Posts from May, 2012

Ann’s Diary: Breast–And Breastless–Cancer Heroes

I don’t know why I get upset when I watch something like this:

It’s not that I deny anyone the right to handle their cancer their way.  I hate to see anyone–ANYONE–having to be put in the position of being a warrior against cancer–least of all me.  

And as a fighter, I reserve the right to handle my diagnosis the way I choose–as all of these women and men have done.  Bravo to them and bravo to Ford for spotlighting them, supporting them, clothing them in the gear–all of it.  It’s amazing to watch a business, no matter the na-sayers who claim it’s about publicity, or tax right offs, or blah blah blah–

listen, when you’ve got the disease, then come to me with your complaints.  But I bet you won’t complain–you’ll just be grateful, like I am, that somebody gives a damn about you and your horrific, mind-blowing, life-changing and maybe life-ending experience.

So here’s what bums me out:  not a one of them is without breasts and showing themselves as such.  You know what that says to me?  It says that breasts are way too important.  

I have nothing–NOTHING–against reconstruction, or prosthetics. I’m just saying that presenting yourself as with breasts, even when you’re not, is not the only answer.

When I thought about putting fake breasts back into the place where my real breasts–one of which had cancer and one that didn’t–were, I was put into the awful position of “what if I have no breasts? What am I then? Am I still sexy? Am I still a woman?” And after 4 terrible, stomach churning, put-this-marriage-to-the-test days, my hero-of-a husband and I decided I would still be amazing without boobs. I would still be female, still beautiful and (gasp) sexy, despite what breast cancer wanted to steal from me. And I am proud of that decision–though not altogether understood by the world around me for making it.

After a few months of living without breasts, and trying prosthetics, I felt like a phony. I felt like I was misrepresenting me. I had breast cancer, my breasts had to go–and putting on fake boobs was like a bad costume party in my mind; and it made me feel bad. So I dumped them. For 8 years I’ve lived as is–no breasts, no bumps, but plenty of life.

In a video like this, what would have amazing impact to me is seeing a woman–or more than one woman—who chose to not have reconstruction and doesn’t wear fake breasts. I am not saying me. I am just saying someone. Someone who says, “hey society, guess what? I love myself, as does my husband, and I have NO BOOBS. How bout that,society?”

I am not saying all people should make my decision; I am saying that many of us out here do. We make a hard, horrible decision that less is more, as the saying goes–especially in the face of chemotherapy, radiation, mastectomy surgery, recovery, and all the pills you have to take for the next 5 years to keep breast cancer at bay. It’s not always about reconstruction or fake breasts after breast cancer.  It’s about living.

So next year I hope somebody chooses to submit themselves into the casting call for this fantastic, formidable, film-worthy video support in the fight against breast cancer who has no breasts and doesn’t use prosthetics. There are many of us out there, fighting after their first battle, after their second round–or in my case, after it’s jumped the fence and gone into other organs (metastatic)–and we are ALL FIGHTERS. We are proud, we are pumping iron, we are praying to live through this devastating illness…

..even those of us with a few less body parts to fight with.



Posted May 30th, 2012 by
Ann's Diary: Breast--And Breastless--Cancer Heroes

Ann’s Diary: Cookies and Comfort

I baked cookies for my friend’s son’s birthday tomorrow–but the Hell of it is he won’t be there.

My friend’s son did what thousands of kids on school break did last year–he went out on a group trip.  And through a convergence of multiple things going wrong–none of which on their own would have harmed a fly but together made the perfect storm of destruction–he died.

Tomorrow would have been his birthday.  Not yet a double digit birthday, either–a few years from that.  It is a sad day indeed for those left behind to remember him in this way–not with balloons and streamers but with sadness and tears.  No parent should ever have to live a day like what my friend will live tomorrow.

So I made cookies.  How appauling you may say.  But the reality is that this is his birthday.  The boy came into this world on a special day, one of 365, and it’s his day–whether he’s here to celebrate it or whether he’s out there wherever he is, doing whatever he’s doing.  This was his day.  And his parents are marking it in their own special way.  And I plan to help them do so–

I plan to go to the celebration of his life tomorrow, armed with flour, vanilla extract and chocolate chips all mixed up to symbolize CELEBRATE.  Not the horror of what’s happened.  Not the devastation of his passing.  Not the pain of his absence.  Not the years of psychological, spiritual work it will take for his folks to make this terror subside to the dull roar any parent in this circumstance must hunger for so he or she can at least get through a day without sobbing–this thing, this circumstance, is what I imagine when I hear the term “Hell on Earth.”

My cookies, however, are not meant to exacerbate any of that tragedy.  With luck and my culinary intentions coming through, these sweets will highlight the little life that sparkled.  What kid doesn’t like homemade chocolate chip cookies? His friends will be there talking about him, telling stories about him, memorializing him in that innocent way that children do.  My offering is a nod to that innocence: cookies, kids and youthful energy blended together to remember a young man who made his mother laugh, made his father proud, made his grandparents smile, brought joy to his siblings, joined his friends in play and ruckus.  That sweet boy must be celebrated–and loved–and remembered, always. And never forgotten.

So that’s where I’ll be tomorrow–armed with snacks homemade from the heart.  If this is Hell on Earth then the least I can do is bring food to sustain the weary as they march through the fire, and to remind my friend that she is not alone in her trauma: she is surrounded by many who love her–not the least of all is her little boy, I must believe–somewhere out there, loving his mother still.

And with luck and hope, maybe he will be there tomorrow, around us, with us, in spirit–celebrating with us the precious life his mother gave him on this very day, and not so long ago–this very day of his birth;

May 23rd.


Posted May 22nd, 2012 by
Ann's Diary:  Cookies and Comfort
Posted in: Ann's Diary

Ann’s Diary: Teen- – -r.

I recently became the mother of a teenager and now realize why they call it teenAGEr:  because they AGE you.

I’m not one for complaining about my age–God knows with breast cancer beating down my neck I appreciate every day I’m here, it’s much better than the alternative–but honestly, the condition by which I have to direct a young life to, say, phone me when I don’t have to pick you up rather than drive across town to find you don’t need me for another hour is a new one to me.

Like you can’t call me to tell me the event is going long–on that cell phone I bought you?  The one in your pocket?  The one that you do mad texting every waking moment with, the one that costs me beaucoup bucks each month?  The one that….aw, forget it.

So now here’s another problem for me with my TEENAGER.  This teen can read.  You shake your head and say DUH, let’s hope so–

but for a blogger, that makes writing difficult.  I can’t just explode the personal lives of my family on this web page–not only is that insane and likely to land me in Mommy-I-Hate-You-Land but it’s rude.  I wouldn’t want anyone to do that to me and lucky I’m not growing up in this generation. The worst my mother ever did to me was write notes on my napkin in my brown sack lunch.  I was never embarrassed by that, either–which tells you what a geek I was–

but my kids would FREAK if I did that today.  It’s unCOOL.

Yet I blog….which is like public napkins in everybody’s lunchbox from here to Taiwan, Denmark, Argentina, New Zealand and….you get the picture.

So here I am, the new mother of a teenager–and all I can say is that I will try with utmost sensitivity and compassion to not bleed the inner life of my child here in cyberspace.  And I’ll start now by revealing only this:

if I have gray hair before my time, you’ll know I did not AGE myself….I had help.

From my teen- – -r.


Posted May 16th, 2012 by
Ann's Diary:  Teen- - -r.
Posted in: Ann's Diary

Ann’s Diary: Ann with an E

I’ve recently been online buying things–or needing things–like airline tickets, furniture, health insurance coverage–and have noticed the addition of a “virtual assitant” at the top left of many screens.  I guess it’s the new way of attending to people like me, the cyber-clients, the people that nobody is really attending to as we sit in our homes in our pajamas and click “sofas” or “statements” or “seattle, round trip”–

but it caught me by surprise this week as I clicked around and saw at the top right-hand of my screen a little face–not a real person, but a computer-drawn face–and her name was, of all names, Ann.  As I looked at her name, spelled just like mine (no E on the end either) I read this underneath it.

Please make sure to visit Ann, our Virtual Assistant.  She can guide you
to the information and tools you're looking for on your secure member
website, Insurance Navigator.  Ann is here to help you, any time, day or
night, 365 days a year.

How my namesake was available any time, day and night, 365 days a year was beyond me–except of course that she wasn’t likely Ann at all–or at least not one woman named Ann.  I assume she’s a thousand different people–or at least a dozen, who take her name and role of helping someone figure out what is next in their effort to book a flight, find a doctor or pick a piece of furniture– once the automated responses are used up.  I’m just guessing of course because I didn’t research it–I was just staring at this little face who had my name..

..and then I found her again, on the furniture site.  And again, same name–although this time it was Anna–at another website–and I began to wonder–what’s up with the name Ann?  I mean, clearly there are not resumes flying around in cyberspace with the number one customer service qualification being the name ANN–and with no E. (I envision those old signs in Boston circa 1910, saying “Irish Need Not Apply” but these say “Anns with Es Need Not Apply.”)

I guess the name Ann must stir up something kind, or common, or at the very least helpful–a bright-eyed girl jazzed on coffee and Redbull who won’t eat, sleep or celebrate a holiday unless you are completely satisfied with your purchase.  Clearly these people who named this VirtualAnnie have not met me.  Yes I can be kind and sometimes I am helpful.  Common?  Well, like beauty that’s in the eye of the beholder.  But up all day and night, 365 days a year, non-stop, to guide you?  I think not.  Heck I may be writing this blog now but it’s been weeks since I put finger to keyboard and all I can tell you is I’ve been busy. Staying alive is hard work–between infusions, tumor markers, trips to Europe and picking up dog poop–oh, and the laundry–I have had zero time to help anybody.  And this month ain’t looking so hot, either.  I just bought a house, so I’ll be a-moving–and you know what that means…

boxes, boxes, boxes and hey! more boxes.

So, if you get on a website and see the virtual assistant Ann ready to help you, any time, day or night, 365 days a year, give her a wave for me.  But don’t under any circumstances expect this Ann with no E to be anything like that Ann with no E.  I can give you about 10 minutes of my time in about a week and a half–if you bring me a latte and pick up a box.  And if you catch me at infusion I can sit with you for an hour.  But other than that–I’m outta here–

…which may mean I start spelling my name with an E.






Posted May 10th, 2012 by
Ann's Diary:  Ann with an E
Posted in: Ann's Diary