Posts from April, 2012

Irish Ink

On a recent trip to Ireland I cried when the friendly and wonderfully-broughed officer at customs stamped my passport DUBLIN.

“Sure then you’re here in Ireland now. Enjoy it!” he smiled to me after wondering why I’d only be spending 2 days on the Emerald Isle. I explained that my quick trip to the land my great-great grandfathers both came from one hundred or so years ago was actually not a slight on the Old Sod but a genuflection to it. After all, this trip was meant to happen in France–Paris to be exact–a planned-by-my-husband, romantic getaway for the couple who’ve been through hell these past 8 years battling breast cancer.

Yet I’d always longed to see the green country where my roots once grew in two strangers’ lives–men I’d never know but would hear tell about during constant sing-a-longs round the family piano growing up. As I absorbed every word of “Wild Rover” and other folk songs coming from my Grandmother Murray’s lips, but belonging to every Irishman and woman on earth–and all who love them–someone would inevitably mention that on both sides of my parents I had Irish forefathers; my mum’s great grandfather and my father’s father’s father–and I’m sure I’m off a ‘great’ or 2–who were either, in no particular order, a grave digger or an ice man or a politician or or or or…–who came from Ireland in search of a better life.  As a kid looking round the singing clan belting out songs to my nana’s piano-playing I decided they must have found that better life here in the USA. Or at least handed it down to me.

Which is why I asked my husband for a slight detour to Dublin before hitting the City Of Lights.

Sure I have breast cancer and all the fear and frustration that goes with it. And certainly my life is no day at the pub–unless the pub serves infusion drips in a pint glass. But standing there looking at the green ink freshly drying on my foreign passport I felt incredibly, enormously, powerfully grateful and happy to be right where I was, just as I am: an American in Ireland.

With any luck, my Irish ancestors felt the very same way as they saw whatever stamp they received freshly drying on immigration papers that meant, “yes, you can come find your new life here in the United States of America.”  And though they’d never know it, their great-great granddaughter–whose full name bears both of their surnames–would do just the opposite a century later, in a hopeful search not for something new but to connect with a hidden past in her own life, and–wiping away a surprise spring of tears–

she’d find it

Posted April 23rd, 2012 by
Irish Ink
Posted in: Ann's Diary

Ann’s Diary: Mommy Blogging

A dear friend suggested today that I do “mommy blogging” again.

“Mommy blogging” is what I did before cancer swept back into my life in 2010. I blogged at a site for mothers in the state of Maine, and I loved discussing the ins-and-outs, ups-and-downs, laughs-and-snorts of raising two little people in the 21st century. Occasionally being a breast cancer ‘survivor’ would slip in and that was fine–but I didn’t focus on that. I focused on living life as me, and also as somebody’s mother.

However, when I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer–also called Stage 4 (and there is no Stage 5 if you catch my drift)–my world turned upside down. I began to write in the perspective of my new world because I couldn’t do anything else–it was what I lived. My blogs, always about my day-to-day grind with a hint of laughter because I love to laugh, now focuses on living, loving, mothering and wife-ing as a cancer fighter–with a hint of laughter because I still love to laugh. Not that I wanted it to be like this, but it’s what’s happened. And I write no longer a first-timer to cancer, but a life-timer to the disease.

So my friend was saying to me this morning, “you should mommy-blog again. You were so good at it.” And I had to smile. I did like sharing the craziness of kids with the world. BUT..

the weird thing about the Internet is people feel like they can just slice into you if they want. That’s the awful side of blogging–the comments. Back in the old days, being a journalist meant you wrote a piece and people read it. After they read it they might give their comments to the person next to them, the people at the bar, or the Sunday morning crowd gathered at the diner after church. If someone really hated what you wrote, they’d write a letter or call the paper. But never, NEVER did they get to spew junk at you in the blink of a send-button, endlessly and successively, just because they could. But with the dawn of endless sharing that is the Internet, any reader can go to the bottom of an article, blog or comment and just rail against the author.
And they do.

Back when I was a Mommy blogger, this is the kind of thing that happened to me:

I once posted a tongue-in-cheek reference to Madonna’s latest baby adoption, noting I was available for adoption by the maternal superstar because I was so tired of picking up after my own kids I could use a mother myself. I got comments like,

“Who the h-ll do you think you are? Do you think you’re as good as Madonna?”

Another completely missed my attempt at humor:

“are you against adoption? Don’t you know those children need love?”

I wrote something similar in humor about Raychel Ray, who is a wonder kid of cooking and was everywhere from videos on TV to the moving screens in my grocery store to almost all the magazine covers in the food section of the store. I got comments like,

“Oh why, oh why can’t we women stand up with one another? Why do we have to tear each other apart?”

..and another who wondered who I thought I was, “because you’re sure not as great as Raychel Ray! And you never will be!”

Of course I got plenty of nice feedback from people who either liked what I wrote or thought it was funny. And respectful “I don’t get it, but thank you for writing” comments are a gift–because someone took the time out of a busy to day to spend with me, even if they didn’t agree with me. But honestly, I don’t need that other crap in my life now. I didn’t need it then, either, but with tumor markers, IV drips, and kids who don’t need nurturing from a mother dealing with all that plus nasty comments from folks wielding a new version of the ‘poison pen’, I bow out. I have enough ugliness on my own day-to-day plate: I don’t need a heaping helping of anybody else’s.

In “the old days” of writing, being awarded the job of writer for either “My-Local-Town” paper, “The New York Times” or all places in between was the only credit you needed to be viewed as a talented writer. Now it’s about how many hits you get, how many links you have, how many google words say whatever about which-what-where-who of your website…

and it’s all C-R-A-Z-Y to me.

I just write what I feel now. And mostly what I feel in every ‘mommmy’ moment I have–including just this morning when the two children I brought into this world, and love more than anything except their father, brought me to hide-behind-the-bathroom-door tears, is that–

what if I’m not here to have these ‘nutty’ children drive me crazy in the years to come?

Sure they can make me anxious with their sibling strife and pre-pubescent antics. And yes I have to discipline them so that they become well-adjusted adults. But unlike the mother I once was–who could joke about them making me C-R-A-Z-Y and wish Madonna would whisk me away and pay for my boarding school-

now I’m like, what IF some other woman did have to adopt them, because I wasn’t here anymore?

Which I’m guessing would be a real buzz kill to the cute, funny “mommy-blogging” trade.

That’s when the joke’s not on Madonna, or adoptive parents, or angry blog commenters or the millions of children wishing they had parents–but on me.

So here’s to you, Madonna–and to Raychel Ray–and to all the mommies out there who love their families and blog about it. I’m with you–all the way. I just can’t be like you any more. I have to be this now, this mother with the life-threatening disease.

Yes it suck–but at this point I have no choice. I’m mommy-blogging my way. No it’s not as light-hearted and funny as it used to be, but it’s still kinda light, and it still can be funny–

even if it turns out that the ultimate joke is on me.

Posted April 7th, 2012 by
Ann's Diary: Mommy Blogging
Posted in: Ann's Diary

Ann’s Diary: The Numbers

My tumor makers are down again!

In fact, they’re at their lowest. But you should know that with tumor markers that comment is a bit of a red herring (which I think means either ‘misleading’ or a small, weird colored fish.)

I mean that tumor markers are like temperature: whether it’s 72F, 78F or 69F, it’s still warm–you don’t need a coat. It’s when the tumor marker–or the temperature–hikes significantly–say from 70 to 110–that you know the environment’s gone nutty and you may want to vote that Green Candidate into office after all; or in my case, get yourself to the oncologist ASAFP.

The strange thing about tumor markers is that like cancer itself, markers don’t behave uniformly in all patients–at least that is what my doctors tell me. Some people’s cancer doesn’t even equate to them–they may have low markers and lots of cancer. To me that’s like needing a coat in 100 degree weather–it’s the “HUH?” factor. But check off another day in the land of cancer–some days the whole show is all weirded-out to me.

Speaking of me–

so my tumor markers are as low as they’ve ever been–hooray! I am so grateful for the reasons why–whatever they are. Could it be the great meds? My rockin’ oncologist? The vegan-no-dairy-no-white-sugar diet I put myself on? The weekly workouts with my trainer-and-friend (Madonna ain’t got nothin’ on this lady)? That crazy Fiji Water I drink before my infusion, that for some reason opens my veins and helps the nurses put in the IV? Or maybe the amazing support of my family and friends, who stick with me through this whole messed up bumpy up-and-down ride of literally a lifetime?

And then there’s you reading this–what kind of positive thoughts do you send me that boost me along and factor into the decline of these tumor markers…

I may never have the total answer. And for me I don’t really care–

as long as it keeps working.

Posted April 5th, 2012 by
Ann's Diary: The Numbers
Posted in: Ann's Diary

Ann’s Diary: Feel-Good Fashion

In the world of breast cancer, anything can feel good. I mean like stuff a typical person would think “oh yeah, cool” I can feel “WOOOOHOOOOOOOO!”

Take this weekend for example: I was in a fashion show. Now I know that’s not huge news–about fashion shows. Lord knows they’ve been around decades and longer, and many a waif-like creature makes his or her living strutting down the ol’ runway hoping to get attention to So-And-So’s latest textile extravaganza.

But all of those people in those shows–and I can say this with certainty–have boobs. Even the guys have them–well not really boob, but certainly nipples.

So this weekend I was in a fashion show and I worked that runway and I helped a great cause get money for their fundraise–

and I was breast-less to boot.

Today, as I had my infusion to ward off the breast cancer that continually pounds my left lung wanting to get in (since I took off my breasts, it can’t get in there anymore)
I was drinking my Fiji Water to help open up my spindly little veins to the medical miracle drugs that are helping to keep me alive and I was chuckling to myself–what a weekend.

Catwalk, music, lights, strut. It may be Monday but I can’t get Friday out of my mind. Sure it felt like just another fashion show to the rest of the audience. But to me?

It felt sooooo good.

Posted April 3rd, 2012
Posted in: Ann's Diary