BlogHer Recap

July 21, 2008

The answer to the question I posed in my last post on Toddler Planet is just as I had (not-so) secretly hoped. There is no one BlogHer. BlogHers — and women who blog — come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. BlogHers have different accents, different backgrounds, and different perspectives. BlogHers have different interests. Some of us are mommybloggers. Some of us are techbloggers. Some blog about personal finance, and some blog about infertility. Some blog their life and will sort it all out later. All approaches are valid, and that seems to be one of the core principles of the BlogHer community.

This weekend was at once better than and different from what I had imagined last year, after reading the recap posts. There was indeed a lot of hugging and squeeing, and oh-my-gosh did-you-see who-just-walked-by?, but there was also a great deal of serious networking. Of considered thought. Of asking, “How can we take this common interest a step further and grow together?”

Yesterday was one of the most powerful conference days I’ve ever experienced. I chose three sessions to attend that worked together amazingly well; the panelists and participants inspired me to be a better blogger, and to use my powers for good.

The very first session, “What We Believe: Beautiful Blogging and Positive Posting,” featured five lovely and talented bloggers who are making a difference in their communities and in the larger world, in many case just by the careful choice of words that they sending out into the world. Kyran Pittman reminded us that beautiful is not just about pretty, and that we can blog about difficult topics in a positive way. Krysten Heide, who writes Hope Revolution, spoke about the Hope Note project, and how she inspires women to reach out to others in their online or offline communities and encourage each other with words and notes. Jen from One Plus Two talked about the Just Posts, and enouraged us all to submit our favorite posts on social justice — or write one for the first time and submit it — to her this month, so that she can help expand their reach. Lucrecer Braxton talked about beauty and freedom through art, and the Art Slam initiative. Alyssa Royce gave us a preview of her new initiative, Just Cause It. Just Cause It is an amazing idea that I’ll be talking about more in the coming days. But it wasn’t just the speakers in this panel that blew me away. It was the audience. They were lively, interested, and engaged. They were polite to each other, but serious as they urged each other on to good works and beautifully composed essays. Chookoolonks reminded us all of Jen Lemen‘s works, and then inspired us with one of her own. When she sees a blogger rift happening in the blogs she reads, where one blogger gets upset with another, and unhappiness ensues, she makes a special effort to send good words and thankfulness out into the blogosphere, and asks her readers to join in the thankfulness. Several of us loved that idea, and I suspect we’ll be seeing more of that in the future. Another blogger made the point that words can be beautiful even if the situations are not pretty; that there is usefulness in writing about the difficult times too, particularly if there is a positive coming out of it. That leads us nicely into the next panel —

What we believe: Tools For Online Fundraising and Activism.
One of the things I learned this year is this: there are no little blogs. There is no such thing as “just” a personal blog. Every one of us has a unique perspective and an important set of talents. And her own sphere of influence. Beth Kantor, Her Bad Mother, and Donna Callejon gave wonderful talks about their approach to online advocacy and fundraising. From awareness-raising to writing for a cause to raising cold hard cash (Go Beth! $93k for Cambodian orphans this year!), these women have it going on, and they spent their time well, telling us how to do it too. Moderator Marnie Webb created a Wiki for this session, and the talks are posted there in their entirety — I highly recommend a thorough reading, or at least a listen to the podcast if you have interest in this topic.

The last regular session of the day was the panel that I participated in: “What We Believe: Blogging Communities as a Healing Force.” I’d like to cover this one in a little more detail tomorrow, but I have to say that I was so impressed with my fellow panelists’ honesty and dedication to painting the picture for us of their experience, no matter how difficult. The audience was friendly and respectful of our stories, and I really felt the love in the room. We dedicated the session to Andrea, PunkRockMommy, and Julia, who we lost this year, and who have left gaping holes in the mommyblogging and adoptionblog communities.

This morning’s unconference provided an opportunity for us to follow up on points from yesterday’s sessions and network on specific issues that will help us all to be better bloggers. We called the sessions that I went to “Using Our Powers For Good: Making a Difference On and Offline,” and “Group Blogging and Guest Posts.” I was totally blown away by the willingness of the participants to share best practices and to offer one another hope and help. You can bet that Laurie and I will be talking to them more as we (the 19 of us) set up Mothers With Cancer as a full resource site and safe haven for moms — and friends and family who come to support, help, and understand what life is like when mom gets cancer.

The other sessions were great (Mommyblogging as a Radical Act, anyone?), networking was popular, almost all the bloggers were really friendly and open, the parties were fantastic (oh, the parties.), and there was even good swag. But really, what I walked away from BlogHer08 with was invaluable — and I don’t mean the t-shirts, stuffed animals, USB drives, software, or even the DVD of me and Grover chatting on Sesame Street (but seriously? that was awesome). I walked away with a greater appreciation of what can be done with this medium we call blogging, and of the amazing diversity and reach of the 1000 women and men present.

If we put our hearts and minds together, there’s no limit to what we can achieve.

Crossposted on Toddler Planet and BlogHer.

Living Strong

July 14, 2008

“It’s one thing to survive, and another to live. Never stop.” – Lance Armstrong

Today I am doing something that I haven’t done for about 5 years…running a race for charity. The Livestrong Challenge in San Jose. It is about 6:45am and I am waiting at bag check for some buddies from Silicon Valley Moms and then we are off to Live Strong. Wish I was biking the 100 miles, but my bike skills are a bit rusty! We’ll be running the 5K and that will be just fine living for today.

Oh, and this is my first post from my new iPhone (love it!). I have a feeling I’ll be blogging more due to this bit of technology…


I send a text to Ana and Courtney about 6:50 am to let them know that I am standing by bag check and next to a sign that says “Starbucks –>” (tempting…). Ana originally organized us Silicon Valley Moms as a team and here we are. I see a cute girl who has a “I’m a Survivor – 11 YEARS!” and I ask her where she got it. She points and I head that direction, feeling a bit lame because I was leaving where I had just texted Ana and Courtney telling them where I was. I quickly get my Survivor tag, write “For 7 Years!” on it, head back and see the cute girl standing by the Starbucks sign. She has her phone in her hand and says “Are you Linsey?” Ha! It is Courtney, turns out. (We have not met before…such is the blogosphere at times). We talk about our respective cancer experiences, blogging, coffee drinking habits, our kids. Ana soon arrives – apparently she had slept in a bit (the one who organizes get to be late).



Fast forward to 7:30am – We wander over to the start line for the start. Yellow balloons everywhere. Many survivor tags on bikers and runners. I see one that says “15 months…” As in, and counting and hoping and holding. Many “In memory of” and “In honor of” tags. We suddenly hear Lance’s name. Huh? We look over and see Lance himself about to take off. I have watched many a Tour de France with Lance climbing those hills and gripping those handlebars, but to be 5 feet away from him is pretty amazing. I didn’t even know he was going to be there, so it is a nice surprise. He’s right – it’s not about the bike. But still.


We watch the bikers start – the 100 mile and 10 mile riders. Many kids are out there for the 10 mile ride. How cool is that? I can’t wait to start taking my kids to races (not in a jogging stroller!). How exciting for a kid. And probably really tough.


7:45am and the 5K runners and walkers are off. We are accompanied by cancer patients survivors being pulled in wagons by bikers, cheering and waving and inspiring. The wagons are decorated with all kinds of yellow signs and banners. Ana, Courtney and I are all different paces, so we split up. Along the course I think a lot about people currently going through treatment for cancer, those recently diagnosed, recently in remission and surviving. I remember sadly two of my friends who have passed away from terrible lung cancer just in the past year – both were new mothers, Beth lived 2 months, Sarah lived 9 months. I thought of all the great women that I am getting to know on this new Mothers With Cancer blog I am a part of. Being a lymphoma survivor, I have done many races (marathons, bike races, triathlons) with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training in the past, so am quite familiar with the waves of emotion that tend to hit me as I plod along a race course. It can be tough. Not as tough as cancer treatment, that’s for sure. But today feels really good as well. I am not sure exactly why, but it is somehow different than my previous races. I feel very proud to be wearing that “Survivor” tag and to see all the other survivors around me. Instead of feeling like a poster child for pity, I feel incredibly empowered. I am thankful that I am one of the lucky ones that get to live, to enjoy my children and a very full life. Post-cancer, I try to live my life not for the small minute details, but the big picture of the relationships I have. Carpe diem indeed.


8:18am – Those 3 weeks off from boot camp are showing a bit and I really have to push it toward the end a bit. I see the overhead balloons for the finish line and a sign that says “Cancer Survivors go to the right.” I head to the right and receive a lovely yellow rose. I love flowers! How nice. My finish time is about 30 minutes, I think. About right for a race pace for me, so I’m pleased. I see Ana just in front of me. We go through the “showers” – ahhh, that feels good in the heat. We talk about Ana’s friends whose daughter has just been diagnosed with AML. Courtney soon follows and we tour the post-race festivities, grab some food, water, coffee. We part ways to go home to our respective families and the Sunday activities. Later, I hear from Ana that she ended up staying until Lance finished his 65 mile ride (only 65 miles?!) – she caught this cute photo of his butt. Actually a quite familiar sight to Lance’s competitors, I am sure.



I really liked this race from a survivor perspective. I like that it includes all cancers. I like that it really and truly celebrates survivors. I like that it remembers those who have passed and who survived when they were living. I encourage survivors, patients and their supporters to, in the words of the Livestrong Foundation, “pick a fight.” This one is important.

Crossposted at Me Too You.

The Luckiest Accident I Ever Had

June 6, 2008

On Valentines’ Day 2001, I was heading home from my Silicon Valley dot-com crazy job. My plan was to cook dinner for my husband of one year. I was 28-years-old and had recently run a marathon for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program. I felt fine, great actually. 

Then, wham! I was in a car accident. A cute little old man turned left from a side street and whacked right into me – he was on his way to buy Valentine’s Day flowers for his wife. I was not really hurt, but the seat belt caught me hard and I was completely out of breath. I had broken a rib snowboarding a couple of years prior, so I thought that was probably what was up. The next day, I headed into the doctor to get it checked out, knowing they wouldn’t be able to do anything for a cracked rib, but documenting it for my insurance records from the accident. I had actually had an appointment with a doctor already for that day, because I had noticed a mysterious lump on my neck, a swollen lymph node and was slightly concerned. When I got to my appointment, the doctor I saw (I didn’t have a primary care physician at the time – after all, I was 28 and in perfect health! No need, right?) told me that I needed to chose what I wanted to be seen for – the lump or the car accident cracked rib (and by the next morning, serious case of whiplash). I asked him which he thought was more important and he refused to give me any advice. I am normally a pushover when it comes to medical stuff (whatever….), but for some reason, something told me this was NOT right. I left – really pissed off – and headed to urgent care. I was determined to see a doctor that day for both issues. 

When I got to urgent care, I was seen right away. The doctor I saw there felt the lump and ordered a chest x-ray. I remember reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead (which I was never able to finish after this day) and waiting for the doctor to come back and tell me that I had a cracked rib. I actually remember imagining him coming in and telling me I had cancer and then dismissed it as ridiculous and going back to reading. Minutes later, the doctor did come back in and showed my the x-ray. My chest was full of tumors – surrounding my heart and lungs. He told me he thought it was likely Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and quite treatable with chemo and radiation. I didn’t really hear anything except that it was cancer. How could this be? I was stunned. Absolutely stunned. I had just run a marathon. How could I have tumors filling up half of my chest. 

I got in my car and sobbed. I drove home, hardly seeing through the tears. I called my husband and told him to come home right away. I beat him by a few minutes. When he walked in, I told him that I had really bad news, that I had cancer. We cried. He asked for details. I told him what I knew and gave him the pamphlets the doctor had given me and the schedule of tests I was undergo to “stage” the cancer. I started making calls. My parents – it was very tough to tell my dad especially, who had heard the news about my older sister’s breast cancer just 5 years earlier (she has been in remission now for 13 years!). My twin sister – even tougher, as we are so close and she had just moved away to Newport Beach a few months prior. My older sister who had been though treatment for her breast cancer gave me hope. She told me not to think the worst. She gave me perspective. My husband and I started doing research and learned that this was a fairly treatable cancer. I started to feel lucky. 

The next day, I went to work and told my team. My boss’ brother-in-law had recently been through treatment for Hodgkin’s. I called him and he gave me hope. He sent me a bunch of books. I will forever be grateful for that first conversation with a recent survivor who sounded so strong. 

The next 3 weeks are a blur of staging – needle biopsy (inconclusive), bone marrow biopsy (ouch! but luckily negative), biopsy on the swollen lymph node on my neck (I almost died on the table when the surgeon rested an instrument across my neck on the corroded artery, he luckily realized his mistake in time…), a PET scan during which I had to lay perfectly still for hours (talk about having time to think). A work colleague had connections at Stanford and got me in quickly to their oncology department. I met with them and immediately decided to do treatment there. The same day I went upstairs to the fertility center where I met with the woman who would 3 years later become my fertility doctor – we discussed the possibility of freezing my eggs (I was 28 and a newleywed, after all!), but due to where I was in my cycle and the size of my tumors, my oncologist recommended strongly against waiting to start treatment by the 4 weeks it would take to harvest the eggs and extract them. If I had not been in that car accident, my disease would likely have been much more progressed by the time it was diagnosed. I found out that it is actually pretty common for Hodgkin’s to be diagnosed via an accident like this, because you are usually talking about young active people who have few symptoms other than a swollen lymph nodes, which they think nothing about and can be caused by so many things, that doctors often tell people to come back in 3-6 months if it the swelling has not reduced. 

I was officially diagnosed at Stage 2A “bulky” (meaning that over half of my chest was filled with tumors) Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  I promptly started 12 weeks of weekly treatment on the Stanford V chemo protocol. This protocol was designed to try to reduce the nasty long-term effects of the traditional chemo protocol for Hodgkin’s, which works, very well, but has large risks associated with heart and lung damage later on down the road, as well as sterilization. And, since this disease largely affects 18-35 year olds, these long term effect are pretty significant to quality of life later on down the road.  

I remember my first chemo treatment. I was scared. Very scared. The nurses wore special suits and gloves while they dispensed Nitrogen Mustand into my veins – the stuff that was used to gas people in long ago wars. But…I ended up handling chemo very well. I had side effects, but they were manageable. I took many, many drugs to counteract all the side effects. I suffered pretty extreme insomnia, which I managed with Ativan, that lovely sleeping pill. I chewed gum to hold off mouth sores. I drank prune juice, ate whatever fiber I could and went for daily walks, sometimes even runs if I felt good enough, to reduce the extremely painful stomach pains. I shaved my head when my hair started to fall out – it hurt at night when it fell out and pierced my head on the pillow. That was actually empowering – the head shaving. I made chemo buddies – especially one guy who was also newly married. We had chemo together every week – my husband and his wife would go to the cafeteria and get us french fries. Sometimes, one of us was too sick to eat. Over time, we both became weaker. I had a PICC line put in (I hated this), because my veins were finally becoming extremely inflamed and red. I actually have very good veins, but that toxic chemo gets almost everyone’s veins in the end. 

I finished chemo and had a party. A big party. I was so sick and tired of chemo, I didn’t think I could do any more. Those last few treatments had been the hardest. In a few weeks, I started daily radiation. 5 weeks long. That was no big deal for me. I had no side effects at all, barely. I had a PET scan and was declared to be in remission. Success! It was over. But…I still had to process things. It took a lot of time to let go. I think it is something I will always deal with. My dark moments were there, but overall I was very positive during my treatment and I think that helped me a lot in my capacity to cope with side effects. 

I remained very involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training and ran another marathon 4 months after finishing chemo, 2 months after finishing radiation. I was very, very, very slow. But I finished. And my husband and 2 friends ran it with me. My twin sister came and ran the last half of the marathon with me, talking me through that last, long 13.1 miles. It was a huge accomplishment and I am so thankful for the people at the Society for that community support. 

Two years after I finished treatment, I asked my oncologist for “permission” to try to get pregnant. The chance of a recurrence of Hodgkin’s go down dramatically after 2 years, so I was given the go-ahead. We tried, and tried, and tried. Eventually, we were back at Stanford, back in that fertility clinic. This time, it was for happy reasons and we became pregnant with twins after doing injectable fertility drugs and an IUI (intra-uterine insemination). Wow! Now we felt really lucky. And my oncologist and nurse at the Stanford cancer center were ecstatic. Even more happy was the day, 19 months later that I found myself with a late period, and an unplanned surprise pregnancy without any fertility drugs.

Last week, I celebrated my 7-year anniversary of finishing chemo. This summer, I will celebrate my 7th anniversary of finishing radiation, getting a clear PET scan, and hearing the word remission. Being so busy with my three small kids now, it is hard to remember the “bad dream” of cancer. It seems very far away, yet so close, because without it I am not sure where I would be in life. I certainly have changed my perspective on life in general due to my cancer diagnosis and treatment and my relationships with people have forever been altered. Life after cancer is full. Very full. And I treasure every moment I have to live it.