Archive for the ‘Kicking Breast Cancer’s Ass’ Category

Dream Bigger

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Havasupai Falls

Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.  ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

 Lewis Carroll

“If you doubt you can accomplish something, then you can’t accomplish it. You have to have confidence in your ability, and then be tough enough to follow through.” 

 Rosalyn Carter

 

I did it!  I hiked the Grand Canyon.  I wasn’t sure I could, but I knew I would.  Thirty two miles in three days with six awesome friends and family.  Up and down, down and up.  Through narrow switch backs, dry washes, and deep red sand.  Every step taking me closer and further away.

Occasional trains of pack mules led by local Native Americans would roar by us like a freight train as we hugged the canyon wall, seasoned backpackers armed with hiking poles would smile and stop to chat, and young bikini clad Millennials and an occasional helicopter would remind us that we were still in the 21st century.

Me and my Pack

Riley taking a break

Beaver Falls with Kevin, Jenna, Me, Riley, Eric, Aaron and David

Hiking the Grand Canyon was an incredible feat for me.  Especially since just a few months ago, I found myself inside another MRI machine looking for cancer on my spinal cord.  I had severe back pain and was losing the use of my left hand.  They did not find any cancer, thank God, but my body was weak.

In the meanwhile, I had just committed to hiking the canyon with my brothers and my son, Riley.  There was no way I was going to back out.  Wading in the blue waters of Havasupai Falls has always been on the top of my bucket list.  Plus, I made a commitment to my family and to myself.

Riley and Me

My handsome brothers!

Still not sure what was causing my pain and fatigue, I knew I had to move on and regain my strength.  So, every day, I put on my trail runners and hiked the back hills of Orange, gaining my muscle and confidence bit by bit.  It wasn’t easy, but I’ve had a lot of practice in not easy.

“I’m not sure I can do this!”  I would tell my kids.  “How am I going to hike 12 miles down a steep rocky twisting trail while carrying all of my gear on my back and then 12 miles back up the same trail with all my gear on my back.”  I would have visions of losing my balance and falling in.  My heart would start racing as I saw my family standing there without me in complete shock.  I imagined my epitaph.  Here lies a brave but stupid woman.  Morbid and ridiculous I know.  But we all do it.  We imagine the worse, fall prey to our negative thoughts, and believe we can’t do something when in fact we absolutely can.

I climbed this!
I can do this!
I did it!

Of course, I was wrong.  And, I wasn’t just a little wrong, I was dead wrong.  I can do it.  And, I can do it really well, even with 40 lbs on my back.  This was a huge lesson for me.  After reaching the top of that canyon, after hiking a total of 32 miles over the weekend, climbing 80 degree cliffs, crossing narrow bridges and trekking through rivers, I have learned to never say I can’t again.  I have learned to never doubt my ability.  And, I have learned to never belittle my dreams.  In fact, it is time to dream bigger.

Crossing bridges!

Eric taking a leap!

Words are powerful stuff.  For they become action or non-action.  If you say you can then you will.  If you say you can’t then you won’t.  And, if you don’t you will never know what you are capable of.  And that would be such a shame because those negative beliefs will become insidious.  They will creep into every part of your life and develop into bad habits.  These habits, in time, will become part of your character.  And, in the long run, “I can’t” will become your destiny.

When the real truth is you can, you are absolutely capable!

In fact, not only are we all capable, each of us is more than capable and we are more capable than we know.  Thomas Edison knew this.  He said, “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”

 

On top of the world!

So, my friends go astound yourself today.  Go astound yourself every day.  Climb that mountain, get that job, ask that girl out, take that guitar lesson, and go after your dreams.  Do not say I can’t.  Say YES I CAN and I promise YOU WILL!

I am going to leave you with these empowering words by Mike Norton, a bestselling author who is a winner of the USS Dwight Eisenhower award for essays of world peace and respect:

“Never say that you can’t do something, or that something seems impossible, or that something can’t be done, no matter how discouraging or harrowing it may be; human beings are limited only by what we allow ourselves to be limited by: our own minds. We are each the masters of our own reality; when we become self-aware to this: absolutely anything in the world is possible.  Master yourself, and become king of the world around you. Let no odds, chastisement, exile, doubt, fear, or ANY mental virii prevent you from accomplishing your dreams. Never be a victim of life; be its conqueror.”

 

 

Do Not Be Afraid to Go to Hell

Friday, April 18th, 2014

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”   Flannery O’Connor

“Recovery lies not in the other person – no matter how much we believe it does, it lies in ourselves”…Melody Beattie

Hello my friends,

I would like to take this moment to thank you for sticking with me these last few years during some of the most trying times of my life.  It is such a privilege to share my story with all of you.  I hope that as I work through my story it helps you work through yours.  For I know that everybody has a story.

During these years, I have hit rock bottom, more than once.  I have seen what it looks like inside an MRI machine, an Alanon meeting, an empty bottle of wine, self-help books, an unfulfilled dream, and my brain; some of it not so pretty, but all of it necessary.

It is necessary, because I would not be where I am today.  Although it took me almost a decade to get here, I am truly grateful for every minute of it; the good, the bad and the ugly.  And boy was there ugly.  The bills we couldn’t pay, the house we lost, cancer, job loss, late night fights and mournful mornings after.  But I learned just as much, if not more, from the ugly times as I did the good times.  Without those painful times, without the visits to the “swamplands of my soul” I would have never had the insight and courage to change myself and my life.  It was Aeschylus over 2500 years ago that observed, “through suffering we come to wisdom.”

All of our lives are full of ups and downs.  There are times with and times without.  There is tragedy and there is joy.  There are moments you never want to visit again, moments you wish you could do over, and moments you wish you could do over and over again.

Some of it is out of your control, it just happens.  You are enjoying your life, and “Whammo,” it hits you hard when you least expect it.  But some of it has been bubbling underneath the surface for years, in the dark recesses of your soul and you know it. You try to avoid it, anesthetize it, and run from it, but no matter how hard you try or how fast you run, you will be pulled down at one time or another.  It is inevitable.  No amount of denial, numbing, over-working or over-sexing will keep you from these visits.

And, why would you want to avoid them in the first place?  Because, and I promise you, it is in these dark places that you will find the light.  It is in these moments that you will discover not only yourself but you will discover true meaning; the meaning behind your depression, the guilt, the anger, loneliness or fear that has brought you here in the first place.   And, once you understand the meaning, your life will be enriched in ways you did not know possible.

But, it may take some time.  For we need to repeat patterns over and over again before we get it.  It sucks but it’s true.  The upside of all of this, when we can finally see the pattern, when we truly get it, we can stop it.  And once we stop it, we will then have the courage to re-imagine, re-create and re-invent ourselves.

For it is the wound and the desire to heal that enlarges us, that pushes us to finally take action and make the changes necessary.  And, it is that beautiful inner voice of yours; that gut feeling, your soul’s craving that will keep you going.  Yes, it’s scary.  But remember, fear and anxiety mean growth; depression, regression.

My desire to heal and live the best life I can possibly live has enlarged me in so many ways.  I have learned to set boundaries.  I have learned to say “yes” when I mean “yes” and “no” when I mean “no.”  I have learned how to stop the pain, accept what is and let go.  I have learned self expression instead of self-repression and my hopes are now grounded in reality instead of false wishes.  I follow my bliss.  I listen to my gut.  I accept uncertainty.  I accept my faults.  I accept myself.  And, when I am angry, I let people know.  When I am sad, I cry.  And, when I am happy, I laugh.  I am no longer silent.  I am no longer deaf.  And, when I stumble, I stumble with my eyes wide open.

So do not run from the swamplands my friends.  Do not resist.  Again, what you resist; persists.  Go through; all the way to the bottom if you must, but go.  As Carl Jung so beautifully describes,” The dread and resistance which every natural human being experiences when it comes to delving too deeply into himself is, at bottom, the fear of the journey to Hades.”  But I promise, you cannot understand heaven, if you have not been to hell.

All my love,

Deanne

Strange Gifts

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

My handsome sweet smart 44 year old history professor brother of mine gave us all a scare this past weekend.  He had a stroke.  Actually, he had two strokes.  They were small and he is alive, thank god, but a bit shaken.  We all are!  The doctor’s believe a blood clot was released from his heart, blocking the blood flow and cutting off oxygen to his brain.  To confirm, they are putting him through all kinds of tests to find out exactly why such a young and apparently healthy guy (he hikes the Grand Canyon once a year for god sake) had a stroke.

Eric hiking the Grand Canyon

That was Saturday.  Today, he is at home, coherent but tired, nursing a horrible headache.  While on the phone with him earlier, I asked him how he is feeling.  He said, slurring his words a bit, “His head feels like someone hit him with a baseball bat.”   He is unsure whether the pain is from the stroke, or the concussion he got as a result of falling and hitting his head; on what, he does not know.  There is currently some blood on his brain due to the fall so he cannot take any blood thinners until he stops bleeding.  Anticoagulants are prescribed to prevent another stroke.  I think this worried him a bit but he seemed most worried about his kiddos, his work and the fact that the doctor said no driving for three months.  Or, maybe I was the one that worried most about this last fact.

Even after all the tests, they still do not know “why.”  His cholesterol is good, his blood pressure good, he is not overweight and although he enjoys his green chile burritos and occasional martinis, he is in good health.  Statistically, about 30% of young stroke victims never learn the reason why.  I hope the tests will give him an answer.  I truly do.  It is horribly difficult to live with a disease or trauma of some sort, without knowing the “why.”  You can speculate till kingdom come, and yet, the lack of answers will still haunt you.

Why me?  Why now?  Why this?  Why that? Why? Why? Why?

I asked myself that a thousand times since I was first diagnosed with cancer.  I still don’t have an answer.

But this ambiguity can be turned into something very positive and meaningful, I have found.

Take Elie Wiesel for example.   When Elie was a teenager in Transylvania in 1944, he and his entire family were taken in the middle of the night to the Auschwitz concentration camp.   In his powerful and terrifying narrative, Night, Elie writes, “There are those who tell me that I survived in order to write this text.  I am not convinced.  I don’t know how I survived; I was weak, rather shy; I did nothing to save myself.  A miracle?  Certainly not.  If heaven could or would perform a miracle for me, why not for others more deserving than myself?  It was nothing more than chance.  However, having survived, I needed to give some meaning to my survival.”

I so get this.

Why did Eric have a stroke?  I have no idea why.  Why did I get cancer?  I don’t know that either.  Was it my dense breasts or because I started my period when I was very young?  Was it the birth control pills, my 10 lb. babies, not enough vegetables, bad genes, lack of Vitamin D, chocolate covered almonds, Sam Adams, deodorant, that damn black bra with the underwire, stress, negative thoughts, polluted air, or acid rain?  Was it fate?  Did I have a lesson to learn?  The list goes on and on and on.  It’s exhausting.

Again, I don’t have an answer.  But, I do know, it was not useless.  I know that much for sure.  Why?  Because I gave it meaning, my own meaning perhaps, but meaning. And, so will Eric.  Joseph Campbell explains it this way:

“Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be…”

And how does one do that?  How does one ascribe meaning to something so horrible, so difficult, so… Well, if Elie did it, I certainly can.  I can’t profess to know what Elie did to give meaning to surviving that terrible night at Auschwitz or his stay at Buchenwald.  But I can guess that his writing helped him profusely.  I can also guess that his writing was just one piece of a very intricate puzzle.  Although my cancer cannot in any way be compared to what Elie went through, my experience has helped me learn a few things along the way.

First of all, I have learned to look at difficult events that happen in my life from a different perspective.  Shining a new light on things, I have come to understand that trauma, difficulty, pain or suffering can be a gift if you choose to see it from a more meaningful viewpoint.   Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t wish cancer or a stroke or a concentration camp on anyone.  There was no “Woohoo, Eric had a stroke, he is one lucky dude!”  It’s not that kind of gift.

No, when I first heard that Eric had a stroke, I was devastated.  I was shocked, I cried and I was scared.  But, I am optimistic and have full trust in his “kicking ass” capabilities.  I know he will turn it around and pull himself up from his manly bootstraps.  And, like me, I believe not only will his stroke open new doors and new paths full of fresh opportunities for him, it will close doors that lead to dead ends.  Therein lies the gift.

A nice big door opened to me at the Susan G. Komen Luncheon where I was a guest speaker! These lovelies are all breast cancer survivors!

Secondly, I have learned compassion at a much deeper level than before.  And this compassion has helped me to understand others so much more.   It seems to me that one needs to suffer to understand someone else’s suffering.  You know the whole “walk in my shoes” idiom.  When we see someone else feel the pain we felt, our hearts open to their pain.  We feel empathy.  Well, most of us do, anyway.   And this empathy, this compassion opens a whole new world of understanding, one where judgment, anger, bitterness and resentment no longer dwell.  One that is much more peaceful than before.

The Venerable Maha Ghosananda, Supreme Patriarch of Cambodia,explains this well.  He saw that to unify the nation of Cambodia, it was essential for Cambodians to put aside their anger for the genocide of the Khmer Rouge.  He described it like this:

“The suffering of Cambodia has been deep. From this suffering comes great compassion. Great compassion makes a peaceful heart. A peaceful heart makes a peaceful person. A peaceful person makes a peaceful family. A peaceful family makes a peaceful community. A peaceful community makes a peaceful nation. A peaceful nation makes a peaceful world”

Does it sound overly optimistic?  Maybe.   But simply believing that it is possible to have world peace brings extraordinary meaning to one’s life.  I know that it’s a work in progress.  I am a work in progress.  We are all a work in progress.  But, I have hope.

Do you know that when Elii first wrote Night, every single publisher turned him down?  They didn’t think anyone wanted to read a book so depressing.  Or, read a book written by a Jew.  That was years ago.  Things have changed.  Elie’s book is now read by students everywhere as a part of high school and college curriculum.  What do you think of world peace now?  Is it possible?  Maybe.

I do not know all the answers.  In fact, I never will.  But, I do know that my cancer, Eric’s stroke and the Holocaust were not by some obvious universal extraordinary numinous pre-planned design.  The Universe did not have a vendetta against me, or try to teach me some lesson.  Cancer just happened.  It sucks!

But since I did get it, I might as well turn it into something less “sucky,” more significant, more meaningful and maybe, just maybe, not only bring a little more compassion and peace to me, to my family, and to my community, maybe in my teeny weeney little way I can be a contributing factor to bringing more peace to the world.  A tall order?  Maybe.

Eric, what do you think?

The Big “C”

Saturday, May 18th, 2013

Early detection does not save lives!  Study after study shows this to be true.  “And yet,” as Peggy Orenstein states in her recent New York Times article, “mammography remains an unquestioned pillar of the pink-ribbon awareness movement.” 

Of course, I needed confirmation on this.  “Is this true?”  I asked my oncologist.  “Is it true that early detection does not save lives?”  “Yes, “she said, “it’s absolutely true!”  In fact, not only does early detection not save lives it has its costs; misdiagnosis, over treatment, and causing unnecessary fear for many many women.  

I have always suspected this to be true.  Now, I finally know it to be true.     

This puts me in a bit of a conundrum.  But before I disclose my dilemma, please read on.

In the article, “Our Feel Good War on Breast Cancer, Orenstein explains that:

“Breast cancer in your breast doesn’t kill you; the disease becomes deadly when it metastasizes, spreading to other organs and bones.  Early detection is based on a theory, dating back to the late 19th century that the disease progresses consistently, beginning with a single rogue cell, growing sequentially and at some invariable point making a lethal leap. Curing it, then, was assumed to be a matter of finding and cutting out a tumor before that metastasis happens.

The thing is, there was no evidence that the size of a tumor necessarily predicted whether it had spread.  According to Robert Aronowitz, a professor of history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of “Unnatural History: Breast Cancer and American Society,” physicians endorsed the idea anyway, partly out of wishful thinking, desperate to “do something” to stop a scourge against which they felt helpless.”

Thus, the birth of the American Cancer Society.

Although these physicians had good intentions, pushing for early detection has created a national scare.  What was once awareness, for good reason, is now over awareness resulting in fear and over treatment.  A New England journal of Medicine study of early screening and over treatment estimated “that only 3 to 13 percent of women whose cancer was detected by mammograms actually benefited from the test.” 

Not only does such a small percentage benefit, but over 60,000 women each year in the US alone are “misdiagnosed” with cancer.  These women are diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma in situ (D.C. I. S.) or stage Zero.  In-situ means in place.  “D.C.I.S. is not cancer,” explains Laura Esserman, director of the Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center at the University of California, San Francisco. “It’s a risk factor.  For many D.C.I.S. lesions, there is only a 5 percent chance of invasive cancer developing over 10 years. That’s like the average risk of a 62-year-old.”

Once a woman is diagnosed with D.C.I.S she usually undergoes a lumpectomy and radiation and is marked as having “breast cancer” for the rest of her life.  And in some cases, women decide on preventative mastectomies.  “We don’t do heart surgery when someone comes in with high cholesterol. What are we doing to these people?” asks Esserman.

As crazy as it may sound, studies have suggested that the majority of these women’s D.C.I.S. will go away on its own if left alone.  And, some tumors are so slow moving they will never metastasize.  According to the article, “Unless it develops into invasive cancer, D.C.I.S. lacks the capacity to spread beyond the breast, so it will not become lethal. Autopsies have shown that as many as 14 percent of women who died of something other than breast cancer unknowingly had D.C.I.S.  And, “By 2020, according to the National Institutes of Health’s estimate, more than one million American women will be living with a D.C.I.S. diagnosis.”

So Esserman is shaking things up and wants to rename D.C.I.S. by removing the big “C!” This is her attempt to help put things into perspective, lesson women’s fear and put an end to over treatment. 

So, if 60,000 of the 240,000 women that are diagnosed with breast cancer each year do not really have cancer, this skews the numbers.  It is no longer 1 in 8 women that get breast cancer.  It is a much lower risk.  Can someone help me with the math please?    

Since early detection has been promoted, it is true that more people are going to the doctors.  According to Orenstein, “More cancers have been detected, more operations performed and more patients have survived their initial treatments.  BUT, the rates of women dying of breast cancer hardly budged.  Those increased diagnoses were not translating into saved lives.”

Orenstein explains, “The disease, it has become clear, does not always behave in a uniform way. It’s not even one disease. There are at least four genetically distinct breast cancers. They may have different causes and definitely respond differently to treatment.”

I was diagnosed with two of the four types of cancer.  I had tumors that fed on estrogen and another called Her2 positive which produces too much of a protein, the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2.  Unfortunately, I was not one of the 60,000 women that was over diagnosed and over treated.  Or, shall I say fortunately?  As Orenstein and I both ponder, “Should these women that are diagnosed at Stage Zero, be hailed as survivors or held up as a cautionary tale?”

So here is my conundrum.

But first a picture of Daisy Chain’s performance at Still Water in Dana Point this week.  Thought I should lighten the mood a bit.

Performing "Give Me Some Loving" Blues Brother's version

On behalf of the Susan G. Komen Orange County Affiliate, I have been invited to be part of their Inaugural Survivor Advisory Committee.  The invite is being extended to me because of my experience, expertise and passion for the cause. Those are their words.  The committee will be charged with providing recommendations on strategies to meaningfully engage breast cancer survivors and co-survivors throughout the year, as well as, provide critical insight and perspective on our current affiliate programs, events and activities as it pertains to survivor relevance.  It is quite an honor. 

But, I happen to know that Komen tends to push for early screening.  In fact, of the $472 million dollars raised last year by Komen, 16% went to research and a whopping $231 million went to education and screening.  Komen does acknowledge these findings on their Web site however they continue to pour funds into early detection instead of research for a cure. 

So, is the pink movement hurting more than helping, especially women and men whose lives are most at risk?

 

When I first learned of this, my initial reaction was to take a stand, pull out from the race, and not join the committee.  But, in all honesty, Komen has been a huge part of my healing process.  Personally, I love how Komen has transformed victims into survivors, raised 75 million for research (that is nothing to sneeze at) and helped fund the drug Herceptin which has saved many lives, including my own.  And, the 3 day walk is awesome.  I would not have missed it for the world.  Oh, and I can’t forget The Mammary Chronicles which would have never come to fruition without the need to raise funds for the 3 day walk. 

Remember, there was a day when breast cancer was a socially taboo subject and they would not print the word breast in the newspapers. Instead they called it “female cancer” which is a bunch of bologna because men get it too.  I was a freshman in high school at the time.  I truly thought we were more progressive in the 80’s than that. Today, fundraisers, pink ribbons, “I Love Boobies” bracelets, and “Save the Ta Ta’s t-shirts abound.   

No, Komen has helped change my life and the face of breast cancer.  I truly believe there is more to cancer than just the biology of it and healing is more than surgery and chemo.  So, instead of boycotting them, I will join them and try to make changes from the inside.  I suppose I may be dreaming.  How is little bitty Deanne going to change the world?  I don’t know, but I would feel better trying and failing than not trying at all.     

I have been to two meetings so far to see what it is all about.  It’s pretty cool actually.  I am in the process of helping to plan a survivor’s luncheon in August in which OCSA commercial music and The Mammary Chronicles will be performing in front of 300 survivors and co-survivors. 

OCSA Commercial music - Casey, Luke, Jonathan and Randon performing at the Grammy Museum

I guess I am no longer in a conundrum.  I may not have changed the world yet, but I have changed my mind.  I have made a decision to at least give it a try.  The Inaugural Survivor Advisory Committee it is!  And, although early detection does not save lives, I am convinced that the pink movement does!
 

I Know that I Know Nothing

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

 

“We don’t know a millionth of one percent of anything”…..Thomas Edison

“I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong”….Bertrand Russell

 

There are some things I just don’t understand.  Like, how two brothers from Chechnya justify killing innocent people at a Marathon or, how people can believe the Holocaust never happened.  I don’t understand why airplanes don’t fall out of the sky or people can’t stop drinking when it is affecting their job, health and family.  I don’t get war, murder, rape, racism, conspiracy theories, cancer, football or why I have gained so much weight this past year.

I suppose there are some things, like flight for instance, that I may not understand but there is actually a clear- cut answer.  I know it has something to do with air pressure, gravity, thrust, and lift.  For a full explanation, I can look it up on the internet or get a book on the subject.  But that is only if I truly want to understand it.  I don’t.  And, I can live with the fact that I don’t get it. 

But there are some things that I don’t get that are much harder to live with.     

Terrorism, cancer, alcoholism, conspiracy theories, and well, my ridiculous weight gain.  Yes, my weight gain.  I have gained over 10 pounds this last year.  Some say that I needed to.  My Doctor believes it is from chemo-induced peri-menopause.  I believe both to be true but there is something else I cannot deny.  I am binge eating at night.  O.K.  I am not eating an entire gallon of ice cream.  I do stick to the pint size dairy free vegan version.  But, I’m still eating way too much when I am not even hungry.  I know many of you can relate.

I get that being worried about my weight gain seems pretty trivial in the whole scheme of things, even a bit silly, but I assure you it is not.  Why?

There is a common denominator between all of those things I listed above.  All of these “things” are either a result of or are in service to our need to get rid of the anxiety that comes from living in ambiguity. 

What is ambiguity exactly?  Ambiguity is uncertainty.  It is the not knowing anything.  Socrates got it over 2,000 years ago when he said, “I know that I know nothing.”  This he believed to be true wisdom; to admit that we know nothing and to be able to live happy productive lives with this knowledge, or lack thereof.

But most of us are not Socrates.  Living in this unclear, indefinite, equivocal state is not just unsettling; it scares the shit out of people.  And, humans don’t tolerate feeling uncomfortable for very long.

There was a great scene in Madmen, when Dr. So and So (sorry I don’t remember his name) told Don Draper,   “People will do anything to alleviate their anxiety.”  Then the doctor rides off in the middle of a snowstorm in New York City on New Year’s Eve at one o’clock in the morning on skis for a supposed “house call,” while Don heads upstairs to the Docs apartment to fuck the Doc’s wife.

 

So we drink, smoke pot, have sex with other peoples spouses, over eat, join fundamentalist causes, misuse political positions and for the truly disturbed and extreme, murder, rape and plant bombs at marathons, anything to alleviate our anxiety. 

The one surviving brother of the marathon bombing said that his older brother was “upset” by the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and that anger was the motivation.  He felt like he never belonged here and he didn’t have one American friend.

Not only was anger the motivation.  Fear was the spur and ambiguity the muse.

Our anxiety over ambiguity shows up everywhere.  In our politics, religions, schools and social lives as we try to manage, organize, command, control and even escape the unease from the uncertainty of life.  Dr. James Hollis, a Jungian psychologist says if we are truly honest with ourselves, “There is a fascist within each of us, a Nervous Nellie who wishes comfort at any cost.”  And Hannah Arendt wrote in Crisis of the Republic, “Throughout history the totalitarian mind is obsessed by a need for the world to be clear-cut and orderly.  Accordingly, subtleties, contradictions, and complexities are felt as intolerable, and have to be eliminated by whatever means.” 

Thank god the majority of us choose what seems like more simple vices, food, alcohol, sex, or religion.  But, simple as they may seem, you can go overboard and can cause a lot of harm to not only yourself but to others as well.

I admit I have tried a few other vices.  Sometimes they work (in the short run), most of the time they don’t.  In the long run, they always catch up with you.  And it seems when you get rid of one vice, another one takes over.  Take my emotional food binges at night.  Yes, that dairy free Coconut Bliss ice cream is to die for.  But is it really?  Is eating ice cream and gaining weight which results in too much estrogen in my body which could result in my cancer coming back worth it?  No, absolutely not, but I do it anyway especially when I am most tired and weak.  When ambiguity comes creeping through the dark halls of my soul late at night and I cannot resist the temptation of that sweet sugary something to alleviate my unease, I am putty.  

No, I need to get to the core of why I am eating if I am truly going to change.  I need to let go and accept ambiguity, embrace the unknown, learn to live in the midst of uncertainty, feel uncomfortable at times, and sit in my unease, then maybe I have a chance to not only fit into my jeans again, but maybe I can truly embrace a deeper more meaningful life.  James Hollis says, “Psychological, political, social and spiritual maturity is found precisely in the capacity of any person to tolerate ambiguity.”

I am getting there.  I really am.  I feel some progress but apparently, I still have more work to do.  I suspect we all do.

So, as I continue my journey, read the papers, watch the news, struggle with our world’s anxieties and that pint of ice cream at midnight, I will remember Socrates’ wise words, “I know that I know nothing.”  Or, do I?

The Texas Two Step

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Growth is an erratic forward movement:  two steps forward, one step back.  Remember that and be very gentle with yourself….Julie Cameron

A worm is the only animal that can’t fall down…A Texas Saying

I am sick.  After two years, I caught a nasty bug and it got the best of me.  I can no longer tout that I have not been sick since I was diagnosed with cancer.  My well streak is over.  So, it’s time to lift myself up by my sexy cowboy boot straps, again, and start a new well streak.

My first symptoms hit me on my flight home from Texas last Sunday night.  The plane had been delayed 4 hours.  My new departure time:   1:20 am.  Although I was happy as a clam, I was tired and hung-over from the night before.  It was my cousin Jeremy’s wedding.  And what a wedding it was.  A beautiful and sweet Texas bride, Randi and her adorable daughter Madee, an old farm house decorated with burlap and mason jars, pastures of Pike Oak, cowboy boots, beef brisket, and the Two Step. 

The Happy Couple - Jeremy and Randi

 

The McAleese Family

 

The Cuzins, Megan, Patricia and Deanne with the happy couple

 

I tried to stay on my special healing diet while visiting, but we were in East central Texas, Bryan to be exact, near College Station, the heart of Brazos Valley and the home of Texas A & M University.  There was not a juice bar in site.  Jamba Juice does not count.  I am referring to something a little more green.  Although Bryan is an old farming community, and “Aggie” is not a nickname for Agnus, the only green I saw were pickles and jalepenos.

Don’t get me wrong, Bryan is not a backward hick town.  In fact, according to Money Magazine, “due largely to the presence of Texas A&M University, in 2006 College Station was named the most educated city in Texas, and the 11th most educated city in the United States.”

They just happen to like their beef and crawfish over my rabbit food.  Do you blame them?  Apparently, a Whole Foods is planned for the area but too late to do me any good.

Crawfish Texas Style Rehearsal Dinner

 

Mom, Dad, Uncle Sam, Aunt Marilyn and Family eating crawfish

So, when in Rome…..

I learned how to peel and eat crawfish, drink Patron without lime, eat brisket, speak Texas drawl and play a perfect drum roll.  Ok, it’s not quite perfect yet, but it’s getting there.   And last but not least, Josh “learned me” to Two Step. 

The Two Step is not as easy as it looks.  Not for me anyway.  It consists of three steps:  two quick steps forward, one slow step back.  A bit like life, actually.  And, a bit like life, I fell on my ass right when I was finally getting the hang of it.  Now, I could blame it on:

  1. The beer soaked floor
  2. My new black leather cowboy boots
  3. Jagermeister and Patron
  4. Not being a very good follower
  5. All of the above

If you answered 5, all of the above, you know me well. 

But no matter, because even after my confidence was shaken, my butt bruised and my dress covered in beer, I got up, wiped myself off and kept dancing the Two Step. 

The Cuz's

 But all good things must come to an end.  After four days of fun, it was time to say my goodbyes and go home.  I was scheduled to fly out of Houston at 9:25 Sunday evening.  My parents were scheduled to fly out of Houston the next morning, but due to horribly planned freeways resulting in even worse traffic they decided to drive me to the airport the day before and get a hotel room close to Hobby Airport.  It was nice to have that time with them, alone, just the three of us.  That doesn’t happen very often, actually never.

In the meanwhile, I kept getting texts throughout the day from Southwest Airlines advising me that my flight has been delayed.  The first text said my flight was delayed one hour.  A second text came through a few hours later:  a two hour delay.  Third text:  three.  And so on.  Spring was cancelled in many parts of the Midwest due to a heavy late snow and it was causing havoc at the airports and on my plans. 

So, to buy some time, we decided to get some dinner.  We wanted to go to Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, a well-known Cajun seafood restaurant that originated in Houston.  But, we did not want to get back on The Houston freeways.  We were in luck.  There was a Pappadeaux at the Hobby Airport.  I never get that lucky.

We caught a shuttle, checked my bags and headed to the restaurant looking forward to some spicy Cajun food.  There was one problem, Pappadeaux was on the other side of security.  Only passengers allowed. 

For a split second, I felt as hopeful as an old maid looking under a bed.  I really didn’t want to hang out at the airport for 6 hours all by myself.  We were tired and hungry, and we all wanted a cocktail dammit.

My mom was on a mission.  She asked a TSA agent standing at the front desk, “Is there any way my husband and I can go with my daughter to the gates, or at least to the restaurant?  The agent told her the only way they could get past security without a boarding pass is to put me in a wheel chair and go back to the check-in counter and ask for a Passenger Assisted Escort Pass. 

The next thing I saw was my mom pushing a wheel chair up to me, “Get in!” She said and “act sick, I’m hungry.” 

I sat down and did as I was told.  You can’t get lard unless you boil the hog.

The thing is, I already checked my bags and got my boarding pass.  I already walked up to the check-in desk with my own two feet, healthy and strong, pulling my big ass suitcase behind me and putting it on the scale to be weighed and checked.   Now we have to do it again, same counter, same woman directing the line, same everything except I am now being pushed in a wheelchair.

As we approached the line, the woman that directed me earlier to the check in counter said with a confused look on her face, “You are back?”  Keeping a straight face was impossible as I looked up at her to answer.  But someone was looking after me, because as I looked up at her, the setting sun was shining brightly through a window in the distance, completely blinding me.  I put my hand up to block the sun and the TSA agent.  At that point, my mom took over.  She pulled out the cancer card, albeit expired, and it worked.  She explained how I have cancer, and that I am weak from the chemo.  She went on and to explain what a trooper I have been but my flight is late and she doesn’t want me to be alone for such a long period of time.  She did such a good job pulling at the heartstrings of the TSA agent, she let us pass.  In fact, not only did we get through security seamlessly, they let us skip ahead to the front of the line. 

Honestly, with my mom’s neuropathy, and after she wore cowboy boots for hours to the wedding the night before, I should have been the one pushing her in the wheelchair, not the other way around.  But she was determined.  My mom wheeled me steadily and confidently past security, through the terminal corridors and right up to Pappadeaux.  I got up, walked into the restaurant, had a fabulous dinner, a glass of wine and ditched the wheelchair for someone else who really needed it.

The moral of the story, well there isn’t one. 

Although I am sure it was the crawfish, brisket, Jagermeister shots, late nights and plane flights that did me in and broke my health streak, it was truly worth it; especially knowing there will always be wheelchairs to help me along as I Two Step my way through life.  Hmmm…I guess there is a moral to my story.

Thank you, Mom for pushing my wheelchair all these years.

And, thank you everyone in Bryan for “learning” me to eat, drink, speak and dance like a Texan!  I had a fantastic time.  Love y’all! 

Checking out cuz's boobies as I shop for new ones!

Dr. Boob

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

I’ve had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware!   Joan Rivers

If you read my last blog, you know that my doctor found a lump in my left breast.  So for peace of mind, I decided to have it biopsied.  Yesterday was my appointment.  The doctor looked and looked, felt and felt, but he could not find a lump to biopsy.  Yippee!  It was a very happy moment.  So, it seems safe to say I am still cancer free.  

I did not enjoy the scare one bit.  But, it is nice to know that my docs are keeping a close eye on me, even when I don’t like what they see.  For example, every time I go to my three month check up my doctor thoroughly inspects my breasts.  She presses here, touches there, examines the left side, scrutinizes the right, always hemming and hawing in between.  Then she stands back and with a sigh, says something like, “let’s wait, it takes time for the swelling to go down, things to shift and everything to fall into place.”  

Well, we waited and waited.  In fact, it’s been almost a year and a half of hemming and hawing, until now.  After another inspection, my doctor finally said out-loud what I had been thinking all along, “Deanne, your plastic surgeon did not do a good job.”  I guess she thought after finding a lump on my thyroid and breast she might as well go all out and put everything on the table; even if it meant another operating table.

I knew the day would come that I would hear her mutter those words but I suppose I was hoping for one of two scenarios:

  1. I would find out that my doctor actually did a good job.  That it is not a perfect science and I should thank my lucky stars that I don’t have a big crater on my chest.   

OR

  1. A miracle would happen.  One day I would wake up, crawl out of bed and “voila”, my breasts miraculously readjusted themselves in the middle of the night becoming not only symmetrical but perfectly round and ready for the front cover of Sports Illustrated. 

Neither scenario happened. 

The truth is my plastic surgeon messed up. 

Since the reconstruction surgeries, my left breast is two sizes larger and hangs two floors lower than my right breast.  And the dimpling, buckling and puckering on my mastectomy breast has not undimpled, unbuckled, or unpuckered like I had hoped.  I clearly have issues. 

So, now my doctor is recommending I get it fixed. 

The big question:  Do I undergo surgery again?   

Is it worth another stint or two in the hospital, more pain, more drugs, recuperation time and working hard to regain my muscle strength.  It was a difficult process, one I hoped I would not have to do again for a long time.  

To help with my decision I did a little research and this is what I learned.  Most implants only last 10 years.  According to the FDA, as many as 20 percent who receive breast implants for augmentation wind up having to have their implants removed within 8 to 10 years due to complications.  A few women have kept their original implants for 20 to 30 years, but that is unusual.  And, just the other day, the U.S. News and World Report reported that “the longer a woman has breast implants, the greater the chances that she will develop complications, some of which will require surgery.”  So the likely hood of having surgery again is high.  I was just hoping for later rather than sooner.  

Also, even though many women have to go back for surgery, according to the World News Report, the majority of women are happy they did it. 

I am one of those women.  I am happy I did it.  However, I admit that I am uncomfortable.  There is abnormal internal scarring and my breasts are simply too large.  I prefer a smaller model.  Something like I had before my mastectomy.  I am not sure why my plastic surgeon chose to give me such large implants.  But he did.  Maybe it’s the Orange County way, or maybe he prefers large breasts.  They are certainly bigger than my originals.  I can’t button half of my shirts any longer.  And my t-shirts, well they stay hanging in my closet collecting dust.  I don’t wear them anymore because I rather people look at my face than my boobs. 

I’m not the only one that has issues with my boob job.  I have a friend that had a double mastectomy.  I found out she had the same plastic surgeon I did.  I am going to call him Dr. Boob for the sake of this blog.  My friend does not like her reconstructed breasts.  Although she said he did a good job, she simply does not like them.  She has asked him to remove the implants.  Dr. Boob told her “No” and that she should go see a psychologist instead.  I think Dr. Boob should go see a psychologist.  

So as much as I wish I could just live with it, accept my lopsidedness and dimples, I admit, in my heart, I really want to be put back together the right way.  I am not Mrs. Potato Head, a game for someone to haphazardly put body parts here and there.  I am Deanne, and I am worth more than that. 

My husband thinks I am beautiful no matter what I decide; big, small or nothing at all.  I am so absolutely truly grateful for that.  And, I know he means it.  But, I also know that deep down inside that man soul of his, he is a boob man.    

I want to share a little story with all of you.  Just the other day, Kevin came with me to my ultrasound appointment.  He was in the room while my doctor was feeling around for that mysterious lump.  When she left the room, Kevin said, “That’s kinda hot!” 

“What’s  hot?” I asked.

“Watching a woman touch your breast!” he replied.  OMG!  As my doctor is looking for cancer, my husband sees girl on girl. 

Need I say more!

 

Find Your Car

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

 “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand. If I don’t
seem as depressed or morose as I should be, sorry to disappoint you.”

Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

Two weeks ago my oncologists found a nodule on my thyroid and another one under my arm. Monday, I had an ultrasound.  The images of my thyroid were clear; no nodule.  Thank God!  But, the lump under my arm is still there.  Yesterday, I went back to my oncologist.  She feels there is a good chance the lump is glandular and probably a result of “out of wack” chemo induced perimenopause.  But, we don’t know for sure.  So, she is recommending a biopsy for peace of mind. 

Only a few days earlier I was celebrating two years cancer free.  Now I am back in the doctor’s offices facing more issues and decisions.  Life is strange.

When I first heard these words, “nodule” and “thyroid,” I admit, I thought, this is it!  I gave it a good fight, but my time has come.  I knew that the “median survival time” for women with breast cancer that has metastasized to other parts of their body is 18 to 24 months.  That should give me enough time to see Casey graduate from OCSA, get Maggie off to high school, Riley to University, finish my book, put things in order and make my amends.  But, for some crazy reason as I was planning my last months on this planet, I completely ignored the fact that some cancers can be controlled for up to 20 years and others are healed altogether. I know that is unlike me but that is where my mind went. 

The funny thing is, I did not wallow in self-pity.  There was no “why me?”  No, it was more like “why not me?”  God gives us only what we can handle, right.  Apparently, God thinks I’m a bad-ass.  I read that on Facebook. 

Anyway, as I left my oncologists office, my doctor warned me, “Deanne, please don’t go researching this thing to death on the internet.  There is so much false information out there and scare tactics.”  I knew she was right.  Last time I went against her orders, I spent a sleepless night worrying about what type of tape to use on my fingernails to keep them from falling off during chemo.  I never had to tape my nails on.  Yes, they became dark and brittle but they hung on just like me.  But, did I learn my lesson?  Apparently not, because the minute I got into my car I googled “nodule” and “thyroid.”   The results:  neck cancer, neck cancer, neck cancer. 

I did not cry.  Not one little tear. 

No, I looked death in the face and like Hip Hopp’n Lil Wayne, “I took its mask off” instead.

And what do you think I saw. 

Life!

Everything became crystal clear.  Like a puzzle, the final pieces fell into place.  Life and all of its absurdities became apparent.  I felt free as if years of personal baggage were left behind on the tarmac of ghosts past.  All my fears disintegrated.  I was not afraid to die.  And more importantly, I was not afraid to live.

And then I laughed.  I sat in my car and laughed and laughed and laughed!  I know it sounds a little dramatic but it’s true. 

It’s strange how one can feel so alive when faced with the possibility of one’s own death.  An urgency to fulfill a dream that can no longer wait overcomes you.  That nagging need to travel to Ireland and kiss that damn Blarney Stone beckons.  The sun shines brighter, the air clearer and everything makes crazy sense. 

I drove home in a lucid state.  I knew what I had to do.

But, the minute I walked back into my house, filled with kids and moms partaking in a home school writing class, I felt myself slipping back into my typical way of thinking.  Busy with this, worried about that, life grabs you like a zombie and tries to eat your brains.  How I desperately wanted to bottle that feeling I had in the car just a few minutes earlier and carry it with me everywhere I go, 24/7. 

I may not be able to bottle it, but I know exactly what it feels like.  So, when things start to spiral downward, I just go back to that moment in my car and incorporate it into my life, “here” and “now.”  When I am tired and overwhelmed, I think of that time in the car.  As I wait patiently for my biopsy date, I remember the car, and when zombies are on the loose; car!    

Car! Car! Car!

All is good.

A Milestone

Thursday, February 7th, 2013
 
Raundi and Deanne singing “Check, Check, Check Your Breast”

“Art opens the closets, airs out the cellars and attics. It brings healing.”…Julia Cameron

This is a huge day for me.  It was exactly two years ago today that I had my mastectomy and the cancer was cut from my body.  I am now cancer free; an enormous milestone considering the first two years after a cancer diagnosis is always the most precarious. 

I feel like I can breathe a little easier these days, but by no means am I off Scott free.  And, it does not mean I am ready for my Lazy Boy recliner and remote control either.  Quite the contrary; as long as our mother’s, grandmother’s, daughter’s and wives continue to die every day from this killer disease I am doing my part to help raise money and spirits for those who have been affected by breast cancer.

And I am not doing it alone. 

Monday night, The “Real Poets” of Orange County and The Mammary Chronicles put on a show to remember to help raise funds for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day.  Yes, I am signed up to walk again.  Three amazing poets and performers, Eric Morago, Paul Suntup, and Thea Iberall rocked the fundraiser with their almighty poetry. 

Mr. Suntup ignited us by lifting the roof off its hinges and blasting holes in the black sky so we could see the stars.  Eric wooed the women and men with his contagious smile and love poems.  Thea pounded the rhythm of her voice to the drums, “I am Woman, I am Woman.”  James Palacio filled the room with Pennies from Heaven.  Helen, poet and soon to be centurion, demonstrated that age is simply a state of mind.  Cyndi and Angela confirmed their bravery as they followed Mr. Suntup with their original pieces.  Savanah kept things flowing with her elegant emcee skills.  And, the writers and poets from the Laguna Hills Spoken Word Club reminded us all to never stop writing, never stop creating, never stop.       

"I am Woman" Thea Iberall and Deanne on Drums

Thank you to each and every one of you amazing poets, writers, friends and family that made last night not only possible but successful. 

Deanne, Maggie and Riley

I cannot begin to express the gratitude I feel right now.  One year ago, I was unsure of the next chapter in my life.  The pages were blank.  Today, they are being filled one by one with the most glorious of stories which I owe in part to the brainchild of The Mammary Chronicles;  poet, publisher and BFF, Raundi Moore-Kondo.  She not only wanted to help me, but she wanted to help create a world free of breast cancer and full of rad poetry. 

I will never forget the day she called.  “Deanne,” she said.  “I have an idea!”  The rest is history.

So to this end, Raundi and I published The Hills are Alive: a bodacious little chapbook of poetry, prose and art, all about breasts.  Hoping to see a cure for this disease one day soon, but not wanting to wait around, we came up with our own unique cocktail for a cure.  With our books in hand and our personal collection of bras in tow, we began touring around the OC and LA area, reading excerpts from The Hills are Alive and sharing our breast adventures.  “Believing that the healing powers of art, music and love must never be underestimated and should be a part of everyone’s long-term treatment plan, we have been featuring at open mics providing those who need a place to express themselves with the depth and breadth that only a piece of poetry or art can convey.”  Raundi’s words.

Laguna Hills Show

And, it is working.  In fact, according to the authors of Creating Healing, Michael Samuels, MD and Mary Rockwood Lane, RN, MSN, PhD, “Physicians and nurses are discovering that art, music, dance and poetry can all have profound healing effects on their patients. Art brings to the human spirit a sense of freedom and joy. The spirit freed helps the body heal.”

Well, not only are physicians and nurses discovering the secret artists have always known.  I am now privy to it.  And, I am living it.  When I write, sing on stage or perform with The Mammary Chronicles, I am free!  This freedom through expression and art is my true medicine.  I feel a sense of awe and purpose as we tour around selling books, singing our hearts out, meeting incredible writers, poets, artists and yes, breast cancer survivors. 

At our show the other night I met a beautiful woman in her eighties who was diagnosed with breast cancer 41 years ago.  She had a double mastectomy and radiation.  Years later, she had to have both of her shoulders replaced because they were disintegrating from the radiation.  She is an incredible example that it is indeed possible to live a long healthy and prosperous life after breast cancer.  Without the Mammary Chronicles I would have never had the pleasure to meet her and hear her incredible story.  It is moments like these and women like her that keep me hanging on when I feel like letting go. 

So, to celebrate today’s milestone, I have planned a day full of art, training and rad poetry.  I have this blog to write, a poem to finish, a canyon to hike and some drums to learn.  Our beautiful and talented drummer moved on to new endeavors, so I am learning the drums for now. I have some big heels to fill.  But, I am ready for the challenge. 

“The portal of healing and creativity always takes us into the realm of the spirit.”  …Angeles Arrien

Paul Suntup

 

Eric Morago

I am a Survivor!

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Survivors!

I did it!  I walked 60 miles in 3 days without one blister, one complaint or one regret.  It was truly a life-changing event.

And, I did not do it alone.  I was one of 2,500 other amazing and courageous women and men who joined the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk this last weekend in San Diego to support their loved ones battling breast cancer and remember those that did not make it.  To the walkers, I am truly thankful.  And, to my team, Patricia, Misty and Rosa Maria, I am not only thankful; I am blessed.

And to all of you “Walking Dead” fans out there, being called a “walker” all weekend was a bit disturbing I must admit.  There were moments I thought about taking a bite out of my cousin Patricia’s arm.  I’m just saying.

Decked in pink and adorned with inspirational buttons, stickers, and ribbons we walked up hill and down, along the beach, through neighborhoods, across old town and over to down town.  You could not miss us as we dodged traffic, spectators, walker stalkers and rain.  Not because we were wearing hot pink shoes.  No, you could not miss us because we were the ones with a spring in our step and a smile on our face all the way to the finish line.

1st day - all smiles!

Although our team attire was not something you would wear on a normal day, we were quite tame compared to the many walkers walking along side us.  There were women with bedazzled bras, feathered hats and butterfly wings, and men in skirts, tights and tutus.  Some carried balloons, some carried signs, and some had pictures of lost loved ones pinned to their backs with the date that breast cancer took them from their lives.

I was in awe of the entire event: the organization, the mini tent-city, the food, the volunteers, even the showers with hot water, almost better than home, amazing.  But what awed me the most were the people we met along the way.

We met women battling breast cancer for the second and third time.  No hair, no breasts but lots of courage and hope.  We met Michael, a cancer survivor, walking for his daughter.  He wanted to make a difference in her life.  We met way too young Sara, barely 30, diagnosed with breast cancer 3 months before her wedding date.  She had her eggs frozen before the chemo in hopes of having a baby of her own someday.  We met beautiful and vibrant Mary, a mother of two young children and a triple negative survivor, one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer.  And, then there was my hero, actually they were all my heroes, but this 81 year-old woman; I did not catch her name, walked all 60 miles with her granddaughter and a cane.

Teams made up of friends, mothers, daughters, granddaughters, aunts, uncles, husbands, and sons.  And team names like “Save Second Base,” “Thanks for the Mammaries,” “Breast Friends,” and “Beer for Boobs.”  They walked for someone they know or knew or just because they wanted to do something good and meaningful with their lives.

Deanne and Sara

I could go on and on with stories like these.  Real women, real men fighting for their lives or the lives of someone they love dearly.  One man walked every single Susan. G. Komen 3-Day around the United States this year in honor of his wife battling breast cancer.   A young 12 year-old boy became part of the 3-Day youth core for his six aunts, all diagnosed with breast cancer.  His mom is the only one of the sisters that does not have breast cancer.

Then there were the volunteers; too many to count.  There was the youth core in yellow shirts always at our service.  The dads with their sons at the end of the day putting up our tents, the cooks up at 3:00 am preparing food for the next day, the medics icing our sore feet and bandaging our blisters, and the cheer squads keeping our spirits high.

We were treated like Queens and Kings; our comfort and safety priority.  The only thing they didn’t do for us is fluff our pillows at night.

Dressed in leather chaps and black vests, a biker gang acted as crossing guards at every light and stop sign.  They decorated their motorcycles in pink bras and entertained us with their dance moves while making sure we maneuvered the traffic safely.  Sweeper vans drove the route all day long blasting music, cheering us on and picking up those that could not walk another step.  And, a voluntary police force on bicycles dressed in short shorts and pink polo shirts packing big ass steroes and heat made sure we were safe.  One particular police officer wore a pink thong under his shorts pulled up high and stuffed it with dollar bills as he danced to “Apple Bottom Jeans” at the cheering stations.  Thank you Mr. Police Officer.

They weren’t the only cheerleaders.  There were the young survivors group providing Gatorade and cookies, cute shirtless beach boys passing out fireball shots and gummi bears soaked in vodka, Starbucks employees supplying hot coffee with Baily’s and Cream and the “Melon Men.”  I can’t forget the “Melon Men.”  Four men wearing bras stuffed with small watermelons cheering us on, giving us hugs, high fives and letting us cop a feel as we walked by.

And my favorite, Mr. Smiley and Little Grin, a father and his 10 year old daughter, cheering us on at every pit stop along the route, starting at 7:30 am sharp and ending with the sun, this father-daughter team sang, danced, and passed out smiley face pins as his wife and her mother walked for her tenth year.

2nd Day - Still Smiling!

Heading to the showers after walking 20 miles!

A crazy pink parade with a cause, that’s what it was.  A big party, a sisterhood, a brotherhood, a march, a protest; everyone coming together in hopes that we can make a difference and save lives.  We laughed, we cried, and we shared our stories.  There is no better medicine than that.

My medicine! Rosa Maria, Patricia, Me and Misty

The grand finale, I walked arm in arm with all the survivors and across the finish line to the survivor’s circle as the other walkers took one shoe off and raised it high up in the air in honor of all of us that kicked breast cancer’s ass.  I could not stop the tears.  I admit I was a blubbering idiot.  Oh man, here they come again.

Survivors Circle!

I was going to make this a short blog and simply share some pictures of the weekend, but soon realized while writing this through blurred vision, it was way too life changing of an event to treat it as anything less.

The 3-Day Walk was an incredible triumph for me; one of deep healing and personal empowerment.  I feel like I could climb Mt. Everest right now.  And, I could not have done it without all of you.  I would like to thank each and every one of you that made this experience possible for me.   Your donations and book purchases helped me to raise $2,300 towards the 6 million dollars raised just for the San Diego walk alone.  That is 2 million more than last year.  Wow, who would have known after the tough year Komen just faced.  Your hard earned money goes to mammograms for those who can’t afford them, house cleaning for women going through chemo, drug trials, research for a cure and new recently developed treatments like Herceptin, an antibody that saved my life.

And, thank you to my beautiful cousin, Patricia, who organized the team.  Her energy and wonderful OCD qualities helped to make this an experience I will never forget even with chemo brain.  In fact, we are already planning next year.  I would also like to thank my dear friend, Raundi, who did not walk but she was there in spirit.  She helped me to fundraise and was the brainchild behind “The Mammary Chronicles.”  I will use your words again Raundi, “You are rad.  I love you!”  And thank you mom and dad and all your friends that contributed financially.  Without all of you I would not have made my goal.  And my family, my sweet family, Thank you! I spent many weekends on the trail and late nights at coffeee shops and book stores on our tour.  I know you had to eat a lot of Trader Joe’s burritos these last few months.

Breast Cousins!

You are all a huge part of my healing process.  Your love, support and belief in me keep me alive and keep my cancer from coming back.  And for that words cannot express how eternally grateful I am to you.  Thank you!

So, here I go again.  If you see a woman in hot pink shoes, it’s probably me, or someone like me ‘cause there are a lot of us out there.  Give us a honk and remember we walk for you and we walk for ourselves.  We walk for our mothers and we walk for our grandmothers.  We walk for our children and we walk for our children’s children.  And we walk for all those beautiful bodacious boobs out there and the men that love them!

If you would like to join our team, let me know, we would love to have you.  I promise, it will be nothing less than life changing!