Archive | July 2013

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh

Since it’s been ages since I participated in a Weekly Photo Challenge, I thought I would take a brief break from the serious topics I’ve been posting about and share a few photos with you.

I have been overwhelmed with the kind responses to my last post, The Devil is in the Details…and My Bed.  It is taking me a bit of time to respond to you all individually, but I promise to do this and will keep at it because everything you’ve said has helped me tremendously — and each comment means a great deal to me.  And I’m sure your words will continue to help me move in the right direction.  Thank you…

The Weekly Photo Challenge topic for this week is FRESH.  What came to mind was my little pot of fresh basil grown from seed.  You’ll find this tin pot of my favorite herb on my kitchen windowsill:

breast cancer thirties 30's 30s bsdil

And the “fresh” idea the boys hatched when I asked them to take my Mom’s dog and one of our dogs for a walk last night:

2013 boys dogs

This is virtually the same photograph, but my Mom’s dog is a bit more visible in the wagon in this shot so I felt compelled to include it:

2013 boys dogs a

Until we meet again, thank you all…

The Devil is in the Details…and my Bed

Snapped this photo of a piece at the school district art show.  Not sure if I agree with the sentiment, but the flames are fitting at least!

Snapped this photo of a piece at the school district art show. Not sure if I agree with the sentiment, but the flames are fitting at least!

What’s that old saying, “The devil is in the details?”  That phrase has cycled through my head many times in the past couple of weeks.  Followed by silent conversations about how that’s not the devil’s only hangout.

The week or so before last was, to put it mildly, a week from hell.

The best way for me to explain what I mean is to just tell you what has been happening.

On Saturday, June 29, I asked my husband to come to bed at about 3:30 a.m.  This is around the time when he normally decides go to bed.  He is either on his tablet surfing the Internet or playing video games until the early morning hours.  Every night.  I honestly don’t mind the video games.  I really don’t.  But I don’t have the same feeling about the tablet.  When you are repeatedly told that “this tablet and the Internet are my life,” it makes it hard to see it coming into your bed at 3:30 in the morning when you are not feeling well and would just like to get into bed with your husband at a normal time and feel like there isn’t something more important in there between you.

This night was no different.  Except that when he brought the tablet up and proceeded to get into bed with it, I asked him if we could just have one late night (early morning) without it.

A few seconds before, he had taken the clean socks that were sitting on the bed half folded and shoved them all onto the floor.

As I bent over to pick them up and put them in the basket, I made the “Can we just have one night without it?” comment.

A split second later, I was seeing stars.  He had taken his pillow, and with a significant amount of force, was swinging it back and forth at me, smacking me in the front and back of the head.  The force was enough to knock me down.

My ears were ringing and I was in shock as I stood back up.

He looked at me angrily as he climbed into bed, turned the tablet on and put his headphones on, cursing at me all the while.

I was shaking as I thought, “It’s now or never.”  You see, I had decided a few days before that the next time he hurt me or one of the boys, I would get him out, come hell or high water.

I would have welcomed a flood that night.  But it was hell that came instead.

I have been asking him for as long as I can remember to leave when he flies off the handle.  But he always refuses, stating that it is his” fucking house” and that he is not going anywhere.   We bought the house together after both contributing financially because I had a pretty good job as well.  I worked really hard and had been saving since I was a teenager.  And in the past few years since he has been out of work and we have been running a small business together, it has probably been me who does the lion’s share of the work.  And, honestly, ever since his job loss and my cancer diagnosis, we have been swirling in debt together.  So even he, with his nasty comments, can’t convince me that the house is “his.”

Normally, I beg him to just let me stay in the house with the kids until I die, and to be left in peace with them.   I tell him I will take care of the mortgage.  And then he can have it when I’m gone.  Of course I don’t know how much time this will be, but given the details of my diagnosis, I know it can’t be forever.  So I think it sounds like a good deal for him.  I pay the mortgage and take care of the kids.  And then he gets it all in the end.  And no one has to know about how he’s been treating us.

But he says he would never let this happen.  That he’ll make sure I get nothing.  And he will not leave the house.  If anyone is to go, it will be me who has have to get out of his “fucking house.”

I know he feels he can wait me out and that he’ll get the house in the end anyway when I’m gone.  And I think he believes that the sympathy would end for him if he were to walk out the door.  He knows that no one would think he’s the doting and kind husband he has tried to lead them to believe if he were to leave and people were to know the truth about how he treats a wife who is not well and who has been through more surgeries and cancer treatments, complications and crap than I’d care to recount, even in a cancer blog.  So he has never left before.  Just created a path of destruction.  And I kiss his behind the next day because I just want peace.

But this night I was bound and determined.  I told him that I was done with being treated this way and with having the boys be treated this way.  I said that given what I had been through to just simply stay on this earth, I shouldn’t have to endure so much stress, or to live with the knowledge that the person I married doesn’t think I’m worthy of his kindness.  And that if he didn’t think I deserved at least this much, then he would do us all of a favor if he just left.  I told him I wouldn’t tell anyone what he had done if he just left.  And when nothing worked, I threatened would call the police if he didn’t leave.  He told me to go ahead, not believing that I’d actually do it.

After a couple hours of pure hell, I decided that if I didn’t do it now, I never would.  I told him that if he wasn’t willing to change his behavior, I had no choice but to call and I went for the phone.

He yelled, “If it shuts you the fuck up, I will go.”  He grabbed a bunch of things, including the tablet, and said he was taking the better car and leaving our older minivan with the flat tire and a mountain of problems behind.

He had been swearing at me the entire time and telling me how I was a bad mother and how my kids were going to be ruined by me.  He yelled all of the things that he knew would hurt me, along with plenty of “fucks.”

He said that I would get nothing, save for the ocean of debt we are swimming in.  He would take responsibility for none of it and would make sure I suffered.

And then he went outside to move the cars so he could get out of the driveway.  When he came back in, I started to back down, afraid of what would come next.  He continued to be nasty to me.  So I said that this had started because I made a normal request for the tablet to not come into our bedroom for that night.  And that, like every “night,” it wasn’t really night, but morning, when he was finally ready to get into bed with me.

He began to flip out all over again, shouting that he was the “fucking normal one” and that I had no right to ask him for that.  He told me to “Shut the fuck up” and threw the minivan keys at me and stormed out.

It was 6:00 a.m. when he finally left.

My mother had been staying with us for a few days at that point because she was in transition from her own divorce.  She heard everything from the next room (and from upstairs when we went downstairs), so when he left, she came to see if I was alright.  She said that she had wanted to call the police and had her cell phone in her hand the whole time.  She said she didn’t because she knew I would be upset if she did because she knows how I have tried to protect him over the 20 years I was with him and how I never thought I deserved the kindness plenty of observers over the years said I did.  I always stood by and protected him and his image.  And she knew that I wouldn’t have the heart to turn him over to the police that morning.  But she was appalled by the things she heard him yelling when our boys were just down the short hallway asleep (for part of the time, anyway).

I was sobbing.  And I never sob.

It felt horrible.  I felt horrible.

I was physically sick and just riddled with the fear of what his retaliation would be.  It was awful.  Almost as horrible as learning that I had cancer.

I will add more as I can.  Or maybe not?  I don’t know how much more I can bear.  I gave in and he is back in the house.  He vacillated between intimidating me and promising things would be so much better.  In the end, I couldn’t take the fear of what would come next any longer — I was physically ill — vomiting and shaking — and just felt so completely broken.  Plus I felt that I could give him one more chance.  I always like to give people the benefit of the doubt and despite everything, I wouldn’t have felt right about not giving him another chance when he made it sound like he was sorry and would change.  I have always been loyal to a fault.  [I still see the doctor who told me I was too young for breast cancer and whose office wouldn’t see me the next year when I’d lost my health insurance and was so sick because the cancer had now engulfed my breast.]   I felt like I had to give him another chance, despite what my gut was telling me.

It took a great deal of wrestling for me to share this or anything like it here, but I think telling you is the right decision.

Thank you all for reading and for helping me get through this without even knowing that you were…

National No Bra Day & Breast Cancer Awareness Month — OR — Please Put that Pink Can of Soup Down & Put Your Bra Back On!

My “Where I’ve Been” post is still forthcoming, but in the meantime, I realize that I missed the opportunity to post on “National No Bra Day.”

I am reposting an article I wrote back on the unofficial No Bra Day during Pinktober (October — Breast Cancer Awareness Month).  The “official” fake holiday was actually yesterday, July 9th.

I see that you left a number of lovely comments on my M.I.A. post.  I will respond, but wanted to say “thank you” from the bottom of my heart in the meantime.  I am also looking forward to catching up with your blogs and all I have missed in the past couple of weeks.

My warmest thoughts & thanks are with you all…

——————

Peter Griffin / Family Guy "What Grinds My Gears" Episode

Peter Griffin / Family Guy “What Grinds My Gears” Episode

I am not a ranter by any means and I have been pretty quiet about “Pinktober” and what has come to be known as “Pinkwashing” in breast cancer circles, but seeing October 13th advertised as “National No Bra Day” and as a “fun” way to support people with breast cancer has pushed me over the edge.

Are you kidding me?  How on earth could a day where girls and women are encouraged to walk around with their nipples poking through their shirts be “supportive” for women who are living with or who have died from breast cancer, or who have managed to ‘complete’ the arduous treatments and disfiguring surgeries required to put them into remission?

I think the answer is simple.  It is not.

Like so many women–and men–who have faced this disease, I have lost my breasts to cancer.  Though I had a terrific surgeon, it was a physically and emotionally disfiguring surgery.

The cancer had gone so deep and was so extensive on my left side that it was at first inoperable.  Even after months of chemo, my surgeon took as much tissue and skin as possible and went deep into my axilla (underarm area).  The cancer had metastasized to my lymph nodes and had invaded them to such a degree that they broke open to allow the cancer cells to go beyond the walls of the nodes.  Because of how invasive the surgery was and of how much nerve damage, etc. resulted, it was not only extremely painful then, but continues to be a source of pain and phantom sensations that affect my entire upper torso even today.

I required over a year of physical therapy just to be able to raise my arms again and I still don’t have full function or range of motion.  And, because of pain, swelling, conspicuous compression sleeves and gloves, I am constantly reminded of the lymphedema that resulted from the surgery and loss of my lymph nodes.  Oh, and the life-threatening infections that forced a couple of hospitalizations and four months of massive doses of antibiotics this summer (almost 2 years after my original surgery), are also a little reminder of some of the things that the bilateral mastectomy and lymph node surgeries have left me with.  And there is so much more…

no-bra-day-july-9th-630x417

So the thought of seeing bra-less women flaunting two body parts that I have lost to cancer — more than I already see this on a regular day — does not feel all that supportive.  In fact, it feels quite the opposite.

I consider myself to be an open-minded person.  I do my best not to judge others or their beliefs and ideals.  I have a pretty good sense of humor and am usually the first to poke fun at myself.  And I make light of breast cancer and my struggles, treatments and their side effects, lack of breasts, fear of death, etc. fairly frequently.  It is how I cope.  But, given what I have been through, I think I have earned the right to joke and make light of how this terrible disease has affected me.  But if you haven’t been there or taken care of someone who has been there, then you should think twice before you publicize a day that jokes about putting the first body parts we usually lose to this disease “out there” on display even more conspicuously and then labeling it as an activity that helps our ’cause’.

We live in a society that makes a huge hoopla about breast cancer while at the very same time trivializing the seriousness of the disease.  How can we be so contradictory?

While I am beyond thrilled that breast cancer is no longer a taboo issue and that people are talking about it, the commercialism has gotten out of hand.  There is nothing pink and rosy about breast cancer, yet it has been pink-washed to death.  It is a serious disease that kills.

And while I do think we need more awareness and education (about metastatic disease, about how young women CAN develop breast cancer, about how women (young and old) DO die from this disease, about the importance of research, etc.), I don’t think we need the kind of awareness that buying a jar of salsa with a pink ribbon on it brings.  While I hardly ever see “awareness” products addressing the topics above, I can’t go anywhere without seeing pink products.  Heck, I just have to look out of my front window to see giant pink garbage totes.  Pink-Cart---cut

The stores are filled with pink as companies try to make a buck off breast cancer.  If you look carefully at these products, you’ll find that some of them don’t even donate a cent to breast cancer awareness, support, research, etc.  And oftentimes those that do make a very minimal donation–and not always to organizations/programs where the money is well spent.

What is most unfortunate is that well-meaning people are willing to buy pink products, even pay a little extra, because they think they are helping to do something to “cure” breast cancer or to provide “hope” to breast cancer patients.  Why is this sad?  Because those dollars spent on pink flowers, pink shirts, or a pink box of crackers or spaghetti sauce could be going to research, our only real “hope” of beating this horrible disease.

So please put your bra back on, put down those pink garbage bags (unless you really like pink that much!), that pink “awareness” pepper spray keychain, and that pink breast cancer “awareness” vibrator and dildo (yes, I’m blushing and yes, these are real things that their merchandisers say will “help you raise breast cancer awareness” — though they are shipped discretely in plain, unmarked boxes so no one knows what you purchased) and send a few dollars to an organization that devotes their fundraising dollars to research.  You just have to do a bit of homework or read the labels on those pink items to see where your money is actually going.  Or, if you don’t like homework, here are a couple of great ones:

StandUp2Cancer.org: Our mission is to fund collaborative, translational cancer research to bring treatments from the bench to the bedside faster, and save lives now.  Since Stand Up To Cancer was founded in May 2008, we have granted $161 Million Dollars to ten Dream Teams of scientists and researchers, one international translational research team and 26 high-risk, high-reward Innovative Research Grants.  100% of public funds go directly into research grants. A portion of the funds that are raised from major donations and third-party fundraising go towards administrative expenses and overhead.

Metavivor.org:  From support groups to funding vital research, our programs sustain the power of hope.  Passionately committed patients ourselves, we rally public attention to the urgent needs of the metastatic breast cancer (MBC) community, help patients find strength through support and purpose, and make EVERY dollar count as we work with researchers to regain longevity with quality of life.

…or consider a group that helps actual cancer patients and their families cope with their illness.  For example:

CancerIsAJerk.org  — This is a charity my dear friend jme set up to help families touched by cancer.  You can make a financial donation  or  if you’d like to have a tangible something to wear to show your support, you can purchase a “Cancer Is a Jerk” t-shirts with all proceeds going to help actual families touched by cancer.  You can also contact jme through the charity if you’d like to sell shirts as a fundraiser with all proceeds going to benefit cancer family applicants in general OR designate a specific family of your choosing.

And don’t underestimate the value of local organizations.  My local Breast Cancer Coalition is a perfect example.  The Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester‘s mission is to make the eradication of breast cancer a priority through education and advocacy; to empower women and men to participate fully in decisions relating to breast cancer; to provide support to those coping with a breast cancer diagnosis; and to focus research into the causes, prevention, treatment and cure of breast cancer.

Also local for me is The Karen Carson Crane Foundation.  Founded by Karen’s siblings after she died of breast cancer, the mission of the Karen Carson Crane Foundation (“the KCC Foundation”) is to provide support and financial assistance for individuals affected by breast cancer; to encourage breast cancer patients to have the strength, courage and passion to overcome their disease; to support local organizations that assist breast cancer patients; and to donate a portion of its fundraising dollars to organizations that research and promote alternative cancer treatment methods.  

There are many other great organizations and groups out there — these are just a few.

And if you can’t help with a financial donation, consider volunteering your time or talents.  Perhaps to local cancer patients — bringing a meal or knitting a chemo cap or scarf, or sending a cozy blanket are examples of ways to show your support.   I remember when a small box of craft supplies was left on my doorstep when I was first going through chemo — what a gift that was — my kids loved it and it kept them occupied for a little while when I was really ill!  Or consider volunteering at a local cancer center or for a local American Cancer Society chapter.  There are many ways to show your support that don’t require $$.

And, of course, don’t forget to go for your regular mammograms and to feel your breasts when you can (and report any changes to your doctor) because doing these things IS important.  It — what I can loosely call a self-breast exam (but really just washing myself in the shower) — is how I found my own lumps, about 17 years before I was due for my first mammogram (according to the recommended screening age back in 2009).  If I had ignored my lumps and waited for that first screening mammogram, I can safely say I would have been long dead!  So please pay attention to your body and your breasts.  While the vast majority of lumps are benign, I still believe it’s always best to bring your breast changes to the attention of your doctor.  Thanks for reading…

I will leave you with a picture that I think is my best advertisement for National No Bra Day and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

lymph nodes

5 Days Post Bilateral Mastectomy and Complete Axillary Lymph Node Dissection (ALND)

————————————————————————————————-

Side note:  The ACTUAL National No Bra Day is July 9th annually.  Someone had the great idea to do a braless day during October — Breast Cancer Awareness Month — to support “the cause.”  Adding insult to injury, the day they chose — October 13th — is actually the one day out of the whole year designated for Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness.  Sadly, I’ve seen far more No Bra Day awareness advertising circulating around the web than I have Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day info.

————————————————————————————————-

M.I.A.

Image

[About the photo:  

The best photo I could come up with to illustrate “missing” on short notice. My soul feels like this puzzle at the moment — missing pieces, unfinished, broken…

On a more positive note, jme & her husband bought this 3,000 piece puzzle for us on one of their visits. The gorgeous subject is Seychelles, a place Julie, jme & I all hoped to visit (but never did).  We worked on this masterpiece together for a solid week, and then continued to work after jme & bryan returned home. It was a lovely puzzle, but we never quite finished it.

On the boys’ birthday party day that year, I had to make an executive decision: put the puzzle back in its box unfinished and reclaim the kitchen table for the party OR cancel their birthday party last minute!  It was a tough decision!  I took this photo just before we packed the puzzle up that day.]

***

Hello Dear Readers,

I know I’ve missed an entire week (or so?) of posting.  

And I set off alarm bells when I didn’t even participate in the Weekly Photo Challenge for last week, which is not like me at all.  Some of you noticed my absence and have emailed to ask if I am okay.   So I am writing to tell you that the past week and a half has been extremely difficult, but that I am alright.  

I will be posting in the next few days to explain.  And you will likely understand my silence after you’ve read the post.  But in the meantime, know that I haven’t forgotten about you.  In fact, I think of you every day and I am grateful for your presence in my life.

My warmest thoughts are with you all xxx