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Aug 13, 2011

Will I ever "Say Yes to the Dress"?


On Friday evenings I have started a new ritual. I order a pizza, grab the remote and glue myself to watching hours of wedding shows. My favorite show is "Say Yes To The Dress".  I call these evenings... "spinster Friday". Just a little bit of humor about the fact that I am single and sitting home on an eligible "date night" preferring to dip into the extravagant world of bridal wear than actually going out or doing something else.

I haven't always been a girl who dreamed glorious fantasies of what my wedding day would be like, what I would wear and where it would be. I would however, be lying if I said that I never thought about it. I do... like millions of other women... and lately, I've been more open to even consider that someday it may happen.

A couple of weeks ago on the show, there was a bride who wanted a pink dress. Pink is one of my favorite colors (even before breast cancer) and I've thought about rocking a pink dress down the aisle. So, I was very interested in her story. Her mother was a breast cancer survivor and watching her mother battle the disease impacted her life greatly. She wanted to wear pink in honor of her mother and other breast cancer survivors. I thought it was a very nice gesture. And the dress she chose was really quite beautiful.

I've always felt that whatever wedding dress I chose, it most likely would not be white. Probably a soft ivory or perhaps a very pale pink. But after seeing that episode, I started thinking about all the ways that I could celebrate my survival in my wedding and honor other women who fight this disease. I can't tell you all my thoughts... but know this, if I do get married my wedding will be unique and special... and PINK!

I discovered a non-profit organization that serves women with mestastatic breast cancer who want to be married. Brides Against Breast Cancer is a fundraiser for the Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation. A non-profit organization that collects bridal gowns from donations from designers, manufacturers and other women with dresses to give... and then sells them at an enormous discount to brides-to-be. The money that is raised at this event is used to help women and men who are dying from breast cancer fulfill a memory-making wish.

The Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation has a noble premise... helping people who are dying of a disease they didn't ask for. They help more women in the process; brides who want a beautiful gown but who may not be able to pay full price. To me, that's a win-win situation.

I don't know if I'll ever get married (but I am keeping hope alive that it will happen). But I do know that if I find the guy who makes my heart smile, decide to get married and buy a wedding dress to help another pink ribbon sister (or brother) do something they really want to do in their last days... I will truly feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

If it moves you, check the link for Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation. Maybe there will be a Brides Against Breast Cancer event near you soon... or perhaps you can make a donation to help. I'm sure they will be happy to hear from you in any case.

PS. Why DO wedding dresses cost so much? *just a question that popped into my head*

Aug 5, 2011

Our deepest fear... MY deepest fear



Marianne Williamson wrote an admonition that I've carried in my heart for years. Initially, it was credited to Nelson Mandela...and because I admire that man so much, I was disappointed that it was actually written by a woman I had never heard of. Until I made it my business to find out more about Marianne Williamson. Her writings are moving and thought-provoking and inspirational. Every so often, this quoted passage will appear in a movie or on a postcard and I am reminded that God has created me to be brilliant and gorgeous and talented and FABULOUS (and I do believe that includes my boobies). And He did the same for you.

My heart aches for my pink ribbon sisters and brothers who struggle with this wretched disease. And my heart rejoices with those who manage to soar despite circumstances that seem to dictate an opposing response.

Life is short. No matter the reason for the brevity... it is just that... brief. Rather than walk with my head bowed in shame or in fear because I wonder who am I to be so awesome and inspiring and wonderful.... I am lifting my head and allowing the sun to shine on my face because the answer is... who am I not to be any of those things (and more)? 

One of my deepest fears for a long time was that I would die from cancer, like my grandmother and my auntie did. So the diagnosis of breast cancer before 40 felt like a death sentence. I figured that my worst nightmare had come true and no matter what the doctors said... it was but a matter of time. But, each day as a breast cancer survivor shows me that there is still time for me to take care of business and follow my deepest dreams. I may still die because of this disease but right now that thought doesn't frighten me as much as it used to.

I am realizing that my grandmother's and my auntie's passing, just like my illness, allowed a transformation to take place that stripped away all of the foolishness and the fears and the self-imposed limitations... and replace all of it with what matters most... Love. If I allow myself to be stripped to the basic core of myself, I am here to be loved and to give love. I was given particular gifts and talents to get me to that end goal. So, now I ask... why be shy about what you were given in order to accomplish your purpose? 

Life... whether it is a one day or 100 years... is short when compared to the infinity of the universe. Why waste another moment feeling sorry about what's wrong or not quite right or not the same as another person's? My body is not the same. There is no going back. It is the way that it is because that is the choice I made based on the information I had at the time. And that is okay. It really is.

Today I am accepting that it is not shameful to be ambitious or to have drive. Being talented or smart isn't a trait that should be hidden. And neither should I cringe or cower because I am a woman who has been through a storm and has the battle scars to show for it. I have become more comfortable with my scars hanging out for the world to see. I no longer try to explain why I have a scar zipping around my breast or another scar on my chest from my port. I simply look at people in their eyes and smile my prettiest smile. I offer them a simple connection. It is up to them to accept it.

I have one natural breast and one reconstructed breast. I have lymphedema in one arm and I still fight against fits of inexplicable fatigue. I have constant aches and pains and I must massage my arm, my shoulder and my breast area every day... but at the end of the day I am comfortable in the notion that I am still beautiful and that I am still blessed. I accept that I have something to offer this world still... because who am I not to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?


Marianne Williamson wrote...

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear
is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness,
that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?
Actually who are we not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn't serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people
won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine as children do.
We were born to make manifest
the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And when we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.
- Marianne Williamson

A Return to Love: Reflections on the
Principles of "A Course in Miracles"



Aug 4, 2011

So who will find the cure for cancer?


(Shree Bose, Naomi Shah and Lauren Hodge)

I read an incredible article the other day in the New York Times about three young girls who won Google's first science fair. When I saw the title of the article, American Girls Sweep Google's First Science Fair, my thoughts were... "ooh, cool... girl power!"  But, this is NOT the same kind of science that I remember when I was a youngster in school.

These cherubic faces are hiding some serious brain power. At 17... what were you doing with your life? Well, at 17, Miss Shree Bose is working on cancer research.

Yeah. Let that sink in for a moment.

At 17... she's not old enough to vote, drink and just barely old enough to drive... but she is conducting research on cancer... in her free time.

Sheesh... do you feel like a huge slacker now, like I do? Well, at any rate... Miss Bose decided to tackle ovarian cancer by researching the ways that cancer cells react to a common chemotherapy drug used in treatment of ovarian cancer. By the way, you know that ovarian cancer and breast cancer are closely linked, right? Miss Bose wanted to find a way to counteract the tendency for ovarian cancer cells to stop responding to the drug over time. She found an answer in a cell energy protein, AMPK. I won't pretend that I completely understand what she did and what she learned... but I will tell you that I am extremely excited about this. For a lot of reasons...

Girls sweeping science awards? Nearly unheard of. Science and math are two areas where girls tend to lag far behind boys. So, this news is phenomenal. But even better... here is a teenage girl who not only has a heart and mind for scientific research, but she's using that brain power for CANCER research. Absolutely amazing.

I got goosebumps the first time I read this article. I have since read it about 5 times because its just inspiring. This young lady is (to me) an example of following your bliss and watching the way that it works to benefit the world. At 17, when most of us are just trying to fit in, get dates and not feel like a freak... she is working with university professors and scientists to find ways to make life better for cancer patients. She isn't hiding her intellect in her pocket so that boys will like her. She isn't giving up on herself because its difficult or challenging. She is looking for answers to huge questions and then taking that effort to a global stage to compete with other very smart kids for recognition of their accomplishments.

It simply does not get better than this. But this article also inspired me to continue to pursue my dreams and know that it is possible that my little contribution to the world can make a huge difference. What I want to do isn't on the level of ovarian cancer research... but, I hope and pray that it makes a difference to a few people in this world.

As I said the other day... be bold with your life. Seriously. Every moment that you're not doing what your heart is telling you... is another moment that the world won't receive what you have for it. Do it... do it... do it now.

Aug 2, 2011

Popsicles for hot flashes!

Popsicles for hot flashes! | My Fabulous Boobies

Popsicles... my secret weapon against hot flashes


It came as a shock to me that chemotherapy might knock me into early menopause. Well, honestly, shock isn't a strong enough word for the feelings I had at the time. I was PISSED about it. For a lot of reasons, of course.

I was really saddened by the notion that I may not ever have children. At the time, I was still holding on to the hope that I would get married and have at least one child. But what I thought would be the more tolerable aspect of menopause would be hot flashes. Man... was I wrong! These things are crazy.

To be sitting still, or even worse, sleeping, and suddenly you're just blazing hot ... is more than annoying. It is frustrating and irritating and simply GRRRRRRR.... But, it is a part of my life now so I'm learning to adjust to the inconvenience of it.

One of the things that I've become quite fond of are late night ice cold snacks. I am normally not a huge fan of ice cream and such but lately... between the ridiculous heat wave we've experienced this summer and my own little "personal summer moments"... ice cream has become my friend. Ice cream sandwiches, regular old ice cream and popsicles are staples in my fridge now.

But, although they are convenient... shoveling ice cream sandwiches or ice cream sundaes in my belly at 2 am is not the best way to keep my figure nice and trim. And I don't like frozen fruit (cuz, I can hear y'all right now saying... "just freeze some grapes")... I don't like frozen fruit. At all. So, that's not a workable solution for me.

Well, imagine my surprise when I saw an advertisement for a popsicle maker that can make frozen treats in as little as 7 minutes! It is called Zoku Quick Pop Maker, White. Delicious popsicles in seven minutes is awesome. I have been excited about the potential that this machine represents for about a week now. I haven't ordered it... but I hope to do so in a few weeks.

Also noteworthy about the machine is that it is BPA and phthalate free which also makes me smile and dance a little jig.


Imagine... you can make your own healthy popsicles using real fruit and no additives; using agave nectar and not high fructose corn syrup; skipping the artificial colorings and such that are in lots of our food products and just make your own recipes.

Heck, you could even put a smidgen of alcohol in there and have some fun adult treats. Right now... I'm envisioning a ginger-peach concoction (similar to my favorite tea) maybe with real fruit pureed in it. Yum. YUM!!

Anyhoo... this is just something I came across and thought I would share with you guys.





Jul 30, 2011

Be bold with it... love yourself where you are right now

It is my cancerversary.

I realized that the anniversary of my diagnosis had arrived while sitting at a party chatting with a nice stranger. Washington, DC is buzzing because the fraternity brothers of Omega Psi Phi are in town celebrating the centennial anniversary of the founding of their organization. There are thousands of college educated brothers around, hundreds of fabulous parties and just fun, fun, fun on every corner. So... why in the world am I at home on a Friday night sulking?

Cuz its my cancerversary.

Well, that's a part of it. The other part of it is that my cellphone died last night while I was out partying...and I don't make a move without my phone. I know myself though, and for the right event... I'd risk hanging out without my phone. Remember, I'm the girl who appreciates a great party. So, its more than the phone that's got me sitting in the house tonight.

Its my cancerversary.

Three years ago... a single girl in love was dreaming of happily ever after, shopping for houses, preparing her mind for the possibility of motherhood and simply looking to move her life to another place. And smack dab in the middle of her dreams... that damn breast cancer beast showed up and started showing out and changed the trajectory of my future. Getting beyond the heartbreak of disappointment with what didn't happen and what did happen has been rough for me. But... I am there now.

I am done with my active cancer treatment. I have hair again -- its thinner, but it is there. My nails are no longer purple and bruised. They do not fall off when you touch them. My radiation scar is no longer blistered, puffy and painful. The skin is no longer charred and black. My noobie now feels more comfortable than it did when I first had my reconstruction surgery. The area of numbness in my abdomen is now the size of a saucer and does not stretch across my entire midsection as it once did. I still can't feel my belly button and there is an area that I can't feel but shoot... I can feel my sides and I couldn't a year ago.

My erratic diligence in applying vitamin E oil to my scars is paying off. My scars are fading and my skin is looking more normal. I have eyelashes and eyebrows (again, a little thinner than before but they're there) and that makes me smile. Generally speaking, I'm okay. I'm growing farther away from where I used to be and who I used to be. I am moving closer to where I want to be. And that moves me to where I am right at this moment.

I have been through a lot and every day I accept that a little more than the day before.

I spend a lot of time alone and I try to check in with myself emotionally fairly often because with all of the dramatic twists and turns in my life, I refuse to allow myself to fall into a depression or otherwise get down on myself. I have moments and days where I'm upset. I'm human and I'm allowed that. But I am alive. I am truly learning that love is what it is all about. All types of love. I try every day to be more loving; towards others and towards myself. I remain hopeful that when love comes my way, I'll know how to give it and how to receive it and just enjoy this life I've been given. I'm starting a non-profit project that I believe will be an awesome addition to this world. I'm learning to be comfortable with who I am right now. Right now. 
Everybody has problems. Some people have big problems. Some have small problems. But what's big to you might be small to me or vice versa. Look, life is hard and sometimes some of us really have to go through the fire. It is what it is. But if you are so blessed (as I have been blessed) to come out on the other side, why would you fight against feeling wonderful and happy and joyous?

It is my cancerversary and I am emotional. Because the marathon that I started in 2008 isn't over... I've just hit a different stretch in the road. I don't know what's ahead for me as far as this cancer journey goes. I have my worries and my fears. But I also know that right here, right now... is all that I have. I have to live in THIS moment and let the future take care of itself when it comes.

No regrets.

This is the life I was given. I would not have picked this journey but this is what was for me and I'm okay with that. Along the way, I've thrown tantrums and been angry and sad... and that was fine because that's how I felt. But watching tonight's wedding shows, I was reminded that living life well was to be bold with it. Be bold with it and love yourself right where you are. Frequently, I find myself getting down on myself because I wonder whether I could have done something different along the way... something that may have changed this marathon. But on my cancerversary... I am deciding that I will just be fine with myself right now, just as I am.

Happy cancerversary.

Jul 18, 2011

Drink more water... its good for you





My gracious... it has been one HOT summer in Washington, DC this year. Note to the wise:  hot flashes do not stop in the summer. (laughs)  Of course since my treatment, I've been battling hot flashes and night sweats. And let me tell you... whew lawd... they are not FUN at all. I keep a fan going at all times. Without it, I am a moist mess (and not in a good way).

But I recently realized that I was slipping in one area and the change has been almost miraculous. What did I do?

DRINK MORE WATER.

Okay, I'll be honest... I have struggled most of my life with drinking enough water. I think I'm far from unusual in this regard. And even though I've read plenty of articles about drinking enough water -- and have heard many medical practitioners tell me the same -- I still struggle with drinking enough water. Madness, I tell you.

I started experiencing a few symptoms that led me to believe that I was slightly dehydrated. I remembered what happened in the past when I was dehydrated and I ended up in the hospital strapped to an IV -- so I did what I  needed to do.

DRINK MORE WATER.

Guess what happened after just a day or so?? Everything shifted back to my new normal. My constipation eased up. My perspiration resumed (a good thing when the temperatures are hovering around 90+) and the night leg cramps stopped immediately. My head stopped hurting. Even my skin started looking a bit better and less dry. I also started drinking Gatorade too and having a daily banana.  I figured that my potassium was a little low as well -- the leg cramps were a clear sign -- so rather than run to the doctor for another prescription and more pills, I decided to try the easy solution first. I'm happy that it helped.  My back pain and spasms eased up a bit too.

My gracious... water is a wonder.  I feel really great now.