Friday, January 2, 2015

HELLLOOO 2015! What's your word?

Since I haven't blogged in 2 months (needed a break!), I thought the first of the New Year would be a perfect kick start to what I hope to be a very powerful year for me personally and professionally.

Having said that, it has always been my favorite time of year as it feels so fresh and exhilarating. Seriously, who doesn't like a chance for a do-over? I for one have always felt immensely inspired by the New Year as it embodies new beginnings and fresh starts! So, a few years back my partner and I began picking words, phrases and themes for each year as our main focus. But as it turned out, it didn't actually pay off.

In 2011, we decided that it would be the year of 'FUN!' as we yelled it from the rooftops. We were thinking more along the lines of lively, boisterous, exhilarating.... you with me?!

We almost made it through the year on this theme when in November, I felt a lump in my left breast - again! Dang. Felt like I was sucker-punched.

When the New Year, and a 3rd breast cancer diagnosis came, I still felt empowered and yet a little cheated from the previous year's theme, so we went with 'A YEAR OF MORE FUN!' as our mantra for 2012. Unfortunately, that didn't last but 6 days as I went in for a biopsy and a double mastectomy along with the beginning of the reconstruction fun, uh I mean hell. And a mere 4 months later, I was handed down the news of chemo which, as many of you know, was definitely NOT fun!

Ready to embrace yet another new year and a new theme, I kicked 2012 to the curb and welcomed the new year and continued treatment with my kick-ass attitude! But 2013, the year of 'GRATITUDE' was full of pros and cons, ups and down, good and bad as I finished treatment and rented out our home of 10 years due to the medical bills (American insurance, you SUCK!). With no place of our own to call home, we stayed at my mom's house and other friend's homes up and down the California coast for 5 months (thank you mom, the Ambroses, the Sanfords, the Beltrans and Nance & Val).

By the time 2014 rolled around and no longer feeling cursed, I began to move towards positivity once again and embrace the notion of a word or theme for the year. Survival and life seemed to be the basic theme as we had just moved into a condo down the street from our house and our neighborhood family. We rescued a new dog aptly named 'Tashi' which is Tibetan for good luck and good fortune; a new theme seemed to waltz right into our lives. My partner had just returned back to work full time (with new and good insurance!) and I was able to work a tad more. I was gaining more energy (and unfortunately some weight!) but learning to befriend my daily pal, Tamoxifen. Still in the throws of financial distress, we managed to get back on our feet on so many levels.

So, when the clock struck midnight just 2 days ago as we were in Disneyland ringing in 2015, I once again turned to my partner and said, "Well, what's our theme?" She simply shook her head and said, "No more themes. No more words."

WHAT?! I had to have a theme. A word. Something to feel inspired by. I'm a linguist and a language therapist, words are important to me and that's just how I operate.

I even counter-offered a few out-of-the-box themes. "How about I just make 2015 my bitch!" No. "What about INSPIRATION?" Nope. "OK, why don't I adopt the theme song to Frozen Let It Go for the year?" She indulged me for a few seconds and even sang along with me followed by an emphatic still no response.

With all of this being said, I think I get it now. No theme or word is necessary (there I said it!). Rather a simple and peaceful alternative might be a better case. Living each day with good intention. A positive purpose. A healthy attitude. Yep, that's what I'm going to do. Take each day and moment as it comes.

So, I'll simply say welcome 2015! The year with 365 days and numerous moments of ________, you fill in the blank because I'm not going to.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Jill's Wish is My Wish

Logo Courtesy of Jill's Wish

Before Jill's Wish, I learned of this remarkable warrior via Twitter as I was laying in bed recouping from another chemo treatment.  I came across her video that to this day, has had such a lasting impression on me. I was immediately awe-struck, not just because of Jill's beauty, grace and elegance, but because of the tenacity, persistence and fortitude of this metastatic warrior. So then it began, the journey of following her journey, which, is why I simply had to feature her non-profit Jill's Wish for this month's Pinktober.

And in case you missed her raw and candid beauty in the 15 min documentary,  The Light That Shines by Sue Bryce, acclaimed fashion portrait photographer and videographer, you must take the time to watch it now. Because trust me, you will be impacted in the same way that so many thousands have been by her message and her essence. 

Even more impressive has been Jill's pay-it-forward and give-back mission to spread her message of strength, love and joy in the midst of her own personal health challenges. Between hospital visits and treatment, she has appeared on several T.V. spots, morning shows and at conferences saying that if she could help "just one person" then she could "die a happy person." 

Wow. What?!

Of course there is more, which is again why I wanted to feature her on my website and blog. And like me, she has endured the financial strain of cancer which is why one of her biggest messages and fundraising efforts is to help others in need. Bingo, she hooked me yet again!

Fast forward to a few days ago when I read on her facebook page that the 'beast' (as we both call it) is coming at her in full force, leaving her with few treatment options. My heart simply sank. But knowing Jill, she is still forging forward with both grace and courage as she attends to her current health challenge. With her wonderful mom and amazing husband, Bart by her side, my guess is that she is still giggling her way through yet another serious phase of her life.

So, with that, please take some time to learn more about this amazing warrior and then immediately donate any amount that you can to her cause that is so close to her heart and of course mine.

Monday, October 20, 2014


Click the picture to donate!
That's right, you heard me, I'm here to tell you to #GiveItUp4Mets! Why? Because this is the real killer of breast cancer which gets little funding out of this month's uber-Pinktober. And in case you didn't know, let me remind you of some formidable stats and of the Elephant in the Pink Room...

Picture courtesy of METavivor

Stage IV, Metastatic Breast Cancer (the transference of malignant or cancerous cells to other parts of the body by way of the blood or lymphatic vessels or membranous surfaces) is how men and women die from this disease. And unfortunately, nothing has changed much for this group of people as still, 30% of those originally diagnosed with Stage 0, 1, 2 and 3 will progress to Stage 4. Another alarming stat is that after someone is diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, life expectancy for this group is 18 months to 2 years which translates to my sisters and brothers out there dying of this disease every 14 minutes. And if you knew someone that died from breast cancer, this is why and how they did. 

Is it starting to make sense now? Difficult to swallow I know, but this is information that we all need to have tucked away in our minds and hearts to truly comprehend this disease.

So, please, I am strongly encouraging you to consider something simple that you can give up in honor or in memory of those affected by Stage IV, Metastatic Breast Cancer. Here's how... take the money that you would have used for a coffee, a mani/pedi, a lunch out, a pizza, a car wash or a movie and take those greenbacks and donate them to METavivor, one of the few organizations out there funding research for this stage of BC!

THEN, and hear comes the cool part... Take a selfie picture or selfie video of how you will #GiveItUp4Mets and the amount that you donated to METavivor. Send us your creative and awesome selfie over at Cancer, Cancer bo-Bancer's new website. Be sure to tell us who you gave it up for (in honor or memory of someone or for a future someone) and we'll put it on our website. Here's mine! - I gave up a pedicure (yep, doing my own!) and gave those dollars to METavivor. So, keep the selfies coming our way, keep donating and by all means, keep caring about someone with or about to hear the news that they have Stage 4, Metastatic Breast Cancer.

I also encourage you to watch this short video from METavivor about Stage IV, Metastatic Breast cancer. It will change the way you think about breast cancer - I guarantee it! Then, take just 5 minutes and one click to make a donation of any monetary value to METavivor. 

Every. Single. Dollar. Counts!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Pinkwashing: The Truth Behind the Sale

I think Elizabeth Taylor may have summed it up best when she said: "I fell off my pink cloud with a thud." And to that I say, "Well said Liz" because that's exactly how I feel.

Now don't get me wrong, I do have adoration for the color pink, own several pink shirts and blouses that are hanging in my closet and really do think that the singer Pink is quite talented. But when it comes to breast cancer awareness month and all the pseudo fundraising and Races for the Cure going on out there, I find myself getting more anti-pink. It even makes me think of what my sister used to say when we were younger - 'Pink, Pink You Stink!" And to her I say, "Right on, sister!"

So, first let me help you understand the pink underbelly of this famous and mass-marketed month of Pinkwashing.

Pinkwashing [verb] 1. The act of using breast cancer to guilt consumers into buying a product which, if it had not been for the advent of aiding the cure for cancer, they would not have bought. 2. the use of breast cancer by corporate marketers in which companies promote their products with claims to donate a percentage of proceeds to the cause

My definition? 1. An out-of-control lack of cause marketing where funding typically goes to more mass marketing and less funding goes to actual research to find a cure.

There. I said it.

So, now let me illustrate a couple of experiences and stories that will assist you in not only understanding Pinkwashing, but help you make some informed decisions to keep you abreast (pun intended) the next time you're standing in front of a pink endcap.

Today, I was walking in our quaint, beachside downtown area when I saw the sign above. Curious of course, I walked past the shiny and beautiful display of pink items for purchase and inquired about the 'Breast Cancer Research' donation statement. Three sales clerks in this high end boutique paused with great silence when I asked where the funds earned from their Brighton sponsored items would be bankrolled? Silence. Crickets.

Finally, all three of the ladies stumbled with responses such as "Uh, I don't know but let me see if I could find out" and "To breast cancer research" when suddenly, one of the clerks quickly departed the area while the other one just looked down. Finally, my inner Sagittarius couldn't take it any longer and I said rather firmly, "You should really know where those funds go if your store is selling them." Met with silence yet again, I launched into my Pinkwashing definition and my "I'm a 3 time breast cancer survivor" spiel before spinning around and leaving the store while the remaining sales clerk reached her hand out to pat my arm to say "I'm soooo glad that you're still here." Ok, I gave her an A for effort.

Not stopping at this experience, I came home later today and did what any cancer advocate would do - I Tweeted Brighton, inquiring about their #PowerofPink campaign and asked them where they donate those funds to from the accessory purchases. Still no answers and 6 tweets later, I got a cute little red heart icon and a "We'll follow up with that store. Thanks for letting us know." So, of course I responded and included the 'Pinkwashing' hashtag (hey, they included their #PowerofPink hashtag in an earlier tweet. What's fair is fair!).

One last story, my breastie, Ann Marie Otis over at Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer told me that she had a friend back in New York that saw a pink display and inquired as I did without any answer. Still bothered by the lack of information, she called back to the store to inquire yet again, when she was told that the funds were being donated to 'Various Breast Cancer Organizations' and in particular, St. Judes - 'A world leader in finding cures and saving children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases.' A credible organization and cause for sure but hardly related to breast cancer.

So, with that, I'll leave you with a couple of suggestions for the next time you find yourself in front of a pink blender, a pink fracking drill bit, a ride for a cure dealership or a pink endcap in your local grocery store. First, inquire about the donation and funding resource and their cause marketing. Second, see what those funds are actually used for. And third, consider scientific research or patient funding as a place to put your money. Or, visit Cancer, Cancer bo-Bancer and choose one of our 4 breast cancer organizations that we're featuring for this month.

Now get the 'frack' out there and help us find a cure.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Cancer Cancer bo-Bancer is LIVE and just in time for Pinktober!

After weeks of planning, thinking and more thinking, I've finally resolved myself to the fact that I needed to move Cancer, Cancer bo-Bancer (CCBB) to the next level - a website with a cause. Why? Because I want to do something about this disease in terms of research, finding a cure and supporting others out there doing amazing work.

Click on over and take a peek at what we have for this year's Breast Cancer Awareness month and as you'll see once you're there, the big push for me and my CCBB Tribe is our #GiveItUp4Mets campaign to assist in finding a cure through fundraising for Stage 4, Metastatic breast cancer with our co-advocates and research organization METavivor. This is the root of where we need funding in order for research to be successful and most importantly, get closer to a cure or at least a viable treatment protocol for Stage 4/metastatic BC. 

I'm also featuring one of my best breasties, Ann Marie Otis from Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer and her Bravery Bags cause so be sure to check that out. Additionally, donate and learn more about Pink & Blue the movie and Jill's Wish to financially support patients - two other causes that I'm backing for the entire month of October. Just know that literally, every dollar you can donate, counts and collectively adds up to great outcomes for both research and support services.

We're also uber excited about the organizations that we've chosen for the month-long campaign but know for sure, there will always be a cause for you to put your money and time behind! And, if you want your organization to be featured on the website, please contact us and tell us about your cause.

Lastly, I can't thank my CCBB Tribe enough for their dedication, love and support of this project and of me. I couldn't think of a better village to surround myself with and I count myself beyond lucky to have each of them in my life. 

So, with that, go take a peek and tell us what you think? What you'd like to see on the website? And what your favorite inspirational word is on our Warrior Jewelry page.

Now let's go find a cure!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pinktober or Bust!

Excuse the pun. OK, forget the pun. Let's move on to the real purpose of this post which is Breast Cancer Awareness month that is literally peeking at us from around the corner.

With each year as Pinktober comes and goes, I find myself full of assorted sentiment about the month that continues to show up with more shades and hues of pink than I ever knew existed. Then the gamut of my emotions start to erupt and range from irritation surrounding the pink culture, guilt for the other cancers and diseases out there that need equal attention, gratitude that it's on the forefront of so many minds yet anger towards the lack of funding to find a cure for this disease and especially Stage 4/Metastatic BC that continues to steal lives from us on a regular basis.

So, with this entire spectrum of emotion surrounding Pinktober, I have been in serious contemplation about what I can do. One person, one blog, one survivor and one warrior who has made it through 3 rounds of this disease in the past 20 years. It must mean something right? What I need to do with all of this is the question that continues to occupy space in my brain and heart.

With nowhere to turn, I did what any survivor in my world could do, I reached out to one of my feisty breastiesStupid Dumb Breast Cancer's Ann Marie Otis and proposed a plan, outlined it, and came up with a full month's Pinktober agenda. And by agenda, I mean a serious yet simple strategy to move closer to a cure. And of course she said a thunderous YES! In fact, her first line to me was "I think I love you!" Well, ditto to her and the blueprint we came up with for Pinktober 2014.

But just to bring more light to the overall picture here, we breasties and families out here are well 'aware' of breast cancer so may we please move on? Let's move past the pink purchases and take it to the next level shall we?

And by the way, not a day goes by where we are not reminded by this disease. You may see that we are out of treatment or have our hair back, but the scars are still there: some on the surface and some you simply can't see, they run too deep. We are often going back in for redos on our reconstruction, we continue to contend with daily fatigue, joint pain, the one nipple look, half a nipple, no nipples, tattood nipples (yes, I am saying the word nipples repeatedly and for a reason!) and weight gain due to meds. So please be self-assured that 'awareness' is ALWAYS on the forefront of our minds.

So, this is why we're done with the whole awareness gig and are ready to bump it up a notch - finding a damn cure. So, put your efforts and money where it matters most my friends - into research and support. We've lost too many beautiful souls to this disease and several over the past few weeks and I for one, am starting to get get pretty exasperated over this fact. Don't get me wrong, I am VERY grateful to have kicked breast cancer to the curb 3 times in 20 years BUT, we need to move past not wearing our bras for a month to increase awareness but focusing our efforts on funding quality research and organizations out there who are working with limited bankroll in order to find us a cure. Done. End of lecture.

Oh, one more thing, please stay tuned and hang tight until October 1st. We'll tell what to do, how to do it and where to donate your hard earned cash. It'll be that easy.

In the meantime, I leave you with this funny yet real quote that continues to be my most popular blog post to date - "Yes, their fake, the real ones tried to kill me!"

Enough said. Here we go.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Passage to Nirvana

As the Buddhists believe, Nirvana is a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor a sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth. It represents the final goal of Buddhism.

In a thesaurus, the words that appear for Nirvana are heaven, awakening, bliss, tranquility, peace, serenity, joy and cloud nine. 

I like both. 

And, as someone who has knocked at death's door three times now and when my own time does arrive, I can only hope that I am welcomed into this state of Nirvana with eternal joy and tranquility. 

But why is this end-of-life so heavily on my mind? Oh, so many reasons...

Aside from my own thoughts on this passage of time in my life, I have been sadly reminded these past two weeks about the short and precious cycle of life and death. My breasties that are out there in the fight of there lives, the breastie who just took her wings last week and now the untimely death of a young man. A 21 year old soul that took his wings way too early.

As many of you know, my fave chemo nurse Martha (head Purple Angel) has always been a source of centeredness and joy in my life. But unfortunately, she is the mother of the young boy (Patrick, Pat, Patty Cakes) that entered Nirvana a mere two weeks ago. A boy so full of life and laughter that he brought hundreds of people together to honor his short life and beautiful, vivacious spirit that brought breath and light into so many other lives. And as he was returned to the sea Friday on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, more than 40 fishing boats circled his final resting place as his mom Martha released his ashes into the sparkling Pacific. A place that her son spent much of his time throughout his brief life, surfing, fishing and swimming and now the gateway to his Nirvana.

Death as we understand it here, is a complex process and passage. And those left behind are left with a heavy heart. Is this suffering? Is this Buddhism at its core? Or is it simply a group of words found in a dictionary that describe our final passage? Whatever the case, I personally, am left with a keen perspective yet again on how precious life is and my purpose here. What now? What road do I turn towards? What's my unfinished business? How can I make a meaningful impact in other's lives? What's my next 'set' as Patrick often said? What's your next set? So many questions that are swirling in my mind and heart. All I know for sure right now, is that I am left with another set. One of numerous valuable lessons that I have learned from Patrick and his untimely passing.

So now a final verbal shout out and 'paddle out' to Patrick, a soul who is helping us all figure out our own passages to Nirvana and the invaluable lesson that we will always have one more set to play.