"Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present."
Kung Fu Panda

"Your life is an occasion...Rise to it!"
Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

Friday, November 7, 2014

Not Going Quietly...

It's 8 years now and while I have not posted in a long time, there is still not one day that goes by when I think about how grateful I am for the blessings in my life;  my health, my children, my friends and family and of course my dogs:).... the list is just too long to post.

Now that Breast Cancer Awareness month is over and the conversation has quieted about this cause, please remember to encourage the women in your life to get their annual mammogram.

My mammogram in 2006 gave me a frightening diagnosis, but it also gave me the chance to seek treatment and therefore I have been around to see so much that I would have missed without early detection. I would have missed my children grow from ages 3 and 6 to now 11 and 14.  These girls have been the reason for my fight and now are strong young women because of their life experiences. I have seen my parents live happily and healthily into their 70's and enjoy their retirement.  I have seen nieces and nephews grow into budding adults with unique personalities all their own.  I have two new dogs who add more chaos to my life.  I also would have missed my friends, both old and new, who have added so much love and color into my world.  We have a lot of fun, maybe too much to mention.

So the lesson here is to take each day, one by one, enjoy your gifts, face your fears, and know that the only thing you can control is how you take care of yourself and the ones around you. Warrior on...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I Am The Other Woman....

Well, October is here, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I really did not want to write this year, and I am having a hard time focusing on my fundraising efforts, I think after 4 years I may be heading into some sort or survival denial.

Initially I was involved with this cause because I had felt the need to get myself and my daughters behind a cause that affected family members, friends and acquaintances...Not me though. Every year we walked for all those "other women" who had the disease, not for me though. This wasn't a disease I was going to get. I kept my weight in check, was a runner, had a healthy diet, breastfed my children, didn't smoke or drink (at least heavily). It just wasn't going to happen to me.

Then it did, a diagnosis hit me from out of nowhere at age 37. No symptoms, no lump, just a gut feeling that something was wrong. I asked for a mammogram, just because. Got the letter from the Radiologist that there was an abnormal calcification, okay so what, abnormal readings happen, they were just being cautious. I was not going to be that "other woman."

My primary physician insisted on a biopsy right away. When my surgeon didn't have the same sense of urgency, my primary switched my surgeon. In the summer of 2006, I had a stereotactic biopsy and BAM....Invasive Ductal Carcinoma AKA Breast Cancer. I was now the "other woman" and my life changed forever...for better and for worse...and if it could happen to me, who the "hell" could be next.

My worst fears...were and are that that my girls will have to face this in 20 years. You see, a diagnosis for the mother of little girls sucks (at the time my girls were 3 and 6) because the worry is not only for one's own survival so that you can see your parenting mission through, it is also for your girls. The darkest concern here is that your babies will be destined to travel the same rough road that you had to travel through. Every parent's primary instinct is to protect their young and mine was no different at the time. So to face these fears, I was gene tested for BRCA 1 and 2. The test was negative, which meant that my girls could not inherit a gene from me that could predestine them to a breast and ovarian cancer diagnosis. Big news!

So where is this post going...the point is that we all go through life thinking we are going to live a smooth and happy existence, coasting through the many joys of life has to offer. We never think we are going to be that "other woman" and some day there is a 1 in 8 chance we will be her. While this may not seem like a high percentage, think about the lottery. If you knew you had a 1 in 8 chance of winning $1,000,000, you would put a nice bet on this chance to win.

All I ask is that you consider placing that same importance on your annual screenings; your mammogram, your pap smear, your MRI, whatever test you are told you need, don't put it off! An early detection saves lives, it saved my life in 2006.

Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Be well and have a great year!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

To a Beautiful Woman I Didn't Know....

I knew you through a good close friend, we had a few things in common; we were both young wives and mothers to small girls, we both surrounded ourselves with good friends and we both were Breast Cancer warriors.

I often inquired about how you were doing, you had a Breast Cancer diagnosis after I had mine. You had a very rough battle with this horrible disease all while taking care of a small child. So I asked about you yesterday, only to be shocked to find out that you were gone and you have been gone for a few weeks now, maybe a month; I don't know, nobody told me.

So I write today to remember you, a woman I prayed for, yet I never knew. But to also let good intentioned friends know that it is okay to tell a Breast Cancer survivor that there are people who don't survive the disease. We all know the ugly truth of the disease. Mine was caught very early, but you can sure as heck know that I am aware of my mortality statistics...

In keeping the death of a dear woman and fellow warrior away from those who have survived, we essentially deny this fallen soldier the credit she deserves for battling with such grace, dignity and strength.

Though it may pain you to know that Breast Cancer survivors will shed tears when another person dies of Breast Cancer, it is not out of self-pity or fear of our own demise. The tears are for the loss of a life too soon and all that could have been had a cure been found for this terrible disease just one day earlier.

Rest in peace, Lynn. We will keep fighting!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Do You See What I See?

I haven't published in some time, busy with a new chapter in my life. My girls are good, well adjusted to my divorce, but I think they still are waiting to see how I move about this life; their role model, per say.

We women are tough, even before we get older we are self-deprecating about the way we look. The root cause is not totally known; societal expectations or just our need to feel beautiful and accepted. Over time it is inevitable that our bodies will change simply by age, babies, or in my case by disease.

The real question I have yet to answer is "how do I look at myself in the mirror and like what I see?" If it isn't our hair, it's our weight or it's the clothes that make us look fat. Why do we do this to ourselves? It becomes even more difficult to like what you see when you look at a body that has in some ways failed us. Cancer survivors often have feelings of anger that the body we took such care of let us down in the worst kind of way. Even Lance Armstrong had such thoughts, if you have never read, It's Not About the Bike, you must!

Knowing that I have two little girls watching my every move, it becomes even more important for me to embrace the imperfect and flawed face and the body I see when I look in the mirror. There can be no lack of confidence with this because out there are two sets of beautiful blue eyes looking at me, trying to see how a woman is supposed to feel about herself. This is no easy task as I have lacked confidence in the way I look since I was not much older than them. I know it seems shallow, but I also know I'm not the only woman who feels this way.

All the more reason for me to break the chain with my girls...Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fearless Defined??? Cancer Plus a Whole Lot More

This photo was taken in NYC on a Boat Cruise that I took with my daughters who helped raise over $5,000 last year for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Albany's Washington Park. Upon raising $2,500 or more you become part of an elite group of fundraisers for the American Cancer Society...A Pacesetter....I am also a daughter, a mother, a sister, an aunt, a business professional, a philathropist, a friend and someone who struggles every day to stay defined as such, and not just as a cancer patient.

As an almost 3 year survivor of breast cancer, every morning I think about all that has been gained and lost since my diagnosis. I have a BC life and an AC life. While I wouldn't trade the life experiences for anything, I always wonder about what my perspective would have been like with no cancer diagnosis.

Would it be easier to wake up every day, or has the knowledge that life is fragile and short made me appreciate all that I have? It is clear that this realization has led me to change the things in my life that are not working (sometimes in unproductive ways). Yet it is unclear whether those changes would have happened without cancer. I am not sure and perhaps it doesn't even matter.

The greatest concern is that all that I have strived for over the course of my life will get lost and I will be redefined as that woman who had cancer...and nothing more. I am proud to be a survivor, but when all is said and done and I take my last breath, I hope my friends and family see me as so much more than that....

Cancer may have shaped my life, but it will never define my life.

Be Well.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Time To Fly Little Bird...

Even if your mom is not quite ready for you to go.

One of the realizations that I had when I was diagnosed with cancer and facing my own mortality was that my eldest daughter was painfully attached to me. She had always been that way ever since she was born. We as parents did nothing to discourage that. As an infant she would cry so hard when I would leave her that she would make herself sick; so I didn't leave her very often.

As she got older, we continued the doting and essentially we became what modern sociologists call "helicopter parents"...always hovering, tending to every need and whimper and always acting on behalf of the child instead of kindly encouraging the child to do for herself. While it seemed that we were raising a kind, bright, self-adjusted kid, a cancer diagnosis made it crystal clear to me that this kind of parenting would make it all the more difficult for my daughter to cope if I were to die of this disease (not to sound morbid, but that is what was going through my mind at the time).

Often I have discussed my learning's from cancer, but to date I have wanted to explain how it dramatically changed my parenting style from one of continuous attention to my girls to conscious empowerment of my girls. It was important that if something were to happen to me, my daughters would be okay. I made a point of starting to encourage them to solve their own conflicts, do things more often for themselves, and continue to build their self-confidence. The end result was that I had to let go and now it feels so much easier and lighter to parent children who take pride in being independent and confident in their abilities to make decisions of their own.

While I am still far from being a perfect parent, I am proud of the fact that I have been able to let my children fly by the parenting choices I have made, and not because of the losses they could have faced had my fight with cancer had taken a different path. Watching my kids soar is the best feeling a mother could ever have.

Hannah and Jessie...You make me proud every day. Keep on flying!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hooray for CYP2D6 Ultra Rapid Metabolizer!!!

My last post was in anxious anticipation of an upcoming Oncology appointment. At this appointment, Dr. Collea recommended I get tested to see if my body changes Tamoxifen properly into Endoxifen which is ultimately responsible for much of the anti-cancer effect of Tamoxifen. For those of you who don't know my history, I am estrogen receptor positive and Tamoxifen is the ONLY drug treatment for pre-menopausal women. I decided to get the CYP2D6 test as it would allow me to make choices about my health before a recurrence could happen.

If you are a poor metabolizer of Tamoxifen it is unlikely that your body will convert the Tamox. into it's most active form, Endoxifen. This essentially means that the drug is not an effective breast cancer treatment. Doctors recommend if you are a poor metabolizer, that you choose a different form of treatment such as ovarian suppression or removal -- which are not without significant side effects.

Okay enough background. I took the CYP2D6 blood test to determine my metabolizer genotype. Today I received a call from Dr. Collea, when I saw the number, my heart sunk...I answered the phone as a pessimist "what's the bad news Doc.?" He proceeded to tell me to stop being a pessimist because I am an ultra rapid metabolizer of Tamox. This means that my body very effectively changes this drug into its most effective form, Endoxifen.

Hooray! Hooray! Another lesson learned and another cause for celebration! I know this all too well...We spend way too much time worrying about what may happen in our lives, and not enough time rejoicing and savoring the moment when life is good.

I am savoring it now!