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“All you can change is yourself, but sometimes that changes everything.” – Anonymous

The past two weeks I’ve been beat up, beat down, sucked in, worn out, and had more extreme highs and lows than a rollercoaster  – definitely felt the whiplash. Worst of all, it did such a job on my self-worth that I didn’t even feel like or recognize myself. I felt helpless and lost. (And dumb and unattractive and naïve and…) And I just went with all of it. Let it happen. I was at the mercy of the people and circumstances around me. And I was seriously worried that I’d never be me again – I didn’t know how to get the strong, independent, positive woman back.

“Time heals what reason cannot.” – Anonymous

I know it was not a very long time (although it felt like years) but somehow, I’ve snapped back. I feel like me again. I don’t know if it was time, telling my story (see below), the tattoo (also below), the Red Sox going to the World Series (woo hoo!!!) or what, but somehow this morning I woke up for the first time like “I’ve got this.” I can take my life back. And I’m going to.

“When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen.” -Harley Davidson

I love that quote! It’s so true. Take control. Be you. Don’t let anyone else dictate your happiness, make you feel like you’re not good enough or think that there is anything you can’t do. (And don’t ever try to ‘fix’ someone else’s life – especially if they don’t want to be helped.) I used to know (and live by) that, and now I’m going to again. To be honest, I’m a little ticked off that this happened during the month of pink, when there were so many events with such great people, but then again, maybe it was keeping busy and doing all the events and seeing everyone that helped me snap back so quickly?

This has been a whirlwind of a Breast Cancer month:

  • Started at the end of September with the Komen walk, followed by the incredible Runway for Recovery event, and then the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk – all of which I already blogged about.
  • Last weekend the fun continued in Providence at the Gloria Gemma Flames of Hope run/walk. Alicia pulled together a team, including her fellow Rhode Island Charity pageant queens, their families and my friend Abby. In addition to all of us walking in the 5k, Alicia even ran the Pink Pump Palooza 50 yard dash in heels!
  • Friday mom joined me for Dana-Farber’s Breast Cancer in Young Women Forum. Because of how I’ve been feeling, I couldn’t even focus or make myself really think through what I was going to say until that morning. I’ve been in such a fog, I really didn’t want to do anything except what I had to. Luckily, I knew I had to do this, so that morning, mom and I left early, went to Dunkin Donuts and thought for a few minutes over tea. Then I told her, “Ok, I’ve got it. The most important thing is to have 1-3 main points. Here’s mine: You’ll hear lots of stories today – that’s the best part of days like today. But the most important thing to remember is it’s all about you. Everyone is different. Some things work for one person, but not another. You are unique: do what’s right for you.” And then, thinking through my story and all that happened since March 2012, I came to my second point: “It doesn’t matter if you’re married, single, have children or live alone – surround yourself with people who love you, who make you happy. That’s what got me through – all the incredibly loving and supportive people I’m so lucky to have in my life. And let them help you – it will help them through it, too.” (See, Tina, I do listen sometimes…) And the talk – and the day – went well… and I started to feel a little more like me…

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  • Friday night, while not breast cancer-related, I went to Salem with friends from our running team, to experience some of the haunted happenings. I know that just spending time with these friends who inspire me with their marathon runs and overall kindness and determination in life helped me feel more like me again…

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  • And finally, Saturday night was one of my favorite nights of the year: the Nashua Harley-Davidson Fashion Show and Live Auction Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Benefit. As you’ll see in the pictures below, Nick, Alicia, Vic and I all had a blast! Robin Dixon, of Nashua Harley-Davidson, is such an amazing supporter of the American Cancer Society and makes the event even bigger and better each year! In addition to winning things in the raffle and auction (and losing a few things like my TV, darn it!), we had fun with people asking to wear Alicia’s crown, the great food and… my first tattoo! Not only did I do one, but Nick also got a pink ribbon – his with wings…

So I’m not sure what actually did it, but somehow, thank God, I am me again. I love my life, am so blessed by all the fabulous people in it, and I will not let myself get lost so easily ever again.

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Just found this quote and it couldn’t be more perfect, so just had to add it:

If you only walk on sunny days you’ll never reach your destination.
—  Paulo Coelho

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When I woke up this morning to another gloomy, drizzly Sunday, I wondered if many would turn up to the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk at the DCR Hatch Shell – or if those I was planning to walk with would decide their couch and TV were more inviting than walking five miles in the rain. (I was truly tempted myself…) And surprised I was! I’ve never done this walk before so am not sure how it really compares to normal, but throngs of people – thousands – filled the Esplanade. And among them was the great team I walked with: The Elisa Squad, for my friend Gina’s mom, a 20 year survivor. Gina’s mom and many of their family walked with us, as did work friends Shay and Naama, Shay’s boyfriend and Naama’s mom – also a cancer survivor. And among our group we had three dogs who stole the show every time we passed a cheering spot! Between the company and the cheering crowds, we barely noticed the rain…photo (7)

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Sometimes I do want to run away. Run away from what happened. Run away from hospitals. Run away from doctors. Run away from tamoxifen. Run away from the rocks on my chest. Run away from cancer. Run away from reality. But last night, instead of running away from their challenges, history and loss, more than 30 strong, brave women and men walked – strutted, danced, skipped down – the runway to celebrate life.

Runway for Recovery is an amazing event that I never knew about until some of my Genzyme friends, Liza and Jamie, asked me if I wanted to help out at the event. It’s an incredible benefit for families who have lost mothers to Breast Cancer, that I understand has grown over the last seven years from a small local fashion show in the suburbs to the amazing professional gala at the posh Revere Hotel on Stuart Street in Boston.

I loved just being there – helping people check in, buy raffle tickets, work the silent auction – lots of great busy, distracting stuff. Then the lights went down… and while it was incredibly well done, with lots of upbeat music and huge energy throughout the room, I cried as the words appeared on the screen describing the models – survivors, children, mothers, grandchildren – and then the pictures of them and their loved ones.

Some things are just so close to home. My biggest fear when I was diagnosed was never dying. It was leaving Nick alone. I’ve said so many times how thankful I am for every day God has given me with him, and I didn’t (don’t) want that to end – no matter how much I say sometimes that I’m going to strangle him! So more than anything this evening of celebrating survivors and honoring those we’ve lost reminded me of how incredibly thankful I am that I did that self check that night, caught it early, and still get to be here with Nick, and all my family and friends. Why would I ever run away???

 

Genzyme volunteers ready for the night to begin!

Genzyme volunteers ready for the night to begin!

 

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Nope, not those tattoos yet – they come a few months after the implant surgery, which is now (finally!) scheduled for Wednesday, December 11. But Dr. H gave me clearance to get my first real tattoo (I’m not counting the six radiation tattoo dots), so long as it’s at least a month before the surgery. So on October 19, at the Nashua Harley-Davidson Fashion Show and Live Auction Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Benefit, I will get my first tattoo! (See? I told you it will be a fun event! You should come and witness it!)

So now I have less than a month to make the final decision: where??? Last weekend I went and bought little pink ribbon temporary tattoos to try them out. I think I’ve narrowed it down to my ankle – although initially I said I didn’t want it anywhere that others could see it, unless I wanted them to – or the upper left corner of my chest, like just under where a tank top or bra strap starts. Decisions, decisions! I guess I will experiment and see what makes me happy…

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20130929-152648.jpg This morning I ran the Susan G. Komen MA Race for the Cure along the very foggy South Boston waterfront, at much too early in the morning for a Sunday. Maybe it was the overcast weather, maybe it was the early morning (you know I’m not a morning person), maybe it was the fact that I was there alone, but the day definitely got to me.

I love the breast cancer events – there are always interesting, strong, inspiring women, a shared mission, electric energy, and a lot of pink. So I thought I’d be ok, going alone. I just figured I’d run instead of walk, since I always prefer to run alone, at my own pace. But there was all the build up before: the survivor parade, pictures and dancing warm up. And it seemed everyone had someone there – family member, friend, significant other. I seemed to be the lone loner – although that’s probably not true. Survivor sisters that we are, women around me soon adopted me. “How many years,” one woman asked. “Oh she’s a newbie,” chimed in another, “just look at her new hair! Love the curls!”

Soon I was on my own again as all went back to their loved ones. The bell went off, I put my standard starting song (Fastest Girl in Town by Miranda Lambert, of course) on my iPod and off I went. I tried to focus on the music, but more watched the interesting mixture of survivors and supporters. The little boy with pink knee socks running with his mom, the big teams in their matching uniforms, the moms running while pushing strollers. And then I heard my name and a friendly face! Pat, one of the first people to share his cancer experience with me and to help me see that a positive attitude can beat cancer any day, was walking on the other side of the road. We exchanged waves and big smiles in the seconds that our path’s crossed, and then he was gone. And all of the sudden the tears started flowing and I couldn’t catch my breath. Breathing while running is actually my biggest challenge, so the crying definitely didn’t help. Seeing Pat was such a high point – but then the reality set in. Yes, you can be completely alone in a sea of people. Even friendly, happy, supportive people.

So I guess the lesson I learned is that I just shouldn’t go to these things alone. I go to breakfast alone, the movies alone, shopping alone, but not this. Some things you just need your own team for – even if it’s a team of one friend! Luckily, there are others joining me for all the rest of the Breast Cancer Awareness Month events – and hopefully even more of you will join in. You know my motto: the more the merrier! So check out the dates and events on the right and let me know if you can join us for any – the Nashua Harley benefit is a great night out, and so worth the drive!

Oh – and I should mention that even with the crying bout, I ran my new personal 5k record: 37:10, 11:58 pace. Slow, I know, but fast for me, as I’m typically a 13 minute mile. I think it was all the positive energy surrounding me, and wanting to finish strong, since the bright pink shirt I was wearing said “survivor.”

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Sometimes I forget. It’s actually getting so that I think about cancer less and less. By this I mean it only pops in my mind a few times a day rather than every few minutes, but still. It’s progress. But in the last week or so there have been more and more reminders:

  • Before the walk and trip, I had an appointment with Dr. H. Luckily, my tissues have relaxed and we are finally able to schedule the implant surgery! It’s looking like December. I am so looking forward to not being rock hard and feeling like a freak any more…
  • A dear friend of mine, who has been so supportive and encouraging through my journey, had a double mastectomy. Rest up and feel better, Jillian!
  • And multiple friends had family members or friends die of cancer. Every day I am so thankful mine was caught so early, and that there are treatments for my type. I know I am so blessed…

And it’s because I am so thankful that I want to do all I can to support others in their cancer journey. While most of the time I’d like to erase it from my mind and pretend it never happened, any time retelling my experience or even just supporting things like walks, can help someone else, count me in! And the month of pink is quickly approaching – in fact, events are starting this month:

  • This Thursday, Sept. 19, 7 p.m. is the Bright Pink Experiential Outreach – Enjoy light bites at  Joe’s American Bar and Grill, Newbury St., Boston, while connecting with other Bright Pink women in your community to discuss mutual experiences. This event is open specifically to high-risk individuals. If you have any questions or to RSVP contact Community@BeBrightPink.org.
  • Sunday, Sept. 29, 9 a.m. is Komen Race for the Cure 5k Walk/Run  in South Boston. It is so much fun – so much pink! 🙂 I’m excited not to be bald for the walk this year! 🙂 Oh – and for a couple more days there is a half off deal for registration on Living Social.
  • Sunday Sept. 29, Nashua, NH, Harley-Davidson Second Annual Save Second Base Ride for Breast Cancer. No, I’m not riding in this but encourage anyone with a bike to do it! Info: http://www.nashuahd.com
  • Thursday, Oct. 3, 7 p.m., Revere Hotel, Boston: Runway for Recovery, a fashion show, silent auction and raffle to benefit families who have lost mothers to breast cancer. I’ll be volunteering with some friends from Genzyme, but you should attend and enjoy the evening!
  • Sunday, Oct. 6, 8 a.m., Hatch Shell, Boston: Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk I’m really looking forward to doing this walk for the first time – the American Cancer Society helps so many people every day, and certainly helped make my experience better…
  • Sunday, Oct. 6, 11 a.m., Worcester Run Like an Antelope: The 2nd Annual Memorial 5K and 1-Mile Fun Walk in Memory of Megan Proceeds go to Metastatic Breast Cancer Research conducted at UMASS Medical School. I am hoping to make it over to this after the walk, if at all possible!
  • Sunday, October 13, 10:15 a.m., Providence, RI – Gloria Gemma Foundation Pink Pump Palooza, 5K Run/Walk and 10K Run – join Alicia and me on the Pink Pumps for a Cure Team or sponsor us! And hey, it starts and ends at Providence Place, so you can get some good shopping in after…
  • Friday, Oct. 18, 8 a.m., Lucca Boston: Breast Cancer in Young Women Forum for Patients and Survivors (A great day, no matter where you are in your cancer journey – and I will be speaking on the patient panel! And Dr. H will be talking at this event, too, so if you need a fabulous reconstruction surgeon…)
  • Saturday, Oct. 19, 4 p.m. Nashua Harley-Davidson Fashion Show and Live Auction – this is organized and run by my friend Robin and it’s one of my FAVORITE events of the year – so much fun! Fun Harley-Davidson Pink Fashion Show, live auction, huge raffle, great BBQ – and I think I’ll even be getting my first tattoo (a survivors ribbon) at the event. Who wouldn’t want to go witness that? LOL!

I’ll try to keep the event list on the right as up-to-date as possible, but never hesitate to e-mail me if you have any questions. Hope you can join us for some (or all) of these great events. Hey, if we have to be in the world of cancer, at least we can be there together, support each other, learn from each other, make each other laugh and smile – and wear pink! 😉

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I’ve been so bad – totally procrastinating about updating this blog. I hate it when I do that. So much builds up, and then it weighs on me, and I know I’ll forget something… oh well! Deep breath and here are the high (and low) points:

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  • THANK YOU, thank you, thank you to EVERYONE who donated to our Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk! Whether you donated $10 or $150, every single cent helps in the fight against cancer! Together, Heather, Tara, Amanda, Calley and Mia-Claire raised more than $3,400!!! I’m so proud of us – especially the little girls for joining us and being so fabulous and not only walking the 13.1 miles, but even throwing some cartwheels in along the way! And it’s not too late to sponsor our team – please help the girls get to their $100 minimum by sponsoring them here: Team Inspire Boston. Thank you!!!
  • As soon as the walk was done, Tara and I ran (well, not literally – we took the T…) back to my house, I showered, changed and she drove me to my cousin’s wedding. It was so fabulous seeing some of my family who I haven’t seen in so long, but couldn’t help crying as I left because my time with them was too short – but I had to catch a plane…
  • Tara and Ella were the best chauffeurs and cheered me up en route to Logan. The flight was ok (I fell asleep praying as we went through major turbulence, but hey, we landed, so all was good) and my arm faired pretty well. (Damn lymphedema.) I put my compression sleeve on while waiting to board the plane and I could tell by the look in the eyes of the woman sitting across from me that she knew exactly what it was for. She looked so kind and sympathetic, I both appreciated it and wanted to scream. I hate feeling like the girl who had cancer!!! Anyway, after all the walking and the flights there and back, there’s not really much noticeable swelling, and only a little pain, mainly in my hand. I have to get back to doing the massages every day, but I haven’t even been doing that. At least I’ve been wearing the sleeve when running. That’s something, right?

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  • Paris: it was a whirlwind work week. I was disappointed by how dark it was in the mornings, so my visions of waking every morning and running along the Seine quickly vanished out the window. I did get one good, five-mile run/walk in on the last day before my flight. It was great, even if the weather wasn’t that wonderful. The conference was really great, though – especially meeting Sanofi communications people from all over the world and hearing about all the great progress we’re making in the healthcare industry. I’m so proud to work for Genzyme, a company that truly cares about making a difference in people’s lives.

Didn’t I write something a little while ago about slowing down??? Hmmm… don’t think that’s happening any time soon…

 

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