivors gives others hope? Do you feel as though magazines are exploiting breast cancer survivors by doing this? What do you think motivated this woman to pose nude after she had breast cancer?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

So This Is What It's Come To?? How Far Would You Go For Health Insurance??

Have you all heard this story about the husband who joined the army for 4 years to get health insurance for his wife who has ovarian cancer?  It makes me feel sad that he had to go to those lengths just for insurance coverage.  Now he will have to be away from his family for years while his wife is going through treatment for such a devestating disease.  Bill Caudle was laid off from the company he had worked at for 20 years due and could no longer afford health insurance for his family.  His wife is currently going through chemo for ovarian cancer.  Now she will have to be left without the support of her life partner during one of the most awful times of her life.  Like having cancer isn't stressful enough.   It should never have come to this.  

I was very lucky to have had good health insurance 8 years ago during my surgery and treatment for breast cancer.  These days my insurance is not accepted at the facility I choose to go to for my followup visits and 2 years ago my annual breast MRI showed a spot which lead to a biopsy costing about 12k.  My insurance covered 70 percent of what they thought the facility should charge and I had to pick up the tab for the other 30 percent plus the difference.  This  took me many months to pay off.  Of course the most important thing was the benign biopsy results however the added stress of medical bills is enough to make you crazy.  

While I was going through my treatment I accumulated a pile of bills and insurance statements I couldn't even stand to look at because it would spin me into a panic attack.  I was lost in a daze of surgery, chemo, and trying to get myself to work everyday so I could keep my insurance.  At times I felt like I needed someone to sift through all my paperwork and help me decipher it all.  Through not paying attention I actually screwed myself out of 4 thousand in charges for breast reconstruction that should have been covered.  I found it too late and of course missed the time frame to file a grievance.  And now because of my cancer history I have to be careful not to let my insurance lapse because I would have to wait months to begin new coverage.  

Check out the article about Bill Caudle and share your thoughts here...

Did you have insurance coverage during your illness?  Have you ever had to go to great lengths to get health insurance?  What do you think about this husband joining the army for the health care coverage?  

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Blogging For Boobs

I am guest bloggin today over at Talkin With Teenie for her first annual Blogging For Boobs Breast Bash 2009.   Tina is the daughter of a breast cancer survivor and is having guest bloggers share their breast cancer stories all month long to raise awareness and funds to support those with breast cancer.  I am sharing my own story about dating with cancer and also giving away a copy of my book Breastless in the City.  

So head over to her blog, check out my post and please share the link!

Are you single and going through cancer?  If so are you continuing to date?  What has that experience been like?  Has your cancer diagnosis stopped you from continuing in the dating scene?  

Friday, October 9, 2009

Secretly Wishing You Had Breast Cancer???

This picture is from Post Secret.  My first thought was WTF?!!  And then I got angry.  As a breast cancer survivor I am especially appalled that any normal healthy person would ever wish for a disease that is killing young women!  Breast cancer is NOT the way to get skinny and get a boob job!!  How about trying diet and exercise!  That is the healthier way to go about it without risking death! 

I had a mastectomy and TRAM flap reconstruction where they took a piece of belly fat and muscle to make a new breast.  It was 10 hours of surgery that I was afraid I would never wake up from.  When I finally did I wished I hadn't I was in so much pain.  Although I joke about getting a "free tummy tuck"  humor is my way of dealing with the emotional pain and fear I live with as a cancer survivor.   I feel as though I have earned that right.

I think the person who wrote this should spend some time with chemo patients who are going bald, vomiting, in early menopause,  have chemobrain and then decide if breast cancer still looks enticing.  Then take a look at a young woman that has just had that so called boob job with scars, a fake nipple, and no sensation left in that breast and see what you think.

I would never wish breast cancer on my worst enemy nor would I ever wish it on myself.  Although I try to take away the positives from a bad experience like how stronger I am from having gone through it, a postive has never been my fake left boob or the huge scar running across my belly that I have to see every day when I look in the mirror.  A constant daily reminder of what was taken away because of cancer.

Have you seen this pic?  What do you think?  Does it make you angry?  What would you tell this person if you had the chance?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Breast Cancer PSA or Beer Commercial?

Have any of you seen this new "Save the Boobs" ad campaign? I was totally out of the loop until the other day when I read a blog by my friend and fellow cancer survivor Kairol Rosenthal. She is the author of Everything Changes: The Insider's Guide to Cancer in Your 20's and 30's a fabulous book for young adults with cancer. Her post "Using Sex to Sell Breast Cancer" is worth a read.

I got so fired up about it that I wanted to share my opinion of it her on my own blog. My first thought was that it came across more like a beer commercial rather than an ad to raise breast cancer awareness. As a young woman who dated through breast cancer treatment I was angered by how it was soley focused on gawking on a young woman's boobs. It actually was a reminder of what I was up against while dating bald and boobless! It is all about the boobs and directed at young men. It is sending the message that if you still want to be sexy and gawked at by men you better hold on to your most important asset...your boobs. So what then is a young woman to do when she is faced with losing one or both? Is she left to feel that she will never be worthy without her breast?

I feel like there already is too much out there affecting young women with regards to body image and self-esteem. All of the size 0 girls in magazines who's images have been air brushed bombard us each day at newsstands and bookstores. I don't think that a young woman strutting her stuff and bouncing her boobs in a video will bring awareness to the plight of young women with breast cancer. I am sure that young men will enjoy watching it but they may be the only ones.

Have you seen this ad? What do you think? Do you think this will help increase breast cancer awareness?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Do You Think Before You Pink??

Pink has always been my favorite color ever since I was a little girl.  My room was painted pink, I had pink bedding on my white canopy bed, and when I got older pink was my favorite choice for nail polish and lipstick.  Little did I know that when I was in my thirties I would never look at that color the same again.  Although it is still my favorite I have to say that during October I get sick of seeing it on almost every product from bottled water to Sharpie highlighter pens. 

As a breast cancer survivor I don't want to come off as ungrateful or bitchy about the bc awareness campaign.  Its just that I can't help but wonder as I do every year if some companies tag themselves with that pink ribbon to increase their sales.  That is why I was glad to find out about a campaign looking out for just that.  Its called Think Before You Pink.  A project of Breast Cancer Action, it was launched in 2002 in response to an increasing concern about the huge number of pink ribbon products and promotions on the market.

This campaign also focuses on what they call "Pink Washers".  These are companies that say they care about breast cancer and promote its awareness but produce products that are linked to the disease!  Many cosmetic companies put out products with known carcinogens in the ingredients that have been linked to cancer.  This is of special interest to me as I try to avoid using products with bad stuff such as parabens and other chemicals/toxins.  

Something else to consider is where the money is going.  If you are a young adult survivor is the money from that product going to organizations that support your age group?  I say to ensure your money goes where you want it to the best way is to donate directly to that organization.

Be sure to check out this campaign and let me know what you guys think!

Do you ever think before you buy pink products?  Do you ever get tired of seeing the pink ribbon slapped on tons of products?  Ever think about where the money goes? 

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Flowers From A Stranger

This morning I headed to my local Trader Joe's for groceries.  While I was waiting at in line at the checkout a man cut in front of me.  I was startled but I am not one to make a fuss.  Something like that is certainly not worth getting upset about.  So I kept quiet and patiently waited till it was my turn.  

As I was packing my bags the cashier from the next lane over quickly showed up next to me with a bouquet of flowers.  I have to say I was startled.  
"These are for you free of charge for being so patient with that."  he said with a smile.  
"Awwww, thank you so much."  I responded wondering for a second what he was referring to.  I paused for a moment and realized that he must have meant the guy who cut in line. 

 I smiled to myself and thought about how I haven't gotten flowers in a long time.  I thought about how this was the first time I was ever acknowledged by or received flowers from a stranger.  It was a very sweet gesture and so unexpected.  Aren't those the best kind?

When I arrived home I enjoyed spending time cutting and arranging.   I couldn't help but break out my camera.  Now I am thinking that I need to buy some flowers for myself on occasion!

Has a stranger ever done something thoughtful for you?  How did it make you feel?  Have you ever done something for someone you didn't know?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Bra Zero

I remember when bra shopping was fun. I remember when it made me feel sexy. I remember when it became a chore.

That happened when I lost my boob. And although they built me a brand spankin new one I was now lopsided. Yeah, I know they say that all women have one boob smaller/larger than the other but still. Like it wasn’t already hard enough to be a girl.

It seemed as though once I lost my boob Victoria’s Secret catalogs showed up everywhere I turned. That those dam bra commercials were on some crazy rotation on every channel I surfed through. Don’t even get me started on shopping in that store or any for that matter. I swear I must have tried on every bra known to man. Every brand, every size, every type. One thing I have realized… I live in an underwire world. All I wanted was a bra without wire. I had no clue it would be near impossible. And if I did in fact hit the bra lotto happening to stumble upon one you could be sure it wasn’t a pretty, girly, one.

Now, back in the day I was a big fan of underwire. It was all I wore. I found it pretty comfortable until I tried to shove a newly reconstructed boob into one. My plastic surgeon practically dared me to try it. I laughed wondering “how hard could it be?” I had done it before right? Well, I was in a for a rude awakening. Initially I had settled into the sporty type, which I must admit were sooo comfortable but quite unflattering. I found I had traded the lopsidedness for flatchested and bound. So I lived in those for quite a while as I became increasingly pissed off at my inability to find myself a nice girly bra. Each time I looked in the mirror at my scars, and a newly built headlight that was forever “on” I wondered why it had to be so dam hard to find something to at least make me look nice from the outside….something to hide all that and still make me feel pretty. Sexy even.

As I stroll through VS now I look around at all these tweens doing their own bra shopping wondering how could it be possible that at such a young age it warrants sexy lacy underwire bra’s? You know…the ones I can no longer wear in my 30’s. I remember being that age having my mom pretty much pick those out for me, not that there was much of a selection back then where we shopped. Jealous much?! Not only was I feeling unattractive and ugly, I was feeling dam old!

Where I was heading with all this is that I FINALLY found a one! And it fit all my requirements with a bonus. No wire, with padding (to cover the headlight that never shuts off) and drumroll please……LACE!! I wanted to cry I was so happy. Thank You Calvin Klein!

But you know what happens next right? It is sure to be discontinued! LOL

This was originally posted in May of '08.  As I am in full on bra shopping mode I thought I would share once again!  

As a breast cancer survivor do you have difficulty with bra shopping?  Have you been successful?  Do you find that you feel jealous when you see women shopping in VS without a thought to what will fit?  

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What Calms You??

I took this picture over the weekend.  The weather was so beautiful with windows to the fall. All I had to do was walk across the street from our house and it was like I went to another world.  

Whether it is the ocean or a lake, water has always had a calming effect on me.  I love to just sit and look out at the endless blue and listen to waves hitting against the shore.  Even the little sound of water rippling against the rocks takes me out of my funk.  

That is what I needed yesterday.  I woke up with a headache, feeling crummy and spent most of my day inside on the couch waiting for the pain to subside and the cloudy feeling go away.  It was so nice outside I was mad to be missing it.  It makes me anxious.  It reminds me of when I had cancer.  All the days and nights spent on the couch in pain, crying, alone.  Somehow it takes me right back to that bad place.  I don't know how that happens.  Its there without warning.  And having a headache certainly is no comparison to my cancer sickness thankfully.  I guess it is like those associated reactions I blogged about a few weeks ago.  

The most important thing for me when I feel like that is figuring out how to get myself to a better place.  Maybe not while I am in pain but certainly when it subsides.  So that is what I did.  Although I had missed most of the day by the time my head quit pounding I looked out the window took a deep breath of the fresh air and put on my sneaks.  It was a short walk down the the reservoir.  As I listened to my feet crunching on the stones that carried me to the shoreline I could feel a sense of calm I hadn't felt all day.  There was a slight breeze and I could hear the waves gently lapping against shore.  I stood there for a good 20 minutes and almost forgot where I was.  The sounds of cars whooshing by on the road were gone for a few moments.  I wished I could stay there forever.  To have a sense of calm such as that to carry me through difficult days.  It's no wonder I always return to the water in times of stress.  I just wish I could feel that way in my own head sometimes on my own...

What calms you?  How do you handle stress?  What do you do when you need to get away from the voices in your head?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fashion and Cancer

Today in honor of fashion week I am over at Cancer Directory blogging about how I feel fashion can enhance our lives especially during tough times.   

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

Monday, September 14, 2009

That Was Then. . .

As I looked at her sitting in a wheelchair, her body broken from illness, silver curls atop her head, I could see the life still hidden behind her eyes.  She could not speak.  Her metal rimmed glasses hid pretty blue eyes that had no doubt seen many things over the years.

I wheeled her into her room which was decorated with photos of family and friends sharing a life well lived.  The smell of alcohol and sickness permeated the space.   I stared at the black and white collage dancing on the wall.  I looked back at her.  She was watching and wondering.  I asked her if I could look at the pictures.  The widening of her baby blues was her only response.  

And there it was...a wedding photo of her in a striking long white dress made of lace with short cap sleeves and a cathedral length veil adorned with mini white flowers.  Her hair was long and dark brown with cascading curls falling upon her shoulders.  A dark shade of lipstick outlined her smile.   A large bouquet of pale colored roses she held in her hand.  I asked her if that was her and she faintly nodded her head.  I told her it was beautiful.  Then I saw a tear starting to escape from the corner of her eye.  

I couldn't help but wonder what was going through her mind at that moment.  I wondered if she felt trapped in that body.  I wondered if she always felt sad.  As I looked at her trying to console her I thought about how each of us is headed to a similar fate.  We will all get older and with any luck be around when we are old and gray.  It reminded me of how much I need to enjoy the moments I have now when my mind and body are well.  I hated telling her I had  to go.  And when I stepped out the door of her room and looked back at her I was the one wiping away a tear...

 Do you ever ponder the future or  live in the moment?  Have you ever had a similar experience where an elder has taught you something in a brief moment of interaction?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My Juicer Is Dusty. . .

I remember when my mom used to try to get me to eat veggies.  I hated them.  Hated anything green.  I wouldn't even eat salad.  I was the one out to dinner declining the salad that came with my entree.  I never drank water.  Only high sugar fruit drinks, soda and then during my teen and young adult years it was diet soda or as I refer to it now...brown water with chemicals.  My diet consisted of processed foods, no veggies, and mostly crap.  Much of nothin!  It is no wonder that I was always feeling sick, always coming down with something.  I worked in a hospital and was exposed to germs on a daily basis.  I started missing the fact that I couldn't fight anything off for very long.  

Then came a cancer diagnosis.  Then my world turned upside down.  Since going through cancer treatment I have changed my diet in many ways.  After treatment was over I was figuring out how to get back to life after cancer.  Changing my nutrition was one of the lifestyle changes I made during that time.  It also became my way of trying to control the fear.  Fear of recurrence became a daily experience.  It was worse in the beginning but I still live with it today, 8 years later.  

With the help of a holistic doc I was encouraged to try juicing.  I began drinking mostly water, started eating veggies and consuming less processed foods.  I was trying to avoid ingesting chemicals.  Of course I was no angel.  I was doing everything in moderation trying not to obsess.  Once I started juicing 6 years ago I started to enjoy it.  I began with apples and carrots because they fed my sweet tooth.  Then I slowly introduced the greens.  Cucumbers and celery were about as far as I went until I tried kale.  

What I didn't realize though was my obsession.  I used the juicer every single day and if I missed a day I would get really crabby.  And then I would worry.  It got to the point that I felt as if the juicing was keeping me alive somehow.  Like if I stopped my cancer would instantly come back.  I never realized how deep the fear went.

4 months ago I stopped juicing.  I don't even know why. I think I just wanted a break from the hour I was spending tied to my sink cleaning veggies and then cleaning the juicer.   And I was scared at first.  Every day I said to my husband "I didn't make my juice today"  as if I would instantly combust right in front of him.  

So now my juicer is dusty.  I haven't gone back to using it yet.  This is the longest I have left it sitting there.  Sometimes I feel  like the worrying and obsessing over using it is worse for my health than the not using it.  Does that make sense?  Sometimes I feel scared, sometimes I feel guilty.  Then I wish for a time when I didn't even know the "c" word.

I still believe that changing my diet has helped to keep me healthy.  I wish I didn't feel as though it is the only thing.  I think I need to spend more time figuring out ways to keep my mind healthier for the sake of my body.

Have you made any changes to your lifestyle in response to an illness?  Ever tried juicing?  Do you obsess over things in an attempt to gain control?? 

Friday, September 4, 2009

Young Adult Widows

Tomorrow will be the 15th anniversary of my first husband's death and although it is something I typically don't write about on this blog I think it is an important topic to discuss. Especially for young adults that experience that type of loss. Even though the circumstances of the death may be different the emotional experiences can be similar.

So I am sharing the link to a blog post over at Everything Changes. My friend Kairol Rosenthal who is a fellow young adult cancer survivor and the author of Everything Changes: The Insider's Guide to Cancer in Your 20'2 and 30's had a guest blogger write about her experience as a young widow who lost her spouse to cancer. If you haven't read Kairol's blog check it out today! She writes about all kinds of topics that young adult cancer survivors deal ranging from handling health insurance woes all the way to taboo topics such as sex during cancer treatment. This particular post sparked a really interesting conversation on this topic.

Here is the link to the post Mourning As A Young Adult.

Have you ever experienced the loss of a spouse at a young age? How did you handle it? What is the most significant loss you have suffered?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Procrastination. . . Wishing I Wasn't So Good At It

 I have never had a to do list and if I did nothing would be checked.  As far back as I can recall I have had a hard time with getting things done in the now.  In school I was always cramming the night before an exam or finishing a paper the last minute.  Although I seem to do my best work under pressure it certainly causes me undue stress.  My husband on the other hand is the polar opposite of me.  He has great difficulty understanding why it takes me so long to get things done.  I have been this way forever.   I am having a hard time trying to change.

And it isn't  just the bad stressful stuff I would put off like doctors appointments.  I began to notice that even exciting good things would be put off to the side, to be forgotten about, and at my worst, missed.  I find it hard to just start.  But once I get the momentum going I am good.  I wonder why I am like this.  I so want to change.  

I have started making more lists of things to do which on occasion has helped me move along.  I am better at getting things done for others when I am given a set deadline but without that I am donning the crown of procrastination queen yet again.  

Do you procrastinate?  Are you too good at it?  Have you been able to change your ways?  If so

Friday, August 28, 2009

Soup of the Day

As I glanced over to my right I heard him say to the waiter "My wife died".  His hand was outstretched as if he wanted to connect.  He was dining alone.   If I had to guess I would say he was about 80 years old.  His navy blue hat had gold ticking on the letters that let me know he is a WWII veteran.  The hat was adorned with pins from glory days gone by.  Velcro sneakers completed his outfit most likely picked out by his wife.  

"Yes, we heard.  Your daughter told us the bad news.  We are so sorry for your loss."  the waiter responded.  

"She was a nice wife."  he said with his sad squinted eyes.

My heart broke for this man I didn't even know.  I could feel the tear roll down my cheek as I tried to shovel more food into my mouth.   I thought about how I dined alone when it happened to me.  I remember looking in the mirror each morning and seeing my lifeless eyes.  It was as if he took the soul of me with him when he left.  I only knew Paul for 10 years and was married for just shy of 2 and here was a man who probably spent the past 60 years with this woman he looked lost without.   Then I thought about Lou and I.  I thought about how one will always outsurvive the other.  One will always be left alone.  I thought about how I never want to go through it again.  I looked over at Lou and I wanted to hug him, kiss him, and never let go.  

The waiter walked back over and asked him what he wanted to eat. 

 "What's the soup today?"  he asked as he pulled a hankerchief out of the pocket of his tan pants. 

 "Chicken soup"

  He paused, wiped his eyes, and said "My wife used to make that for me.  I'll have that..."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Writing Exercise. . .

I could barely see him over the pile of books I was juggling in my arms.  As I listened to my white capezios tap, tap, along the cold terrazo my palms began to sweat.  I slowly moved closer.  I could smell his cologne.  He had jet black hair that complimented his big brown Italian eyes.  A ripped bandanna was tied around his head like Rambo most likely torn from an old gray sweatshirt.  A red and white football jacket hung neatly on his broad muscular frame.  Then I looked in his eyes.  Then I remember where I first saw him.

I was neatly dressed in a red and green plaid uniform climbing the stairwell of St. Peter’s School.  I noticed a boy quickly walking down past me looking very shy as if he were hiding something.  His head was tilted to the left.  With my childlike curiosity I strained my neck to see his face.  I gasped quietly to myself noticing the dent around his left eye.  The skin was multiple shades of red and purple.  There were no eyelashes with only half of a brow.  The eye appeared to be protruding from its socket.

 Rachael ran up to me giddy with excitement demanding that I put my books down.  As I bent down hoping my black pants held together I heard

 “Cathy, this is Paul, and Paul this is Cathy…ok, now talk!”

 She had tried to prepare me, told me how handsome he was and then sternly warned me a few days earlier.

 “Do not stare at his left eye.”

 “Why not?”  I asked as my eyes grew wider.

 “Because he has a lot of scars from sugeries.  I don’t know the whole story but just don’t do it okay?”

 “Okay, don’t worry, I won’t”  I repied as I wondered if it was the same boy.

 My eyes slowly gazed up and caught his smile as he reached his hand out to greet me. . .

I will occasionally be posting writing samples for a new project I am working on and would love to have input from you guys!  

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mascara Isn't Good Enough Anymore??

When I was going through chemo losing my hair was bad enough.  And then out came my eyelashes and eyebrows too.  Drawing on eyebrows was easy but the eyelash thing...not so much.  I was too lazy to try fake lashes (truth be told...I was too scared to glue something to my eyelid) so there I was facing the mirror with my mascara wand cursing as I tried to lengthen the one lash I had left.  I never had long luscious lashes so I used alot of black mascara to thicken them.  It was easy, it washed off, and wasn't dangerous.  Unless I poked myself in the eye with the mascara wand. 

So a few months ago when I caught the commercial starring Brooke Shields for that new medication  Latisse to lengthen lashes I had to wonder...why isn't mascara good enough anymore??  Then I wondered how dangerous it could be.  Seriously...a medication for eyelashes? Maybe its just me but that just seems a tad bit unnecessary.  It was hard to be without lashes for 6 months but I knew they would grow back.  And today my lashes are still very small and sparse.  But I am just glad they are back and I am certainly no stranger to mascara.  I think I will stick with that.   I have to wonder...are there really that many women for whom mascara isn't enough?

Did you loose your eyelashes during chemo?  How did you handle it?  Would you ever use something like Latisse to lengthen lashes after they grew back?  

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Have You Ditched the Phone Call For Online Technology??

I remember when I got my own phone.  It was Christmas circa 1986.  I was 16 and had been begging my parents to let me have one for my room.  They finally caved.  Although I didn't have my own number at least I could have some privacy when I chatted it up on the phone for hours. My phone was white and gold, in old-fashioned style.  
I was a latecomer to the cell phone craze back in the 90's.  I couldn't afford a car that had a phone in it.  But I finally gave in out of longing to feel safer as a single girl driving at all hours of the nite and day.  I wanted a phone in case of emergency when I was out and about.  It barely fit in my small compact purse.  Remember when they were analog and huge?  I was never too tech savvy so it took me a while to figure out how to use the dam thing.  But it eased my mind a bit.  

And then I started spending hours on the internet.  I was IM'ing friends and boys, emailing, and talking on the phone only occasionally.  Today as the internet progresses and technology moves at rapid pace with sites like Facebook and the ease of email I find that I don't pick up the phone and call anyone.  I rarely get calls these days either.  My friends connect with me via email or IM and on sites such as Facebook where you can have conversations with groups of people who you my never get together with much outside of your computer screen.  

Don't get me wrong....I think the internet is great.  I  have met so many new people, many of whom are young adult cancer survivors, and maintained connections with those in my life online.  It has truly opened up my world in many ways.  But sometimes I miss getting a handwritten letter in the mail or a card that I didn't have to click on a link to access.  I can say I email much more than I pick up the phone and call someone.  And I miss it sometimes.  Life moves at such a fast pace these days I think sometimes it is easier to shoot someone an email than to give a call.  

Has your phone time decreased while your fingers are getting cramped with texting, emails, and such??  Do you think that modern technology has keep us more connected to friends and family or less?  

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's The Waiting Room. . . What Do You Do??

Yesterday I had a 6 month boob checkup at Sloan with my surgeon and after 8 years I still get super anxious.   Monday nite I started with a headache and by yesterday morning I felt sick to my stomach.  Somehow I thought that it would be an easy appointment.  Just a breast exam and no scans.  But alas...I was WRONG!  I felt a teeny bit less stressed being scan free but I still hated going.  

My husband always goes with me to my doc dates.  Yesterday I told him he didn't have to go.  I don't even know why.  Maybe I wanted to see if I could go it alone.  Maybe to prove to myself I was strong enough.  It was the first time in all these years I went to see any of my doctors on my own.  And I drove to the city.  It was just too dam hot to take the train and subway. 

As I entered the building and caught a whiff of that familiar smell I felt my palms start to sweat.  My inner dialogue began.  It went something like this..."You are fine.  You are not going to have a panic attack right now.  You are healthy and nothing bad will happen."  Sometimes it works. Sometimes I have to say that out loud to myself no matter how bat shit crazy I may seem at the time.  

When my name was called and the assistant asked me  how I was doing I almost snapped back at her  "I would be alot better if I wasn't HERE"  but I resisted the urge.  As she handed me the gown instructing me to open to the front I thought to myself "Yeah, yeah, I know girlie, not my first time unfortunately."  As you can tell I get a little bitchy when I am a nervous wreck.  I will never understand why the hell they leave you in the examining room for so dam long.  By the time 30 minutes had passed I was in super pacing mode like a caged animal looking to break free.  My palms were sweating again and my inner dialogue was lost on me.  Nothing was working.  I refused to sit on the table and wait so I continued to pace that cubicle of a room until she finally walked in.  

After all the travel time and the hour of angst my exam lasted all of 5 minutes.  Thankfully the boobs checked out fine.  No palpable lumps or bumps in them or my arm pits.  As I breathed a sigh of relief she told me to come back in 6 months for my mammo and followup visit. 

As I stepped out onto the pavement on 64th street and headed to my car I wondered if it would ever get easier.  I wondered if it would ever feel like a "normal" doctor appointment.  And then I stopped and thought  "What the hell is normal anyway?"

How do you handle your doc appointments?  Do you have any crazy rituals you use to maintain your sanity in the waiting room?  Do ever wonder if the post treatment anxiety will ever end?  

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Scary Part of Cancer. . . For Ethan Zohn Its the Medical Bills

As you probably already know Ethan Zohn of Survivor fame is going through treatment for Hodgkins Disease.  He is now another face of young adult cancer which hopefully will bring more awareness to our lost age group.  I saw this video on where he is documenting his journey.  The video is super short but speaks volumes about the state of healthcare in our country.  And I could soooo relate.  

When I was going through my treatment for breast cancer I luckily had good insurance.  But still there were copays and part of my reconstruction that was not covered cost 4,000 dollars.  At the time (this was 2001) that there was  bill passed stating that surgery related to breast cancer including all reconstruction was to be covered by insurance.  But somehow with all I was going through with my surgery, chemo and trying to hold down a full time job my bills started to get thrown into a big pile called "things I just can't deal with right now"  I often felt as though I needed someone to help me with that big pile of shit constantly calling to me from my kitchen table.  I was scared, depressed, and I couldn't focus to read any of that crap.  And I paid the price, literally.  By the time I had finished my chemo and was feeling better I started to sift through that pile and found the 4,ooo dollar bill for part of my reconstruction.  I was finally all ready to file a grievance to my insurance company only to read in the fine print that the grace period was over.  I screwed myself. 

And the bills don't stop as a survivor.  There are costly scans, doc visits, bloodwork, and the occasional scary biopsy.  2 years ago I went through one of those scary biopsies for my boob in an MRI machine.  The cost $12,000 dollars!  And it was thankfully benign. I was still healthy.  But although I have good insurance I still had to pay the 30% which added up to quite alot of dough.  

I am never without getting a billing statement from Sloan Kettering for my followups.  I am so thankful that I am healthy and alive but cannnot help be bitter about the downsides of life after cancer.  Besides the residual side effects from chemo the medical bills never seem to stop.

Kudos to Ethan for so candidly sharing his fears and frustration with this aspect of the cancer experience.  

What did you think of Ethan's video? Were you drowning in medical bills during your treatment?  Did you have insurance or even if you did, was it good enough?  How did you deal with your financial issues while fighting for your life?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

My Boobs Hurt Just Thinkin 'Bout It!

The pain usually starts about a month ahead of the scheduled checkup with my breast surgeon.  After all these years one might think it would be easy.  Sometimes I think it should be.  I wish that it could be.  But its sooo not. I see her twice a year which pretty much entails a boob exam and discussion of how I am doing all in the span of 7 - 10 minutes.  This time I don't even have any testing to do.  My mammo is not until the winter.  This should be a cakewalk appointment for me.  Maybe that is too much to expect from myself.  Maybe its too much pressure.  

The anticipation has always been my problem.  The obsessing I do and the negative places my mind likes to frequent especially at these times are not good for me.  I try to work hard at staying positive but old habits die hard I guess.  All those associated reactions just overwhelm me sometimes and take over.  I am hoping that as in my last post about recent city trips the good thoughts will carryover when I head to Sloan Kettering on Tuesday.  

Do you ever obsess over your doc appointments way ahead of time?  How do you handle the fear and anxiety?  Have you ever skipped one out of sheer fear? (Something I have highly considered on many an occasion!)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Associated Reactions. . . Ever Have 'Em??

In my recent post on how smells affected our memory I neglected to write about my associated reaction with the Metro North Train to NYC.  Since surviving cancer my love of NYC has been somewhat tainted.  I had all of my surgery, treatment, and followup visits at Sloan Kettering in the city.  I feel very grateful to have found doctors I love at such a great hospital.  But all the trips into the city for chemo, and multiple train rides to followup tests and the like now tend to make me sick.  And I mean that literally.

Whenever I take the train to one of my doc appointments I start to fell sick from when I wake up that morning.  I feel nauseous, have a headache, and get the runs.  This happens without fail.  By the time I am boarding the train the first whiff of the pleather seats and urine sends me into a tailspin.  It reminds me of being sick, of needle sticks and  MRI machines.  So when I would hop the train to something fun in the city like going to dinner with my husband, or meeting a friend for a day of shopping the same thing would happen.  It has been so dam frustrating.  Who wants to feel sick when you are supposed to be going to have fun.  I didn't know how to tell that part of my brain that my train ride wasn't about cancer.  I theorized that the more fun things I went to the city for I would feel less of the associated reaction.  The bad experiences out weighted the good ones.

Until yesterday.  I think I finally had a breakthrough.  This past month I have had 3 trips to the city which is alot for me.  I saw a friend for dinner a couple of weeks ago, then Tuesday on my birthday and then yesterday I hopped the train by myself to meet a friend for lunch.  I woke up yesterday with trepidation hoping I wouldn't feel the headache and stomach pains.  And amazingly I didn't.  By the time I got to the train station and was boarding I happily noticed that I did not feel sick at all.  I actually felt pretty good.  No anxiety or sickness.  And that made me happy!  Finally a good train ride!  I had a great time with my friend and on the train home felt good that I have made progress.  I can only hope it continues.

Do you ever have associated reactions such as this?  Does it ever make you anxious or frustrated?  How do you deal?