Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Milestone in Survivorship


Nine months out from chemo bald,
now with hair
just long enough
to put in my beloved hot rollers...

It's a good thing.

National Cancer Survivors Day, Part Four of my Keynote Speech

Here is Part Four of my speech, given June 5, at National Cancer Survivors Day.

Thanks again Robin for all your help for your electronically challenged Mama.

Thanks for listening.  Thanks for commenting.

Are we almost there yet?  Sheesh.  Probably one more part to go!

My goodness.

Monday, June 27, 2011

my sacred in my ordinary

A gurgling fountain in the front yard, working again thanks to a Husband's labor and patience.
A green smoothie, with fresh baby spinach, pineapple, coconut manna, almond milk, and banana - and one shot of stevia.
Bangs that touch my eyebrows now.
Grandma and Jenny at our table for dinner; home made chicken tortilla soup with avocado and sour cream.
Watching a Son do his thing as a Concord Blue Devil; he is the handsome devil on the left in the start of the video.  He's the one that looks like Will Smith, but better...

Green sun tea, flavored with lemon balm and mint from my container garden.
A trip to No'leans from my bed, oysters and The French Quarter, courtesy of my friend Constance and her incredible blog.
A poodle in a summer dress.

Singing Happy Birthday a cappella to my friend who is aged like a stinky cheese now, turning Fifty today.
A thirteen year old boy who asks "Mother, will you break my fast?" - a play on words, as in will you make my favorite breakfast please?
A little book called "God is in the Small Stuff" by Bruce and Stan.
A candle burns with the scent of an ocean breeze as I write to you tonight.
A wedding invitation in the mail, my Midge and 6C.

This is my sacred ordinary.
It's all about what you count.
Do the math Baby.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

So Whatcha Gonna Do?

There are two ways to live your life... one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle.  Albert Einstein

Well thank you Kimberly for another fabulous quote that so inspired me today.

I know how I'm livin.

You with me?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


if i loved you harder, would you love me more?
if i whispered your name, would you hear me above all the noise and chaos of this world?
if i needed you closer, would you pull away?
if i set off fireworks, would you see me then?
if i closed my eyes and wished really hard, would you appear?
if i disappeared, would you come looking for me?

this is how it is sometimes
giving a voice

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

National Cancer Survivors Day, Part Three of my Speech

So here is Part Three of my keynote speech given on June 5, at the National Cancer Survivors Day, Celebration of Life, in Fairfield, CA.

Thank you so much to my boy Robin, who is my computer geek, for clipping and downloading these pieces for me!  I love you Son.

I don't think I've mentioned that oldest son Batman, has left on tour now, with the awesome World Champion Concord Blue Devils!  My son is an awesome bad ass snare player.  Check out the Blue Devils website at

Duncle Dody said that now that both Batman and I are taking our show on the road, Robin will have to take care of the home front and the canine companions while Dad is out making the money!

Hope you enjoy the video.

Um, please write.  I'm getting lonely here at the sacred ordinary...

Monday, June 20, 2011

I'm Gonna Be a "Hero of Hope"

You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give.  Winston Churchill

A really cool thing happened to me today that I am so excited to tell you about.  I've been asked by the American Cancer Society (ACS) to be one of their California "Heroes of Hope" for 2012.  It's a two year commitment, and this is what it's all about.

The American Cancer Society Relay For Life, California Division profiles cancer survivors who’s work exemplifies the mission of the American Cancer Society.

These cancer survivors show an outstanding commitment to the fight against cancer, by continually offering inspiration through their outstanding presence and significant contribution (time, talents or financial) in their local community through Relay For Life.  They exhibit exemplary behavior and inspire hope, courage and determination in the fight to eliminate cancer. These cancer survivors display a resilient attitude and inspire others to choose a pro-active and positive stance in survivorship.

Program Purpose:
To identify a select group of cancer survivors with exemplary involvement in Relay For Life.
To broaden the reach, effectiveness and outreach of survivorship before, during and after Relay For Life.
To develop a broad and diverse group of Relay For Life cancer survivor spokespersons who actively tell their American Cancer Society story.

Each Survivor selected must be willing to:
Speak on behalf of Relay For Life and the American Cancer Society in public by telling their “story” and how they benefited from the services and programs of the American Cancer Society.
Speak at American Cancer Society functions, including Regional Trainings; Event Kick-offs, Rallies, and other opportunities as applicable.
Grant permission to have his or her story and photograph publicized, promoted and published.
Represent Relay For Life and the American Cancer Society publicly.
Be interviewed by media for print articles and/or television/radio as needed
Help recruit other cancer survivors to attend their local Relay.
Attend the Heroes of Hope speaker training on September 23-24, 2011 at Division Relay Summit and annual Hero Happenings meetings and activities. 
Complete a partnership agreement.

from the ACS "Heroes of Hope, Profiles of Courage" Overview


Well, Kimberly from ACS, and Kim and Naniglenda from Relay, see what you got me in to???

and I am thrilled!

In the closing of my speech on Survivors Day (which I haven't posted yet but will), I used a quote Kimberly sent me; it's by Emily Dickinson.

We never know how good we are until we are called to rise.

I've been called.
I said yes.
See me rise?

The American Cancer Society Relay For Life - California Division: California Relay For Life Home

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father!  ~Lydia M. Child, Philothea: A Romance, 1836

In addition to my Dad, I have been "fathered" by some wonderful men in my life.  I'd like to thank all of them today, for all the times they parented me, when I needed most their guidance and love, understanding and support.

Thank you Dad.
Thank you Husband.
Thank you Duncle Dody.
Thank you Father Joe.
Thank you Senator.
and Thank you to The Wizard, my surgeon.

Father! - to God himself we cannot give a holier name.  ~William Wordsworth

and to my Heavenly Father,

Thank you for Your guiding hand on my shoulder, and all the ways You continue to bless my life, open my heart and forgive me when I get it all wrong.

Happy Father's Day.

Kiss a Dad today.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Angel A and Angel B, Alaina and Becca

Life is mostly froth and bubble; Two things stand like stone: Kindness in another's trouble, Courage in your own. ~Adam Lindsay Gordon

As I have said to you before, cancer sucks and takes so greedily and coldheartedly.  Thankfully, so much of my blog is filled with the tender gifts and Angels that arrived for me on this path, with such awesome abundance that cancer's cruel losses were no match for.

I'd like to introduce you to the newest Angels in my life, two Novato High students, and their lovely teacher Ms. Evans.  Ms. Evans' freshman health class made felt blankets for cancer patients.  I was the recipient of the blanket made by two beautiful girls in her class, Alaina and Becca.  Here's a photo taken of them, making the blanket which several months later would be mine.

My Angels, A and B, Alaina and Becca

Enclosed with the blanket were two thoughtful letters, written by each girl.

When Becca wrote her letter in early January of this year, her 15th birthday was coming soon, and she was very excited about it!  Her letter was decorated with all kinds of doodles of a cake and balloons and a little house; she said she had lived in the same house her whole life.  Becca is a dancer and a baker and loves to shop, listen to music (she drew a little ipod too) and make up dances to her favorite songs.  She wrote that making the blanket made her feel really good inside because she wants to help other others, and really enjoys bringing a smile to someone's face.

I don't know what you're going through, and I might not ever will, but I've known people who had cancer before, and after that they became stronger than ever.  They seemed a lot happier all the time and that's one thing they had advantage over everyone else.  I feel really thankful for my life, but I could never feel the way they feel.  Please write back, I'd love to hear from you, your friend, Becca 

In her typed letter, pasted to pink paper and decorated, Alaina wrote she is fourteen, and "an open, nice and funny girl."  She loves the beach, mountain biking, basketball and gymnastics.  Her favorite movie is Pirates of the Caribbean, and she loves to watch the Disney Channel to feel like a kid again.  Her favorite book is "The Penguin who Hated the Cold."

I like writing to you cause I want to show how I love to make sure the little things, like this letter, make you know how much I care.  I would love to hear back from you cause then we could talk more.  Enjoy this blanket cause u deserve it more than anyone I know.  Please write back, I'd love to hear from you.  Sincerely, Alaina

I loved the blanket, but their letters are what really touched me.  It was apparent how much love and concern and hope they had put into the making of my blanket.  I had to find them.  All I knew is that they were Novato High students, and their first names.

I received the blanket the week before my speech, sent by Kimberly from the Fairfield office of ACS.  I was so busy getting ready for the speech, and Robin's 8th grade graduation, I forgot about calling the school, and then was worried they were already out for the summer!  I didn't want to wait until next Fall to meet these girls.

I called Novato High School last week, and they were still in session!  Yippee!!!  I was given the email of the teacher for the class, Ms. Stephanie Evans.  I wrote her, explaining who I was, and that I'd like to come and surprise Alaina and Becca.  Ms. Evans was thrilled, and we arranged for me to come on Monday morning, June 13, right after her class had taken their final.  I couldn't wait.

That morning Robin drove with me, about 45 minutes from where we live to Novato High.  I was so excited and nervous and happy.  So was Robin.  We waited in the school office until Ms. Evan's teacher's assistant came to bring us to class.  The students had already been told that they had a surprise visitor, but nothing else.  I guess they were all excited, and teacher too!

As you all know, the week before I gave an almost hour long speech to over 400 people and except for a little choking up here and there, and as nervous as I was, my courage really kicked in that day!  This visit was different for me, up close and personal.  As soon as I walked into that classroom, and saw all those faces, the same age as Robin who will be a freshman this upcoming school year, I felt a huge wave of emotion come over me.

I knew I'd have to say again the words "I am a breast cancer survivor."  I am a year out from diagnosis, and almost six months out from treatment, and I am still trying to wrap my blond brain around that.  It's one thing to soldier through all that hard hard stuff.  It's another to come out the other side, and stand before people and say it out loud, and hear yourself say it out loud.  I am a breast cancer survivor.

There are some days the whole cancer thing and everything I went through still knocks the shit out of me.

It did in those moments as I sat in front of Ms. Evans class, as they waited for me to speak.  I had all kinds of things I planned to say, about the power of random acts of kindness, and doing good in the world, and that good had found its way back today.  I had all kinds of things that I was going to say.

None of it happened, well not in the beginning.  I opened my mouth and the tears started to flow.  See for yourself.

It may be hard for you to tell that I gave each of the girls a program from the Survivors Event, that had a page profiling me as the keynote speaker.  I also bought each a rope charm bracelet, with their first charm on it, a silver pink ribbon with a small pink rhinestone, to remember me.

I was able to get it together, of course after Robin stopped filming, and talked to the class and answered questions.  One sweet girl raised her hand and simply said "Can I just say you are like my favorite person right now."

My visit ended with several of them, even the boys, coming up to hug me, pat me, and reaffirm how much it meant to all of them that I had come.  One smiling and thoughtful girl hugged me and said "Even though you came to meet Alaina and Becca, it means a lot to me too that you came all this way to thank them.  We don't often hear back or know who received what we made.  Thank you.  You are an inspiration."

It really drove home the point that none of us are strangers, when we are connected by love and gratitude.  Becca visited my blog not long after the visit, and posted a comment:

hi this is becca from novato high! I'm really really glad you came in today to meet me and alaina you made me feel so amazing!I never knew I could make such a difference in someones life!Im very thankful that you received my blanket and my letter:)I'm going to start reading your blog I hope alaina does too...your story has really moved me since Ive known some people who had cancer too..thank you for taking the time to meet me!

To Alaina and Becca,
You have my heart,
I will never forget you,
and I hope you never forget what it was I was trying to say to you, through all my tears.

In your life there is no greater thing you can give than your heart, and no greater accomplishment than helping others.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. ~Leo Buscaglia 

You touched me in a big big way.  Thank you.

Ms. Evans, the girls beautiful teacher

Standing between Angel A and Angel B

Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. ~Scott Adams

Saturday, June 11, 2011

National Cancer Survivors Day, Part Two of my Keynote Speech

Here is Part Two of my speech, posted on Youtube today, by my computer geek son, Robin.  Thank you boy for helping Mommy.

Friday, June 10, 2011

National Cancer Survivors Day, Part One of my Keynote Speech

So here it is finally!  Whee!

This is the first clip from my speech, it's about twelve minutes long.  I will be adding the speech to Youtube in parts, and will post them here as I do.

National Cancer Survivors Day
"Celebration of Life"
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Fairfield Center for Creative Arts

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Still Wrapped in Love

I keep replaying in my head moments from the Survivors Celebration on Sunday.  I keep thinking about all the people that made a point to talk to me, thank me, hug me.

I see their faces throughout my day:

The woman who was having her mastectomy this last Tuesday, and was obviously doing her best to handle the grief and fear you go through prior to something like that.  She asked me a few more questions about my nipple sparing, skin sparing mastectomy.  No one had ever talked to her about that, and she was scheduled for surgery in a few days.  She was going to ask her surgeon about it.

A breast cancer survivor, who thanked me for "speaking for all of us," and when I touched her arm to give it a reassuring squeeze, I could feel the compression sleeve under her long sleeved blouse.

A man who stood with a cane and had some palsy, he did not say much as his family thanked me profusely.  He stood there, looking at me, smiling and nodding his head, as if to say "Yes Debbie, Yes, Yes, Yes."

A young woman who was attending with her fiance; he is a cancer survivor.  She said "You have changed me today, and how I think about all this.  I feel a lot more hopeful, and I'm going to stop worrying about what may happen, and just appreciate every day I have with him."

A cute senior citizen, who cried when she hugged me, telling me she is a survivor and a recovering alcoholic.  She said my presentation really touched her, as a survivor and reminded her of her early days in a Twelve Step program, about surrendering your life, being accountable for your life, and embracing your life.

My friend DesertPirate, who came to take her place among us survivors, looking sexy in a spunky red wig.  After my speech, she showed me her bulging vest pocket, and said "See this?  It's as big as one of your cute fake boobs, it's filled with all the tissues I used crying through your whole speech!"

So many other faces, who did not say much, just hugged me hard with tears in their eyes.

It's days later, and through each day since then, these moments come to me and their response to me continues to bless me and wrap me in love.

I told some friends yesterday (Hello Nani and Billl)  "It was as if through this whole cancer thing, I have been in the shadow of that mountain, and on Sunday, I stood on the mountain."

I will never forget all the faces and stories of those who stood on the mountain with me that day.

It was a good good day.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

National Cancer Survivors Day

Today was the big day, the Celebration of Life, National Cancer Survivors Day.  It's an event for survivors celebrated all over the country.  The one I attended and spoke at was in Fairfield, California, at the Fairfield Center for Creative Arts.

They had a great turnout, looked to me like the theatre, which holds approximately 400 people, was full. Wow what an event.  It was so great to see so many survivors out with their families, including mine!

I've been so so nervous about my speech, wrote and re-wrote that thing so many times, and even late last night was still working on coordinating the speech and slides.  I did a little more editing this morning.

Thank you so much Husband and sons, Batman and Robin, for all the help and technical support for electronically challenged Mom, for all the constructive criticism and creative brainstorming you all contributed to my speech.  It really was a family project.

My son Batman videoed my speech, and I'll give you the link once he posts it on Youtube.  I had several requests by guests at the event to post my speech.  I will do that in the next day or so.

I'd just like to thank all the survivors who waited after the program to talk to me, hug me, cry with me, and thank me for my speech.  I so appreciate all the lovely comments, hugs and kisses I received, and so many of you who just wanted to shake my hand and tell me "good job."  That means so much coming from you, my cancer peeps!

Giving the speech was so cathartic for me.
Cancer shakes you out baby.
all of us
fought back.

I am so blessed.
What an incredible event.
I will never forget the feeling of talking on stage, knowing somewhere out there in the darkness, my boys were watching their Mama shine.
It was priceless.

For all the days that cancer took from us, today the glory was ours.
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