Posts from April, 2011

Ann’s Diary: To Kate, William and Me

I hate to be a party pooper but I will not be watching the royal wedding today.  I have to exercise, eat right, drop the kids at Spanish, walk the dog, organize my closet, bake for my friend’s dance performance concession stand and make sure I have clean underwear for the weekend. Yet I wish Kate and William well.

In fact I wish them more than that, I wish them luck– because being celebrities in this day and age looks like a hell of a lot of work for not much reward.  I mean, who can relax with the eyes of the world on your every move, the paparazzi snapping your foibles for eternal eyes to see, and heaven help them when the lights go off if the Queen is anywhere within 50 miles of them, hoping for an heir. (Could you get that visual out of your mind long enough to enjoy your new husband? )

But I will be celebrating just the same today, April 29, 2011 because I got some fantastic news this week:  my tumor markers are WAY DOWN.  Last February they hit well into the 300’s and yesterday they came back in the 100’s.  Now there’s a reason to party–at least for me.

Yesterday when Kate Middleton should have been drinking bubbly, being oogled by her family and forcing down the butterflies that all brides-to-be have in the 24 hours before betrothal, I was lying flat on a slab encased in pillow-like straps having a PET scan.  PETs make sure my metastatic breast cancer hasn’t traveled to sites unknown in my body–which the awesome tumor marker numbers I just got wouldn’t reflect that because they’re only tracking breast cancer–not, say, a new liver cancer.  That’s why I need that scan– to make sure everybody’s behaving themselves inside me.  (Let’s call the PET scan the MOM scan for bad cancer–I’m watching you, so behave!)

And as I was lying there looking up at the cracks in the ceiling of the PET mobile, waiting to be mechanically delivered into the tube for my 40 minutes of radiation fame I thought about Kate, and William, and the Queen and the whole lot of them–the whole royal gang–and I wanted to feel bad for myself: as in boo-hoo, how come she gets to be royal and I get to be radiated–

but I couldn’t.  I tried, believe me, because what better moment to compare and contrast and be the winning sad sack?  But I just couldn’t do it.

Instead I thanked Richard my PET scan tech for being so nice, I grabbed a hot steaming latte from the local fresh-brewed place and I bought myself a few pretty things for summer at a retail store.  And I went on with my plebian day.

And then later on, when I found out that my tumor markers had come back so low, I thought–I am beating this freaking disease! Wow, I  guess that means that in the world of cancer fighters I AM royal!

So here’s to Kate Middleton:  may she enjoy her new life as Princess of England.  May she never need a PET scan and may she drink champagne as often as celebration warrants in her new crazy, flash-bulb ladened, lucky life. I wish them both–the future King and Queen of England, a long, healthy and happy life.

And I wish myself the very same thing.

Posted April 29th, 2011 by
Ann's Diary: To Kate, William and Me
Posted in: Ann's Diary

When Broccoli Isn’t Healthy

As often happens when I’m in the kitchen I get into trouble.  Cooking is not my thing and though my mother wishes it were (Mom:  “you may grow into it yet, Ann.”  Me:   “Mom, I’m 45…”) it just still isn’t.  And frankly, Scarlett….

But now that I’m fighting metastatic breast cancer I have an urgency to eat better.  Like many of us in the cancer boat, food is now part of my short-term plan to maintain my long-term health.

My personal plan means I eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies and hummus and black beans and other foods with protein and iron and anti-oxidants.  It’s all good, except I get bored with eating the same good food day after day.   And planning the evening meal is like homework to me.  I hate it. But I must do it, and I attempt–even though like I said it’s not my thing–to come up with ideas for interesting meals and (ugh) cook every now and then (especially if I’ve been to a restaurant or a friend’s house and they’ve made something vegan non-dairy that actually tastes good.)

Which is h0w I found myself yesterday in the kitchen stir frying broccoli–a very healthy food.  And it was all going well, I was moving very carefully so as not to mess up.  The olive oil was sizzling and the kosher salt was working and it was all coming together–

when I reached for the spatula to flip the veggies, forgetting that 30 seconds earlier it had been pulled from the flame under the cooking quinoa and was likely smoldering somewhere over 150 degrees.

So today I slowly and gently type this with 4 burned fingers and a handle-shaped burn on my right palm. I consider myself lucky to have gotten away with thick calluses and tender skin (thank you Jan for helping me out, as well as to the aloe I’d bought for the kids’ potential summer sunburns.)

I know metastatic breast cancer is a long term devil to wrestle, but short term I’ve got my family kitchen to conquer.  I’ve faced worse in my lifetime, so I know I’ll be fine.  But for the next few days I’m eating my broccoli raw–a one-step plan to keep my short term health–

at least until I have to think about tomorrow night’s meal.

Posted April 26th, 2011 by
When Broccoli Isn't Healthy
Posted in: Ann's Diary

Ann’s Diary: Thank You Seth Godin

The Breast Cancer Diaries and the story of my roller coaster ride with metastatic breast cancer were chosen as part of a unique publishing venture by marketing guru Seth Godin called Tales Of The Revolution.  This downloadable-only book available at Amazon.com for the Kindle highlights real people making a difference and “poking the box”–the term Godin’s Domino Project uses to reference real folks like me living in a purposeful way–hoping to make a difference while we’re here in this world.

I am honored and excited to be grouped with such amazing individuals and I hope you can read just a few of the amazing people highlighted in Tales Of The Revolution.  And if you’re a writer and hope to get published, Godin’s revolutionary ideas around self-publishing deserve your undivided attention. Read about them here.

Thanks Seth Godin and the entire Poke-the-Box team–

So I guess this revolution will not be televised, it will be PUBLISHED, correct?

Charge!

Posted April 20th, 2011 by
Ann's Diary:  Thank You Seth Godin
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Ann’s Diary: Battle Hymn Of The Un-Tiger Mother

I was sitting with some friends the other evening, sipping wine and talking life.  We came around to the topic of my metastatic breast cancer and someone asked me what some of the changes were in my world because of my diagnosis 6 months ago.  Do I do things differently and have things changed now that I am fighting for my life in a way that no 45-year-old ever expects to be doing?
They already knew the answer, of course–they are post grads and high school teachers and mothers and above all, they are human.  They get that cancer changes everything.  Their questions weren’t so much do I do things differently but what do I do differently.  And what is different about my day-to-day life as a breast cancer fighter than is different from their so-called “regular” lives?
I told them that since being re-diagnosed I have a clearer sense of what is in my control.  Take last week for example, when my 11-year-old got a bad grade on a quiz.  Of course no parent loves a failing grade and I know my child needs to improve–or else.  But I no longer take on his failure as something I must have done wrong in the child rearing phase that resulted in this mathematical 70%. I don’t do the what-can-I-do-to-fix him routine any further than the no-video games-or-play-dates-until-that-grade-rises response.  And I make sure the tutor is on the schedule for next week’s session. After that I leave it and him alone.
Kids will fail, I did when I was young–and as a woman who is not sure if she’ll be alive to see her children graduate high school, I realize with freakish clarity that they have to find responsibility and achievement on their own.  They have to learn how to do better on a quiz and more importantly, feel that it matters to do better on a quiz.  And I, for as many  learning games as I bought during my children’s youth and as much educational maneuvering as I used to do before I got sick, now realize I have no true control over whether on not they get there.  Sorry, Amy Chua, author of the book “The Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother”–but I don’t.  I may not even be here to teach them all those things I was going to teach them to make them perfect, so believing in tiger mothers is verboten to me now.  I have to believe in my kids themselves–that they have the power to rise to their highest level on their own–because I may not be here to shepherd them to it.
As a breast cancer patient I am forced to pass the torch of growing the most high-achieving children to the two people I am most worried for–my kids themselves.    They’ll either get there or they won’t–whether I’m here or not–which if I were to write it would be the full text of my book;  let’s call it “Un-Tiger Moms: Just Hoping We Survive The Kill.
Which all means, I told my BFFs, that I don’t care–or really, that I do care very much–just about different things now.  I care about living, about making it to see my kids’ college graduations (because those grades will go up or the Xbox 360 goes to the Goodwill.)  And I care about everything in life that matters–friends, family, laughs, helping, understanding, courage, heroes, hope–and fixing problems, not creating them.  The other stuff–the mistakes, the idiots, the bad mojo, the people who push their way around your day to bully you into submission, and the worries of stacking the deck in my kids’ favors are dead to me now. Those things slide back in my brain to a place I never visit anymore–maybe to the place they should have lived all along.
I beat down true fear every day–the fear that I may die sooner than my friends around me drinking cabernet. This allows me to push the other “normal” anxieties still facing my girlfriends out of my day-to-day way.  The laundry, the Ivy League track, who’ll make dinner, which child could be a concert pianist,  and what I did wrong that made my son fail his math quiz–none of that worries me anymore.  I no longer care how fast, how quick, how well–I just wonder how long I’ll get to be here to watch my kids grow and become who they will become.
That’s an ability, I told my pals as I drained my wine glass, that I don’t think you can have–or get–unless you are living with a fatal disease.
And if you ask me, the trade off isn’t worth it.
Posted April 20th, 2011 by
Ann's Diary:  Battle Hymn Of The Un-Tiger Mother
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Ann’s Diary: What Rocks My World

I just want to remind my friends how much I love them.

I know it’s weird to put that out in a blog but hey–blogging in and of itself is weird so why not throw it all out there.  They helped me this week in ways only friends can do–by showing up. How and when they did that is immaterial to the theme here–it’s just that they did.  And I love them for it.

Sometimes in life things don’t go the way we hope, and we are left stunned and mute or else angry, crying and loud. I was all of those things this week–and kind of still am.  But my friends keep reminding me that it’s not about what’s wrong, it’s about who we are and that we are that matters.  And that makes things right.

So, to all of you, including L, L, D, K, L, C, M, N, S and especially to my husband–my hero–thank you for being who you are, and for showing up for me this week in ways that had less to do with your physical space and more to do with your presence in my life.

You rock my world.

Posted April 15th, 2011 by
Ann's Diary: What Rocks My World
Posted in: Ann's Diary