Posts from September, 2012

Ann’s Diary: Cancer, cancer everywhere..

10 minutes before I was to give a speech on living with breast cancer this week, my text went off. It was my dear friend from far away. “My best friend just found out she has breast cancer.”

The irony was ridiculous.

This was the same day I’d been told that a teacher at school had been diagnosed 2 weeks ago with–yet again–breast cancer.

This first friend–the one who texted me moments to my speech–and I spoke later on when I’d done my inspirational talk on “if I can get through this, so can you,” and my pal asked incredulously,

“What IS it? That’s like the 5th friend of mine–all within our 40’s–diagnosed with this disease. What is going on?”

I shrugged my shoulders across the miles and asked myself the same question. But I’ve been asking it for years–ever since my out-of-the-blue diagnosis back at age 38 years old–and of course I have no answer still. I used to wonder why the world was after a cure for cancer and not wondering about the cause–until I got the disease and lived through the many years of learning how different we all are–how each of our systems is the same but very different–and how pinpointing the reasons why my body got breast cancer and yours didn’t would be beyond needle-in-haystack-land. Try needle in cornfield. Searching for a cure is certainly no easy job either, but it at least brings the needle back to the haystack.

Now I know we have better data gathering: I know we have made tremendous strides in finding the reasons why some people get cancers and some people don’t. But look no further than your local oncology waiting room to realize that this freaking disease is out there ruining people’s futures on a weekly, daily and hourly basis–and we are not all surviving. Some of us are dying–not me, but others. And it’s terrifying.

I was talking with my husband about it all and I repeated the opinion I’ve come to so far–the one that may change, mind you–just as the news about breakthroughs and discoveries in cancer cures change all the time–

but 8 years and counting battling this disease I’ve come to a place where I truly believe this one thing:

we humans can’t change the world so much and so fast–power lines and genetically engineered food, wifis and cell phones, lost rainforests and another housing development, more construction while older strip malls stand empty, without having the world change something back about us. Whether that’s increased disease, lack of healthy air, loss of potable water or what, I don’t know–

but we’d be ignorant if we didn’t realize that we as a race can’t just march on and on and on all over this earth and not expect something out there at some point and in some way–in some way I don’t understand but in some way nonetheless–

to march back on top of us.

Posted September 21st, 2012 by
Ann's Diary: Cancer, cancer everywhere..
Posted in: Ann's Diary

Ann’s Diary: F-You

One of the worst things for me about being a cancer fighter is the mind game that happens when I try something to beat off the disease and it doesn’t work.

And I’m not just talking about actual medicines–chemo, radiation, Femara, Tamoxifen etc.–I’m also talking about the alternative things that pockets of people around the globe claim cured their cancer.

I’ll be honest–if I read a success story about someone who went vegan and beat off their cancer, I’ll go vegan. In fact, I have. If I read up on people who claim–and have done studies to boot–about dairy making their tumors grow, I’ll drop dairy. And I have dropped dairy.

And then there’s white sugar–which everyone reminds me is what they mix (I don’t know if it’s actual white sugar like from the store but it’s some kind of sugar compound) with the radioactive blah blah that they shoot me with every time I need a PETscan. A PETscan determines where exactly the cancer is in a body at any one time–and the sugar/chemical mixture helps seek it out because “cancer loves sugar”. So there’s a no-brainer: ix-nay on the ugar-shay.

So here I am: vegan, no white sugar, no dairy–but I cheat a little, like on my birthday or when someone makes me a whoopie pie–but for all intents and purposes, I’m dancing as fast as I can to all the cancer DJs out there placing the next “cure-your-cancer” MP3 playlist on my cancer Ipod….

and here I am: still with cancer. And it’s not getting any better. At all.

And frankly, I just want to say F-YOU to the whole friggin thing.

Then I go to to the ethereal “cures”–the ones where you must concentrate on letting go of bad feelings. The ones where you have to let stuff from the past stop bugging you. I’ve been doing that and feeling really good about it. I’ve been telling people what I can and can’t handle–and there’s been stress around it, and hurt feelings–but ultimately I feel as unburdened emotionally as I’ve ever felt in my life…

and STILL the freaking cancer hangs in there.

So I get to this make-myself-crazy place where I think: okay, do I just suck at getting rid of cancer? I mean, I’m no meat, no sugar, no dairy, no bad juju in my world–what more am I supposed to do? WTF is this all about?

But I have a secret weapon. I’ve had it since I was diagnosed 8 years ago. I call it the F-YOU spirit. And it’s what’s keeping me going. I WILL NOT let this disease take me. I don’t know why this is happening, I don’t know where I am going with all this, but I WILL tell you one thing–

I’m not going anywhere.

Posted September 10th, 2012 by
Ann's Diary: F-You
Posted in: Ann's Diary

Ann’s Diary: My One-Woman Show

I am working on a one-woman-show to debut this fall outside of Boston, MA. It’s a new venture for me and one that I’m excited about because, well–it’s so unlike anything I’ve ever done.

Being past 40 years old, doing things I’ve never done is hard to do. I’ve driven a car, popped champagne, gotten my first kiss, swam with a dolphin, laughed, cried, had my heart broken, said I’m sorry, been married, given birth….you know, all that stuff. I’ve even gotten shingles–a new experience and DEFINITELY NOT one I recommend…but my point is, at my age it’s difficult to experience something unique, and especially one that I choose to do. So for me, this will be quite something.

The show is about how to handle it when life slaps someone in the face–or the -ss, if you’re talking about me–which it does at some point for everyone. Not necessarily cancer, not illness–but maybe divorce. Maybe death of a loved one. Maybe job loss.. Let’s face it, no one goes unscathed in life. Sh-t happens, and sometimes it’s devastating. So what do you do about it? What gets us through?

The answer is we do. And I mean all of us–not just you for you, but you for your friend and me for my cousin and that nurse for that patient–we are all thrown into moments where someone needs us…if even for a moment…and there we are whether we planned to be or not, and we gotta show up for these folks–and sometimes it’s just…plain…AWKWARD. So how do you handle it?

I have some ideas. And that’s what the show is about.

But I can’t just rattle them off. That’s B-O-R-I-N-G. So I’ll tell a few jokes. I’ll talk about my public flashing–how this Catholic girl bared her breasts to a total stranger. And I’ll share more, of course I’ll talk about cancer–but not like it’s the only thing. It’s just my thing. You have your thing, she had her thing–we all get a thing. That’s what makes us different, and that’s what makes us the same.

If you know me, you know I handle it with laughter, lots of jokes, a few four-letter words and a lot of heart. This show will be my foray into theatre–and a way for me to hold out an emotional hand and say “hey audience, we’re in this together.”

Because my life, and my story, are really everyone’s story with different names, dates, faces and props. My very first boss said it best, to me–the fresh-faced 15 year old who thought she knew everything–

“Remember Ann, you’re absolutely unique. Just like everybody else.”

30 years and a show-premiere in the offing, I finally understand what he meant.

(The show, titled IN THE PINK, is sold out for its October premier, but I may take it on the road. If I do, I’ll post that here.)

Posted September 5th, 2012 by
Ann's Diary: My One-Woman Show
Posted in: Ann's Diary, News