Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

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.


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

Ann’s Diary: Ellie’s Wish List

Sometimes things are hard to handle. The loss of friendships, the changing of perspectives, the search to find a “new normal” in whatever trauma we face. And the holidays can be a time when these difficulties make themselves more obvious as we focus on a national time of thanks and thanksgiving. It can force a strange comparison to the expectation of being happy, yet a sadness for what within our lives isn’t going so hot.

It doesn’t have to be cancer: it can be other things. Divorce, death of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of respect–whatever we endure we do so in what seems to be solitude. And the holidays can make that worse. At least it feels that way for me. Some moments I think I’m the only one in this kind of pain, who should feel happy but who’s feeling blue: the only one with a weight on my shoulders so hard to bear it breaks me down–

and then I remember that we are all like that. We all have this in our worlds. No matter the list, no matter the family, no matter the season–our joys and our pains are universal. I take comfort in knowing this–a sad comfort but a comfort nonetheless–that while I hate sadness and despair, I hate solitude worse. So knowing that I am not alone in my confusion and angst, especially when bells are jingling and turkeys are roasting, makes those horrible feelings less crippling to bear. We are all fighting something–separately yes: but in that common fight we are all in “it” together.

Today I was reminded that even the youngest and most innocent of us have weights on our shoulders. The little people’s fears may not be as obvious or as outward as ours, but they are there just the same. And some times they come out in the most beautiful, innocent and heart-jarring ways…

like this note, that I found taped to my front door (and subsequently hung in every room in my house) in my 10-year-old daughter’s handwriting. It helped me remember two things: that while all life is uncertain, and my life especially so, other people’s worlds are in just as much upheaval. And holding to each other as the bad times wash over is one way for me to make it through to the place where I’m left still standing there, holding onto a hand for strength.

In the potential moments of despair this season I will turn to this note and find the joy in it: I’ll rejoice that I am still here in life to actually make a Christmas Wish List at all. In fact I consider it high praise from a little girl who’s biggest wish-list-want has only ever been her American Girl dolls. Now it’s her American Mom on there too–though I don’t need a mini cello, a tiny flute, or a dog name Chocolate. But a breast cancer cure would be nice…

I do hope Santa is listening.

Posted November 20th, 2012
Posted in: Ann's Diary

Ann’s Diary: Untangling The Holidays

Here in the United States the holiday of Thanksgiving is over. I put away the roasting pan, the pilgrim figurines and the inflatable turkey today for another year–and then I hauled out the Christmas decorations.

Sure it’s a little early but it’s Sunday, and I wanted to have enough time to leisurely deck my halls without worrying about appointments, school deadlines, did I make the lunches and did-anybody-remember-to-take-out-the-trash cries as I hear the garbage truck pull away from my driveway.

I had a good Thanksgiving–a great one, in fact– because a good chunk of my extended family was here and I can’t remember the last time we were all in the same place at the same time. Right away I was thankful for that, never mind the succulent meat, creamy mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce that tastes like candy and gravy I could drink from a glass (no, I did not cook–my brother did.)

As I looked around that dinner table I was grateful. All those faces, because of the strange magic of DNA, were partly mine. No we are not perfect, no we are not all best friends, and yes sometimes we are downright cold to each other. But we are family, and nothing thaws an icy relationship like a holiday–or at least, that’s the plan…

I know some people don’t have good relationships with their blood relatives. I think family dynamics are some of the hardest, most difficult, most confusing things to untangle. Like the holiday lights I was trying to pull apart –I couldn’t find the original tangle-problem and solve it because it was buried in so many others that had happened since–people’s feelings about each other may come out in one moment but stem from so many moments that have long since happened.

How do you do fix that? Beats me.

But I love my holiday lights like I love my family. Sure they can be a pain, all tied up and hard to unwind– but what would the season be without them? They’re shiny and lovely and for some reason chosen just for me. When they’re unwound and working right they can brighten my darkness and make me feel better–just because.

Of course there are days when I forget to turn my lights on, or times when they annoy me all tangled in a heap, or times I don’t even notice them hanging in the midst of a busy day. But in the moments when I look up and catch a glimpse and slow down enough to breathe, I remember how much those lights mean to me.

As I head into the holidays (now finally able to listen to the Christmas carols that have been playing since Halloween without screaming ‘turn that off!”) the gratefulness I found at my Thanksgiving table stays with me. So do the lights I managed to unbind, now glowing like my memories of my time spent with my family–

my imperfect, kinda tangled, beautiful, wire-crossed, glowing through-the-dark and shining-as-they-are family.

For them I am truly thankful.

Posted November 27th, 2011 by
Ann's Diary: Untangling The Holidays
Posted in: Ann's Diary