Thursday, February 26, 2015

Where Have I Been?

For anyone who might be tracking my blog posts, you know I haven’t posted since September.  Why you might ask.  Is it because I had nothing to say?  No opinions? (Yeah, like that will ever happen) Too busy?  What?

Honestly, I was practicing the “If you don’t have anything nice to say, keep your mouth shut” policy.  Rather than the Steel Magnolias line: “You know what they say, if you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me.”   Which of course is more fun.

Over the last several months I found myself writing posts reacting to current events in the news or things in my life, blasting someone, and while I found it cathartic at the time, I also realized how negative I’d become.

Then one night I was reading and a quote by Mahatma Gandhi really hit home. “A man is but the product of his thoughts, what he thinks, he becomes.” 

I realized I had become increasingly negative about everything, and increasingly unhappy in life.

Here was this answer to the question of why I’d been having such a hard time with depression.  Why when I have so much, when others have so little, was I unhappy?  It’s because I let negativity take over my life.  I was depressing myself!

So I’ve been silent.  Not just on this blog, but in life. 

As I tend to be a loner, I curled inside myself, taking a long, hard look.  And it isn’t pretty.  Well I am, but my “soul” was not. 

Through this process my humor (some might say sarcasm) has remained in tack.  I think it’s what saved(s) me.

As Erma Bombeck once said: “ there is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”   How true that statement is.  One only need think about Robin Williams.

That line can be very thin, and the process to thicken it long.  The trick is not to thicken your thighs at the same time.

Friday, September 12, 2014

3 Every Day

With all the press on Ray Rice, the nation has been focused on domestic violence, and the overwhelming statistics.  Stats such as 3 women every day die from domestic violence.  And the violence is coming from an intimate partner – spouse, boyfriend, or even a girlfriend.

It’s estimated that 22% of women, and 14% of men, experience physical violence, with the most common being slammed against something, or being hit with a fist or hard object. 

The saddest part about these statistics is the abused partner usually stays in the relationship. Although you can hardly call it a relationship.  We wonder why.  Why do they stay?  Why don’t they get help?  Why do they protect the person?  Why? Why? Why?

Good questions only the victim can answer. But it’s usually because they feel they have no other options. They’ve been beaten down emotionally as well as physically.  They wonder how they'll support themselves.  And of course what if the abusing partner has apologized and shown remorse. Certainly they wouldn’t feel bad if they didn’t love me.  Right?

Most believe the abused partner is weak, has no self-esteem, or doesn’t believe they deserve to be happy.  But that’s not always the case.  Sometimes they’re a strong person caught up in a bad situation. Maybe they either miss the warning signs, or just want to try and help the abuser to be a better person.

Or, perhaps that was just me.

I never share this story, but now feel compelled to share.

At 19 I stupidly married an older man who'd had a bad, abusive childhood.  I wasn’t in love with him. I wanted to help him be happy.  But at 19 I was woefully unprepared for what I stepped into.  I’d married an alcoholic, with more demons than we had closets.

All the warning signs were there, but I believed I could help him, until it was almost too late.  The excessive drinking, verbal abuse, threats, and pushing that escalated to slapping.

I slowly came to the realization I couldn’t help him. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help himself, or herself.  I realized I had to protect myself.  First step, hiding the bullets to the rifle he kept in the closet – along with his demons.

Even with the warning signs and realization, I drug my feet on leaving.  Finally one night I’d had enough.  When he started to hit me I swung back.  That proved to be a huge mistake.  I got the worse beating of my life. 

After that, I finally left.  But to this day I’m reminded of that year every time I feel the chipped bones in my face, or panic when someone puts me in a friendly hold that terrifies me.

Back then, no one talked about domestic violence.  It was something to hide and be ashamed of.  But maybe today is different.  Maybe with all the press, people like me sharing stories, and individuals paying attention, it saves a life, or two, or three.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dad’s Words

Lately I’ve heard my dad’s words coming out of my mouth more and more.

In my eyes, my dad was a great man.  He was my hero. My protector.  And as a “daddy’s girl” I’ve always had him on a pedestal other men had to measure up to.  Except when it came to those annoying words of his.

Not the words I thought were dirty or funny like “bullshit little Eva.” Dad’s standard response when you said something he disagreed with.  What did that mean anyway?  And who the heck was Eva? 

Nor the deep baritone response of “the Ice Man” when you knocked on the bathroom door and demanded to know who was taking so long in the only bathroom nine people had to share.  You didn’t rush dad.  Nor did you want to be the first person in the bathroom after him.

There was the “No I don’t know. You’re telling me,” when you stupidly said “you know” while explaining something.  And the really annoying “behind the at” if you mistakenly asked; “where’s it at?”

Or my personal favorite, his standard answer to the what's for dinner question.  “Cat fur for making kitten britches.”  Why couldn’t he just say hotdogs?   Meatloaf.  Anything.   In all honesty, I now answer the same way when asked.

Lately however I hear myself saying those annoying words that made my eyes roll when my dad said them.  You know, the lecture quotes.  Those words I SWORE I’d never, ever say.

Yet, I hear myself saying things like:

            When I was a kid I had to work for whatever I wanted”

“When I got out of school there was no question I was going to get a job. I just had to choose what job I wanted

“I’m sorry, I have to work for a living”

And the dreaded;
“You’ll appreciate it more because you had to pay for it yourself”

I’ve said them all, and more.

And each time I hear myself say one of these phrases I feel like I need to drop a quarter in the swear jar.

Thanks Dad.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cancer Survivor?

I was asked today our communications team if I would write a blog post for the Foundation about being a skin cancer survivor in recognition of National Cancer Survivors Day on June 1st.

My first response was; "I don't consider myself a survivor."  I don't.  My skin cancer was squamous cell, not melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer.  Yes, left untreated I would have had a little battle to wage.  But mine was detected early and removed in the doctors office. 

Survivors to me are those who have truly battled cancer.  Those who went through chemotherapy, radiation or surgery and came out the victor.  Survivors like my sister Michelle, a 10 year breast cancer survivor.

I wrote the piece because felt the message of early detection is an important one.  It saves lives.  I also believe that it's important to educate individuals about being their own self-advocate.  They know their bodies better than anyone, and for them, it could be a matter of life and death.  A little knowledge goes a long way.   A little burying your head in the sand and not asking questions could put you firmly in the category of "should of, but now it may be too damn late."

So, I'm sharing the piece I wrote in hope someone learns something from it.

Everyone likes to feel like they’re part of a crowd.  Except when it comes to the “cancer crowd.”  That’s a crowd we’d all like to avoid.

In January 2010, I became part of the cancer crowd.  One of those people who heard the words you never want to hear; “it’s cancer.”   What I heard next was not what I had expected, and quite honestly, left me speechless.  Without taking a breath from saying the biopsy she removed from the growth on my back was cancer, she added: “but let’s wait until August to do anything about it.”

August?  Are you fucking crazy?  (I'm sure "fucking" will not stay in the posted piece).   I promptly fired my dermatologist.

By 2010 I had been working in the non-profit healthcare field – mainly cancer - for about 15 years, and I knew you never waited.  Early detection saves lives.  Thousands of lives each year.

Armed with my results I got an appointment with a new dermatologist who I'd worked with previously through the Foundation the same day.  She reviewed the results, did a complete body scan, and said it needs to be removed now and not in August.   A couple of days later I was back in her office where she removed the growth, along with a few other spots that looked suspicious which the other doctor had not bothered to even look at.

Luckily my skin cancer was squamous cell, and not melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.   Luckier still, I was an informed, self-advocate who knew early detection and treatment could possibly save my life.  I’ve wondered what would have happened had I listened to that doctor and waited 7-8 months.  

I don’t consider myself a cancer survivor because of the type of cancer I had.  I consider my sister Michelle a survivor who battled and won her fight against breast cancer.  Neither of us wanted to be part of the cancer crowd.  Hopefully, neither of us ever will again.

June 1st in National Cancer Survivors Day.  Hug the survivor in your life. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Surfing through my Prevent Cancer files for information for a friend, I came across my
old blog posts from 2009 when staff had challenged me to get into “better” shape and run the
5K that September.  It was a lot of fun I think because I had to chronicle my progress in
building up my stamina for running, (which I hadn’t done in years), and give up my bad 
eating habits.

Disclaimer here; I’ve always exercised and been a walker, so that part of the challenge was
no big deal. (Or so I thought.)  But since I really liked my cokes and occasional fast food.  
That part of the challenge was MUCH harder.

I got such a kick out of reading the posts, thought I’d share and excerpt from “Being Put to 
the Test.”

“Just when I was making real progress, my knees flared up.  I’ve done really well with the run/walk program, even running one night after work last week because my schedule was so packed I knew I wouldn’t make it in the gym a couple of mornings.   Now that’s dedication!  

Okay, it may not seem like much to you, but to me it is.  I am not a night person, especially when it comes to exercise.   And exercising at night comes with a curse for me – I’m always starving afterwards – and this time was no exception.  Left the gym starving and the first thing I thought about was stopping for food on my way home.  Not the kind of stopping where you park and walk into a grocery store to get good healthy food, but stopping for a burger.  During my five-minute ride home I spent the time productively - rationalizing that it would be okay to get the burger because I wouldn’t get fries and a coke.  Just a burger. 

Even though I heard the “good voice” in my head saying NO, go home and eat healthy.  The “bad voice” was louder, and hungrier.  I pulled into Wendy’s with my mouth watering for a burger only to find the drive-thru under construction and closed.  Did that deter me, no.  I found an open parking space a marched right in for my burger – now with everything because I had further rationalized toppings could be like a little salad with my burger.   Reach the counter sweaty from my workout and ordered my burger with everything when everything came to a screeching halt.  The clerk rang asked for $3.75….for just a burger!  

I reminded the guy I was only getting a burger. No fries, no coke, just a burger.  He repeated: “$3.75.”   In a burger craze by now I asked; “are you serious, $3.75 for just a burger?  For $2 more I can have fries and a coke.”   He smiled and said; “Yes, $3.75.  Or do you want the combo with the fries and coke?”   Well heck yes I want the fries and coke, that‘s not the point!  I looked at him and politely said; “never mind,” and walked out.   No burger with everything, just the “good voice” in my head calling me an idiot.    

Will power hasn’t got a thing on my cheapness!”

So how’d I do in the 5k?  I didn’t.  Ended up stress fracturing both knees pushing too hard, too fast, I didn’t compete.   But I lost 10 pounds, had broken my coca cola habit, and stayed away from fast food….for awhile.