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Ann Murray Paige

Anna Kuperberg Photography

It took some time for me to make this entry in the Project Pink Diary, as if, by letting Ann’s last diary stand, I could pretend for a moment, that she was already at work on her next entry. In the weeks, months, and years to come we will keep Ann’s positive spirit alive on this page. It is our challenge to ourselves, affirmed by Ann’s husband Sandy. –Linda

This is an excerpt from the eulogy Sandy delivered at Ann’s Celebration of Life:

Annie’s casket was made by Mike Fields, one of the most unselfish demonstrations of love I’ve ever seen, and we left it unfinished so we can finish it with our love today. Sometime before you leave, go see it, grab a sharpie and tell her why you love her. I figured that would be better than lacquer or stain.This week has been about sharing in Annie’s memory. A serious, collective celebration of her life. My goal here today isn’t to heal, isn’t even to preach. I will meet you where you are – and, I know, this is a tough place to meet. I want to share my perspective on the wonderful woman I married in 1997 in Shrewsbury, MA. But, I am not going to blow sunshine up all these pretty dresses and tell you everything is going to be okay,blather on about how the hurt will pass. That will take care of itself in time. As we did last night in her Irish Wake, we are going celebrate, remember, and I hope to give us all some tools to carry her spirit forward.

Spiritual Pixie

Let’s start with something fun. So much of Ann was just her spirit. Even when her body left her, her spirit fought on. And we all want to capture that spirit and soak it up . . . that’s why we’re here. So, let’s actually do that. Put your hands in front of you, drop the best parts of her into it. Now on the count of three, let’s toss the contents of our hands into the air. And when we do it, let’s all reach up and grab some, and place over our hearts. Now you get everybody else’s piece of Ann, too.And you can take that with you.

History

Born outside Boston in 1965, raised in Shrewsbury, MA.

Attended Boston College and Emerson for graduate studies.

We met in the Maine State House while she was on the news

beat, fell in love, married, had two fabulous kids and lived in

Maine until moving to CA in 2008. She was a great journalist,

but never comfortable covering the murder and mayhem

that was required of a beat reporter. I still remember well the

night she camped out to speak with the poorly treated Spanish

workers of an egg farm in rural Maine. She knew it was good

journalism, but hated it. She wanted to tell stories of strength

and humor – stories that made people smile.

And I could talk about her full life up to 2002, had she

been struck by lightning I could have given her eulogy

then and it would have a fabulous life. By then we had two

amazing children and that, in itself, remains our greatest

accomplishment.

Cancer

But in 2003/4 she got cancer, but she also got new meaning.

She found herself in new and important ways. In fact, it’s a big

part of why we are all here. Ann and Linda Pattillo put together

The Breast Cancer Diaries and traveled the country sharing it

with audiences. It has since traveled the world, been translated

into new languages, and even today has legs which are truly

profound.

California

In 2008 we moved to California, in part at least, to heal

emotionally from the treatments but also to find her some

space. And in that healing process, in this new land of

opportunity, she found voice . . . . as well as her favorite place.

It is where she decided to write and self-publish Pink Tips and

make it available on Amazon, where she wrote a One-Woman-

Show, where she found her soul mates. It is where the non-

profit Project Pink began to come alive.

Sure, breast cancer killed her. But didn’t it also save her? Ann

found her lost voice through cancer. And here in Davis, she

found an un-biased audience for her heart.

Let’s face it: Ann could be drawn like an emotional moth to

the most tragic of flames, she sought out the most difficult

moments, captured them, embraced them, spoke through

them and to them. She cried when she saw the homeless.

She hurt watching old people struggle. She had emotional

transparency, depths of highs and lows, that even now astonish

me.

Lows, and HIGHs.

How many of us will remember her

contagious laugh, the silliness, the margaritas, the last minute

texted invites to drinks and potluck dinner at the Paiges where

everybody showed up? Everybody showed up.

So Annie will lie in rest here in Davis, the place she was

happiest during her life. And in the most fitting closure, she will

rest in a plot at the feet of an 8 year old boy she never knew,

but with whom she shared the deepest, most personal love.

It is so tempting to be drawn in to the chasm of darkness that is

our sadness and grief today. And, perhaps because we had so

long to prepare, she knew this would happen to us . . . and she

gave us guidance – through her actions and words. I want to

share them, I want to give us some tools to carry forward.

Tool 1: Show Up

This one is the first and it is also the hardest. Even Ann, who

did this better than anybody, was not perfect at it. But she will

lay to rest with at least this on her gravestone. Show up. It

means more than it seems, take the phrase apart over time

and you’ll hear more and more meaning in it. It’s not simply a

question of being physically present, in some ways that’s easy.

Showing up is emotionally risky, it can make you vulnerable,

but it will always make you stronger. Try it in your marriage.

Use it in your friendships. Use it in your work. You will never,

ever go wrong by showing up. Meeting people where they are

emotionally. Showing up means trying to do the hard stuff.

You don’t have to do it right every single time, there’s always

tomorrow, but it means you show up whenever you can.

Christopher … you are already showing up. I have never

been prouder of you than over the last 10 days. You have

opened your heart to the world, with square shoulders and big

embrace, wiping tears and helping friends and family cope. And

you are just 14. Keep showing up like this and you will make

mom and me very, very proud.

Show up.

Tool 2: Half Full

This is from Ellie, who held out longer than anybody for a

miracle and reminded me so many times that I needed to see

mom’s fight glass as still half full. And I cherish that love and

that optimism more than anything. Thank you for being so

persistent.

So today, and tomorrow . . . and forever more . . . when you

grab a glass of wine or beer or juice or water, fill it half full. See

the top half, the one that appears so empty, see it with our

spiritual pixie bouncing around the inside, challenging you to

see the top half as opportunity, not emptiness.

Annie got a terminal cancer diagnosis 3.5 years ago, but lived

her life half full to the end. 48 hours before her death, when

she couldn’t stand without somebody on each arm, she could

barely form words anymore, but the words she formed that day

were “TAKE ME TO SPIN CLASS AT FITHOUSE.” She could barely

stand. She could barely speak. But she could still dance. Her

glass, more than anybody’s on this green, was nearly empty. Or

was it?

The volunteers pouring wine, water, lemonade and beer behind

you are instructed to fill the glasses half full. Start practicing

today.

Half Full.

Tool 3: Walk in Ann’s shoes

So . . . Ann had a bit of a shoe problem. Of course, like most

addicts, she did not see it as a problem. As her therapist on this

issue, I should have been fired, disbarred, my license revoked. I

failed in my interventions and the addiction continued.

I really want us all to walk in her shoes – figuratively, of course.

Think about how hard it was to do what she did. We called her

Superwoman, but she had no superpowers. She put one foot

in front of the other, pants on one leg at a time. What am I

asking? To the doctors in the crowd, walk in your patient’s

shoes. To the lawyers, be your client’s true advocate. To the

teachers, feeling that child’s pain, struggling with Geometry.

Walk in their shoes.

And . . . if you are a size 6.5 or 7, why don’t you ACTUALLY do

it. On the way out, there are about 50 pairs of Ann’s shoes.

I invite you to take a pair, just one pair, for yourself or for a

daughter or granddaughter whom you know they will fit. But

they really need to fit. Not just in the foot, but also in the heart.

This isn’t an opportunity to collect a piece of Ann, because

it comes with responsibility. These shoes are like the ruby

slippers in the Wizard of Oz. You may only wear them to do

good works. You must explicitly be thinking of Annie and doing

something for others.

And because not everybody is a size 6.5, if you’d like to come

as close as you can to Annie’s shoes, visit The Wardrobe in

downtown Davis. Heather and her friends will find something

for you, as close to Annie’s tastes as possible in shoes, hats

or the many other things which Annie loved in Heather’s

shop. And when you buy something in Annie’s memory at the

Wardrobe, some of the proceeds will help Project Pink.

But your obligation doesn’t just stop with wearing the shoes

and doing good work . . . you must tell others about what you

did. Write on FB, tweet about it. Call me. Call others. You can

have a pair of her ruby slippers if you promise to wear them in

her honor, share the good works you do. Find your tin man . . .

and give him life.

Walk in her shoes.

Tool 4: Wear her ring.

Our marriage was always public property. From our first date,

when we couldn’t have dinner without being mobbed, to the

documentary when I returned home to find a video camera

in the corner of our bedroom. To the blog I opened at work

one day . . . where she wrote about dragging me to a marriage

therapist. I knew that publicity was the price of admission to

her life.

The day we got engaged on Togue Pond in Baxter State Park

in northern Maine, I was not prepared. I had no ring. I had

something more important, though, I had Veuve Cliquot. So

we celebrated, and I slipped off to the woodshed. I took my

leatherman and pulled a nail from a piece of kindling and

formed a crude ring. She wore it. And she cherished it. And she

is wearing it now.

But not before I had a cast of it made – and some sterling

silver poured into it. We got an exact replica. Last week, in her

final hours, I slipped sterling silver copies on her fingers and

gave them to Christopher and Ellie the moment she passed.

They wear them now, too. And this week I gave sterling silver

copies of that ring to some of her closest friends. But that’s not

enough. The public property of our successful marriage offers

another opportunity, perhaps a glass half full. I want you all to

share in that cast, the cast sits in the safe at DeLuna’s Jewelers

here in Davis. She was tough as nails. And you can be too.

So if you want to share in it, go to DeLuna Jewelers in Davis.

Or call them. Tell them you want a copy of Ann’s nail ring,

tell them how you’d like to use it. They have the cast and

permission to use it – to fill it with anything other than sterling

silver. The silver is only for us. Try platinum for your wife. Try

the special allow for your second grade teacher. Try 10 or 14

carat gold. Have them make you rings, necklaces and earrings

from her nail ring and some of the benefits will fall to Project

Pink.

Ann was tough as nails – and a sterling silver friend. You can

be, too. Just drop by or call DeLuna’s, ask about Ann’s nail ring.

They’ll find a way for you to share in her beauty.

Honestly, one of the beauties of Annie was she had a purity to

her. Almost naivete in her willingness to trust, to embrace and

to join with others. And in her humility, she underestimated

herself, always. I am certain she is as overwhelmed by the

response over the last week as I am. The calls, texts, emails and

tears from around the globe have proven her reach to be far

more extensive than any of us knew.

It is often that you don’t know what you had until it is gone.

This is just not one of those times, is it?. We know very well

what’s missing. And that’s why it’s so darn hard. So let’s

not wallow in our grief. Let’s fight for her, not just Ann the

individual, but the Ann the spiritual pixie, Ann’s values, Ann’s

soul. And in doing so, we’ll get some emotional and spiritual

justice from this tragedy and we’ll carry her forward on our

shoulders, in our shoes, in our glasses, or on our fingers. This

week, and last night, the Davis community has joined hands,

simply refusing the let the memory of Annie fade. Time will do

what it must, but we will do our part to maintain the splendor

of her legacy.

What can you do?

You can Show Up.

You can keep your glass Half Full.

You can walk in her Shoes.

And you can wear her Ring.

I dare you – I DARE you — to see if it won’t improve your life,

and the lives of those around you, forever.

We love you, Annie. We won’t forget, I promise.

Sandy Paige

—-
Donations to Project Pink can be sent to:
Project Pink
245 N. Highland Ave.
Suite 230-271
Atlanta, GA
30307

Posted April 3rd, 2014 by
Ann Murray Paige
Posted in: Linda's Diary, News

Ann’s Diary: GET OUT

The last three weeks have been a bit tough–but I’m still here, punching back at the new bag of tricks that breast cancer has left at my doorstep. And today, Halloween, may just become my new national holiday as my life continues to morph into one of those strange slasher movies where the “call is coming from inside the house.”

Or in my case, “the body”–my body. This damn cancer doesn’t seem to get the memo. I want it GONE. To steal a line from the great David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox who, after the 2013 Marathon Bombings, said to the ballgame crowd “this is our f-ing CITY!”; I say “this is my f-ing BODY.” GET OUT CANCER.

I’ve had 9 of 10 whole brain radiation treatments these last two weeks. I am due for my last one today–again, on Halloween, how appropo. But before you think I’ve gone all anti-treatment, let me tell you I feel quite the opposite. I feel incredibly lucky to have the machines, the treatment options, the medical people, the health care and the opportunity to use those things–along with my own fighting spirit–to continue to beat this cancer beast at its own killing game.

The whole brain treatment thing has gone well. There were side effects that I kind of avoided–not all, but most. And the way I did that was by thinking that wouldn’t happen to me. There’s really no “secret.” I don’t have a magic lasso. I haven’t been hypnotized (though I just got word it may work so what have I got to lose?) I’m just deciding that I can do this. So I do.

I have really focused on anti-cancer nutrition and I’m continuing my exercise. I figure if my body is taking on all these toxins to kill the ultimate toxin inside me, I gotta give it some help. I can’t be chowing down chips and soda and junk food while my little body is pushing back at cancer. I gotta help it out. So I have my nutritionist (aka my friend who knows all about this stuff) make up recipes for green smoothies and added proteins that work work with my specific diagnosis. I have my doctor on board watching and listening and telling me when to go for it and when to reel it it. And I have my trainer/best pal helping me keep my body strong. Boston Strong. That’s how I’m rolling these days. And I’m doing fine.

So fine in fact that this past Monday, after what should have been my last WBRT but the machine wasn’t working (kick it!) I hopped a plane to Boston, MA. I was invited to speak at the Koch Institute at MIT and at Infinity Pharmaceuticals, both in Cambridge, MA. The point of the MIT speech was “Women on the Front Lines Fighting Cancer”, and the Infinity speech was about rallying the research troops who work so hard every day trying to figure out the cancer b#tch and who, understandably, can become disillusioned as the beast continues to elude them.

I was beyond honored to be at both places. To be able to have people hear me say that what they do is critically important to me is a gift I am grateful for every day. Especially to my Infinity peeps: who make a difference in peoples lives that they’ll never know simply because they’re trying to help us beat cancer. I wanted to put at least one face to their progress and remind them that even their research “failures” are actually future successes. Because when we find out what doesn’t work, that adds a crucial piece to the puzzle that ultimately becomes the answer of what DOES.

Oh–and then….on a huge lark, a visa card, and a “what the hell are we waiting for” move, my husband and I–on the prompting of our extended family, took a chance and bought World Series Tickets to Game 6 at Fenway. You see, I’m from Boston originally. I went to Boston College. Get me angry or tired and the accent shines through. And the Red Sox are my team.

And they WON. The World Series, 2013. At home. That hasn’t happened since 1918.

To add to my magical trip: a chance encounter with my cousin Peter in a city of thousands–a cousin I spent every holiday with as a kid but as and adult haven’t seen in 16 years. A walk near the Charles River with my dear sister/friend who has roots in Boston, too. A chance to spend time with my 87 year-old mother, my oldest sister, and a sister I haven’t seen in more than a year. A serendipitous business trip that my husband had so we were able to be together on this trip.

And the best part of it all for me: time with my Dad, whom dementia has stolen from us. At least in memory. But Lord not in spirit. This man, who was a tough dad growing up, now tells me I’m beautiful every chance he gets. He thinks my teeth “are the most gorgeous he’s ever seen.” He may not know how he knows me but he is never afraid of me. We can still share a laugh and a beer together. Talk about Boston Strong. That man is my hero. Forever.

As I sat in the right field bleacher seat and watched the Red Sox win the world series last night, I already knew they were going to win before it started. Not because I’m talented at guessing, or a follower of stats, or a Monday morning quarter-backer. It was because I knew my dad, were he alert and able, would have loved that game. Would have been sitting in “his chair” at home rooting for HIS team. To be honest, I’m not sure he “saw” the game last night. I do know the nursing home had the place decked out and all “clients” where going to be ON DECK, in wheelchairs, walkers and wing chairs to watch the game on TV.

My Dad would be among them–making jokes, covering up his embarrassment at forgetting by creating a humorous distraction and putting the staff in stitches. Whether he truly got what was happening–or for how long–I can’t say. But who cares? He was safe, he was cared for, and knowing him he was making jokes. That’s how he rolls in his dementia: he’s hilarious. He keeps us in stitches and helps re-root some of our sad tears into laughing ones.

So to the Boston Red Sox I say: well played, my team!

To my father I whisper: you were with me at the game, Dad. I knew they were winning it. For you.

To MIT/Koch Institute and to Infinity Pharmaceuticals. ROCK ON. You will figure out cancer. I have no doubt.

To my husband, you are my rock. I love you so, and forever.

To my peeps–who either came in from parts unknown to hear me speak or who surprised me and hopped 4 planes to come out from NORCAL to watch me work–YOU RULE.

To all of you all out there rooting for me: THANK YOU. I love you, and your support, like nutrition, exercise, meds and doctors, is making me live.

To Boston: you’re my home.

And to cancer: This is my f-ing body.

GET OUT.

Posted October 31st, 2013 by
Ann's Diary: GET OUT
Posted in: Ann's Diary, News

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: Who IS That?

I had the weirdest day yesterday.

I prepped for chemotherapy number 13 by working–as staff, that is–at my training studio, logging folks in to barre class, making sure there were enough towels, etc.  I do that every Tuesday/Thursday..

…then I rushed home–by way of a donut store to give my son his reward after the hour long workout he’d done while I worked…

…and rushed into the shower to rinse off before getting picked up for infusion and my baker’s-dozen-number chemo. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I was–it’s that strange place of “this is gonna knock me over/this is gonna save my life” that someone like me has to wrap her head around every week.

Anyway–none of that seems extraordinarily weird–except that somewhere in the middle of all that I got a text that my speech that I’d done for “the one hundred” back on June 5 was up on their website.  And that I should take a look.

I wanted to see it–I’d been waiting to see it for awhile, because even though I’d done the speech, I didn’t really see it myself.  I just knew how I felt doing it, and the wonderful reaction I’d received from the audience, and the strength and love in that room. The visual of the moment, however, was beyond me.

So somewhere in between clients accounts settled, choosing my chemo heels and picking out a honey-glazed donut with my 14-year old, I got on line to see myself at the one hundred:


And to be honest, the reminder of what one person can do in the face of all that adversity gave me the courage I needed to get in that chair yesterday and face my next round of 12 weekly chemos–with a smile on my face and a virtual middle finger in the air to cancer.

I’m sure that sounds weird since I do this every week, but for me it’s a constant battle to keep spirits high. This cancer thing isn’t easy. What it IS is constant, daunting and a pain in my -ss.

So seeing that composed, candid and occasionally comedic woman stand up in front of almost 1000 people in that video and basically inspire me to keep on keeping on was exactly what I needed yesterday.

Some day maybe I’ll get around to believing that that woman with the hair and the dress and the f-u cancer attitude in that video tape was…IS…actually me.

Posted July 3rd, 2013 by
Ann's Diary:  Who IS That?
Posted in: Ann's Diary, News

Ann’s Diary: The One Hundred Event: Part Three

As I continue to write about my experience at the one hundred event in Boston on June 5, I get this overwhelming urge to don the persona of a Valley-Girl-Cinderella blogging about the ball–

Oh and there was this handsome prince and this beautiful other princess?  And they stood up for cancer on the red carpet?  And then, and then–there was this amazing rocker and his beautiful wife?  And there was a funny, handsome older man and his gorgeous wife whose son is a major film star?  And like, there was me, cuz POOF my Fairy Godmothers had dressed me up in a couture dress and a platinum wig and pushed me into the center of it all? Like, OMG!”

I had such an amazing time on so many levels at the one hundred that the entire night just blew me away.

First there was the venue. When I walked in early to practice my speech along with the other speakers I was almost knocked down by sophistication and elegance.   Rafanelli Events out of Boston put on the “show” in the ballroom at the Westin Waterfront and they knocked it out of the park.

Then there were the one hundred themselves; the 99 others whose actions, from collecting pennies to playing baseball for breast cancer awareness to bringing a dying college student his diploma hours before he passed away. These selfless people whose one goal is to make the cancer journey easier to bear for those of us on it: there they were, real Cancer Kicking Celebrities.  And I was one of them.

Of course, there were the other “Hollywood” celebrities, too:  

Tom Hamilton (my MAN) of Aerosmith. Kent Damon and his wife Celeste, whose son is actor Matt Damon. (no photo yet–Mr. Damon used his own cell phone.  Now how’m I gonna get THAT copy?)

 

 

Actor John Krasinski and his beautiful actor wife, Emily Blunt…

Howard Weinstein, Unit Chief of MGH’s Pediatric Hematology and Oncology (with me and my sister, Ellen)…

 

but the TRUE CELEBS?  THE ONE HUNDRED THEMSELVES…

 The ages and stages of the close to 1,000 people sitting at multiple tables of 8 in the Boston Westin Waterfront ran from the healthy to the sick and spanned from the single digits straight up to 96 years old (that was T. Berry Brazelton, the famed pediatrician.) Some were young and never had cancer but were standing up for someone who does: others had cancer and were fighting back. Still more were working to end the dreaded disease, and others were there to shine a spotlight on the cause. And these special folks were all brought together  for one magic night to revel in the fact that they make a difference every day in the fight against cancer.

And of all of those there, this Cinderella–seen below with my mom–had to have been one of the happiest princesses at the one hundred ball.

Posted June 12th, 2013 by
Ann's Diary: The One Hundred Event: Part Three
Posted in: Ann's Diary, News