One Door Closes: Another Opens by Mary Beth

September 21, 2012
This post has nothing to do with cancer… but I think that this site can use an uplifting story…
I am so happy to be writing this story. My daughter was adopted at 2 days old. Her Birth Mother selected us from a resume that we compiled. We never met her. She was given two of the hospital birth photos.
 
We knew quite a few details about her family and medical history but no identifying information as the adoption was private. She was born in Pennsylvania, but the adoption took place in New York State. We were told that when my daughter was 18, she would be able to sign the adoption registry and if her birth mother also signed, the records would be opened.
Nina knew that she was adopted and we shared all of the information that we knew. All except one piece of information. When I received the paperwork I had noticed that the attorneys had forgotten to black out her Birth Mother’s last name on one of the bills. That is how I knew that part of Nina’s heritage was Irish. My feeling was that I would honor our agreement that we would not look for her and she would not look for us… until Nina was 18.  Nina always talked about wanting to meet her Birth Mother. Two questions that she always wanted answered were: Who do I look like? and Does she think about me?  Society is so accustomed to biology, people just naturally try to figure out where the resemblance is: do you look like your Mom or your Dad? Even in school, usually at the beginning of the year the kids always have to talk or write about their heritage.
Adopt means… to take as one’s own. They did take our heritage, but it does not mean that she did not wonder whose biology she was made of and what was her biological heritage.
Last year when Nina turned 18 she had wanted to fill out the paperwork and start the process. The year was quite traumatic for all because of our divorce. I told her when she was ready I would help her. My biggest concern as a Mother was to protect her. I was worried that if her Birth Mother did not want to be found it would be another source of abandonment and disappointment. Nina had decided she was prepared for that event, but that she had to try to find her. I decided I would let Nina go through the legal procedure and if for some reason the records could not be opened then I would hire a private detective to find her and make sure that she wanted to be found. I had even done a few internet searches but nothing concrete had come up.
The weekend of September 7th was a very difficult weekend for Nina and her paternal adoptive family. She was very upset and crying most of the weekend. Mean things had been said by both sides. As a Mother, you want to make it all better, but I just did not know what else to do, except pray. I said a few extra rosaries. Sunday after mass I always light a candle at the Statue of Our Blessed Mother and ask her to watch over our family. This Sunday I asked for extra help for Nina, to relieve her pain.
When Nina came home from work, she sat down on the couch and was so exhausted from the emotions of the weekend. She was so sad. Dante was playing his video games. For some reason, I decided to pick up my phone and put her Birth Mother’s last name into my phone and the word ‘adoption’. An “adoption connect” site popped up and the 7thentry down read:
25-Mar-2009
I am searching for my daughter who was born June 7, 1994. She was born in St. Mary’s, PA but the adoption took place in Buffalo, NY. I am her birth mother and want to find her. She has a birth mark on her forehead. I was too young to care for a child, but have never forgotten her and hope she was given the life I could not give her.
 
 
I could not believe my eyes. The only incorrect piece of information was the year. I put my phone down. I told her that we had to believe and trust that God was watching out for us. I could not tell her why I felt this way, at this moment but I would tell her when I could. I started to cry and both kids looked at me strangely. Nina asked if it was a good thing and I said “yes”. I was waiting for Dante to go to bed, so I could have some private time with Nina to share this news. She was so exhausted that she went to bed before him.
When the house was quiet, I went in to wake her up and I asked her to bear with me as I told her the whole story. I explained how I knew that she was Irish and why I did not tell her her biological last name. Then I read the post to her. She started to cry. When I first read the post my biggest concern was alleviated, “does her Birth Mother want to be found”. When Nina heard the post, one of Nina’s questions was answered, “does she think about me?”
Nina hopped out of bed and turned on her computer. She registered on the site and pressed the correspond with this person button. She wrote:
If your name is Melanie, and your Mom’s name is MaryAnn and you gave me the name Leila at birth and your birthday is October 28. I am your daughter. I have a birthmark on my right temple.
 
This message was sent at 10:30pm on a Sunday night. One guess as to who did not sleep much that night? The next day at about 11:00am, I got a call at work: “Mom… Melanie responded” that started a whirlwind trail of emails and information and 19 years of questions answered on both sides. Melanie sent a photo of herself. The biggest question of all. “Who do I look like” was answered. Nina looks just like her birth Mother with the exception of her nose.
Wednesday was going to be the first phone conversation. As I was driving home that night I thought … how do I ever thank Melanie for the gift she gave me? I started to cry, which is not the smartest idea while traveling on the freeway. When I got home, they were talking and Nina let me speak with Melanie. I told her that I do not know how to thank her and she said the same to me. We talked for quite a while and when we were done I told her that I loved her. I don’t even know her, yet I love her. It was so nice to hear the two of them talk and laugh, to hear pure pleasure in my daughter and tears of joy.
In the same day, one door shut and another opened on a whole new family. She has a Birth Mother, a Birth Father, a Step Father, a full biological Brother, 1/2 biological Brother and Sister that are twins, a birth Grandmother and a birth Great-Grandmother an Aunt and an Uncle and two Cousins. She is emailing, texting and talking with them every day. We are planning a trip to meet all of them.
Melanie said when she read the email, she was speechless. She sat stunned. Her husband came downstairs and asked her what the matter was? She said that she could not speak, she just turned the laptop towards him and let him read it for himself. She had written the post to find Nina 3 ½ years ago! Both Nina and Melanie agree that this week has been surreal and amazing at the same time. Two of the best things that I could hear Nina say were “Thank you Mom” and “They love me and they don’t even know me.”
So many prayers were answered that day…
cross-posted at marybethvolpini.com
Advertisements

Heart Like A Balloon

December 14, 2011
Crossposted at Jenster’s Musings on December 9, 2011

Last night as I sat down to see what was new with my Facebook friends I whooped it up when I saw my friend, Shelley, hit her five year no cancer goal. I’ve known Shelley for what feels like forever. She’s the little sister of my junior high, high school, matron of honor, etc. partner in crime friend, Cathy. Two memories of Shelley from back in the day: 1. She could recite pretty much all of 16 Candles; and 2. She could do the entire “Thriller” dance.

I know exactly how she felt yesterday. You get breast cancer, you have surgery and go through treatment, you slowly get better and each time you have an oncology appointment you come away happy to know you’re not showing any evidence of disease. And then you hit that five year mark and your chances of recurrence or metastasis dramatically drop. You can see many more wedding anniversaries and children’s milestones far into your future. And, even though you hadn’t really been worried about it, you’re relieved and excited and happy and feel like celebrating.  I’m pretty sure champagne was involved on the West Coast last night.

My heart soared.

As I continued to peruse the statuses I came upon one from a Mothers with Cancer associate. That’s when I found out another one of our writers, Judy, had been admitted to hospice. Judy was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in December of 2007 and determined in remission the following year. Nearly two years later, November of 2010, she was found to have a recurrence and she fought it with everything in her. And there was a lot in her! A lot of faith, a lot of courage, a lot of strength and she wrote about her experience with so much raw vulnerability and authenticity that you couldn’t help but know, admire and love her. She also wrote about the fear and the pain and the sadness and her desire to be a mom to her young son and a wife to her loving husband.

My soaring heart plummeted.

This morning I found out that she passed away last night. I never met this woman in person and yet I feel such a strong connection to the women of Mothers with Cancer. Every time we lose one it’s like losing a part of myself and I daresay it’s the same with the other contributors. She leaves behind a devoted husband and a 10-year-old son – probably the biggest fear of a Mother with Cancer.

My heart now feels deflated.


no pink for profit runs/walks for the cure v2.0 (by Laurie)

October 5, 2011

 

The miraculous photo in which we all have our eyes open! photo: I. Hendel

There was some incredible coverage in the Ottawa Citizen this year. All the articles listed below were also in the Saturday print version of the paper (for my American friends: the Saturday papers have the highest circulation, as yours do on Sunday):

Seeing red over pink ribbon campaign.

Pink fatigue. 

Think before you pink.


The Citizen also posted a short video to their web site:

(update: I couldn’t figure out how to embed the video on WordPress but you can watch it on my blog, Not Just About Cancer.)

Thanks so much to all the team members (including those who who were not able to attend the walk/run) and to everyone who donated. Special thanks to Andrea (who is the real woman wearing the pinnie in the Citizen photos) for holding my hand through the surreal filming of the video and to our honorary team members, Tim (picked up the team kits and t-shirts) Ian (took photos and custody of our stuff while we walked and Lee (stepped up with kid distraction when it was very much needed).


May we all be healthy and able to do it next year. And may there soon come a time when the Run for the Cure is a thing of the past.

 

“I’m running for…Deanna, Susan, Judy (and me). 
In memory of Sarah and Rebecca.” 
photo: A. Ross

please honour my friend by having some fun (by Laurie)

July 23, 2011

My friend Rebecca died this week. She was all of 37 years old (if I’ve done the math right) and she had metastatic breast cancer. She was also one of the funniest people in my online community. She was also generous, straigtforward and honest. My heart goes out to her friends and family – the people she loved, wrote about and who knew her best.

Rebecca left strict instructions that we were to shed no tears after her passing (I’m afraid I’ve let her down on that front but I’ve been doing my best) and that, instead of a funeral she wanted a celebration of her life. I’d love to join the party and to hear the stories that those closest to her would be bound to share. Because Rebecca took her fun seriously.

I won’t be able to attend the celebration (Rebecca lived in Cape Cod) but I would like to do something. And I need your help.

1. In the next week or so, please go out and do something fun. Do anything at all, as long as it makes you happy. If you need inspiration, Rebecca loved dogs (especially her pit bull, Diezel), cooking, eating out (her restaurant reviews were among my favourite blog posts), her scooter, her little car, road trips, NASCAR, kick boxing, books, funny movies and music. If none of these things appeal to you, please go out and do your own thing. If you like, bring someone with you to join in the fun.

2. Let me know. You can leave me a comment on this blog, at Not Just About Cancer or send me an email (laurie dot kingston at gmail dot com) or message me on Twitter (I’m @lauriek). Just a few words to let me know what fun thing you did in Rebecca’s memory. I’ll compile a list and make sure that it gets to her family.

That’s it. It already makes me feel happier, thinking that there will be a little more joy in the world this week. I think Rebecca would approve.


Little Pink Houses of Hope beach retreat week (by Judy)

June 2, 2011

Instead of once again writing about the Little Pink Houses of Hope beach retreat week — since I already did that at This Post Was Brought to You By the Letter R — I’m going to give you a look into the week via my FaceBook posts. I won’t have the photos posted here, but you can get an idea of our days at Kure Beach by reading the posts.

The only thing I would say is that prior to the week, my only concern was that I had it so hyped up in my mind that there was no way it could have reached my expectations. My concern was needless; it not only reached, but it exceeded, my expectations. What a special week. I miss it, I miss all my LPHOH buddies from that week. A LOT.

May 15, 4:22 p.m.:

‎Live stronger. Laugh harder. Love deeper.
Little Pink Houses of Hope motto

May 16, 5:02 a.m.:

Yes, I’m up, way too early. I think I’m just utterly psyched for this week. I’ll try to go back to sleep, but not before I say: I could get used to this. 🙂

May 16, 8:53 a.m.:

‎I am changing, less and less asleep. Made of different stuff than when I began. ~ Brooke Fraser, “Shadowfeet”

May 16, 11:15 a.m.:

Two words: egg toss. 🙂

May 16, 8:33 p.m.:

Jeanine Patten-Coble and her husband Terry Coble rock. I’m just sayin’. ♥

May 16, 9:13 p.m.

Tonight I will dream of eggs that have names, children (and adults) running and playing, CatchPhrase (?), balconies, amazing volunteers, Melissa’s cool prayers, and beautiful, strong women and their loving, supportive men. It’s been a good day y’all, and we continue to be blessed. God’s grace is abundant here at Kure Beach, NC.

May 17, 7:38 a.m.

Kate’s Pancake House in Carolina Beach is AWESOME! They donated breakfasts for all of the families, YAY!

May 17, 8:03 a.m.

Energy Boy: Mama Mia? Me: Yes, EB? EB: I’m so thankful. Me: For what? EB: For everything. Me: Oh, that’s so nice, EB. *heart melts and bursts with pride*

May 17, 5:49 p.m.

Judy is right now enjoying a boat cruise with the group. Taking pictures now on my camera; those will be uploaded and posted when I get home. Still having a wonderful time, making great new friends, and loving life. 🙂

May 17, 8:55 p.m.

I am tired (but a good tired). I am grateful. I am nourished, body and soul. I am relaxed. I am loved. I am blessed.

May 18, 1:49 p.m.

Energy Boy is a natural at stand-up paddle-boarding. Me? Not so much (to put it mildly). But, I TRIED, and that’s the important thing.

May 18, 8:32 p.m.

I love the brightly colored houses here. EB says it’s like “being in a crayon box.” My favorite is lime green, EB’s is orange, and Absent Minded Professor doesn’t have a favorite.

May 18, 8:36 p.m.

Tonight was Date Night. All the couples got a free dinner at a wonderful seafood restaurant in Carolina Beach (big shout-out to Michael’s Seafood Restaurant) and the amazing volunteers watched the kids. Big Fun.

May 19, 3:08 a.m.

Restless. Steroids? The excitement of the week? My *ouch* dagnab shoulder that I hurt yesterday? Dunno, but will try to get back to sleep after I step outside onto the (unlocked) balcony and look at the sky. There is always time for that here.

May 19, 7:32 a.m.

Today we’re going to Fort Fisher State Park. A professional photographer will be there to take pictures of each family/couple, then we’ll have fun on the beach and then we’ll have a picnic there. More later. 🙂 [big shout-out here to Sara-Anne Photography. Absolutely beautiful photos, kick-butt photographer. Love her!]

May 19, 3:52 p.m.

Energy Boy went jetskiing today with Tim, Bobby, and Rayne. Thanks so much for taking him and taking such good care of him!

May 19, 9:08 p.m.

Another awesome day comes to an end. Tomorrow is the last day of the retreat then we head home on Sat. Boo — can’t I take all my new friends home with me? :). On the bright side, I’ll never forget this week and the kindness of so many people. Also, I will carry each retreat participant and volunteer in my heart forever. Love you all. ♥

May 20, 7:51 a.m.

Back at Kate’s Pancake House before the activities with the group. YUMMY!

May 20, 8:01 a.m.

Yesterday morning Energy Boy made up a song: “I’m a happy little kid . . . because I have a happy little life.” My heart melted. 🙂 & ♥

May 20, 4:03 p.m.

My new hat says, “Not all who wander are lost.” Phew!, that’s a good thing for me. 😉

May 20, 4:29 p.m.

This afternoon, Absent Minded Professor, Energy Boy and I went to the aquarium. Wonderful. Tonight we’ll have a grill-out with retreat friends (that’s participants and volunteers) and some kind of special send-off for those of us who are participants. *sigh* I’ll be sad to leave. It’s been SUCH a fantastic week.

May 20, 9:16 p.m.

God’s hand has been in this Little Pink Houses of Hope beach retreat week from start to finish. What a great week, what amazing friends we’ve made. We said our good-byes, but it’s not good-bye forever. It can’t be with people who have touched your heart and soul in an indescribable way. My heart is full-to-bursting; I thank the good Lord for this week and these wonderful people. ♥ ♥

May 21, 6:31 a.m.

Sad to leave such amazing peeps, but still happy. Happy to have been here for this incredible week, happy to have spent quality time with my family, happy to have meet such amazing, wonderful, life-long friends. Happy to have such beautiful memories and happy to be a part of the Little Pink family. Happy . . . and blessed beyond measure. Thank you, Little Pink.

May 21, 9:46 a.m.

Every day holds the possibility of miracles. ~ church sign

May 21, 10:08 a.m.

Ahh, my stoic Norwegian side was out last night. Now I’m wistful and sad, yet so very uplifted by the week — if that makes any sense at all. *sigh* I miss all the LPHOH Kure Beach folks oodles and oodles.

May 21, 8:31 p.m.

We’re Home!
1. Home again, home again. 2. My church small group is AWESOME! We came home to new flowers in the flower beds, small ditches that AMP’s car had made filled in and covered with gravel, EB’s room cleaned, the living room cleaned . . . and I know I’m forgetting things. 3. And someone — don’t know yet who — has fixed our falling-apart bathtub. That could be my brother-in-law since he was talking about how he could do it if we were gone long enough. I’ll find out soon enough. 4. This is all amazing after an amazing trip. I feel extremely loved.

May 22, 9:18 a.m.

And we discovered that EB’s bed is new. His old one is outside waiting to be put in trash or whatever. I am . . . . OVERWHELMED. As Frank says, the blessings keep coming. Wow, just wow.

May 22, 3:40 p.m.

1. I was so overwhelmed with emotion (in a good way) from this past week at Kure Beach and from what people did for us when we were gone that I got all verklempt during communion at church and tears were streaming down my cheeks. Good tears, tears of gratitude. Life is good, God is great. 2. I had something else, but it’s gone. Heh. Such is the life of a woman with Chemo Brain.

May 22, 6:08 p.m.

Judy needs to blog . . . . but is still processing . . . . .

May 24, 9:03 a.m.

I’m starting to blog about my week with Little Pink Houses of Hope. Words can never fully describe such an amazing week, but I’ll try to at least come close. 🙂

_________________________________________________________________________________________

That brings you a day-by-day (and usually more often) account of our trip. I still can’t completely describe how wonderful it was . . . but that gives you an idea. Lurved it, just LURVED it.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Cross-posted to Just Enjoy Him.


Feeling the love

May 14, 2011

slightly abridged version of post on my personal blog by Jenny (jaydub26)

This was actually supposed to be the first of two companion pieces ‘Feeling the fear’  is the other one.  I had started to write this when I got the news from twitter about Sarah.  I no longer was in the right frame of mind to continue writing this post and wrote and posted ‘Feeling the fear’ instead. 

As you know I’ve been feeling a little sentimental and weepy lately.

But…

I feel loved.

Even when fear and darker thoughts crowd my mind, that is what pulls me through it.  I am loved by my family, OH supports me in everything I do, and my girls show they love me every single day.  Often it is not spoken but on Mother’s Day when MD put as her FB status ‘ I love you, Mum xox’ it made me feel really good.  Not all 23 yr olds have that relationship with their mother (and/or are willing to admit it to ‘the world’ on FB)  Likewise OD writes about me on her blog and I can feel the love there as well.  Even YD ends every phone call with ‘Love you’. 

Through this journey with “Gertrude”,  I have felt loved by my wider circle of family and friends and I think deeper and more meaningful relationships/friendships have developed because of it.

“And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
“And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying.”

Are some of the lyrics from the Tim McGraw song I mentioned in ‘Feeling the fear’ and I think they have been true for me. 

I even feel loved and supported by my University classmates.  While I have made some very close friends there as well there is also an underlying general message of support from all my classmates. One of them randomly proclaims ” I love you, Jenny” and others show their support and caring in lots of other ways.  They are empathetic enough to know that we don’t talk about ‘Gertrude’ at Uni unless I bring it up, but show they care all the same without being overly sympathetic as I pointed out in this post.

I have a few older school or church youth group friends  from my teenage years like ‘the  MRD’,  R and K who let me know they are thinking of me and holding me close to their hearts.  (And this is 30 years since we were in high school)

I know everyday people love me, which for half my life I believed that not that many people would, if I let them see the real me.  Blogging has allowed me to show who I really am and I now know I am loved for being exactly who I am, warts and all.

Love and support has also come in the shape  of the internet, other IBCers and other Breast Cancer survivors that I am friends with through the IBC mailing list, our IBC facebook group, other Breast Cancer bloggers, Facebook and twitter users.  Through all these avenues we become real friends as close as any real life support group as we share such intense shared experiences. 

As Shelli of “The Dirty Pink Underbelly” blog wrote as a comment on ‘Feeling the Fear’ on “Get Out Gertrude” “:-“I wonder if it brings me permanently down, further and further down, as my search for support has turned to seeing friends die. ”  We run the risk, especially amongst those of us that are metastatic, of seeing these friends die.

But as Judy of “Just Enjoy Him” commented, when I crossposted the same post to “Mothers with Cancer” , about the loss of Sarah to our community:- “I am so very sad about Sarah’s death. Just so so sad. :( But I’m glad she was in my (online) life for the time that she was”. 

I totally agree with Judy. I would rather have these women in my life for a short time than not at all.  Having IBC and/or metastatic cancer can be a lonely experience, even if you are surrounded by friends and family that love you, because of the enormity of your situation, and that these other women understand.


Judy’s platitudes (by Judy)

May 9, 2011

Yes, I know, I hate platitudes. I do. But I have learned some things through my two experiences with Stage IV Inflammatory Breast Cancer to know that some things are true for at least most people. As always, Your Mileage May Vary. 🙂

1. You’re stronger than you know or ever imagined. People ask me how I get through this, and the answer really is: I have no other choice. I can either crumble (and I do sometimes, but I’ve always been able to go forward again) or I can accept this as a part of my life and find happiness wherever I can.

2. Faith is a beautiful thing. The times when I’ve felt closest to God are the times when I’ve had the easiest time with all of this. God really is with me all the time; it’s just that I don’t always accept or acknowledge it, or my anger against God is so fierce that I harden my heart against Him. He always finds a way through, though — sometimes through the grace of other people — and when that happens, miracles happen, even if they’re small miracles. I thank God for being with me through all of my troubles.

3. Despite everything, life is beautiful. The sun is shining today, I have a wonderful family, I have amazing friends and a tremendous church family. I have many blessings in my life, even though I do have a sucky disease. The blessings in my life are part of what gives me strength.

4. People can and will surprise you, both in good and bad ways. I try not to judge them for that anymore because, as some smart people have told me, “Wounded people wound people.” I am finding that I have more and more compassion for those you would think I would be railing at.

5. Lean on friends, family members, church family. Lean on people. Let them know when you’re hurting. Many times, even just telling others your problems releases burdens that you may have.

Friendship makes prosperity more shining and lessens adversity by dividing and sharing it.
~ Cicero

6. Related to number 2: God is great and can get you through anything. Also, miracles can happen. Never forget that.

7. If you’re not feeling well physically, it’s difficult to feel well emotionally. I often forget that when I’m not feeling well physically. If I would remember that, I think things would be easier for me at those times.

8. A prognosis is simply a history of what has happened to people before you who have gone through the same or a similar diagnosis. Prognoses are not set in stone. You may be the small percentage that lives way beyond a prognosis. My way of dealing with the prognoses that I got the first time I went through this? — honestly, I try to ignore them.

9. Keep the faith, and keep your hope. They are both beautiful things and will help you in the difficult days of your illness or whatever burden you are carrying.

______________________________________________________

Cross-posted to Just Enjoy Him.