We spent the evening walking down Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, The Big Easy. It’s Friday night, and I’m told much tamer than the partying a few nights earlier on Fat Tuesday.
My friends and I stand at the corner waiting for the light to change so we can cross the street, while revelers around us brazenly jaywalk – behavior that seems foreign to this group of girls from Seattle.
We stop for drinks at Howl At the Moon, and when they are delivered in 36 ounce plastic cups, the server explains that the 3 for one special means everyone is automatically upgraded to a triple, and the cups are plastic so we can take them out in the street.
We look outside: Everyone does carry their drinks with them in the street.
Don’t worry, we adjusted. It wasn’t long before we were jaywalking while carrying open containers. Talk about multitasking.
Beads hang from balconies, street lights, stop signs, trees, public art, and anything else that will sit still long enough to be draped with the twinkling strands in all colors of bling.
A sprinkling of rain and a sturdy breeze lends more sparkle and movement to a street that is already teeming with life; humans, pigeons, palm trees, flowers, moss, mules, dogs can all be seen in a single glance.
The next block we walk through is closed to traffic, and pedestrians fill the area between the buildings as they laugh, dance, and wander amongst the street performers and live music wafting from the insides of bars and restaurants, music so rich and textured it seems to hold a physical presence in the space as well.
Bright lights and dark corners, high contrast colors, bricks and stucco, trolleys and mule drawn carriages, trees and bling,
and ornate balconies populated with blow up dolls
conspire to create an environment that is, to me, both fun and foreign.
The second anniversary of my cancer diagnosis is quickly approaching. Of course it has me thinking. A lot. Not all the thoughts are happy thoughts, but that just comes with the territory.
But some of those thoughts are happy thoughts. Warm, fuzzy, happy thoughts. Like the girls I met because I have cancer.
These are women I would have been proud to count among my friends even before diagnosis, but I can’t imagine a scenario in which I would have met any of them outside of cancer.
This weekend a group of us traveled to New Orleans to a conference for young women with breast cancer. We learned about treatment protocols, late effects of treatment, nutrition, dealing with the impact of cancer treatment in the bedroom, and myriad other topics, and we got to spend time with other women whose lives have been similarly impacted.
Good times, good music, good food, good company…
I think the people with whom we surround ourselves have a huge influence on our happiness. Sure, we all have those people around whom we have to tiptoe and walk on eggshells, but we can dilute their influence with so many more amazing people, people who lift us up and love us for who we really are. I’m so blessed to have such amazing friends – that they understand what I’m going through with cancer because they’ve been there too just makes it that much better.
I’m a very lucky woman.
Of course I still worry about how many years I have left, but even more important than the number of trips you make around the sun is your traveling companions along the way.
Well, for starters, you end up with some fun pictures…
But more importantly, this event raised money for some pretty awesome organizations.
Get Hitched Give Hope brings together wedding related vendors from around the region, allowing the wedding party to meet the vendors, bid on wedding products and services, and plan their weddings while raising money for a great cause.
Food, wine, flowers, rhinestones, and feathers…
Vendors were there to show off the best of what they have to offer
And the Young Survival Coalition (an organization which has been of immense help to me in my cancer battle) was one of the beneficiaries, along with The Dream Foundation, which grants wishes to adults in the last year of their battle with life threatening diseases.
Such an amazing event. And thanks to all these events in October, we’ve got a good jump on hitting our budget for next year. But I’ve got to admit, I’m thankful that October is over; I’m exhausted, and ready for a two week nap.
Also, I think I’m going to try to get one of those photo booths for all my events in the future. That was fun!
It sounds cliche to say that women who have faced down a life-threatening diagnosis really know how to embrace life. It is cliche. It’s not even always true. But my girls? My friends? They know how to party.
Friday night we celebrated and raised money for the Young Survival Coalition with our annual silent auction and dance party, In Living Pink.
The silent auction was wildly successful, and boasted donated items such as massage certificates, white water rafting, sight seeing cruises and flights, art, event tickets, A NYC package including Letterman tickets, Seahawks gear – autographed by players, jewelry, restaurants, vacation packages, and too much more to list.
So what does all this money we’re raising go to? Here’s a few examples:
$25 pays for a resource kit for young women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. This resource kit includes an organizer for tracking the onslaught of information that must be managed through treatment, an encouraging and helpful DVD “you are not alone,” a guide to services available to young women with cancer, and a chemo-hat – hand-knit by the mother of one of our members.
$50 pays for flowers for one of our girls in the hospital, or going through a rough patch
$125 pays for facility rental so we can bring in educational guest speakers on a wide variety of issues such as nutrition, dealing with the effects of treatment on sexuality, and post-treatment breast reconstruction.
$200 pays for the facility rental and therapist facilitator for twice monthly group therapy sessions.
$300 will send one of our members to our annual retreat at Harmony Hill
This is more than just a dance party, this event raises money that makes a difference.
But we do know how to have fun…
The guys, too…
Hey, look, it’s me. (One of the best parts of having a 2 year old little girl: Gem declared me to be a “mermaid princess” before I left the house #mamaswoon)
Thank you to everyone who contributed so much to this event, from the planning committee to the volunteers who put in so many hours the night of the party.
The decorations looked amazing, Brooke from Movin’ 92.5 kept the party hoppin’, and Miss Shelrawka rocked the house.
I went straight to the bookstore after I got the “I’m sorry it’s cancer” phone call; surely amongst all the wisdom coded into letters and words, pressed to paper, and bound to books, would be some little snippet that would tell me how to move forward.
Since that day I’ve read a lot of books about living with cancer, but when Katherine Malmo placed the slender, uncorrected galley of “Who in This Room” in my hands, I knew I was in possession of something different.
Katherine’s book did not tell me how to move forward. But it was the first I’ve read that really connected with me on how it feels to have cancer.
That’s not to say the book is touchy-feely, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. One of my favorite quotes from the book shows her trepidation at joining a cancer support group: “You are afraid someone will try to hold your hand or leap from behind the ficus to hug you.” That pretty much sums up the way I felt the first time I walked into a support group meeting with the Young Survival Coalition.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve had this book for well over a month, and I’ve been struggling with how to write this review. I want to tell you that reading this book is like going through the process of diagnosis, treatment, grieving, and moving on – but then who would want to read a book described like that?
And I do want you to read this book. I want my friends to read it. I want my family to read it. Because even though this is Kate’s story, it is my story, too. And the story of all my friends who have looked cancer in the eye, and stared down death… even if only for a little while.
This is not a sad book. This is not a book that is just about cancer, although that obviously drives the story line. This is a story about getting up every day and living. And this is a book that ends at the start of her brand new life.