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AUTHENTICALLY BOLD: REBECCA

BETTER, NOT BITTER

Resolutions, Schmezolutions! Word Of The Year Instead

Resolutions, Schmezolutions! Word Of The Year Instead

Like so many others, last year I made my typical New Year’s resolutions to bind me for goals and guidance in the newly 2014 year. Similarly to many of you, I bet I hit some of my resolutions and others went far by the wayside, despite a good attempt.

Last year I also chose to piggyback my friend, Candace at Lucky Scarf and use her word of the year “Refine” for personal guidance. Countless times throughout 2014, I simply reminded myself in precarious or overwhelming instances to refine my thoughts, refine my actions, or filter my life accordingly.

Barely into 2015 and my decision to scrap the usual mix of New Year’s resolutions has been implemented. Instead, I am choosing one word to define my goals in the days ahead because one word has the ability to be powerful, yet simple, in allowing me to attain my goals.  One of my favorite lines from Elvis…”A little less conversation, a little more action….” Right?

no resolutions

My word of the year is “Authentic”. Yes, I chose authentic. You see when I first decided to start my new blog, I wanted to attain the goal of putting forth my writings and my musings in a most genuine manner. My desire was (and remains) to offer unadulterated versions of traipse through cancerland along with my subsequent charitable endeavors and advocacy; coupled with the many veritable excursions on the roller coaster of Momma-Land. My blog was named “Authentically Bold: Rebecca” because of these aforementioned reasons. Yes, I live my live particularly boldly since cancer because for me, what other way is there. My choice of “Authentic” in 2015 will guide me and tether me back to center when my world may stray askew.

authentic

The world also does not revolve around me, myself, and I. Over the past few years, I have realized wholeheartedly that I am a better version of me because of the people I surround myself with! Yes, I am crowded by a community of honest-to-goodness folks who are the *real deal* indeed. Day in and day out, I witness the genuine kindness of people who carry out veritable actions for no reason other than to instill a greater faith in humanity alone. Therefore, part of my master plan in 2015 will be to share tidbits of these authentic people; people who choose to act without any ulterior motive or desire for notoriety. (I find the news so depressing and tarnished by what the media chooses for us to see. My plan is simply to choose *authentic* people and stories of positive real-stuff to set the example by which we may follow.)

Are you ready to follow? Will you share your stories with me? Be sure to send along examples of authenticity that you witness so we may send the kindness ripples out into our world. As always, we can be the change we wish to see.

Happy New Year!

2014: What A Year! My Top Ten Posts & More

2014 is fast closing in on us and what else is there to do but reflect back upon our 365 days of the year past. For me, 2014 was a bit of a high – as I took on larger than life challenges like the most important Boston Marathon to date as well as pursuing my other new favorite form of healthy exercise, Crossfit.

Despite the challenges that remain from my breast cancer battle, the only sense of control I retain is the ability to stay as healthy as possible physically, mentally and emotionally. All three aspects of health are certainly easier said than done, right? Particularly, when you lose someone close to you that battled a different subtype of breast cancer, but lost her battle this year – should it have been you? How do you console the pain in HER sixteen year old daughter when your own sixteen year old daughter clings to you?

As I ramp up for what I am preparing to be an even more BADASS year in 2015, I share with you my top ten blog posts from 2014 based upon how popular the selections were with YOU. Thank you for following my crazy journey through life. Buckle up and hang on tight because 2015 will prove to be that much more spectacular indeed.

top posts 2014
Photo courtesy of Candace, Lucky Scarf

In order from most popular, starting with number one:

  1. Collateral Damage
  2. How Do You Say Goodbye?
  3. Right on Hereford, Left On Boylston
  4. 26.2 Miles of Inspiration
  5. A Graphic Look at PINK, A Survivor’s Plea
  6. Breaking Bad
  7. The Unexpected Ride
  8. A Letter To You On How to Prevent Breast Cancer
  9. Mother’s Day Revisited
  10. Have You Ever Looked *THERE*

Happy New Year’s, my friends!  I hope you continue to come along for the many adventures and share some of your own.

With that, for more reading pleasure, check out my talented blogger friends over at their respective sites below. These gals certainly are creative with so many DIY projects that I am green with envy.

bloggers

1. Candace from Lucky Scarf
2. Stephanie from Sandpaper & Glue
3. Michelle from Weekend Craft
4. Kelly from A Lovely Life, Indeed

Time to Teach: Accountability – Is It Gone?

Accountability, What IS that?

This week I find myself with BOLD opinions; the very opinions that once fueled the actual name of my blog itself. Intentionally, I will share my thoughts with you on some sensitive and touchy matters currently at hand. I hope you will share your insight as well in return as we navigate the waters that challenge our very basic human rights.

As we rolled into Thanksgiving week, you saw Facebook statuses galore about all the gratitude people have for pieces of their respective lives. Recipe swapping was on high rotation and the swirls of Black Friday with retail promises of bargain scavenger hunting were relentless.

Thanksgiving week for us in Central Massachusetts also means one thing: FOOTBALL. Yes, we have one of the biggest rivalries that go back over 100+ years. Leominster versus Fitchburg is akin to our own Super Bowl and the traditions that go along with the rivalry may likely be as old. One of our favorite traditions in Leominster is the Thanksgiving Pep Rally, where all of the high school students pile into the wooden gymnasium and watch the insanity while they engage in school pride.

Until this year, that is.

Apparently, a long story short, a student from LHS talked about a shooting to happen during the pep rally just a few days before Thanksgiving. Imagine that scene: thousands of students gathered into a small gymnasium celebrating traditions when someone merely mentions the idea of a shooting. You hear about school shootings on what appear to be a regular basis now; but not in YOUR child’s school. The actual thought made me sick to my stomach and I felt nearly as vulnerable as I did when I brought my first-born home from the hospital sixteen years ago; burdened with the task of keeping her life safe for at least the next eighteen years.

School? Isn’t school supposed to be a safe place? Not in 2014, it seems that school is a vulnerable place to send your child. However, the mall and movie theaters are now both places where murderous shooting rampages have occurred in very recent times.

school shootings

Yesterday, my oldest had her high school go into lockdown. Because of cell phones and social media, we were given unofficial notice of this lockdown with no solid information to base our worry upon. Rumors were rampant and nerves quickly went into fray as details were filtered and exaggerated through the same social media and cell phone dialogues.

Within minutes, I knew that a student or students had entered the school wearing ski mask(s) and carrying bags. My initial reaction was fear: my daughter hadn’t answered her text from me and I quickly remembered the aforementioned Thanksgiving threat. Within a short time, a friend of mine who works at the high school let us know that there was a lockdown and all was okay.

Later, after speaking with my daughter, I realized the severity of the lockdown and listened to her recount her fears as she had no idea what was going on but saw the dozens of state and local police running through the hallways with their “massive guns” drawn.

The school’s explanation of the day is that the Center for Technical Excellence students returned from working outside in their winter gear, entered an unauthorized back door and proceeded through the halls while still wearing their gear. A fellow student was alarmed and contacted his parent, who in return called 9-1-1.

Even though this particular set of incidents turned out okay, I asked myself this week, once again, why public shootings, particularly school shootings seem to be on the rise or happening with more frequency. My theory is harsh, bold, but an opinion that allows me to cope with the WHY such violence seems to be happening.

I blame the parents. Yes, I do. For my argument, I will exclude the mental health argument as that is one discussion that will stand alone and separate. I understand the mental health issues in this nation are underserved and signs point to the need to address and support the community in this regard. However, my argument here today is directed back to the parents.

I am an “old school” parent. I parent firmly, sometimes harshly but with unconditional love. I understand that my children need to be raised with character that they will not only be contributing members of society; but that they will have the best tools in their lives in order to cope and handle their surroundings. I am not a perfect parent; I am far from it. However, my children are raised to do well in school; respect their fellow humans; treat people with kindness; and above all else – my children will own their accountability for their actions, including the words that may come out of their mouths.

People have been asking why the shootings by young people at schools and other public places seem to be on the rise. Again for sake of argument, I will acknowledge that I believe a certain number of these violent acts are attributed to mental health issues. However, my speculation of some of the cases that may be those on the rise is a growing population of children who have been coddled and over-pampered at home. Yes, I blame the parents. The helicopter parents who don’t or cannot say no to their children. The hovering parents who sort and work out every notion of conflict in their child’s life from toddler throughout college.   (Yes! There ARE those parents who contact college professors demanding an explanation for a poor grade!)

My theory is we have a generation of young adults who have never been given the coping skills or mechanisms to handle being told no, of being rejected, of having things not go their way. Add in the technology age where instant gratification and a constant connection to everyone and everything; you have a melting pot for spontaneous combustion even when the coping skills are there.

Do you remember high school? What an awkward time in your life that is! How many of us faced the badgering of our fellow classmates for one reason or another? How many of us had our hearts broken by our first loves? How many of us were rejected by a crush? How many of us felt inferior, insecure, or just plain not good enough or perhaps out of place?

I was bullied as a child (trying being the ONLY hearing impaired and Jewish kid in your small, rural Oklahoma town). I was picked on as a teen (again, trying explaining that hearing aids are very similar to eyeglasses but for your ears). I also made poor choices that led to additional ragging on and badgering by my peers. As bad as that all made me feel, I also knew that there could be no outward display of reaction. I had to cope with the behaviors of others towards me, even if it made me feel absolutely horrible. I had to cope with the consequences of my actions – good, bad, or otherwise.

The point I intend to demonstrate is that my parents certainly went to bat for me when a situation was out of my control (i.e. some of the bullying) but otherwise, I was taught to learn from my own battles, to learn from my own mistakes and decisions and handle the consequences there on out.

My fear is that way too many parents are too involved and that the younger generations is not obtaining the emotional coping skills needed to function in life. When children are not told no at home or held accountable at home, there is no way we can expect them to cope with being told no in the real world. When things do not go as they expect, they are ill-equipped to handle the emotions of rejection (whether it be in school, job related, socially related, etc.). My inclination is to believe some of these public displays of violence are a build-up of the perpetrator being unable to cope with the overwhelming emotions and hence, he/she acts out violently.

I understand this *theory* is a bit generalized and vague; however, a lesson remains to be learned from these recent acts of violence. Our children learn from home; these kids learn by example and by action of us. Love on them unconditionally; however, give them space to solve their own challenges. Offer support and advice but let them figure it out.

As our children hit middle school and high school ages, it remains very hard to sit back and let them solve their dilemmas. However, there are critical life skills to be learned in doing so.  What CAN we do?

Color-School-shootings

  • Teach them how to stand up for themselves in a multitude of scenarios, but let them actually execute the decision that fits them best and let them learn from the experience.
  • Continue to teach them kindness and compassion as they enter these hormone-filled and “strife” filled years. “Be nice!” “Share” “Don’t hit!” “Say Please & Thank You” should not stop once they are past the ornery toddler years.
  • Teach them to stand up for their fellow peers when it is right to do so. Remind them that no matter how badly their broken hearts feel at that moment, with time, broken hearts do heal and we grow stronger from the experience.
  • Teach your children that under no circumstances are violence the answer.
  • Teach them to find a better way to cope.
  • Teach them accountability. Stop blaming everyone else and take a deep look within.

A friend of mine shared this quote with me this week and I shall share it with you by ending on this note:

“Peace on Earth and it begins with me.”

Accountability – Do We Owe It?

Personal accountability seems to be at an all- time low. Do you agree? Owning our actions, our words and every aspect of our daily lives seems to be tantamount. For everything that goes wrong in our lives, we seem pretty quick as a society to cast blame outwardly. Perhaps, it is time we start to reflect inwardly and own up to our personal responsibility for holding ourselves accountable.

accountability

My intention is for this to be a several part series as accountability applies to many components of our lives: from work, to health, to our children, and to each other as a society.  My first post hits a sensitive nerve on a topic way too close to home:  our health and cancer.

Nod your head in agreement as I casually comment on how the cancer diagnoses seem to be rising; or rather, how you know of this one and that one who has battled or is currently battling some form of cancer. Yes? Of course! Even though I am a cancer advocate, I am meeting someone new each week – EVERY @#$&%@ SINGLE WEEK – to whom I am introduced to by someone who wishes for me to offer the “been there, done that” spiel to their friend, their neighbor, their colleague, their aunt, or even themselves.

Personally, I am beyond frustrated as each year BILLIONS of dollars are poured into the various cancer fundraising vehicles….and yet, every week as I mentioned above, I am talking to *new* people with cancer regularly. The so-called quest for a “cure” makes me even more nuts as I do not believe the solution is on the horizon. I wish for the scientists to continue looking for the elusive piece of the puzzle, but in the meantime, what do we do *NOW*?

Why are we not talking about the responsibility we owe ourselves in ensuring our good health?

acccountability sign

What is *CAUSING* these seemingly higher incidents of cancer? Why are we not looking for the root cause just as much, if not more than, the cure?

Cancer is normal. Yes, cancer is very normal. Cancer happens to our cells as part of basic biology; always has and always will. What appears to be different is that our immune systems have become somewhat compromised and our ability to fight off various cancers has diminished. What on earth is compromising our immune systems? Where do we begin………

Whereas I do not wish to get into a scientific debate here, I simply want people to recognize the power of accountability. If we know something carries a higher risk of causing cancer, why do we do it?  Why do we not take a more preventative approach to better health?  Why do we take our bodies for granted?

Prior to 2007, I was one of those people who took my health for granted. I most certainly did. I was barely into my thirties at the time, why would my health even be on my radar aside from regular physicals?

Did I ever stop and think about what I put into my mouth? Sure, when I felt my love handles being more than a handful or when my folds of my stomach climbed upward into flabalanche status. I thought more about eating healthier for a few weeks at a time, but purely for the sake of losing weight for vanity sake. I never once thought about extra weight putting me at a higher risk for breast cancer.  Wasn’t I too young?

Did I worry about microwaving plastic, melamine, or using other modern day items of convenience, including Styrofoam? Why would I? I was much too busy and chaotic to worry about things that made my life faster, quicker, more convenient, more on the go and just *easier*.  Why would these things possibly impact my health?

Did I think about the lotion I rubbed vigorously into every inch of my skin post-shower? No. Why would I? I smelled good and my skin was soft. Did I think more about the different face cream I smoothed into the creases around my eyes or my smile lines? No. What about the cleanser I used at the end of the day to remove my make up?  Who cares what ingredients were in all of these different products?

Did I worry about the stress in my life? Sure, sometimes I did but not as a Mack Truck about to steamroll my very core being into a fight for its life. When I thought about the often times incapacitating stress in my life; I did not picture being able to make choices to *fix* my chaos, I only daydreamed about an escape…..or more so, a *time-out* so that I could focus on just me for a moment.

Oh, I got that so-called time-out alright.  What went wrong in me that I was just shy of a Stage three breast cancer diagnosis at age 33?  I have had plenty of time to consider all the potential *causes* of my cancer.  For a while, I racked my brain thinking of what *it* was that directly caused my disease:

  • Was it all the McDonald’s, Bagel Dogs and ramen noodles I ate in college?
  • Was it the chemicals I was exposed to all the times I spent hanging out with dad at his construction sites?
  • Was it the mercury I used to roll around in my hands after breaking an old-fashioned thermometer?
  • Was it all the body care products I used that were chock full of parabens?
  • Was it the insane amount of stress I was under from a ridiculously demanding job coupled with being a care-taker to my aging and high-maintenance parents while managing my own young family?

Who knows?  The list could go on and on and on…………

I will never know the precise *trigger* of my cancer and I am okay with that. However, I now know my health really begins with ME. I have to be accountable and held responsible for ME.

My children have a much higher rate of disease now, thanks to my diagnosis. I want to enable all three of my kids to be pro-active and make better choices than I was ever equipped to make. I want my friends to be pro-active instead of reactive. Why go through the horrors that I did?  Having watched my best friend go through a much different cancer battle in the past year makes me want to SCREAM this at all of you!

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Do we not owe ourselves some level of accountability? If we knew a battle lies ahead, wouldn’t we run out and get whatever weapons we could in our arsenal, to help us protect and defend our home lines; the very place where our most beloved reside? Of course we would! Why are we not using the same concept with our bodies and our health?

We *KNOW* that eating a palate of fresh vegetables, clean meats and plentiful amounts of water are ideal.

We *KNOW* that regular exercise is good for us.

We *KNOW* that exposure to certain chemicals increases a multitude of health concerns and issues.

We *KNOW* that stress wears us down, makes us sick and causes friction in our daily lives.

Where’s the accountability? What can we do to effectuate change *BEFORE* it is too late?

For me, I do not want to get cancer again so my changes have been pretty dramatic. I want my children to learn from me now, post 2007-2008 and post-cancer. I want my babies to be equipped to make better life choices than I ever did. Will they? I do not know but I want them to have a balance. Yes, Slim Jims are disgusting and totally unhealthy for you. However, having an occasional Slim Jim through-out the year will not cause extensive damage because you are eating your healthy nutrition all the other times, coupled with regular exercise, stress maintenance and using the lowest possible chemical exposure on top of it.

For you, promise me that you will *think* about your accountability here and there. Give yourself a handful of reasons why you should be pro-active when it comes to YOU! We live in a fast-paced, uber-convenient society that takes nearly every luxury for granted. Find five…….. (5)……only five (!) ways you can be more aware in your life. What matters most to you or what is easiest for you to own accountability for in your life?

Here are some easy examples:

Check your grocery cart before checking out. Are there any products that you can find a better version of that has less processed or chemical ingredients? Maybe you do not need that product at all.  Read your labels.

Check your personal care products. Find safe products or perhaps find ones that will work for you with less toxic chemicals. What are your children using? You will find them safer products, right?  Read your labels.

Check your exercise routine. You do not have to be all insane and crazy like some people we know. (Ahem, are you looking at me?) Even if you *despise* exercise, there are so many ways to incorporate a little more in your daily life: park further away, take the stairs, or find a friend to take a walk with before you share that bottle of wine.  What works for you that you will create a habit of?

Check your daily stress. Many of us feel trapped and unable to make a change. Sometimes, a lower paying job or reducing the household bills will make all the difference in the amount of stress taxing you on a regular basis.  Change begins with YOU.

Find a buddy to help keep you accountable. Write your five goals down and share it with your spouse or your friend. When you hit those five goals, aim for five more and before you know it – you have made massive lifestyle changes and you are paving the way for your children, our future generations, to live in a *hopefully* healthier, less cancer filled world.

Are you in?

steer yourself

Food for Thought: Discussion Please

Read this article from The New York Times “Why Everyone Seems To Have Cancer” and let me know your thoughts.

http://goo.gl/pu6agw

Major omission or failure to discuss within the article:  Why are so many younger people (i.e. children and young adults) now being diagnosed with cancer?  We cannot use the age argument in this respect.  Therefore, what is it?  Why does everyone seem to have cancer nowadays?  Thoughts?

Before My Eyes (My Life Flashed)

Before my eyes, last week, my life flashed in front of me. The anxiety that permeated my very being is different than the scare I felt yesterday, when a giant extension ladder fell off the top of the box truck in front of me on the highway. Sure, my heart catapulted upwards into my throat providing an instant gagging feeling and surge of adrenaline as my mind processed the speed of the escaped ladder careening towards my vehicle at least sixty miles per hour or more. As I swerved to avoid the now skidding trajectory, I thanked my guardian angel for allowing me the sense to have at least four to five car lengths between my car and this truck. Scary? Yes. Was I more freaked out with my medical incident of last week? You bet I was.

What happened last week, you ask? I thought I may have cancer again. My life literally flashed before my eyes and the fear of my children and husband growing up without their Momma and wife became surreal.

People assume because I remain in remission from my cancer, that all is well – including me. Heck, that girl is six years out from finishing her treatments…..why is she *still* talking about her cancer? Another friend innocently remarked, “Well, you hit that five year mark, why would you have cancer again?”

Recently, in the past year, I finally graduated to what I call the “big girl” schedule for my oncology follow ups – I only have to go annually now. Yes! Once a year visits to ensure my health remains solid going forward versus the every three month schedule I was on for five years. As much as I wear these oncology graduation milestones as a badge of KickAss, there is a little piece of me that has a heightened sense of anxiety that I only see my miracle workers once a year. A year is a VERY long time in Cancerland.

Last week, I confidently announced that I was going to walk into my oncology visit for my first annual checkup in my typical badass style. I was going to give love to my beloved doctors and be on my way in a half hour or less. After all, I have been working out at least three to four times a week and my nutrition has never been better. I finally have my joint pain under control, whether it is from the remnants of my chemotherapy collateral damage or actually from the rheumatoid arthritis. It has been several years since I have felt this good.

BOOM. CRASH. SREEECCCCH.

The sounds of my world coming to a skidding halt after I pointed out what I thought was a little nothing lump on the back of my neck.

On sight, my medical oncologist believed it to be clinically benign, but in Cancerland everything has to be proven otherwise…meaning a biopsy has to be done to ensure that a strange lump is non-cancerous. In triple negative breast Cancerland, I have recently learned that all bets are off – this disease is a beast in and of itself and everything, I mean everything, must be ruled out for cancer regardless of how much time has elapsed since treatment. Oy.

My doctor said she would schedule a fine needle biopsy for me and we would get it done. Fine. I was calm and collected. No big deal. I remain healthy, I thought to myself. Moments later, my doctor came in and announced that pathology was on their way over within fifteen minutes. Cool.   Let’s just get this done today.

The pathologist walked in and promptly asked if she could perform the biopsy with no lidocaine, as it causes the area to swell and make it harder to obtain a sample. Sure. I have had three kids with no pain meds, what’s a little needle to the back of my neck. Eek.

After jabbing the needle around the lump in my neck, the pathologist seemed slightly frustrated. The lump was hard and dense, not allowing her to get any tissue sample to review under the microscope. Did I mind if she tried again? Sure. The latest images of The Walking Dead entered my mind again as I let this sweet, petite woman jab yet a second needle around the back of my neck. Thoughts permeated my brain like: “Is she close to my jugular?” “Boy, I have been hanging around the gross kids and their stupid movies too long now!” “Oy, what the hell….why is this lump hard and what does this mean?”

The pathologist was not successful in obtaining a tissue sample from the second biopsy. Two neck stabbings down and no results on what this thing was in my neck. I kept my cool. Previous fire drills (aka medical scares) have allowed me to try to remain calm and collected until my medical team gives me a reason to be otherwise. (Okay, my bowels were starting to gurgle!)

My medical oncologist returned and said we need to figure out how we will biopsy the lump so we can know exactly what it is. After she left the room again for a brief period of time, she returned but this time with my beloved surgical oncologist a step behind her.

“Ohhhh, look who I happened to find strolling down the halls!” She exclaimed. The partially retired Chief of Surgical Oncology, two steps behind my doctor; the man who helped to save not only my life, but the life of my unborn child. After I jumped up to give my beloved doctor a hug, I then took pause……they’ve brought the big guns in. Holy poop. I started to debate myself: Dr. Q and I have a special bond, is he here because he loves me and wants to be sure I am okay? Dr. Q is top notch and knows his way around Cancerland….did my other doctor bring him in because…..well, you know……my heart-rate quickened.

Long story later, the big guy decided I needed a punch biopsy and right then and there. He would do it himself, in fact. As relieved as I was to have my savior there and to do the procedure himself, my nerves were on high alert. In fact, during the biopsy itself, I had what I consider my first panic attack. I nearly stopped the biopsy because my heart was pounding OUT OF MY CHEST. If I ever felt like I was having a heart attack, it was at this very moment when my doctor was carving a hole into my neck.

After the punch needle biopsy, my doctor sat down and sighed. With that sigh, he shared with me that triple negative breast cancer can metastasize to the skin. Wait, what? What the what, what? I fiddled with my hearing aid to be sure I heard him correctly.

Post treatment I have been coping with the fear of a recurrence; after all, triple negative breast cancers usually come back in the liver, lungs, brain, bones…….but the skin? That was a new one for me. A quick jaunt to my Triple Negative Breast Cancer forum on Facebook and the question posed was met with countless women who have had skin metastases from all over the world, including those with neck nodules. Holy crap. I quickly jumped off the internet for a bit as it is not the most reassuring place for someone who thinks they may have cancer.

Fortunately, for me, I have some of the best care in the world and despite the fact that my life flashed before my eyes while waiting for results, I got the call from the Big Man himself and heard the magical words every cancer survivor longs to hear: your tumor was non-cancerous. Phew. Phew. Phew.

Despite being six years out from treatment and feeling as healthy as I have been in a very long time, the journey through Cancerland is never quite done. Despite my risks of recurrence going down significantly after five years post-treatment, there is still a risk of recurrence of my disease. I will carry that with me for some time forward.

The thoughts that I am beyond my cancer were resurfaced last week and the feelings made me very vulnerable. Wait, I am the advocate now! I help mentor women through their breast cancer! I am sooooo done with my cancer.

Eff. I had a bit of a reality check last week. Any thoughts I had of moving on from the pink world were firmly re-implanted in my very core. Despite the fear and the vulnerability, I do hope that my experiences shared will alleviate the thoughts of another who is going through the same thing. In the meantime, I will press on and continue to make healthier choices for me and my family. There’s way too much life to live before it flashes before my eyes.

2014-10-21 13.22.21

Life Isn’t Fair (A Parental Perspective)

Having a sixteen year old daughter who is very much like you is a strange conundrum. On one hand, the experience of parenting a child who looks like you, who acts like you, and who is really a better version of you is both exciting and rewarding. Yet, on the other hand, having a child so much like yourself is a bit scary as you wonder if she will make the same mistakes that you made. When you see her struggling with life’s obstacles and she seems to be handling the problems much like you would have at that age; but you want to guide her otherwise now that you are older and wiser. <Where is my Parenting 101 Guidebook when I need it?>

My sixteen year old is my first born, so whereas she has all the rights and privileges of being number one in our family (ask my son how he likes *that*), she also bears the burden of our intense parenting…okay, MY intense parenting, as I insist on raising children that will not only be successful people, but compassionate humans who will be highly functioning in the real world. <Yes, she may need therapy soon, as will my other two children.>

My oldest has experienced a challenging situation this fall, and instead of being a helicopter parent, I am *trying* to provide her with the coping skills she needs to handle the situation herself.   My words of support only take this strong girl so far.   Being the brave girl that she is, she has managed to instigate a conversation to find out how she could make the situation better. My sense of pride swelled as she described how she handled herself. Yet, the words returned to her were simply heartbreaking and offered no real explanation. Inasmuch as I could hear my motor revving and my instinctive desire to swoop in and find out more behind the lack of description behind the words provided to my hard-working girl, I had to refrain from being *that* parent. <@#8@&#^!@)*(!@#@!@#E*&$#@!!!!!!>

Life is not fair.  How do we find the ways to cope with *that* message?  You just do.

life is not fair

My gut tells me to continue talking to her, to encourage her to engage in dialogue again with the other party in this particular matter. Yet, my daughter’s eyes glazed over and she complacently agrees with my *strategy* to go get ‘em, killa! My need to use my twenty-four years of experience post-sixteen myself becomes compulsive and my talent of picking up on body language cues slides further down the slippery slope. <LISTEN TO ME, HONEY…..I was THIS girl twenty-four years ago and I now regret some of the choices I made or did not make!   LISTEN TO ME, PLEASE! >

<Hangs head…..knowing this girl is exactly a form of me and I need to back the eff off before I push her too far and away.>

Tuning in to my newly minted fourteen year old son I turn, hoping to find a few easier parental lessons here instead. My son and I are at a good place after a couple of tumultuous puberty-filled years. However, his newfound lady friends and his increasing interest in them have me more on high alert. Keeping the dialogue open with a teenaged boy is vastly different than communicating with my teenaged girl. Slowly, and painfully, my son is learning that the more he shares with me the less I am to keep inquiring. <Trolling: parents hovering, watching, stalking, leering, peeking, looking away for a moment, observing, and pulling out all points surveillance on all forms of social media to ensure your child is behaving in a manner that you deem appropriate. I am guilty as charged and holy Instagram, Batman!>

Continuing down the path of parental trials is my youngest girl, at six years old, who is so innocent and excited to be in school. The plethora of friends and social activities that she engages in frightens me; as much as I adore how social this particular child is, I fear that she may provide me with my biggest parenting obstacles as she grows. <Can a six year old be deemed a party girl, party animal, using her zest for life as an excuse to enjoy her world?!?>

Lately, I find myself conflicted with my personal rule of NOT picking my children’s friends. As my littlest girl shared every sordid detail of her school days (Maybe *that’s* why my son does not share much– he’s sandwiched between two sisters who tell me everything?!?), I started to worry about particular details of a classmate. Certain out of school behaviors lead me to believe that I am not comfortable with my child spending extra time with this child. How do I tell my precocious daughter that we are not okay with her being friends with so and so? Eek. We have simply talked about bad choices and that perhaps a good choice for my daughter is to limit time with those who continually decide to make bad choices. <Stay the EFF away from these kids, THIS KID, you are NOT to be friends with them. You will not EVER be allowed to spend time with them without my presence. Smile. Blink eyelashes. <Have this conversation in your head to yourself!> (Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.)

Life. Phew. Life is far from fair. As a parent, your instinct is to shelter and protect your wee ones from the garbage in life. We desire the world to be viewed from those rose-colored glasses. The older the kids get, the more you realize you cannot protect them from the tougher instances in their lives; but instead, you must equip them to someday go off into the vast world and survive themselves.

Life is not fair. My children have had more than their unfair share by watching me, their momma battle cancer and by losing their maternal grandparents at a young age. My *need* to protect them from the other inequitable aspects in life seems more profound than what you may find in a typical parent.

I do not want to watch my oldest struggle with the internal sadness she feels as she tries to understand her current challenge. Yet, I understand that she must handle this situation on her own and find her way. The best thing I have the ability to do right now for her is to offer her hugs and kisses. Unconditional love. If anything else in this world, my sixteen year old and her siblings will have parents, especially their momma, to offer them unlimited and unconditional love when their world may seem as if it is falling apart.

I have to trust that despite periods of pain or sadness in my children, they must make their own choices in their lives. My children will learn from each of their smart decisions, as well as learn from their respective mistakes. <Do as your mother says, NOT as your mother did!!!!> Each experience in their lives is simply yet another thread in the woven work of progress they are each individually, just as my experiences are my own and my decisions make me (or made me), uniquely me.

I am not proud of some of the decisions I made in my youth. Some of my decisions were downright poor and I was judged heavily for those poor choices. Yet, the lessons learned remain with me to the present day and offer me the ability to be a better parent to my own kiddos. (If I ever get lucky enough to finish my book, you may find out what some of these poor decisions were in detail. EEK.)

life is good

My children may learn that while life may certainly not be fair, the journey at times may be tough, but their lives are to be full of so much greatness. <Once you surpass the high school days, that is, children! Cackle!>

Repost from “Confessions  Of A Curvy Girl” on October 3, 2013

I do not hate pink. In fact, I find it to be a flattering color for me and the several shades of pink represent so much more for me in my life post-cancer.

I do hate the way pink is used. Pinkwashing. Have you heard of it? Tell me you have not walked into any box store in the month of October and you have not been drowned in pink as it is everywhere. Pink has been branded into a commercial enterprise of its own; namely for many corporations to jump on the breast cancer “awareness” bandwagon and ultimately, reap the benefits of its bottom line profit margin.
nfl pink

Debates abound with some die-harders telling me that a pink ribbon on their bucket of fried chicken does make them stop and think about their breast health for a moment.

kfc pink

Come on! <Insert my most dramatic, sarcastic eye-roll right here!>

Seriously, is it not infuriating that the pink ribbon – a symbol of a horrendous disease and a cause to “cure” the same – is somewhat misplaced on a bucket of obesity inducing fried chicken? How does that pink ribbon on a bag of cat food or cat litter help women with their breast health? Personally, I have seen the ribbon on everything from toilet paper, bubble wrap, Italian sausages, yogurts, duct tape, and countless other items of merchandise for sale.

We KNOW, we KNOW, we KNOW breast cancer exists.  Can we all safely say we are very AWARE that breast cancer is a profound problem currently today?  Um, yes.  Do not even get me started on “the cure”…..that is another blog post in and of itself.

Have you read the label to see how much of your “donation” by purchase of said item actually goes to the purported cause? Maybe ten percent, or maybe ten cents or maybe the disclaimer is as vague as “a portion of the proceeds from the purchase of this product goes to a breast cancer charity (or to breast cancer research).” Wait, what?

Where is YOUR money going?

Buying pink does not necessarily do anything for the hundreds of thousands battling breast cancer each year. In fact, many of the so-called pink items actually contain ingredients that may CAUSE cancer. Yay for a cure!

Come on! <Insert my most dramatic, sarcastic eye-roll right here!>

We CAN do better than this! We can, we can, we can!!!!

Let me tell you a little about breast cancer. Your brain will permanently etch the sound waves of your surgical oncologist calling you to tell you that you have cancer. You will hear that voice in your head for the remainder of your life. You will never, ever forget the dread, the fear, and the pit in the bottom of your innermost core knowing you have a disease that may possibly take your life.

Your eyes will never erase the image of a nurse donning all but a HazMat suit to come administer the insanely toxic and potent poison right….into…your veins. The fear of watching the gelatinous “Red Devil” (aka Adriamycin) arriving in the largest syringe you have ever laid eyes on (bigger than a turkey baster, people) being slowing pushed into the IV port and the feeling of the cool toxic substance surge into your body is similar to what you envision being tortured may be like. You will also panic at the sight of a technician coming in with a metal lockbox containing the radioactive isotopes they inject INTO YOU. Anything that must be under lock and key in a protective safe and deemed *radioactive* (I think Chernobyl if you will), must not be thrust into your bloodstream. Oh, yes, it does.

Despite drinking gallons of liquids to counter the effects of the noxious chemicals soaring through your system, you will not forget the feeling of not being able to poop. That is right. You insist to yourself that what goes in MUST come out. However, trying to poop on chemotherapy is nearly impossible. You actually consider an emergency room visit because it….just…..will…..not……come…..out. You cry.

Your breasts will never be the same. Ever. Not only will you show hundreds of different people your boobies on a daily basis, you will not be able to pull off the name Misty Rain and get tips in your thong for displaying these beautiful mounds. Oh, did I mention that about ninety-five percent of these people who gawk at your boobs will also touch them. Yup. Men and women. Young, middle-aged, and old. You cannot help but wonder how many boobs they touch every day in their professional lives. Seriously, your mind goes there.

Your armpit will be scarred and lymph nodes taken for good. Your breasts may be one or all of the following: scarred, misshapen, lopsided, tattooed, puckered, dimply, discolored, numb, plastic, radiation-induced firm, mis-matched nippled, lumpy, filled with scar tissue or fatty necrosis or even reconstructed from tissue from somewhere else on your body. Your emotional outlook on how your feminine breasts are now far from how you were made naturally may take a huge hit causing you to hide your breasts from your husband or not want to date for fear of disgusting them.

The bone pain from the other poison, called Taxol, will make you contemplate suicide. Take the pain of childbirth and delivery but maximize that by 1000% and pretend you are getting run over by a gigantic Mack truck crushing all of your bones slowly. You will ponder if death is a more palatable alternative.

You will have countless side effects long after the treatment has commenced and your support teams have dispersed. The emotions shift daily and as if on a roller coaster in the Marianas Trench. The residual bone and joint pain makes you shuffle like a ninety year old. The phantom striking pains in all of your surgical sites. The fog brain. Yes, you will not remember anything like you used to. Words you know will be stuck…..somewhere…..as you try to complete your sentences.

Welcome, my friends, this….is……PINK.

In an effort, myself, to do better about the world of pink and to make the lives of my fellow cancer counterparts more comfortable, I had to find a way to ensure that change was being made. I could not ask people for donations to support pink and not be able to tell them where their money was truly going. With a passionate cancer advocate who has bulldozed change herself, we founded PINK Revolution Breast Cancer Alliance. Our mission was to ensure that monies that come into our pink world actually go right back out in its entirety (yes, 100% of those monies – no skimmed fat executive salaries of these so-called NON-PROFITS; no operating expenses to cover extravagant five star hotel functions to “rally the troops”; no cents of the dollars actually coming back to the ultimate cause) to help patients you may very well know yourself.

How can a woman try to fight for her life when she has no disability insurance and cannot work because of the aforementioned “side-effects” of chemotherapy and surgeries; and the assistance she is given through our local social programs is $27/month in food stamps? Oh sure, what little she will try to eat given the projectile vomiting and constant nausea may amount to $27/month.

Come on! <Insert my most dramatic, sarcastic eye-roll right here!>

Our world has become a fast and furiously paced place to live. However, we are all humans and we all have the capacity to love one another and to help one another. Let us bring back the human touch. Let us take a moment from our busy lives to care for each other. It truly does take a village, so let us bring that back.

Donations are immensely helpful and help PINK Revolution fund a number of necessities – from local research at UMass Memorial Medical School Research, to leading edge technology (one of five in the world sophisticated tomosynthesis (3D) machines for betting diagnostic imaging) at UMass Memorial Comprehensive Breast Center, (yes, that’s me on their page),  to improved patient care and funding for items such as wigs, lymphedema sleeves, prosthetics and so much more.

Make your pink dollars count. Know with confidence that your donation is making a huge difference in the life of a very real breast cancer warrior. If you cannot make a donation, there are endless other ways to pay it forward: make a meal for a family going through cancer treatment, give a patient a ride to their chemotherapy, mow their lawn, rake their leaves, watch their young children, clean their house and set the ripple of pervasive change in place for our future generations.  If all else fails, ask me – I will certainly help align you in an opportunity that will allow you to feel even better than buying that pink yogurt.

Let us all be passionately pink.

Let us all be the start of pervasive change.

911-memorial-quote

“No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory of Time”

In honor of the fallen of September 11, 2001

#Never Forget

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