Seven Years by Mary Beth

April 29, 2013

Shortly after midnight on Saturday my daughter and her friend gave me this beautiful card case to hold my business cards.

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Sunday was my seven year anniversary as a Breast Cancer Survivor. On Friday, I ordered a cake for myself to celebrate this day.  I don’t really drink, I don’t do drugs and I have never smoked and I still got cancer… so yes I eat sugar.

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I asked my closest friend in California, (who was literally the first person to hear the news as the Doctor called me at work) to come over and celebrate with me.

The day started out a little later than I had planned, I was running late for church and the chapel that I attend is very small and difficult to sneak in late. I decided to go to the church that we belonged to when we first moved here (and during my treatment) as their mass starts 15 minutes later. This parish had been talking and planning and raising money to build a new church when we became members. I do believe things happen for a reason and as I sat in the church I became very reflective on the past 7 years. I sat in the old church and prayed to heal and survive when I was sick. Now 7 years later I sat in this new church and so thankful that I am still here.
Cancer changed my life forever, not all bad, but changed nonetheless. I am healed on the outside, but sometimes the emotional side still creeps up on me. A few months back I had a “touch-up” procedure done. Before I left work for the appointment I looked at myself in the mirror and thought outwardly, most people that I meet now, have no idea that I am a cancer survivor. My hair has grown in and they can’t tell that it is much thinner than before. My eyebrows and my eyelashes have grown back and my eyelashes hold mascara again. My scars are not visible when I am dressed. People cannot see the effects of the aromatase inhibitors. But as I lay on the table with the greatest leopard hospital gown on… the tears started streaming down my face. I was back 7 years ago as they wheeled me into the operating room to remove a part of my body. I have learned we must allow ourselves to honor these moments as part of the healing process too.

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Today the tears streamed down my face again, so many emotions. Happiness that I am still here, gratefulness for all of the people that supported, prayed and helped me. Sadness for many of the people that I met because of the cancer that are not here anymore. I wrote and delivered a note to another close friend at that time, who had helped me with the kids. Our lives have now taken us in different directions. I sent a thank you text to Lou for supporting me during my treatment. We were close to divorcing in 2006 and then I was diagnosed. We decided to stay together. We tried for another 5 years, but it just was not meant to be.
After honoring those few moments of tears and emotions I was off to enjoy my day. I walked my favorite island and visited my friend who is still recovering from a freak illness. He congratulated me and then asked “did you think you would be sitting here 7 years later?” “Honestly, I was not sure, but my Doctors were.” was my response. They told me it would be 12-18 months of hell and then I would have a greater risk driving on the freeways.

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I treated myself to one of my favorite childhood candies while relaxing for a pedicure.

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My friend and her daughter came over and we celebrated our friendship… and the girls ate CAKE!

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The only part missing in the day was seeing my Dante. This was his weekend with his Dad and his future Step-Mother. Other than that…
I am a survivor.
I am alive.
I have so many amazing people in my life that care about me.
It was a great day.

cross-posted at marybethvolpini


Saying Goodbye (by Judy)

November 3, 2011

without saying the actual word.

Yes, my friend is dying. She’s a friend I met in May 2011 at Little Pink Houses of Hope first beach retreat week. I don’t know how much of this information her family would want written about publicly, so I won’t name her, but I’ll call her AM.

AM is a wonderful person. A true lover of life and lover of people, she became friends with all of us quickly. Her voice and laughter resonate with me even now. I came to love everyone in my Little Pink family that week; AM was certainly no exception.

So today I wrote her a letter on behalf of her Little Pink family. My heart hurts. It’s hard to write something like that, even when you don’t, or can’t, bring yourself to say the word “Goodbye.” Even when we know . . . or believe, that she has little time left, we still hold out hope for a miracle for our AM, for we can’t imagine our lives without her in them.

I wrote the letter. It’s on behalf of our whole Kure Beach Little Pink family. I was trying to strike the right notes, to tell her how much we love her and miss her without actually saying that dreaded word.

But it’s there, in the subtext, in the ether, so to speak, of the words on the computer screen. It’s there . . . I’m just too scared or too stubborn or too something to say “goodbye.”

Even so, it was a hard letter to write. My heart hurts today for AM. My heart hurts for me. My heart hurts for her husband. My heart hurts for everyone who loves AM.

And now I’m going to be bold and ask for donations for this wonderful organization, Little Pink Houses of Hope, in honor of AM. Even a small amount would help, and I’m sure it would warm her husband’s and her family’s hearts when they see that people have donated in honor of their beloved AM. Little Pink has a donation button on their homepage. I plan to do this myself.

I know AM and her husband loved the retreat week. I know they made lifetime friends. I just wish for a miracle that AM’s lifetime is extended somehow.

I wish for it . . . not just for me, but for her, her family, and her other loved ones.

In the meantime, there’s not much I can do . . . .

but pray.

Saying prayers for you, AM, and hoping for a miracle for you . . .

and for those of us who love you.

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Cross-posted to Just Enjoy Him.


So How Can I Support Breast Cancer Awareness/Action? (by Judy)

September 22, 2011

I’m glad you asked. 🙂

As we know by now, there is way too much Pinkwashing out there. There are companies that manufacture pink ribbon products and give none or little of their profits to a breast cancer organization, and even worse, there are companies that get on the pink ribbon bandwagon that actually manufacture items with ingredients that are known to be carcinogenic. Check out the information on Think Before You Pink: it’s invaluable.

What we want to do, what Think Before You Pink, a project of Breast Cancer Action, wants to do is move the message from Awareness to Action. Action that will help save lives, action that will actually do some good and not harm breast cancer survivors, action that will have money go towards organizations that do good work in the fight against breast cancer. As Think Before You Pink states:

Think Before You Pink® always has been, and always will be, a grassroots campaign driven by individuals like you.

So this October we need your help in changing the conversation about breast cancer.

Enough pinkwashing. Enough awareness. We need ACTION to end the breast cancer epidemic.

Will you ask your friends to join you in taking action by Thinking Before They Pink this October?

You can financially support grassroots organizations such as Think Before You Pink or Breast Cancer Action which act as watchdogs for the pinking of breast cancer/National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. They’ll tell you which products to avoid and which are actually giving a substantial portion of their profits to a breast cancer organization. These organizations’ emphases are on action, not awareness; on accountability, not pinking without thinking.

You can give money to a lesser-known research organization or hospital like The Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation or the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Clinic at MD Anderson Hospital in Texas.

You can give money, items, or services to organizations that help breast cancer (or other cancer) survivors and their families. This list is not exhaustive, but these organizations think about the whole family as being affected by cancer and work to make memories or special times for these families, things that these families might not otherwise receive because of hefty medical bills. The ones that come to mind are: Little Pink Houses of Hope which gives breast cancer survivor and their families beach retreat weeks for no cost except for tranportation to and from the beach; Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation which fulfills wishes of families where one of the parents has late-stage breast cancer; the Jack and Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation which provides, as they say, “WOW experiences” for families with a parent who has a late stage cancer of any kind; and, the Dream Foundation which also provides trips or other experiences for families where one of the parents has late stage cancer of any kind.

I’m sure there are other worthy cancer organizations out there that I’ve omitted. I tried to include those that are lesser known because the large ones receive many donations already. If you know of an organization that I’ve excluded that doesn’t get much press and is committed to helping cancer survivors, please feel free to include it in the comments on this post.

If you want to help someone individually who has cancer, I can’t think of a better list than the one that Breast Cancer Action has created, What to Do When Someone You Know Has Been Diagnosed With Breast Cancer. This one is aimed specifically towards breast cancer survivors, but I think it’s applicable to other cancers as well.

THAT’S how you can best help, in my humble opinion, of course.

Thanks for asking. 🙂
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Cross-posted to Just Enjoy Him.


A Cancer Survivor’s ABC’s — according to Judy

July 27, 2011

Help me finish my ABC’s. I first just had one word for each letter, but that didn’t seem like enough so I’m trying to include three words for each letter. Some, alas, only have one or two. Those sad little letters need more words.
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A is for Arthritis, Arimidex, and _________
B is for Bills, Breasts, and Biopsies
C is for Chemotherapy, Cancer, and Care
D is for Doctors, Denial, and _________
E is for Energy, Emotions, and _________
F is for Faith, Fear, and Family
G is for Gratitude, _________, and _________
H is for Hope, Hospitals, and Health
I is for Inflammatory (Breast Cancer), Infections, and Injections
J is for Joy, Journals, and Judy 🙂
K is for Kids, _________, and _________
L is for Lymphedema, Leukemia, and Legacy
M is for Mastectomy, Mothers, and Menopause
N is for Nausea, Neuropathy, and Neutropenia
O is for Office (Doctor’s), Oopherectomy, and Ovarian
P is for Port, Pain, and Patient
Q is for Quiet, _________, and _________
R is for Radiation, Rest, and Recovery
S is for Surgery, Support, and Survival
T is for Tests, Trials, and _________
U is for Uncertainty, Understanding, and _________
V is for Vitamins, _________, and _________
W is for Warrior, Weary, and _________
X is for Xeloda, _________, and _________
Y is for You, _________, and _________
Z is for Zofran, Zest, and _________

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Cross-posted to Just Enjoy Him.


A Little Fight with Myself by Mary Beth

July 9, 2011

 

I am a cancer survivor.  If you were to look at me I do not think you would be able to tell that I have had cancer. I do not wear any pink ribbons, or survivor pins. I am not sure why not…I think it has to do with cancer defining, consuming my life for the time it did and I guess that continual spot in my mind. But sometimes I wish I did wear a ribbon or something to let people know that I too am a survivor. A little sign of hope.

What do you do when you see a person that is obviously fighting cancer? Do you go up to them and give encouraging words? Do you stare in disbelief or with pity? Do you look away?  I find myself having a little fight in my head with Should I go up to them and tell them I too am a cancer survivor or do I just not say anything, look away and say a small prayer?

I found myself having this fight in my head on the plane back from my niece’s wedding. Sitting a row ahead of us and on the other side of the aisle were two women. One was all in pink with a hat and the other woman was healthy. It took me back to my treatment days. I sat there thinking of what to do. It is kind of awkward. You don’t want to assume, yet I never know what to say… Are you in treatment? Are you a cancer survivor?  So after quite a mental struggle .. I went to the restroom and on the way back I found my courage. I leaned over and told her that I was a five year cancer survivor and I wished her all the best. She looked up with a smile on her face and told me that she was diagnosed stage 4 breast cancer in 2009 and was now in her brain. They were on their way to Las Vegas to visit a friend. Gail told me that she thought about not traveling, but really wanted to go. I assumed that it was her daughter sitting next to her. Ann handed me a pen and told me of an organization that she started to raise money for Gail. The organization is called Right Side of the Dirt… explaining that the goal is to keep her on the right side of the dirt. Very Creative. The three of us had a nice little chat and I told her I would be thinking and praying for her.

I sat down and felt so good that I made the decision to say something. When they were exiting the plane, I noticed they were pulling a dark green suitcase with the words Elderwood Senior Care embroidered on the bag. That was the company that I used to work for when we lived in Williamsville, New York. I worked for the company for 9 years and each holiday the employees would received a gift with the company name on it. I have a blanket, cooler, duffle bag, umbrella, folding chair and I am sure a few other items. I must have left before the suitcase!

When I got home I emailed Ann to ask her if it would be ok that I write about our meeting and link to her site. I received a response from Ruth, Ann’s sister. As it turns out Gail was their younger sister, not their Mother. Cancer can ravage a person and really takes a toll. Gail had worked for Elderwood since 2001 in their corporate office. I worked for Elderwood until 2003 in a satellite location. I am sure that we must have met each other in that two years.

It really is a small world isn’t it?

 

cross-posted at marybethvolpini


a wonderful charity for breast cancer patients/families (by Judy)

April 6, 2011

I couldn’t sleep last night. For the first time in a long time, it was out of excitement rather than being sick, worried, scared, etc. I was happy. Lying there in the dark, I found myself smiling. SMILING as I was trying to sleep. Imagine that!

Yesterday was, as founder of Little Pink Houses of Hope, Jeanine Patten-Coble wrote in a blog post, A Big Day. A Big Day for LPHOH and A Big Day for recipients of the May/June beach weeks that LPHOH granted to some applicants.

I know. As I said in my previous post, I’m one of the recipients of a free week at the beach with my family, a week to rest, recharge, and reconnect. A week to meet a few other breast cancer patients/survivors and their families. A week to go to the place I love most in the world, THE BEACH, which gives me the rest and relaxation no other place does. A week to, as much as I can, forget my troubles and sink them into the warm sand of the North Carolina shore.

Patten-Coble is a breast cancer survivor herself. LPHOH is something she created after her own bout with breast cancer. Patten-Coble had a dream to do for others what helped her during her time with breast cancer, take a week at the beach, relax, and unwind. Patten-Coble has done the proverbial taking lemons and making lemonade out of them.

LPHOH is a new charity, and this year marks their first year of beach retreats for some breast cancer patients and their families. I know there are tons of good charities out there, but if you’re looking for someplace to put a few of your hard-earned dollars, if you’re looking for a way to help breast cancer patients, this is a charity that’s very deserving.

God bless Jeanine Patten-Coble and her dream. God bless her for not only having a dream, but for making her dream a reality. I consider myself incredibly blessed to be one of the first recipients of a beach week in North Carolina in just a little over a month. I am OVER THE MOON with joy at this news. My family and I are getting a vacation that we wouldn’t be able to afford if we were to try to pay for it ourselves, and we are grateful, extremely grateful.

And blessed. Thank you, once again, LPHOH, for this blessing. You are a blessing in our lives and in the lives of other breast cancer patients and their families.

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Cross-posted to Just Enjoy Him.


Little Pink Houses of Hope (by Judy)

February 24, 2011

I realize by posting this, I’m increasing the competition for myself to get a week at the beach, paid for by the wonderful Little Pink Houses of Hope organization. However, I also realize there are people as and/or more deserving than I am of such a program, so I want to share this information with others.

I just filled out my application for this program, a one-week paid vacation to a beach at North or South Carolina. All expenses are paid except transportation to and from the beach. What a wonderful program, huh?

I love the beach, LURVE it. I get relaxed and refreshed by the beach, the air, the salt water. There’s nothing as relaxing for me as being in the sun and reading, playing with Energy Boy, watching him enjoy the sun, sand, and water.

This is a really wonderful program, and like I said, at the risk of increasing my competition by . . . well, a lot, I’m here to promote it. Because even if my family doesn’t get accepted by the program, some other deserving family will, and that would also make me happy.

Apply if you qualify. The deadline for applications is March 15, 2011, so you have time.

I already feel better just thinking of the possibility of going to the beach. Ahhhhh . . . . . .
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Cross-posted to Just Enjoy Him.