Reasons I Love Seattle: #5 We’re never far from mother nature

All the benefits of a robust metropolis and yet, nestled between the mountains and the Salish Sea, it takes no effort at all to let nature envelope you in Seattle.

duck and lily pads

duck and lily pads

lily pads

lily pads

And now, from around the interwebs…

Me: As Seen On…

TV: yes! really! I was on CNN! So here’s the deal: I got an opportunity to say thank you, and help tell the story of a woman who was there for me while I was going through the worst of my cancer treatment. Debbie Cantwell created The Pink Daisy Project to pay it forward after her own bout with cancer. She helped me at a time when the expense and exhaustion of getting through cancer treatment was really wearing me down. She sent gift cards so I could get food, diapers, and gas, and she hired some people to come clean my home.  It’s hard enough to keep your home clean with a toddler – add the side effects of cancer treatment, and it’s overwhelming.

From what I understand, out of the 25 heroes highlighted throughout the year, CNN will be selecting 10 finalists  for the awards ceremony. Web traffic and buzz are considered in their selection criteria – so the more you view and share this story, the more you like or recommend it on Facebook, and the more you comment on the story there on the CNN website, the better the odds that Debbie will be selected as one of the finalists.  As a result of the story so far, Debbie has already received an increase in donations to help more women. She also received a significant increase in requests for help.  As we get the word out more, Debbie will be able to help more and more women. And that’s the whole point.

There is also a second video; this one is even longer and shows more of my family.


Darrah Parker Photography: We met up with Darrah at Ravenna Park on a sunny afternoon, and she took the most beautiful pictures of us.  My little family was hot and tired, and bordering on cranky, but Darrah found the best in us. We had a grand time posing for photos, and the results are just lovely.

Awesome stuff I found while I was pretending to be busy

It Matters: Mama Wants This explores the unexpected ways her life has has been enriched by blogging, and the unexpected ways in which she has been hurt by blogging.

The Aums: a discussion of that emotionally charged issue of, gasp, body image.

Dog Days of Summer: Northwest Mommy hosts guest blogger, Diane LeBleu, and her discussion of starting a business, getting a dog, breast cancer, and other bad ideas.

Peanut  Butter in my Hair: finding beauty in unexpected places

The Days Pass: Susan of Toddler Planet is one of my heroes. She’s battling her fourth cancer in four years; this time it’s metastatic. She writes so beautifully about balancing her pain management so that she can tolerate the pain, yet still savor the moments with her husband and young children.

Dear Gem – Month 28

Dear Gem – Month 28

This month you made your international television debut on CNN!

This story was about Debbie Cantwell, another woman who survived breast cancer. She went on to build an organization to help other young women with breast cancer. She helped us by hiring someone to come clean our home when I was tired and weak from the treatments. Now she is being honored as a CNN Hero, and I jumped at the opportunity to thank her, and tell the world how critical her help was. [Full Story]

You were so cute, but I wish I’d made you sit still before-hand, so I could get a better part in your hair.

Then, a few days later, they came out with another video, this time it was longer, and showed even more of you…

[Full Story]

The whole production was so much fun, and the team that came out to interview us was really nice, and set us all at ease right off the bat. Anytime you get a chance to stand up and say thank you – grab it!

letters to gem - month 28

We’ve had other big developments this month as well. We moved into a new apartment. It’s quite a bit smaller than our old place, but you love it. For one thing, you get quite a bit more freedom to run around the house than I allowed you in the old place, and you get to spend more time playing unsupervised in your bedroom. Some of that is out of necessity.

For instance, you graduated from a crib to a big-girl toddler bed.

I love listening to your non-stop chatter over the baby monitor. One day I heard: “keep trying, keep trying” and “try it again.” When I became a Mommy, I was granted eyes in the back of my head, and the ability to see through walls; I knew exactly what you were doing. I went into your room and sure enough, there you were perched on top of the crib railing making your escape. No more crib for you.

Unfortunately, you are also quite skilled at opening doors, and know exactly what to do with a deadbolt. I’m sure our attempts to keep you from wandering away would fail the fire marshal’s standards for ease of egress, but a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do. I’m certain a fire marshal with a 2 year old would understand.

gem and the tree

Your happy place here in our new home seems to be mommy and daddy’s bed. Whenever you get quiet and disappear, that’s the first place I look. There you are, perched in the middle of our bed surrounded with your books and babies. And a couple times a day you will take me by the hand and lead me in there and ask to “sluggle.” How can I say no to that? When I go to bed at night, the first step is emptying our bed of your playthings so there is room for me to lie down.

gem and the slide

You sing all the time. You make up little songs, but most of the time you just sing a running report of what you happen to be doing at the moment. I have often heard you singing: “sitting in a chair, sitting in a chair…”

Gem and the yellow dress

Your language skills are really blossoming, but sometimes it takes a little time to figure out what you mean. The other day you came to me and asked me to: “rescue it, the pie cake?” I could not for the life of me figure that one out, until eventually, like Lassie leading Timmy to the well, you brought me to your bedroom and looked hard at the register under the window. So I looked too.

Sure enough, there was a pancake (pie cake) stuck in the register, along with a few crayons.  Maybe we need to rethink the unsupervised playtime in your bedroom. Also, we need to figure out how to childproof that register, because it get’s really hot. I know it gets really hot because the thermostat is within your reach. Maybe we need to rethink those ease of egress issues, too.

I don’t image this post is going to garner me any mom of the year awards, but that’s not the point anyway.

I’m just doing the best I can, just like most of the other parents out there.

Someday you might find yourself in the same boat. Parenting isn’t full of easy, one-size-fits-all answers. It’s hard, and sometimes you feel like there is no right answer. Parenting is trial by fire, learn on the job, and there is no way to know if you’re doing the right thing. It’s also the most fun I’ve ever had.

I’m so lucky that I get to be your mother.

I love you


Thank You

If you haven’t already heard, we have some pretty awesome news: I just completed my treatment for breast cancer!

I am so ready to get on with my life, but first I want to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who helped get me through the past 16 months since my diagnosis.

1. Gem

Look at that face. She is such a powerful motivator. And sweet, too.


No matter how rough things got, she was enough to get me out of bed – Even if that meant just going to the living room, and cuddling up with her on the floor.

It’s amazing how much she has grown up through this ordeal. Here she is just a week before I was diagnosed:


2. My Husband, Aaron

Aaron is my biggest cheerleader, the one who kept telling me that I CAN do this. He was the one who held me when I cried, and told me he would still love me no matter what, and made me feel sexy even missing a boob.


He wouldn’t let me get depressed, and he fills my life with music.


3. Mom

My mom was the one I could count on to drop everything, and come running at a moment’s notice


4. Friends who formed a little army of volunteers

Kristen, Mary Jane, Diane, Sommer, Carrie, Candice, Tim, Mel, Sharon, and Perry – I can’t begin to describe how much you helped me. From bringing meals, to babysitting Gem, to washing dishes, to just sitting with me or taking me outside for a walk, you really helped to carry me through.

5. The young women of the Young Survival Coalition

It’s one thing to experience sympathy and empathy, but nothing helps like meeting others who understand because they’ve been there. I have written about the Young Survival Coalition before, and I’m sure I will do so again and again and again going forward. These girls are my confidants, my hand-holders, my glass of wine with a side of giggles, and my sneaking out from a vegetarian retreat to bring back a side of bacon.


5. Debbie Cantwell and The Pink Daisy Project

A breast cancer survivor herself, Debbie started The Pink Daisy Project to help other young women deal with the overwhelming facts of everyday life that pile up while battling this disease. She came to my rescue by sending grocery cards so I could buy diapers, and hired a cleaning crew when I was too sick to deal with housekeeping. Debbie is truly a hero. Stay tuned: I’ll have more to say about Debbie in future posts. 🙂

pink daisy project

6. Delia

Dee is one of my oldest friends, and she’s been there for me through thick and thin. When I was diagnosed, she flew out to be here with me during my mastectomy. She helped whip my house into shape while I was recovering, and watched the baby, and helped in too many ways to list in one post. She’s another one of those people that I can count on no matter what.

Judy and Dee

7. Old and New Friends; Some I’ve Never Met

Social media is an amazing phenomenon, and it has had a profound effect on my life. It’s brought me back into contact with old friends I haven’t seen in more than two decades, and it has introduced me to new friends, some I speak with every day, but have yet to meet face to face.  These friends have followed me through the ups and downs, provided encouragement, hope, sometimes a little gift or cash, an ear, a shoulder – and often at 3 in the morning, when normal people aren’t available.

So now I’m done with treatment. I’m still contending with some of the side effects. I have some neuropathy, the fatigue is still slowing me down, and I’m typing with one hand because my arm is bound up to treat the lymphedema. But these are little, non-life-threatening issues, and we can deal with that.

Right now, my heart is just full of gratitude.

Now, we are looking forward. We are looking forward to Aaron getting a job. We are looking forward to me finishing my degree. We are looking forward to Gem being potty trained, and learning to read, and getting ready for pre-school. We are looking forward to a long, happy, and healthy life together.

Love to you all.

Pinkwashing and Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Pinkwashing and Breast Cancer Awareness Month

As we wind down the end of October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’ve heard a number of complaints that go so far as to say we should just forget Breast Cancer Awareness Month altogether because of all the pinkwashing.

What is pinkwashing? When corporate jerks slap a pink ribbon on a product or service to increase the likelihood it will sell during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but little money, or even none, is actually forwarded on to the non-profits working to cure breast cancer or support those battling this disease.

Pinkwashing is infuriating. It turns my stomach that these corporate creeps are using my crisis to make a quick buck.

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

In the seven months since my diagnosis, I’ve met so many women, both here in Seattle and out on the interwebs, who found their lump in October. They found it because of all the chatter, all the pink, all the hype caused them to pause and take a second look at their own breasts. Breast Cancer Awareness Month saves lives.

I recently attended a lecture on breast cancer where I learned, among other things, that the most exciting advances in all of cancer research are happening in the field of breast cancer. Life expectancy is improving every year. Komen for the Cure is second only to the US Government in funding this research. That means all those walks and all those fundraisers really are saving lives. So thank you to all of you who walk or donate. You are making a difference.

The Pink Daisy Project and the Young Survival Coalition also receive a large percentage of their funding during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Rather than focusing on research, these organizations help women with breast cancer endure until we find a cure.

Both of these organizations have had a huge impact on my life. Imagination does not do justice to the financial and emotional devastation of a cancer diagnosis. When I was buried under a never-ending pile of housework that added up during treatment, and digging through the couch for change to buy diapers, the Pink Daisy Project took care of the practical concerns that come with battling cancer. They hired a house keeping service to help dig me out of the mess, and sent me grocery gift cards to buy the necessities of life. Each woman is helped in a way that meets their specific needs. They helped one young woman who was losing her battle with cancer to get family portraits before she passed away. It breaks my heart to think how much those photos meant.

The Young Survival Coalition (YSC) is saving my sanity. There are so many issues that come up for young women battling cancer that might be different for the 60 year old woman with breast cancer: parenting, early menopause, more aggressive cancers, higher mortality, sexuality, reconstruction, dating, marriage, fertility, pregnancy, and adoption just to name a few. Many YSC members were told by medical professionals that they were too young to have breast cancer. You can get breast cancer as soon as you hit puberty, and it is the leading cause of cancer death in women between the ages of 15 and 54. In addition to functioning as a support group for young women battling breast cancer, YSC is working to educate the public and the medical community about the growing number of women diagnosed so young, to encourage earlier diagnosis, and to better represent young women with breast cancer in the sample groups for medical trials.

Ending Breast Cancer Awareness Month would seriously impact the ability of these organizations to fund their good work. Sure, there is a buttload of money going into the pockets of corporate jerks that are just using us. But don’t let the fact that these corporate buttheads exist undo a good thing. Educate yourself. Take a close look at what you are buying. Does it just have a pink ribbon attached? Is there more information available about where the funds go – and how much? Remember even a penny is “a portion of the proceeds.”

Pay attention to what you are buying and Think Before You Pink. But lets keep Breast Cancer Awareness Month around for a while. We still need to cure this disease.