Posts Tagged ‘young women’

Ann’s Diary: Isaac’s Advice

There’s a phrase I lean on all the time when things aren’t in my control and I’m stuck: it’s “who cares.” But it’s not the who cares you think it is—not the one that means “I don’t care.” This is a different one. I’ll explain.

It was Christmastime, about 3 or 4 years ago–and I was visiting my folks back east. I was in the kitchen of my next-door neighbor, Darlin–who was my godmother and neighbor for as long as I’d been a person in the world. I always loved to hang out at her house during the holidays and find out what all of her 6 kids, in-laws and her grandchildren were up to. I considered them all my extended family and so, on this afternoon before Christmas, I pulled up a kitchen barstool and listened in on the conversation.

Debbie was talking about her youngest son, Isaac, and she was telling everyone how naughty he was being lately. He was probably 6 or 7–the right age for being naughty–and she was saying how he’d done something he shouldn’t have, I don’t remember what. I’ll just pretend it was spilling milk for the sake of this blog. So she was saying “and he’s spilled his milk. And I said, Isaac, pick up the milk. And he didn’t. So I said, Isaac, really. Pick up the milk. It’s a mess. And it will smell if you don’t clean it up. ”

Then Debbie looks at us and says, “And you know what that little imp said to me? Who cares.”

Now I have to insert here that part of the adorableness of the story was Isaac’s Boston-like accent–which Debbie imitated. If you’re from that area you know what I’m tawkin-bout: our As are more like Es. Our Rs are non-existent. And we can make multi-syllables appear from nowhere in a word that has 4 letters.

So in this story, it’s the A in “cares” that I need to explain. It’s like the e in key. That’s the accent Debbie used when she imitated Isaac. “Who key-ahs.” “And then,” she finished up, “he just ran out to play.”

I took that story home with me and I thought about it all night long. At this point in my health, I had metastatic breast cancer in my lung. I kept rolling that story over in my mind and I transferred it over to me. In my situation, battling friggin cancer, to be able in the moments when I have no control and all seems lost in the doc’s office, to have a “who-key-ahs” attitude and just move through it. To be able to just let go of the angst and anger and keep moving… even if milk has spilled and I can’t pick it up. Wouldn’t that be a gift to let go and really feel like since I can’t do anything about it, forget it.

Almost 5 years later, I say “who key-ahs” all the time: especially now that I have breast cancer in my liver and my brain. And I use that phrase long after I’ve cried hard over something I can’t change. Ex: I can’t get my ass out of bed on Xeloda. Who cares. Ex: My hair may not ever grow back after whole brain radiation–I may be bald for life. Who cares. Ex: I can’t get to 6a.m. spin now that chemo is kicking my-ass. Who cares.

It’s not that I don’t care about this bullsh-t I’m battling: I sure as hell DO care. But when I can’t do a damn thing about something, and when the rest of the world would be angry and getting in a froth over it, I think– I’m not putting any more of my energy into something I can’t change. I can only move forward, and to hell with what’s not in my control.

So at this Christmastime, I raise a glass of un-spilled milk to my buddy and my little pal, Isaac–who now doubt has zero idea that a story told about him many Christmases ago is helping this cancer fighter through some of her worst moments ever in this long battle with the breast cancer beast.

Here’s to Isaac: my pint-sized therapist–who guides my steps and the steps of others I’ve shared this story with over these last years–as we traverse the scary, the unforseen and the frightening of our lives. So we don’t have ultimate control: so we don’t know our fates. And we may not really ever understand why bad thing happen to good people in this world. And we may never know why..

and who key-ahs..

Posted December 11th, 2013 by
Ann's Diary: Isaac's Advice
Posted in: Ann's Diary

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: 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: First V-log (video)

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