Archive for November, 2012

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Mammarian Inspiration

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

“Try to be inspired by something every day. Try to inspire at least one person every day.” …Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Saturday night, The Mammary Chronicles performed at Pondwater Society.  My kids call it Bongwater, where 1967 meets 2012, swimming pools have been turned into fish ponds and creativity grows like weed, ignites and fills the air with inspiration.  A cacophony of eccentric artists, poets, and musicians make this monthly event an experience everyone should have at least once in their lifetime.  And, you have to meet Joanne and Ed, the hosts and visionaries behind this magical happening.

This was our third Mammary Chronicles performance; each show as unique as a woman’s breasts.  Our mission:  A night of poetry and prose dedicated to the celebration and preservation of breasts, the woman who survived them, and honoring those who haven’t.  It was a great night.  Our performance was in Raundi’s words, “rad.”  I shared stories from my adventures in breast cancer, Raundi read her poetry and sang her own rendition of Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Breasts.”  And, to top it all off, we sang, “Check, check, check your breasts.” 

Click below to watch us sing:

Check, Check, Check Your Breast Song

The grand finale of the night, Helicopter played.  They rocked, we danced, and Sean burned.

 

Sean at Pondwater burning with inspiration

 

Sean is an artist and a regular at Pondwater.  Inspired by the Mammary Chronicles, he created a very powerful work of art.  It is so stirring I just had to share it with you.  Above is a picture of him finishing the final touches at Pondwater with hot coals.  He posted it on Facebook adding a sweet note, “Thank you Deanne and Raundi for the mammarian inspiration. Your words definitely influenced the direction of the piece.”

 

Chemistry? interferon-alfa2b, Knives? wide area excision or mastectomy Fire? radiation treatment

 

You inspire me too Sean.  Your piece is beautiful.  It captures the emotions of the experience of breast cancer perfectly. 

I can’t begin to tell you the excitement I feel when someone tells me that I have inspired them.  It feels so right, so good, reminding me of why I am on this planet.  I am here on Earth to write a book, tour with The Mammary Chronicles, and walk in the Susan G. Komen 3 Day walk.  I am here to inspire and be inspired.  I am here to stir things up a bit and shine a light on what seems like the impossible.  I am here to help motivate, encourage, egg-on and trigger-off.  I am here to show people that when something bad happens to them, it is not a time to throw in the towel and give up.  Like Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never, never give up.”

I am also here to heal.  Writing, walking, and performing are great outlets for me.  They help me to mend my scars.  And, I have some big scars.  But these outlets, they are channels to health and happiness.  Not only do the help me heal, they help me get in touch with myself and unlock the mystery of both my inner psyche and the outer universe.  That is the magic of performing on stage.  That is the magic of writing.  That is the magic of art. 

For example, when I write, I enter into another world.  I leave my ego behind, tap into something deep and divine and write from my true self.  Usually inspired by some personal story, lesson or truth, and originating from some mysterious place inside, I feel a desperate need to get it out.  Ideas travel down my arm, through my fingers and onto paper.  Words appear, sentences form and eventually an entire story emerges right before my eyes.  It feels incredible when it all clicks.  Pure satisfaction! 

I am certain that this is what Joseph Campbell meant by “bliss.”

But getting to this tantric state of bliss takes work.  Ideas don’t always appear like a bolt of lightning.  I can’t speak for Sean but I am sure most artists agree.  There are times I have to force myself to sit down and write.  I have to say “yes” when I feel like saying “no.”  I can’t just sit at home and hope to be inspired; wishing ideas will be delivered to my door like a pizza.  I have to go after it, put myself out there, experience life and live fully.  Jack London knows this.  He writes, “You can’t wait for inspiration.  You have to go after it with a club.”

So, I am going after it.  Day after day, I write, I walk, I work, I play and I work some more.  It’s not easy but the satisfaction I feel makes it all worth it.  The harder I work, the more energy I have.  The more I play, the more my imagination soars.  The more I am inspired, the more I inspire.  And, the more I say “yes” to life the more life says “yes” to me.  It’s a win win situation.

I can’t believe I actually thought I would make a good accountant once upon a time.  I dabbled in the arts a bit but was afraid I could not make a living at it.  I thought it was something other people did, that I was not a part of that world.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I am an artist through and through.  And this is not to put down accountants in any way, because even accounting is an art, I just personally wouldn’t do it any justice, unless I could turn numbers into prose.     

So it seems I am a bit of a late bloomer, but that’s ok, better late than never.  And, the weird part about all of this, cancer helped me to come to this realization.  It opened doors for me that I did not know were there waiting to be unlocked. 

But just having a door opened is not enough.  I learned you have to walk through it.  This is the most crucial step. 

We all have a door.  Life is hard.  Shit happens.  The trick is to not run the other way or go back to life as before.  Instead, put on your most durable shoes, and start walking.  Grab a pen and start writing.  Turn off the T.V. and start living.  Be an inspiration or get inspired, whether it is through some form of art, music, walking 60 miles in 3 days, swimming pools converted to fish ponds or accounting.  Try them on for size and walk through that door.  You will be amazed at what you will find on the other side.