My Cancer Story is a collection of my blog posts and articles about my cancer experience over the years. I decided to pull them all together into one place to make them easy to find.
This turned out to be a much bigger projected than I expected. I’ve cataloged more than thirty here so far, and there are many more to add.
This is a work in progress. I will continue adding the posts already completed as well as the new posts to come, so check back from time to time. Tags are coming soon to allow for searching by topic.
It has been an eye opening exercise to go back through these posts and see how my attitude, perspective, writing style, and my life in general have all evolved over time.
My hope is that these pieces will provide someone with cancer some measure of hope, comfort, and useful information to help them along this difficult road. Even if you don’t have cancer, you just might find this story interesting.
We hold on to each other, we revel in memories, and we pop a bottle of champagne to toast your memory while flipping cancer the bird. We embrace those who are still with us, and carry forward the memories of those who have gone before us.
I learned the hard way that the financial implications of cancer extend well beyond just the cost of medical care. It’s a far too frequent story where jobs are lost, or the hours worked drop below the minimum to maintain health insurance – or pay the rent.
The cost of babysitters alone could bankrupt a family, and then there’s all those extra meals eaten out, and meal delivery services on speed dial, because mama just didn’t have the strength to prepare dinner. Again.
And don’t even ask about the condition of the house. At a time when cleanliness is more important than ever, the strength to tackle that job is tied up in continuing the cycle of breath entering and exiting the body in a timely manner. It’s really hard to scrub toilets while you’re going through chemo.
Paying it forward
Debbie Cantwell was blessed with a strong support system while she was going through her own breast cancer battle, so she decided to pay it forward. From her kitchen table, and armed with determination and inspiration, Debbie started a non-profit organization, the Pink Daisy Project, to help other young women with breast cancer who were struggling and didn’t have the same kind of strong support system to call on.
This is a very small scale non-profit, and the grants to these young women with breast cancer are quite small as well, a few hundred dollars in gift cards or services. Just enough to turn the tide a bit, to get the momentum going again, a lift, a kindness, hope.
How the Pink Daisy Project helped me
The help I received from the Pink Daisy Project while I was going through treatment did all those things for me. I could buy diapers for my baby, and put gas in the car, but it did something more than that, too. By lifting one of my burdens, the gift lifted my spirits. I felt less weighed down. It put a little bit of bounce in my step, my energy level actually improved. Kindness has huge implications in the world.
Every once in a while, I take advantage of the fact that my blog has an audience to tell people about the good work that the Pink Daisy Project is doing. I want to shout it from the rooftops.
But, at a moment like this, more importantly, I want people to consider giving. Financially, times are tough for most of us right now, and that translates into fewer and smaller donations than usual. Of course, the need remains, and applications for assistance keep coming in.
I think its important to note that the money is not just sent out to just anyone. There is an application process, and the stories are vetted. These are amazing, resilient women, who found the strength to ask for help when it became necessary. These are women who take care of others, but at this moment, need some care taking from others. Here is another family that the Pink Daisy Project helped.
This is Shelly and her son:
My name is Shelly and I’m a young breast cancer survivor.
During treatments and surgeries my marriage fell apart, I was unable to work and had another surgery in a week when me and my son had to leave an abusive life. I was terrified!
School was getting ready to start and I couldn’t even get pencils for my son.
Pink Daisy stepped into my life at that point, I received gift cards for Kroger , with those I was able to get all the supplies my son needed! I was also given food cards that helped us to have what little money I had go towards getting utilities turned on and food in our stomachs.
I cried with relief to be able to do these things, my son had already been thru so much, watching me go thru everything with treatments, and lost his world when we had to leave. And PDP helped me help my son thru the most difficult time we ever faced.
Me and my son have plans to help pay this gift forward so other families in same positions can get the help and lifeline Pink Daisy gives! We thank Pink Daisy and all the supporters of this wonderful group with all our hearts!
Please consider giving, or at least sharing this story.
There is a certain coziness to autumn. After the chaos of summer, it’s the time when we settle back into routine; we find a rhythm. It is the time of comfort food, of warm colors, and crisp breezes. It is the season of pumpkin pie.
Once upon a time, autumn was my favorite season, but all that changed a few years ago.
October – Breast Cancer Awareness month
In September of 2010, I looked forward to October with some enthusiasm. It was my first Breast Cancer Awareness month since my diagnosis 7 months earlier, and I didn’t know what to expect. I thought a month dedicated to people like me might be fun, and there were some amazing fundraising parties, but I was not prepared for the Pepto Bismol-colored tidal wave that engulfed me.
Now, when I think of fall, it’s with white knuckles. I’m either bracing for, enduring, or recovering from Breast Cancer Awareness month. In October, those of us with breast cancer don our pink boas, and work frantically to earn money for the legitimate organizations that are truly working for a cure, or helping people to live with cancer. Meanwhile, hucksters get rich off my misfortune by slapping a pink ribbon on a product, then bumping up the price by $5 to donate $1 to breast cancer charities. Everything is painted pink, even carcinogenic items. Well meaning friends pass around internet memes where they pretend to be pregnant, and this is supposed to somehow give hope, or something, to those women who lost their fertility to breast cancer. Everything is all about breast cancer awareness, as if breast cancer was some newly discovered affliction, and awareness could actually help you avoid it.
Yes, it’s true that there are things you can do to reduce your odds. But as of today, there is no guaranteed prevention, and there is no cure.
This morning, my YSC family lost another angel. This was the third loss for us in as many weeks. Rachel was interviewed for the same CNN Heroes story as me last year – the one where we honored Debbie Cantwell, and the Pink Daisy Project. In this clip, you can hear her voice, you can see the sparkle of her big smile, as eye catching as her orange bandanna.
We are warm blooded women, with hopes and dreams and responsibilities and heartaches. We are mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, lovers. We are individuals.
We are not mascots.
We are more than statistics.
Over the coming month we will be lumped together and presented to you as a barrage of numbers. 1 in 3 get cancer in their lifetime. 1 in 8 will get breast cancer. But I want you to see the faces behind the numbers. And I want you to pay attention to what these campaigns are really fighting for. Be wary of campaigns that are just for breast cancer awareness.
My friends are dying, and it’s not for lack of awareness.
I am aware of breast cancer, and I was for decades before I was diagnosed with locally advanced breast cancer.
You, no doubt, are very much aware of breast cancer as well.
Awareness will not prevent breast cancer, and while it can sometimes improve projected outcomes, early detection and treatment does not guarantee that the cancer will not return.
We don’t need more awareness. What we need is a cure.
How you can help
For all the frustration that surrounds Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there are some wonderful organizations who are doing laudable work in the breast cancer field, and these organizations depend on the funds raised in October for the following year’s budget.
Pay attention to what a breast cancer charity is fighting for. Are they raising money for awareness, or a cure? If they’re working towards a cure, how much of their research money are they putting towards the stage of breast cancer that is actually deadly, metastatic breast cancer? There are also a number of much needed breast cancer charities that do not focus on research at all, but their services are critical to the lives and well-being of women living with breast cancer.
Just to cut through the crap a bit, I’m going to list a few organizations below that do an excellent job of serving the needs of women with breast cancer. This is by no means an exhaustive list.
The Young Survival Coalition: YSC helps young women live with cancer, to connect with others with similar experiences, and to not feel so alone. I credit YSC with helping me keep my sanity while going through treatment.
The Pink Daisy Project helps young women with breast cancer to deal with the practical aspects of life while they are going through treatment. This is the organization highlighted in the CNN clip above, and they help young women who can’t wait for a cure. PDP hired someone to come clean my home while I was going through chemo and to sick to clean it myself. They sent me gift cards to buy the necessities of life when I was counting change from the couch to buy diapers.
The National Breast Cancer Coalition is so serious about curing breast cancer, they set a deadline, 2020. Their approach is science oriented rather than political, and they are committed to this goal.
The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation – this science oriented research organization is also working on some groundbreaking research towards the goal of ending breast cancer in our lifetime.
Living Beyond Breast Cancer – the goal of LBBC is to empower all women affected by breast cancer to live as long as possible with the best quality of life.
If you find yourself tempted to buy something you don’t really need – just because it’s pink and it’s October – why not send your $5 (or whatever amount) directly to the organization of your choice instead? That way it’s tax deductible, and you know for sure that all the money is going to the charity.
Help us find a cure for cancer. Help us make pink just another color. Help us take back October.
.This is the story of how I became an on air radio personality.
Ok, it’s not. I’m not.
It’s not even about me.
This is a story about Debbie Cantwell, and the non-profit organization she started on her kitchen table, all by herself, to help young women with breast cancer, like me.
This is the story of the Pink Daisy Project, and a generous donation from Bonneville Seattle and the Seattle Seahawks.
The Pink Daisy Project provides care and comfort to young women with breast cancer, by means of grocery cards, gas cards, drug store cards, and housecleaning services.
My little girl and I were invited to accompany Debbie, her mother, and Andrea to the presentation of the honor.
And a check that will allow the Pink Daisy Project to help quite a few more young women.
And then, the Seattle Seahawks presented Debbie with the 12th Man flag, signed by all the players.
Yes, of course, my daughter photobombed that shot.
Then we went into the booth, where Debbie told the story of starting the Pink Daisy Project as a way to pay it forward after receiving help from friends and family members during her own battle with breast cancer.
And she told us about her own Grandma Daisy, in whose memory this organization is named. Grandma Daisy taught Debbie, and the rest of us by extension, how to live and give back, even while battling breast cancer.
Andrea spoke eloquently about her two bouts with breast cancer on different coasts of the country, and the difference between one where she was surrounded by family, and the other where she was more isolated. The Pink Daisy Project was there for her when her family was far away.
And then I got a turn at the mic. Look out Seattle.
Actually, because the experience is still so fresh for me, it’s still quite raw. I still get choked up. My voice warbles at certain points. I have to take a moment…
Thank you to the Seahawks and Bonneville for your generous donation to the Pink Daisy Project, and the help it will provide for young women across the country facing this terrifying diagnosis. Thank you, also, for broadcasting the story of Debbie Cantwell, and how her work is so integral to the recovery of women like Andrea and me.
And thank you Debbie, for being there for me, and everyone else.
It’s that time of year when the world is washed in pink, and people prance around in their favorite tongue-in-cheek, boob-aware apparel. But how much awareness does all this bring to the realities of breast cancer, and how much does this just turn our attention to boobs?
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against boobs. I am pro-boob. I was quite attached to mine, till one tried to kill me. Boobs are awesome, an entertaining conversation topic, they bounce, they feed babies, they’re happy, fun playthings. Breast cancer is the Debbie Downer in the room.
But I can’t wish the pink away, not until we find a better way to fund finding a cure. Unfortunately, not only do we have to endure pink every year, but every year breast cancer survivors go out and parade ourselves around to raise money for breast cancer organizations we believe in. Like it or not, the reality is that many good organizations funding research and programs that help women with breast cancer survive depend on October, on the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the make the majority of their budget for the upcoming year. And yes, the results of that funding has lead to research that led to treatments that beat back my cancer. And those fundraisers brought in money for breast cancer support organizations that helped me survive my treatments. These fundraisers do make a difference when the money goes to the right place.
So as much as we hate it, we put on the pink and we paste on the smile, because these programs helped get us through it, and now we’re paying it forward so those programs can help someone else. BUT, we’re very careful who we support.
Not everything pink forwards money on to organizations that are seeking the cure, or supporting women with breast cancer. There are so many devious programs out there making money hand over fist selling pink items. Some paint an item pink even though it’s a known carcinogen. Some send no money at all. some just bilk the well-meaning of extra cash. They send $1 to a breast cancer org? Sure, but they bumped the price from $5 to $10 before they painted it pink. That little bit of pink is making them an extra $4 a pop, and you’re buying, not because you need it, but because it’s pink. Sometimes it’s more effective to make a direct donation (also tax-deductable) rather than purchasing something just because it’s pink in October.
Yes, awareness is important. Yes, its the once annual reminder to do the self-exam that we should be doing every month. But we also need to spread awareness that young women, even young girls, can get breast cancer. And men, too. And we can’t stop at awareness.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of amazing women who are dying – and they’ve got all kinds of awareness. Awareness is not enough. We need a cure.