Help and Hope

Ann’s Diary: The Tunnel

They say the rise comes before the fall. I think that’s a real saying. Or maybe I made it up–but there’s a saying like that…

It’s the one that means “all good things must come to an end.” Or more colloquially put: “the fun’s over. Get back to work.”

I had what was clearly the most memorable weeks of my life last week, ending with watching live as the Red Sox, my baseball team, won the World Series at Fenway Park, and beginning with the Inaugural Project Pink 5K Run/Walk, where more than 600 people came together to support my non-profit and its goal of getting my book “pink tips” into the hands of newly diagnosed breast cancer patients all over the world. What fell between those two major events can be read here.

…but alas, today is a new day. And I’ve cried as much in the last 24 hours than I think I have in the last 3 months. So I guess I’m back to work.

The work for me of course is to stay alive. But that’s not the only thing I need to do. I also need to keep my ship on a steadier course than it’s been on the last 48 hours. Because the bitch about terminal illness, along with any other life-altering trauma out there, is that the world and its motion continues. Sometimes the motion is good, sometimes it’s bad, but regardless, it’s moving on–and I either keep up or I get plowed under, cancer be damned. People may think they know what I go through on a day to day basis, but they don’t. Nor should they. This ride I’m on has the ugliest underbelly I would never want anyone to see–because it’s the antithesis of positivity. It’s the root of all evil. It’s fear. Plus sadness. Plus terror. Plus implied defeat.

The brave stance I take every day in my battle, whether it be speaking at MIT, taking a spin class 24 hours after chemo, or finishing whole brain radiation treatments and walking a 5K, is really me. But there’s another part to me that exists. It’s the exhausted patient. It’s the please-no-more, WTF-with-this, what side effects NOW, and the when-will-this-ever-END part of me. And that is the private side of trauma.

Believe me, nobody who goest through Hell like I do and is a warrior in their lives has a clear slate on the tears-fallen-this-month chart. We all cry. It’s why we have the physiological ability, I assume: let it out so it doesn’t take you over kind-of-thing. I don’t advertise it in my day-to-day life because that’s not the whole of who I am; in fact it’s not the half either. It’s more like the sliver of the pie that sits in in the Thanksgiving tin until somebody, or something, comes along and scoops it up and swallows it.

And on its way down they feel it. In pumpkin pie’s case, it tastes good. In the emotional world of a trauma fighter, it can lodge in my throat like a full-grown pumpkin. It can come close to stealing my oxygen from inside myself and this past weekend it had me curled up in the fetal position with tears streaming down my face, thinking “What the F-ck did I do to deserve any of this.”

Which is total backward motion. And I am not a backward motion kind of a girl. I’m about being in the moment, learning from what I’ve done that either worked or didn’t, and moving forward. At least, that’s who I am mostly. And then there’s that sliver of pie left in the tin…

Before I leave you with nausea thinking of this month’s Thanksgiving dessert table–or get sued by the Pumpkin Patch People of America (just the stress I DON’T need but as the world moves on, 10 to 1 I’ll get an email), let me tell you what I told my dear pal who texted me today, sharing a wise saying from her mom, who died of cancer. It said something like “accepting that you can be vulnerable and sad makes you brave.”

And I responded, yes, that is true. But some days I am so tired of being brave.

But I also said this: I know I will get through this. I have had (too) many moments like it already to believe anything less. But you can’t get to the other end of the tunnel unless you go through it first.

So folks, I’m in the tunnel.

But I’m on my way out of it, too.

Posted November 4th, 2013 by
Ann's Diary: The Tunnel

Ann’s Diary: Making Headlines

This week I was honored twice publicly–and embarrassed several times over.

The honors have to do with being positive.  I am known in my community for being a positive individual.  That’s a great label to have.  On Thursday night my fitness studio held a positivity celebration in my name and this weekend the local paper did a story on that–and on me.

Click to read Ann Murray Paige Spreads Message of Hope by Anne Ternus-Bellamy 

The embarrassment comes from exactly the same place as the honor: the positivity moniker. It’s not the typical thing to have–I’ve been called late, funny, cranky, goofy–all things that relate to being a typical human in the world.  But “positive”?  That’s something I’ve heard as a choice.  Or as a goal.  Not as “me.”

I feel awkward saying “thank you”  to this designation. Why I am not sure.  Maybe because it highlights an obvious factor of my life now: I am positive, yes– because I have to be.  If I’m not positive, I’m negative–and the cancer gets the upper hand in my fight, and sorry Charlie, that won’t fly with me.

But being lauded for this choice seems…I don’t know how to describe it. It’s like being congratulated for having blonde hair (when I used to have hair).  The response I’d feel would be: it’s my hair, it’s just there. I didn’t do anything to “get” it.  It showed up on my head at 4 months old.  How can I be congratulated?

Likewise, being “positive” is not something I chose.  Well I guess somewhere in my mind I went that way instead of negative, but honestly: it’s just the only way to go during this ridiculous bullsh-t.  It’s like if you’re swimming and you begin to be pulled under.  Nobody thinks, “Hmmm, sink or swim?  Let’s see.  This is a tough one.  I’ll be honest, I haven’t sunk to the bottom in a very long time.  This could be my last moment alive. Hmmm.  But…on the other hand, swimming is healthy. What to do? Think think think. Oh alright, I choose swim.”  Nobody does that.  Everybody tries to swim.

So to everybody involved, thank you for singling me out as someone who represents positivity in your life.  I am honored.  I am humbled.  I am grateful. I am a tiny bit embarrassed…BUT  I love it.  I am grateful beyond words.

But I need you to know this:

without you opening up to this positivity –mine or somebody else’s–there is no positivity.  Like I said to the amazing group of people at the celebration on Thursday night: if you don’t allow it in, positivity can’t shine.  It takes two people to make that work.  And I’ve walked by many a person who pushed off my positivity and went on their grouchy way untouched by what you say I give you.

Maybe there’s where the choice comes in–those who don’t get there naturally.  If that’s who I’m reaching right now please know this:  when you decide to let positivity in, you reflect it back to the world…and to each other…and to me.  And mostly to yourself.

To those who’ve honored me this past week, those who have gotten to the postiivity place naturally, I say this: if I could write a headline for you and show you what you mean to me in my breast cancer fight, it would read something like this:

Ann Murray Paige Spreads Message of Hope–Because You Let Her.”

Thanks for letting me.




Posted October 6th, 2013 by
Ann's Diary: Making Headlines

Ann’s Diary: First V-log (video)

Posted September 18th, 2013 by
Ann's Diary:  First V-log (video)

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

News: Overwhelmed by your diagnosis? Here’s a new resource for help.

WHEN A DOCTOR ISN’T ENOUGH. Wall Street Journal, Tuesday, August 16, 2011.

Ann’s books ‘pink tips’ and ‘Words To Live By’ now available in the SHOP section of this website.

Posted August 17th, 2011
Posted in: Help and Hope, News