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    When I decided that I was “not —-ing leaving the planet” because I was going to raise my kids, I had no idea what that would wet hugactually look like.  It didn’t matter.  It was a gift to anticipate, a package to open when the time was right, and I was determined to be around to open it.  I was mostly concerned about my children growing up without me.  What I didn’t think about at the time, but am thoroughly enjoying now, is what an absolute blast they are.  Teenagers are crazy and wonderful.  My mom refers to their “demented energy”.  Yes!   As long as I  maintain my sense of humor, I ride the tougher waves relatively easily.  I find that true of most things!

    You’ve probably heard of the ALS ice bucket challenge.  I wish I’d thought of it for IBC!  Anyway, I’m glad.  I had to have my dunking, but I didn’t mind.  The picture to the right is of my daughter, my son, and her friend.  They were nominated for the challenge, and recruited my son to dump the ice water on their heads.  After he did his brotherly duty, my daughter’s friend shouted “Hug!” and they chased him down.

    They tickle my funny bone and exasperate me daily.  My son thinks “school is stupid” and tested out early.  My daughter has decided she’s going to Columbia University (now I’m sweating bullets) and after years of constant squabbling, they are good friends.

    When I was fighting cancer, I didn’t know entirely what I was fighting for.  I was fighting for the surprise, for the unopened gift I didn’t want to miss out on.  If you are currently in the fight, whether a cancer, depression, or just a rotten day, remember that none of us can predict how good it can be!  So, if it sucks right now, take heart.  There is no limit to how much better it can get.

    If you want to see me get dunked, follow the link to my facebook page.  She who nominated “Mama Danu” (Emily…an exceptionally good kid) thoroughly enjoyed sopping me when I started to run off at the mouth.  Her mom and my daughter are laughing in the background.

    I love being “that” mom!

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    I got a note from a reader that one of my links was broken.  I had a feeling, and I resisted figuring it out.  Why?

    Because several of my links are blogs, and the authors are gone.  Some links still take readers to their websites, but the posts are old.  I just checked my friend Donna’s site.  A sweet message from her husband, about how much he misses her.  I miss her too.

    Following up on some other blogs, I notice that many of us sort of disappear after we get through the ordeal.  That is, unless it isn’t over. Some of us fight cancer once, and we go one with our lives.  We don’t like looking back, for the most part.  I told myself I wouldn’t disappear, but I do sometimes, for weeks or months at a time.  It’s to be expected.  Life stops being about cancer, and that’s what we fought for, yes?

    And, I remember my friends.  Rachel at the Cancer Culture Chronicles.  Gone.  Susan at Toddler Planet.  I just made a donation recently to the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation in her name.  That organization is run by a 20+ year survivor, who says simply, “I figure I’m still on this side of the grass, so I need to do what I can”.  I feel that way too.

    My friend in New Zealand, gone.  She and Susan died last summer, within days of each other.

    It can be hard to keep showing up here in cyberspace, when life is all about enjoying it.  Simple, but true.  My teenagers are both taller than I am, and that was the future I prayed for when I was fighting in 2007.  Life is good.  I figure, I have been given the gift, and my job is to be happy.  That’s what the Dalai Lama says, and I agree.

    My job is to be happy, and remember my sisters who have left.  I appreciate every moment I have, so much.  I got to see my kids grow up.  I am blessed indeed.

    If you have found this blog, please don’t take the silence in cyberspace for lack of survivors.  We are here.  We’re just kinda quiet, despite our best intentions to stay visible.  It’s been six years now for me.

    Thanks Olivia, for letting me know I had some housekeeping to do.  Nice to be here.  Really, so great.

    Blessings,

    Elizabeth

     

    Last night I had the most GLORIOUS sleep. I went to bed, read a little of something sort of interesting but not important or fast paced, and then my head hit the pillow. The next thing I knew it was morning, and I woke up right before my alarm.

    I can’t think of the last time that happened.

    I’ve heard that cancer survivors can have difficulty sleeping. I also know that menopause does that to people. Worry certainly does that to people, and I’ve been doing that.

    Last night some sort of magic happened, and I slept soundly and peacefully. Today it was a whole new world.

    Do you have any magic formula for reproducing this miracle? I’m all ears! Please share your sleep tricks in the comments below. I’m sure there has to be one or two that I haven’t heard yet!

    I sure hope I can repeat this miraculous feat tonight. I had a wonderfully productive day.

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    I’ve been pondering the meaning of Right Livelihood, because I have been gleefully absorbed in it.

    I come home from a day’s work wiped out, but satisfied. I had the thought recently that if I were to suddenly have a windfall I wouldn’t really change much. I’d probably take more vacations and spoil my children a little more. I wouldn’t mind owning my home instead of renting it. I’d do a few more musicals. But when it comes to what I do every day? I wouldn’t change a thing.

    I have added more time at the hospital, now working on another campus providing massage to children who are receiving chemotherapy. I adore these kids. The job is a dream. All the kids are in close proximity to each other so I don’t have to wander far and wide to see them.

    I love my own lil’ stinkers, who put gray hair on my head and drive me nuts. My son calls me “Your Motherness” and asks, “can I help you?” when I appear dismayed, usually because he is blowing off his homework or his room should be condemned.

    My daughter has a new title for me, and it’s usually loud.

    “Madration!”

    Usually my taxi services are required. Currently my dear husband is taking on some of that, since he and Miss Peach are doing a musical together. I being part of the fun but I have made use of the quiet weekends. Maybe the next one.

    When I get in my groove at home writing or doing something else, I don’t usually feel enthused about interrupting to go teach drama to the kids at the local elementary school, but when I get there they swarm me. Then they make me laugh. What could be better?

    What I do isn’t everybody’s thing, but it’s mine. I spend my days making a difference for children, and some grownups too. My private massage practice is growing and it is joy to be cause for someone having their brain work properly because they are free of pain pills.

    Some days break my heart. Seeing a child deteriorate over a period of months is painful. Being able to ease his pain is unspeakably sweet.

    Other times I can only laugh. The best compliment I have ever received was from a 16 year old kid at the hospital, there because of a freak accident. When I gave him the feedback form to fill out, he handed it to his mom and said,

    “She has the most RIGHTEOUSLY exTRAVAGANT hands EVER!”

    I do a lot of energy work in the pediatric unit. I was thrown for a loop on Thursday when a thoughtful young rascal receiving chemotherapy said to me,

    “All the nurses have cold hands. Why are yours hot?” I told him that my hands knew that they were touching people so they knew they were supposed to get warm. I told him that when I’ve been at the computer they get cold. This is actually true.

    There’s an awful lot of pressure in this world to be obsessed with discontent. There’s always something more to want. Our whole culture is built around wanting more, and look what a mess we’re in! Not only does the economy stink, but so many of us are unhappy.

    James Taylor had the right idea. In one of his songs, he says:

    The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.  Anyone can do it, there’s nothing to it!”

    A grand concept in a simple little package.

    What am I enjoying right now?  An achy 50 year old body that worked hard today and drove too far. My eyes are tired from dealing with contact lenses, which my twelve year old daughter has mastered effortlessly.  I’d love to go to bed but I’d better stretch first or I’ll wake up tied in knots.

    I’m entering into a period of milestones.  The five year anniversary of my diagnosis.  In June, the five year anniversary of my last major chemotherapy and the beginning of the return of hair.  In October, five years from my last radiation treatment.  Next May, the five year anniversary of my last Herceptin infusion.

    Right now I’m creaky, tired, sometimes grumpy, often amused, beleaguered by teenagers and tearing my hair out while celebrating how long it is, left arm a little heavy but oh well, wishing my son would do his homework…..etc……

    and I’m still here and enjoying the hell out of the ride.

     

     

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    I honestly love happy racket.

    Right now my heart-daughter and grandbaby are asleep downstairs, my daughter is on my bed harassing me instead of making the coffee I want, but she will eventually…

    My son’s best friend, my extra kid, poked his rascally head in my door this morning to wish me happy birthday. We’re all tired and silly, because last night was opening night of “Annie Warbucks”. Tom plays the stuffy butler, Miss Peach a rascally orphan, HD (heart daughter) helped with the stage crew, and the baby (“Bubbeeee…”)kept me company as I herded children (as a chaperone) backstage. It was a little odd not being on the stage, but I have enjoyed the long quiet afternoons when Tom and Miss Peach were at rehearsal. Tom and Peach are in the Big Apple cast, so they have two more shows to shine in their big parts.

    Today I am taking the day off, because it has always been my habit on my birthday to take some time for reflection. The last four birthdays this has been especially so. I am always so overwhelmed with gratitude for another year. I am keenly aware of how fortunate I am. This awareness is bittersweet today, because this last week I lost another IBC blogsister, Ashley Warrior Mom. Her IBC battle lasted two years. Two other blogsisters are fighting like hell. I know that each day I get to spend here on this delicious planet is a gift, and each year I get to have a birthday I think about how to make the most of the year coming.

    One of the little things that makes me happy is that I have never had a bald birthday. I know that may sound like a little thing, but somehow it makes me feel like I got away with something. For my 45th birthday I had hair, and was blissfully ignorant of the thief that had snuck into my house and was preparing to wreak havoc. By the time my 46th birthday rolled around, my hair was back, thick and wavy, I was feeling much better, the herceptin was tolerable and I was NED. I had hope, and I could see a future. I guess each birthday that passes now is anchored in to that triumphant time.

    What’s ahead? Enjoying my children, more time at Lucille Packard, more writing, perhaps more theater (when another villain part comes up for a soprano I’m all over it), gratitude, more advocacy, scrapping for the end of breast cancer by 2020. My beautiful daughter is twelve. I want her and her beautiful friends to grow up in a world without the fear of breast cancer.

    Oooh, Bubbee is up. Time to be Grandmama…

    Pinktober has been rolling along very quickly, and I have been finding myself very annoyed at the whole pink thing. That’s not because there isn’t anything good about it. There is some real fundraising and activism happening mixed in with the Pinkwashing. All of that stuff is just heating up the conversations, which is good. I have been writing, a lot. I wrote an article for Associated Content on Making Your Support Count, and the editors changed the title but they put it on the front page of Health, so that was good. I’ve also distracted myself with some political writing, which as my daughter would say, is hecka fun. My article on Mitt Romney stirred the pot mightily and even upset some Mormons. Not that upsetting people is my goal, but stirring the pot definitely is!

    Why is pink month so hard? Simply because I can’t escape breast cancer. It’s everywhere. Some of the pink overwhelm is really irritating, especially the pink boxes of stuff that indicate that donations are happening without any indication of how much or to whom. That stuff just makes me want to lose it. I didn’t post at Everyday Health for a couple of weeks, ostensibly due to the stomach flu making its rounds, but I really am pissed off about pink month so my last post says it all.

    We also lost four on the IBC list this week. Four. Damn. That just sucks, really. So hard for women still scrapping to stay alive to see our sisters fall.

    So, where have I been? A bit scattered, a bit annoyed, writing some stuff, hating the sight of pink, glad that I’m still here, looking forward to when pink is no longer in my face quite so much. Ready for no bad news on the IBC list. Thinking of my friend Susan at Toddler Planet who is right smack in it, and my heart screams, NOT FAIR. She’s dealing with it much better than I am.

    This evening my son and I are off to the Dardanelle, known previously here as Camp Medicine Wheel. I can’t wait. Maybe when I get back I’ll feel more settled. I still have lots of real stories of real women to post. Right now I’m a little too flummoxed about the ones we’ve lost. Look for a happier, more grounded advocate when I get back.

    Time to get packing…

    I wonder sometimes where I’d be today if I hadn’t faced the beast.

    Would I still be as stressed as I was? I don’t believe that everyone has a story like mine, and I do know that some cancers appear randomly, without any precipitating event. And, some of us were a breakdown ready to happen.

    I know that for myself, facing cancer was a major, major catalyst and as I result I changed everything. What was working, I did more of. What wasn’t, I got rid of. Things I loved that I hadn’t been doing became the things I did first.

    This weekend was about writing! I wrote an essay for a contest and sent it off. I had been procrastinating about it, even though I knew I would love to do it. I finally sat down to write and set my timer, telling myself that I would just scribble for 15 minutes and that would get me started. I ended up writing an essay that made me weep, one that I feel very good about. I don’t have any grand delusions that I will win (I’m sure there are 1000′s who sent an essay) but one way or another I’ll publish it! Alas, not now.

    The other deadline I had was a provisional assignment for Yahoo. I applied to be a Featured Contributor. Before I had cancer, I wouldn’t have even applied. I would have just assumed that I didn’t have the expertise or the clout to write about Alternative Medicine, which is the category I applied for.

    The new me said, Hey, what have I got to lose? If this is for me, not doing it is wasting time! I applied and forgot about it.

    Four days later I got a provisional assignment with a four day deadline. Ace the assignment and I’m in. I ace’d it. If you want to take a look, here it is:

    My article on herbs and chemotherapy

    I was delighted with what they asked me to do, right up my alley! I got paid to write. That just rocks.

    My freelance writing career has begun. I don’t know where it will go, and that’s half the fun. After I had cancer I began redesigning my life, making it up as I went along.

    Now I am a massage therapist/teacher/thespian/writer/artist/wife and mom. I really don’t know what to say when people ask,

    “so, what do you do Elizabeth?”

    Oh yeah, and blogger. Thanks for reading!

    I am delighted, thrilled, excited, all of the above, surprised, totally tickled.

    I took an assignment on Associated Content because I thought the story was interesting, and it was for a good cause. Yahoo was asking people to share stories of where we were on September 11th, ten years ago. For every contribution received, a donation would be made to the September 11th memorial fund. It was a no-brainer.

    I was not in the U.S. when it happened, and I will never forget what it was like to be on foreign soil, away from my family, when the my homeland was attacked. I wrote my story for Yahoo, and you can see it here!

    I love being a writer, I love writing, and I love it that the folks at Yahoo thought it was a good story. My takeaway from this is that doing what I love always works, and I never regret following the path that makes me happy. Making a contribution feels good!

     

    My Mom is a writer. She just published her third book of poetry. Go Mom!

    My sister is a writer. She published a short story once, but unless she publishes, she doesn’t show us anything!

    I discovered that I was a writer on my Caringbridge blog. I guess that’s another unexpected gift that cancer gave me. For a long time, I thought that writing was Mom and Emily’s gig, not mine. I had a long chat with my mom about it. She told me that even my brother Paul has published an editorial in the local paper! Who knew? I already knew he is a fine musician. I guess I come from a talented family!

    So, I’m embracing this new calling of mine. I have been blogging for awhile over at Everyday Health, and recently I got an e-mail from my contact there that I would be reporting directly to the editors, because (drum roll….) they like my writing!

    I’ve sorta been quiet about it. It’s my own private thing, or has been. When I started my blog at Caringbridge, I did it to help me get through the toughest time of my life. It was for me. When I started getting comments from people I had never met, it felt wonderful to know that what was so satisfying for me to write had value for someone else. Still, I would not call myself a writer.

    Now, I am summoning my courage to write “on purpose”, and try to get good at it.

    Will you tell me what you think? Give me some feedback?

    I just published an article on Associated Content. It was an assignment. I thought it would be fun, so I took it and did my best. Will you follow the link and take a look? If you like it, will you become a fan? If you like it a lot, will you tell your friends?

    In the meantime I will (as Jo said, in “Little Women”, one of my favorite books of all time) up and take another.

    Onward!

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    Everyone seems to think I have such a positive attitude…

    Mom, care to comment? Spouse? Children?

    After being told that I am alive because I have “such a great attitude”, I had to vent a bit. I’m all for it, but in the long run, attitude is not everything!

    Here’s my view of what constitutes a positive attitude!

    Onward to endless mom chores…

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