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.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Oh…..Nay Nay

Humor, you’ve heard of it:  Humor ~ is the tendency of particular cognitive experiences to provoke laughter and provide amusement.”

Tonight I heard the sad news that comedian John Pinette had been found dead in his hotel room.  While we’ve all wondered how long his poor body could take the ups and downs of his weight, you always hoped in the end, all would be okay. 

Pinette used his the struggles with weight in his humor.  We all laughed right along with him as he joked about starving, and trying to juice a ham. 

Ironically, I thought of Pinette last night while I was watching an old Johnny Carson show with George Burns.  Not because Pinette reminds me of Burns, but because I was trying to think of comedians who could stand up to some of the greats.  Pinette was one of those I thought of.

Greats such as;
George Burns: “Everything that goes up must come down. But there comes a time when not everything that's down can come up.”

Don Rickles: I think if I took therapy, the doctor would quit. He'd just pick up the couch and walk out of the room.”
Bob Hope: I grew up with six brothers. That's how I learned to dance - waiting for the bathroom.”

Jack Benny:  “My wife Mary and I have been married for forty-seven years and not once have we had an argument serious enough to consider divorce; murder, yes, but divorce, never.”

Rodney Dangerfield: “I had plenty of pimples as a kid. One day I fell asleep in the library. When I woke up, a blind man was reading my face.”

Comedians who didn’t use, or need to use, vulgar language to get a laugh.  Instead, they used self-deprecating humor, and story telling that everyone could relate to. 

I would have loved to see Pinette sit with these greats and share one-liners. 

RIP John Pinette.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Lately I’ve been questioning; “what does community mean?”

Whenever I’ve thought about community, I associated it with where I lived.  But lately as I think about the next phase of my life, I’ve been thinking about what it really means, and what I want in a community.  I’ve come to realize community is more than just home – it’s work, volunteer, family & friends, and so on.  We all have many communities in which we live, and build our lives.

We each look for something different.  I know the most important thing for me in a community is that it’s filled with warm, caring people.  People who will lend a hand to those in need or less fortunate, or just to be of help.   Will smile, wave and spend time getting to know those around them.  Who they are, what they feel, and what’s important to them.

I want a community where people embrace someone, not for what they have, or can give, but for who they are.  Respect someone for what they bring to the world, to work, to life.  Listen to what they say, and not how they say it.  Reward effort, whether great or small.  Encourage change.  Embrace individuality.  Empower growth.

A community I can be proud to hang my coat, lay my head to rest, and live my life.  Right now my community does not contain these wants/needs.  It’s time for a change.

  Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.”
                                                            Anthony J. deAngelo

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Another Year Older

Yesterday, I celebrated my 56th birthday.  56.

I’m not the type of person who has ever worried about the number.  Not thrilled about it, but it is what it is.  Except when I turned 17.  For some reason, that was a hard change.  Guess because I couldn’t wait to be16, than all of a sudden, I was 17.  I remember looking in the mirror and thinking; “dang, it’s all down hill from here.”   How sad was I.

On my 40th birthday I spent the day answering questions like; “how are you doing with the big 4-0? “  Like it was the end of my life.  Folks thought I should be sad or upset.  Why I’m not sure.  Not like you turn 40, life is over so you put on your PJ’s and never leave the house again.

My 50th was no walk in the park either, at least for others. Heard all of the “over the hill” jokes, and more “are you ok?” then I care to mention.  Again, no big deal.

During a conversation yesterday, I remembered when I was that 17 year-old teenager looking in the mirror and I heard my parents in the bedroom above me having sex.  Ewwww.  I was so grossed out by those two old fogies having sex I momentarily stopped looking at myself.  They were 56.

Yes, there’s a big downsize to getting older.  Menopause. Your body changes – and not in a good way – no matter how much you up your workouts.  You begin to notice little aches and pains that weren’t there before.   When you get together with friends you start comparing medical records and the meds you’re taking, rather than current events and where you want to go on vacation.  And did I mention Menopause?

Of course on the up side, you don’t have to shave your legs and underarms as often because hair growth really slows down, or stops completely.  Hurray!  

And I finally get the joke about the old woman who goes to the hospital with a self-inflicted gunshot wound in her left knee.  The doctor asks what she was thinking, and she responds that she was trying to commit suicide by shooting herself in the heart.  The doctors says, "your heart is under your left breast.”  To which she responds; “I know”.

Think about it……