Friday, September 30, 2011

Heroes of Hope - My Peeps

If you are interested, here is the link for the California Heroes of Hope.  These people are absolutely incredible and if you are involved in Relay, please take advantage of this opportunity to have a "hero" from your area speak at your event.

The American Cancer Society Relay For Life - California Division: 2012 California Relay For Life Home

"Heroes" are available to speak at any part of your event and/or team meeting, but you don't have to be associated with the American Cancer Society to request one of us.  "Heroes" are available to speak to your local organization, church, school or any other event where you would like an inspiring survivor to speak about cancer, hope, faith and programs and services for cancer patients and their families.

I already got my first request!  Wheeeeeeeeeee!  A local church is doing a several part series on cancer, and one of the programs in the series will feature a cancer survivor.  That's me!  and thank you Kimberly from my local ACS for telling them about me.

I will be sharing more with you about the Heroes of Hope program, and all of the 2012 Heroes.

In the coming days though, my blog will switch its focus back to my upcoming reconstruction surgery.  It's a real cliff hanger!

Stay tuned!

Monday, September 26, 2011


Whoa, I don't even know where to start, I am still taking in all that I experienced at Relay Summit, California.

Let me start by telling you a little bit about the history of Relay for Life.  It's the American Cancer Society's largest fundraising event, and it all started in 1985 in Tacoma, Washington.  Dr. Gordy Klatt, a Tacoma colorectal surgeon wanted to raise money for his local chapter of American Cancer Society.  He decided to do it by running a 24 hour marathon around a high school track.  Dr. Klatt's friends, family and patients all showed up to support him, almost 300 of them, and watched as he ran and they pledged dollars to support him.

That first year he raised $27,000.

The next year, he got the whole community involved - 19 teams ran, and they raised $33,000.

Fast forward 26 years later, and Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society's top fundraising event, taking place in cities all over our country, and is now even international.

In California alone, here are the stats for the 2011 Relay:

  • $31.7 Million raised
  • 427 Relay For Life events
  • 32,275 Cancer Survivors honored
  • 214,572 Participants
  • 16,960 Teams
As some of you know, I participating in my very first Relay last summer, and walked the Survivor's lap while still in chemo.  This year, I was the speaker at the Luminary Ceremony.  Here's a link if you'd like to listen to my Luminary speech at the Vallejo Relay, 2011.

I was asked to participate in RELAY SUMMIT, CALIFORNIA, which is a kickoff convention for Relay Teams, for next year's Relay.  It took place at the Hyatt in Garden Grove, right down the street from Disneyland.  I was there as one of thirty "Heroes of Hope" and we received our "hero" training this weekend, and participated in the general sessions at the conference.

Here's the link to the 2012 Heroes of Hope, including me!  Wheeeeeeeeee!!!!

Whoa, when they tell you RELAY SUMMIT is life changing, they ain't kidding!  There is nothing like being in a Grand Ballroom with almost 1,000 people from all over California, all fired up about RELAY.  We had incredible guest speakers, and then broke out into workshops, which for us "heroes" was some great training on public speaking.

This is from the RELAY FOR LIFE web page, and is a great explanation about RELAY today.

What is Relay For Life Today?

The American Cancer Society Relay For Life is a life-changing event that gives everyone in communities across the globe a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease. At Relay, teams of people camp out at a local high school, park, or fairground and take turns walking or running around a track or path. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event. Because cancer never sleeps, Relays are overnight events up to 24 hours in length.

What Happens at Relay For Life Events?

Although every Relay For Life is different, there are certain traditions at all Relays, no matter where they are held. These traditions help participants celebrate, remember, and fight back.

Celebrate – The Survivors Lap

Relay starts with a Survivors Lap – a inspirational time when survivors are invited to circle the track together and help everyone celebrate the victories we’ve achieved over cancer. The Survivors Lap is an emotional example of how Relay participants are ensuring that more lives are saved each year – like those of each individual on the track. We also recognize and celebrate caregivers at Relay For Life. These individuals give their time, love, and support to friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers who face cancer. At Relay, people understand the frustrations and joys of being a caregiver, since the effects of cancer reach far beyond just the person diagnosed.

Remember – The Luminaria Ceremony

After dark, we honor people who have been touched by cancer and remember loved ones lost to the disease during the Luminaria Ceremony. Candles are lit inside bags filled with sand, each one bearing the name of a person touched by cancer, and participants often walk a lap in silence. As people take time to remember, those who have walked alongside others battling cancer can grieve and find healing. This is a time that truly highlights the importance of defeating this disease.

Fight Back – The Fight Back Ceremony

Last, there is a Fight Back Ceremony, where we make a personal commitment to save lives by taking up the fight against cancer. That personal commitment may be to do something as simple as getting a screening test, quitting smoking, or talking to elected officials about cancer. By taking action, people are personally taking steps to save lives and fight back against a disease that takes too much.
One of the things I really enjoyed at Summit was learning about all the things that the American Cancer Society does with all the money raised.  This is also from their web page:

Get Well- Patient Services: If you are diagnosed with cancer, where can you turn for help? The American Cancer Society offers many free programs for patients and survivors, including rides to and from treatment; the Cancer Survivors Network for support; beauty products for patients to help them restore their self-confidence after debilitating treatment; and more.

Stay Well- Education and Prevention: The American Cancer Society provides free educational programs and support services to help improve the quality of life for all cancer patients and their families, including prevention and early detection initiatives like the Great American Health ChallengeTell A Friend; our toll-free 24 hour information line 1-800-ACS-2345 and Web site
Find cancer information.

Find Cures- Funding Research: The American Cancer Society is the largest source of private, nonprofit cancer research funds in the United States, second only to the federal government. The Society has had a hand in virtually every major cancer breakthrough of the past half-century. With your help, we can continue on this path.
Learn more about research

At select Relay For Life events, you can personally participate in research that could help identify factors that cause or prevent cancer . Learn more about the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study-3.
Learn more about CPS-3 

Fight Back- Advocacy: The American Cancer Society Action Network (ACS CAN) is the Society's nonprofit, nonpartisan sister organization that consists of a grassroots network of volunteers working on the local, state, and federal levels to pass meaningful legislation. ACS CAN advocates for stronger public health laws to fight cancer and achieve equal access to quality health care for all people.
 Learn more about advocacy 

This organization is like no other in doing everything they can for cancer peeps like me, as well as funding vital research that influences how we diagnose and treat cancer.

Mostly though, there are research labs all over the country, who have received funding from ACS, and some day, one of those will find a CURE.

I will have more to tell you about RELAY SUMMIT and my experience there, but today I just wanted to share with you all about Relay and more about where all your dollars go.

Thank you thank you thank you to all the generous friends and family and coworkers and Sisters met through my blog, who supported me in the 2011 Relay.

I am so humbled and honored to be a Hero of Hope for 2012, and if any of you local to me are involved in Relay, please let your Event Chair know about me.  I would be happy to speak at your events in the coming Relay season.  Just go to the Heroes of Hope link in this post, and you can request me online!

If your group, church or organization is interested in having me speak, you may also request me through the Hero of Hope program.  It's not just for ACS people, anyone may request a "hero" to speak, and I'm telling you, these people are absolutely incredible, funny and inspirational with a capital I.  They are UH MAZE ING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

They have me on fire, and ready to serve, cause

Hope is unstoppable.

Hope > cancer.

I am so blessed to have this opportunity to pay forward all the love and support, encouragement and comfort that came to me on my cancer journey.

Oh, one more important thang.

If you or someone you know needs somebody to talk to about anything cancer related, the ACS has a 24 hour hotline, staffed by cancer specialists.  Here is the number:


You aren't alone.

and of course,

you got me Baby.

Thank you thank you Dear Reader for all your love and support and presence here on my blog all about my cancer journey and finding the sacred in my ordinary.  I am just shy of 14,000 visits to my blog since I started it on Mother's Day 2010, a month after my diagnosis.  Wow.

Peace to all who come here.  Thank you.

writergirl (Debbie)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hell In the Hallway

When God closes a door, he opens a window, but it's hell in the hallway...

The stats for my blog show that some of my very old posts are being read.  Hello Sister.  Welcome.  I'm a Sister too.

I don't know the how or why it happened, but I have stepped into, or fallen into, or been kicked into, some kind of spiraling vortex of melancholy, uncertainty, restlessness, and heaviness.  Sheesh.  Where did my peace go?  What happened to walking in faith?

I keep tellin myself Lighten up Sister, this ain't life or death this stuff on your plate right now, but my steps are so heavy, as if walking through tar.

Does that still count for walking in faith?

Black black gooey tar dripping and sticking with every step, making a damn mess everywhere.  Stuck in the muck without a dumptruck.

It could be worse.  I could still be on that period from hell.  Whoa.  You try workin and livin and surviving a period after not having one almost a year.  I didn't know what to do with myself, and thought I might possibly need a transfusion.  I thought hot flashes were bad enough.  You ain't lived till you're flashing and on your period.  It's over now but the melancholy lingers.  Oh dear.

Our furry Angel, Cassie, is home - vet sent her home with a shaved puppy tummy, meds, prescription dog food, and a bag full of rocks he took out of her gut.  If you saw the bag of bloody stones, only half of what there was and some as large as golf balls, your mouth would hit the floor as you gasped and said Holy Shit, as we all did.  Poor poor puppy, so happy she is home now.  Recovering.  Back in the pack.

I kept telling her we would bring her home.  She believes me now.

There is a boy in this house who played in his first high school Pep Band at a Friday night football game.  Band jacket and all, with his name embroidered on it, and the year 2015.

I graduated high school in 1976.

I am ancient.

But still getting the periods of a fifteen year old.

In other news, I am as lost as I have ever been settling on who will perform my reconstruction.  There is much to tell you about this, all kinds of appointments, meeting prospective candidates, impressive credentials, and then you look at the photos of their work.

Like Bride of Frankenstein.  Like somebody chopped a boob off a corpse and crudely stitched it onto a living woman.

If technical skill is a given, it all comes down to the art and aesthetics of re-creating a beautiful breast or a reasonable facsimile.  I would prefer a beautiful breast, but may have to settle for a fax of one.  and I'll tell you, the range of what I've seen is astounding, and a lot of it hard to look at and swallow.  As one plastic surgeon said to me "It's hard, really hard."

It's even harder choosing who to trust to do it, and then you hope to God they are In Network.  I just keep doing the homework and hope a clear choice will find me.  If not, I may be strapping the synthetic ones on far longer than I hoped. 

Later this week, I travel to So Cal to learn how to be a "Hero of Hope" for ACS.  When my coworker asked me recently "When you going on your trip?" I told him then confessed "They think I'm a hero.  I'm really just a big chicken who did some brave stuff."

"That's what makes a hero" he said.  Thank you Baby.

I'm hoping when I go, maybe they'll give me some kind of booster shot of heroism and hope, preferably not a shot, more like a spoonful of sugar, really really powerful sugar, sprinkled on top of a cupcake laced with Ativan.

and maybe
they can
help me
clean all of this

and by the way, when you go through airport security, should you have your fake boobs on, or in your suitcase?  What is the etiquette and appropriate security protocol to traveling with fake chimichangas?

Guacamole anyone?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Missing a furry Angel, The Surprise of the Century, and Leaning into Acceptance, Reluctantly

It was another long day in what has turned out to be a very long week.

Lots going on in this house with a furry angel who unexpectedly needed surgery to remove bladder stones.  She is there now, recovering from surgery, which went well.  I tried to tell her she was not going back to the pound and we love her so but I know she was frightened, and did not understand why we left her there.  She won't come home till Wednesday, and I hope and pray until then, somehow she will sense we took her there to take care of her. We are coming for her, and will bring her home.

This house is not the same without our Cassie girl.

Cassie in the back seat, on her bed, on our way to the Vet
It has been a week of ups and downs for me, are you ready for this one?  Wait for it, wait for it...  I got my period.

Let me repeat.

I got a period.  Haven't had one since last July, two months into chemo.  Doc thought fur shizl that was the end of that for me, but oh no Honey, I am full of surprises and every time they think I am going to turn right, I turn left.

I got a period.  Fiddy two, one year of cancer treatment, a breast cancer that was hormone positive, and my body decides, let's show her, we ain't done yet.

I got a period.

So this is menopause, eh?  Stops and starts and holy crap, I was not prepared for it, had given away all my menstrual accoutrements, bleeding like a river and not a damn thing in this  house!  What's a girl, I mean an old lady to do?

Never thought I'd be going to the grocery store to buy the super maximum extra strength super dee duper with wings pads again.  Yup there I was, like a damned teenager in the feminine care aisle, looking for menstrual accoutrements.

Accoutrements.  That's a damn fine word.  Get you some for whatever you need them for.

Well, let me also say a lady, a fiddy two year old lady, with one year of cancer treatment behind her and reconstruction still to go, and a furry angel in the hospital, is in no condition to be making decisions about any old thing and especially not big things.

but here I am.

Ready for reconstruction, sort of, got my plastic surgeon of choice, then ran into same old glitch, it's a damned long story, and now, out there, walking the streets again, looking for somebody who can fix me, fix what I am left with, and of course, is In Network.

dadgummit, ain't I been through enough, can't I just have who I want and who feels right to me, do I have to jump through all the insurance company hoops??!!  With a DIEP procedure it requires a team of two, it's a long ass surgery, and lots of MICROSURGERY involved, and wouldn't you know, you find a plastic surgeon who is In Network, but their surgical partner IS NOT.  It's crazy, and it's common.

And today, when I met with another plastic surgeon and he reminded we aren't doing cosmetic surgery here, we are doing reconstructive surgery, that's when it hits me again, this is what I am left with.  They need to rebuild what was taken away.  Not augment.  Rebuild.

There are some days, it takes everything you got to lean into acceptance and let your old self go.  You can't expect to look anything like you once did.  Those days are over.  That girl is gone.

This is who I am now.

Deep breath.

This is where I start now,

from here.

Every once in awhile though, I still miss the old me, I grieve for the old me, I want the old me back.

All original parts.

They all say you will look great in your clothes.

But it's the naked me I am preparing for, stitched and cut and altered and stuffed, looking something like the character "Sally" from A Nightmare Before Christmas.

It's the naked me I am preparing for, and who shall I trust and who can I find to create this new me while still accepting the old me is never coming back?

I am rambling now I know, and not sure if I am talking to you, or talking to me.

I will sleep now and try again


wait for the bleeding to stop

and maybe the head to clear

and the emotions to settle down into Savasana.

This is what it's like sometimes, a menopausal mermaid crying at the closed door and swimming towards uncertainty.

I'm sure there is a plan for me, could somebody just tell me what it is?

and will I like it?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Never Forgotten. Forever Grateful."

Spike Lee's tribute to 9/11, in cooperation with State Farm Insurance - 150 children serenading the FDNY with their rendition of "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys.

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of,
There's nothing you can't do,
Now you're in New York!
These streets will make you feel brand new,
The lights will inspire you,
Let's hear it for New York, New York, New York.
Proceeds for the song, which you can buy on iTunes, go toward the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rest in Peace, Dr. David

There is a book that has been important to me and many of my Sisters, and to those all over the world who faced a cancer diagnosis and were desperately looking for answers on how to keep the monster away.  This book was like a beacon and a cancer Bible, with easy to understand science and practical advice on how to change your life and better your odds.

Anti Cancer, A New Way of Life was written by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, a physician and cancer survivor who was diagnosed at age 31 with a brain tumor.  Years later his cancer relapsed, and once again he regained his health.  I've checked the book out from the library several times, reading and re-reading its powerful message about enabling your body to do its work against cancer, and it gave me great comfort to know that Dr. David "beat" his cancer.

Part memoir, part Cancer 101, his book explains how ALL OF US have cancer cells laying around dormant and "we must all care for the terrain in which they exist."  The book is very helpful in making anti cancer life choices, like eating lots of whole foods and eliminating processed foods, managing stress, exercising, and how unhealed psychological wounds affect our body's ability to heal itself.

I visited his website to see if he had any new books coming out, only to find Dr. David passed away on July 24, 2011, after his on again off again 20 year battle with cancer.

Like a kick in the gut.

My heart sank.

Hello fear.

Holy shit, if this is what happened to THIS GUY, who the hell am I to think I am going to beat this shit?

Deep breath.

This is what it's like sometimes, somewhere between faith and calamity, hoping for the best, sometimes expecting the worst, because this is how a cancer diagnosis shakes you, keeps you looking over your shoulder, for the rest of your life.

Some of the worst things in my life never even happened.  Mark Twain

And some of them did.

Deep breath.

freakin cancer

Monday, September 5, 2011

Cleaning House

Tao te Ching, Chapter 12

Colors blind the eye.
Sounds deafen the ear.
Flavors numb the taste.
Thoughts weaken the mind.
Desires wither the heart.

The Master observes the world
but trusts his inner vision.
He allows things to come and go.
His heart is open as the sky.

I have never been good at most of this.
Just observing,
resisting the urge to act, leap, fix, mend,
and especially this,
allowing things to come and go.

I believe Dear Reader, I'm better at it now, after the year of Cancer Camp, a spiritual boot camp for me.  My year of living dangerously.

It is not easy
to reject the stimulation and distraction of this world,
quiet the chaos in my head,
let go of my assumptions and mythology,
travel inward,
still and hushed,
and wait for the Voice
who speaks the truth
without words.

Comings and goings.
Two themes are recurring for me.
What is coming in my life?  Service.
What needs to go? Too many things held on to that do not serve, in my head, and in my house.

This is where I will start.
Loosen my grip,
clear my space,
hush my over thinking,
heart and hands open
to serve.

Where will you start today?

Friday, September 2, 2011

i took a walk today

I took a walk today, to find my faith, and put distance between me and my troubles, and look for God, because I could not find him in the house this morning.

A fountain gurgled and I heard him say I am near.
Chimes tinkled and I heard him say I am near.
A scrub jay screeched at me,
a butterfly rested on a fence covered in a riot of purple morning glory,
a man holding a baby in his front yard smiled and waved baby's hand back at me,
and a pear tree, heavy with green and crimson fruit, reminded Fall is on its way.

I found what I was looking for.

I huffed and puffed up the hill,
grateful for every breath,
grateful for every breath,
sweat dripped from my forehead,
tears rolled down my cheeks,
peace flooded my body.

I am near.
I am near.
I am near Debbie.

I took a walk to find my faith today,
so I could walk in faith.

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