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Archive for the ‘breast cancer’ Category

Life Isn’t Fair

Two years ago – three years after my diagnosis – a friend I had met country line dancing in London (yes, there really is such a thing) reached out to me. I hadn’t seen her since we were both living in London, as I moved back to the US and she moved home to New Zealand. She had been re-reading my entire blog because she, too, had just been told she had breast cancer. And tonight I learned she lost her battle.

I am heartbroken. Chris was such a beautiful, kind soul. Why, why did this have to happen??? We have come so far in oncology. And so much money is poured into breast cancer research. (So much so that some complain that it takes away from other cancer research.) Yet so many people still die from the disease. Even when supposedly caught early, as they had initially thought with Chris. We have to do more and stop this horrible thing called cancer!

I just looked back at the messages we exchanged. I was so stupidly naive, thinking everyone will be as lucky as me, telling her that while it is tough now, it will get better, she will get past it. I truly believed that. But I was wrong. It is not always the case.

I despise these harsh reminders of how precious life is. Can’t we learn to really appreciate each day (and each other) without someone having to die to remind us? Life isn’t fair.

It is an absolute fact: life really isn’t fair – but it is what we make of it. And Chris made the most of it: dancing, traveling, laughing and smiling. Thank you, Chris, for being such a stellar example of living life to its fullest, brimming over with faith and love your whole life through. We will try to remember that, and follow your example. xoxoxo

 

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Just writing that title made me smile and also want to cry a little simply because I am so thankful to get to be 42. Actually, I did both last night: Cory rolled over after midnight, said, “Happy birthday!” kissed me and then started to fall asleep. I, however, felt this huge gush of relief to have made it to 42 and, while I tried to hold it in (knowing he’d freak out), the tears started flowing, the convulsing sobs escaped and he bolted up, “Are you ok? What? What’s wrong???”

“I’m just… so happy… and thankful… to get… to turn… 42,” I eventually got out between the sobs  He didn’t quite believe me at first. “Really? That’s it???” he asked doubtfully. Really.

Not everyone gets another birthday and, while maybe you don’t have to bawl your eyes out over it, you should be grateful God is letting you have more time on earth with the ones you love. Yes, we may have more wrinkles, more weight, a bit more gray and not be able to do everything that once came easy to us – physically and mentally – but we are here.

I won’t bore you with a list of my blessings – although I will share that I am blessed to be writing this blog from a beach chair in the beautiful Dominican Republic:

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While here, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make 42 one of my best years. Those who know me will agree I am a generally happy person with few regrets (like I wish I fed Nick better when he was little), but I do need to make some changes in my life. So here is what I will attempt (nice caveat, huh?) to do differently in my 42nd year:

  1. I am going to think about the things I put in my mouth and try to eat slowly. I’m a stress eater. A habit I must break if I want to continue to fit in my clothes. And I must get back to running (though my marathon days are over) and yoga or at least some exercise on a regular basis.
  2. I am going to continually remind myself what is really important. Not let myself get so incredibly stressed out (that I’m stuffing food in my face – flashback to #1), or feel like I have to be the first one in the office every day and login every single night. They say your best ideas and most brilliant thoughts come in times of absolute calm, and that’s why people should meditate and practice mindfulness. I love the idea but need a loooooooot of practice! And it’s not just that “me” time I have to make more of. I always want to see more of my friends and family – there is never enough of that. And that is what really matters.
  3. BUT I’m going to try not to feel guilty for not being able to do everything or see everyone. As you may have heard me say, guilt is a wasted emotion. And yes, I need to keep reminding myself of that. We are all better at giving others advice than ourselves.
  4. This year I hope to realize that I may not be able to change or save the entire world but I can make a difference every day even in the little things I do. (That’s what I dreamt about last night after my crying attack – trying to save the world. I failed. Sorry.) But seriously, did you see that ad during the Super Bowl? We can all turn off the faucet when we brush our teeth – and so much more, without shouldering the entire burden of world peace.
  5. Be present more. Stop looking at my phone so much. Don’t freak out when I’m disconnected. This vacation in paradise is helping me practice that. And yes, I may be spending more time online than I have in a very long time but it’s all reading my friends’ blogs and posts and news – fun stuff, not work!
  6. My most concrete resolution for myself this year is to be more responsible with my money. I am very blessed to have a great job that pays me well, and yet I still have a ton of debt and my son pays more attention to my 401k than I do. I am a smart woman and it’s time I stopped acting stupid about money. When I think how much money I throw away on silly things I want to slap myself. I’m not saying I can’t spoil myself or the ones I love – that’s why I work so hard (well, one of the reasons), but I need to know I really want something before buying just because I can. And I could probably make a bigger impact if I was more focused and thoughtful with my charitable giving.
  7. Along those same lines of thinking about what I am spending my money on, instead of scrolling Amazon for gifts (or myself), I am going to buy things from my incredibly talented friends and other artisans and small business owners like Melissa Houlihan’s designs, Jason Covert’s cool art and Sam’s aprons. And if I ever get another tattoo I’ll go to Larry DiGiusto. (Note: my mom’s my favorite artist and writer, but I still get her stuff for free. 😉 )
  8. And I will read what some of my eloquent friends are writing like writing like Sue Stevens books, Arlene Lagos’ books and blogs like Champagne Thursday by Jess and Surgical Strikes 2.0 by Dan. I will also continue to watch my friends work like Jay in Fat, Mike in Yellow Brick Road, and the reality TV like Hollywood Medium by Duffy and Pit Bulls and Parolees by Jen. And can’t forget all that Cesha has worked on including the upcoming Ghostbusters and recent Black Mass (ok, I’m sorry, I’m not really going to see that – but would if I thought it would make a difference!) I could go on and on – I have so many talented friends – and I am going to support them more.
  9. Which reminds me of my own writing and my ninth and final (for now) resolution: I’m only going to say something if I’m going to actually do it. Like writing my book. Which one, you may ask? I did start 16 and Pregnant but haven’t gotten far. The road trip book can wait. I think the breast cancer book is the most important. Approximately one-to-two new people are referred to my blog every month, even though it’s been more than a year since I really stopped updating it. I get the nicest notes about how finding it has helper her/her mother/sister/friend through their battle. Imagine how many people it could help if I put it in book form and published it?

So that’s what I really want to do in my 42nd year: Slow down, breath, learn to relax, think more, do more selectively, get a bit smarter, appreciate and help others. Makes me smile (and not cry) just thinking about it! Thank you, Lord, for this 42nd year!

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I know I don’t really blog about my cancer experience anymore, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t think about it every day. Once you have had cancer, it will never not be part of your every day life. Today was a prime example.

I am starting a new job soon and decided it is time to bite the bullet and cut my hair. Nothing dramatic, just a trim to get rid of the dead-ends, but even that activates the butterflies in my stomach. You see, it has been nearly three years since my last haircut. And that really wasn’t by choice.

As most of you know because you’ve been following this blog for most of my journey (thank you!), in May 2012, when I heard after surgery that I would need chemo and would lose all my hair, I decided to have a little fun with it. First, I asked my friend Leane to give me a cute cut, just above my shoulders, so I could donate the hair to Locks of Love. That wasn’t too bad – it was really a cute cut and I knew the hair went to something good.

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Then a couple of weeks later, right before I started chemo, I had her chop it really short. That was more difficult to swallow. I never wanted hair that short… But I knew that I couldn’t handle having long strands falling out.

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And then came chemo. The morning I woke up to hair all over my pillow, I knew it was time. I went to a barber and asked him to shave it bald. He cut as close as possible, but then I had Nick shave it for me.

IMG_0860And that was my last hair cut. Through the bald months, I remember gazing longingly at my friend and sister breast cancer survivor Janie’s very long, beautiful hair on Facebook, and asking her how long before my hair would grow back. She reassured me it would be back before I knew it, but I didn’t really believe her – it seemed like forever…

It’s been two years since my hair started growing back. I was so proud of the little tufts – baby bird hair, as my friend Kim and her daughter Maddie called it.

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As my hair has grown back, I have loved every minute of it. I am so thankful to have hair, I will never complain about it: A bad hair day is still better than a no hair day!

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But I can’t let it just keep growing forever – for it to remain healthy, I knew it was time for a cut. I’ve been preparing myself for this, so thought it would be easy. Nope.

After finishing my last pre-marathon long run (yay! 9 days until I am Running for Rare Diseases in the Boston Marathon!), I took a quick shower and ran down the street to Sanela Salon. I sat down in the chair, looked at Jordan, my stylist, and started to explain to her that this was my first haircut in nearly three years and that it was all new hair. And my eyes started to fill. I promised her I wouldn’t cry through the whole cut! She smiled, said it was fine and we quickly agreed that an inch and some long layers were a good start.

IMG_0852As Jordan started to cut, I actually exhaled. I realized that just because someone cuts your hair, it doesn’t mean it’s all going to fall out. I didn’t even know that’s what I was scared of, it is so silly and unrealistic. But that was the chain of events before, so I guess it was just ingrained in the back of my mind.

Now the first cut is done – and no more tears! I am so thankful to have hair and I love every strand! (And yes, Janie, you were right! 😉 )

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p.s. I’d love it if you would add a song to my marathon playlist! Just go to my fundraising page, donate $5 per song, and put the song titles and artists in the comments section. I will add them to my marathon playlist and think of you when they come on while I’m running the marathon! Thank you! (Can’t wait to hear your song choices!)

If you’re going to be at the Boston Marathon, please let me know where you will be along the route so I can watch for you! 🙂

Can’t make it but still want to track me? (I will start about 11:15 a.m. on Marathon Monday, April 20). All you need is my bib number (My bib # is 28153) and you can either text or email:

    • TEXT – Simply text my Bib Number (28153) to 234567 using your cell phone. You will then receive an sms text response confirmation. You will receive up to 6 texts per bib number. Message & data rates may apply. Text STOP to cancel. Text HELP for help.
    • EMAIL – Go to http://www.baa.org/…/participant-inf…/att-athlete-alert.aspxSign-up using your mobile phone number for SMS text message updates, or by entering an email address for email updates.

Thank you for your support!!!

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