Monday, October 20, 2014

#GiveItUp4Mets

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.




Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Joys of Post-Mastectomy Swimsuit Season


Helllooo Summer!

Brace yourselves everyone, swimsuit season is definitely upon us and I've been trying to avoid it with great fortitude, but it's no longer an option as I am gearing up for a weekend on a lake with friends. Phooey.

In less than 4 weeks, I'll be heading to a lake cottage in Eastern Canada for a mini-reunion with some dear friends. And while all I have been daydreaming about are long walks along the water's edge, evening happy hours and laughter, one of my friends e-mailed us all about her excitement of getting her bathing suit on for a swim. $%&#!@*!

How could I have forgotten this part of the trip? My mind was solely focused on friendship, meaningful conversation, fun cocktails on a porch and reminiscing. That was my fantasy anyway, until my friend Barb, who is a tall, blonde drink of water from chilly Minnesota mentioned the whole bathing suit, can't-wait-to-go-for-a-swim conversation in an e-mail. Thanks Barb!

Ugh.

Not only have I not worn a bathing suit out in public in the nearly 3 years since this whole cancer gig #3 reared it's ugly head, but my 'Tamoxifen 30' has kept me far away from the swimsuit sections in all stores. On top of that, the New Girls aren't exactly complete yet and a tad off balance, so now what?!

I've been combing the internet on all the mastectomy bathing suit websites in the hopes of finding that perfect fit that flatters the New Girls and hides the scars, but so far, no luck and I'm running out of time! From Lands End, to Hapari, most of these gals don't exactly look like they've been to hell and back in their Sports Illustrated-esque swimsuit shots. Opposite in fact. With pictures of young women leaping across the sand and bathing suit categories such as 'silicon illusions' and 'secret pockets,' I'm not exactly finding anything out there for this soon-to-be-swimming-lakeside-gal.

Plus, I don't need to be stuffing any chick fillets into my bathing suit top, or wearing a summer turtle neck style suit. I have implants. Check!

I merely need a bathing suit that doesn't show the imbalanced left 'Girl' (Trixie - she's a trouble- maker for sure!) and something that hides the scars along the edge of my left armpit. Is this so much to ask for? Geeze. Is there not a tankini that comes without the fillets?! I have those already! Just give me a swimsuit that covers all the necessary and critical parts without looking like I'm wearing something to cover up something and a suit that doesn't come with an instruction manual.

So here I go, out into the brave, cold, cruel world of bathing suit shopping. And as my mother-in-law wisely said, "Even in the best of times, it's the worst of times"



Sunday, June 29, 2014

Caregiving: An Exhaustive Endeavor




Having recently been in the reverse role as a caregiver for just the past 3 weeks, it's given me much food for thought on this subject. Which is why I have been feeling the need to bring this critical aspect of the cancer process to the forefront for another and much needed conversation.

As I reflect back on my primary caregiver over the past 2 years, I have come to realize that because I was in my own living hell of pain, nausea, depression and fear, I couldn't see the signs that my own caregiver who was cracking and breaking right in front of my very own eyes. The only two things I recall when we were halfway through my third breast cancer journey was that she said "I feel like I'm breaking" - so, when my mom came to care for me for a week, my partner Hilary melted in her arms and just started crying as she walked into our home. This should have been a major warning sign for me as she rarely cried. But because I was also crying on my mom's shoulder at the front door, I was in no emotional shape to recognize that Hilary was at the end of her rope and I hadn't even started chemo yet.


Extreme fatigue, fear, depression, hopelessness and many sleepless nights are what she lived with on a daily basis for a year and a half. Fearing what she thought was my imminent death, my partner was barely holding it together and little did I know or recognize this. I could comprehend that it was a tough role to be in, so, I made attempts to rally as many people around me as possible in the hopes of giving her a break: but I can see now that my 'babysitters' as I used to call them, were merely a bandaid on a gaping wound that needed stitches and major wound care. I additionally thought that if I arranged some grown-up 'play dates' for her like walks on the beach with friends, coffee outings, photography events here and there and dinners for us, that it would refuel her and aide in her healing process. But little did I know, she was too far gone by that point.


By the time chemo rolled around, we had already undergone 5 months of biopsies, numerous doctor's appointments, surgeries, second opinions, genetic testing and the whopper of them all, a double mastectomy. Always seeking the silver lining, we were both fooled into thinking that this wouldn't break us in some way or fashion at some point in time, but it did.


Almost 5 months into the black hole of chemo, Hilary had lost 30 pounds and was now wearing a double '00' pant size. She looked beyond exhausted and was commuting and hour-plus to work at a job that was sucking the life out of her. Then one day, she just collapsed on the floor sobbing hysterically at the end of my bed as she was checking in on me. I could hardly believe my own eyes. But, I managed to get myself out of bed, throw on some sweats and drive her to our old doctor who was only working at an urgent care 30 minutes away.


By the time we saw our wonderful doctor after sitting in the waiting room for 2 hours, she took one look at my partner and said "What in the heck is going on with you?!" My partner could hardly speak as she was now just sort of staring off into space, so I jumped in and told our doctor what she had been doing for the past 10 months. Beyond concerned and worried, she ordered Hilary to come back in 2 weeks to check up on her, lectured her to eat more and started her on some much needed meds. Neither one of us had ever taken any anti-depressants before as we were more of the meditate-and-heal-ourselves philosophy, but, she had already hit the wall and it was time to change things up - A LOT!


What we discovered a month later and a second collapse at my bedside, was that hindsight was certainly 20/20. What should have taken place during those 10 months was that we should have arranged more back-up caregiving for my partner. More than we could have ever imagined. And while I was receiving the support and care of so many, little support and caregiving was going to Hilary. Instead, people simply made comments about her weight loss and then immediately focused on me. And while I needed care as well, the person that really could have used some counseling, friendship and support was her! And it wasn't that she didn't have any, she simply didn't have the amped up or authentic level that she truly needed while other 'friends' told her that they 'felt' that I was going to die and that it was my time (insert waiving, angry fists in the air here!!).


Moral of this journey..... pay attention to the caregivers, be choosy about who you surround yourself with, don't be afraid to talk to other caregivers and reach out to a caregiver yourself, because trust me when I say, they won't be able to. It should also be a time when a caregiver visits their own physician to discuss what's on their plate and consider some medical help. And as for counseling, HA - it's an understatement to say that caregivers could use some sage advice and a listening ear from a professional and/or a support group. Heck, we're still in 'cancer counseling' so that we can process the past 2 1/2 years.


On the 'silver lining' side - I'm happy to report that my partner has gained those 30lbs back, is now working for an amazing company with fabulous (normal) people and is smiling once again. We have our weekly Tuesday check-in where we openly and honestly share where we are on this continued journey. But don't get me wrong, we still live with daily fear but it's significantly less now and we continually thank the universe each day for our lives, each other and another day to be grateful for. A new perspective indeed. 


In the end, there are resources (see below) out there for caregivers. And be sure to see what your local cancer center offers as many have several programs for both patients and their caregivers. 


In a nutshell, we are relieved and happy that we survived walking through the fire and are now better versions of ourselves. Thank. You. Universe.


Caregiver Resources:

   Caregiver Action Network 
   Cancer Care
   Cancer.Net
   American Cancer Society
   Rob Cares - Caring for Caregivers