Posts from March, 2012

Ann’s Diary: Darlin and Me, Again.

How’s this for coincidence:

We made an offer on a house this week (maybe we will get the place, maybe we won’t–a lot depends on boring stuff–offer acceptance, house inspection, the banks not collapsing again–HA! I jest on that last one. Sort of…)

and…

3,000 miles away, on the other side of my life and this country, my godmother’s home is now for sale. This is the same place I grew up next to and hung around in, drank coffee in the kitchen and sipped cocktails on the deck. It’s a place that is as close in my heart as the home I actually grew up in–literally and figuratively–since the properties sit next-door to each other and my folks still live in the house I grew up in.

But because Darlin died last year at age 90, having lived a long and loving life as the wife of my godfather, the mother of 6 and the godmother of a few lucky kids–including me–her home must now be sold.

And I am reeling in the strange coincidence that her home should be for sale at the same time that I may be buying a house.

I push away the sad comparisons–like how special moments were shared in her house and now it’s going, the memories fading–and pull toward me the happy ones. Like how Darlin’s “in the real estate market” at the same time I am (I’m pushing that one but I either smile or I cry so I choose smile.) How we shared so much–her motherly caring of me, my daughterly adoration of her. How when she got older she suffered from breathing issues and how with metastatic breast cancer I did too. How I would call her as she was attached to her oxygen mask and she would perk up and in her special way of speaking say “Why Ann, it’s so nice to hear from you Dah-lin!” (since she always called the little ones in her life Darlin the name stuck back on her. We always called her ‘Darlin.’)

There are many more comparisons I could make between her life and mine, but I won’t. Time is short and my point is made: Darlin and I had a special bond.

And maybe, 3 months after her death last December–to the week–here we go again: her home for sale, my attempt to buy my home–happening at the same time. They say there are no coincidences in life–at least that’s what I’ve always heard.

When it comes to me and Darlin, I’d have to agree.

Posted March 30th, 2012 by
Ann's Diary: Darlin and Me, Again.
Posted in: Ann's Diary

Ann’s Diary: Flying High

I was recently told that I remind somebody of the female aviator famously lost at sea trying to break a flying record–Amelia Earhart.

The first thing I felt when I heard this–beyond incredible humility at being compared to anybody so cool, courageous and female–is that I could see my resemblance to Amelia Earhart, too–but not in face. I could see it in the story of her being lost–her at sea, me in this freaking metastatic breast cancer world.

But my friend who compared us wasn’t getting that deep; she was just saying “her smile, her laugh and her spirit remind me of you.” So I pulled myself back from my mental cancer brink long enough to smile into the phone and say, “thank you.”

I think my friend said she’d been watching a show on Earhart which included photos and clips of the famous woman about to hit the skies in hopes of being the first female to solo her airplane around the world. After I hung up the phone I went to the official Amelia Earhart website to read up on her and find out what happened the day she was lost.

According to the site, in 1937 she flew into cloudy weather after leaving New Guinea in the Pacific headed toward Howard Island, a small piece of land that she never reached. After a 4 million dollar search, the US Government called off the search for Earhart, her navigator Fred Noonan and her plane. She had made it 22,000 of the 27,000 mile trip before she was lost at sea. She almost made it.

Which of course freaked me out. I mean, considering that she was so brave and so optimistic and that she almost made it and then she didn’t–well you can figure out where my comparison-mind was heading: “Damn..”

..and then I read a quote from a note she left her husband. Leaving a note was something she did in case the unthinkable happened–which it never had until this time. The quote is this:

“Please know I am quite aware of the hazards,” she said. “I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”

And then I saw it. Okay, I thought, so I do have something in common with Amelia Earhart–besides a smile, spirit and laugh. I have her same mindset–at least this one, the one that says I will do this. Of course, unlike Amelia I haven’t chosen my present “flight path.” And if I could parachute out of this plane I would in a second–but that’s not an option. I’m seat-belted in whether I like it or not.

So I’ll keep the spirit of Amelia Earhart with me–not the one that lost but the one who wanted to win. And when I get worried I’ll remember that like her, I need to be out there in the world making my stand on what a cancer person can achieve in his or her lifetime–no matter what the disease wants, achieves or tries to steal from me/us.

And if my plane crashes someday, somebody else will pick up the pieces and set to flying out there on their own–until someday one of us makes it to the day where they land in a world devoid of breast cancer.

That’s a world record I have a feeling Amelia Earhart herself would have celebrated.

Posted March 23rd, 2012 by
Ann's Diary: Flying High
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Ann’s Diary: The Jackson Labs

I had the privilege of speaking to doctors, bankers, parents, nurses, technicians, speakers, cancer survivors and more at the Jackson Laboratory’s Discovery Luncheon today in Naples, Florida.

To say I was honored to be there is an understatement. For me, a cancer person fighting the battle every day that Science is trying desperately to save me from, to be able to shed light on what it’s like to “be” a person with cancer is everything. It’s everything because I’m lucky to have been asked to speak to this distinguished group; it’s everything because I am alive and not gone to breast cancer, and still here to be able to speak to anyone at all.

So I’d like to take this time to thank all those who sat and listened to me. Those who didn’t do what they might have done today–have lunch with a friend, go shopping, be at work, draft that deal, visit with friends or one of a hundred other things that people can and do make happen in their free time. Today all those people carved 3 hours out of a busy Friday to listen to me an others speak about what The Jackson Laboratory is doing to help fight cancer–and how they might help the Lab win that battle; and if they help the Lab win that battle then–maybe, just maybe–they’ll end up helping me win my battle, too.

So to all of them–and if you were there, I’m talking to you–thank you.

Posted March 16th, 2012 by
Ann's Diary: The Jackson Labs
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Ann’s Diary: Airport Anatomy

I was felt up by a woman today.

And before you worry that I was molested or somehow ruined in any way I will tell you I was not. I was in the airport. And trying to get through security, the shiny metal things on the front of my shirt made that 360-radiation-thing you have to stand in to make sure you’re not a terrorist upset. So I needed a pat-down–on my chest.

The Transportation and Safety Administration woman designated to check me out stood there, strong and silent. She looked at me with eyes I assumed had seen a lot: big breasts, small breasts, cleavage, covered, underwired, no-wired, old, young, t-shirted and no-bra’d. I was certain she’d had her share of discomfort from the patted-down who didn’t like the idea of a stranger touching their fronts. If she only knew she was about to touch somebody for whom that entire issue died 8 years ago this week with a double-mastectomy-no-reconstruction. I looked back at her and wondered what she’d make of me–not the small breasted nor the small chested but, for lack of a better term, the de-breasted.

“It’s your shirt,” she waved her powder-blue-gloved left hand at my flat chest in explanation for my deterrence. “The machine doesn’t like those buttons.” Her eyes met mine. “I’m going to need to feel around–” she stumbled, “here.” And she waved at the area where my breasts would have been had I had them.

I looked at my own chest which is flat but not obvious-to-the-eye gone. I keep myself trim so it’s not so clear to anyone who doesn’t know my story that I have had a double mastectomy without reconstruction. Of course when I say that I mean it’s not clear to anyone’s eyes: somebody’s hands are another matter. You can count my ribs if I let you.

I was just catching up to the reasons why I’d been stopped– this had never happened to me before and I wasn’t exactly with it–until she started to pat my stomach. I smiled because it tickled. Then she looked at my eyes and readied her hand to move up a few inches, maybe waiting for me to complain? Or react? Or at the very least acknowledge what was about to happen so that if I was going to complain I could do it now and save her a lot of trouble..

“I don’t mind,” I smiled at her. The blue latex glove rubbed on the material of my shirt as it slid up an inch to the area where my breasts would have started where they still there. For a beat, nothing in the airport seemed to move for me: not the airport itself, not the travelers behind me eager to get to their gates, not the TSA agent’s hand. The whole moment was the complete opposite of TSA testing/finding something dangerous: this was TSA testing and finding something missing instead.

The agent looked at me. I have no idea if she knew. Her hand rested for a millisecond on my ribcage–the only hard thing on my front frame for the last 8 years. That second clocked like hours for me. I couldn’t let her hang there in confusion.

“I have no breasts,” I said, smiling. “Breast cancer,” I shrugged as a quick means of explaining 8 years of hell. And to ward off any “poor you” looks from her, I smiled again and said, “It’s all good.”

She looked at me, same dead-pan face she started with. No recognition of what I’d just admitted. “You’re all set,” she said.

“Okay,” I answered her, moving quickly past her blue glove. I grabbed my computer, bags, jacket and ticket spread out on the conveyer belt like a lawn sale. Pulling on my shoes I thought–8 years into this battle with breast cancer that I am fighting and for the moment winning and that’s right, I am all set–

and lady, you don’t even know the half of it.

Posted March 14th, 2012 by
Ann's Diary: Airport Anatomy
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Ann’s Diary: Stayin’ Alive

8 years ago today I was diagnosed with invasive ductile carcinoma–the street name of which is breast cancer. It was an ugly day.

Today, 2922 days later, I am still here–fighting what was stage 2 and is now stage 4 cancer–in my case called metastatic breast cancer in my lung.

So how’m I doing?

My answer is below: press play and sing it with me! :-D

Posted March 12th, 2012 by
Ann's Diary: Stayin' Alive
Posted in: Ann's Diary