Sunday, May 27, 2007

In Memoriam

There are too many to list. If I do I will forget someone's name. And I don't want to forget anyone.

I have met a lot of women since my first diagnosis in September of 2001. Countless strangers who became my sisters, who became my strength. What would have I done without you all?

I was diagnosed a few days before 9/11. I was stuck in Manhattan on that fateful day. Because of those two life altering events occurring at the same time, I have always considered them to be the same in that not only was our country attacked out of the blue, so was I.

I view cancer as a terrorist. It hides among the population and sneaks in unnoticed. It then starts to create a terror cell designed to kill and nothing else. It has no purpose but death. The terrorists who we are fighting across the world are the same. They want us dead and nothing else. That war is being fought far away from home, by brave men and women who are willing to give up their lives for this nation. God bless each and everyone of them.

My terror war was won the first time. I think. At least, I know I killed off enough of the cells to keep me disease free for five years. That is a victory. This new cancer is a different one from the first so I have a whole new set of terrorists trying to win. Defeat is not an option for me. And I will give as good as I get. I will fight with every weapon my medical team has. And I will kill each and every one of the terror cells inside me. No matter how hard it is on me - Life is worth it.

But then there are my sisters, the sweet young moms, the teachers and retired nurses, the grandmothers and the daughters who fought just as hard as I am trying to and medicine has failed them. THEY did not lose a single battle. The medical world did. Every one of the women I have known over these years who has fought this disease has gone out swinging. Cancer beat medicine - not them.

I miss them. I miss their hope. I miss their capacity to see beyond a dire diagnosis and continue to live in the today. I miss being able to pray for a miracle for them. I miss the laughter. I miss all of my sisters who went before me. May there be a special place in heaven for them to be received and loved with lots of room for the others to join them.

On this Memorial Day, I thank every veteran and hero of every battle waged for the United States of America.

But I also honor every brave warrior angel who has been drafted into a battle she never should have been asked to fight. I hold her children as they now live without her. I comfort her family as they try to understand. I take the hand of her parents as they say, "This is not the way it is supposed to be."

For every one of us fighting today, we must continue and never relent. We must always think of cancer as our ultimate enemy and remember every little victory we win over the Beast is cheered in heaven by a group of the most beautiful angels you would ever see.

Fight for them. Endure that treatment because you know they would have wanted you to win. And remember, as much as we are the same, we are all different . That is the sadness of this - many of us will survive what our sisters could not. But true warrior angels want us to win even if they couldn't. Every time cancer cannot get the better of us it is a victory celebrated in heaven and earth.

We can fight and we can win. And through it all, we will never, ever forget our sisters who went before us.

" And so we beat on. Boats against the current. Borne back ceaselessly to the past."
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Live It Up

"Everything, everything gives you cancer,

Everything gives you cancer

There's no cure, there's no answer

Everything gives you cancer

Don't touch that dial, don't try to smile

Just take this pill, it’s in your file

Don't work hard, don't play hard

Don't plan for the graveyard

Don't work by night, don't play by day

You'll feel all right, but you will pay

No caffeine, no protein

No booze or nicotine

Remember -

Everything, everything gives you cancer

Everything, everything gives you cancer"

Elvis Costello

Red M&Ms, Barbecue, sitting too close to the TV, having kids, not having kids, meat, milk, stress, TV dinners, Microwaves, sugar, saccharine, Halliburton.....all of it. All of these things probably got me to where I am now. I am bad. That is why I got cancer.

Here is my diet and health habits before cancer: No red meat, chicken maybe once in a blue moon, lots of veggies, exercise, never smoked, didn't drink worth a damn, and I got cancer. My brother used to tell me what I really needed was a cheeseburger and a beer. I am beginning to think he was right. When I saw the cardiologist to check if my heart could handle the toxic chemo and he asked me my "health and lifestyle" history he said, "I am writing you a prescription to start smoking and drinking immediately." God love him. He knows. There is nothing we did or can do to change what happened.

After my first cancer diagnosis I was even more strict. I took all the cancer fighting supplements. Ate flax seeds until I couldn't see straight. And I got it. AGAIN.

Then I have friends who live a positively deadly lifestyle and always get colds and the flu but nothing else. I never get a cold or the flu. So I suppose the take home message is- live well and never get run of the mill sicknesses, only the big ticket items.

It is not OUR FAULT we got breast cancer. WE didn't DO anything. But it sure makes people feel better if they think that we did so they feel "safer." It is a shame that society feels we need guilt on top of the disease. Don't let them suck you in. The people who are putting you into the little box that says " Well she got it because..." are whistling past the grave yard, as my grandma used to say. For they are only a mammo or pet scan away from being diagnosed themselves. With the number now upped to one in seven the chances are not in their favor.

So here is what I do- when someone asks me how they can keep from ending up like me I tell them that they can do everything they can...don't eat fat, don't eat meat, don't eat anything but organic vegetables, don't drink, don't have dairy of any kind, don't go to barbeque's, don't microwave anything, don't drink out of plastic water bottles, don't eat salt, don't eat sugar, don't smile. And when it is all said and done, if you live this way as strictly as possible guess what will happen? You will die anyway. We all do. However, the people who live like that will probably want to die sooner!

Cue: Auntie Mame "LIVE, LIVE, LIVE! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death..."

Whether you have cancer or not- LIVE your life. Have that pint of Phish Food if that is what gets you through the day. Drink your wine. Eat a steak. At least you will die happy.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Tomorrow Really Is a Better Day

Sometimes when we are in the midst of difficulties or hard times it is hard to remember that things actually DO get better. Time is a great friend. I learned this again and again but always seem to conveniently forget when I am particularly miserable.

An example of this is two months ago.

Two months ago I didn't think I would be capable of anything again. Bilateral mastectomies, axillary dissection and recon. Eight hours on the operating room table and then the only thing I can tolerate for pain is Tylenol. I did stay firm and broke free of that hospital as fast as possible and that was a plus. But home or hospital you still can't really move your arms that well and damn it hurts.

This all took place on March 6th.

This weekend, May 5th and 6th, exactly two months to the day, I did the following:

1. washed my car
2. started my garden
3. mowed the lawn
4. wore a tank top
5. watched a soccer game and a baseball game
6. had fun

Two months ago I was laid up with four drains, this weekend I looked great in the tank top thanks to the genius plastic surgeon I am blessed to have. A man even tried to pick me up in CVS... I never knew CVS was a singles joint!

What a difference a couple of months makes, eh?

I am omitting something. I just remembered. I also started chemo two weeks ago.
I told you the Beast wasn't going to take away my summer!

Anyone out there reading this facing chemo, surgery or a new diagnosis... it gets better. IT REALLY DOES. And oh, how the Beast hates that!

And pissing off the Beast is my favorite pastime of all.