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An Update on Frank and Nancy

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Do you remember Man of Science, Man of Faith, a story about my friends Frank and Nancy?

Frank was diagnosed with a recurrence of his cancer last month.  He was given 3 months to live.

It hasn’t been a month yet.

Three weeks ago, Frank and Nancy were still kind of hopeful.  Even I am not quite sure what I mean by this.  Maybe just that they believed Frank had some good time left and that he would surpass the three month expiration date he’d been given?

Exactly three weeks ago (a couple of days after learning about Frank’s updated diagnosis), I stood in my kitchen chopping vegetables and browning chicken for homemade chicken soup.  I was making it for Frank.   When the people I care about are sick and I feel helpless, I am compelled to make chicken soup and bring food.  I certainly felt helpless when I heard about Frank’s stomach metastasis, so out came the big soup pot.

A few hours later, when the soup was finished and packaged in big, blue glass bowls, I walked next door to Frank and Nancy’s house.  I dragged my husband along so he could deliver the large bag of organic fruits and vegetables I had picked up at the grocery store for Frank and Nancy.

I knew that Nancy would understand my response to her husband’s illness.  I knew this because she has showed up on my doorstep with food a number of times since my diagnosis.

Nancy accepted the big red bag full of produce.  But she did not want me to leave the soup.  She said that three families from her church had dropped off three different kinds of soup that weekend.

I insisted that Nancy keep the soup.  I said that they didn’t need to eat it, but that I had made it just for them, so they could freeze it or toss it, but I wanted them to have it.  I needed them to accept it.  I’m usually not this forceful, so I surprised myself with my insistence.  But they had to take it, for my sake, because I had to help in some small way.

A couple of hours later, Nancy called me to tell me that she hadn’t wanted to say anything, but Frank was only eating soft foods.  She said that he had tried the other soups but couldn’t eat them (or didn’t want to).  She told me that he tried mine and enjoyed it, including the soft vegetables and mushrooms it contained.  She said that he had even managed to finish a bowl.  She was so happy that she had to call.  And I was so touched that I felt a hard lump develop in my throat.

So two weeks ago when Nancy said that the soup was gone and she asked me to make more, I was delighted.  I was just getting over pneumonia and was so tired that it took me most of the day (with rests in between!), but I was honored that Nancy had asked.

This time I decided to roast a whole chicken.  I stood in the kitchen dressing the chicken, thinking about poor Frank and Nancy.  As I placed rosemary sprigs and a freshly cut lemon into the chicken, I recalled that day two summers ago.  Nancy had arranged a surprise 50th birthday party for Frank.  As I rubbed the herbed butter I had just made onto the chicken and under it’s breast skin, I remember how excited Nancy was.  She wanted everything to be perfect.

Nancy even went so far as to plan the party in a large and lovely space in the new town hall building — in another town a half hour away.  She didn’t want him to suspect.  She told Frank that the party he was going to was a graduation party for a girl they knew.

I was now chopping vegetables, placing them in the roasting pan beneath the chicken, and dousing them with olive oil and salt and pepper.

When Frank walked into the party room, we were all there.  His closest family and friends.  Nancy had even flown Frank’s brother and sister in from out of state.  So when he walked in and saw the fake graduation girl and noticed his own friends and family behind her, I think he was just as shocked as when everyone shouted “Surprise!”

I opened the oven and slid the roasting pan in.  It was time to start working on the soup now.

Frank was clearly surprised.  So surprised and touched that he wept.  Frank is a very tall man, so to see this tall man with a commanding presence stop in his tracks and begin crying was a moving sight.

I filled a large pot with water, chicken stock and salt and pepper, and I began washing and chopping more vegetables.

It was a great day filled with smiling and laughter.  Genuine happiness.  Nancy had done a beautiful thing for Frank.  Though she didn’t have a lot of money to spend, she made the party seem like she had a large budget to work with.  She worked hard on this day and she asked people to pitch in where they could.  She knew it was an important day.

It would come to be more important than she ever could have realized.

I gently dropped vegetables into the pot and added a touch of olive oil and seasoning to the stock.  Soon I would take the golden brown chicken from the oven and add juicy chunks of chicken and tender, roasted vegetables to the stockpot.  And then I would walk next door to Frank and Nancy’s house with my pot and with the hope that Frank would be able to eat my humble offering.

That was two weeks ago.

One week ago, Nancy said that Frank was now only able to drink the broth.

And things got progressively worse this week.  I remember hearing the distress in Nancy’s voice whenever we talked.  She was tired from worry and from caring for Frank around the clock.

And when Frank and Nancy’s son came over in need of a ride to school on a couple of the mornings (because he had missed the bus so he could help his mom take care of his dad), he was noticeably quiet.

Nancy was having trouble keeping Frank hydrated.  She was using a syringe to wet his lips and mouth.  I took Pedialyte popsicles over so she could melt them down and replenish some of his electrolytes.  But we knew they wouldn’t make that much of a difference.

Despite her vigilance, Frank had also developed a bedsore.  Nancy said that the nurses had’t been caring for it, so I took a special cream over that would help to soothe it and form a barrier.  But I was afraid that it would get infected and I knew that it must be causing pain.

Early Thursday morning, the phone rang when it was still dark outside.  It was Nancy.  She said that Frank was unresponsive and that he had wet himself.  I tried to conceal how upset I was to hear this, but it was no use.  I talked to Nancy for a little while and told her I would bring some adult diapers over.  They had given me these when I was hospitalized for my hysterectomy last year and had been hemorrhaging and pads were not enough.  I was sad when I realized that I had no idea back then that they would be going to Frank.

Frank came around again that morning and was able to talk to Nancy and his kids, but I knew that these things were signs that he would be gone soon.  My guess was that day.  Frank and Nancy’s son came over for a ride to school after he helped his mom clean and diaper his dad.  He was visibly shaken.  It was heartbreaking.  He is a good kid and a good son.  I was upset that he had to experience this.  His prom was the next night and instead of worrying about what kind of corsage to get his date like his friends, he was worrying about losing his father to cancer.

The day went on and night came.  At 2 a.m., the phone rang.  I knew it was Nancy.  I picked up the phone and heard a small voice on the other end.  It was Nancy telling me that Frank had just passed.  She sounded both upset and relieved.  His pain had ended and his suffering was over.

Cancer claimed another life.

Frank was just 51.  He is survived by his loving wife, son, daughter, brand new (5-month-old) granddaughter, and a large group of friends and family who loved him.

The Night I Lied to You

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Alright, technically I didn’t lie.  But I may as well have.

Do you remember that night?  It had been a muggy summer day.  But when you pulled up in your car at dusk, it was as if the humidity was sucked from the air, leaving a perfect July night in its wake.

I met you downstairs and we got in your car and drove.  And drove.  For hours with no destination in mind. I don’t think the destination was as important as the distance we put between your little car and our ‘real’ lives.

Into the city, out to the outlying rural towns.  On highways and country roads.  As the mixed tapes we made for each hummed in the background, we talked and talked.  We always talked like this, soaking up each and every drop of our time together.  It was as if we had never spoken before and had to learn everything about each other in one night.  And it was like this every time.

We drove into the starry night.  The music played on with professions of love and stories about loss and visions of star-crossed lovers escaping into the night together.

That is what we were.  Star-crossed lovers, you and I.

We drove through so many little towns that night, asking so many questions of one another.  We were playful and serious, thoughtful and direct.

A casual observer would think we held nothing back when we talked.  But we held the most important thing back.  You knew it.  I knew it.  We both knew that we both knew it.

But tonight was different.  I knew it would be different when we drove through that farm town.  We had already made our way through a handful that looked just the same.  But this place was different. As we drove down that dark road, your headlights piercing the darkness, raindrops began to fall.  We had just been talking about what you would do if you found out I was getting married.  Would you show up and tell me not to go through with it and ask me to run away with you?  Or would you watch me give my life to another?  Or would you stay away?

Though thoughts of marriage were far from my mind, of course I knew the wedding you were talking about was to your former best friend.  A guy who didn’t treat me very well.  A guy who you no longer seemed to care for.  Yet, he was the guy I was seeing.  He was away now.  Gone for a month on vacation with his parents.

And I had time to think about where my life was headed.  I was only 21.  I was independent and strong.  Bright and educated.  I was moving up the ranks at work, making a name for myself.  I had just gotten another raise.  I could have had a bright future ahead of me, but I was considering a move from the apartment I shared with a roommate to a place with the guy who didn’t treat me so well (we’ll use an acronym for him going forward — GWDTMSW).

And you and I were here, in your car, feeling as though we couldn’t get our timing right.  You were seeing someone or I was seeing someone.  Or both.  But we loved each other and had no trouble expressing our feelings in lengthy letters over the years.

But out of respect for GWDTMSW, we danced around the giant pink elephant in the car.  In fact, out of the corner of my eye I could see that pink elephant waving at me from the backseat.  But I ignored him.

And we drove.  Into a little micro-climate in this small town.  A fleeting rainstorm.  Heavy drops of fresh rain pelted the car as you told me it would be too much for you to bear.  You could never sit back and watch me marry another.  You would let me make my decision, but if it wasn’t you standing up there taking my hand, you would not be there.  I gulped as I considered the prospect.

The heavy rain gave way to a sprinkle.  And just then, this desolate country road was filled with frogs.  Little bits of green hopped in front of the car.  There were hundreds of them.  They extended as far as the reach of your headlights.

I made you stop the car immediately, lest we not squash a single one. It was an incredible sight.  Magical, really.

I jumped out of the car to scoop one up, just as I would have when I was 8 years old.  I was filled with glee as I held that slimy little friend in my hand.  And you were grinning, too.   Happy that I was happy.

I forget how long we waited for the frogs to clear.  Shooing them to the edge of the road was slow but rewarding work.  You inched your way through the thinning crowd and I walked ahead and kept clearing.  We lost some of Kermit’s brethren along the way, but the losses were unavoidable.

Afterward, we reluctantly decided to drive back to my apartment in the city.  We both knew the night would end when we reached my driveway.

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It still took time.  These were the days before GPS and we only vaguely knew where we were.  And we traveled roads neither of us had traveled before.

But I felt more found than lost.

We found our way together.  As we pulled up to that disheveled former mansion turned apartment building, you asked if I wanted to take a walk.   The area was divided into two parts.  Bad and good.  My apartment was a few hundred feet from the invisible divider.  On the bad side.  So we abandoned the car and made our way to the ‘good’ side.

We walked on the tree-lined streets, each dotted with lovely cottage-likes homes and large historic mansions made of stone or plaster.   We walked close enough for our arms to brush against each other occasionally.  You made a comment about how the people in their cars were probably wondering why you weren’t holding my hand.  And you said that you would if I would let you.  But I didn’t.  I wanted to, but I couldn’t.  Because I was loyal to GWDTMSW.

As we came up on East Avenue again, you stopped and turned to me.  And this was where you asked me to marry you.  You knew I was the one.  You had been in love with me for years.  And I loved you, too.  I knew you were the love of my life.

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I remember my response as though it were yesterday.  “Yes, barring any unforeseen circumstances.”

What kind of response is that to a marriage proposal?  It is the kind of response you give when you know that something or someone will get in the way.  It is the kind of response you give when you don’t want to lie, despite how much you’d like to simply say, “Yes.” It is the kind of response you give when the bad things you have experienced in your life have so warped you that you are afraid to just choose happiness.

We continued on our stroll.  Dawn would be breaking soon.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Lunchtime — It’s My Birthday

My entry for The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge topic, Lunchtime, is a celebration of the lovely desserts I received for my birthday last week.  While my lunch fare included more than sugary goodness, I am focusing on the best part of the meal here.

I hope you enjoy my photo tribute to the birthday goodies — and flowers — I received from some of my favorite people!

If you would like to participate in a photo challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/photo-challenge-lunchtime/

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/photo-challenges/

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Happy Valentine’s Day

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I thought I would take a minute to wish you all a very happy Valentine’s Day.

I was unable to eat and drink today because of a test I needed to fast for.  So when H and my sons came to pick me up from the hospital at 4 this afternoon (and I was cleared to eat & drink again), I was both hungry and thrilled.

I had big plans for the evening with my two Valentines (my twin sons).  But I was too tired to follow through.  I could barely keep my head up at the dinner table.  It wasn’t long before I needed to retreat to the coziness of the couch and my thick blanket and loyal dogs.

I thought my boys would be disappointed — they usually are when I need to lie down.  But they amazed me by understanding my exhaustion.  They thanked me for making their special Valentine cards (I stayed up all night last night crafting Valentines for them and for their teachers) and for the little gifts I made for them.

And then they brought me the gift they made for me.  They found an unused box and filled it with 2 new rolls of Scotch tape, a giraffe-shaped soap dispenser, and some special things from around the house (seashells, bits of coral, a photo of a sea turtle).  They then decorated sheets of copier paper and wrote “To Mom” and “Love, Us” on them.  They wrapped the box in their creations and topped it with an old Christmas bow.

They were grinning from ear to ear when they presented me with their box.  They were taking a rare reprieve from bickering with one another, so I knew this was important!

Struggling to keep my eyes open, and soaking wet and shivering from alternating hot flashes and night sweats that are really day sweats (thank you, radical hysterectomy and Tamoxifen!), I thought I was letting my kids down.  But when they presented me with that special box, I knew I was wrong.  They were happy to have me as their valentine, whatever my condition.  And I realized how lucky I was.

Their squabbling soon resumed and we had to get the homework show on the road, but I still felt like a lucky girl.

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Tonight I realized that I have two very special valentines.

I hope that you, too, have a special person/child/dog/cat/friend/goldfish in your life.  Good night & warmest wishes, dear readers…

“Give me back my peanut butter!” — OR — “My 1st Bucket List Adventure: Part I”

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Thank you to everyone who cheered me on as I embarked on my first “bucket list” adventure.  I am glad to finally tell you that our intended mystery destination was… Puerto Rico.  Visiting this lovely place has been a dream of mine for many years.  Why?

#1:  Thanks to photos and travel shows I formed this picture in my mind of a beautiful island filled with old world charm and beautiful beaches.

#2:  I have always wanted to visit a Caribbean isle.  Our passports expired long ago and P.R. is one of only two Caribbean destinations (that I’m aware of) that doesn’t require them from U.S. Citizens.  Since it’s the cheapest of the two to reach, it was an easy choice.

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s 30's young puerto rico vacation kids twins beachThere were other reasons, but these were the big ones.  All in all, we were looking for a relaxing tropical vacation.

But this was hardly what we found…  And when I say we, I am referring to my twin 8-year-olds, my husband, and my dear friend, jme.  Jme and I grew up together (she was Jamie back them).  We’ve experienced many milestones together.  And we’ve experienced some significant losses together.  And you may recall that when jme first learned that I had the disease that played a role in her mother’s death, her reaction involved getting on a plane and flying clear across the country to show up on my doorstep.  She is the kind of friend you would feel lucky to have — if you were one of the rare few fortunate enough to know someone like her.  Anyway, she flew across the country again a few weeks ago, but this time it was to say a quick hello to her family before getting on a plane (a bunch of planes, actually!) to seize the day and make some memories with me and my sons.

I’m getting side-tracked already!  Okay, enough backstory…

The First Uh-Oh.

We left the house at an ungodly hour for this region.  Okay, 4 a.m. is probably an ungodly hour anywhere.  But in western N.Y. in mid-January when it is as cold as it is dark, you get the sense that you are violating some unwritten law by being outside at this hour.  It just feels wrong.  Especially when you haven’t slept a wink in a couple of days.

But I was excited and determined.  I had been waiting for this for most of my life.  So my husband (I’ll refer to him as “H” for husband from now on)…  Crap, where was I?  Oh, yes, so H dropped us off and drove off to park our minivan at an economy parking lot nearby.  And we went about the business of checking in for our flights, begging for seats near one another, printing our boarding passes, checking our bags, and ensuring that they were free (thanks to a credit card perk) at the counter.  This shouldn’t have been a big deal, but when 5 people are booked under 5 separate reservations (this is a requirement for getting the huge travel discounts that we do), it is.  No big deal.  Still excited.  Let’s get to security.

Photo Credit:  huffingtonpost.com

Photo Credit: huffingtonpost.com

After taking our shoes off and putting all of our belongings in buckets on the conveyor belt, I was told that in lieu of a traditional walk through the metal detector, I would need to stand in the full-body X-ray scanner.  Not one to speak up or slow a line down, I reluctantly said that I would rather not.  I was asked if I was refusing the security measure.  So I explained that I had had enough radiation in my lifetime to grow a tail and start glowing and, thus, I was leery of the X-ray scanner if another option was available.  I told him that I would prefer the pat down option.

This is not me in the scanner.Photo Credit:  http://www.aetherczar.com

This is not me in the scanner.  I wish I had her butt, though!
Photo Credit:  www.aetherczar.com

The T.S.A. agent was rather smug and made me feel as though I was I causing a major problem.  He set me off to the side and told me that I would have to wait for someone to come to give me a pat-down — and did I want to reconsider in lieu of being a giant P.I.T.A.?

I told him I’d wait for the pat-down.

When the patter-downer arrived, she asked if I would like to have it done out in the open or if we should go to a private room.  I jokingly said that I’d had enough surgeries to make my dignity a non-issue and told her to go ahead right there.  She smiled and began.  It was my first pat-down and not a big deal.  It did take much longer than I expected, especially given that I normally walk through the metal detector and that’s it — quick and simple.

I passed, of course, but my jar of peanut butter didn’t fare so well.  It didn’t cross my mind that the sealed jar of organic peanut butter I brought to make everyone’s sandwiches with during the long day of travel wouldn’t make it through security.  Alas, it did not.  And my inconvenienced T.S.A. agent friend seemed all too happy to confiscate it.  Since I would much rather airport security be more cautious than less, I happily sacrificed my jar of contraband in the interest of national security.

We finally redressed (coats, sweaters, hats, shoes) and made our way to the gate, still with 5 minutes to spare before boarding.  It was about 15 minutes after we were supposed to board when I started to get a bit nervous.  We were on a tight timeline.  You see, to do this trip on a shoestring budget, we had to book two separate itineraries with two different airlines — and do it all through a 3rd party website.  In hindsight, it was a bit crazy.  But it was the only way — and it should have worked out.

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We began boarding at about 5:45 a.m., toting our carry on bags out of the warmth of the airport and into the bitter cold and darkness that surrounded the little plane that waited to carry us to New York’s J.F.K.  We shivered as we inched up the plane’s steps and found our seats at the back of the plane.

And we waited.  And waited.  When the pilot announced that we were experiencing mechanical issues and that we wouldn’t be leaving until they were taken care of, I wasn’t surprised.  “These things happen,” I thought.

The surprise came when he later returned to the intercom and announced that they were unable to fix the problem and that we were to collect our things and leave his aircraft while further repair attempts were made.

“What??”  I didn’t understand.  “Why can’t we just wait here while they fix it?  It’s going to take longer to get off and get back on.”

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30's 30s peanut butter

Photo Credit:  komu.com

I really didn’t understand — until we were told that we could rebook our flights at the gate.  Uh oh.  We didn’t have enough padding in our schedule to account for this much of a delay.

So we reversed the boarding process and walked the steps down the plane and the steps back up into the airport.  At the gate we were told that we could form a line and the gate attendant would attempt to find alternative flights for everyone.  H immediately took off.  He left the secure area to go out to the main ticket counters at the airport entrance to see what could be done there.  So while jme and the boys sat patiently, I stood in gate counter line with a bunch of other passengers and tried to figure out how to get us to Tampa, Florida in time for our JetBlue flights that afternoon.  I knew that if we missed our flight out of Tampa, our trip would not happen.

It still seemed possible to get to Florida.  But it wasn’t.

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There’s more to come… I just know that if I break without posting this first installment, it will be harder for me to carve out the time to finish it later.  And I know it’s not that riveting a story to warrant a cliffhanger, so thank you for indulging me!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Love

Well, I have returned from my first adventure…but things have been far too hectic and I have been far too exhausted (and ill with cellulitis) to write about the experience yet.  But it is a post I am looking forward to sharing!  In the meantime, I thought I would return with a photo challenge post.  Thank you so much for all of the likes and comments on my last post — and for being there to cheer me on…

These may not be the greatest photos, but to me, they are wonderful representations of this week’s photo challenge topic, “love.”

There were many contenders, but I am far too tired to add them all (and I don’t want to bore you!), so here are just a few.  I may come back to add more at a later date…

Thank you for reading!

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It was Christmas and my littlest sister decided that after all of my chemo and surgeries, the best gift she could give me would be a little companion to help me weather the remainder of my cancer treatments.  So she chose this sweet little mini dachshund and presented her to me with a red ribbon around her furry little body.  Ginger has spent many hours snuggling with me and giving me comfort in the two years we have been together.  And she is a wonderful reminder of the special kind of love sisters sometimes share.

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Another Christmas photo…  I was sick and so tired.  And my sweet miniature schnauzer, Mattie, snuggled up next to me.  I had so much to do to get ready for a busy day of making our Christmas rounds that day, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to lay there with my special girl.  And I am so glad that I did because she died suddenly of cancer a couple of months later.   She loved me unconditionally and I miss her as much today as I did when she first died.

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And my boys…

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Love

If you would like to participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/photo-challenges/

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/weekly-photo-challenge-love/

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Resolved — In Memory of Julie

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Julie (left) & Me

I missed last week’s photo challenge, but when I saw this week’s topic, I had to pull out my old photo albums.

The photos you see here embody my New Year’s resolution for 2013.  What is it?

***To appreciate that life is sometimes too short — and to fulfill some of my bucket list wishes.***

The photos I’ve chosen are from a defining point in my life.  Why was this little window of time, this blip in my life, so special that I feel the need to highlight it here?

Because the girl in the photos with me is my friend Julie.  She was one of my very best friends growing up.  I loved her like a sister.  We laughed together, cried together and reached many a milestone together.

These photos of Julie and me are from a once-in-a-lifetime trip we took together.  I know, I know, people say “once-in-a-lifetime” but they don’t always know that for sure.  Sometimes they just say this to be dramatic.

But I am saying it because I know it is true.  I know that Julie and I will never take another trip together.  In fact, we will never laugh or cry or meet another milestone together again.  Ever.

Because Julie is dead.  She was killed in a car accident 5 years ago when we were just 31.

It still takes my breath away when I remember that she is really gone, but I often find myself smiling as I think of the time we spent together.

Though Julie’s death was tragic and horribly sad, her life was the opposite.  Julie exuded warmth and beauty.  She was positive and sweet and lived her life to the fullest.  She was courageous and didn’t let anything stand in her way…

…including me.  You see, I didn’t want to go on that trip.  I had never done anything like that before.  I wasn’t adventurous.  I didn’t think I deserved the opportunity to get on a plane.

It was about a month before our high school graduation when Julie proposed the idea.  Her exchange student for our senior year, now like our new sister, would be returning home to Mexico just after graduation.  What if we went to Mexico to stay with her over the summer?

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s young bilateral mastectomy death loss grief

I was not the adventurous type and I opted to stay home and work until we started college in August.  Plus, I needed to be home to help care for my little sisters.  And I had never done anything just for me before.  How could I start with something so drastic?  No, I would not go.

But it wasn’t really up to me.  Julie would not listen to my protests.  She jokingly threatened to unfriend me (we had been very good friends since we were kids) if I didn’t commit to going.  She said she knew what was best for me (and I admit that she often did).  So, on one of the many evenings I spent at her house, she made a final plea.  Again I refused.  We were munching on her delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies when she picked up the phone and called the airline (this was before you could use the internet to book your tickets).  She pretended to be me and booked my tickets while I stood in her kitchen.  Though I halfheartedly protested and though I feigned anger, I was secretly delighted.  I knew I would enjoy this special time with Julie.  And I knew I was going to miss Judy (her exchange student), who was now a dear friend and that this was my chance to see where she lived and to say a real goodbye.

This was going to be my first real adventure, my first and last hurrah before heading off to university (20 minutes away – another story!) in the fall.

So we graduated from high school, Judy left for her home in Mexico, and we embarked on our adventure 8 days later.  Before stepping off the plane in Tucson (and driving the 4 hours across the border to our friend’s house), I had been a shy straight-A student who hung out in the teachers’ lounge after school because I could always relate better to people older than me.  Between sophomore & senior year, I took every single Advanced Placement class (and there were a lot!) our high school had to offer — and aced them all.  I was voted “Class Introvert” and could get A’s on Calculus tests without studying.  I thought A.P. Physics and Chemistry were fun.  I had been babysitting since I was eight and got my first “real” job the moment I was old enough to get a work permit.  I balanced school and mountains of homework with two afterschool/weekend jobs.  I volunteered a ton — you name a volunteer activity and Julie, jme and I signed up for it.  I had a resume filled with achievements.  I had a full scholarship to Cornell University and scholarships to a number of other prominent schools for Engineering or Biochemistry/Pre-Med waiting for me and I had every intention of continuing to be that people-pleasing, old-before-my-time nerdy girl…

I thought that maybe before college I would do something crazy like cut my long hair or start wearing lipstick.  I had no idea how this trip was going to change me.

It was an incredible 3 weeks.  Because Julie and I were staying with Judy and her family, we “lived” in the heart of a non-touristy part of Mexico where I was the only person with blondish hair for many, many miles.  We got a taste of what it was like to grow up there.  What an amazing way to see another culture.  Our many adventures included a 28 hour (total) roundtrip escapade on an old, steamy, smelly, jam-packed bus.  We were headed to see another friend (Juan–also a former exchange student) in Mazatlan.  The bus trip came complete with dirt roads, middle of the night stops by gun-toting “bandits” in the midst of nowhere, and people who were so scary that we slept in shifts because there had been a number of recent American kidnappings on buses just like ours.  As the only Americans who had probably set foot on our bus in a very long time, we figured we were targets, which made it that much more exciting for my friends (and nerve-wracking for straight-laced me).  When we stumbled off the bus, though, I realized that it was all worth it.  The area was the most beautiful place I had ever seen.  The days were amazing — swimming in the ocean, drinking pina coladas in the pool, parasailing and so much more — things I never dreamed I’d be doing.

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s young bilateral mastectomy death loss grief

Julie parasailing in Mazatlan

And the nights were even more incredible.  More things I never dreamed I’d do.  All of a sudden quiet, shy me who hadn’t really dated much was dancing on tables at these gorgeous open air bars, forgetting about all of the responsibilities waiting for me back home, and getting kissed by older guys in their 20s (Mexicans & Americans alike) who could have stepped off movie sets or off the pages of GQ.

On the bus ride back to Judy’s city, I felt like a new person…  All of a sudden I had gone from being a cornerstone on the math team to someone who had 25 year-olds competing to spend a few minutes on the dance floor with her.  It was fascinating and exciting.

Our next stop was a lovely little town on the Gulf with mountains in the background.  Here we had more adventures with sangria, late-night swims, and mechanical bull-riding.  Then Julie’s older brother (who was in a band & lived in San Francisco) asked us to take a couple of days out of our Mexican adventure to come to see him.  Julie hadn’t seen her brother in a while and she had a huge crush on his roommate, so it was a quick yes from her.  All we had to do was drive to San Diego & he’d have tickets waiting for us at the airport.  Along the way we stopped to visit Judy’s cousins in Tecate (right next to the Tecate beer factory) for another wonderful night filled with yummy food & drinks and happy people.  No matter where we went (with the exception of on that bus to/from Mazatlan), I never heard a word of complaint or saw a frown.  Regardless of what everyone did or didn’t have, the people we met/lived with were warm, welcoming, generous, and positive.

Even the drive up to the U.S. was an adventure.  And then we were off to San Francisco, a place I had always wanted to visit.  We didn’t do anything too exciting, but even a trip to the grocery store was fun with Julie.  And, as it happened, the roommate guy she had a crush on actually “liked” me.  Julie was very gracious about it and happily let me have my moment with him.  He was 25 and an engineer on a big naval ship — the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln.  Though he was quite handsome, he was nerdy like me & we were instantly drawn to each other.  It was odd for me to realize that I had spent my teenage years feeling awkward and burying my nose in books — and all I had to do was take my hair out of my ponytail and throw a pair of jeans on (and talk to people 7 or 8 years older than me!) and voila…  Eric and I stayed up all night every night talking.  And then we all spent the days together seeing the sights.  It was a total departure from the “me” I knew, someone who had only had a few high school boys show any interest in her.  [Eric continued to send letters & call me (and my mother!) for years after this trip.]

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s young bilateral mastectomy death loss grief

Julie in Spain — wasn’t she lovely?
(I didn’t take this photo — I never made it there)

Before I knew it, Julie, Judy & I were flying back down to San Diego and driving back into Mexico…  And shortly afterward, we made the long trek back to Arizona to catch our plane.  Judy’s family had a condo near the airport, so we spent one last night there — the 3 of us girls — laughing, talking & drinking more sangria in the hot tub (I hadn’t even been in a hot tub (or a condo for that matter!) before).  It was a wonderful way to end our trip.

That summer was — and remains — the best of my life.  After that I started college as a new person.  Still the old nerdy straight-A student who loved math on the inside, but with a new look and a newfound confidence on the outside.  I was always so grateful to Julie for that and so many things.

That trip was the last time I saw Judy… Until 5 years ago — for Julie’s funeral.  Julie was killed by a drunk driver in Spain, a country she loved so much.  The special young man she loved survived, but he was seriously injured — and he had lost the love of his life right before his eyes.  I was no stranger to loss or tragedy, but this was beyond anything I could wrap my mind around.  When jme, who had grown up with Julie from the age of 3, phoned to tell me what had happened, it was an absolutely heartbreaking call.  Jme got on a plane to come back home from Seattle.  And Judy flew from Mexico to stay at my house so we could be together to bury our dear friend…

Though her life was short, Julie’s impact was great.  She made everyone feel special and she touched lives here and across the Atlantic in deep and lasting ways.  The world was a far better place because she was in it.

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s young bilateral mastectomy death loss grief

Julie (rt.) and me
Early morning somewhere in Sonora, Mexico

So, this year I resolve to be more like Julie.  I resolve to check some things off my bucket list (and to make a bucket list).  I resolve to just “go for it” more.  I resolve to work on living my life to the fullest (I’m sure it will take me a while to get there, but I vow to work on it).  And I plan to honor her memory by trying to find and nurture the little light that she saw inside of me when we were just girls on the edge of new beginnings.

In Memory of Beautiful Julie – 1976 – 2007

********************

Weekly Photo Challenge: Resolved

If you would like to participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge:

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Photo Challenge: Resolved

The Daily Post: Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise

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It was April 12, 2012.  It was the anniversary of terrible surprises.

I won’t name them all.  Just a few.

It was the anniversary of the day I was certain that my unborn babies and I would die in the hospital.  It was the day after Easter.  I had been hospitalized with preeclampsia since the week before when I had gone to my check-up and was told that I needed an emergency induction.  I was sent next door to the “best” hospital in our region.  The hospital with the Level III NICU.  The hospital that people traveled across counties and hundreds of miles for.  I had been in active, induced labor for 4 days by April 12, 2004.  By then, the preeclampsia had become severe.  I was so sick.  I was shaking.  I was bleeding (from a yet-to-be diagnosed placental abruption).  I was being pumped with high doses of pitocin to keep me in active labor — and competing doses of magnesium sulfate because my blood pressures were so dangerously high.  And I had gained an inconceivable almost 100 lbs in edema weight since my admission into the hospital.  My organs were shutting down.  I was hearing Christmas music when there was no sound.  I was dying.  And my babies were, too.

Fast forward to April 12, 2005.  One year later.  Two days before my babies’ 1st birthdays.  The day the woman who was like a second mother to me took her life… a woman who also had breast cancer young (but for her, her diagnosis came in her 40’s)… a woman who was also the mother of one of my two very best childhood friends.  I had known her for what felt like my whole life.  I had lived with her during a rough patch in my life.  And now she lived around the corner from me in a house matching mine.  And she had reached out to me and asked me to spend more time with her…but I was so wrapped up in my own traumas and exhaustion that I didn’t see her as much as I should have.  I thought there would be more time.  And then the call came on April 12 that I was too late.  We all were.

And fast forward ahead again to April 12, 2010.  This was the day before I learned for sure that I had breast cancer.  Nuff said.

But…

I had to put these difficult/horrible memories the back burner because April 12, 2012 was 2 days before my twin sons’ birthdays.  It was also their Spring Recess from elementary school.  So we wanted to do something special and make some happy memories for their birthdays.

We packed up the car the day before and set our sights on Philadelphia.  I never been there, but we had free passes for the nearby Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ.  Since it was “only” about an 8 hour drive and we had heard the aquarium was something special, we couldn’t pass the opportunity up.

April 12, 2012.  After a struggle with traffic and an almost unsuccessful quest to find cheap parking, we arrived at the aquarium much later than I had planned.

And I was already exhausted.  You see, only a couple of weeks before I was lying in an operating room while my gynecologic oncologist was performing a radical hysterectomy and oopherectomy on me.  I was 35 and wanted another baby.  But what all of the breast cancer crap would have made unwise and extremely difficult, large masses that we were all certain would come back as ovarian and pelvic metastasis, made perfectly impossible.

surprise the daily post weekly photo challenge cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer feeding the stingrays philadelphia camden, nj Adventure Aquarium thirties 30s mom motherhood family sting ray tank touch wadingDespite this, I entered the crowded aquarium in a wheelchair and with a twinkle in my eye.  I was planning to enjoy the day with my boys.

It was when I was handed a map at the admission desk that I first saw it.  There was something special going on today.  At precisely something-o’clock (I don’t remember when the something was!), a few lucky aquarium goers would be selected from the crowd for a special stingray encounter.  Now this wasn’t your average aquarium encounter.  This was an opportunity to wade into the large stingray pool to hand-feed the rays!

I was determined to be one of the lucky few.

But there were a few major issues with my plan.

  1. My plan wasn’t a plan.
  2. I generally don’t win things.
  3. The place was packed.  And I mean packed.  Everyone with kids on Spring Break clearly had the same idea as we did.  It seemed like the whole east coast was in the aquarium.  There was no way I would be able to get anywhere near the stingray tank, let alone in it.

Nevertheless, I told my husband and my boys that I would be in that tank that afternoon.  My husband told me to give it up.  There was no way.  So we visited the other exhibits and made our way through the aquarium.  We were looking at the hippos in a giant tank filled with hippos, fish and hippo poo when I said, “Oh no, it’s 5 minutes til something-o’clock!”

Unable to run because of the surgery and my post-chemo fatigue, I asked my husband to push me over to the exhibit, an exhibit located almost all the way over on the opposite side of the aquarium.  He told me that it was impossible to get there in 5 minutes and that even if I did, I would never get near the tank and I would certainly never be chosen.

No matter.  I called in all of my favors and groveled, something I never ever never do with him.  I was determined.  So we weaved in and out of the crowds and crowds of people and finally made our way around after what felt like an eternity.  When we arrived near the entrance of the giant stingray room and pool, I emerged from the wheelchair and we left it outside.  I walked into a densely packed room filled with children and adults alike.  It was chaos.

And we were late.  They were asking the audience 4 questions.  4 people who were given the opportunity to answer the questions and who answered correctly would be invited into the tank.   The selection process had already begun.  I had already missed question 1.

Question 2 came and at least 50 hands shot up in a crowd of many more than that.  The tank-keeper wouldn’t even see me.  She selected a child in front and, with the assistance of her dad, the girl gave the correct answer.  Question 2 came.  50 or 60 more hands.  She chose a teenager in front who also answered correctly.

The final question came.  “What kind of seastar is this?”  I knew the answer.  My hand shot up with about 1,000 others.  She asked a child.  Wrong answer.  She asked an adult.  Wrong answer.  I was so buried in the crowd that she would never see me.

But then she pointed in my direction.  “The young lady with the longish red-brown hair.”

“Oh, that’s not me,” I thought.  “I have ugly short not red-brown ‘I’ve had lots of chemo’ hair.”

But then I remembered that I was wearing my lovely wig.  It was me.  She was asking me.  “A chocolate chip seastar,” I shouted!

It was the right answer and I was invited to come out of the crowd to get ready for my encounter.

It was incredible.  I changed out of my winter boots and into the crocs they offered me and we walked up the ramp to be debriefed.  We would be given dead fish parts to hold between our fingers and the rays would glide across our hands and take the carcasses into their mouths.

I could barely contain my excitement.  I had never done anything like this before.

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com thirties 30s stingrays sting ray weekly photo challenge surprise hysterectomy twins aquarium camden, nj philadelphia mom motherhood infertilitySo I waded into the tank and began feeding these beautiful creatures.  It was an incredible experience.  And I made a new friend, a giant ray who seemed to want to climb into my lap like one of my dogs.  He didn’t take the food from me, but let me pet him as he slid up my shins and splashed me.

When it was over and we were washing our feet off and changing our shoes in the little prep room, I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of the experience that I felt the need to say something to the tank’s keeper.

I told her that I was surprised to have been chosen.  Shocked, actually.  I told her that this was such a special experience for me because for the past 2 years I had been battling breast cancer.  She told me that I was so young and she gave me a hug.  She said that she was a 10 year breast cancer survivor.  She said that though they caught hers early, she still looks over her shoulder, wondering if it will return.  But she said that it also makes her grateful for every day that she is here.

I thanked her with tears in my eyes and we parted.  She felt good about her choice.  And I felt grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity to wade with the stingrays.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise

If you would like to participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/photo-challenges/

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/weekly-photo-challenge-surprise/

Update: Received My Cheap Holiday Cards…

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Photo Credit: blackcollegereunion.com

Hello dear readers,

Just a quick update on my “Procrastinator’s Unite” post…

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer kids mom thirties 30s Christmas holidays deals freebies freeI received the “test card” I had mailed to my address and was not expecting much when I opened the envelope.  In fact, the deal on the cards was so spectacular — $0.24 per custom photo card including a FREE 1st class stamp!!! — that I was expecting less than ‘not much.’  I was expecting cardstore.com to close up shop in the dark of the night after I placed my order.  I was expecting them to disappear, papers blowing in the wind, tumbleweed rolling by their empty office building…  I was expecting that they would vanish without a trace, their pockets overflowing with my $13.03 (for 55 photo cards and stamps!!!).

But that’s not how things played out.  I opened the card envelope (complete with a FREE 1st Class Stamp) and…the card is lovely!  The cardstock is nice and is a sustainably sourced paper (bonus!).  And the print quality (on both sides) is quite good.

Now I just hope their prices stay low enough to make my next order a great deal — because I will be back!

Wishing you all the happiest of holidays…

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer kids mom thirties 30s Christmas holidays deals freebies free

GUEST POST: A Holiday Season With Cancer

cancerinmythirties@yahoo.com breast cancer thirties young 30s mom motherhood baby Christmas holidays

*Just so there is no confusion, this is me (NOT Heather)*
Christmas 2010

***

I am pleased to introduce guest writer Cameron Von St. James.   I was honored when Cameron approached me to ask about posting an article here.  After reading a little bit about what his family has dealt with, I was also moved and inspired…and I thought you would be, too.  With a new baby to care for and the holiday season just beginning, Cameron’s wife, Heather, was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer.  Their story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

Please join me in welcoming Cameron Von St. James…

__________________

A Holiday Season With Cancer

The holiday season has always been near and dear to my heart. It was always a time when my family came together to practice our holiday traditions and give thanks for all that we have in life.

In 2005, I was especially excited for the holidays, as my wife Heather had just given birth to our first child, Lily, and we couldn’t wait to establish our own traditions with our new family. Those feelings of giddiness were stamped out completely when we learned, three days before Thanksgiving, that Heather had cancer.

Our daughter was only three and a half months old when we learned that Heather was suffering from malignant pleural mesothelioma. I knew enough about the disease to be concerned for our future. The anger I felt was overwhelming, and I found myself preparing for the worst.

I dreaded the holiday celebrations that year, during which Heather’s family came to stay with us before she headed off to a treatment center in Boston. During dinners that should have been about seasonal togetherness, we discussed how her family could come to terms with Heather’s deadly disease. We talked about the future of our finances and childcare options for Lily. We made plans to pay for Heather’s expensive treatments, and to my embarrassment discussed how her family could help us stay afloat financially.  Heather and I both worked, but with the new baby money was already tight, and with expensive treatment and travel looming, on top of the fact that we would soon be down to one income when Heather started treatment, we were going to be in real trouble. Heather’s family helped us figure out what we could liquidate for cash, and how much they could afford to pay for. I was mortified and embarrassed, and it would be years before I could look back on that conversation with anything but shame.

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer malignant pleural mesothelioma story stories thirties 30s young mom mother kids holidays Christmas

Mesothelioma
Image courtesy of http://www.mesothelioma.com

I was so awash with negative emotions that I couldn’t see what I now see today. I realize now how mistaken I was to look at this time so negatively.  What I see now is that I was being so firmly supported by our family – people who came from afar to be with Heather, Lily and me during our moment of need. They were willing to help us in any way possible, they offered to make incredible sacrifices of their own for our well-being, but I was so weighed down with guilt and fear that I couldn’t see that clearly.

In spite of the odds against her, Heather eventually beat mesothelioma. This holiday season I want to take the time to give thanks for everything that I have; I know how much family means because of how close I came to losing the most important person in my life. I am so thankful for my little Lily’s continued health and growth and for all the people who helped us through our dark times. Thank you so much! You’ve all given me a reason to look forward to celebrating the holidays.

*******************

Special thanks to Cameron and his wife for sharing their story…

Would you like to be featured here?  

If you have something to share, please send me an email:

cancerinmythirties@yahoo.com

                        

Thank You & Happy Holidays!

Procrastinators Unite! Photo Cards — Printed, Addressed, Mailed w/ FREE STAMPS for $0.25

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties young kids mother motherhood mom 30s Christmas

My Boys — Christmas Card Photo

Still need to order your holiday photo cards, greeting cards or invitations?  Here’s an amazing deal:

Place your order before 11:59 p.m. ET on 12/17 and you will not only receive FREE Standard Shipping (through USPS), but you will also receive 70% off your photo card order.  AND, like I did, you could choose to have CardStore.com address, stamp (with a 1st class stamp!) and mail your cards on your behalf for no charge (THE STAMP IS EVEN FREE)!!!

This is a PHENOMENAL deal!  I ended up paying $0.24 each for my 4″ x 8″ holiday photo cards — printed, addressed and stamped!  All for less than the cost of a 1st class stamp (did I mention that the stamp was free?)!

Of course I did order a “value” design (because “Value” is my middle name — well, not really!) and didn’t have the 1,000 card choice options I’m accustomed to each year, but for $13 for 55 photo cards, stamped and mailed, I didn’t mind.  And even if you choose to class it up a bit more with a Signature or Premium card, this is still a terrific deal!

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties young kids mother 30s

Not really our holiday card — but a quick mock-up! Our personalized text is missing and the pic is pixelated in this one.

My cards were also so cheap because I ordered 55 and received a quantity discount.  I’m not sure how many cards push you into the “quantity” range — and I’m too tired to test it.  But the prices are still low, even without an added discount.  The drawback?  They say that the cards should reach my recipients on or before 12/22.  A little late by most people’s standards, but still before Christmas.  And had I found the deal and ordered sooner, this would have been a non-issue.  But I’m so exhausted all the time & we just got our tree this week & didn’t take our traditional “under the tree” photo until Thursday, so I’m trying not to chastise myself too much!

Celebrating Kwanzaa?  Their Kwanzaa card selection is also governed by the same deals.  Season’s Greetings cards, too.

And, hey, these are such a great deal that you could make New Year’s cards or invitations and be an early bird with them!

Here’s the breakdown of my order: 

55 “Value Design” 4″ x 8″ photo cards (flat)

  •  Each card is Printed, Addressed (my return address and the recipient’s address), Stamped (FREE) and Mailed to my individual recipients!

Cost:

Cards:  $1.09 each  LESS  quantity discount   LESS   70% off ALL Holiday Photo Cards, Greeting Cards or Invitations  =  $0.24 each!

Stamps:  $0.00

Shipping:  $0.00

Grand Total:  $13.03 including 55 stamps!

So, design away!  Just be sure to place your order before 11:59 p.m. ET Monday night to take advantage of all of the discounts.  I’ll include some links below to help you get started.

P.S.  They even include a fancy schmancy Excel spreadsheet template you can use if you don’t want to individually add addresses on their web site.  Login, go to “All You” and click “Address Book.”  Fill in your addresses and when you are ready to order your cards, just import the spreadsheet and, voila, you’ll see all of your addresses there.

P.P.S. I am in NO way affiliated with CardStore.com.  I just found them this morning and am using them for the very first time (in lieu of spending more and ordering from “big-box” stores like I usually do).

P.P.P.S.

The 70% off Holiday Cards code:  CCP2147 — Be sure to enter it at checkout!!!  Expires 12/17 11:59 p.m. ET

Free Standard Shipping or Free Stamps code — There isn’t one, just order by 12/31

Christmas Value cards link:  http://www.cardstore.com/shop/christmas/cards/bargain

Kwanzaa cards link (No “value” option):   http://www.cardstore.com/shop/kwanzaa

New Year’s cards link:  http://www.cardstore.com/shop/new-years

Season’s Greetings Value cards link:  http://www.cardstore.com/shop/seasons-greetings/bargain

————–

Happy Holidays!

$50 Straws AND How Cancer Changes Everything

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer mastectomy  hospital port

A different day. A different place. In a less hospitally-looking reclining chair at the Cancer Center.

This will probably seem like an odd post, but I’m going to present a snippet of my afternoon from two different perspectives for no other reason than “just because.”  Thanks for indulging me.

Scenario 1:

Across the room, a girl sits in a recliner with a small table beside her.  She is sipping a large cup of tea.  The tea bag tag dangles gently over the edge of her cup. The girl stares off into the distance and a smile crosses her lips.  What is she thinking about?  Perhaps she is remembering a lover from her college days?  Maybe she is picturing a basket of puppies?

Wait… judging from a frame most would describe as thin and a belly that is unmistakably large and rounded, it’s clear that she must be pregnant — she must be thinking of the baby growing in her womb.  Yes.

Her eyes light up as she thinks of the “baby duckling yellow” paint color she and her husband chose for the baby’s room this morning.  “It’s not too masculine, not too feminine, and it will be easy to paint over if we decide to change it when the baby gets a bit older.”  She bites her lip as she wonders how she is going to wait for the next three months to meet her new baby.  She has slipped her calendar out of her purse and is making a list of baby names now.  It’s the same list she and her husband have been coming up with every night before bed.  But she thinks she might have a revelation and “the one” might pop into her head today.

She continues her list.

She is mostly alone as she relaxes in the large open room filled with beds and curtains and chairs just like hers.  Mostly.  She has a number of visitors over the course of the next hour.  Each one stops by to chat briefly with her.  She laughs and talks with them individually.  And then her visitors move on, one by one.

She continues to sip on her unusually large cup of hot tea. Her final visitor is dressed in white and bears the name of her grandmother.  Her hands are full, but with what?  It’s hard to say.  The visitor dressed in white sits across from the girl and then leans toward her for an unusually long time.  She holds what looks like a long, shiny pin or needle in her hand.  Odd.  But when she stands up to walk away, her hands are empty and she and the girl are both smiling.  She now has something pinned to her chest — a flower perhaps?

Just as her name is called she looks at her list.  She is clearly pleased with her accomplishment and is excited to share this new name with her husband.  It was her grandmother’s name.

She slides gracefully out of the chair (well, as gracefully as a pregnant woman can) to meet the woman who beckoned her.  They walk happily down the hall together and slip into a room nearby.  The door closes behind them.

When they emerge, they are smiling and walking again.  The girl is stroking her belly, as if to comfort the baby inside.  She returns to her chair as the lady in white brings her a cocktail with one of those cute little paper umbrellas poking out from the rim of the glass. She relaxes for a bit longer before rising from her comfy chair, bidding adieu to her friends and walking out to greet her waiting husband.

————————————————

cancer in my thirties cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer 30s cartoon

Cartoon Credit: chibird.tumblr.com

Scenario 2:

I am sitting in a large, sterile room.  Across the way, I see a girl…or a woman, really.  She looks biologically young, but I can tell she has been weathered by experience.  Something tells me that she probably still thinks of herself as a girl in the quiet morning hours when everyone else is asleep.  So I will indulge her and call her “a girl.”  It’s the least I can do.

The woman, uh, girl, is sitting in a reclining hospital chair.  Beside her is a small table where alcohol swabs and some medical paraphernalia sit. She holds a large, lidded Styrofoam cup, the largest one I have ever seen, in her hands.  Dangling on the side of the cup I see a tea bag tag.  She looks at the bit of wisdom the tag has to dispense, rolls her eyes, and takes a sip from her straw.  Odd that she is drinking hot tea through a straw.  Maybe she’s one of those women who don’t want to stain their teeth so they drink their tea and coffee through straws?

Just then a nurse walks over to her and asks her to sign a form stating that she understands the risk of drinking this tea.  WTF?

Well, it’s not your average tea.  It’s tea that has been infused with a radiocontrast agent.  Is it radioactive tea?

The girl stares off into the distance and a smile crosses her lips.  She is thinking of a sandy beach in a warm place far away.  “If this is more cancer,” she thinks, “I am moving to that beach.”

She puts her hand on her protruding belly and secretly hopes one of the nurses will ask her if she is pregnant when she signs the next consent form.  It’s an odd thing to hope for, almost masochistic, really.  She pictures what she would say in response to the question.  “Of course I’m not pregnant.  I’ve been gutted.  Every part that makes me a woman (except the “V” one) has been stolen from me.  I am empty inside.  Dead inside.  And, oh, this?  It’s edema.  My belly is swollen with fluid.  No baby.  I’m here to see if it’s cancer in here, not a baby.  My fate was sealed at 33 when those lumps in my breast were written off as nothing.”

Of course no one asks her if she is pregnant.  They all know the answer.  They all know why she is here.

And she wouldn’t have the guts to say what’s on her mind, anyway.  She wouldn’t want to hurt or bewilder anyone.  She wouldn’t want to ruin anyone’s day.  So she thinks about what she would really say.  “Nope, just fluid.”

She snaps out of her daydream when a second nurse asks to see the port in her chest.  They’ll need it later.

She slips her calendar out of her purse and tries to recall the appointments she has scheduled for next week.  Her fuzzy chemobrain has made it impossible for her to remember much these days.  She soon finds herself drawing seagulls and starfish in the margins.  “Oh, to have my toes in the sand right now and to be anywhere other than here,” she dreams.

She shifts gears and makes a list of everything she needs to do when she leaves.  Her 3rd graders — twin boys — will be waiting for her.  It will be dinnertime.

She is mostly alone as she sits in the large open hospital room filled with curtains on tracks and not rods, hospital beds and hospital reclining chairs just like hers.  Mostly alone.  A number of nurses stop over to check on her progress with “the drink” or to ask her to sign a form.  She smiles and makes small talk with each of them.  And then her visitors move on, one by one.  She continues to sip on her unusually large cup of hot tea.  Through a straw.   That’s probably so she doesn’t spill the giant cup of lukewarm possibly radioactive tea on herself.

Her final visitor is dressed in white and bears the name of her long deceased grandmother.  Nancy.  Her Nanna was one of her most favorite people in the world.  She watched her die a painful death from cancer when she was 8 through 9 years old. “My kids are 8, too,” she thinks.

The nurse sets up a tray with everything she needs to access the girl’s port.

She holds a long shiny needle and asks if the girl likes to hold her breath or if she applied the EMLA cream in advance to make it hurt less.

The girl laughs, “No, no need.  Just go ahead.”  She has been poked and cut so many times it’s not even funny.

The needle punctures her upper right chest skin and enters her port.  Now they will be able to push the intravenous radiocontrast agent through her chest.

The nurse dresses her port with a tegaderm and gauze.  With the little yellow butterfly clip sticking against the transparent tegaderm, it almost looks as though the girl has a flower pinned to her chest.  An ugly flower, but a flower nonetheless.

Just as her name is called, she looks at her list.  She is already tired, but smiles at the thought of being able to sit down with her kids when she is done.

She drags her body from the chair to meet the woman who beckoned her.  They walk quietly down the hall together and slip into a room nearby.  The door closes behind them.

When they emerge, they are smiling faint smiles and walking again.  The girl is doing that thing she does — looking dizzy and as though she is going to hit the deck.  She strokes her sore belly.  The nurse asks her to lie down until she feels better and says that people who receive the contrast through their ports need to wait 10 minutes for observation before they can leave anyway.  The nurse brings the girl a drink.  This time it’s plain cola.  Nothing added.  The nurse puts a bendy straw in the Coke.  The straw wrapper bears the name of a famous medical supplier.  “Yikes, a straw from a medical company!  It probably cost $50,” she thinks.

When her 10 minutes is up, she is so ready to leave that she walks out in her disposable drawstring hospital pants and stuffs her slacks in her bag.  It’s time to go home.

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So I was sitting in one of those recliner-type hospital chairs drinking oral contrast in preparation for my CT scan when I started thinking about perspective.  Of course the “girl” above is me…

Thanks for reading… Your comments and “Likes” brighten my life…

Grateful Am I…

oopherectomy hysterectomy breast cancer cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com 30s incision liver lab

After not posting for a week, I thought I would put my concerns about poor liver function tests, leg and abdominal edema, and the words of the medical professionals who urged me to “get myself to the Emergency Room” this week aside and return with a post focused on gratitude.

A fellow blogger has honored my little blog with an “Illuminating Blogger Award” and I’d like to take a minute to acknowledge how thankful I am.

Many thanks to http://theretiringsort.com/!

breast cancer in my thirties cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com 30s

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The rules for accepting the award are as follows:

  • Leave a comment on the original award site
  • Share a random fact about yourself:  My dream job would involve saving sea turtles.
  • Choose 5 bloggers to pass the torch to. Here they are:

***

1.  http://bornbyariver.wordpress.com

2.  http://travelgardeneat.com/

3.  http://lesleycarter.wordpress.com/

4.  http://keepingitrealmom.com/

5.  http://clanmother.com/

Thank you, “The Retiring Sort!”  Thank you to the bloggers listed above (whose blogs brighten my days).  And thank you to everyone who takes the time to read and follow my blog!

Oh No, I’ve Been Robbed! Did Cancer Steal My Compassion?

cancer in my thirties young 30s hospital

Cartoon by Robert and Donna Trussel http://donnatrussell.com/cancer-cartoons/

So I spent Thursday night through Friday morning in the E.R. with one of my sons.  I was reluctant to go in, but his 106.2 degree fever and listlessness made it necessary.  Though no one likes the emergency room, I have a developed a particular and overwhelming distaste for the whole hospital scene.  And, sadly, this hospital overnight prompted me to realize how “jaded” I’ve become when it comes to the severity of symptoms and illnesses in general.  Call it another side effect of being a cancer patient.

What I am afraid to admit out loud — and even really hesitant to share in this, my somewhat anonymous blog, is that I am beginning to wonder if cancer is interfering with my ability to be the kind of parent and person I want to be (and the kind of parent/person I used to be).

While procedures and blood draws and surgeries and medications and side effects and…(well, you get the picture) have become the norm for me, they are not the norm for everyone.  And, fortunately, they are not the norm for my children.  But I sometimes lose sight of the fact that everyone hasn’t spent what amounts to months (when you add up all of my time as an inpatient and outpatient since my cancer diagnosis in April 2010) in hospitals and cancer centers for surgeries, life-threatening infections, chemo, radiation, appointments, monoclonal antibody infusions, port blood draws, tests and procedures.  Or that not everyone is waiting to find out if that lesion in their brain is malignant or if their liver function and lab values are so poor because the cancer may have metastasized to a vital organ.

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s funny medical cartoons I see my new perspective reflected in my everyday life.  Someone will tell me about a symptom they’re experiencing or about their cold or papercut and I try to be supportive and kind.  In my mind, though, I sometimes find myself wandering off to thoughts of how upsetting it might be for them if they had to have their breasts cut off and their lymph nodes dug out, if they faced each day with a constant headache, if they had to manage life with lymphedema, or if they lived their lives with unrelenting neuropathy (a leftover gem from the chemo) that gets so bad that it interferes with their ability to concentrate/type/hold a glass.

Or when I hear a pregnant woman my age talking about heartburn or swollen ankles and I am consoling on the outside, but inside I am thinking about how the large masses in my pelvis and ovaries prompted two painful surgeries and the loss of what remained of all but one of my female parts (in case you are wondering, it rhymes with bagina).  And then I drift off to a mental picture of the baby girl I will never get to hold in my arms because:

a.) You need a uterus to have a baby — and ovaries and Fallopian tubes and a cervix lend something to the process, too.  But all of these things filled my gynecologic oncologist’s specimen jars and were sent off to a lab and probably a garbage bin somewhere.

b.) Who would allow someone with my medical history to adopt a baby?  As much as I would love to be here to raise a new little baby, let’s face it, I am clearly a flight risk.

I thought of a “c”.

c.)  I know surrogacy has gained popularity.  But that’s not even an option for me because my eggs were stolen.  Okay, they weren’t stolen.  But it feels like they were.

And I have that heartburn and those swollen ankles (and legs), too.  Two years of chemo and Herceptin messed up my kidneys and made edema a big problem for me.  And I have my dusty bottle of Nexium for my acid reflux disease, but I stopped taking it because I take so many pills that I’d rather look at those pretty purple capsules than ingest them.

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s funny medical cartoons

Cartoon Credit: Robert & Donna Trussel
http://donnatrussell.com/cancer-cartoons/

The bottom line is, even though I want to feel sorry for you because you have a cold, inside I am dreaming of what it would be like if a runny nose and congestion were my biggest medical problems.  Not so deep down I am wishing I could just take some NyQuil, hop into bed, and wake up the next day and be all better.

This is NOT me.  This is NOT who I am.  I am was a kind and thoughtful person before cancer left my spirit beaten and bruised.  Even if I felt like I like was dying, I would put your illness ahead of mine.  I would comfort and take care of you.  I would ask what I could do to be there for YOU.  Even if I had just had surgery myself, I would gladly and altruistically chop vegetables and brown chicken for your homemade chicken soup.  And I would do it without a second thought.

Though my ovaries weren’t technically stolen, I feel like the deeply compassionate person I used to be was.

While this isn’t great news for most of the people in my life, it is worse news for my twin 3rd graders.  I fear that there will come a time when I devalue their medical experiences, their illnesses, their scrapes and bruises, their throat cultures and their trips to the doctor for a flu shot or a blood draw, or the sessions with the nebulizer to that help with their asthma.  And that’s just not good.

cancerinmythirties@yahoo.com breast cancer thirties 30s mom hugging roo baby hysterectomy death dyingSo I am trying my best to undo some of what the cancer has done.  I am making a conscious effort to put the severity of some of my experiences aside to look at things as they are for other people and to avoid comparisons.  I am trying to give my boys the special hugs they need for their scraped knees and to talk them through their fears of having blood drawn or shots given.  And, as was the case this week, I am putting my own exhaustion and pain and sickness aside (as much as I can, anyway) to care for these boys who need me.  Case in point — even though my brain shouted, “Don’t do it!” because I am leukopenic and neutropenic, I climbed into my son’s hospital bed to cuddle with him because he was worried about what was going to happen to him… While I can’t guarantee that it always will, my heart won this time.

I am really trying to do what counts for my kids.  But I may still look at you with envy when you tell me you have a cold.

*Special thanks to Donna & Robert Trussell for allowing me to use their fantastic cartoons*

PLEASE stop eating PLASTIC!

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s young plastic

Please Try a Sandwich Instead!

After hearing yet another “young” person’s cancer story, I feel absolutely compelled to write this post.  It’s too late for me to prevent my cancer, but it may not be too late for you or your mother, sister, daughter, friend, wife, husband, son, father, aunt…

I am writing today to urge you to limit your intake of the harmful chemicals found in plastic.  Because the dangers of plastic use have been largely ignored by the powers that be, you probably ingest more chemicals than you even realize each and every day.

As a breast cancer patient diagnosed in my early thirties, I am literally sick cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer plastic mastectomy bpa fda garbageover this.  I am actually quite surprised that I haven’t posted about this topic sooner because it is something I think about every day.  Until I was aware of the danger (at some point after my cancer diagnosis), I ate and drank from plastic packaging at least as much as the average consumer.  I used plastic water bottles and those plastic travel coffee mugs all the time.  I left water bottles in the hot car and drank from them without a thought.  I consumed soups and other foods from cans, used plastic food storage containers, plastic wrap and plastic bags, and I didn’t think twice about handling store receipts coated with BPA (bisphenol A, a hormone-disrupting chemical often found in plastics and register receipts and linked to cancer, obesity, heart disease and other diseases).

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer awareness pink ribbon mastectomy illnessCan I blame my cancer on my exposure to the chemicals in plastics and other products?  No, probably not entirely.  But do I think this played a role in encouraging my illness?  Yes, definitely.  As a young person with no family history and no risk factors for breast cancer, I feel pretty justified in pinning some of the blame on an environmental cause, especially since I am in a segment of the population that has seen an increase in breast cancer rates since plastic use became so widespread.

Plastic is EVERYWHERE.  Food, drinks and personal care items like lotions and cosmetics are packaged in plastic more often than not.  This makes chemical exposure almost inevitable.  I have tried to eliminate plastic from my life (and from my children’s lives) but have determined that this would be far too costly and time consuming for tired ol’ me.  In the world we live in today, plastic exposure is virtually unavoidable.  So I have refocused my energy on limiting our plastic use.

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer plastic landfill mastectomy bpa fda

Some of my favorite ways of reducing our plastic exposure:

-We drink from glasses and mugs whenever possible.  I have recycled most of the kiddie cups that once filled the shelves of my

cupboard (and I wish I could take back the years I used plastic sippy cups for the kids).  We make a concerted effort to use non-plastic drinking vessels now.

-I reuse my empty glass Snapple bottles.  I fill them with water (and other beverages) and carry them in lieu of a plastic water bottle.  I  usually keep one or two with me and have a couple in the fridge so I can just grab them and go.  Of course you can do this with any glass bottle.  Not only will you be making a healthier choice for yourself, but you’ll also be making a good choice for the environment.

-We store food in glass and never in plastic.  At first this was really difficult because I just had a few glass storage containers.  cancerinmythirities.wordpress.com breast cancer plastic bpa glassI made makeshift containers by putting plates on top of bowls as lids — not a good use of space!  But I have since asked for Pyrex for Christmas and birthdays and my little collection is growing.

-We have reduced our use of canned foods.  BPA is often found in the lining of food and baby formula cans.

-I avoid leaving cosmetics, lotions and other liquids packaged in plastic in the car.  You may have heard the warning about not leaving water bottles in the car for the same reason — heating plastic encourages the release of toxic chemicals.

-We don’t use “steam in the bag” foods like frozen vegetables.

-Whenever glass is available (for food, beverages, personal care products), I’ll choose it over plastic, even if it costs a little bit more.  We are on a REALLY tight budget, but I think it’s worth it. cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer plastic carcinogens chemicals Unfortunately, though, it’s not usually a choice — glass is often hard to find.  Even the organic hormone-free milk at my grocery store comes in a plastic container!

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Why am I publishing a post like this?  It is not because I’m having a bad day and need to vent (that’s just a coincidence!).  It is not because I am trying to blame someone for the hell I have been through in the past few years.  It is because I want to save someone else from the pain and the loss I have experienced and will likely continue to experience.  It is because I want to save YOU.

While I realize you may not be able to nix plastic from your life entirely, I hope you will please do your best to cut out as much plastic exposure as possible.

And PLEASE ask your friends and family and everyone you care about to do cancerinmythirties.wordpress.org breast cancer squirrel nuts plastic carcinogen bpa fda mastectomythe same.  If you are worried about sounding like an alarmist or a nutcase or a conspiracy theorist, take comfort in the fact that there is enough evidence to support the cancer – plastic link to validate your plight.

You can also consider joining an email writing campaign to urge companies to use safer packaging.  Or sign a petition urging the FDA to ban the use of packaging that contains carcinogens.  Here’s one asking the FDA to ban BPA, a carcinogen found in cash register receipts, in many of the plastics we eat and drink from, and in the bodies of more than 80% of Americans!  It will just take a minute and could make a big difference:

http://www.change.org/petitions/fda-get-cancer-causing-chemicals-out-of-all-food-packaging-now

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I googled “breast cancer plastic” and at the top of the list of search results (other than images of plastic ‘breast cancer awareness’ items — that’s another blog post!), I found an article that was featured on one of my favorite go-to sites for breast cancer information and support — breastcancer.org.  While I love bc.org and think the article is great for creating awareness, I do disagree with one section.  It lists “safe” plastics, but based on my research, it seems there may be no truly “safe” plastics.  Plastic = Chemicals.  Right now the focus is on BPA which was long considered “safe” by the FDA (we’re talking half a century here!).  I believe it’s just a matter of time before more of these chemicals are studied and deemed carcinogenic.  In the meantime, here is the breastcancer.org article:

http://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/plastic

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cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer plastic turtle mastectomy bpa fda

Of course I hope you will share this post with everyone you know and I hope you will work to reduce your chemical consumption.  But I know that’s a lofty dream in today’s world.  So, please do whatever you can.  Whether you do one of these things or all of them, know that I am proud of you.  

If we can prevent even one more person from getting sick, we’ve done something good.

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If you have an idea for a way to reduce plastic use, please share it with us!   Thanks!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Renewal — Confessions of a Former Mermaid

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer ocean hawaii photo mastectomy sick

One of my most favorite places in the world
cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge subject for this week is renewal.  The word can mean different things to different people.  But for me, one word comes to mind — SEA.

Perhaps I was a mermaid or a sea turtle in another life?  Or perhaps my love of the water is a genetic trait passed down for generations by my English and Scottish ancestors, much like my blue eyes and my dimples?

breast cancer mastectomy hawaii beauty ocean sea

Regardless of how difficult life can be and how sick I have felt at different points along this rocky road since the cancer diagnosis, there is always one place where I feel safe and healthy and whole again.  There is one place where I feel renewed.  And that is in the ocean.

Pools are lovely.  And the lake is okay.  But the sense of relief I feel when I walk into the ocean or into Florida’s warm gulf waters just doesn’t compare.  It is as if I am home again.  Let me swim in lovely warm sea water and I feel refreshed and renewed and ready to face the world again.

Unfortunately, I don’t have many opportunities to visit the water and I live in a region that is cold half of the year.  And the bathtub just doesn’t cut it!  So I live for our trips to the sea and hold fast to all of the memories I’ve made in the water… And I dream of the next time I will be able to immerse myself in Florida’s warm blue oasis.

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breast cancer bilateral mastectomy hawaii seaIt was almost 2 years ago when I was shifting treatments from Taxol (chemotherapy) to radiation.  I had a 10-day break in between, so we cashed in our credit card miles and flew to Hawaii.  I was terribly sick from 9 months of treatment.  I had a shiny bald head and was swollen from the steroids and kidney trouble.  And it hadn’t been that long since my mastectomy.  I was a disaster.  But the trip was a dream come true.  How fortunate I felt to be able to dip my toes into Hawaii’s alluring waters.  It was a little too chilly for swimming for my fragile body for most of the trip, but just having the opportunity to absorb so much beauty was incredibly uplifting and replenishing for my mind and soul.  Here are some of the photos from that unforgettable vacation.

breast cancer thirties young bilateral mastectomy hawaii ocean sea bald

Thanks for reading!

breast cancer thirties bilateral mastectomy hawaii plane ocean

breast cancer thirties bilateral mastectomy hawaii plane ocean kailua lanai

breast cancer thirties bilateral mastectomy hawaii plane ocean

breast cancer thirties bilateral mastectomy hawaii plane ocean sea turtle mom

Sea Turtle

To participate in the Weekly Photo Challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/weekly-photo-challenge-renewal/

dailypost.wordpress.com/category/photo-challenges/

what my 8~year old son has to say…

One of my sons asked if he could post something on my blog.  He wrote the title and what follows here all by himself!

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breast cancer mom kids boys mattie dog lymphedema mastectomy

From my 8-year-old son:

Cancer is a jerk of course every one nows.

my mom has CANCER  its bad because my mom can not do that much stuff.

I WANT TO DOODOO on cancer  🙂

I HATE IT I HATE IT I HATE IT.

thank you for following my mom readers

Weekly Photo Challenge: Geometry

Geometry in Glass:

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s young mastectomy

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s young mastectomy

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/photo-challenges/

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/weekly-photo-challenge-geometry/

DP Challenge: I Wish I Were… Going to Live to See My Kids Grow Up

 

breast cancer thirties 30s motherhood death dying

I’m a little late to the party, but I just discovered The Daily Post and the blog’s weekly challenge for bloggers.

This week’s challenge is to finish this sentence:  “I Wish I Were…”

Thirty years ago I would have said, “I wish I were a farmer or a doctor or a scientist.” Twenty years ago I would have said, “I wish I were destined for greatness.”  Ten years ago I would have said, “I wish I were someone who could change the world in a positive and enduring way.”

Today I would say, “I wish I were going to live long enough to see my twins turn eighteen.”

Of course I know it is still possible.  “They” say anything is possible.  I just don’t think it is very likely.  No, I’m not one of the women on those TLC shows about ladies who have their first baby at age 70.  And, no, I’m not someone who believes in the Mayan Calendar doomsday prediction for next month.

I am just a mom in her thirties who was diagnosed with Her2 positive Stage IIIc breast cancer when her little boys were in kindergarten.  I now realize that to these young boys, I am a doctor, a farmer and a scientist.  To these little boys, I am great.  And if I can just stick around long enough to help them grow, I will be changing the world in the most positive and enduring way possible…

breast cancer thirties babies 30s death dying love

*If you’d like to take the challenge yourself: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/weekly-writing-challenge-i-wish-i-were/

Halloween Deal — 2 Kids Eat Free at Chili’s

 

October 29 – 31

For anyone who needs a night out with the kids, Chili’s is offering 2 Free Kid’s Meals with the purchase of 1 adult entree…  (Don’t forget the coupon! — Link Below)

Dine in, or I’m told this offer is often good for To-Go meals, too…  (Check with your Chili’s first about “To-Go”.)

So if the deal is valid for To-Go in your area, what does this mean?

  • A:    You can enjoy your meal at home, your favorite park, in your car, etc.
  • B:     If you don’t have kids — or if you have them but need a dinner without them — you    can order 1 adult entree and 2 FREE kid’s meals and eat them all yourself (or share them with someone) if you’d like!

Here’s a link to the coupon:

http://campaign.chilis.com/spookyforthekids/

Enjoy!

FREE Kids Meal at OUTBACK plus FREE Steak Dinner for your next visit!

WANT to MAKE HALLOWEEN SPOOKTACULAfor   THE whole FAMILY?

[And get a free steak dinner for your next date night?]

Help your little ghosts and goblins fill their tummies before the Trick-or-Treating begins on Halloween!

ON HALLOWEEN:  Get a FREE kids meal with an adult entree purchase…

*Don’t feel like dining in?  This offer is also valid for CURBSIDE take-away!*

But there’s a special TREAT if you dine in…  Hidden in the beverage book on your table, you will find a “You Have Found the Treat” picture.  

TELL your server — and you will get a FREE STEAK DINNER good for your next Outback Steakhouse visit!

The Fine Print:

Free Kids Meal valid at participating Outback Steakhouse restaurants with purchase of adult entree on October 31, 2012 only — while supplies last.  Kids Meal is for children ages 10 and under.  Offer not valid in conjunction with any other discount or offer and has no cash value.  Valid for curbside take-away and dine in.

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*If you want to see more posts like this one,

please LIKE it below!*

I Want Out… Right?

As we were driving home the other night, I kept replaying the gas station scene from The Bridges of Madison County in my head.  You know, the one where Meryl Streep’s character is sitting in the car while her husband is pumping the gas.  She sees Robert Redford, the man who has asked her to run away with him.  Redford is also the man with whom she has had an affair and with whom she could have a completely different life.  She reaches for the door handle, almost prepared to pull it and to run out on her life to begin anew.  Almost. She can’t do it.  With tears in her eyes — because she knows what she is giving up — her hand drops from the handle when her husband returns to the car and they drive away.

It has been a long time since I last saw the movie and there were parts of it I didn’t agree with like, um, the adultery…  But that scene in the movie has stayed with me.  For me, though, Robert Redford would not represent a man I’ve slept with (because there haven’t been any since my husband), but he would represent an opportunity for a new beginning, a different life.

This is an odd topic for me to write about because I would never have expressed these thoughts before.  It’s kind of comical, almost like I expect angry black crows to fall out of the sky and to begin attacking me or that I think a fiery explosion might wipe  my whole family out in an instant, simply because I’ve allowed myself to wonder what it would be like to have a life that isn’t so difficult and, dare I say it, painful.

I never had these thought before.  I grew up in poverty and was teased for it right up until high school started.  I experienced important and traumatic losses at early age.  I grew up without a Dad — after living with a Dad who was abusive and drunk most of the time.  And blah, blah, blah…  The point is, I have never been a stranger to struggle or compromise or death or pain or loss.  But I never questioned my life or my choices or how other people’s choices affected my life.  I never looked at any of it with regret or disdain.  It was my life, for better or worse.  If there was something I didn’t like about it, I would work hard to change it.

I didn’t have any real regrets…  Until I was in the midst of a chemo combo that made me feel like I was inches from death.  I was so sick and needed to be nurtured and cared for and needed a partner to hold my hand — or, at the very least, someone who didn’t feel the urge to fight and argue with me or the kids all the time.  And then when I had the bilateral mastectomy and the hysterectomy, I tried to pretend these surgeries didn’t bother me and that I could roll with the punches.  And I did.  I just handled the pain and the immense sense of loss that accompanied losing these body parts, especially to cancer and especially at such a young age.  But inside I longed for a spouse who would hug me and tell me that I was still pretty, still a woman.  I needed someone to tell me that he loved me.  I kept thinking that for years I had weathered all of the ups and downs of our marriage, his deceit, his mood swings and so much more — and all I really wanted were a few kind words and to be hugged.  But I guess some things are just too much to ask for…

So as we drove home the other night and I thought about how stressful the previous 36 hours had been because of his bad temper and his unpredictable mood swings, I looked at the door handle and thought, “I am done with living this way and I want out.”  I wanted out with all of my heart…well, almost all of my heart.

But I couldn’t do it.  Especially when the only place I wanted to run to (other than Hawaii) was my home… to change the locks.  Now it would be just plain silly to jump out of my home-bound car to run home.  Right?

So I am still here…

With the same locks…

With the same husband…

Thinking about what it would be like to be dealing with cancer if I weren’t married to someone who was rooting for the cancer to win instead of me.

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Looking for an Affordable Dinner Out? 2 Kids Eat Free at Chili’s

October 15-17

For anyone who needs a night out with the kids, Chili’s is offering 2 Free Kid’s Meals with the purchase of 1 adult entree…  (Don’t forget the coupon! — Link Below)

Dine in, or I’m told this offer is often good for To-Go meals, too…  (Check with your Chili’s first about “To-Go”.)

So if the deal is valid for To-Go in your area, what does this mean?

  • A:    You can enjoy your meal at home, your favorite park, in your car, etc.
  • B:     If you don’t have kids — or if you have them but need a dinner without them — you    can order 1 adult entree and 2 FREE kid’s meals and eat them all yourself (or share them with someone) if you’d like!

Here’s a link to the coupon:

http://campaign.chilis.com/octoberkids/

Enjoy!