Getting Stoned in 2015

I found these rocks on a beach in Maine after George was diagnosed the first time with melanoma over 10 years ago.

I found these rocks on a beach in Maine after George was diagnosed the first time with melanoma over 10 years ago.

I’m a perpetual navel gazer, in fact I do it so often that my bellybutton may take out a restraining order on me any day now. So I’ll take any excuse to reflect, like say, the beginning of a new year.

I think back on the previous 12 months and wonder how we managed it all. I look over the pictures I posted on Facebook because, let’s be honest, that is now my photo album, and smile at the moments I shared with my friends and family. I take stock in what I have and whom I love, and I think about the parts of my life that I’d like to change. I also think about (especially over the last few years) the challenges I faced. Basically, I shake up the sand and see what comes loose.

As much as I might like others to catch my attention, it’s always the big-boulder issues that jut out toward the top; the kind with jagged edges that leave psychological cuts and bruises. I know them well, their permanent scars show in my deepest insecurities and chronically bad habits. For years I got pretty good at dodging them; it wasn’t worth the pain of getting close.

In my youth it was easier to turn my back on something painful in my life and pick one of the many visceral pleasures I knew would soothe my ache for the moment. But we all know what that gets you: 15 lbs., a monster Visa bill and a raging headache. Without facing my pain and expressing myself about it, all of my potential steppingstones remained barbed.

As I grew older, and with the help of careers, kids and cancer, I realized that avoidance was no longer a luxury I could afford. To make a lasting change in my life I couldn’t simply sidestep these sharp stones, I had to grab them with both hands, turn them over, investigate them from every angle and suffer the scrapes. It was the only way to create a path through my pain rather than a detour.

Ground down with honesty and reflection, smoothed with attention and familiarity, even the sharpest of edges became easy to touch. I could move and fit these rocks nicely together with other rounded ones from my past. Each painful experience honed and transformed to work together and create a foundation of emotional resilience. And with even more time those challenges, which once seemed huge and insurmountable, became manageable.

The smaller pebbles of my history settled toward the bottom, filling in the cracks of my personal strength, shoring me up for the times when I felt like I might break. Those stones of losing an important job, or the letter from my editor telling me to start again combined to form the base; the grains of my 6th grade heartbreak and getting out-touched in butterfly when I was 10 provided the grout.

At 43, I have come to the age when many of my contemporaries have begun experiencing tangible trauma, and irreplaceable loss. Some have lost parents, spouses and even children to illness and accidents. I see others providing long-term care to loved ones facing disease, at great cost to their own families. They are divorcing, deploying and depressed. Regardless of the circumstance, very few are escaping the damage that only true sorrow can bring.

These are situations that, on a good day, cut so deep and so wide the word “cry” can’t do justice to the kinds of sounds and faces you make — the ones that would terrify your kids if they ever saw or heard you. Even as a writer, I have yet to find a word that accurately describes the head pounding, chest aching sobs that make your heart hurt and you feel in the pit of your stomach.

My family and I have faced some hefty loss, too and it would be so easy to slide into anger, especially when it impacts the lives of children. I have often questioned what could possibly be the purpose of this much hurt for ones so young. But I refuse to accept that any pain we suffer is wasted, or that a tear we shed is in vain.

Instead, I choose to believe that every challenge we face head-on isn’t just important, it is essential to our development as individuals to grow and succeed emotionally. It is by turning those stones and filling in the mortar that we establish our strength. Each time we suffer pain it is simply a building block in transit.

I stand upright because I lost that job, suffered that heartbreak, and got out-touched in butterfly. Because all three of our children were admitted to the hospital before each was a year old. Because my dad died before he could read this. Because George used to have three brothers and now he has one. Because George got cancer and so did I. And because when I see my loved ones suffer my heart breaks. Those are some big, big rocks.

But I keep picking them up, turning them over, getting cut, and figuring out why. And if I spend time working on them I soften the edges enough (I hope) not to get hurt by them again. Then I put them down next to the other weathered rocks to help make me strong. And I do it over and over, building up my footing.

I have always felt that the greatest gift from God is perspective. Since pain can often be a breeding ground for myopia, a step up is a great tool to prevent me from getting stuck. With each stone under my feet my view gets bigger and better; I guess I can thank my struggles, in part, for that vista.

I know I have much to experience, much to learn, but with each challenge the process gets simpler. And I know that all of my challenges have worth. I’m not done building, but it’s a start.

Wishing you all a year of rounded rocks.

–b

Giving Thanks… For These Folks

I, like many, spent the weekend giving thanks: For my family, for my health, for my friends, and for public servants far and wide who sacrificed their holiday protecting civilians like me.

But some police and firefighters go beyond simply trying to contain crazy, tv-deal-grabbing discount hounds on Black Friday at Walmart, and for them I am especially grateful.  These brave souls have to hit the streets in vehicles decked out like this:

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And this:

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And even this:

Fire truck

I am a BC veteran and even I bow my head in sincere admiration; I know I couldn’t do it.

These folks work every day to ensure our safety. They rush in when others rush out, putting themselves and their lives at risk when we need them the most. Like at Walmart on Black Friday. Whether it’s an accident, medical emergency or a fire, they are there in a hurry to keep us safe.

My body has often felt like it was burning from the inside out, I might even say it was on fire, all courtesy of my hormone-fueled hot flashes. Perhaps someday there will be a separate firefighting unit dedicated to only this issue, and when you call 911 this guy would show up:

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Imagine the goodwill and smiles he would spread to the bc sisterhood; I certainly think I’d feel better. I’ve always said it takes a real man to wear pink —  or in this case a real hot man.

Man-oh-man, nothing says community helper like breast cancer!

 

Chickening Out

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My friend Jared and I have known each other for nearly twenty years. I have watched him morph from an 18-year-old college kid into a man with a wife and a son of his own. I think it’s fair to say that there are few people on this earth who make me laugh as much or as hard as Jared, so I always look forward to his texts. I can thank him for this gem.

I love it. I truly love it. It makes sense, it’s funny, and Boar’s Head was even kind enough to slap the ribbon on the low sodium version of their product; I could’t be more appreciative. Thanks to Jared, I don’t have much work to do on this one.

I mean seriously, nothing says chicken breasts like breast cancer!

Deal With It!

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I asked my friends to send me pics of items and I have to thank Melissa for this little gem. This is the first time I have ever seen a deck of cards adorned with the pink ribbon.

At least this item is novel and fun. So many other pink ribbon products range from head-scratchers to downright insulting. (More on those in posts to come.)

Now the hard part: Picking a tag line for this product’s bc campaign.

  • Nothing says getting dealt a bad hand like breast cancer!
  • I hoped my doctor was bluffing when he told me I had breast cancer!
  • Nothing says “I’ve got a great pair,” like breast cancer!
  • With genes like mine, boobs were always a gamble!
  • But with my shiny new pair, strip poker is a little less scary – thanks breast cancer!

Ok, I came up with those in about 5 minutes — now it’s your turn!

What a Hair-brained Idea!

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I would safely file this under “painfully ironic,” except someone actually had to approve this marketing plan.

As a quick reminder:

1. Most patients with anything other than early-stage breast cancer disease will probably require chemotherapy.

2. Chemotherapy kills quickly growing cells like cancer and…HAIR.

3. Patients who are receiving chemotherapy will lose the hair on their head and their face.

4. Therefore, they will have NO hair on their head to dry NOR eyebrows on their face to tweeze!

Good. Lord. People. Think before you pink!

I guess nothing says reminding patients how much they miss styling and plucking more than breast cancer!

Ribbon on the Edge

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For the last month or so, I have been posting pics of random pink-ribbon adorned items, generously forwarded to me by my friends, on my Facebook page. I have decided to add a handful to my Bets and Pieces site as well.

I actually saw this product for the first time last year but they went back for seconds, so I felt the need to give them a shout-out. Allow me to break down the multiple reasons why this pink ribbon campaign is so wrong it’s right:

1. Tears. I know, duh. But these are sweet onions. I can’t even claim the obvious “they both made me cry” line. Plus, who’d let me get away with anything that lame anyway?

2. The company is called Bland Farms. Bless their hearts. No wonder they need a pink ribbon on their onion bag to jazz things up – ’cause there isn’t much about breast cancer that I can think of that qualifies as bland!

3. They could have picked a more colorful red onion, but BLAND farms held true to their name and stuck with yellow. I mean seriously, can you imagine the marketing meeting on this one?

“I think we should really stick with sweet onions as opposed to the traditionally flavored, even if we can get the more colorful ones, otherwise we may send the wrong message.”
“Um, we’re selling fucking onions here.”

4. The fact that these onions have a FRENCH translation on the label! What the what???!! Guess Bland farms is a little saucier than I thought.

Oh sweet onions, thank you for once again making me smile. And for making me shake my head in sheer confusion at the same time.

Nothing says onions like breast cancer!

Breast Cancer’s Longest-Lasting Side Effect

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When I was asked to contribute a piece for Huffington Post’s series in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I thought about the myriad ways I could address the topic. I have tried to find the levity in the situation and have a running list of “Top Ten” this and thats regarding what it’s like to have had the disease and to have been treated for it.

I feel like it is important to highlight parts of the breast cancer life that others might not get to see or appreciate without someone else revealing it. I struggle with my own fear about the impact of cancer nearly every day in one sense or another.

Attached is the piece I wrote for Huffington Post. I hope that it may serve as an explanation for some, about the ongoing nature of what it feels like to wear these genes.

I Survived Breast Cancer, But Now I’m Afraid For My Kids