Recently, I became a magazine model. Did I ever think I would model? NO - not even when I had an undeveloped teenager’s mind did I ever ever think I would or COULD model. When I look back now, I realize I was really beautiful but I always felt NOT beautiful. I compared myself to everyone and anyone - I recall like yesterday being about 12 (so almost my daughter’s age now) and watching Janet Jackson’s “That’s the Way Love Goes…” music video on MTV (you know, when MTV used to play music videos) and feeling just huge and hideous and wishing I could look as trim and fit and as beautiful as she did.
I realize now that she had a team of people to make her look the way she did in that video and that it is insane for girls women to compare ourselves to stars, musicians and now, IG models and reality TV stars.
Most photos you see out in the world for advertising purposes are photoshopped and airbrushed and videos are also treated after the shooting before we see them so we really should NOT compare ourselves but it is what we do.
After cancer, I find myself doing this less and being more “content” with my body, my face, my weird facial expressions and you know, ME. I also am less fearful of like anything (IDGAF) and just doing things way outside my comfort zone (exhibitionist).
When I first shared with some friends that I would be posing topless and showing body positivity to the point of being a 41 year old (so middle aged) one breasted woman, some folks were shocked and wondering why I felt this need to show my body NOW. I mean, do not get me wrong, as a young lady, I wore string bikinis and “sexy” clothes but as I got older, I became more conservative and though I would show cleavage, I would not show too much and never ever posed naked - I mean, I was a professor / teacher and an executive - we never want to be found with naked pics out there because then it becomes the front page of the New York Post…
So when my friends pushed back, I explained how it was so important to me to show that even though my body has been mutilated and I have lost a piece of what is considered “feminine” by chopping off that tit, I am still happy with my body and sexy in my own way. I would share more about sex but I am married and NO ONE wants to know about married people’s sex life - if I were single and swiping right on Tinder, everyone would be down with it but because I am married, it is icky… lol.
I am also too prudish to write about that stuff anyway - but I am naked in this month’s amazing Body Issue for Wildfire Magazine. This magazine is all about breast cancer and a portion of the proceeds are donated to cancer charities. The magazine has been in print since 2015 AD FREE and showcases the true story of breast cancer with images, stories, coloring inserts and more.
My lovely photo taken by the amazing Sophie Mayanne of Behind the Scars was picked to be put in the magazine and check it out - it is a FULL PAGE image and on the next page is a little bit about my body image and my post mastectomy experience as well as a listing of my nonprofit, too!
If you have the time and are interested in an amazingly crafted with love magazine about our experiences and life with breast cancer, sign up to get copies here - you can get digital copies or printed ones! It is a great resource to find your tribe, to learn about things in the community and to give back, all at the same time!
The magazine is AD-FREE and a portion of each new subscription is donated to MBC/Stage IV research. WILDFIRE supports METAvivor and The Cancer Couch Foundation.
Check it out today! This is what I do in the time between.... share life as a "uniboober" and smile, every damn day -- come on over and tell me what you do in the time between in the comments or via insta.
Today is my first "Cancer Survivor Day" - last year on this day, I was still hiding out under my covers going to radiation and pretending like I did not have a story to tell and now here I am, a year later, living this day and dreading it and also focusing on the word "survivor" and despite knowing I could make this post ALL ABOUT my nonprofit initiative and what I can do to help people embrace their survivor life with work training and resume help and whatever, I won't.
(Well, in a way I did because I am a marketing person through and through but it was just an intro - here's the meat of the story).
Sometimes, when I am walking around perpetually smiling and thankful that I am still alive because YES I am a super smile-y happy kind of person now inside and out - before just on the outside ... well while doing this, sometimes, it hits me that there are people all around me that:
A- have no clue I was ever so sick that this was in question and
B-have never experienced "cancer" or an illness that could lead to them wondering these things chief among them the kneejerk"why me..." question.
In the beginning, I thought this way entirely TOO OFTEN to sustain life - I trained my brain to not think this way and to just change my life motto from "things happen for a reason" to "it could always be worse". Inside, I do not think I got cancer for a reason - there is no reason for ANYONE to get cancer. Despite that fact, more and more people of all ages are being diagnosed and either embracing this day or hiding under the covers as I did last year.
Cancer is something that once you have it, you ALWAYS have it - either in the front of your mind in fear or way back in a back file cabinet ready to jump out on a moment's notice. So, I have a headache - is it nothing or is it cancer? So I have a back ache - is it nothing or is it cancer? Cancer is one of the most insidious of diseases - you do not have a clue that it is there sometimes until BAM it is too late. For all of my times that I struggled with this diagnosis, I always was HAPPY that I found it before it had become WORSE.
That does not change the fact that despite my focus on wellness and being in the moment, sometimes, it hits me that I went from a spec on my mammogram in April 2016 to Stage 3A high grade, fast moving cancer by November 2016 with no lump, no family history and no capacity to manage being a cancer patient. I am so lucky it did not spread to my brain, bones, or vital organs. I also know that I have to stay lucky for the rest of my life for it not to rear up and do so - 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 1 in 3 of those women will become metastatic where the cancer spreads and ultimately die from it or beat the "stats" of 3 years survival rate and live 5, 10, 15, 20 or more years but always in treatment and trying to stay HERE.
I have written in the past how in the blink of an eye you go from worrying about every little thing in your life to realizing just how fucking little those things were and wondering why did you ever spend a moment thinking about them. It happens that fast. And it does not go away - and I embrace THIS as a good thing on this Survivor Sunday. I even have "do I give a f&%k test" that I will write about soon but it focuses on "does this have the capacity to kill me" Y/N if Y worry if N fuck it.
Of course, a really good thing (the best thing even) would be for cancer to be eradicated, cured and that each of us still living in this time between would know that we are GOOD CURED and not worry about the "what ifs".
I mitigate my "what ifs" in a way I never knew before - and a way I could never have done before. My old "what ifs" were the rigid constructs around which I built my life. My rules and living methods were stricter than strict and I could not draw outside of the lines.
My new way of mitigating risks is to just fucking embrace them. Who knows what tomorrow will bring - today I will do what I need to do to "survive". And if that means pouring my soul into my current day and spending it loving my kids (even my husband) and trying to build my nonprofit initiative and working on my small business on the side and NOT thinking about cancer and how fast it enveloped my life, my breast and my lymph nodes well then SO BE IT.
I wish you peace on this day of "cancer survivors" and I hope you feel it in your bones and in your heart. To those of you who have never heard the words, "You have cancer..." you also never learned that the small things are everywhere and worried about and for that I pity you. Ironic, right?
I am sure you pity me - thinking about how I had cancer and maybe you do not understand the disease and you are happy in that and you assume I beat it and why do I continually live it by sharing and talking about it and basing my life on helping others with it... Well, it is what it is. This is me, one boob and all.
I was diagnosed at 39 years old - making me not only the first in my family with cancer but also the dreaded "young" cancer moniker. I do not focus on the negative I spend each day doing
I have been "busy" but also decided to be "unplugged" this Memorial Day Weekend.
Well, as much as I love social media (and I really do) it can be all consuming. It can be the constant itch to check to see who looked at your stuff, who commented on your stuff and whose stuff you can see and love...
And I do love it - it is a lifeline for me to connect with so many women (and men) who have been through cancer or are going through cancer or love someone going through cancer, whatever their story may be...
I love sharing my story but have had issues making time for blogging because I have been go go go on the nonprofit me (see more here- nonprofit-methe-plan-to-help-others.html) but again, I am drawn back to writing my secrets, my worries and letting them go here...
Despite "disconnecting" this weekend (I did pop on and off here and there) I did spend time redesigning my website and sharing a little bit about the newest book I wrote (a workbook to get back to work after cancer - learn more about my books for #careeraftercancer here - Books & Workbooks). Oh and here I am on Sunday posting to my blog - but this is my therapy, my time to be alone with my thoughts.
And my thoughts are jumbled these last few days. I saw a family member who had been estranged and I was not happy with what I saw and it sent me for a loop - to the point that I had to go to bed like immediately after the visit.
That is the real crazy thing about life after cancer - you feel things more or maybe it is just that you admit things more to yourself - I have trouble figuring out which it is for me. I find myself being tired and going to rest - I know I was always tired but I never went to rest. I am learning how to say, "No" and I say it a lot. I am learning to let go and letting things just fall where they will instead of being the control freak, mom of ALL I surveyed that I was...
That is just it, you know - as a mom, you always have people to take care of - but they are usually little people and then as they grow your parenting changes with their needs and their wants or whatever. I know that I was not changing or letting go until I got cancer - but despite that diagnosis and the healing from the treatments and so on and so forth, I still have this "inkling" to parent the big people I was parenting - and there were a lot of them.
I was faced with something yesterday that normally, I would then have taken control and tried to fix and or manage the people around it to do it and how to do it and yes, controlling is something I am ... Instead, I recognized how much it bothered me, I respected that feeling but I unwrapped my grip on trying to fix it to get it better or to take it on myself.
In doing that, I recognized that my priority, my responsibility, is to my own health and the health and well being of those I am only responsible for - my kids and by default my husband, too. I do not like to group him in with the kids in a bad way but he is in ways like a kid - he is trusting and in need of direction lol ...
So is it just me or do you guys too find that things you once did or tackled or took on are now as impossible as flying? I look back at what I used to do like
-how I never went to bed until everyone in my house was asleep
-how I managed the lives of me and my family to precision detail
-how I managed to work part time / full time / as entrepreneur and teacher and more all while just smiling and thinking about inside how much I was going crazy or how much anxiety I had or how much I feared.
Now, I know I can only handle so much and I pick my battles - because I feel things harder now - if my husband and I have an argument, it bothers me so deeply - trust our entire marriage was an argument before and it never stopped me ... now, I have to make things right - or work with him instead of around him to get things together done instead of always being a lone wolf...
If I argue or disagree with someone else, instead of being like "Basta" and cutting them out, I now try to find the middle ground. I have learned I guess how short life is and how I want to live it - on my terms. I do not in any way let people walk all over me - the exact opposite, in fact - in that I do not walk all over myself anymore. I recognize that I am a person who has to be respected and cared for and loved by ME first and foremost.
Anyone else with me? This is what I do (and think about) in the time between...
Last week was a very big event - my son received communion! 3 years ago, my daughter received and it was so important to me as my faith has always been a big part of what makes me me. I brought Sofia to mass as a little baby and then when her brother was born, I brought the two of them to mass all of the time - and it was NOT easy. Waking up early as a mom of 2 kids, I would dress them and drag them to mass for 8am. They would often resist and / or complain. I did it anyway - even chasing my son up and down the aisles.
On Saturday May 5, it was the day. I kept thinking each week, “Ok, I have to get through these next few days…” - it seems every week, there was something else to do, some other event to handle between sports, homework, activities - having young kids and a new 501(c)(3) (on-helping-others-as-a-501c3.html) is fun and challenging as I keep trying to balance my need to write, my need to do more with my very much needed life at home.
A balanced woman is hard to be - it seems the kids school days are getting shorter and shorter and between working out and trying to eventually see my girlfriends and spend time with my husband and extended family, it is hard to balance.
Today is mother’s day and it is fitting that I am getting myself more on the “balance” train and trying to manage the many things I want to do and how.
We took photos together at communion and I have just a few of them. I guess if nothing else, we can all agree that I look hella different from 2015 and 2018 (see below).
To think, my daughter’s communion was exactly 1 year and 6 months before my diagnosis of breast cancer at 39 years old. And then, to also think that last year, I was still undergoing chemotherapy until May 1st. I was lucky that my chemo was a year ago and that I was able to kind of have gone through this “metamorphosis” for my son’s communion but really I am just happy to be here, to have been able to sit at his communion with my own hair and my one boob and just be ME.
It crossed my mind only once during the ceremony - the dreaded, "What if?" and I just pushed it away right quick to live and enjoy the moment and not worry about what cancer might do - if it does God forbid spread or come back or otherwise make my life be in danger. Instead, it was with a deep breathe, that I sat in that church and watched my son receive the body of Christ that I exhaled and said, "No what it's, just TODAY."
I am lucky and focused on trying to do the balance - it is hard. I do know that time goes quickly - well, in a “the days are long but the years are short kind of thing”.
So I try to balance and take care of me and the many goals I want to accomplish with my 501(c)(3) along with enjoying the moments, the moments that continue to fly by and change me from a mom of two babies to a mom of two young kids to someday, God willing, a mom of teens and beyond…
Fitting for mother’s day to share that…
This is what I do in the time between...
PS: Happy Momma's Day again :) XOXO
As I prepare for mother’s day - well, yes, we mothers prepare for our own holidays (we get it) lol. We have to clean the house and organize the events and make sure all of the other mothers are getting cards and/or gifts from the family (read: husband and kids) and more.
As I am getting these things "done", I cannot help but think about all of my past mother’s days and the different ways I focused on all of the wrong things, year after year after year and to forgive myself for it.
When my daughter was born in 2007, I was on maternity leave for 10+ weeks and during that time, I felt (as I guess most of us new mothers do) like I ceased to exist. For most women, maybe, this feeling passes or gets less with time but for me, it did not. I continued to feel as though what ever I needed was not even on the list of things "to do".
I worked full time in NYC and made a big salary and I hated leaving her but I also enjoyed a bit of pretending to be able to attend to my own needs at work for a few hours… but then, things got bad.
My husband got sick and by that first mother’s day, I was just clinging on and hoping, praying for a day where keeping my daughter ALIVE did not rely on me. (And yes, it felt that dramatic - there is no, “the baby will tend to herself” and at the time, I had no help officially available to me beyond certain set times…) I just wanted a day to sleep in - it seemed like such a luxury - to sleep uninterrupted without having to get up and do something for the baby, who I loved more than life itself but my body and mind wanted just one day. One day.
Reader, I did not get it that one day. It seems laughable now but at the time and in coming years, I continually held out hope that that random Sunday in May would be the day I could rest and be "me" without having to run around like a lunatic but eventually, I embraced it and I could see no other way to be so even that one day was not one for me to take off but to keep going …
My first Mother's Day 2008
I took this to the extreme even if help did become available, I was not interested in it. I had become a one woman machine - getting diapers, bottles and whatnot - toilet training, removing the bottle, nutrition, activities, homework, etc etc. I was a dynamo. People marveled to my face, “I do not know how you do it.” To my behind probably something more like, “That woman is a control freak!”
I was in this pattern and ready to continue on it - did not anticipate where I could let go or how. I had no clue. I was a bad friend and definitely someone who was not the best of “support” when it comes to my husband but he also had his demons and issues, towards me… So we can call it a draw.
Then, bam, I was hit with cancer. How in the world would I be able to keep doing what I was doing the soup to nuts of everything with my kids and work full time and survive? The main question I had was on surviving. I struggled with what hospital to go to, mainly because of the kids and my own fear of traffic.
Ultimately, I learned slowly and painfully that the old way was dead. That in order to survive, in order to truly live, I had to let go of being the control freak worry wart mother who did not allow sleepovers or play dates where I could not be present (omg, I hated that version of me but at the time it was all I knew how to be so I forgive that version of me and love her again)...
It helped immensely that my kids WERE 6 and 9 when I was diagnosed and not 2 and 5, though it was still hard for them (and me) and it continues to be hard for them to adjust to this new normal, too (and of course, me, too though it should go without saying - this new normal is one you have to adjust to each day, and it is different each day, too). I say all the time that it is not just the patient who gets cancer but the whole family - friends, too as most of them are close as family…
So on the eve of this Mother’s Day, I think to myself, “the kids are all right” part prayer and part belief in it and most importantly, or just as importantly, I am, too.
I have big ideas for the rest of this year and next - I hesitate to say, "plans" because the truth is we never know what the future holds but I have my ideas... I want to focus on my nonprofit 501(c)(3) career after cancer initiative - I want to travel and spread my training and books around the country and maybe beyond. I have so many stories to tell in my fiction writing, even beyond my first publication in the Visible Ink anthology.
I want to spend time with my kids and family, too - first and foremost and I am going to go easier on myself in terms of my “deadlines” and “planning” as though I am a project manager and this organization is my baby, my project but my kids are on the list, too. And every day, they get a bit older... pretty soon, they will be more and more independent and I know I will miss these days.
But, the big news for me personally and spiritually is my trip in February 2019 back to my second home, Rome. The home I left 20 years ago. Where I grew up. But listen, do not tell my kids yet - they do not know! It’s a trip I am taking without them.
I am not just going to Rome but also to see San Giovanni Rotondo, where Padre Pio is - I feel as though I am being called to go and so I am going. More on that in another post. This is what I do in the time between.
Slideshow of Mother's Day Past :)
PS: Happy Mother's Day to my golden girls in Heaven and of course to my mom who always has my back and yells at me only sometimes and to my mother in law, too, who also has my back. I am a lucky girl & my kids are lucky grandkids!
Me & Dad at my 2005 wedding :)
So you would think that going on vacation after breast cancer dx and treatment would pale compared to vacations of yesteryear -- but you would be wrong!
Why is this and what is wrong with your writer? Simple - the word for it, I guess, would be “anxiety” - or just “fear” or just “stupidity”. When I think back about all of the things that I worried about when in reality, I had nothing to worry about I really do want to have a flux capacitor to go back in time to kick my own ass.
So summers past getting ready for vacation would boggle my mind - I would pack everyone and panic the whole time, thinking about the ride to wherever we were going and whether or not there would be traffic. Yes, this girl, who lives in the most densely populated area around had an anxiety disorder around being stuck in traffic.
It was something that creeped up on me little by little over the years - my world got smaller and smaller but not overnight - over years. I went from traveling the world, living in other countries and states and even doing the 27 hour flight to Singapore without a thought. It was just “living” and I did a lot of it - I mean, I used to fly to Rome for the WEEKEND. For the weekend! Crazy.
Then, little by little, I got less and less adventurous. I started to really think in terms of “No, I cannot do that!” Before my “real” wedding (after we eloped alone) was my first inkling that I was developing an issue.
All of a sudden, I could not take the subway anymore. I had taken the subway ALL OF THE TIME but now, I got the intense feeling that I would need a bathroom during the times when the train stops and waits - at times this could be 4 minutes or 4 hours (ain’t nothing like the good ole’ MTA). What a weird, random thing to worry about but it consumed me for many years - this fear of needing a bathroom when there was none…
Looking back at when it all began was around the time of my church wedding. I was really worried about my wedding - we had eloped, yes, but had planned an semi old fashioned church wedding with party for a few months after our elopement.
All of a sudden, I was convinced that something bad would happen at my traditional wedding. My dad, who had raised me as a single dad, and my mom were basically still at war even then almost 15 years after divorce and my mom would be at the wedding with her new-ish husband.
My dad had hated the fact that I lived in “sin” with my husband before marriage and I just did not know what would happen at the wedding - would he not be willing to walk me down the aisle? Would he be angry at me? Would my mom do something crazy?
It was all a “loose cannon” opportunity to someone who had been raised hearing ALL OF THE TIME about how my mom’s dad refused to walk her down the aisle and how this meant she had no family and that the marriage was cursed, etc etc. Now, here, was the perfect opportunity (down to the same CHURCH) for history to repeat itself.
My mom was to be my maid of honor - I had been hers more times than I could count (ok, twice, two times, two different marriages) so I figured it was her turn to do the same for me. I had no real “fears” about her doing her job - she had been in enough weddings as a bride to know what to do (lol).
Leading up to the wedding, I knew something was “off” so I went to a therapist (not a new thing for me, I began therapy in high school just through my school and college, too) and walked out when she blamed my fears and anxieties on my childhood and my parents. I do not abide by that - not just because I am a parent myself staring at the precipice of childhood trauma with my cancer diagnosis - but I just feel that anything going on with me in my late 20’s though maybe jiggled into place by a fear around history repeating itself at my wedding is not anyone's FAULT but mine for how I see the world.
(Also, at the time, I struggled with even pinpointing what my issue was - it is only now with present’s 20/20 hindsight that I can figure out what it was…)
Oh and see that picture above of the 5 of us, my "core" family - it was taken in 2005; the last such picture I have of that group is from my college graduation in 1998... so was stress really that much of a surprise?
The wedding went well, my dad walked me down the aisle, crying audibly the whole way - weird as he is not really someone who has even been “emotional” - and the party was awesome but the fear and the nerves did not go away.
Shortly after my wedding, I turned down a travel requirement for my job and told my boss I did not feel comfortable flying for the short term. He looked at me like I was nuts - me, the girl who hopped on the plane to Singapore without saying “boo” who flew to Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Italy etc was asking to sit out the next flight. And the next. And the next.
This did not go away even when I changed jobs to my big step to being a VP and a big salary. I still had this “issue” - some days, I could not even make myself commute to work and instead worked from home.
It was debilitating and yet, I did not realize it or would not realize it. So vacations past were a hotbed of anxiety, fearing the road trip - me who used to live in Boston and drive to NY on weekends just for fun - could not fathom a trip to Pennsylvania without worrying and fears and being a nut.
So, facing cancer, if it does nothing else for me, made me realize I cannot live in FEAR. Commuting to NYC for my initial appointments, stuck in traffic on the FDR, I looked at my reflection in the cab’s window and said, “You have cancer - you cannot be afraid of anything anymore. Your worst case scenario came true - this is what fear breeds, disease, illness, death. It is OVER.”
And, for some reason, after years of journaling (is that a word?) and worrying and thinking, I felt it let go. When it tries to come back, I remind myself, “I faced cancer, I can face ANYTHING.”
I just wish I had been able to learn this lesson without the potential life threatening illness BUT I non friga nienta because at least I learned it. So if you ever see someone peeing on the side of the road, it’s me and I do not care :). This is what I do in the time between.
A few minutes before walking down the aisle, this is the face of "oh shit, please don't let this be a disaster!"
There are so many things I have had to let go - past hurts, past grudges - things I would normally be able to hold onto for decades are now, all gone. I am transparent or as transparent as I can be by sharing my story and being as authentic as I can in life, love and all matters in between.
Sometimes, though, I have a flashback to when I was going through chemotherapy and it hits me hard in the gut how people can be so cruel, so small minded and so dumb regarding the body's potential to turn on you and how it can happen to anyone, at any time.
I hate to hold stock in karma and the truth is that I wish bad on no one - I do not have time for that. I have made choices and conscious decisions around letting go and probably not pursuing things that if I did pursue might make my finances less grim.
So turn the other cheek is what I did and continue to do but sometimes, I have a flashback or a nightmare and it hits me that there is evil in everyone - that some people exist to be the villain in their own mind and you know what, I pity them. More importantly, I hope that karma skips them - let them continue to live in ignorance and enjoy their healthy bodies, their two boobs or two balls or whatever and let them know that I pray for them - I pray for them to never experience what I did and that though I am broken and battled, I will always be kind, which is more than I can say for them.
My whole life, I have experienced things differently than others. I know a lot of people who fall apart at the drop of a hat and I was always stoic and focused on how to survive the things that happened instead of wallowing in them.
I have had people "pity" me before I got cancer. Pity sucks and I thought I had written before about how it is a useless emotion. I pity you and think how lucky I am to not be you and then moments later I am all pissed off about something not working the way I thought it should. At no point did anyone learn anything, anyone help anyone, or anything positive come out of that experience.
For me, there are times when I am reticent to share my story upon meeting someone new or when talking with folks. I do not know why this is - I am almost ashamed of it but there are some people I can sense off the bat would pity me harrrddd and though I am used to it sometimes I just CANNOT.
As I said, I have experienced pity before being a "motherless" child - through divorce, not death, marrying a cop who had some issues - to put it mildly, having had miscarriages and being broke and well the list goes on... I always have and will continue to hold my head up high despite the drama the pitying looks and all but sometimes I tire of being this "sick person" who is pitied.
You know, I am not sick. I do not *feel* sick aside from being tired but I was always tired even before cancer and its treatments. I know I have written this before but it bears repeating for any newbies reading this - when you are diagnosed with cancer, throw out your experiences of what it is like to go to a doctor. Before cancer, if you do not feel well, you go to your doctor and they make you feel better. During and after cancer, you go to the doctor and you get hit with treatments that make you feel worse, worse, worse than you can imagine.
Then, once you are "done" with all of your active treatment, there are still more things you must do such as hormone therapy and/or ovary suppression and/or clinical trial and/or just hope and pray it never spreads (God forbid) or comes back (also God forbid).
You know you cannot live in the mire or in hiding (trust, I did it for a while and I could not any longer hide but instead went loud and proud by unveiling myself in this blog). Sometimes in telling your story, you feel so empowered like a kick ass warrior women who knows how to manage it all but then you look at the other person who never had to deal with cancer and you envy and worry about wow how much it would have been amazing to go back in time and never to have been told you have cancer...
Now, I know it is hard for me to ever hide this shit as I have only one tit and oh a blog that about 2400-3000 people a WEEK are on and reading; not to mention my Facebook and Twitter accounts that are also kind of broadcasting the fact that I am, in my own mind, a cancer survivor.
However much I call myself a survivor, my doctors at Sloan would not as there is something about a 3-5 year window that needs to be hit before that word is given to you. That being said, I am okay with calling myself a cancer survivor (just recently, though). I was calling myself a survivor in training but I decided to just go for it and promote myself because I do so believe that a bulk of this crap with cancer is mental and physical and luck and out of my control.
When I created my hypnosis script and mixed it with a meditation tune in February, I was so damn happy about it because in my mind it is another layer in my defense - I am hypnotizing myself to believe there is no sign of disease anywhere in my body, plus I am exercising and staying low on the scale to help with risk of recurrence and eating healthy and using only organic crap in my hair, on my face, on my body etc and STILL I know as much as the sun will rise tomorrow that there is still a 30% chance that I could become stage 4 and die from this disease.
I do not know what other people know about these stats, though, when they pity me. I do not know if they know that stage 4 is the only kind of breast cancer people die from or if they just feel bad my hair is so short, my boob is one less or that my kids went through something life changing at such young ages.
I do know that no matter what, I keep sharing my story, meeting more and more people and struggling with my own fatigue to figure out how to execute on even bigger things to help others who have been told "you have cancer". May it never be you or someone you love but if it is, I am here for you.
This is what I do in the time between.
In keeping with my promise to myself, I have been focusing more on self-care and on being kind to myself. What does it mean to be kind to myself? It means I am not beating myself up anymore about things I cannot control or do much about in terms of finances, stamina and just whatever else can come up.
I do want to do so much and I still plan on doing it but in pieces and much less showy. I also am still very active on my Instagram, despite initially thinking I would not be. Insta is really kind of my lifeline, my connection to others who have walked my walk and who can understand how I feel.
I have been slightly more social of late, too with some parties and events I have attended. That is all great but as we all know, sleep is impacted by the aftereffects and current effects of treatments/medications so I have been more tired and also trying to manage out my time effectively. I want to enjoy more with my kids and focus on all of my blessings - the fact that as far as I know I am NED and that last year at this time, I was just wishing I could survive chemotherapy and be considered "normal" again.
Now, though, is the wisdom that I cannot be "normal" again - though I see myself as still being "me" I am not the me I would have been had my plot twist of cancer not hit me right in the middle of chapter 39 of my book of life. Instead, though, I am starting to love this new me, this creature who knows what to do though I forget often enough that I need to remind me to be nicer to myself, to know what I need to let go of to say fuck it all when my bank account goes red to not fear tomorrow or to think about how to handle tomorrow but instead to enjoy and think about today.
Unfortunately, no one knows what tomorrow will bring but when your yesterdays are full of chemo, surgeries and learning this new vocabulary of cancer, you kind of learn that today is the shit.
So today and yesterday, my kids are home (thanks nor'easter #4 in 4 weeks!) and instead of obsessively planning out my next steps and what I want to do, I have been watching movies, cleaning & laundry (it never ends the cleaning and laundry involved with being a mom/woman/etc) and just enjoying my little people and my family, too.
Wednesday night, I got to fulfill a little dream by being able to walk on a runway for my kids' school. I thought I would be one of many moms walking but I was the only mom who walked. Lately, with my new makeup skills and the use of a makeup artist, i have been feeling glam and fab - but not too big for my britches than to also post photos of me looking ridiculous and spikey!
In between Wednesday night's festivities, I have been home and reading and resting with the kids (or when they are at school, just on my own). That is my solace, my escape - I read and it is like watching movies in my head. I have wanted to write but I have been loathe to get my laptop and start going at it ... today was the first day I had the urge to write.
Last year at this time, I still had 40 days left of chemotherapy treatments... I refuse to get down about anything, though it is a challenge to keep myself focused on the positive...Check out my pics & my video of me on the catwalk and let me know what you think! I had always wanted to model something and this dress was perfect for me and my one boob-situation - you cannot even tell! Some of the women there were telling me how brave I was to model and I was like, "sister, I had a boob cut off, this doesn't take much bravery!" ... This is what I do in the time between...
This blog has been for me and continues to be an online diary, in a lot of ways. I share things that I really did not think I would ever share with more than my own private diary and it does help me put it out and I know it helps others to read it. I am sure I get some looky-lous just showing up to read about stuff they hope to never experience (with 3200+ people this week alone on my blog, how could it not be so) but overall, I think we are all here because we are or we know or love someone with cancer.
I have been very unkind to myself, friends. I have been pushing and stressing and trying to build an empire when I can barely make it through my week. What does this mean? It means I am moving too fast, trying to do too much and I am not really sure to what end.
I want to be an entrepreneur and make my own hours with The Next Step but I do not have the stamina or the mental wherewithal to get it where I want it to be and let's be honest, even pre-cancer me struggled to really get to a point where I could say, yeah, this is a living. It was not a living. It was a constant fight and struggle to get in front of people, to sing for my supper, so to speak and I did it and then got offered a full time job and did not even think twice about walking away from that endeavor.
Now, here I am, battered, bruised and missing a tit - it is just something that although I live for the flexibility, there will not be the financials to justify pushing, clawing and presenting my way through the next 6-8 months to even get somewhere.
Then, I am trying to build so much around career after cancer when as you all know I have yet to find a job period. It almost feels like a bad case of imposter syndrome though I do know I can help others with my background and lessons but just the thought of launching this is giving me such cold feet.
My children's book is my passion but just getting it out there costs money and to be honest, as I have been before, my budget is broke.
Here is where it all comes together - I need to let it go. I cannot change my budget or my financials at this time. I do not have the stamina. I went out dancing like a fiend on Saturday night and then spent yesterday in bed and today I am coming to you from my couch without the energy I needed to do a practice of my first presentation via seminar.
I beat myself up too much, I get too pulled in with trying to be something I do not think I ever was. I have always been the person who needed 8+ hours of sleep, even before cancer. I have always been a bit of a homebody who struggles between being totally outspoken and social and really introverted.
I need to promise myself some stuff.
1- I need to forget about my finances and stop trying to correct them, add to them and/or freak out about it anymore full stop. I spent the other night in my bed so sad thinking about the job/opportunities I just do not think will work out and/or the ways in which I cannot continue balancing it all out and my husband and children came upstairs to hug me and to tell me how much they love me.
THAT is what is important and is what made the tears fall more than the sad thoughts about budgeting and being broke but instead about how much I am loved and how much I have to be here for it.
2- The financial toxicity of cancer is not just something I am going through - everyone who has been diagnosed and gone through something knows it is true. There are costs you cannot budget for and the biggest cost, for me, has been my mental capacity and my stamina (the former is still pretty decent but man it used to be so much more and the latter while always bad is just so much worse it is comical). I do not think I have it in me anymore to rush around to multiple places a day to sing for my supper or even to manage out the ability to have a set schedule of a few days a week.
When I feel terribly about it, which I do, I want to shake myself and remember that is has not even been a year since my last chemotherapy yet (May 1; coming close but not here yet) and that money is only good for things. Health is most important but it is so hard for me to get that when I have things I need to pay for but cannot. I also have things I want to pay for but cannot. I have said before that our budget was often bad once I opted out of full time work in NYC but this past year (almost) since I stopped working due to being laid off it has been the worst ever.
3- I need to stop focusing on sharing and sharing and sharing so much all the time. Although it is wonderful to share for sharing's sake, getting sucked in to doing it for ego and/or for "fame" is something I do not want to do. I want to treasure the relationships I have built, never exploit them and to just enjoy life whatever is left of it.
This means I will scale back on my guest posting, my constant sharing and my self promotion. I do not want to ever make money from cancer PERIOD but I also do not want to trade in my authentic self with something cloying and/or manufactured. This is me, I am half flat, I still want to focus on healing and being out there so much means I have less to give to myself... and that is not acceptable. I will still update my blog but I will use Instagram less and not jump so much as the chance to do X Y or Z for the thought of making myself the face of something. I am just ok being the read end of it or the missing tit of it - not the face, it is not necessary.
4-I need to enjoy the little things more and not think about how to post it and/or share it - ironically as I am sharing this but the fact remains that writing things down and getting it out helps me and if in turn it helps you too that is an amazing byproduct of what is basically my self therapy...
5-Health is most important -putting this last but it should be first. I want to just balance out my sharp edges - my fears, my anxieties now shifting from cancer to bills - it is not acceptable. I survived fucking stage 3 cancer, so what I am struggling financially to hit certain things - I am not alone in this. I am lucky, I have my house, my food in the kitchen and husband, kids and dog, too. Oh and parents, mother in law, friends, brother(s) - only one is speaking to me but that too has to be let go of because I cannot keep it all inside or worry about it.
This is what I am doing in the time between - trying to learn to let go of what is poison and focus on what is good. As I have said before, a bunch of people in a room slap their problems down like playing cards everyone will want to pick up their own problems to leave the room with so I won't stop smiling ... just have to stop worrying.
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