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    Every year as October approaches, I feel the thrill of autumn and the dread of Pinktober.

    It’s not that I don’t value all the work that goes into raising funds for breast cancer awareness and research.  I won’t bore you with yet another rant on this topic!  Anyone who has checked into this blog periodically knows how irate Pinkwashing and retail opportunism in the name of charity makes me.

    The fact is, I always have mixed feelings during this month.  I am thrilled to be alive, and sad for my sisters who aren’t.  It is annoying and inconvenient to be constantly reminded of breast cancer when most of the time I don’t think about it too much any more.  It is not the center of my world, and that’s how we all want it.  For women who face breast cancer, for a long time we can hardly think of anything else.  For the unfortunate ones who have disease progression instead of successful first treatment, it is always top of mind.  For women who have recurrences it is top of mind.  For those of us fortunate enough to be NED, we can blessedly enjoy a day, a week, or a month without thinking about breast cancer.

    Not so during October.  My daughter put it succinctly.  “Most of the time I don’t have to remember that my mom almost died!”

    If there is anything I can accomplish during this month, it is to gently and persistently tell the true story of breast cancer, so people like my mom who are terrified for loved ones don’t hear “Breast cancer?  Don’t worry, she’ll be fine.  They cure that now.”.  That was pretty tough for her to hear while I battled a disease that statistically was more likely to kill me than not.  It makes for a lonely journey.

    I am relieved that I don’t have to deal with the clerks at my local Safeway when I opt out of the “donate to breast cancer” option as I check out my groceries.  I don’t participate because last year I asked a clerk where that money went, she had no idea.  Neither did the manager.

    I donate year round, to organizations that give money to funding research, so we can have a world where my daughter doesn’t have to be afraid.

    Last week, one of my massage therapy clients was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She is terrified, as we all are when it happens to us.  I suspect that October will be a little extra rough for her in years to come.

    I’m so glad November is around the corner!  My birthday is in a few days.  I’m so glad it is not mixed in with Pinktober!  I can still love autumn when November comes.  I’ll be 52.  Damn pleased to be 52!  When I was 45 I wasn’t sure at all that it would happen.

    As the years pass, I am embracing who I have always been, a wellness professional.  For awhile I almost felt that I couldn’t claim that anymore, because I had faced cancer.  I, who was the picture of health and good habits…how could it be?  I know so much more now.

    Now I know that no one is exempt, no matter how “right” they do everything.  I am true to my profession because I used everything I know to beat it.

    You can check out my new website here.  I will never stop caring about the women who face breast cancer, or the people who face any cancer.  I see it every week when I go to work at the hospital.  I see it in the mirror when I look at my chest.  And, I am committed more than ever to health and healing in the forms I know best.

    Happy November!

    Have you ever thought about what happens to small children when a parent has cancer? What about a sister or a brother?

    I know what happens, and it’s heartbreaking. My children are still carrying the scars of what they went through with me. When a child watches a parent fight cancer, life as she knows it is over. Our children are the casualties of our battles with life threatening illness, and support for them is sadly lacking.

    I want to change this! It’s not even something that would be hard to do, but it is urgently needed.

    What I’m talking about is a play group for children whose parents are facing life-threatening illness. What it would take is a place, a child therapist, some grownups who care, some art supplies and toys, and children. For kids, other kids are the most important part.

    What happens to a child when mommy, daddy, sister or brother is sick?

    First of all, complete disruption of established routines, which every child needs. Suddenly the house is full of people who seem very concerned. Mommy or Daddy can’t take care of them as usual, so others come in to care for them.

    If people are bringing meals, the usual food and eating rituals are disrupted.

    Children are frightened, but everyone is so absorbed in the care of the ill parent or sibling that these fears may go unacknowledged. Suddenly there is very little attention available for them. If their primary caretaker is ill, the abandonment and fear is terrible.

    They are afraid, but they know that everybody is worried so they may keep their fears and concerns to themselves.

    When I was fighting my cancer, I got my children into therapy. It wasn’t nearly enough but it helped. They both wanted me desperately, but I was busy fighting my disease, and often too ill to care for them. Others had to help me, but my children wanted me. I held onto the nightly bedtime ritual to try to maintain some kind of normalcy. I only missed bedtime lullabyes three times. If I did nothing else, I did that.

    Several things stand out in my memory of this time, about my children.

    First, a kind teacher at my children’s school took them under her wing and taught them to knit. My second and fourth grader gave up their recesses and lunch breaks to knit me a pink hat and slippers. I asked my daughter what that meant to her. She told me that it showed her that somebody cared. Other than Mrs. Tanamachi’s kindness, my daughter felt invisible. She felt that she was in another world, one that no one understood.

    I know that feeling. When my father was dying, I remember a brilliant Seattle day when the sun was bright, the water sparkling, and the air fresh. It was all wrong. My father was dying. My girl described this same feeling to me. How can everybody go about their business when her mommy was sick and could die?

    At this same school, two mean twins taunted my daughter that her mama was going to die. Kids can be so cruel.

    There was a child in my daughter’s class who had survived leukemia. His mother told me that her son preferred to be with my daughter, because she “gets him”. There was some kind of well of compassion that my daughter had, that helped this boy.

    What could be more therapeutic for these suffering children than other children?

    If you’ve ever been on Planet Cancer, you know that it feels as if you are alone in a strange world. Our children feel this even more keenly. Just having children in a space together would be hugely life-changing for them.

    What I want to create is a space for children to be together and know that they are not alone. I believe that every facility that treats life threatening illness should offer this component. My first thought was for children who have loved ones facing cancer, but other illnesses have similar impact. It wouldn’t be difficult. Someone just has to believe it’s important enough.

    Will you help? I don’t want money or your signature on a petition, or anything like that. What I want is for you to pass the word to anyone you think could help make this happen.

    This week I am going to discuss this project with my local cancer care facilities. What I am committed to is that someone who can make it happen will take it on.

    If my children had been able to get this kind of support, they would have experienced being supported through a rough time instead of it being the most terrifying time of their lives.

    If you have any ideas, resources, or suggestions to help me with this project, please contact me at elizabethdanu@rocketmail.com. We can make an impact on a child’s life that will last a lifetime.

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    Well, the holiday hiatus is over. I went to one of my jobs yesterday, so I am gearing up for the routine.

    I worked on the break, but it was fun work, not scheduled work, and I could do it as I liked. I wrote some articles for Yahoo and had fun poking fun at politicians. I did a lot of reading, thinking, focusing.

    It was a tough time among my blogger friends. Sometimes when that happens I just drop out for awhile. That doesn’t help them and it doesn’t help me. What helps me is being engaged in making things better. As 2012 begins, I am again grateful that I am still healthy.

    What I was certain of when I emerged from cancer treatment in 2008 was that a life I loved would be the best medicine to get me well and keep me well. I am continuing to discover what that means exactly. Advocating for the cure for breast cancer is important, and I feel driven to do that. I also have realized lately that it isn’t enough. In a way I’ve lost track of the strategy I used to get well, the decision to really live a life that is joy to me in every way I can discover.

    Yesterday I went to work at the hospital for the first time this year. It was a difficult, sweet, rich, frustrating day. I can’t imagine doing anything else than what I did. I gave massage to four very sick children, and made a difference for them. They broke my heart and made it sing at the same time.

    A friend on an email list I follow asked us to state what we were creating in 2012. Here is what I’m creating:

    In 2012 I am doing more of what matters and less of what doesn’t.

    I am going to see my first e-book at work helping people.

    I am becoming a better and better writer.

    I am continuing my commitment to advocacy, and learning how to balance scrapping for progress with feeding my own soul and staying balanced. Donna, Susan and Jaydub, you are the winds I sail on!

    I will see my invention, which I’ve been sitting on for four years, come out of my brain and into the world. To see it and vote on it, go to quirky.com and search the Comfort Unibra. It costs nothing to join, and once you do you can vote. The inventions that get the most votes go to the next step. By the end of the year I want to see it in production. If it doesn’t make it this round, I’ll do what I need to until it does.

    I am posting on this website more often! When I was in treatment, I blogged to cope with what was happening to me. Life after cancer is a different set of challenges than life in cancer treatment. Blogging has to remain what I do for the love of it, not because I think I have to accomplish something. I’ve flailed around a bit in 2011 discovering this. My focus this year is on congruence, a life in which all of the parts are harmonious with the whole, and something new and wonderful is created.

    I am enjoying my family even more in 2012.

    Happy New Year!

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    Here’s some bad poetry to celebrate the pause after the madness:

    ‘Tis the day after Christmas, and now I can rest.
    The hoopla is over, and I’ve done my best.

    ‘Twas joyful and happy, my family’s content
    Now that it’s over, myself, I am spent!

    The world, it went on while the holidays roared
    my children concerned with the stuff they have scored.

    The season has hijacked commitments and causes.
    I now am glad for the end of these pauses.

    My blogs are neglected, my house is a mess
    farewell has been said to the family and guests.

    My friends fighting cancer are breaking my heart.
    2012 a new year of advocacy will start.

    Soon another year comes, a new chance to give
    every sweet day a new chance to live.

    Soon five years will have passed since they named my disease,
    now I move forward with e’er greater ease.

    A new year is coming, may this be the best!
    For you and for yours, may we all get some rest!

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    As I prepare to go to Washington D.C. for my first conference, I find myself noodling around the internet again, just learning. There are a couple of women whose blogs I follow, and one of them led me to this.
    I have ranted before about how angry it makes me when a sister falls, or when I discover her story only after she has left this earth. This is a stirring post by a woman who is fighting, a woman I’ve never met, who has opened my eyes about the “pink underbelly” of cancer research and fundraising, beyond the walks and the wristbands. It’s a vitally important perspective to take to D.C. with me.

    Deadline 2020 is for the CURE. That means prevention and CURE, the end of metastatic disease as well as early stage breast cancer.

    Onward!

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