Monday, December 10, 2012

Still Chasing The Dream

Once upon a time I wrote a post entitled "I Dreamed A Dream" where I wrote about my lifelong dream of becoming a photographer. Not a for-hire picture taker. Simply a photographer who takes pictures with heart.

To quote myself, "I want to be a photographer that captures life for myself and for those I know and love. I want the skill required to stop time with my photos and document emotions...relationships...feelings. I desire to create photographs with meaning...I want to snap photos that have people saying, 'awww'. Even if it is only those directly connected to the subject."

I'm not looking for a new career nor do I want to fill my downtime with photo shoots. But I've always had a fascination with photography, especially when it results in captured memories of loved ones.

This weekend I was given another opportunity to chase my dream. With camera in hand and little to no more camera knowledge than I previously possessed (which equals one degree above zero), I traveled to a remote farm to take photos of two young families.

Prior to our meeting yesterday, I had not spent time with them. I only know them through a family member. However, I know their stories. Stories of hope. Stories of heartbreak. Stories of love and determination. Sweet stories. Love stories. Stories to never forget.

Here are but a random few shots I got. I'm not even sure these are my favorites. We were having so much fun, I took well over 800 photos. Even after an initial purging process, I still have 798 photos to sort through. When you see how adorable these little ones are, you can see how tough it will be to weed through the rest.

Hope you all have a Marvelous Monday!

Until next time...


P.S. A wicked little demon that lives in my head is doing a good job of picking these images apart. The little shit is a I've tried to permanently evict from the premises but he "ain't" budging. To shut the sucker up, I'm posting my comments to him here for all the world to see..."Listen up! I KNOW these pictures aren't technically perfect! But I don't care! They are exactly what I wanted in terms of composition. So take that you sadistic bastard! Now go hide in some remote corner in my mind until I tackle my next project at which time I'm all too sure you will be back to harass the hell out of me." {insert me giving him the finger}

P.P.S. Abundant apologies for all the cursing. I can't seem to help myself....

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Wino I'll Never Be

Yesterday (Wednesday...the day before Thanksgiving) I was trolling through my backlog of unpublished blog posts for no other reason than to wile away the remaining hour or two or four before the Thanksgiving holiday begins. In so doing, I happened upon the post below. I think I actually wrote it roughly a year ago???

Since Thanksgiving meals often involve a nice glass of wine (unless you belong to my family where only water and sweet tea are served), I thought it very fitting to schedule this post for Thanksgiving day. It isn't a traditional post filled with all things for which I'm grateful. I covered that subject with my 30 Day Journey Toward Thankfulness. But then again, after enough wine, I'm sure I could find 121,398,687 more things to be thankful for.

Things like hair color and wrinkle cream and bi-focal glasses... elastic waistbands and flannel pajamas. And things like toilet paper and working toilets. You know, all those things that would otherwise be forgotten.

Funny how much more fun life appears and your perspective changes when looking through wine colored glasses!

I hope everyone has a Thanksgiving filled with family, food and fun!


I read a recent post on SITS Girls about a twitter party hosted at Have Wine Will Drink. Sounded interesting enough. I like a good glass of wine every now and again. What better way to enjoy a glass of  vino than with some like minded blogging gals? This time, however, I knew I would be otherwise detained during the appointed drinking hour so I only scanned the information. As my eyes glossed over the words, I stopped short when I read they would be "sharing wine tips".

Those three words..."sharing wine tips"... created a real problem for me. They made me painfully aware of how little I know about wine. You see, I am an ignorant, socially handicapped wine "person".


I'm sure you are wondering what 40-something year old woman doesn't know a little bit about wine. Especially one who has been through divorce AND a broken engagement AND raising two kids. Isn't wine viewed as THE great escape from all of life's stresses?  I dare say many a manic mom has professed to tightly clinging to a glass during her Calgon refuge from toddler-to-teenage hell.

But I'm different.

Drowning my sorrows and frustrations in a bottle (or box) of soured grapes was never an option. I weathered my worldly woes totally sober.

I know.

What was I thinking?

I totally missed the point.

As I said, I know nothing about wine. My knowledge can be summed up by saying I know wine comes from grapes.

That's it.

That and the fact I also know wine comes in the following flavors... red and white. I'm assuming if you mix the two you get pink??? (I'm not really sure that's true but it sounds perfectly plausible.) Other than that..I come up empty handed.

Ask me why a bottle needs to breathe or why a waiter offers a small sampling only to have it swirled (in the glass), sniffed, sipped, swirled (in the mouth) then swallowed...well...I can only respond with a shrug of my shoulders and a blank stare. If that confession isn't enough to forever seal my membership in the Wine Drinkers Hall of Shame I will go ahead and spell it out for you.

I am a total wine drinking dim wit.

I don't know shit about wine.

Not to shift all blame but some of my ignorance can be attributed to my up-bringing. My parents were God-fearing, Southern Baptist teetotalers. We were forbidden to partake in alcohol of any sort. Being the never-break-a-rule-cause-I-don't-want-to-burn-in-hell sort of kid, I never touched the stuff. But I grew up and began to form my own opinions. I came to the conclusion alcohol wasn't all bad. Even still, I rarely drank. When I did, it was usually Vodka.

Cranberry and Vodka...

or Goose and Juice, as I like to say. Beer and wine just never made the list.

Fast forward to the present. After my broken engagement, I began dating again. I jumped into online dating with both feet and discovered just how poorly served I was by my lack of experience in the wine tasting world. Wouldn't you know, all my dates were total wine lovers! It seemed I had landed in the deep end of a pool of wine connoisseurs. Wine drinking pros. And boy did I ever feel inadequate. Unable to "swim", I found myself drowning in an ocean of Cabernets and Merlots and Chardonnays. Without a life preserver in sight, I relied on my wit and wisdom to save me.

What did I do?

What I always do...

fake it til I make it, Baby.

Plan A was to let my date choose for me. Most men possess a certain amount of machismo. They love flexing their manly "muscles" and taking care of their girl. Deferring to them stroked their egos and earned me a few brownie points in the process. Plan A almost always worked. But at times it became difficult. Some men would turn the tables on me and ask too many darn questions. Questions I had no answers to. Questions that required a reasonable amount of wine-drinking knowledge to answer. Questions that left me scrambling for a way out.

So I shifted gears and resorted to Plan B...

ask the waiter about the house wine.

Didn't matter what it was...I always enthusiastically answered..."Sounds wonderful. That's what I'll have". It eventually became a game of sorts. I must admit to never really listening as the waiter listed the house preferences. It always sounded the same. All I heard was "blah, blah, blah". I witnessed their mouths moving, forming words of some sort, but I never understood a damn thing they said.

However, I eventually became a master of the game. I would count the number of options and randomly ask them to repeat one of the choices. You order to appear all interested and stuff. Sometimes I would go with that selection. Other times I would pause as if truly considering which would satisfy. Still my decision would be random. I always wondered what concoction my delicately stemmed glass would hold. Would it be sweet? Dry? Light? Fruity? Bold? Strong? Woodsy? Earthy?

I almost sound like I know what I'm talking about.

But don't be fooled.

I'm just messin' with ya...

I haven't a clue.

I can't decipher body from bouquet to breed . Not one little bit. To me, wine is classified as red or white (if you totally ignore the pinks I mentioned earlier. I'm never one to mix my colors.) The only other means of separating one selection from another is whether or not I can choke it down. The bad news is this, if I didn't care for one of my random selections, I had no way of ensuring I never ordered it again. I never knew what I was drinking.

Wine selection is an art.

And I "ain't" no artist.

But not to worry. As I've shared before, it doesn't take too much alcohol before I stumble into the middle of a glorious inebriated state. Wine is no exception. Even if a certain type starts as a "I don't really like this" varietal, it is never long before it becomes a "This is really good stuff" selection. My "fake it til I make it" approach worked like a charm...

as long as I was seriously buzzed.


It looks as if I've just divulged a wee bit TMI. Once again, I've let all of blogville know I'm a complete loser. But then again, we all have our issues. I won't beat myself up over this one. Compared to some issues I could have, I feel pretty safe accepting I'm a wine drinking dolt.

Before I go, there is one more point to share. I've recently met a wonderful man. AND...he is a wine expert with the most discriminating tastes. A wine loving aficionado. The best of the best of all I've encountered in the wine drinking/selecting department. When he mentioned his collection is housed in his own personal wine cellar...a collection of over 1,000 bottles of wine... two specific thoughts crossed my mind. on Earth would I ever "fake" my way through THAT many bottles?

And Two...Who cares? My future looks more than merry through the anticipated drunken haze. This is most definitely going to be one hell of a fun "fake".

UPDATE: I'm no longer seeing Mr. Owns-His-Own-Wine-Cellar but we are good friends. In fact, we are friendly enough that I could possibly text him during a date asking advice regarding wine. With him making the decisions for me I would certainly "look" like I know what I am doing. That is as long as I can learn to text under the table and not get caught! long as auto-correct works in my favor. Something tells me that bugger of a meant-to-help-but-makes-you-look-like-an-idiot phone feature could really screw me up.

Maybe I should simply order Vodka...

on the rocks.

Yes...that will solve everything.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Today I crown myself the Queen of CYA...

Not to be confused with the CIA.

Although being connected to the CIA would add spice to my life.


Ah, but I am merely chief matriarch of the CYA club.

You know...

That art form otherwise known as Covering Your Ass.

I earned the title totally out of necessity...

Because I am the only woman working with a few super huge male egos.

The kind of men that can do no wrong...

And ALWAYS blame all wrong doings on the token girl.

In other words...

Everything that goes wrong is my fault.

Everything that goes right is attributed to their savvy skills.

On second thought, I am more like the Queen of CMA...

I only cover my OWN ass.

Those know-it-all men's asses are no concern of mine.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

30 Day Journey Toward Thankfulness

Well hello there. Seems November has hit me out of nowhere and I now find myself 14 days into a month delegated to giving thanks. Facebook status mayhem has been in full swing since November 1st with daily posts from friends and family sharing the things that make their lives sweeter.

Since it is more than obvious I can't post consistently here on the old blog, I figured there wouldn't be much point in trying to do a daily "thankful" Facebook post. I looked into my crystal ball and saw an epic fail staring back at me, all the while taunting me with a gut busting guffaw. Yet I refuse to be one who misses an opportunity to show gratitude for the abundant blessings that flood my life.



I am jumping in mid-month with my list of 30 things for which I'm grateful. It makes for a ridiculously lengthy post but it also makes my life easier by allowing me to corral all things awesome into one spot. Since it is my blog, I chose the easy-for-me route.

Many things on my list are the obvious things everyone holds near and dear. But that doesn't make them less important. I should...and often do... acknowledge my gratitude for these things daily. Not just once a year. The other things? Well...they are simply things that make me smile.

1. FAITH. This word is the most powerful word in my vocabulary. Unable to pinpoint from whence it comes, it continues to be an ever present source of strength. I consider it a choice of sorts. A desire to believe my God is in control. Rather than doubt in times of trial, my faith brings me hope. What bigger blessing can there be?

2. FAMILY.  I am fortunate to live in close proximity to my family members. We stay in constant contact yet we all live independent lives. My family is not without our crazy and sometimes scary skeletons...all of which we work to keep chained inside the "closet"... yet we share a bond that few are fortunate enough to experience. We know each others deepest, darkest secrets but choose to love each other in spite of them. Our loyalty runs deep. There is great comfort in knowing you have a clan of people who have your back at all times.

3. CHILDREN. Sure, my son and daughter are technically family. But they deserve a spot all their own on my gratitude list. These two are the most precious people to ever enter my world. As parents we don't always like our children and it is a certainty that if we are doing our jobs they won't always like us. But the love factor is always in play. And I love my boy and girl more than life itself! They have brought me sleepless nights, endless smiles, gray hairs, pride filled moments, frustration I never knew existed and joy that makes my heart burst.

4. FRIENDS. Girl friends. Guy friends. Friends who are family. Friends who are near. Friends who are far. Friends make my world go round.

5. HEALTH. I never truly appreciated what it meant to be a generally healthy person until I realized I wasn't. Trust me, I won't take my well being for granted again.

6. WORK. I growl and grumble about the annoyances my 9 to 5 brings but I cannot lie. I like what I do and I love the guys I work with. Being the only girl in the joint makes me a good way.

7. My HOME. Not my house. My home. It is my sanctuary, my respite, my haven.

8. TRANSPORTATION. Dependable. Safe. A pretty cool (even if I do say so) means of getting where I'm going.

9. FOOD. Good, clean, healthy, food. And the occasional hot dog, slice of pizza or slice of pie that makes its way past my lips and onto my hips.

10. WATER. Cool, delicious water for drinking. Heated, relaxing water for bathing. Ahhh!

11. NEIGHBORS. Where I come from, neighbors are as good as family.

12. EXERCISE. For me...exercise works out the kinks and all my aggression. What? Can't a girl admit to being a little hostile from time to time?

13. CHOCOLATE. I suppose I should have listed 12 and 13 in reverse order seeing as how I need number 12 to offset number 13's ability to make my ass grow.

14. PICTURES. While my memories live in my heart, pictures bring them to mind. Which leads to being thankful for...

15. My CAMERA. I may not understand the technical side of photography but I'm lucky enough to own a camera that has some bells and whistles that will allow me to day...when I slow down...yes...that day. In the meantime, I will use my big girl camera on auto, or semi-auto (not the proper term but you know what I mean) to capture the memories. I also have an easy to use point-and-shoot that was always in my purse but it went AWOL during my move. Until it decides to show itself, the camera on my phone is a good stand-in.

16. INSURANCE. Many do not have it. I have certainly needed it. Most thankful for it.

17. These North Carolina MOUNTAINS. No matter where I travel, the second these majestic mountains come into view, I know I'm home.

17. SUNSHINE...on my shoulders, makes me happy.

18. RAIN. Yes, I did just type rain.

19. MUSIC. I can't remember artists' names or song titles and I totally butcher the lyrics of every song I try to sing. And let's not EVEN go near the fact I can't sing for shit. But music is powerful. It reaches deep into my soul and embraces every emotion I've ever felt. It can make me laugh and/or cry. It has soothed me as I've stumbled through heartbreak hell and given me strength to motor on when I didn't really want to. It's amazing what music can do!

20. My IPOD and PANDORA. Yes, with item #20 on my list you get 2 for the price of 1. Sue me. But I must mention the marvels of modern technology that allow me to find/take music with me where ever I go. Speaking of which, I must also express my thankfulness for...

21. TECHNOLOGY. Some may consider me a slave to it. Others may go so far as to slap me with the label of an addictive personality....which could possibly be true.  Facebook, blogging, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube are the heavy hitters in my online obsession. And let us not forget what a time suck Google can be. Ummm...yes...I think I have a problem. But I don't want to admit it....although I just did. For now, I will live in the land of denial. Amazon, anyone?

22. My fat ASS. I'm always on a mission to rid myself of this load of lard otherwise known as my tushy, but if I'm truly honest, I must admit it is a symbol of something a twisted sort of way. It proves I'm lucky enough to indulge...on more than one occasion. I never have to worry about where my next meal will come from. While I skirt the edges of gluttony, many across the world are starving. I'm embarrassed to admit to this truth and more than aware I should count my blessings rather than complain when I have it so good. A fat ass equals a bountiful table.

23. Good HAIR. Don't think I'm bragging by flaunting the fact I have good hair.. I'm as far from conceited as one can get. Besides, most of the credit goes to my hairdresser who just so happens to be my sister. But there is nothing like running around for months on end as a baldy to make you appreciate a full head of hair, be it gray, colored or somewhere in between. While I'm at it, I should also pay homage to the chore of shaving. Never thought I would be thankful for leg stubble but I suppose that "cold day in hell" came the day chemo claimed every hair on my body.

24. SUSHI. I'm realizing much on my list revolves around food. I can't help it. It's almost lunch time and my stomach is growling. As of 4 short years ago, I called sushi, Shoo-shi. I hated it. Even though I had never tried it. The idea of raw fish triggered my gag reflex and made me want to hurl. is my all time favorite food. Go figure.

25. FREEDOM...a blessing with a high price paid by others. I'm humbled and beyond grateful for the lives sacrificed to provide, protect and defend my privilege to live freely.

26. FAIRY TALES. Yes, I still believe in them although I've learned to temper them with a hefty dose of reality. I know my White Knight exists and he will eventually find his way to me...even if he comes cloaked in rusted armor, riding in on a limping old nag. He will be mine. And I will be his. And we shall live happily ever after.

27. INDEPENDENCE. I'm really good at being independent. I don't need someone to take care of me. Being single for so long makes me ever so glad I'm a git-er-done kind of girl.

28. LAUGHTER. I will never, ever, ever, never get how anyone can get through any day without a good laugh or two. Not judging. Just wondering...possibly in a judgmental sort of way.

29. COFFEE. Another admitted addiction. I'm beginning to wonder if I should be worried about myself....

30. My PAST. It isn't pretty. There are gaping holes where hurts have left their mark. Scars and insecurities exist. But bucket loads of learning has come from where I've been.

I'm well aware my list is....shall we say... unusual? I'm also aware I stand to be judged for some of the items I've listed. This is by no means an exhaustive list. It is merely some of the really big things that matter along with some of the smaller things that mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. It is meant to show I'm a silly girl at times. One who loves the nothingness that makes up her world but also one who never loses sight of what truly matters.

So how about you help a girl out and keep me from feeling totally lame (good luck with THAT one). Share a random something that you are grateful for today. The more ridiculous the better. In fact, I challenge you to trump my thankfulness for my fat arse!

P.S. Throughout this post I've linked up stories I've shared to show just how much these "things" play a role in my life. Once upon a time many proved to be blog worthy. If you think you can handle an extra dose of "me", click on through and hopefully enjoy. Until next time... -L

Monday, October 29, 2012

Guest Post: Sisterly Love

Sister. She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. Some days, she's the reason you wish you were an only child.
– Barbara Alpert

To my little sister, my supporter, my best friend... I know no matter what comes my way, you will always have my back. Thank you for standing by me and keeping the laughter alive. I love you... Red Dog over and out!

I will never forget the night my sister called and said she had cancer. It stunned me. I just looked at my husband and said, "My sister has cancer." He sat there, stunned as well. I walked into my bedroom pretending to make a phone call so that I could break down, praying and crying for God to please hear my prayers.

For those of you who don't know me and my husband you need to understand neither one of us shows our emotions. That doesn't mean we don't have them...we just rarely let each other or anyone else see them.

As the days and weeks went by I would try my best to hold it in until I had alone moments. I had a lot of sleepless nights. While everyone slept, I stayed up crying and praying. I often broke down in  the shower, falling to my knees, crying and praying for God to spare my sister. To hear my prayers. To be with her children...hold them up...keep them strong and comfort them. I was begging God, the whole time knowing what I was feeling couldn't even begin to touch the surface of how she must have felt. It broke my heart for beautiful.

Her courage amazes me. The strength and grace this girl has is truly remarkable and God sent. Like her courage when she threw a party the night I shaved her head. The way she went to work every day on chemo, looking beautiful, holding her head up like nothing was wrong. The way she was always still just being my sister. So giving. So kind. Always ready to talk and laugh. Watching her step by step, her faith , her courage and her beauty has not only amazed me but I admire her person with the utmost respect!

She is truly MY BIG SISTER HERO!!

I love her and thank God everyday for answering prayers and sparing my sister!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Guest Post: Leslie's Story - Fighting the Beast

Here in the South, we have a saying..."straight from the horse's mouth". In spite of what TV would have us believe from all those Mr. Ed episodes of days gone by, horses can't really talk. Yet the saying carries truth in the fact never can a story be more real than when it comes from the person living it. Today, my dear friend, Leslie, shares her cancer that started long ago and continues today.

Having lived in the same town our entire lives, Leslie and I have roots that go way back. We both graduated from the same high school, although admittedly my diploma was inked several years before her's. That in and of itself makes us sisters...of a sort. She is a true Warrior! Someone who encourages others...who signifies strength...someone who is a true inspiration. Her positive attitude and fighting spirit never cease to amaze me.

I know we all are familiar with Breast Cancer, some more so than others. I got my first dose of this demon when my mom, Cathy Young, was diagnosed with it in 1990. She fought bravely and long, with 4 recurrences, a double mastectomy, chemo therapy and radiation. Her battle was long and hard, she won some, she lost some and in the end she went peacefully on February 28th, 1999. She is missed!

I guess I kinda figured that some where down the road I would face this demon again. I was kinda hoping that I would be around 80 or so and had gotten the most use out of the girls as possible. But that was not to be. You know the saying...Want to make God laugh..make plans. Well I was making plans, had finally gotten hired at the hospital and was loving my job. Working some 12 to 14 hour days 5 days a week but loving it! My daughter was doing great in school (no drama...Thank you Lord!) Had my family and was good! Since mom, I had done my monthly self checks and had regular mammograms. Well to be honest, I missed the previous year due to unemployment but since I was working had called and scheduled it for June. Side note ****CHECK YOURSELF****

Since I working so much I had started loosing weight and hey I thought Bonus!! But as most big chested girls will undoubtedly tell you, that's the first place you loose the weight... in the boobies. Anyway I was doing my self check when i felt IT!!!! Holy crap on a cracker....only that's the PG version of what I was saying! No no no...ok Leslie don't panic...yeah right! I was past panic and on to hysterical. Call the doctor...ok they're not in at 10pm at night on a Sunday, wait till in the morning. Morning could not get here fast enough. At 8 o'clock the next morning I was calling. They would see me right away! (personally now that I think about it,  the girl on the phone was probably waiting to see if I looked as crazy in person as I probably sounded on the phone!) 

I saw my regular doctor. She felt IT and said lets watch it....WATCH IT! WTH was IT gonna do? So I said NO! I wanted a second opinion and I wanted it then! So in came my Hero....Dr. Hawes! He was on the ball, said he would feel more comfortable getting a digital ultrasound and mammogram immediately. That was fine by me, I wanted to know now too! 

The tests were scheduled for the next day, Tuesday. Okay, by this time I'm was as nervous as a long tale cat in a room full of rocking chairs, but I didn't tell anyone. I kept it to myself just in case it was a false alarm. (Fingers, toes and eyes crossed) I arrived for the test and the nurses are super sweet and kind. The ultrasound tech was very sweet also and helped wipe my tears when Dr. Hawes came in and said he had me an appointment with the Hope Center for the next day because he was pretty sure it wasn't good. 

To be honest I can't really tell you how I got dressed or how I even drove home. But I did. I arrived at the Hope Center. It's really a pretty place...well, except for the tutu's above the windows. I was not really sure what to expect, but was so relieved that a friend worked there... 2 of them, Angie Ponder and Xylina McMinn. They both held my hand when Dr. Harkness came in and said he was going to do a biopsy right then.. Okay. In my book this was probably for the best. I wasn't dreading it...but for those who aren't familiar with that lets just say OUCH!!!!!! I was told I would have the test results by Monday. It was Wednesday. How was I gonna make it through the rest of the week let alone the weekend? Well I didn't have to. By Friday, it confirmed what in my gut I had known all along...Stage 3 Breast Cancer.

How do you tell the people you love the most in the world that you have cancer? How was I explain to it to my child (even though she was old enough to understand) child who in my eyes was still my little girl? The little girl I'm suppose to protect and be there for no matter what. How do I tell my dad that his daughter has the same type of cancer his wife died from? Or tell my brother, my best friend and so on....its not an easy task by no means. But I did. All I really remember is a whole lot of crying and then some more crying and hugging going around. They were all there for me and I do mean there. 

When I went in the following Monday to discuss options, they were dad, my best friend, my cousin (who I think of as my sis) Jackie Cantrell, my sister-in-law, Angie....all were there with me at the doctor's office. Kinda felt like my army, which I needed to fight this battle! And fight it I did and still am. A double mastectomy was done followed by several rounds of chem (18 to be exact) then 38 radiation treatments. Along with all the nasty and unpleasant side effects and bonus problems that can occur with treatments. Like low counts, stomach problems, lymphedema, neuropathy... just to name a few.

That was 2 yrs ago and things are better. I still have to deal with some issues but I'm still here and still fighting. I have found then and now that laughter is really the best medicine along with lots of love and prayers. I know that on most days when I was too weak to even move that prayers carried me through.

I'm not sure what my future holds, but I know who holds my future! With God's love and grace I'll definitely get through. My favorite saying and what got me through a lot is this....

I don't tell God how big the storm is.....I tell the storm how big my God is!

With Faith, Love and HOPE
Leslie Young

Monday, October 22, 2012

Guest Post: Words From My Friend

The night of my diagnosis was a night I will never forget...for all the obvious reasons. It was the night I learned what it means to be figuratively sucker punched in the gut. Bucket loads of tears were shed. And I do mean bucket loads. But true to my nature, my mind quickly shifted into business mode and with the help of my friends I mapped out a plan (as much as one could) to counter attack the enemy and show the "c" demon he was messing with the wrong girl. I wrote about that night in great detail HERE

That was the night my Power Posse was born. 

Each member of my posse had a role. Each was vitally important. Each will never be forgotten. One of the charter members was my dear friend, Lydia. Today she shares what it was like for her to fight the fight along side me. 

Dear Lydia,

Thank you for the love, the support and the laughter! You are THE best!

With much love,

P.S. I suppose I should also thank you for "Brad Pitt" although I hate to think it took chemo to win THAT one!!!

October is “pink”. October is breast cancer awareness month, but I don’t need a month or a color to remind me of breast cancer thank you very much! I am keenly, deeply, and intimately aware of breast cancer every time I look at my best friend’s beautiful face.

I confess that I did not want to write this blog post at all. Cancer is a hard thing for everyone who is touched by it. I am ashamed to say that I have been procrastinating, putting off the reliving of that gut wrenching, helpless feeling that comes when a person that you love is diagnosed with this disease. But if my dear friend, Lisa, can fight her way through chemo and baldness, then certainly I can muster the courage to face the dreaded “C” beast again through my words.

 When that August day started it seemed an ordinary day. Lisa was not feeling well. She had been sick with some sort of cold bug and there was a lump that I knew about. “Mastitis”, the doctor said. That made perfect sense to my logical mind. She had been sick and the lump seemed to come out of nowhere, so there was no way it was anything serious. Antibiotics and she would be good as new! Did I mention that I am a Pollyanna?

 And so it was that I happened to be at the gym by myself that day without my long standing workout partner. When I got back to my car there were three missed calls from Lisa. Lisa NEVER calls that many times in a row. I knew in my gut that something was terribly wrong. I don’t remember the words she said to me. Only the feeling afterwards as I sped across town to get to her. It seemed to me surreal, cruel, and unfair that my friend was going to have to fight for her life. I only knew in that moment that I was going to be right by her side helping her kick some butt, Thelma and Louise style. (Lisa is Thelma. I am Louise. I agreed, during a round of her chemo, to let her be Thelma since Thelma gets to sleep with Brad Pitt. Enough said!)

I hid a lot of my pain and worry from Lisa during her courageous fight. I remember being on my knees a lot…tears streaming down my face, begging GOD for the life of my friend, for her healing, and for the wisdom and knowledge to be what GOD needed me to be for Lisa in the battle. GOD is good and he guided Lisa’s posse in miraculous fashion. All of us who loved her, somehow loved each other through the fight as well. We functioned as a team. Never taking our eyes off the victory we believed would come.

Our faith was rewarded. Lisa is healthy and well. GOD is good!

Thelma and Louise Thanksgiving 2011...a few weeks after all treatment ended.

I will conclude with a thought about orchids. Orchids are my very favorite flower. They are so very beautiful and strong and graceful. They have intricate, delicate blooms that sway peacefully on strong stalks. They go through a dormant period when their blooms die back. To the untrained eye, they might seem lifeless or even unattractive at that stage, but in reality they are gathering their strength underneath the soil. If you watch them closely you can see the buds forming again and when they burst into their magnificent bloom they are even more beautiful, plentiful and breathtaking than the last time they flowered. Lisa you are an orchid… a beautiful pink strong orchid!

 I Love you Thelma!

Lydia (aka.. .Louise)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Guest Post: From My Mother's Heart

Until one becomes a mother, it is nearly impossible to understand the depths of a mother's love. The "Mama Bear" instinct to protect at all costs can only be earned through 9 months of gestation and countless hours of labor pains. Even though I am a mother and had been one for 20+ years when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I still lost sight of how this disease, my disease, rocked my mother's world. It wasn't until I stopped and thought about how I would feel if it had been my own daughter was I able to comprehend my mom's feelings of devastation, panic and utter helplessness. 

My mom is no stranger to the "c" beast. She has watched as family members and loved ones have lost the fight. I can't begin to imagine nor will I attempt to say I understand. It is impossible to grasp the horror she feels/felt. Today she shares her thoughts on the "c" demon and how her faith is what moves her beyond the fear and pain.

Mom, you were and are there for me...always. Your faith is strong and solid and I have learned by your example. No words can express my gratitude for all you do...for who you are. I love you!

When I hear the word "cancer" I can't help but get a lump in my throat and a prayer on my lips..."God please send us a cure." I have seen throat and lung cancer take my dad to heaven at the age of 67. My sister has been battling leukemia for 9 years and is now in the final stages of it at the age of 62. It is not something that is new to me nor do I think one kind or another deserves more attention. It is ALL bad.

I think the worst for me was to hear my daughter, Lisa, tell me she has breast cancer and if I came to be with her I had to promise not to "freak out" or "lose it". I knew it was bad but I could not imagine how bad until all the doctors appointments during the following 2 weeks. Sitting there, listening to all the doctors had to say was as if someone was hitting me with a ball bat. You never expect this to happen to your child, even if she is older. You still don't expect it.

By the way, I didn't "freak out". Not in front of Lisa, anyway. But on weekends at home, I would lay in the floor and cry and talk to my Lord and Savior. You see, I had always taken care of her, such as when she was fifteen months old. She had an ear infection and could not sleep. I sat with her in my arms all night because that was the only way she could get some rest. But this time I couldn't do anything like that.

Still, I wanted to be there for her and I person. When friends helped...I was in prayer. I grew closer to GOD. I knew HE was the only ONE who could help her. HE taught me so much about Himself and HIS plan for all of us. HE also allowed me to see what a brave, courageous, strong-willed young lady my daughter is. As I watched her go through all the tests and the things the doctors had to do and all the chemo, I was amazed at her strength. I knew the Lord was taking care of her and that she was really HIS. HE only allowed me to be her earthly mother. To hear that chemo could give you worse than what you already have yet it was the only medication available was not easy. But I was grateful for it and thanked God for it and how HE helped Lisa through all the side effects.

Celebrating Mother's Day a few months post-chemo

To say you feel helpless, scared and broken-hearted would be an understatement. I can't describe the feelings. I know to try to be a care taker for someone you love is a job you can't do alone...especially if you are trying to hold it all together and not "lose it". I only made it with the help of my Savior. I will forever thank HIM and praise HIM for all HE has done for Lisa and me.

Cancer not only affects the person who has it. It also reaches its claws out to family and friends. It is a mean beast. So for all the ones who have gone through the battle and the ones that will go through it, I am praying for a cure. I also pray that God will be especially close to them and their loved ones. That HE will change their lives as HE did mine. Most of all, I pray that HE will be glorified in all of it because God is good and merciful.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Guest Post: My Daughter's Story

One thing I've learned when facing the "c" beast, each of us fight in our own way. Whether or not we have choices to make regarding medical procedures, the emotional and mental parts of the equation are as unique and numerous as the stars in the sky. The night of my diagnosis, I made decisions as to how I would fight. Very deliberately and very aggressively. I also demanded life continue as close to normal as possible. I refused to give cancer anything more than absolutely necessary. What I didn't consider was the toll my approach would take on my family and friends. In spite of their overwhelming need to take care of me, they supported me and let me do things my way. Today, my daughter shares her heart...what she felt...what she feared...what she did for me. 

Dearest Keri, I love you to the moon and back! Mom

A few weeks ago my mom asked me to write a blog post about my experience with breast cancer since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Of course I said yes, that I would write a post, because I knew that it meant a lot to my mom.  But did I want to write it?...Not at all.  A feeling of dread came over me after I committed to writing a post, not because I hate writing (seeing that I am a math teacher)  but because I do not want to go back to that dark place ever again.  I have worked so hard to put my fear, sadness, and hatred that I feel towards cancer aside because I do not want to bring those memories to the surface again.

Celebrating the last chemo treatment

It’s only been a little over two years since my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I can remember the exact moment I found out.  My mom told me that she, my aunt and grandmother were coming to visit me in Athens, Georgia where I was in college.  I was so excited about my mom visiting me that I was up early that morning getting ready for a fun day.  I remember going to lunch with my family and my boyfriend and having a great time.  Then we went back to my house and my mom sat me down on my bed and told me that she had to tell me something really important.  She told me that she had stage three breast cancer, that it seemed like it had just popped up over night, and that she would be going through chemo, surgery, and radiation.

I remember just asking myself why over and over in my head.  Why my mom? Why me? After everything my mom had been through, why did this have to happen to her? Why could’t something good ever come her way? I remember thinking that I wanted to move back home to be with her so badly and she kept telling me that she wanted me to stay in school and to stay strong for her.  She wanted me to keep living my life like normal so that when she talked to me it would seem like part of her life was still normal too.

This was so hard for me to grasp because I just wanted to be there for her and help her like she had helped me all of my life.  It hurt me so much that I couldn’t be there for her when she needed me the most.  She had great friends and family members back in North Carolina that could help take care of her, but I wanted to be the one to take her to the doctor and I wanted to be the one to give her medicine in the middle of the night.  I wanted to be the shoulder she cried on when she was upset or not feeling well, but I couldn’t.

The only thing I really knew to do while at school was to get more involved with my sorority whose philanthropy was breast cancer awareness and education.  I also signed up for several Susan G. Komen 5k races.  One of my favorite memories that still brings tears to my eyes is one of these 5k races.  About twelve of us, my mom included, participated in a race and I will never forget seeing my mom run across the finish line.  I don’t know why that moment meant so much to me.  Maybe it was because it was a moment when I saw that my mom was still my mom.  She was still the strong and courageous woman I had always known her to be.  She was fighting to cross the finish line just like she was fighting to beat the cancer.  Even when she did not know if she was going to live or die, she was still fighting and living each moment to the fullest.

We ran the race and fought the fight together!

There were many moments like this one when I saw what an amazing woman she is.  And now, two years later, I still see a woman who is fighting to live each moment to the fullest.  I still see a woman who loves, laughs, cries, and praises.  Even with all of the things she has been through, I still see the mom I’ve always seen, which shows me that no matter what I may go through in life, I can never give up.  I can never stop trying to be the woman my mom raised me to be.  And if I ever get discouraged, I know I always have a great role model to look at who has taught me more about life than I could ever have imagined, and for that I am thankful.

While cancer has brought much fear and sadness into my life, it has also brought so much love and admiration.  The women that fight a battle with breast cancer are such an inspiration for the rest of us. And mom, you are my inspiration.  I love you.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Guest Post - Jocelyn's Story

We all hope for happy endings no matter the situation. Sadly, Breast Cancer doesn't always end the way we hope. My dear friend, Jocelyn, knows all too well the heartache cancer can cause. Today she shares her story. A story of friendship and loss. I have yet to meet this powerhouse of a woman in real life but I consider her one of my dearest friends. We have shared so much by way of phone calls and emails. She was one of the first I reached out to after my diagnosis. What I value most about Jocelyn is her giving spirit. She fights health battles daily yet she never fails to give more than she takes. She has faith that can move mountains and I am honored to call her friend. You can find Jocelyn at SIMPLY ME, where she blogs about life and her wonderful family. 

It was an ordinary day..... the alarm buzzing in my ear, me wishing that I could have just 15 more minutes of sleep, but knowing that I had to move this body and move it now! So shower, wake up Danielle, breakfast, lunches packed, French braided hair, and heading to the car to start our day!!! The laughter of my daughter on the way to school always seemed to brighten my day! Waving goodbye to her in front of the school, and now heading for the dreaded drive to work. Of course on this ordinary day it was raining, and I knew what was ahead of me on the beltway, the fender benders, flat tires and traffic jams that would make me late for work. I cranked the radio and replayed the conversation in my head from the night before that I had had with my dearest friend in the world, Roxie!!!! We were so excited because we had a dinner date planned for Friday evening! We talked about where we wanted to eat, would we go for drinks or catch a movie, and of course the dreaded, "I have nothing to wear, what are you wearing"! I thought about her appointment for that date, her first mammogram! We giggled about the stories we had heard about it being a torture chamber, and how in the world was she going to get her tiny little boobs into that machine! She told me she would call me when it was over and let me know how bad it hurt. The traffic moved slowly, the music humming in my ears, thoughts floating about all the things on my plate, and yes just an ordinary day in the life of me, or so I thought!

Work was busy, dealing with settlements on homes was driving me crazy.......buyers not happy, sellers not happy, mortgage companies late with packages, but it paid the bills and in the long run, I really did love my job. I was on the phone with a real estate agent and my assistant stuck her head in my office and said..... Roxie is on the phone and she needs to speak with you now! That seemed strange, I felt an odd sense of panic, so I asked the agent if I could put her on hold, and switched lines. There was a voice on the other end that I barely recognized. She was so quiet I could hardly hear her....what was she saying, What. It then hit me, SOMETHING IS WRONG, Tootsie, that is what she called me, I was her Tootsie. Something is so wrong, they did this stupid test and then kept calling me back to do more pictures and then they said they were calling the doctor. Something is wrong and you need to get here now, I am at the GYN office and I am afraid. Those words are forever etched in my mind. I am afraid. The phone went dead. I got up, I grabbed my purse, left the office telling everyone I had an emergency, and I had to leave. I went to the car and I don't even remember driving, I just remember running the words over and over in my head, something is wrong. I got to the doctor's office and she was sitting in the waiting room, her cheeks were flushed, her hands were tied up in knots, and she got up and ran straight into my arms when she saw me! We said nothing. We just sat there and held one another. 

When we went back to see Dr. Friedman it was surreal. We were both his patients. He was always, smiling and silly, but today he was not. He put up pics of the mammogram, explaining that there were calcifications on the left breast and they needed biopsies immediately. Too many medical terms, so much information my brain could not process it all, and Roxie sat still. I looked to see if she was still breathing. She looked at me and I saw FEAR, like I had never seen before. Dr. Friedman had made an appointment for the next morning. Yes we would be there, Yes, nothing to eat or drink. Yes, we knew where to go. Yes, we would go for the blood work and then we exited the office. There was a small cafe downstairs and we headed there, as if connected to one another by a thin string. We held hands, ordered coffee and sat. She looked at me and said, "I have Breast Cancer don't i?" No of course not, you are only 38 years old, the biopsy will be fine. It's OK, and yet I had not convinced her nor convinced myself. We sat and talked and went over everything that had been said. Finally, we decided that we would go to her house, gather some things and head to my house. It was best she be with us for the night. That ordinary day had suddenly turned not so ordinary!

The blood test done, the biopsy done and now the wait. Oh that wait, trying to hold myself together, because I had to be strong for my girl! This is not about you Jocelyn, this is about Roxie, You are the Rock, you always have been....wake up, wash your face, apply that lipstick and move on throughout the day. That is what I did! The results came in quickly and yes my greatest fear was now written on a medical report, Stage 3 Breast Cancer. No tumor, no lump just this ugly cancer. Now things moved quickly and my girl was an angel! She did not have time to be angry, sad, mad, she went at this disease with DETERMINATION! She had no fear of having her breast removed. She wanted this thing off of her. She wanted this cancer gone. We saw oncologists who were wonderful, kind and also determined to beat this cancer. So surgery was done. She stayed with me, I changed bandages, screamed into pillows because of the pain that she was going through, but if she could do this with grace, by God, so could I. The chemo started two weeks after surgery and those were the days that I thought she would not make it. She was sick, but determined that she was not going to shave her head! Her beautiful locks of auburn hair fell to the floor and we cried. She would throw up and I would wipe her face. She would cry and I would hold her. She would laugh and I would laugh. I hated this disease! I asked God how can this happen, please help us to find a cure. Please help my friend live, and not be sick. I prayed until I felt my knees were raw! 

Months of chemo and radiation, and then fighting the insurance company so that she could have the other breast removed, due to the fact that this particular cancer was highly likely to appear in the other breast. She worked through all of these treatments, because she had to, she had no one to take care of her. So she did what she always did. She did it with Grace and Determination and this wonderful sense of humor. It was summer and she had decided that she felt well enough to do some gardening. I was home taking care of the house and family and the phone rang. She was laughing hysterically. It took 5 minutes until she could get the story out. Oh my! We decided to get the hedge trimmer out, and it needed gas. So she jumped in the car and off to the gas station she went. She was pumping some gas into a can and she saw this really HOT guy staring at her....she thought...hmmmm, see I still have it, and then she looked down. Yes, she had forgotten to put her "FAKE GIRL" on that morning. So there she was, one boob on and one boob missing, and here is this HOT guy checking her out!!! So what did she do, she talked with him, about how hot it was, what a great car he had, and she even managed to give him her number! This was typical Roxie. 

Roxanne had her second breast removed and was so happy. She had talked with the plastic surgeon about reconstruction and was excited for her new life. All the scans were clear and Life was Good. One year to the day of the removal of her second breast she had reconstruction. We giggled about how big she was going to go and like always my girl kept her senses about her, and had HER GIRLS put back to the same size that she was before! She told me, why waste all that money that I have invested in great bras, I don't want to look like a hooker, I just want to look like a woman again. She thrived. Her Auburn locks had grown back even more beautiful, her weight came back and she glowed. We celebrated everything, every scan that came back clean, every month that passed we celebrated. We found happiness in the smallest things, we laughed more, we cried at silly movies, we took Danielle to amusements parks, and she rode all the crazy roller coasters that always made me sick to my stomach. Holidays came, and we cooked and baked and decorated. Life was good.

Ordinary days had seemed to return, the alarm going off in the morning and the crazy drive to work seemed normal again, but little did I know that this would soon be taken away. Another phone call in the middle of the day from Roxie. "I have a pain in my hip Tootsie. It's been here for about a week and I called the doctor, I have a scan this afternoon, I'm afraid." Did I hear those words, did I really hear those words again! I asked where she had the appointment , gathered my things and walked out the door to meet her. The scan was done, nothing said, reports were sent to the doctor. What now, call the doctor, see if the reports are in and yes we had an appointment for the next day! The cancer was back and this time it was bad. The cancer had spread, it was in her bones, her lungs and her brain. WHAT? HOW? NO? This cannot be happening, but it was. The doctors informed us that there was nothing more that could be done. Chemo could give Roxanne a few more months, but there was nothing more that could be done. We needed to meet with hospice. What does this mean, how can just tell someone that there is nothing else that can be done. Second opinion....that is what we needed. So that is what we did, and still the same report. I am so sorry, there is nothing more that we can do. 

Getting your life in order to die. Making funeral arrangements is not what you do when you are this young. The days were going too quickly. She was in pain. Putting ads in the newspaper to sell furniture, to visit Hospice Centers, everything revolved around death. I found myself unsure of what to say. She seemed stronger than I did. She seemed to be taking care of me now. No...this is not how it is supposed to be. I wanted her to be angry, to fight, to tell me that she was not going to leave me. I felt like our lives were in a fog and then the day that she entered into hospice, I thought I would never breathe again. I would go to work, and then head straight to her everyday. Joe was wonderful, taking care of Danielle and the house, while I spent the evenings with my Best Friend. Her Mom would spend the day there, and then head home in the evening. She slept a lot. The nurses were wonderful to all of us. I didn't want to leave at night, I now was afraid. I wanted to be with her, but I headed home and it was a restless night. I awoke in the morning and told Joe, today is the day, I feel it in my bones. I went to work, called her Mom and she said, "She asked for you just a few minutes ago, I think you better come!" Again, gathering my things and driving as fast as I could, walking down the hall with legs that felt like jello. I got into the room and her Mom told me she needed to get some air, I asked the nurse if I could climb into bed with her and she nodded. I slipped my shoes off, and she lifted her head and patted the bed, smiled at me and said, I Love you Tootsie, and I kissed her and held her, and she breathed her last breath! She was gone, my tears ran down her cheek, I lost my Dearest and Best Friend on that awful day!

Time passes and we learn so much in our lives! I truly believe that this wonderful woman was put in my life to bring me joy, happiness and understanding. There are no longer ordinary days for me....each day is a gift for me. I have had my battles, and that is a story to be told at another time, but my battles were fought with my Best Friend beside me. She is with me every day. I talk to her, sometimes I cry, sometimes I laugh, sometimes I just spend quiet time with her...but she is here in my heart forever.  

I took up scrapbooking and crafting as a source of therapy. I met so many wonderful in particular... Miss Lisa Howard! We met through blogging and quickly exchanged telephone numbers. Oh the hours spent on the phone talking about Design Teams and the newest and greatest products! I fell in love with her....she made me laugh so hard I thought I would wet myself, with her wonderful story telling. You see, God puts people in your lives when he knows you most need them. Promises that I was going to get to North Carolina for a visit. Wonderful cookies arrived at my door for my Birthday, Christmas presents exchanged and loving someone that you have never met in real life, but knowing that they are good people. Miss Lisa with the southern drawl, who made me feel good about myself, who shared her life with me!!!

Life is a strange little character....just when you think you have it figured out, it throws a curve ball at you....Can I really have received a phone call from my Lisa telling me that she found a lump and was going in for a biopsy. Oh no.....this is not happening again. You had a mammogram and it was clear, no just a cyst, not a tumor. You take such great care of yourself, no it's OK. Remembering of course that there are no ordinary days, in fact, it was my anniversary and Joe was taking me to see a PreSeason Raven Football game and my cell phone rang. It was Lisa, she sounded off, not like my Lisa. She told me she just got off the phone with the doctor and that she had Breast Cancer. The journey began........ and as you have read through her posts the journey continues. It hardly seems like two years have passed, the treatments, the surgery, the radiation and the Faith and Determination that she has continues to uplift us all. I am on this journey with you my sweet friend. No ordinary days for us......each day is our gift and I am blessed to have you in my life!!!! Strong women we are....and we will walk the walk and fight the fight!!!! I promise you that I am there every single day...sending up special prayers for you and your family!!!! You amaze are a Survivor, and I am most proud to say YOU ARE MY SWEET FRIEND!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Guest Post - Deana's Story

When I decided to share real stories of Breast Cancer in an attempt to raise awareness, I contacted several friends and family members asking for help. I wanted to share their story in their own words. Each story is unique as each has been affected by Breast Cancer in a different way. Today, Deana shares her of fear and what if' far too many experience every day...some with happy endings...some with not-so-happy endings. My friendship with Deana is one cultivated through a love of blogging, scrapbooking and all things girly. Deana is a fitness and fashion rock star as well as a loving mother and wife. You can find her online at (diva)logues

Deana and her beautiful family

Hi, I’m Deana Boston.  I know Lisa through the world of scrapbooking, but have followed her through her journey with fighting breast cancer too.  I think she’s one of the coolest, strongest, most inspiring women around and I’m honored that she’s asked me to help her this month with breast cancer awareness!

My story happened 3 years ago.  The Breast Health Center called me to schedule a follow-up appointment to recheck my left breast after my annual mammogram I’d had a week earlier.   I was really worried after receiving the call, especially since they wanted to schedule my appointment right away.  In my mind I was thinking that if they call you after a mammogram, it can’t be good news.  So my husband took the day off work to take me to my appointment and provide some support.  I was admitted right away after checking in, and told to change into a pink robe.  I sat down in a different waiting room than the one my husband was in, along with about 15 other women wearing pink robes.  It was a very somber waiting room and I found myself staring at the 2 rose canvases hanging on the wall across the room from me the entire time I was there.

After a long wait, I was called in for my mammogram.  It consisted of 4 different images on my left breast and then I was sent back to the waiting room.  More women came and went while I kept sitting there.  Once again, they called my name and asked me to come back in the room for 3 more images of my left breast.  And once again, I was sent back to the waiting room.  By this point, I was beyond nervous.   In fact, I was visibly shaking so badly, that a nurse walked by me and asked, “Are you cold, honey?”  I simply replied, “No.  I’m fine” but wanted to say…. “Please just tell me what’s wrong… I can deal with that.  I cannot deal with this waiting and not knowing though.”

Finally, my name was called and they asked me to come back in.  Each time they would call me back in, I would think it was to get my results & answers, but once again they took 5 more images of my left breast and sent me back to the waiting room where I was now alone.  All the other women had come and gone and I had been in and out of this waiting room for about 2 hours… and 12 images of the same breast if you’re keeping count.   I was just sure, by this point, they were going to give me bad news.   And frankly I thought if I didn’t have cancer going in, all this x-ray radiation might get me there instead!

Then they called me back to a different room for an ultrasound.  The wait for the radiologist to come in seemed like forever so I stared at the ceiling and told myself over & over again that I was going to be ok and that my young daughter wasn’t going to lose her mom.  Finally she entered the room, performed the ultrasound, found a pea-sized cyst that was of no concern to her and said to me, “Ok… see you next year,” in a very matter-of-fact way.

It was strange how she said it and not the ending I was anticipating after over 2 hours of stress, waiting and the unknown.  But after a few questions and her reassurance that all really was ok, I was beyond relieved.  And I’m just sure, that there were a few women in the waiting room that day that didn’t hear those same words.  I could tell by some of the expressions on faces as they left the waiting room.  One thing is for sure, I will continue to get my annual mammograms.  And even though this particular day was long and stressful, I’m glad they were so thorough.

Many blessings and prayers to all those who have been affected by this terrible disease.  And many thanks again to my amazing friend, Lisa, for sharing your story with all of us and for using your own experience to give back and do something positive with it.  You ROCK!

Monday, October 8, 2012

They ALL Matter

Sometimes the best of intentions creates controversy. What starts and even succeeds at being good can inflict a prickly feeling of not-so-good for some. It seems Breast Cancer Awareness, at least the massive amount of recognition it receives, is a bone of contention for some. As with most debatable topics, I find myself riding the fence on this one. Not that I'm passive. Not at all. But I do understand and appreciate differing opinions. I also get there is usually a justifiable reason for the controversy. At least in this situation.

Cancer is horrid. Whether it be breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, brain cancer...well known cancers or cancers we have never heard of and could probably not even pronounce...they all suck BIG time.  All need to be obliterated. All are evil. All blow.

That is my opinion. And I'm sure I would receive a heart "Amen" as everyone would have to agree.

I also am of the opinion awareness and funding for research of any form of cancer should be a priority.

Because they ALL matter.

So when someone shared frustrations over the fact breast cancer reigns as a center stage diva in the tragedy/horror show call "Cancer Sucks", I understood. This person was battling another form of cancer. A cancer that is listed in fine print on the playbill, giving the appearance it is more of an understudy to breast cancer. And it isn't fair. She was fighting an equally evil enemy. Why should her cancer be upstaged by a pink bitch who wants to steal the show?

After hearing her comments, I spent a great deal of time thinking about her reaction. A part of me went on the defensive. But a bigger part of me felt her pain. Knowing I'm on team "diva" almost made me feel guilty. I'm one of the lucky ones (if there is such a thing when talking disease) whose cancer is a headliner and recognized. Even professional athletes sport "pink" during October. Speaking of which, we pink people even have our own month dedicated to our plight. All this leaves her questioning if we (breast cancer sisters) are more important.

Of course the answer to that is emphatic NO!

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this...about why breast cancer receives so much recognition. The obvious answer is that it is so prevalent. One in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. And that doesn't include the men who are diagnosed. Yes, men can also fall victim to breast cancer. Besides skin cancer, it is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. If for no other reason, breast cancer is in the spotlight because it is literally something most everyone experiences in some way. If questioned, we could all think of someone we know, most likely many "someones" we know, who have been dealt the breast cancer card. It gets exposure because it is "popular" an totally unpopular way.

Because of all the recognition and massive amounts of money being directed toward breast cancer research, many lives are being saved. I am one such saved soul. Were it not for the discovery of a drug called Herceptin, my prognosis would have been the worst of the worst. I even participated in a study to improve Herceptin's effectiveness toward aggressive breast cancer. My results were beyond good. And I'm beyond grateful for the time, money and attention given to making this life-saver an option for me.

I don't want to feel guilty for doing my part to spread the word about breast cancer. I don't want to feel I'm hurting another by trying to help many more.

But I do...with every fiber of my being...believe they all matter. Not just "all" cancers...all cancer victims.

I don't plan to take the spotlight away from the pink lady, I just think she should move over and share the stage. There is more than enough room. And if we do things right, my hope is that one day they will all be upstaged by a new show called "Cancer No More".

Friday, October 5, 2012

On Becoming A Hypochondriac

Noun: A person who is abnormally anxious about their health.

I think I am officially becoming a hypochondriac. You know, a little wacko. Every ache, pain and/or itch sends me down the I-think-the-cancer's-back trail of doom and gloom. In spite of all the lectures I give myself, the Negative Nellie (that bitch, otherwise known as Hypochondria) who's taken up permanent residence in my head won't shut up.

She fights. She pushes. She taunts me.

She is determined to steal my "happy".

I work hard to keep her from making herself visible to the rest of the world. So far I've been able to keep her locked up tight.

In my head.

Who knows how long it will be before she wins the war and I start talking in wicked, sick tongues.

Like I said.

I'm going crazy.

During the b.b.c. (before breast cancer) phase of my life, I was the sanest of the sane. Never the worrying type, I chose to dwell in the land of sunshine and roses. That place where magical unicorns live and everything gleams in hi-def, rainbow colors. Don't get me wrong, I didn't escape "Mommy worry". I just didn't worry about my own health. I took reasonably good care of myself. I rarely drank. I never smoked. My diet was on the good side of average (most of the time) and I worked out frequently. The idea that rogue cells would even think of roaming around in my body was non-existent.

To say I was shocked when diagnosed with cancer, much less aggressive Stage 3 cancer, would be an enormous understatement. And the hits didn't stop there. Within the first few weeks, if not the first few days, after the world stopped turning, I realized this was a life long sentence. Hopefully a really, really loooong life sentence.

Why am I destined to forever live with the "c" beast?

Because breast cancer can return. It can be a recurrence or it can metastasize to other areas of the body...most often the chest wall, bone, liver, brain or lungs. While I could elaborate on the differences and probabilities of either of these occurring, it would be easiest to direct you to Anything you ever wanted and didn't want to know about breast cancer can be found there. For my purposes today, I just need you to know where it can return and where that leaves me.

So exactly where does that leave me?

It leaves me nowhere good.

That information was my one way ticket to the land of lunacy as well as forever tying me to that Be-atch I mentioned at the beginning of this post. My b.b.c. worry-free days are gone.


Every time I ache, I immediately believe the demon is attacking my bones. Blurry eyes and dizziness means my brain now plays host to "c" cells. An annoying cough and suddenly my lungs are plagued with disease. Since allergies and side effects from my cancer-ain't-coming-back medication can cause every single one of these symptoms, my mind is constantly filled with chatter that vacillates between crazy talk and semi-normal nothingness. It is never ending. And it is a total pain!

Trust that I am well aware the label of Crazy Lady isn't "the worst that could happen to me". But it is "the worst that could happen to me" that has turned me into the Crazy Lady.

So I pray for the best.

I rely on my faith.

And I trust that even should the worst happen, God is in control.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


I missed it.

Yesterday was supposed to be my big day... my day to launch project Breast Cancer Awareness. And I missed it. However, sometimes missed opportunities are nothing more than life offering you a better opportunity.

You see, the post I had planned for yesterday was a generic, "Welcome To My Mission", mission statement. Nothing exciting. Nothing engaging. Basically...nothing to write home about (pun intended).

Today...well, today I realized I have the perfect story to set the stage for what's to come. Today I am scheduled to have a scan at 2:30. Given most everyone's journey through this hell called cancer begins with a scan of some sort, what better subject to consider than scans.


Just over 2 years ago, I found something that set off deafening alarm bells. I found a mass. If I'm being honest and overly graphic, I should share that I found a HUGE mass. One that seemed to literally pop up overnight. It was so abnormally massive, I went to the doctor the next morning, panicked but also believing there was a reasonable explanation.  The first order of business was to conduct an ultrasound, which is basically a scan of sorts, then move on to a biopsy followed by the painful, agonizing, yet-still-hopeful-it's-nothing stage of waiting. Obviously, hope failed me and I was told I had cancer.

That is when it all began. Scan after scan was ordered in an attempt to determine how many advances the enemy had made throughout my body that was now considered a battleground. Without an assessment of what ground had been overtaken by the "c" creature, there would be no way to map a plan of attack, especially one that left me standing at the end of the war.

So began a process of this, that and the other. I was injected with "this", had to drink "that" and popped pills I shall refer to as the "other". Injections of tracers were "this". Gunky, chalky liquid that caused my gag reflex to go into overdrive was "that". Fortunately, I only had to choke down 3 bottles of "nasty" one time. But the injections of "stuff" were numerous. I often joked how my veins housed enough radioactive tracers to allow me to serve as stand-in holiday lights for the upcoming Christmas season. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I "glowed" enough to put the Griswolds to shame.

(If you are too young to know who the Griswolds are, I suggest you Google it. Then rent the movie. While it "ain't" no JackAss The Movie, I promise you will laugh. And those of you, like me, who are more mature in age? I suggest you just ignore the reference to JackAss the Movie. It really is as bad as the name implies.)

By the way, the "other" I mentioned? The "other" is also known as Ativan. We became friendly fast. My new found friend became the crutch I leaned on as it was the only thing that got me through the claustrophobic nightmare that is an MRI. It also became the muzzle that shushed the "F" bombs that kept working their way to the surface and popping out of my mouth. I even dropped a few in front of my mother, for gosh's sake! Try as I might to twist my thoughts into a nicer, more-appropriate-for-my-mama word, F*CK was the only word my lips would let pass. So I relied on the "other". Within seconds of swallowing that most coveted white pill, I found my happy place and the world went back to revolving on its axis.

And the "F" bombs were diffused.

Time went on and my year long treatment came along for the ride. With it came more scans than I can remember. They were so numerous they became second nature. A new normal took over my world and I went about the business of fighting the fight. Scans were so commonplace, I eventually forgot the apprehension and gut wrenching fear felt as I waited for results. I even broke up with the "other". I no longer needed him. As much as I loved our relationship, I wasn't in it for the long haul. Basically, I was using the "other" to get what I wanted then I planned to dump him. Judge me if you wish.

I am now one year post treatment and life has gone back to the way it much as it can. I still have check ups. I still require tests to ensure that wicked monster hasn't found a way to resurrect itself. And I'm back to feeling all the angst that accompanies the what if's...the worries...the waiting during and after each scan. Even the what-seems-like-long-yet-are-relatively-short stretches of time between these tests holds a flicker of fear. I'm always wondering if a storm is brewing in the distance. If a battle is being waged. It wouldn't even be a stretch to say I am on high alert for another surprise attack.

Cancer does that to you.

It robs you of your sense of security.

Life does return to normal. But it will never be the same...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Proudly Pink

I hate pink.


I said it.

While "hate" is a harsh word, I must confess, I do not like the color pink. At least not soft, begging-to-be-cuddled, baby pink. I prefer bold, bright hot pink....and even that is a stretch.

Maybe it has something to do with my personality. How can a "live it loud and proud" person get cozy with the likes of such a soft-spoken, girly color?

Then again, it could have something to do with my aversion to Pepto Bismol. Having up-chucked the one and only dose to ever pass my lips, I all but hurl at the mere mention of the didn't-help-me-a-bit chalky pink liquid.

I now face a dilemma. Pink is the signature color for Breast Cancer Awareness. Being a cancer fighter/survivor/warrior princess/loud-mouth-tell-you-all-about-it chick, I am surrounded by and expected to flaunt the color pink. What's a girl to do? Especially a girl that most often chooses the route of non-conformity?

She simply got over it.

I am here to proclaim I am now a proud proponent of the color pink!

October is just around the corner.

( how in the hell did we get from January to October in only a few weeks? Cause I seriously missed a few months in there somewhere. Must have something to do with the fact I packed up a too-big-for-me house and moved to my single-girl-townhouse, purged more sh!t than any one person should be allowed to ever admit to owning, took two short but sweet vacations and helped plan my son's upcoming wedding.

Okay. So I now know how I missed April - September.

And why I am in need of a long winter's nap.)

October is officially Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A month where pink is everywhere! As a means of promoting my Proudly Pink status, I am dedicating the entire month of my blog blather to Breast Cancer Awareness. And just like me and my not-so-normal ways, I am approaching the subject a little differently.

To be perfectly honest, I naively thought everyone knew about breast least the basic facts. Yet I've come to realize, in spite of all the attention given to this gnarly beast, far too many are still unaware of the severity of this health epidemic that robs women, and even men, of so much. Often times, it wins the war regardless of how tough a fight its victim fights. It can take, at the very least, one's sense of security to, at the very worst, one's life.


Breast cancer kills.

Throughout my treatment and beyond, I have had many well intended comments come my way regarding the outcome of my journey. Many made mention of the tough road I would have but the assumption was that I would most certainly win the fight. The reason being, many now believe everyone beats breast cancer these days.

Sure, survival rates are higher than in the past. Sure, with early detection it IS beatable. And most certainly, great strides have been made through research and drug development allowing positive prognoses in instances that were previously dire. But I fear these statements elude to the assumption that breast cancer is more a nuisance than a killer. When that occurs, I also fear we will begin to slack up on our preventative care. We will let down our guard and the enemy will have free reign to inflict a holy massacre.

Breast cancer awareness has been prolific. Many celebrities and otherwise lesser known fighters have worked hard to spread the word. I don't want to see us take a step backward or their hard work be for naught. For that reason alone, I want to devote an entire month to telling the story of breast cancer. I want to make it real. I want to share the words of those affected by and living with this monster.

I reached out to several friends, family members and cancer survivors asking for their help in this endeavor. And they graciously agreed. Each will share their story...their insight. Some have come face to face with breast cancer. Others live in fear of an attack. Others have watched as loved ones fought. All have something to share. I will also be offering stories from my journey through and beyond the fight. There could even be a humorous tale or two thrown in for good measure.

Please join me throughout October in spreading the word. Please support me as I try to offer you a view into the world of breast cancer. Please follow along, comment and share links with all of your friends. If we can make a difference, even if only for one person, it will be more than worth the effort!

Thank you in advance!

Love and many hugs,

-me (the girl who now wears pink)