Posts Tagged ‘MIT’

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: 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