Posts from August, 2011

Ann’s Diary: Hope Highway

There are days when I just can’t find the nerve.

They are encased in laundry loads and grocery trips, in drop-offs at school, in the surprise meetings I have at Target with the mother-of-my-son’s-friend, in the casual “hey” wave I give friends from the side of the street as I drive past the school crosswalk. The honest-to-goodness smile I find to show that reminds me I am okay, that I’ll be okay. But inside, if they only knew how I was feeling–

they’d freak.

Because this is the tape playing in my head: “What if I’m not here to do this shopping next year? What if another woman takes my place? What if my belief that I’m beating this beast is bullsh-t? What if this pain in my chest isn’t just being 46, but progressing cancer? What if?”

But damned if I show them.

Sure I’m saying it in a blog, but trust me, people can’t remember. They have too much going on, too much goodness in their lives (which they must celebrate!), too much pain, too much confusion–to remember mine. And I’m glad. Who needs more sadness? Friggin’-A, I sure wouldn’t want it.

And here’s another perspective: if they knew, if they only knew– it might give my awful fear life. It might make it grow in me, let it take over–and I’ll be DAMNED if I give it that satisfaction–ever.

Like anybody else going through a life-altering trauma, the feelings I have as a cancer fighter can’t be known all the time. If they were they’d blow every latte, every dinner, every cocktail and every walk I take with a pal. They’d suck the life out of every laugh.

It would turn every hey-good-to-see-you into a fearful, fragile, you-are-victim oh-sh-t-what-do-I-say moment that this Cancer Honey can’t do. I refuse to be roadkill on a tragedy highway–ain’t gonna happen. Place your orange hazard cone somewhere else.

Which leaves me thumbing a ride on the Hope Highway– on a remote, random, who-knows-why-it-was-today day–like today.

So I’m watching the clock and looking for midnight. That’s usually the dark time of night but for this Cancer Maven it’s the bright side–as in, this day is over. A new day has begun. And I, for one, don’t plan to be waving my sorry thumb off the side of Sad Road tomorrow.

I am going to beat this thing–and I don’t just mean cancer. I mean sadness, fear.

And all of you on this damn horrible road with me, cancer or not–please know this–I will do it,

and you will, too.

Posted August 29th, 2011 by
Ann's Diary: Hope Highway
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Ann’s Diary: Marshall’s Madness

I love Marshalls. I love TJ Maxx too. They’re owned by the same company so apparently I give all my extra money to just one corporation–

but I look good doing it.

I’ve scored Ray Ban sunglasses, Dolce and Gabana shoes, italian pottery and Calphalon pots all for way less than sticker value.

I love a good bargain.

Which is why the other day I took a ride with my pal S. to a Marshalls to see what we could find. Two hours later I pushed what looked like an associate-please-return-to-floor cart jammed with goodies to the cashier. I’d had unusually good luck finding what I wanted and I couldn’t wait to bring it all home.

That’s when the trouble started.

First, because I had so much stuff, it took the associate forever to ring it all up. Then, she hit the wrong button and gave me a discount I wasn’t supposed to get. Then, the ink ribbon shot out of the top of the cash register. Finally, the cashier called over the manager to help get her out of her wrong-discount status at the machine, only to find out that it was impossible to do and they’d have to haul everything back out of the 15 bags S. had already taken out to her car in an effort to get the h-ll out of there because she had a work engagement and we were dangerously close to missing it–and ring everything all up again.

The associate who first started the transaction was waiting for me to erupt. Here I was, spending untold hundreds of dollars on “stuff” and these people couldn’t get me through the line. S. jokingly quipped, “next, the receipt paper’s gonna run out”–and 5 minutes later, it did. Another delay.

But when breast cancer is beating down your back, delays and mistakes take a back seat in the car of life. Nobody was trying to make my pal S. late. Nobody was plotting and planning to bust the register and keep me from walking out with a day’s store profit (okay not that much $$ but still, I’d racked up a bill.) So I stood there and smiled. I made a joke or two, and yes occasionally texted S. in the car where she was guarding my stuff and hoped she wasn’t going to be too late for her appointment. She was cool–she’s always cool–and said all was well, not to worry. She was laughing at this whole Marshall’s mess, too.

Finally they figured it out–with the manager manually re-entering (from the receipt, not my bags) every item that had already been rung in once–and I got out of there. But I had to have been standing at that register 25 minutes–maybe more.

If we’d been at Tiffany’s and I was wealthy enough to shop there, I might have had the manager’s head on a platter for keeping me an insultingly amount of time (and my limousine driver ticketed for waiting in a loading/unloading zone.) But I was at Marshalls, and I am a breast cancer fighter–which means as long as you’re trying your best, it’s all good to me. What’s the point of getting mad–h-ll, I need my energy for my fight, not to fight strangers making mistakes.

I had a smile on my face and a big thank you as I left the store (and the searing desire to buy the manager a carpel tunnel brace for her data entry).

Like I said, I love a good bargain. I also I love a good story. And at my fave shopping store with a dozen full bags and my pal S. as my witness, I’d just gotten both.

Posted August 29th, 2011 by
Ann's Diary: Marshall's Madness
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Ann’s Diary: Where’s ‘pink tips’?

I’m no marketer. Hell I don’t even like going to the grocery market, so trying to “sell” my book is a nightmare for me.

But I am great at leaving things places. I’ve left my phone at a friends, my wallet in the car, my kids stuck at school, and my husband wondering what’s for dinner. So leaving stuff I can do–

Which is why I’m starting something I’m calling “Where in the world is ‘pink tips’?” or “Where’s ‘pink tips?'” for short. You can join me, too–in fact you ARE the marketing–and here’s all you have to do:

get your copy of ‘pink tips’ and bring it someplace. It could be your fave coffee joint, the book store, the market (wink wink), or if you live near a place that has cool stuff–statues, a good view, a museum–or you’re at an event (rock concerts or sports fans, unite!) snap a photo of yourself or just the book and send it to me. I’ll post it here.

The second part of my “big selling strategy” is that I actually leave my book where I am. I don’t expect you to do that or you’ll run out of cash buying more books–

but I can. I’m the author for heaven’s sake, it’s the least I can do. Spread the love around as my sister says, pay it forward, get the message out there. Any way you can.

So here’s the first in what I hope is a long series of “Where’s ‘pink tips’ photos: can you find the pink dot that is my book, and guess the location? Hint: this location is a state in the United States where 55% of the women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are under the age of 65.
Answer and quick facts about breast cancer in this region are below the photo.

Historic Powell and Hyde Cable Car, 2011. Click San Francisco, California, US- for regional breast cancer facts.

Posted August 24th, 2011 by
Ann's Diary:  Where's 'pink tips'?
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Ann’s Diary: Cancer Coffee Club

I was at the Dunkin Donuts in Biddeford, Maine recently when I saw one of the breast cancer license plates on a car parked in the lot. I was at the drive-thru, ordering my light-no-sugar, and thought–there’s one of me, one of my cancer peeps.

Of course I didn’t know her (and I’m assuming it was a her, but it could have been a he) but I felt like I did–as happens now when someone tells me they have or had breast cancer. I’m ready to give them the fist-bump of brotherhood, the yup-I get-it, the let-me-buy-you-a-beer reserved for reunions with old friends–and yet they’re complete strangers to me.

But we’re all in the same ‘club’. That’s the way it is with cancer.

So there I was, ordering my divine cup of liquid nectar, when I cast my eyes upon a copy of ‘pink tips’ I had in my car. It had the old white cover with the breast cancer scarecrow on it, and some typos that didn’t get caught the first time editing–but it still held its message. And it was just staring at me, waiting to help.

I said to my husband–‘I’ll be right back’–and bolted from the stopped car as he looked at me. He had one of those worried faces on, the ‘is-she-so-hot-for-this-coffee-she’s-gonna-jump-the-proceed-to-the-second-window line to get the goods?’ expression–

but he worried for nothing. I wasn’t making a fool of myself storming Dunkies for my drink. I had walked up to the pink-license-plated car in southern Maine and slipped my book under the windshield. Then I turned and left.

I have no idea if that person needed a little boost, or if she knows someone who needs one–but whatever happens, that book went out there. It’s trying to help.

So if you have one of those breast cancer license plates on your car and find yourself ordering up a Coffee Coollatta some day soon and come out to find a pink book strapped to your windshield, you’ll know what it is, who was there, and if you look fast you might hear a cute guy in a silver car shout from the drive-thru “Ann! Not agaaaain!”

But more importantly you’ll know that the person who left that book for you did it to help a peep in ‘the club’.

Because that’s the way it is with cancer.

Posted August 23rd, 2011 by
Ann's Diary: Cancer Coffee Club
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Ann’s Diary: For L.

I have a friend who needs your prayers. I promise it’s not me–I’m doing fine.

This is a person who means the world to me, and recently her world kind of fell apart. She’s dealing with some awful news and some sad, sad times–and there isn’t much anyone can do for her. Well, not physically anyway.

But like all of us dealing with a fatal illness our needs change. At first, in the rush of my diagnosis and subsequent re-diagnosis it’s all so physical–pick up my kids from school, make dinner for my family, come with me to the doctor’s appointments, answer my phone as it rings off the hook.

Later, when the surgeries and the chemotherapy and the medicines and the operations were over, it became–and still is–critically emotional.

There are days when I just stare into the vine-covered fence line in my back yard and feel myself falling apart. And what I need in those moments isn’t a ride to a doctor or a pan of lasagna and salad, I just need a friend.

And unbelievably, miraculously, like a scene from It’s A Wonderful Life, this person I’m talking about will show up.

I have many friends like this and I love them and thank them–and you, too. Because when I asked you via this blog to join me this past year as I fought for my life, asking for your prayers, your good thoughts, your chants, anything to help– you did. And you made the difference, too. Look at me, I’m doing great. And I am so grateful.

But for the purpose of this blog I am talking about L.

She’ll either call or come by, text or send an email. She has no idea I’m having a meltdown but sure as sh-t, she somehow shows up and kind of jumps after me–like Clarence after George, following me off my emotional bridge and pulling me out of rough waters. I have laughed, cried, hugged, and been comforted by this woman–she is truly one of the best people I know.

And now she is in a very hard place.

All the lasagnas and salads can’t help her now. And all I can hope to do is be there for her. Love her, call her, email her, and text. And send her prayers, good thoughts, chants, anything to help.

So I ask you again–

will you join me?

Posted August 19th, 2011 by
Ann's Diary: For L.
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