Posts Tagged ‘In The Pink’

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

Ann’s Diary: Advice From An Angel

I was just sitting at the grave of my friends’ son who died slipping off a ski lift chair just a year or so ago. He was 7.

I was at the cemetery because I’ve been feeling over the last 5 days that way too many people in my immediate world are assuming I’m going to die from this latest twist in my metastatic breast cancer battle; in my lungs but also now in my liver and brain.

In the 5 days since I found out this news I’ve had my ups and downs, picking at the flower of fear like the daisy you hope will tell you someone likes you: “He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not” or in my case, “I’ll live, I’ll die, I’ll live, I’ll die..” For me, I always land on the good petal–the one where I do well with treatment and look forward to Christmas dinner with my family and friends.

But over the last 24 hours I’ve been knocked to the emotional floor by folks who are my friends who are thinking the bad petal is the given: that I’m not gonna do this.  That I am gonna die–Like soon. As if I’ve already been through the treatment and it’s failed. I gotta tell you, they’re freaking me out.

So why did I go to a graveyard?

Because whenever I walk across the dewy grass to the cemetery spot where JH was laid to rest in December of 2011, I feel a strange sensation that’s both horrible and comforting: I feel like he understands my position.  Who else but a little child stolen from life after only 7 years could, if he were here, look at me and say “believe me, Mrs. Paige, I get it.  This stinks. Makes no sense. I get you.”

In my mind  if not in my soul, right now I desperately need to be with someone who knows life isn’t fair and doesn’t need to say that to me: he represents it.  And somehow for me when I stand there and weep to his gravestone– a gorgeous block-shaped, buffed, black piece of marble with the etchings of a bear and skis on it, I feel supported in my confusion by a little angel who in the 7? 10? seconds it likely took for his life to fall from the sky may have very well felt the exact way I do: “What the heck is going on?”

I actually spoke those words out loud today as I stood rearranging the flowers by his carved name, crying fearful tears. I was mumbling like mad, “Do these  people around me know something I don’t? Am I a fool to believe I can do this?” I could see his little face captured in his last school photo smiling to me like “Yeah, who knows. Isn’t this rich? Who would have thought life would put us here like this?”

I can’t define it any more than to say that having someone–even in spirit–make me feel like I’m not crazy, nor am I dead (yet)– lent me relief that I desperately needed.  And JH knows more than my feeble brain can tell me because I’m still just a human while he’s now part of God’s world—the Infinite Universe- where man and Science and Journals of Medicine don’t hold the answers to why people die.

Now JH knows why we die, when we die–the “real” reasons, not the “because the meds didn’t work” or “because he ate too much fried food”. Or my favorite, the “everything-happens-for-a-reason” earthly bullshit answer everyone gives when they have no other explanation of the frightening realites of how cruel life can be.  Let’s face it, everything happens for a reason until your 2nd grader falls to his death skiing on a blue-skyed, bright sunny day:  after that, nothing makes sense or happens for a reason in this world ever again.

I don’t want anyone to be standing at my grave weeping to me in a year; but at the same time I have to realize that I have no control over that. And thought hard to swallow I have no control over  what people are saying and fearing about my cancer now. I do know this: that may be their reality, but I can’t let it be mine.

What I do have control over is my attitude. I’ll have good days and bad days, that I realize. But I control one thing and one thing only: my outlook.

As I left JH today, I kissed my hand and laid it on top of  his gravestone. And I couldn’t stop myself, still frightened and insecure about my future, to out loud ask him one more thing–  “Is it over for me, is this it, is this the end?”

Like a whisper in my ear I felt an answer inside me that I had been feeling a few days ago but recent fear had squashed it down to nothing:

“Who knows. Nothing’s a guarantee. No one knows yes, no one knows no.” As I took one last look at that bear and skis on JH’s gravestone I heard one last thing: “But what else can you do but try?”

 

 

 

Posted March 10th, 2013 by
Ann's Diary: Advice From An Angel
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: Politics In The Pink

The election is over, my show is done, and now it’s a quick slide into Thanksgiving and Christmas, Hannukkah and all the other winter holidays celebrated in this country.

I am happy the election and the show are over, mostly because they both contained a lot of drama, a lot of hype and for those who cared about them, a lot of emotional weight. It’s nice to have that weight cut loose, at least from my shoulders–and it’s time for action in both places. President Obama, The House, and The Senate have much to do to help ease this country out of its continued economic troubles, and I hope they have success. After all, their triumph will be our triumph–at least those of us living in the United States of America.

My show, on the other hand, has much less dramatic consequences. It was, I can tell you, a wonderful, exciting, frightening ride to accomplish for myself–and you were all with me in spirit, if not in that room when I performed last month outside of Boston, MA. If you couldn’t make it but wanted to, don’t despair–someone is making a DVD of the production and I’ll have them here if you’d like to get one.

A photographer captured the event as well, and as soon as I get the photos I’ll post here–and reminisce more about how it went, how I felt, and what my favorite moments where in the 30 minute, laugh-out-loud account of one woman’s journey through trauma and the insights she shares that might help audience members as they deal with loved ones going through their own stuff in life. Friends get sick, lose jobs, have parents who get divorced: how do we help? What can we do? That is the message of my one act play “In The Pink”, developed and written by Virginia Byrne and yours truly, Ann Murray Paige. More on that when the pics come in.

For now I hope you get a break today from the stress of the election, if you felt any. Enjoy the silence of the lack of political ads on TV and the radio. Pull up the signs from your front lawns–or else leave them there if you’re celebrating your person’s win—whatever works. But above all else, feel my gratitude and thanks for your constant “votes” of confidence for me as I “campaigned” my way through a new and unusual-for-me medium in which to tell my story–the theatre.

The intended result of my little “campaign”, while not anything as world-affecting as the battle between Gov. Romney and Pres. Obama, is an awareness/solidarity for we who know people affected by trauma. And isn’t that everybody? The message of “In The Pink” is not “you’re gonna get ill”, it’s “someone we know will get “something” in life and we’re gonna be there watching. Should we run the other way? Ignore their pain? Pretend it didn’t happen?”

No. We are all in this world together and that’s what will get us through: sticking together. We can reach our hands out to help each other as we go through the ups and downs that life brings–in my experience that’s the sure way for all of us to win whatever campaign we find ourselves in throughout our lifetimes.

And suddenly this sounds like a political commercial! “Vote for my show, I’ll give you the WORLD on a platter!” Hell no, I can’t do that. I can’t even promise my husband I’ll cook dinner tonight. But this IS reminding me of the political gridlock in D.C. that the end-of-the-election now points to. None of our peeps in and around the White House can seem to work with each other–and this country suffers because of it.

Hey Newly Elected/Re-elected Politicians: I have no idea where you stand on your issues, who your constituents are or where your money base comes from. I don’t know your intentions or who you call your friends. I just know that when all is going wrong, the best chance for getting through the crap in life is to stick together and muddle through it–united. Whether Republican, Democrat or Independent, politics–like illness–is made worse with isolation and made better with togetherness. How do I know this…

Because for the last 8 years I’ve been beating off cancer with a medical/emotional stick, and I’ve had lots of other hands holding that stick when I couldn’t. And thanks to them I’m still here. I’ve never been in politics but I’ve been in an infusion center, a radiation room and on a surgery table. I never ever felt better by pushing people away—only by bringing them close…

try it and see if it works in D.C.

Posted November 7th, 2012 by
Ann's Diary: Politics In The Pink
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