Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I hope my blog silence hasn't led you to believe that I dropped dead during my 60 mile walk! Far from it, in fact. The Big Man and I walked every step together. We crossed the finish hand in hand. We are victorious!

I am not sure how to sum up our 3-Day for the Cure weekend in a way that will do it justice. All I can say is that, over the course of those 60 miles, Alex and I fell in love all over again.

You see, the Big Man and I had only been dating about six months before my diagnosis back in 2005. We were still getting to know one another and then this huge cancer thing was thrown into our laps. Over the past six years, we have done a little dance when it comes to my cancer. I want him to be involved, but I also want to be independent. We want to communicate about complicated emotional issues and we don't quite know how. He wants to get involved and help, but at the end of the day, this cancer journey is mine.

The most difficult step to learn in this cancer dance has been that my man wants to make it all better and take the pain away. We are learning that is impossible. Every day is a new chapter in our relationship. Every day is a learning experience. It can be beautiful, but it is so hard.

The 2010 Susan G. Komen DC 3-Day for the Cure was the high point of our relationship, the culmination of all our hard work. We embarked on the journey still doing our little "figuring this all out" dance, but we left totally in sync. It could have gone either way. I was so nervous that he would hate the walk or wouldn't get the emotion behind it. I should have had more faith in my man's heart. I should have had more faith in how he understands my struggle and appreciated more that he is dealing with a struggle all his own. He may not come to every appointment because there are simply too many, but he feels deeply every ache, pain and every set back.

Each day we were both pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed walking and talking together and we were shocked that we could laugh until we cried and come up with brand new nicknames for one another. Our team, The Million Dollar Babies, was perfect. The perfect amount of support and encouragement and comic relief, and it was a large team so that we could have our own private journey as a couple, but we were never ever alone.

As we walked across the finish, Alex looked at me and smiled and said, "Congratulations, Little One." Next to the words, "I Do," that was the sweetest phrase I've ever heard. Alex was proud of me. I was proud of him. We were both in incredible pain!

When we left the 3-Day Sunday night we were no longer those two people traveling the same difficult road. Instead, we left as one person looking forward confidently toward the future.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so, without further ado:

The Big Man and Big Girl 3-Day for the Cure journey

music courtesy of Ingrid Michaelson: "Soldier." Everybody. 2009.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure

October has begun. The one month of the year when the entire world seems to join me on the crusade to which I dedicate every waking moment all year round.

I love and loathe October all at the same time. I love all of the pink everywhere I turn. I get joy from seeing pink toilet paper, although I don't buy it because the Big Man has forbidden me from bringing any more pink into the house. When I came home with a pink laptop, he drew a line!

My friend and fellow fighter Courtney
She lost her battle at only 25 years old
 Some detractors complain that companies use the pink color to increase sales without actually making any real commitment to the fight against breast cancer. Others argue that selling pink items gives individuals the idea that fighting breast cancer is easily done. These arguments don't bother me too much because I recognize that the world is made up all kinds of people.

As they say, it takes a village.

Not everyone will want to walk, run, or advocate. Very few people will write a letter to a senator or congressman. Very few people will write a check. Even fewer people will actually volunteer their time. But everyone can buy pet food, razor blades, chocolate and jewelry. I don't fault the shoppers for their lack of commitment. Perhaps they are lucky enough to have never been touched by cancer. Or, consider perhaps that they have been touched, but are so emotionally exhausted by the trauma that all they can bear to commit is an anonymous purchase thrown in with all the other week's groceries.

That is OK.

You choose your level of commitment, I've chosen mine.

To the detractors who say that some companies don't donate the sales from pink items, I say: yes! That is an issue that needs to be policed,  but regardless of the tiny amount or even complete lack of a donation, the pink toilet paper does raise awareness. It does get people talking, it does make a consumer pause, and it does make people aware. It also might be the first step in a longer journey. Perhaps the exhausted survivor starts by throwing pink razor blades into her cart. The next year she throws razor blades and goes out of her way to fly with an airline that supports Susan G. Komen for the Cure. This year, she takes it a step further and buys Nancy Brinker's new book "Promise Me." Then she is inspired. Next year, she runs a race. The year after that, she registers for the 3-Day and raises thousands of dollars.  All it took was one pink razor blade and time.

And so, I love October with all of its pinkness and overwhelming, hectic pace. I relish this rare moment when everyone rallies behind me, this entire month when I see people in front and people behind me in line at the grocery store all with pink items in their cart.

 Just as the Christmas season overflows with songs, family, and good cheer, I feel like October is ripe with opportunities for support, education, and hope. No matter male or female, young or old; no matter race, creed, socioeconomic status, or connection to the cause, for four short weeks every year, everyone is behind me in my fight.

My major problem with October is October 31st, when everyone stops rallying behind me while breast cancer keeps killing.

That is where the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure comes in. That is where I get my fix of support and hope year round. Although the event is truly a sacred experience for me, and although Big Man and I have prepared all year for our journey, I have waited months to talk about my 3-Day for the Cure experience here because I worry that I will not do it justice. But today I will try.

2008 San Diego 3-Day Survivor Circle with Saralyn and Jennifer
I walk in the Komen 3-Day for the Cure every year. Even though I am a seasoned participant, and although some people dismiss it as just another fundraising event, I get deeply excited about the journey every year. I feel the kind of anticipation and nervousness that a small child feels on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa's arrival. My tummy does flip flops and feels like it jumped right up into my throat. My heart pounds fast enough to flutter my shirt-front. I have to abstain from coffee all week for fear of serious over-stimulation. I think about and dream about little else.

This one event has given me more hope than any scan result.

On the 3-Day for the Cure you are transported. Transported to a world where the cure is already a reality: a world without death, a world with only hope and love. You are transported from a place of helplessness to a place full of power. From a place of illness to a place of immense strength. From a place of disappointment, to a place of success. Surrounded by the sound of thousands of determined feet, you can't help but feel carried. When you cry, and you will cry, there are thousands of shoulders available for comfort.

Everyone has a story, one is sadder than the next, and you are no longer alone. I also think the sheer length of the walk, three days and 60 miles, makes every interaction more poignant. Like a summer love where two days can feel like two years, friendships formed along the 3-Day for the Cure feel like lifelong bonds after only a few minutes.

And the finish line!

Thousands of women and men line up shoulder to shoulder in their matching victory shirts and form a tunnel through which you are literally carried. When you cross the finish line, bandaged and broken. When you hobble across the finish and think, surely, I can not move another step. Instead of collapsing, you are greeted by thousands of high fives, deafening cheers, and are rained on by your fellow walker's tears of joy and sorrow. You are lifted up. Your limp is transformed into a confident stride. By being part of something bigger, you feel as though you could easily walk another 60.

If so many people can feel so strongly, can unite and create something so beautiful, no matter how dark the diagnosis, we must win. We will win. Alone, we can do nothing, but together, we can do anything.

The Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure weekend is one of the only times I have ever cried during my journey. I clearly remember the times I have cried outside of the 3-Day. Given my personality, they have been few and far between. I am not overly optimistic or fighting to keep from crying, I simply put my head down and continue to live.

I think this cancer diagnosis is so scary and so overwhelming, that my mind goes numb. My mind only allows me to see one step ahead, one day ahead, one small goal ahead. My mind prevents me from comprehending the full enormity of my situation. But on the 3-Day for the Cure, my mind is confronted by "shock and awe" and for a few precious days I let down my guard. I stop fighting and allow myself to be carried.

Big Man, mom and I will be walking 60 miles this weekend. This is Big Man's first. I get emotional just thinking about him there. I got him a t-shirt: "I wear pink for my wife." I have bought myself some sparkly pink Big Girl pants. We are ready!

I know I sound crazy, but I am looking forward to Opening Ceremonies and walking onto that route hand-in-hand with Alex just as much as I looked forward to seeing him at the end of the aisle on our wedding day.

Many of you non-walkers or non-crew probably think I am insane, but let me try one last time to explain. When you face death, you take stock of your life. You say, "What have I accomplished?"

This is my accomplishment. The $2,500 I have raised this year, the $8,000 I have raised over the past several years, the thousands of miles I have walked are my "last words." On my 3-Day, I am standing up and saying, "I was here. Today, I made a difference. Because of today, I am leaving this world better than I found it." The 3-Day for the Cure is my legacy.

If you live in the VA, MD, or DC area, come out and cheer on the Big Man and me this weekend! Visit one of the Cheering Stations or Closing Ceremonies listed here. If you live far away, register for your own 3-Day for the Cure or make a donation to our team, the Million Dollar Babies!

At the very least, get out there and buy some pink toilet paper, pink razor blades, pink Payless slippers, or a pink plane ticket!

But please, while you may start there, don't you dare stop there.

I thank you.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Wish List Updates

Happy October, Blogger Buddies! To honor breast cancer awareness month, I have compiled all of your fabulous suggestions and added items to the Ultimate Wish List. Visit the updated list here:

The Ultimate Breast Cancer Survivors Wish List 2.0

It is pretty clear from all of your thoughtful and helpful ideas that you aren't just good readers and faithful followers. You are also all stylish young ladies who never let cancer keep you down - women after my own heart. I am privileged to call you friends.

Among the updates are several calls for fleece hats, to keep you warm in the upcoming cold New England weather.  I also love the People Magazine suggestion. Although, I know there is often fierce debate surrounding People v. Us Weekly, I side with People on this one. I have never been steered wrong by People's on target book, music, and movie reviews. I also love the easy crossword puzzle. It makes me feel smart because I often can't even get a single word in the New York Times!

A huge thank you to reader Kristian for the MP3 suggestion! I found some wonderful IPod speakers that come in a spill and drop resistant travel case, which is especially helpful for hospital visits. I clearly remember getting a blood transfusion and the nurse sprayed blood everywhere (that hospital shall remain nameless) Who wears white pants to a blood transfusion appointment? I do, of course! Going to the hospital is no excuse for looking sloppy! I still look fabulous when going to chemo, but I now choose stain-hiding black and navy instead.

Along the same music line, I know music is a very personal taste-specific topic, but I must take this opportunity to suggest my favorite musical artist Ingrid Michaelson. Her songs are beautiful and touching, but upbeat. Her songs "Keep Breathing," "Soldier," "Breakable," and "Be OK" particularly resonate with me as a survivor.

Happy Shopping! And again, please share this list!