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Archive for the ‘Dating’ Category

If you read my last blog entry – Vanessa’s reflections – you know I started this list last month. So now I’ve been 40 for almost a month rather than 9 days, but other than that, everything else still applies…

I have been 40 for exactly 9 days now and it was just when writing that headline that it started to sink in. Wow – I’m 40! There’s just something so different when you write it versus when you say it… Anyway, I won’t dwell in awe (at least not here). I’ve learned a lot in my 40 years – especially the last two spent in the cancer world – and thought I’d share some of it here. No, none of it’s brain surgery (and much of it’s splashed in pretty graphics on Facebook posts), but sometimes it’s nice just to be reminded of the simple things we all, hopefully, eventually come to realize. So here are 40* things I’ve learned in my 40 years:

  1. Smile. Even when you want to cry, scream, throw something, hit someone. Seriously, just smile. It does help.
  2. Don’t overanalyze. Anything. Men/women, doctors’ faces, actions, words, whatever. It’s doubtful you’ll figure out what they really think/mean/intend anyway. Why waste your time?
  3. If you don’t know, ask. Ask anyone anything. It’s the only way you have a chance at discovering the truth. And it’s the best way to learn.
  4. Never stop learning. Take a class, read a book, go to a seminar, join a club. I’m going to learn French (for real this time). And maybe even how to cook. (Nah, maybe I’ll leave that one to Cory.)
  5. There are at least two sides to every story. Even the one I’m telling right now. We all come at things from different perspectives, so can rarely see the full pictures ourselves. (Like Nick says I cook better than I give myself credit for, but I wouldn’t win any contests.)
  6. Speaking of – did you know that you have to enter contests to win?! That includes the lottery. Which probably explains why I haven’t won.
  7. It can take longer to convey your thought in 140 characters than it can in 500 words. (Just ask Jessi!)
  8. Listen. To everyone. Think about what they say. Consider. Absorb. Don’t just rush to respond, explain or prove your own point. Sometimes we need to just listen.
  9. I know that takes patience. Patience is truly a virtue. One I’ve often admitted in this blog that I don’t have. (Just ask Nick – he will confirm this.) But I am trying. If you see me taking lots and lots of deep breaths, you’ll know I’m trying to be patient. It definitely doesn’t come easy to me…
  10. Keep breathing. Literally and figuratively. Yes, there are some things beyond our control in this area – like getting the cancer diagnosis at 38. But there are so many things we can all do to improve our health and that will help us breathe a little easier – especially when walking up many flights of stairs!
  11. Any day can be your last. Or your loved one’s last. So make that day – and every day – count.
  12. Tell people you love them.
  13. Don’t hold grudges.
  14. Spend your time where it truly matters – with the people you love. Yes, we all have to go to work and other obligations, but…
  15. No one really cares if your house is clean. Probably not even your mother. She’d much rather you visit her than stay home scrubbing the tub.
  16. We don’t have to do everything for everyone. Even when we want to do it all, it doesn’t mean it’s the best idea – or even physically possible. So…
  17. Learn to say no. It’s really not a bad word. It’s not even four letters. You can say it nicely: “I’d really love to but…”
  18. Learn to ask for help. Or at least accept help when it’s offered. I was struggling to lug two suitcases and a giant purse the other day when a guy offered to carry one. What did I say? “No worries, I’ve got it.” Why? Why did I say that? Accept the help, Amy!
  19. Be kind. (That means to yourself, too!) Even when others are not. You never know what is going on in someone else’s life.
  20. Share. Share what you learn, share your experiences, share your thoughts, share your opinions. We all have a story to tell. And your story may just be the one that makes someone realize they’re not alone. That’s why I write this blog. If it can help just one person, it’s worth it.

*Disclaimer: I have learned more than 40 things in my 40 years. This is just a sampling of some of my favorite things I’ve learned, not an all-inclusive list.  And yes, I realize there are only 20 above. The final 20 will be in the next blog – an exciting two-part series! 😉

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I love lists. Nothing helps me feel more organized and in control than making a thorough list. I make lists for everything: to-do lists, topics I want to cover in this blog, places to visit, lists for Nick. And I write the lists on everything from napkins to the back of receipts (and sometimes even in my iPhone) and hopefully they eventually get transferred into my Arc notebook (best invention ever: moveable pages, so I no longer agonize over what to write on the first page). And it’s the time of year for the list of all lists: New Year’s resolutions.

Before I jump into my latest list focused on 2014, I want to take a minute to look back on 2013. I can hardly believe it’s over! It definitely beat the 2011/12 combo hell year by eons – especially the last few months – but wasn’t exactly a cake walk:

With Nick and Tara, ringing in 2013.

With Nick and Tara, ringing in 2013.

  • It began with me nearly bald, with just some wisps making their way back, and still going through radiation, with one deflated boob.
  • One of my dear friends became a US citizen, at an incredibly moving ceremony at Faneuil Hall, which I was so honored to witness.
Boston, February 9. 2013

Boston, February 9. 2013

  • My birthday was marked by one of the year’s biggest blizzards – an appropriate end to my hellish 38th year – and getting to reinflate my right boob.
Disney March 2013

Disney March 2013

  • Celebrated new beginnings (and the end of treatment other than Tamoxifen) with Kevin, Tara, Nick, Mike, Shannon, Julian, Janie, Monique, Steve and Kelli, and many other family and friends in fabulous Walt Disney World.
Pre-marathon breakfast in Ashland with our Warrior paint on!

Pre-marathon breakfast in Ashland with our Warrior paint on!

  • April brought incredible highs and lows with our Genzyme Boston Marathon Team fundraisers and celebrations, and then the shocking tragic end when the marathon was viciously cut short for the team, Tara and thousands of others. It was the scariest day of my life, as I know it was for so many others.
One Fund fundraiser at Towne, April, 2013

One Fund fundraiser at Towne, April, 2013

  • And less than two weeks after the marathon, Andrew and I threw together a fundraiser for the One Fund that brought in more than $3,000 for the victims.
BAA 10k, June 2013

BAA 10k, June 2013

  • I ran my first 10k (Thanks Lisa!), and learned to deal with lymphedema. (Note to self: Don’t forget sleeve when running!) I also learned to love headbands – anything to control the uncontrollable curls (but ever thankful for any hair!).

IMG_1336 IMG_1902 IMG_2524 IMG_2534 heath aldeanIMG_3334

  • It was a summer – a year, really – of incredible concerts with my best friends and family.

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  • Fall brought the Jimmy Fund Boston Marathon Walk (thank you so much to all who sponsored us!!!) and Paris.
  • Of course, it also brought the month of Pink – and I was so thankful so many family and friends joined me for many of the walks, runs, fundraisers – and to cheer me on while I got my first tattoo!
  • Both sets of my parents celebrated 30 years of marriage – and I couldn’t be more thankful for all four of them, and that they each found each other. I know I wouldn’t be me without all of them (or have my two awesome, unique brothers).
  • The Red Sox won the World Series!
  • Several of my friends and family celebrated milestone birthdays and either met, got engaged or married the love of their lives… in fact, I have  (I can’t believe I’m admitting this publicly) Tinder to thank for getting Cory and me together, which really has made my whole life happier…
Best second date EVER!

Best second date EVER!

  • And in December I finally had what was hopefully my final cancer-related surgery: the implants. And I can finally pull my hair back into a baby pony tail. A pretty great way to end 2013…

Now, I’m not one who subscribes to the idea that resolutions are only for January 1. I make them – and evolve them – throughout the year. In fact, I just stumbled upon the list I made on the plane ride home from LA in March 2012, the night before I found the first lump and life changed forever. It’s actually a little painful to glimpse the person I was that day, so innocent of  what was growing inside me. I was thinking about cleaning out my wardrobe, getting my finances in order, running more, getting a healthier love life, career development opportunities. So… typical. Most of the list was simply forgotten, as all of my focus shifted to ridding my body of the cancer. Some of the things on that list – like go to France and join a community board – happened in 2013. Some are just making it back to my list now for 2014 – like get more involved in a communications industry organization and run a half marathon. (Half, Phil, half. Not whole. That’s not on any of my lists!) And others will probably be recurring themes on my lists forever: be healthier (run more, eat better), get organized, spend less.

But this year’s list is different. Yes, I am sure I will have sub-lists with many of those same things on it, but I want to prioritize and simplify my 2014 list.

  1. Live in the present. Cory, his mom and I debated the wording of this one, as he insisted on pointing out that you really can’t live in any other time unless you have a DeLorean and are friends with Doc Brown. But you know what I mean! Don’t dwell on the past and don’t agonize over the future. And don’t live on my phone/computer. I don’t need to see every Facebook, Twitter or Instagram update – constantly looking at my phone takes away from the real life I’m living, and the time I’m spending with the ones I love. Let yourself be in the moment, right now, right here, and enjoy it. Which really leads to…
  2. Slow down. I’m always running around, crazy busy. And it’s not always necessary, or for things that matter.
  3. Spend time with the people I love. That’s what does matter. The people in your life. And I am so blessed to have many incredible people in my life and I want them to know how much they mean to me. And nothing says that more than the gift of your time. I know I am happiest when I’m just hanging out with my friends and family…
  4. Be healthier. Ok, yes, this is on the list above, and is ‘typical’ but I can’t help it. I texted Tara the other day that as much as I hate running, I need it. I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, grouchy more than normal and it hit me: I am simply happier when I’m running and eating better. So I’m actually anxious for this mandated rest period while my chest heals to end. Of course, I hate the cold, so the real running may not completely ramp up until spring, but I can start eating better and running on the treadmill. It will help make me…
  5. Be a better person. I stole this one from Cory. I love it. It’s exactly what I want to do this year. I want to be a better person for me, and for everyone around me – and ultimately to help make the world a better place. I want to pay it forward for all the love and kindness you all bestow upon me all the time. I’m going to think more positively and mute the negative. I want to learn – both to enhance my knowledge for my career and for enjoyment. I want people to know they can count on me, I want to realize that I don’t need to do everything myself and I want to learn to trust. I want to help people through their tough times, as so many have helped me these last couple of years. Above all else, I want to say “thank you” more, to pray more, and to make sure that everyone I love knows how much they mean to me. Kind of like Live Like You Were Dying, huh?

I know many others are thinking along the same lines as me on their lists this year. In fact, Tara posted a link to this great list on my Facebook page, and she really is right on: Resolving to Care More and Slow Down in 2014 by Doree Shafrir for BuzzFeed. Can you imagine how much happier we would all be if we all had lists like this – and actually followed through with them? I’m going to do my best to live this list in 2014. Please help me – call me out if I’m not living it!

Wishing you all your happiest, healthiest year yet! And I want to hear what’s on YOUR list!

xo

Amy

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For some reason I find it funny that on the same day that Dana-Farber published my blog on Dating and Cancer 101, I went to the House of Blues to see Pat Benatar sing Love is a Battlefield. Yes, I’m a child of the 80s and much of what I learned about love was through lyrics.

We are strong
No one can tell us we’re wrong
Searching our hearts for so long
Both of us knowing
Love is a battlefield

And, as anyone who reads this blog regularly or knows me at all knows, I love music. There’s a constant soundtrack to my life and Love is a Battlefield is definitely one that has been a recurring theme!

Back to the blog for Dana-Farber. I would do anything for that place – and to help others going through the nightmare that was my last year. So when Robbin asked if I’d be interested in writing on this topic, I said sure, why not? No, it’s not easy admitting you were lonely and, well, maybe not quite desperate, but desperate for some attention. And some reassurance that you’re not just still attractive, but actually datable.  But if sharing that vulnerability with others helps even just one woman going through treatment know she’s not alone in what she’s feeling and fearing, it’s worth it. So I wrote it and it debuted on Dana Farber’s blog and Facebook page today.

What’s also kind of funny is that while the experience I wrote about for the blog took place a year ago, I’m in a similar place now. The only real difference is I have some real hair back – which is a very big thing, I must say. And I’m not going through treatment, so definitely look and feel healthier. And with all that comes more self-confidence, which is really everything.  Every day I get another inch further away from the cancer patient label and back to my prefered regular girl designation. But as far as dating goes, it’s not that different cancer or no cancer. Either way, love is a battlefield…

With my friends Gail and Abby at the Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo concert at The House of Blues in Boston.

With my friends Gail and Abby at the Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo concert at The House of Blues in Boston.

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I put my wigs away this weekend. That statement may surprise those of you who see me nearly every day and haven’t seen a wig on my head in months. I made the unconscious decision to stop wearing the wigs long before a real hair started to grow back on my head. And then it was a conscious one, when I was at the really awkward stage with just a few scattered tufts of hair and many bald spots – a defiant, I-don’t-care-what-I-look-like-and-screw-you-if-you-don’t-like-me-for-it kind of attitude (much tougher than I really felt inside). And finally, I didn’t need them as – sighs of relief – the follicles began to sprout faster, and the bald spots filled in. But I couldn’t bring myself to rid my room of the ever-present long (and short) hair perched on my shelf. Until now.

I only once in the last couple of months considered putting one of the wigs back on my head. I was going out for a night on the town and really wanted to flirt. And believe me when I say I have done my research and nothing tops having long hair when you want to attract attention. (Ok, maybe a few things, but that’s not the kind of attention I was looking for!) Men will overlook a lot of other flaws if you have beautiful, long hair. But my pride won out and I went with my own boy-like hair. Yes there was a tad bit of flirting, but I was flung back to reality when the guy was staring at the picture on my phone (he didn’t believe I had a 21-year-old son, so I showed him the picture of Nick with me in the red dress from last January) and he said “Wow, you’re beautiful!” But not looking at the me in front of him, looking at the pre-cancer me (with long, brown hair) from one year ago. Forget strikes one and two – that will count as three and you – are – out!

I had a lot of fun with my wigs in the beginning. They helped me get comfortable with the new me. Made me feel a bit better when I looked in the mirror. Helped me poke fun at the stupid thing called cancer. And I want to donate them to help other women do the same. But just not yet. I did loan a couple of them to a friend who is going through treatments now. But the others, now in a hatbox in my room, are almost a security blanket. I need a step process for this. First, out of sight but accessible. They are there if I need them, if suddenly I wake up, and all my hair is on my pillow, again. Not that it’s likely I’d put one on, even then, but I’d have options. And hopefully in the next few weeks, I will forget they are there. I will be secure that the hair on my head is here to stay. And one day, maybe in a couple of months, I will stumble across them and want the storage space for something else – like barrettes and headbands and elastics for my growing locks. And then I can find someone to pass them on to, who is at the start of her cancer journey and needs those wigs to boost her confidence and mood – to be her security blanket – as I let go.

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It is officially the new year. 2013. I couldn’t be happier to say goodbye to 2012, easily the worst year of my life. But in really looking at it, I don’t think it was necessarily 2012 – I think it may have  been 38. You see, 2012 really seemed more like a continuation of 2011. It just flowed over, so that 2012 was like 2011 Part 2. At work we were in the midst of intense preparation for our planned shutdown all winter, and then personally I was looking forward to an early January first date – so all those things continued from 2011 into 2012, making it kind of one big year.

Then I turned 38 in February – and I thought things would be different. Oh, and different they were! I was starting to see someone whose life is as crazy as mine (recipe for disaster), we spent Valentine’s night in the hospital, and then, of course, in March I found the lump. Pretty much all downhill from there. So that means (to me) 38 was to blame, not 2012.

Don’t get me wrong, 2013 feels incredible – there is a hope in the air that wasn’t there before. An excitement that you can feel. Things will be better! So many people had a bad year – I’ve never seen so many people clamoring for a fresh start – that this is good for everyone! And in one month I will turn 39. I will be done with radiation. I’ll have my left breast re-expanded so I can be even again, and THAT will be my real fresh start!

And 39 is my number, always has been. My birthday is on the 9th, I’ve always liked things in threes, always prefered odd numbers to even, and 1939 was a fabulous year: they made Gone With the Wind AND The Wizard of Oz, two of my favorite movies. I’ve always looked forward to being 39 (strange, I know), and now even more so.

2013/39 is going to be the year of ME. Sounds rather selfish, I know, but I need it. How can I be any good for anyone else if I’m not happy with me? So I’m going to get healthy – in mind, body and spirit. No extreme diets, joining a new gym or setting unrealistic resolutions. Simply getting back to eating better, running and finding a way to get a good night’s sleep. Growing my hair, eyelashes and eye brows. Losing the chemo weight. Of course I have other goals in mind, relating to work, volunteering, travel, relationships – but they really aren’t achievable unless I’m healthy and happy, so that has to come first.

So that is my wish for all of you, my dear friends and family: good health and happiness. Every day is a new opportunity for a fresh start, whether it’s January 1, your birthday, the first of the month or just a Monday – you can seize any day to start over and become the person you want to be. Happy 2013 – make it the year of you!

Silly, spiky hair after my first run of the new year - but at least it's hair!

Silly, spiky hair after my first run of the new year – but at least it’s hair!

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As I sat down in my reconstructive surgeon’s waiting room at Brigham and Women’s this afternoon for the first time in months, I had this strange surge of emotion. My mind immediately jumped back to May when I was sitting in the very same seat, furiously texting with the guy I was seeing. I remember fighting back tears as I typed, so depressed because everyone else in the waiting room was holding the hand of a significant other except me – and part of me blamed him for not being there even though I didn’t even tell him I had the appointment that day. I knew that didn’t make sense, but not much made sense at that time.

Sitting there today, I thought of how far I’ve come. Today I breezed in there smiling, confidently bald (can I still call it that with the baby hair on my head?), rushing straight from work; in stark contrast to months ago when I slowly trudged down the hospital hall in sweats and no makeup, feeling like all the life had been sucked out of me – and unable to see beyond the devastating moment.

While I don’t love my current situation, I accept it. While I don’t like being bald, I can handle it. And while it would be great to have some incredible guy by my side, I would rather be alone than with the wrong one, or one who doesn’t want to be here.

I’ve even come to terms with radiation. Today was the first step: partially deflating my left breast so it doesn’t get in the way during radiation. I talked through things with Dr. H and he assured me that while this will be longer, it’s the right order and he will do everything he can when it’s his turn. I felt better when I left – although it’s hard getting used to one smooshy breast (like those squishy gel toys) and one that’s hard as a rock! February can’t come soon enough – that’s when I’ll visit Dr. H again and get reinflated. And hopefully I will be able to schedule the surgery then, too, depending how I did through radiation – which I am determined will go well.

For at least the moment, my overwhelmingly positive and determined attitude has returned. I started today practically giddy (I even warned several people). Why? Because today is Tuesday and for the first time in months, I got to go to work! (AKA – No more chemo!) And not only did I get to go to work, but I started the day welcoming people at New Hire Orientation, which I always find invigorating. So by the time I was back in my office, I was raring to go! If only I could bottle that feeling…

Giving Tuesday

I couldn’t let today go by without mentioning Giving Tuesday. Unlike Black Friday and Cyber Monday, this is a day to use your money to make a real difference. It doesn’t have to be today – I know, it is quite late – but can be any day of the year. In fact, I will once again be purchasing most of my Christmas gifts online here:

  • Dana-Farber – Our Giving Catalog is full of gifts that benefit adult and pediatric patients and advance Dana-Farber’s lifesaving mission. Gifts range from supporting clinical trials to stocking our toy closet.

After making your selection and donation, you can either send someone an e-card or print cards to give as gifts. I think people will appreciate it as much this year as they did last. I know it’s certainly more personal to me this year, and there’s no present I’d rather than this.

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Last night I went to my (gulp) 20 year high school reunion. And I had an absolute blast. The only bad thing was that it wasn’t long enough and many of us couldn’t believe it when the bar was kicking us out because they wanted to close. Of course, Nicole (one of my closest school friends) and I ended up talking even longer in my car until we realized that we better both get on the road before we were too tired to drive. The whole thing wiped me out so much that I slept until 1:30 this afternoon and never got out of my pjs!

I spent much of the day (once I finally woke up) replaying some of last night’s conversations in my head. It was a lot like speed dating, in that there were so many people to talk to with that you mainly had fairly short, but hopefully meaningful, spurts of dialogue. Then something would happen to push you apart, and although you said you’d be back, the time flew by so fast, inevitably that was the end of the discussion. 10 years – which is when most of us were last together, at our last reunion – is just too long. Even with Facebook.

And then there were many that you never even got to connect with – again, because time ran out – and several more that weren’t able to be there at all. So many missed!

But then there were the gems of the night – the real food for thought…

  • about love – that if it’s right, it can last, even if you met in school. And if you haven’t found your love yet, make sure that you hold out for the right person, that he or she is out there, and until then, enjoy dating and ‘companionship.’
  • about life – know that you can start over whenever and wherever you want. It’s all up to you and only you can stop you.
  • about friendship – that it doesn’t matter how many years go by, there are some people you will always instantly click and feel comfortable with. And often they are the ones to introduce you to new people who are destined to become your new friends.
  • about people – that everyone has a story, if you’ll only listen.
  • about acceptance – that if you are honest, open and comfortable with yourself, they will appreciate and accept you for who you are.

Many people asked how I was doing, and others simply offered words of support – my favorite was the big, long bear hug and the whispered words of “you know what I’m saying, right?” I know – and thank you!

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