Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pass the Tarn-X

For my single sisters... This question is coming up in virtually every interview I have done for the book: What about men? How can you make them more comfortable? Presumably, having breast cancer wasn't enough for us, we have to make sure the men in our lives don't feel uneasy. Here's a simple tip: Make yourselves comfortable and then it will all fall into place when it comes to men.

When/how/if you tell him about your cancer history really cannot be decided before you even go out on a date with the man. Get to know him. Decide first if you want to share that part of your life with him. Remember, cancer was a small part of a lifetime of experiences you have had. There is no more of a rush to tell him about your breast cancer than there is for him to tell you about his appendicitis in 1998. Relax and breathe on a date. And pay attention. Is this a man you want to share intimate details with? Is this a man who will cherish you and honor what you have been through? Don't be blinded by the light of the full moon in your eyes... I know it may have been a while since you were on a date, but please, remember how it works.

Sometimes, after cancer treatments, we forget the harsh reality of the dating world... and men.

If you are waiting for your knight in shining armor, you better stock up on Tarn-X because by the time you find him, he's gonna be rusty. If he is worth polishing, go for it. If he makes you feel less than the fabulous woman you are, move on. Do not, I repeat, do not let anyone diminish you. You are a magnificent warrior who beat back the Cancer Beast. You deserve only the very best.

Remember that.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Because It Matters

The Before Forty Initiative

Think back. After the shock of hearing your diagnosis calmed down a bit, the what-ifs crept in. What if I have to do chemo? What if I lose my hair? What if I lose my breasts?



The side effects of the first two, chemo and hair loss, are temporary. Your body recovers and your hair grows back. It really does. But losing your breasts? That one is permanent. How do you wrap your mind around such a thing? It is a part of you that reflects sensuality, motherhood and your sense of self. While you are not your breasts, not by a long shot, it still is hard to contemplate losing them.



You go online and as one friend told me, the photos look like something out of "Silence of the Lambs." Until now. A company finally gets it. They created a smart, sensitive, informative and hopeful website that answers all your questions, has video diaries from real patients and doctors to take you through each step of all types of reconstruction. They put this site together for one, simple reason: It Matters. Breast reconstruction and how it can change your life and your self esteem after so much loss, is something that has come a long way. Doctors are able to make you look absolutely beautiful.



When Pandora's box was opened and fear, anxiety, anger and despair was set loose, one other thing was released as well: hope. The Pandora's box of  your cancer diagnosis opened with the same items inside your soul. Look for the hope. The chemo works. Your hair comes back. And, if you have to get a mastectomy or two, you CAN have beautiful breasts again.



I highly recommend you take a look at breastreconstructionmatters.com because I know from personal experience, it really does matter.


Take a closer look at that photo. That is breast reconstruction. Not bad, eh?



BreastReconstructionMatters Supports the Before Forty Initiative

Why I wrote the book, "Intimacy After Breast Cancer"

CNN just published this story: "Breast Cancer Survivors Report Sexual Problems the Norm"

This is precisely why I wrote my book, Intimacy After Breast Cancer, Dealing with Your Body, Relationships & Sex. I have had breast cancer twice... chemotherapy twice... surgery, radiation, reconstruction, and everything else they could throw at me... hear this:  sexual dysfunction from breast cancer treatments does not have to be permanent.

You can return to a fulfilling sex life. You can get your body back. You can feel sexy again. Do not let anyone tell you (read: doctors) that you have to accept a sexless life as part of the "new normal." Hell no, baby. You didn't fight so hard to save your life to live half a life!  I have had everything done to me, I am on Femara. I get Lupron once a month. Trust me on this one.  It is not over. And I show you how to get there.

This may seem like a shameless plug for the book, but anyone who knows me, knows that I get really pissed off when "they" tell us that we have to accept less than a wonderful life because we had breast cancer. 

As Pink Hell Month descends upon us and "they" depict us as the orphans of the storm, pull on those hot jeans, kick ass boots, show off your recon and get out there. In fact, come to our party in New York and watch our fashion show with the Warrior Angel Survivor Models. They are all thriving women who just happened to have had or have breast cancer and are showing the world how beautiful they are.

Get up and get out there, girl. Your life is waiting!!!

Monday, September 6, 2010

NINE

When I was a kid my mom gave me the newly invented, "Unbreakable Comb." I broke it. She wouldn't let me play with jigsaw puzzles anymore because I would get out her manicure scissors and cut the pieces so they would "fit." I had a piano teacher who told me that I could never, ever learn how to play the Bach Sonata that was in the back of my sheet music book. In the seven days I had until my next lesson, I practiced every day until I learned it. Then my mom fired him.

Maybe it was the challenge. Maybe I am just not the type of person who you can say, "you can't do this" to. And when it comes to life and death, well, telling me that I have a 20 percent chance of surviving five years because I have the "bad" breast cancer, the one that doctors just can't beat, is just the motivation I needed.

He turned to me, handed me a booklet with stats in it, and said, "Let me tell you about your cancer." And so it began. Just like those jigsaw puzzles, I got out my manicure scissors and cut my pathology report until if fit me, not the other way around. And like that Bach Sonata, I learned everything I needed to know to fight my cancer... and then some. I was not accepting the death sentence I was being given because my cancer was "triple negative." I found research studies in obscure labs and read up on what they were doing and  then backed that up with the science behind the theory.

In the beginning I thought my life was over. Because they told me it was. Then the shock wore off and the real me took over. I wrote two books. Started a Foundation that fights for every woman after me who heard those same words I did. What do I tell them? FIGHT. LEARN. LIVE.

Fire your doctor, if you have to, and find one who is shooting for nothing short of a cure. Then do everything he tells you to.

I did.

Cancer even made a reappearance 6 years later. I beat that back with a stick until it was dead. In all, I have done over 8 different types of chemo, radiation, surgery after surgery and still fight every day by eating the right things and exercising. I have actually had people say, that I "didn't have cancer,  how could I have? I look so, um, normal" How utterly lovely! Thank you!

That's the point. I had it. I have not become it. I am not the world's designated cancer patient. I am a sister, daughter, friend and lover who had a disease once.

I was diagnosed a few days before the World Trade Center was attacked. Those buildings, in all this time, have still not been rebuilt. But I have.

I am lucky as hell. And because of this luck, and the grace that has been inexplicably given to me, my life has changed. I don't accept this gift lightly. I try to pay it back every day by helping as many women as I can. Even if just the fact of me being a nine year survivor helps one woman through the night, it is a gift to me - because I am alive to give it to her.

I still don't take the word "no" easily. I still fight for justice. I still don't play by all the rules, ( driving myself to all my appointments, chemos and even some surgeries; leaving the hospital less than 12 hours after my bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction because of my extreme dislike of hospital ick... you know, those rules.)

When I tell a newly diagnosed woman, "You can do this..." I REALLY MEAN IT.

September 6th. Nine years. My new birthday. Keeping with my tradition I do every year, I will send up 10 balloons from my beach. One for each year of survival, and one for my dearest sisters who did not make it. That is another quirk of mine. As long as I am alive, no one will ever be forgotten.

To the US Task Force who announced a year ago that women do not need baseline screening until the age of 50 and then only every other year: This nine year breast cancer survivor is here because I was screened at age 35. And, even though people think we may be small potatoes now, my Foundation's Before Forty Initiative is going to save the lives of young women across the world by the time we are done building it. We will crush your screening guideline death sentence. Oh yes, I am aware -  people have told me I could never go against the US Task Force or the ACS, and all the other organizations that tell women to wait until the age of forty.

Thanks for the challenge guys. I just happen to love proving  people wrong.

To everyone my sisters in this fight, thank you. You know what you mean to me. I love you. And let the party start on October 7th when we celebrate Survival- not a disease.

What tomorrow will bring? I have no idea.  But right now, I'm alright.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHby_TDUHaE

Friday, September 3, 2010

Let's Party

October is coming..... you know what that means! We are doing something a little different. Instead of "celebrating" breast cancer, we are Celebrating SURVIVAL and SURVIVORS.... early stage, in treatment and advanced stage: Every woman who has heard the words, "You have breast cancer."




Join us for 
There & Back: A Celebration of Survival
On Thursday, October 7th
7-9 pm
in Plandome, New York



Food, cocktails, music, a book signing of 
"Intimacy After Breast Cancer, Dealing with Your Body, Relationships & Sex" 

AND

A FASHION SHOW, featuring

The Warrior Angels: Survivor Models
Each model is a beautiful, thriving, breast cancer survivor. If you read the new book, you will know that we believe that your life is not over when you get diagnosed. Once treatment ends, you can return to a full, wonderful life of love, beauty, excitement and joy. 
These models will show the world just that!

Tickets, $40 per person

~ALL PROCEEDS BENEFIT OUR BEFORE FORTY INITIATIVE~

INDIVIDUAL AND CORPORATE SPONSORSHIPS AVAILABLE!
If you cannot attend, you can still support us!

Please contact us at nosurrenderbreastcancerhelp@gmail.com 
for more information and tickets.



See you there!