Posts from December, 2013

Ann’s Diary: Isaac’s Advice

There’s a phrase I lean on all the time when things aren’t in my control and I’m stuck: it’s “who cares.” But it’s not the who cares you think it is—not the one that means “I don’t care.” This is a different one. I’ll explain.

It was Christmastime, about 3 or 4 years ago–and I was visiting my folks back east. I was in the kitchen of my next-door neighbor, Darlin–who was my godmother and neighbor for as long as I’d been a person in the world. I always loved to hang out at her house during the holidays and find out what all of her 6 kids, in-laws and her grandchildren were up to. I considered them all my extended family and so, on this afternoon before Christmas, I pulled up a kitchen barstool and listened in on the conversation.

Debbie was talking about her youngest son, Isaac, and she was telling everyone how naughty he was being lately. He was probably 6 or 7–the right age for being naughty–and she was saying how he’d done something he shouldn’t have, I don’t remember what. I’ll just pretend it was spilling milk for the sake of this blog. So she was saying “and he’s spilled his milk. And I said, Isaac, pick up the milk. And he didn’t. So I said, Isaac, really. Pick up the milk. It’s a mess. And it will smell if you don’t clean it up. ”

Then Debbie looks at us and says, “And you know what that little imp said to me? Who cares.”

Now I have to insert here that part of the adorableness of the story was Isaac’s Boston-like accent–which Debbie imitated. If you’re from that area you know what I’m tawkin-bout: our As are more like Es. Our Rs are non-existent. And we can make multi-syllables appear from nowhere in a word that has 4 letters.

So in this story, it’s the A in “cares” that I need to explain. It’s like the e in key. That’s the accent Debbie used when she imitated Isaac. “Who key-ahs.” “And then,” she finished up, “he just ran out to play.”

I took that story home with me and I thought about it all night long. At this point in my health, I had metastatic breast cancer in my lung. I kept rolling that story over in my mind and I transferred it over to me. In my situation, battling friggin cancer, to be able in the moments when I have no control and all seems lost in the doc’s office, to have a “who-key-ahs” attitude and just move through it. To be able to just let go of the angst and anger and keep moving… even if milk has spilled and I can’t pick it up. Wouldn’t that be a gift to let go and really feel like since I can’t do anything about it, forget it.

Almost 5 years later, I say “who key-ahs” all the time: especially now that I have breast cancer in my liver and my brain. And I use that phrase long after I’ve cried hard over something I can’t change. Ex: I can’t get my ass out of bed on Xeloda. Who cares. Ex: My hair may not ever grow back after whole brain radiation–I may be bald for life. Who cares. Ex: I can’t get to 6a.m. spin now that chemo is kicking my-ass. Who cares.

It’s not that I don’t care about this bullsh-t I’m battling: I sure as hell DO care. But when I can’t do a damn thing about something, and when the rest of the world would be angry and getting in a froth over it, I think– I’m not putting any more of my energy into something I can’t change. I can only move forward, and to hell with what’s not in my control.

So at this Christmastime, I raise a glass of un-spilled milk to my buddy and my little pal, Isaac–who now doubt has zero idea that a story told about him many Christmases ago is helping this cancer fighter through some of her worst moments ever in this long battle with the breast cancer beast.

Here’s to Isaac: my pint-sized therapist–who guides my steps and the steps of others I’ve shared this story with over these last years–as we traverse the scary, the unforseen and the frightening of our lives. So we don’t have ultimate control: so we don’t know our fates. And we may not really ever understand why bad thing happen to good people in this world. And we may never know why..

and who key-ahs..

Posted December 11th, 2013 by
Ann's Diary: Isaac's Advice
Posted in: Ann's Diary

Ann’s Diary: Believe

One of the harder things for me to wrestle now, along with the happy holiday mantra that others are caught up in and I so desperately want to be swept up in too, is the notion of believing.

I don’t mean believing in Santa, which of course I do. I mean in me. Believing in me beating this cancer. Which of course I do.

It’s others in my world who have begun to think I have lost my faith in me. Lately I’ve been getting notes, letters, comments, texts and calls about “don’t stop believing.” I shake my head and think “ME? You talking to me?”

I have always believed I can do this. It will be ten years in March that I first wrote my letter to the Medical Santa and stated firmly: “I have been a VERY GOOD GIRL. And I just want one thing this Christmas: I want my health back.”

I am not new to the BELIEVE notion.

That was 10 Christmases ago that I wrote that note to my Santa, and so far he’s been, well, he’s been good. He hasn’t brought my health back, but then again, he hasn’t taken it away either. He’s stood by and watched me tie my son’s kindergarten shoes, hold my daughter’s hand into the preschool class, help with Spanish 3 homework and braid a long lock of blonde hair for the umpteenth time. Santa, like I am, is doing his best. Cancer isn’t something either of us can believe away. I can hold onto the hands of people who love me and still worry that this isn’t going so well. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up. It means I’m scared. And tired. And bloody well bullshit that all the holistic, self-healing, medical, emotional, spiritual, vegan, no-dairy, exercise, nutrition, Lourdes Water and all the rest of the dozens of “things” I’m trying to bat this beast away seem to work for only a while. Was I looking for a miracle you ask? You bet I was. And I still am.

Dear Medical Santa,

This year, I have been an especially good girl. But cancer has been naughty. It’s made me undergo 26 rounds of Taxol, 12 Zometa infusions, a port placement, a blown artery, 10 rounds of whole brain radiation, a port removal, 2 non-closing wounds, decreased vision, 3 new chemotherapies, unexpected exhaustion and the growing realization that the brain rads have made me bald for life. As for me, I have spoken at several cancer events, from 5 girl scouts in a living room to almost 1000 people at a Boston cancer center fundraiser. I have reminded people through my writing and my presence that all is not lost when things aren’t going right: and that there is another day coming in which to find your comfort, strength and balance. I’ve also been the recipient of incredible honors, including the inaugural Project Pink 5K which will be held each year in Davis, CA to raise funds for my non-profit, Project Pink** and been chosen as a “the one hundred” recipient for my breast cancer advocacy over this last decade.

So Santa, we’ve been here before, you and I. I’m asking for something yet again this year, and I’m hoping you can find it in that big red bag of yours. I’d like my health back.

Here’s my give to you: I promise I will continue to be a very good girl next year. I’d like to go back to that Boston cancer center and help them out again in 2014. I’d like to begin the business plan of getting “pink tips” out to its first group of cancer fighters, right here in my home town. I have a children’s book that is on the edges of being ready to publish. I have 2 more books in the series “Words To Live By” that I need to publish. And Santa, if I can have my health, I will pick up where I left off with “In the Pink”, my one-woman show. I wanted to go on the road, performing that at high schools around the state–maybe country?–letting kids know that the world can be tough but they can be tougher, we all can be–if we stick together. And I’m sure there are more opportunities out there for me, Santa. I just gotta be here for them.

Finally, Santa, please bring my friends the comfort that I DO BELIEVE. I believe in you, I believe in me, and I believe that somehow, some way, even as I live in this incredibly tough spot, I will beat this friggin disease. You know it–you’ve know that for 10 years–and I know it…

Now please help them know it, too.

–Ann

To my friends, I leave you with this:

The fact that I’m struggling with the side effects of this new chemo does not mean I’ve stopped believing I can do this. It means I so believe I can still do this that I’m willing to struggle with the side effects of this new chemo. So believe in me.

Because I do.

**all funds will go toward Project Pink’s new mission of getting a copy of “pink tips” into the hands of every newly diagnosed breast cancer patient across the country–and one day, around the world.

Posted December 3rd, 2013 by
Ann's Diary: Believe
Posted in: Ann's Diary