Pink Shmink

breast cancer ribbonIt was April 7th.  I spent the night in a hospital conference room – an event for work – smiling and making conversation with my families; laughing with the kids and helping them artfully express their hopes and dreams for their future while trying desperately to temper fears for my own future.  Nobody knew that I had spent the last few days in the medical offices adjacent to this building.

Breathe.  Just keep breathing.

It was April 8th.  The call would come today, but when?  The waiting was excruciating.  I had to keep moving.  I had to keep breathing.  I had to work – work would keep me focused.  And so I walked into an elementary school where I was expected to teach students about Type 1 Diabetes and how they could help research change lives.  This I could focus on.  This would keep me breathing.

And then it all began to happen.

I looked up from my laptop to see teachers and staff filing in one by one, every one of them wearing a ‘Sparrows Nest‘ t-shirt.  My palms suddenly sweaty and my head dizzy, I fought the urge to run.  I was outraged and terrified and sick to my stomach.  Was it the shirts?  Was it the support these teachers were showing for this local charity?  How could I be angry about a nonprofit that helps feed the families of cancer patients?  Why was that suddenly a vile thought, a nauseating concept?  Why did I suddenly feel like I was surrounded by hoards of people who already knew the outcome of the phone call that was about to come?

And then it came.

I muddled through my presentation, left the school building, sat down in my car to catch my breath….and my phone rang.  It’s going to be fine.  It’s not what you think.  This was all just a coincidence.

“Unfortunately, the biopsy showed invasive ductal carcinoma…blah, blah….breast cancer.”

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

It’s been six months, 16 rounds of chemotherapy (the first 4 treatments fondly nicknamed ‘the red devil’ by patients before me), multiple scans, biopsies, infusions and tests since then – all leaving my mind and body spent.  I’ve slowly come to recognize that there is no ‘end’ to any kind of cancer diagnosis and now, while I prepare for surgery, I am surrounded by the ‘pink’ of Breast Cancer Awareness month – Pink-tober. 


This month – my birthday month, my favorite holiday month, my favorite of all the months – I find myself angry and annoyed by the constant reminders.  The pink t-shirts, the pink ribbons, the pink scarves, the pink football players and the pink cheerleaders – they are all annoying!  Irrational?  Perhaps.  But on a good day, when I’m surrounded by good people and enjoying good thoughts and forgetting, for just a moment, that I have cancer (fucking cancer!), I don’t want to be made ‘aware.’  Because, you see, my bald head and my ugly infusion port and my neuropathic fingers and my bruised fingernails and my altered tastebuds and my crazy thoughts – all of those things make me ‘aware’ of this God-awful disease every single second of every single day.

Heavier sigh.

But today is Miles of Hope day at school and my daughters were eager to don their pink attire – even their pink hair – in support of breast cancer awareness and in support of me.  I didn’t tell them that I found their pink-ness annoying and I didn’t forbid them from participating.  Instead, I made sure that their pink shirts were washed and ready and I helped them put pink highlights in their hair.  And then I sent them off to school with a donation that I hope will further research and stack the odds in their favor as they get older.  That thought alone can occasionally bring me to my knees.  And then I decided that – maybe just for today – I’m going to change my outlook.  Today I’m going to give up on being annoyed.  Today I am going to focus, instead, on the amazing support that has enveloped me since that breathless April day.

It’s Pink-tober and I’m still breathing.


Research Is Going to Save My Life

“Fifteen years ago – even ten years ago – this diagnosis was very different.”

Those were the first words my nurse practitioner said to me after diagnosing me with breast cancer three weeks ago.  I wasn’t really listening.  I had already retreated to my own head, immediately believing that she was talking to the wrong patient; this was most certainly not my diagnosis.  This wasn’t happening to me.

But it was happening to me.

I’ve spent most of my adult life working in non-profit.  For the past 9 years, with JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) and before that, with two different cancer research organizations.  My work has always involved convincing individuals and corporations to give generously toward our mission – research.

It’s hard work sometimes. 

I can’t show off a fancy brick and mortar building, bought and paid for by generous donors.  I don’t have fancy products or invaluable services that are made possible by community philanthropists.  I only have this abstract notion of research that I promise will change lives and save lives. 

So many people don’t believe in my promise.  But I do.

I believe that the work I’ve done over the last 9 years has made a difference to ‘my families.’  I hear the updates on research and I know that ‘my kids’ who are being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes today have better ways to manage their disease than those who were diagnosed 10 years ago.  I know that the research that was bought and paid for 10 years ago is producing amazing scientific breakthroughs today with so many more on the immediate horizon.

I know that research is making a difference.

And now that I’ve processed what my nurse practitioner said to me in those first moments of my own diagnosis, and now that I’ve heard the same words repeated twice more from the oncologists treating me, I know that research is going to save my life.  I know that my prognosis and my eventual outcome is the direct result of the research that was bought and paid for 10 years ago.

I know that – eventually – I will be ok.

So with these thoughts, my family and I will start this unnerving journey this week.  We will dodge the negative thoughts that threaten our sanity and ignore the well-meaning but unhelpful comments (because really, what is the right thing to say?) from friends and family and even strangers.

We will stay focused on the research that is about to save my life.

The Ripple Effect

It’s been awhile.  I’d like to offer some substantial excuse for my time away from blogging – traveling the world, eliminating world hunger, creating world peace – but I’d be lying.  The only excuse I have to offer is getting caught up in the daily routine of life.  More specifically, the daily routine of life with a (nearly) teenage girl.

*Heavy sigh*

It was an unexpected Facebook post that made my heart happy today and spurred my writing.  A post that reminded me of the ripple effect we create – the way we touch others lives, sometimes, without ever even knowing it.

I’m fairly certain it happens more than we think.

A dear, old friend of my husband’s died last year.  I can’t compare the effect of his death on those around him to soft ripples;  it was more along the lines of an earthquake followed by frequent aftershocks.  You see, he took his own life.

I got the phone call while standing in my kitchen with my daughters.  They sensed the tragedy immediately and stood quietly behind me while I tried to absorb the news.  After hanging up the phone, I stared out the window in stunned silence until my oldest daughter prompted me for the news.  “Gino died.”  I said it out loud, trying to convince myself of the reality and finality of what I was saying.  It was my youngest daughter who asked “How?”

“He killed himself.”

The words were out of my mouth before I had time to consider them; before I had time to think about how I might explain the why, how or what of suicide to an 8 and 11 year old.  I wasn’t thinking.  I was simply trying to persuade my heart to believe what my brain already knew.

My daughter abandoned the subject and her questions for several days.  I knew the questions were brewing.  I knew she was taking her time, attempting to figure it out in her own head, but the big question was inevitable: she needed to know why.  When she finally asked, I offered her the only explanation I could….

“Well,” I started slowly, composing myself and hoping that I could make my thoughts turn into words that she would understand.  “He did a lot of soul searching over this past year and that led him to God.”  I wasn’t sure if she understood what I meant by ‘soul searching,’ but she let me continue.  “After finding God, he couldn’t believe that anyone here in our world could ever love him the way that he believed God did.  So, he decided that he needed to be there….with God….instead of here with us.”

I wonder sometimes how this moment and this explanation will manifest itself in my youngest daughter’s life.  I know it’s a moment she will always keep – a tragic ripple effect that found its way to her and one that I know Gino would have never imagined.

These jumbled thoughts somehow came together after reading the Facebook post shared by a friend from a lifetime ago.  He made me smile at the thought of one simple moment 20 years ago that, unknowingly, resulted in kindness being multiplied exponentially in the years since.

This is the kind of ripple effect I imagine Gino wishing to leave behind.

And then, while battling the strong will of my oldest daughter and finding myself on the brink of madness, I realized something.  I realized that there was a ripple that needed to find its way to my (nearly) teenage daughter – the incredible message that Gino unknowingly left behind….

Through your perfect days and imperfect days, through your good decisions and your really bad decisions, I will love you the way I believe my God loves you….unconditionally, unequivocally and always.  Don’t ever forget this.

Thanks Gino.









I Guess This Is Goodbye

I was late to my college graduation.  No joke.  I was so late that my classmates grabbed me by my graduation robe, squished me into the procession line between them and collectively crossed their fingers, hoping this wouldn’t lead to an unfortunate reading of mismatched student names and diplomas.  The dean peered at me through glasses perched on the tip of his nose, shook his head in frustration and reluctantly handed me my diploma before sending me along to shake the hands of my professors.  The whole thing happened so fast that I never had time to really appreciate the moment.

Of course, I suppose I should have simply appreciated the fact that the dean didn’t toss me out on my late butt, but I really wanted the moment.

I haven’t thought about my college graduation in years, quite possibly since the day after my college graduation.  But as my 365 day writing experiment began winding down to this – the final day – I started thinking about that missed moment.  I started thinking about how I should have given myself time to savor that walk across the stage.  I should have appreciated all of the hard work that I did to get to that moment.  I should have bowed slightly at each handshake, graciously accepted the congratulatory remarks of each professor and I should have turned to the audience with a satisfied grin and a princess wave.  And then I should have thrown my graduation cap in the air and stood basking in the glory of the I did it moment.  Yep, I should have done that.

Unlike my college graduation day, I’ve had some time to absorb this I did it moment.  There were no final exams to cram for this time around, no papers to write, no projects to complete, no commencement ceremonies to show up late for.  There was simply the anticipation of achieving a goal that I thought about and dreamed about for years before finally committing to it.  This time around I am truly appreciating my moment.

Today is my blogging graduation day.  Today I have officially achieved my goal – a full year of blogging about the happier things in life.  Today I am taking in this moment, bowing slightly and graciously accepting all of the congratulatory – and completely unexpected – remarks from so many friends and family, acquaintances and co-workers and even complete strangers.  If you could all see me now, you’d see that I am facing you with a satisfied grin and a princess wave and I am holding my laptop up in the air, basking in this moment. 

I don’t know where I go from here.  I don’t know what will become of my blog or what form my writing will take in the months ahead.  I only know that today I happily crossed the finish line on this personal journey, and I just want to revel in that for awhile.  I just want to take some time to look back before looking forward again.  And so, I guess this is goodbye…..for now.  Thanks for joining me on this quest for daily happiness.


Thank you to everyone who has cheered me along on this year long journey.  Every note, every email, every comment, every text helped push me along and was appreciated beyond words.  What started as a very personal endeavor transformed into a very public adventure.  I’m thankful that you welcomed me and my crazy thoughts into your world.  A special thank you to my husband and my two lovely little ladies for their eternal patience while I indulged myself in this project – you guys always make me happy. ❤  

I May Be Understaffed

A few years back, the ‘powers that be’ sent a time management expert into our office to assist us.  The expert encouraged us to journal how we spent our time, forcing us to become a bit more cognizant of our productivity peaks and valleys.  He also made some suggestions to help us improve our focus on given tasks and projects.  It was an interesting experiment;  one that I was open enough to learn from but, in the end, one that simply highlighted the fact that, as we suspected, we were not short on time – we were understaffed.

Time seems to be the single most elusive thing that we collectively find ourselves forever chasing.  Time to spend with family, time to laugh with friends, time to do the things we love, time to do the things on our ‘to do’ list – it seems that there is just simply not enough time.

On the day before the last day of my 365 day writing challenge, I find myself eagerly anticipating all of the time that I will get back.  Time for reading with my little one and chatting with my oldest.  Time to spend with my husband and time to catch up with some old friends.  Time to focus on new projects and time to complete a few of the old projects.  Time to just indulge in having time. 

Irony strikes me now.

At the start of this blogging experiment, I simply wanted time to write.  I wanted time to indulge myself in this passion that has always bubbled at my surface.  I didn’t have the time.  I didn’t know where I would find the time.  I just wanted the time.  And so, I made the time.  I made the time and I committed to the time and I took the time to do what made me happy.  And now, as I wind down, I understand something that I didn’t at the start:  I am understaffed.

Maintaining this daily record, while simultaneously maintaining a happy, daily life, requires a small army. I want to write, but I also want to spend quality time with my husband, my kids, my family, my friends – I want to do other things that make me happy.  I want to find a way to, somehow, balance my happy without paying an entire support team to help me do so.

It’s been a hell of a year, but I’m ready now.  Ready to find a better balance of my time – without adding any staff – and indulge myself in a myriad of things that always make me happy.

Saving Us All

20150217-231430-83670005.jpgPicture this.  It’s another scorcher of a day in the northeast with temperatures hitting a high of 20 degrees.  The kids finally had a full day of school and I finally got a full day of my own to catch up on all of the stuff that needed catching up.

Stuck in the house, glued to my computer and phone, it wasn’t long before I started searching the place for a little pick-me-up.  Thanks to my husband, there was no shortage of food in the house.  He braved the cold just yesterday so that the cupboards would be full….but he is a man.  Of course, he’s a man who is a chef, but he is still a man.  And he simply does not understand that chocolate is considered an essential in a house full of girls.

Why doesn’t he understand??

I managed to busy my mind with non-chocolate related tasks until my girls came home from school.  My oldest, who is just now beginning to enter the chocolate is essential to life stage, walked in the door and began searching for her own pick-me-up.  With no chocolate to offer her, she rolled her eyes at me and stalked off to start her homework.  Enough is enough, I thought and then I got to work.

Dumb luck (and a kind universe) seemed to be the only explanation for a stray bag of chocolate and peanut butter chips found buried on a back shelf.  I quickly got to work, melting the entire bag down and pouring the melted chocolate into miniature muffin molds.  My youngest came in while I was working.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Saving us all,” I responded.

Within the hour, we were nibbling on small bits of chocolate/peanut butter delights and happiness was, once again, restored.

Thank you universe and thank you chocolate.

Look Out Imelda, I’m Makin’ A Comeback!

It was a had-to-have bracelet and must-buy-now shoes that were beckoning my lovely ladies to the mall this afternoon.  I indulged their desires today simply because I’ve been feeling a bit stir crazy since the temperature dipped below the 0 degree mark

Mother Nature is one nasty b…….

Anyway…  Once upon a time, I dreaded the mere idea of shopping with my little ladies.  Every attempted mall outing ended in disaster when they were small.  The screaming, the crying, the wailing was just too much to take – and that was just me.  My girls were skilled mall evaders back then, but all of that has changed in recent years.  Suddenly I find that they’re begging to go to the mall, begging to take me along on their thrifty adventures.  I appeased them today mostly because it was shoes that they were after.

Once upon a time, shoes were my thing.  I had shoes to match every outfit, every style, every emotion.  Shoes (and purses too, of course) took up every last square inch of space in my closet.  Once upon a time, I was Imelda Marcos’ biggest rival.  But that was a long, long time ago.

It was my girls’ new-found love of shopping that had me reaching into the depths of my former self this afternoon.  Standing in the shoe store with them, I felt that familiar spark reignite.  I felt that familiar pull to just try a pair on.  I felt that familiar need to fill my closet.  The shoes were all around me and they were on sale!

Needless to say, there’s a fabulous new pair of shoes sitting in my closet tonight.  I’m still giddy.  🙂