Just one day after my 2-year cancer-versary I had the extreme pleasure of participating in an uplifting, enriching event. The Tina Tramples Cancer 5K race was such a great time I’m still smiling about it. Did I take one photo? No. So please use your imagination. I had every intention of taking pics, but it was rather dark at 5 a.m. when I arrived with scores of other volunteers, and by the time dawn broke, we were too busy setting up tables, registering runners, and getting the race off the ground.
Tina is a friend who is battling pancreatic cancer with extraordinary results. Thanks to her indefatigable spirit and an amazing oncology team, she is making incredible progress against this terrible disease. Tina’s friends decided to organize a 5K to raise money and awareness for Pancreatica, the online group dedicated to furthering research for this woefully underfunded form of cancer.
Do not underestimate the power and dedication of a small group of suburban women. Some are at-home moms, some are in the work force but all were united in staging a grand event. I’ve done a few 5Ks in my day, and this one was first-rate. Organized, efficient, and well-run, this race had a great course and all the elements I love in a race: a cute t-shirt, friendly volunteers, plenty of post-race snacks, and complimentary massage.
What I really loved about this race, though, had nothing to do with shirts or snacks. It had everything to do with community. In our ever-increasingly isolated, fast-paced lives, it was nothing short of amazing to see so many people come together to help out another person. I witnessed this on a smaller scale during my own cancer “journey” and was as amazed by it then as I am now. Is it driven by the inherent goodness that resides inside people, or by the “there by grace of God” fear that cancer could just as easily have set up shop in your body? Does it matter?
I’d intended to walk the race with my favorite girl and my dad, but my girl decided to start running at about the 1/2-mile mark. She was clipping along at a good pace, and I resisted the urge to tell her to pace herself, as the race had barely begun. Instead, I savored the sound of her feet hitting the pavement in perfect stride with mine. I focused on the sun glinting off the golden highlights in her pony-tail. I relished the whoosh of our breath–hers & mine–moving in and out as we chatted our way through the course. I took in the feel of the wind on our faces and the birdsong in our ears on a near-perfect day in our little corner of the world. I smiled at her grim determination as the course grew steep with a small hill. All of these ordinary things come into much sharper focus in the midst of cancer. After days spent battling the dreaded disease and after sleepless nights wondering how this would all turn out, it was nothing but pure joy to be here, to be present, for these ordinary things.
As I ran alongside my dear friend the intrepid Amy Hoover, we chatted about these ordinary things and how spectacularly sweet it is to be here to experience them. I told her I had a very similar thought a few days ago as I slogged through a particularly challenging workout full of some of the things I despise (burpees, and pull-ups, to name a couple). While I don’t like these two exercises, I sure do like the fact that I’m able to do them. That I’m not lying in a hospital bed recovering from a rigorous surgery to rid my body of cancer or cooped up at home after the post-mastectomy infection reared its ugly head. That I’m upright and moving forward and able to push my body and challenge my brain.
My girl pooped out before the 2-mile mark, and I walked with her for a bit before feeling the urge to keep going and finish strong. Confident that she was content to walk the rest of the race with a buddy, I kept running, then doubled back to find my girl and run it out with her. My dad finished behind her, and we celebrated at the finish line.
I stuck around to clean up and close out the race (and to eat a pina colada snow cone), and my dad and Macy went on home. When I got home, I saw that my dad had trained Macy in the family tradition of recording the race details on the bib. Another ordinary thing for which I’m happy to be present.
I wrote the following on this day last year. On this day two years ago, life as I knew it changed forever, and 730 days later, I’m still searching for the new normal.
I had every intention of writing a new piece today, to commemorate this auspicious day in history, but after re-reading the 2011 post, I’m going to re-run it. While I fully expected that one year out from diagnosis, things wouldn’t be back to normal–especially considering the circuitous path my cancer “journey” took — I would have expected that by year 2, I’d be done. But alas, with cancer, we are never done. I know this to be true, yet I want it to be different and thus, keep finding myself banging my head against that same wall, while the wily beast that is cancer mocks me. Bastard.
Happy 2-year cancer-versary to me.
To say that a lot has happened in the last year is an utter waste of words. I’m not sure there are words to convey how much has happened in the last year; if there are, they are reserved for better writers than I.
Being diagnosed with cancer at age 40 is a shock. Duh. It’s scary and unexpected and unnerving. Double duh. 40 is when we hit our stride. For me, it meant my kids were old enough to not need constant supervision but to still need my guidance. I’d recently discovered tennis, the new love of my life, and had time and freedom to play often. I had a tight circle of friends who knew who they are and where they want to go. I was very comfortable with…
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“The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.” — Emily Dickinson
This is what I think of on my 19th wedding anniversary. Not something flowery and romantic. Sadly, that’s not how I roll. I’m sure there are countless quotes out there in the universe about love and marriage and all that mushy stuff. My tastes, however, run to Miss Dickinson and her adage. This quote always makes me think about a door flung wide open and a million different possibilites — all of them fabulous — tripping over each other trying to get in.
Different strokes, y’all.
Recently this fabulous foursome attended a super fun, chichi event called Project Glam at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Looks like trouble waiting to happen, right?
It was a night full of fashion, cocktails, accessories, cocktails, eyelash extensions, cocktails, and professional models. Fun!
Being a recent fashion show model myself, it was so fun to watch the pros do their thing. The runway was in the Hall of Paleontology of the museum, and the catwalk was built to encircle the dino bones. Cool.
For some reason, I ended up with several pictures of the male models in their swimwear. Strange.
Navy & white is always a summer classic, fellas.
The female models’ hair was teased up sky-high, as Big Texas Hair should be.
I know the pics are kinda blurry. The bored models moved fast, and there was a lot of Captain Morgan’s dark rum involved. That’s the world of high fashion for ya.
A mere 5 days ago, baseball was dead to me.
The season was over before it even really got started.
Brignac had dislocated Ells’s shoulder, causing my favorite player a lot of pain. Shame on you, Brignac.
According to the ESPN article, “A minor dislocation typically requires a minimum of four to six weeks, but if further evaluation reveals additional trauma to the shoulder, such as tears to the rotator cuff, labrum or other muscle or tendons, Ellsbury could be in jeopardy of missing months more.”
Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine had no info on Ellsbury’s condition after the Sox-Rays game, saying only that he expected another outfielder to arrive in Boston on Saturday. Raise your hand if you’re surprised that Bobby V didn’t have a clue. Raise your other hand if you think that moron has a chance in hell of being able to find his brain with both hands. Bring back Tito! For the love of all things holy in the great sport of baseball, bring back Tito!
As Sox blogger Dan Lamothe says, “We’re on the cusp of a year that will be filled with more annoying drama than your average Adele song, and there’s nothing we can do to about it. At the center of this, of course, will be the transition from Terry Francona to Bobby Valentine.”
After reading about Ells’s injury and DB Valentine‘s lack of info on this time-stopping, all-important topic, I hung my head, dried my tears, and channeled Doris Kearns Goodwin with thoughts of “Wait ’til next year.”
Alas, there is good news for fans of Ells: Orthopedic surgeon Lewis Yocum reviewed Ells’s MRI results and agreed with Sox docs that the injury is treatable and won’t require surgery.
That Ellsbury won’t be out for long is the best news I’ve heard in a while. Come on, Ells! Heal fast, ok? The game isn’t the same without you.
The story of Austin Fisher is making the rounds, and I’m determined to do my part to keep it going. It’s especially appropriate today of all days, as it’s my sweet mama’s birthday. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing than wrapping a gift and making a coconut cream pie for her. Happy Birthday, Mom. I sure do miss you.
This boy, Austin Fisher, deserves a medal, a college scholarship, a witty & beautiful prom date, and a hot fudge sundae. Maybe more.
He certainly deserves to walk across the stage in Carrollton, Ohio, next month with the rest of his senior class and receive his hard-earned diploma.
Austin’s mama, Teri, has metastatic breast cancer, which she’s been fighting for 7 years. That’s almost half of Austin’s life. Her one goal in her cancer battle was to survive long enough to see her son graduate high school. That goal was nearly compromised by a stupid policy and a dogmatic bureaucracy. Carrollton High School principals told the varsity baseball player that he could neither walk at commencement nor attend the senior class trip nor go to the prom.
What’s up? Bad grades? Unruly behavior? Smoking in the boys’ room?
Nope. Austin wasn’t going to walk or go on the trip or go to prom because he had 16 unexcused absences from school. Before this school year, Austin had perfect attendance.
Why was he absent? Not because he was cutting class or ditching school. He was caring for his mom while she was being pummeled by breast cancer. Teri Fisher says that her son is “her hero, her rock” and that with no adult male in the household, the role of caregiver was valiantly taken on by Austin. He willingly sacrificed to care for her, saying that school took a backseat to doing the day-in-day-out, hard work of primary caregiver. “You never know how much time you have left and that was one of her big [goals]–to see me walk and get my diploma and go off to college,” Austin says. “I wouldn’t change it, everything I did. Family first.”
I’m blown away by the depth of character of this young man. What a stellar example of priorities, commitment, and loyalty. We could all take note.
Austin’s aunt wrote a letter to the local newspaper once the story broke, to shed a little more personal light on the Fishers’s situation:
“A single mom juggling medical bills with the usual expenses of living, fighting a foreclosure, working her job, traveling to Canton for chemotherapy — no easy task. Throughout all of this, Austin continued to attend school as he could while caring for her, working two jobs, and participating in varsity sports.”
When Austin learned in January that he would not be able to participate in the much-anticipated rites of seniors such as commencement and prom, he and his mom went straight to see Principal Dave Davis but was told that “rules are rules” and “it’s policy” to deny these things based on the number of unexcused absences.
Thanks to the power of the people and the sweeping reform accomplished by social media, Superintendent Palmer Fogler reversed the decision yesterday, and Austin will get to walk, and Teri will achieve her goal of seeing her boy graduate.
Hallelujah! Rock on, people!
The Facebook group “Let Fish Walk” played a part in the reversal, I would think. The group grew quickly, from a respectable 10,000 yesterday to some 32,000 members and counting today. A petition through change.org also helped, with some 100,000 signatures. FYI, the population of Carrollton is 3,211.
I’m thrilled for Teri and Austin. Kudos to the Carrollton school board for making the right decision, and to the world at large for being decent and giving a hoot about one family’s plight. Cancer sucks. It devastates families and wreaks untold havoc. But once in a while, something good and heartwarming comes from the vicious disease that steals so much from so many. Today that something is Austin Fisher and his mama Teri. As I remember my own sweet mama today, I’m crushed by her absence in my life and the fact that yet another birthday of hers comes and goes without her. She would have been 74 years old today. I wonder how much she would have changed had she been here the last 7 years: would she have finally stopped dying her hair blonde and let it go white, as she spoke of wanting to do? Would she be a little hunched-over and frail, or still the busybody, energetic dynamo we all knew and loved? One thing is for sure: she would be spoiling my children and fussing at me to leave them be, let them play, give them more treats. Another thing is for sure: the hole in my heart that will forever remain because of cancer. I do hope that Austin Fisher never has such a hole in his heart.
Friday was a very exciting day for my favorite girl and her little piggie. They were asked by our fabulous school counselor, Mrs Prine, to be the Grand Marshals for the annual kindergarten Pig Parade at our school.
This is a big deal, as everyone in our school looks forward to the Pig Parade. We have a rather large school, with more than 800 kiddos, which meant a lot of exposure for our little piggie. Lucky for Macy and Piper, Mrs Prine is an animal lover with great ideas! Sadly, Mrs Prine missed the parade because she was a teeny bit busy welcoming her first grandbaby into this world. So Mrs Prine, this blog is for you; one day when Baby Jude is a little bit older, you can show him these pictures and tell him that this is what was happening in one corner of the world on the day he was born.
I had hoped to chronicle this special day earlier, but am having epic computer problems. I’m a Mac girl through and through, and something is seriously wrong with my iPhoto. This troubles me greatly; :iPhoto won’t import my latest photos because it doesn’t recognize them. Before my in-house IT guru could figure out the problem, I resorted to emailing myself each and every photo you see here, then manually importing them into my blog. Tedious and time-consuming, to say the least, so please…humor me and gaze upon these photos.
Letting our little piggie loose at school could have been a big ol’ mess, but instead it was a great time with just a little big of mess involved. This is a live piggie, after all, and our little piggie is a bit opinionated and sassy (we’re still trying to figure out how that could have happened).
So the deal is that every year, the kindergarten classes at our school have an at-home project to create a pig. Once everyone has created their porcine masterpieces, the piggie projects are carted up to school and the kindergarteners parade through the entire school carrying their creations while the rest of the school gazes appreciatively from a seated position in the hallway. Every single one of the kids in grades 1 through 5 sit in the hallway in a single-file line and watch the kinder kids proudly walk by with their pigs.
When it was Macy’s turn to take on this project, nothing could have tickled her more. She’s been a pig-lover her whole life, so having the chance to make and present a piggie was her idea of heaven. Being the queen of accessories, she gave her pig big hoop earrings and giant kissy lips.
This year’s crop of pig projects were mighty fine. I especially liked the eyelashes on this one.
This guy was very proud of his curly-tailed pig, and wanted to be sure I noticed his pig’s fluffy legs. He told me in a very loud voice that his pig has THE FLUFFIEST LEGS IN THE WHOLE SCHOOL! Indeed it does.
Just before the parade began, this guy was crying on the couch,unable to find his pig head-dress. After I inquired about his wooden pig, he cheered up and even managed to smile, although he never did find his head-dress.
At long last, it was time for the parade to start. Getting multiple classes of wiggly, excited 5- and 6-year-olds lined up and orderly seemed like an impossible feat, but those wonderful teachers at Austin Parkway Elementary know what they’re doing, and in short order the kids were ready to march. Note the long line of pig owners decked out in their head-dresses behind the Grand Marshals.
Piper was nonplussed about the whole affair. She was likely wondering how to get back into the hallway that contains all the lunch boxes and snack bags.
Hold the phone — in addition to the Grand Marshals, there’s another special guest: a certain middle schooler who made a return visit to his alma mater for the big occasion. This Big Kid walked the entire parade route in lockstep with his little sister, stopping to greet his former teachers and answer questions such as, “You are making straight A’s, right?” and “How many girlfriends do you have?” The best moment for him, however, came when the parade passed by the 2nd grade hallway, and one bold second-grader called out to the Big Kid, “I like your pig, little boy!” The Big Kid and I are still chuckling about that.
The parade meandered by each grade’s hallway, with our little piggie leading the way. Macy carried her most of the way, and yes she is a bit of a load. Our little piggie walked some on her leash, but made too many unscheduled stops to sniff and root at the carpet. She also proved to be a bit too tempting for some of the audience members to resist, and more than once a pair of small hands reached out to touch her before being reprimanded by the sharp-eyed teachers.
One of the moms directing traffic for the photo shoot decided it would be fun to have Piper in the picture, too, so she joined the kids on the hay bale. She was a very good sport about it and wasn’t the least bit bothered by all the hub-bub. In fact, she was so relaxed she took care of her morning doody off the back of the hay bale without hesitation. A bit later, she relieved herself on the hay bale, as well, thankfully in between photo opps and discreetly enough that no one noticed, and no one asked why I was flipping the hay bale over, either. Once her business was concluded, it didn’t take her long to realize she was on a giant block of hay, and she started chomping away. Each photo snapped by the kinder moms shows her stuffing her face with hay. She is a pig, after all.
Cancer steals so much. All the time. Every day. This I know for sure.
A couple of days ago I smacked my head upon this truth and watched helplessly as my dear friend experienced this for himself. His dad died from cancer a decade ago. Ten years, yet the grief was as raw as can be, the loss as crushing as it was a decade ago.
His dad was a handy guy who could fix anything. He made a good living — and supported four kids — with his hands. My friend learned from his dad and is handy too. Although his livelihood isn’t manual, he can fix anything, like his dad. He just doesn’t always believe it until it’s done.
My friend was fixing the spring on our gate (one of the many things he’s helped with around our house). The spring on the outside of the gate had lost some of its tension, and the screws holding it in place had wriggled loose after seven years of use. How many hundreds of times has that gate banged shut as my busy little family comes and goes? When we were building our pool, the gate and the fence came down, to be replaced by temporary, orange plastic fencing (seen behind the slabs of flagstone) that couldn’t contain my dogs. My then 7-year-old chased the escaped dogs across a very busy street, unaccompanied, but that’s a story for another day.
In the process of repairing the spring on the gate, my friend broke his screwdriver. The one that he inherited from his dad. No big deal, it’s part of a set and he has several others the same size. But he was upset–really upset–because along with the screwdriver, he felt like he lost a piece of his dad.
His rational brain knows that the screwdriver isn’t indicative of his dad’s presence or absence. His intellect knows that having the screwdriver doesn’t mean that he still has his dad, or that by not having the screwdriver he no longer has a hold on his dad’s memory. But his irrational side mourned the screwdriver. His emotional brain felt that he’d lost another part of his dad. As the wise poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Sorrow makes us all children again – destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing.”
I’m very familiar with the destroying of intellect in times of grief, and I know just how my friend feels. After my mom died, I hung on to all kinds of her stuff: cookbooks, costume jewelry, unfinished embroidery projects, even her ratty old college sweatshirt. My dad has the more personal items — her glasses, her wedding ring, her driver’s license. I desperately wanted a piece of her, any piece, to remain, so I clung to her things in hopes of finding pieces of her.
Guess what? It doesn’t work. The desperation, the clinging, the hoping against hope are all for naught. Once the person you loved with your whole heart is gone, snatched away too soon by illness, there is no holding on to them. I’ve learned this slowly and painfully in the almost seven years that my mom has been dead. Her stuff is just that — stuff. It’s not her. She’s gone and that’s the brutal finality of experiencing the death of a loved one.
I’ve written before about how grief sneaks up on us, and can buckle our knees out of nowhere, even after years have passed. I know that this is what happened to my friend the other day: he was going about his business, engaged in a simple task that took little effort and yet would yield great satisfaction when done. The sun was shining, the workday was done, and a cold beer accompanied him as he unscrewed the rusty, spent screws from my gate. But once the screwdriver broke, so did the dam that most days holds back the torrent of sadness that is life without his dad. How many times has he said he wished his dad were here to help him with a DIY project, or to admire his handiwork upon a project’s completion? Too many times to count. And in the midst of an ordinary task being done on an ordinary day, the torrent rushed through.
“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses.” ~Colette
Here’s a funny story to jumpstart the week after a long weekend. Trevor saw this storyand sent it to me with a chuckle, remembering an incident that could have easily landed me in jail. Which incident, my smart-ass friends might ask? The one in which I was traveling with a nursing baby who wanted to eat just as it was time to go through security.
The baby in question was Macy, and we were traveling back & forth between Houston and Durham, NC, to house-hunt. Macy was born 4 months after the terrorist attackson September 11th, so airport security was an evolving mess. Can’t say that it’s improved all that much in the decade since.
We had collapsed her stroller and sent it and all the baby paraphernalia through the x-ray scanner, and I was almost ready to walk through when she decided it was mealtime. Rather than subject everyone in the airport to a pissed-off, crying baby, I started to nurse her just before walking through the metal detector. The TSA agent barked at me to “separate the baby from my breast.” For real.
I told him in my firm-but-somewhat-respectful voice that she was currently eating. He said too bad, so sad, get that baby off the teat. It’s hard to say who was more unhappy at that moment: Macy for having her meal so rudely interrupted, or me at the TSA agent’s stupidity. I pried my baby girl from her gravy train and hoped that jackass agent would get a shot of breast milk right in the eye.
Life is hard for nursing moms. When Payton was an infant he was having a meal at the food court at First Colony Mall and an older woman approached me to tell me that was disgusting. I assumed she was talking about the Chicken McNuggets one of my companions was eating, in which case I would have wholeheartedly agreed. However, she was referring to me nursing my baby. She thought I should “take that into the restroom.” I looked at her in disbelief and asked her how she’d like to eat her lunch in the mall restroom. Not so much? Well, neither would he. Sheesh.
My nursing days are long gone, which is a good thing considering the current state of my breasts, but I’ll always remember the outrage I felt at the airport and at the mall. Just like an elephant, I never forget.