Oh, Hey October, Nice to See You Again

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Each October I try to develop some, funny coping strategy to help get me through the month of reminders. Everywhere I look, all I see is pink, and though some women take great comfort and strength in this which is great, for me it tends to throw a spotlight on lots of injustices: the fact that I got this cancer to begin with; the fact that so little of the money collected goes toward stage IV disease research; and that there are many cancers, more rare than mine, which get no funding as a result of sales boosts from a little piece of colored fabric.

One year I tried pulling out breast cancer “gifts” — little things that made my situation any more palatable. I truly enjoyed it. Then Last year, I casually started taking photos with my phone of items featuring pink ribbons in stores that I thought were hysterically inappropriate. I asked friends to click and send their own images to me via my Facebook page, and they obliged with amazing contributions. In fact they were so great that this year I decided to do it again.

Three advertisements caught the eye of my friend, Tracey yesterday. Below is my take on each:

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Okay, so, let me break this one down here. Actually, it’s not so far of a stretch since: A) My tissue expanders felt like two hard, apples on my chest. (Ask anyone who hugged me during that time to attest to that – they may still have bruises.) B) If I had been allowed, I’d have had at least a six pack of these every single night during treatment to escape. C) I did have quite a few drinks AFTER treatment was over to celebrate. However, it does sort of make me laugh that two of the things that all oncologists agree you should avoid following a BC diagnosis – booze and sugar! Methinks this beverage has both in abundance. Nothing says a cold, hard and refreshing escape like breast cancer!

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KFC. I’ll skip the obvious “chicken breast” reference since it’s far too easy and go right for the jugular on this one. I think it’s totally appropriate that they are pink for October. What better than a bucket of sh!t to represent Breast Cancer since, during treatment, that’s precisely how I felt. Nothing says Finger Lickin’ Good like breast cancer!

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I do think the trash can may be my fave. Only because I like it when everyone sees the sense of irony in a situation. You know, like how I felt like garbage, blah, blah, blah. It says to me that these folks MUST understand that humor in BC. I think anyone who has come in contact with me knows laughter is an essential piece of my life, but I do recognize that my sense of levity doesn’t necessarily match up with everyone else’s. This pic, though? It does. ‘Cause god knows I would trash this cancer crap. For EVERYONE. Plus, you know I had radiation, so I assume they incinerated those nasty little cells like they do with some of the trash I put in a container just like this one. Nothing says “I’ve got great cans” like breast cancer!

Nailed It

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For my twentieth wedding anniversary, I got a beautiful diamond solitaire. It stands high and proud, cradled in its six prongs, throwing sparkles in every direction from the light bouncing off its the facets. The only problem with it? It’s attached to my finger, which means people who look at it might follow the trail to my god-awful nail.

I have been a nail biter and cuticle picker, on and off, my entire life. Though I’ve gotten better (I no longer gnaw them down to the quick) each finger from my third knuckle up has paid the price for everything from my fear and anxiety to those pesky, extra-long stoplights. I came by the habit honestly; my father was a chronic nail biter, too.

Maybe it was because or in spite of this that both of my parents employed multiple tactics to try and get me to stop. “Betsy, get your fingers out of your mouth,” was the soundtrack of my youth.

As an adult I’ve tried just about everything:  Acrylic nails; it felt claustrophobic. Bitter nail polish; it washed away. I tried wearing gloves; I took them off. I tried will power; I clearly have none.

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I hate the habit. It embarrasses me on multiple levels. When I look at other women and see their luxurious, French manicures I’m envious not just for their nails, but for what I consider to be their obvious deflated stress level in comparison to mine. I feel weak; like I can’t handle my life, and that I have no choice but to take it out on my digits.

In a society where a mani-pedi is the ultimate in luxury and self-indulgence, I regularly have to turn down invitations from friends. Not because I don’t want to pamper myself, but because the idea of walking into a salon and having to show my jacked-up hands and feet to some poor, innocent professional would be beyond cruel. For both of us.

The worst part about my worst habit is how obvious it is. You use your hands to do so much that I find myself tucking my fingers under, wearing large bracelets to shift attention toward my wrists, and usually picking clothing with pockets, just to stuff my gnarled fingertips into so others can’t see them. Sometimes, though, there is no matter of disguise that will work and I can see the side-glances. Mortifying.

It’s not as if I don’t have things to stress over: Three kids, three dogs, my husband, my father and myself all diagnosed with cancer within a three-year span. A little nail-chewing is certainly legit. Still, I can’t quite forgive myself when I get all dolled up for a charity event, but the glam stops where the rings begin.

Once in awhile I will spot celebrities with the same, obvious affliction (Britney Spears and Tom Cruise are among them), and for some reason I feel better.

At this point I am resigned to the fact that the habit, like my stress and anxiety, ebbs and flows. I’m not sure how to “cure” it, but if Tom Cruise is truly a member of the club and Scientology didn’t help him, I think I’m doomed.

Thankfully, there have been some stretches in my life that were calm enough to allow my nails to grow past the ends of my fingertips. I looked at them and thought not “Wow, my nails look great,” but “Wow, things in my life must be calm!”

I wish I could say that my ultimate goal would be to forgive myself for my “short”comings, but ultimately I’d really just love to have so little anxiety that I’d be able to apply regular nail polish without embarrassment. For a long time. Maybe even in a salon.

Boys Will Be Boys, but Why Are They so Bad in Bathrooms?

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My husband and son have nightly pillow-talk sessions. My son always gets to pick the topic and, because he’s seven and his focus tends to change a lot, there’s no telling what will be discussed. I can hear bits of their talks from where I tend to sit in my bedroom and I can honestly say that eavesdropping on them is one of the highlights of my day.

On this evening’s agenda was our impending move to Maryland. More specifically the house we will be renting, which we found on our recent trip to the Bethesda area over spring break. Though I couldn’t hear all of the conversation, I could make out one piece of it. It seems my son was concerned about the cleanliness of the new house, specifically the bathrooms.

“Dad, the toilets were really gross,” I overheard my boy say with disgust. “They were so dirty, and the sinks and the showers, too. I don’t think that guy even cleans!”

He had a point. When we toured the place, it was obvious the current tenant must have had more, ahem, pressing matters than tending to household chores, but nothing a little elbow grease couldn’t handle. What I couldn’t figure out was why my son was even a tiny bit concerned about it.

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Now it might be understandable if he were a bit of a clean freak, but though my youngest has lots of qualities about him to love, keeping a sparkly bathroom isn’t one of them. I mean one shift of brushing teeth in the morning and the top of the vanity looks like a Crest-fueled Jackson Pollock painting. One time I actually found toothpaste on the underside of the toilet bowl. The idea that a finger touched a toilet and a toothbrush in such rapid succession, well, I just can’t even go there.

And speaking of toilets, please, is there some magical way for boys to get all of what is coming out of them in the bowl? At the age of three my middle son could throw a grape from across the dining table and knock over my daughter’s cup of milk. Yet he still, at age ten, seems to have trouble aiming one simple, tiny stream of liquid into a very large body of water by comparison. When exactly does this skill kick in? Because at this rate I’m ready to purchase stock in Clorox. Or yellow grout.

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Both of my boys seemed to have developed their own clever method of dealing with their poor aim issue: Just wash the floor with the water from the shower. How do they do this? Simple. Always, always forget to be sure the curtain liner is inside the tub while the shower is on . Within about three minutes after turning on the knob, the floor is completely soaked. Not long after that the dogs are marching down the hall and into the bathroom for their own special version of Slip-n-Slide.

Once the shower turns off, I hear the dreaded “whoa!” and know it’s time to grab the stack of rags reserved for just this occasion unless, of course, I happen to be out of earshot. If so I’ll usually come in to find a boy using one of the brand new bath towels to sop up water and muddy paw prints from around the base of the toilet. In which case I tell him to be sure to get the glob of toothpaste on the bottom of the bowl.

Sometimes the floor is magically dry, the vanity remains a blank canvas, and my boys each pitch a no-hitter into the toilet, but they still can’t seem to leave the bathroom without making their mark on it. So they use a time-honored tradition passed down for generations that has irritated mothers and kept otherwise perfectly clean bathrooms from ever staying that way: They leave me a “laundry love letter”.

A dirty sock, a pair of pants in a pile on the floor next to the shower (underwear still in them of course), or a used hand towel on the top of the toilet tank just for me. Just a little something to let me know they were there and not thinking of me. And I, in turn respond the way many a mother has before me: With an eye roll you, too.

So far our household has been very lucky. The boys have shared their own bathroom and my daughter has had one to herself; but in the next house, all three kids will need to use the same facilities. Unlike her brothers, my girl is known for keeping a sparkly bathroom.

I’ll hold out hope that maybe some of my daughter’s cleanliness will rub off onto her brothers. But my guess is that I should probably be bracing myself for the day when some of her brother’s toothpaste rubs off onto one of her favorite pieces of clothing.

Oh well, as long as it stays off the toilet I’ll consider it a step in the right direction.

Giving Thanks… For These Folks

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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:

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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!

Boy Oh Boy

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When George and I found out we were expecting our first child, we decided to let the gender be a surprise at the delivery. To be honest, for nearly the entire 9 months we waited, I was pretty sure it would be a boy. Why? Because God would know better than to give me a daughter.

I had been destined since childhood to have sons. The aunt I resembled most in my very large family? She had four sons. All of my favorite cousins? Boys. Growing up? Total tomboy. Most of my best friends in high school and college? Guys. Most of my best girlfriends? Girls who acted like guys. I was a “guy’s girl,” what on earth did I know about raising girls?

Well, take one look at our family photo and you can see that fortune telling is not my gift. Our daughter Emily was born more than 13 years ago and after some initial tears of terror, convinced I would get it all wrong, I am pleased to say that, so far, I think we are doing okay. She has developed into an amazing young lady who is far cooler than her mother ever was at her age.

Thankfully though, God found it fitting for me to have a couple of boys to round out the picture, so now I am blessed with what I had envisioned and dreamed of for so long. I have that distinct boy energy, that boy enthusiasm, that boy zest for life around me all the time. All. The. Time. I now know I was meant to have boys in my life. I also now know God was meant to invent noise-canceling headphones.

Our boys are very different in temperament. Liam is gentle, subdued, and calm. Jackson is chatty, bouncy, and funny. But there is one thing these boys share in common: Noise. Lots and lots of noise.

I am by no means silent, but these boys are l-o-u-d. I mean, they give new meaning to the word. I never knew one child weighing in at fifty pounds could sound like 14 people, in army boots, each carrying a rucksack weighing 27 pounds, coming down the steps, backward. Every door, cupboard, or drawer closing can give me a coronary from any room in the house. We thought we had the perfect solution when we bought Jackson a dresser with drawers that magically shut, softly. Obviously we took the fun out of actually closing them because this is what we now find.

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But it isn’t just being rough that creates the volume. If our boys can’t make noise with the object itself, they will create a soundtrack with their mouths. Actually, allow me to clarify, they will create a soundtrack with any body part available, but most often it ends up being with their mouths. Gunshot blasts, explosions, machete slices, you name it. ANY activity can generate an accompaniment worthy of the Boston Pops.

One evening Jackson, five at the time, came running over to the dinner table looking like he had seen a rocket ship land in his backyard. “Guys, I have GREAT news,” he said. “I just learned how to fart with my armpit! Listen and learn.” At which point he entertained us with his armpit concerto.

And then of course, there is the yelling at one another. For some reason Jackson has decided that he who screams the loudest, wins. Unfortunately, he’s the only one in on that plan so it takes his older brother and sister approximately 2.8 seconds to needle him enough to elicit the loudest “STOOOOOOOOOP!” he can manage, usually before 7am.

Even worse than lots of noise? None. Any parent of boys can tell you this. Imagine, you are home; boys are upstairs with friends, and then…silence. Not good. The last time I experienced this I walked down the hall in time to see Jackson hurling his lithe little body from one end of our den to the other, between the sofa and the ottoman. But since all that was viewable was the door frame, I just saw Jackson — flying. It was only because these two pieces of furniture were padded and he hadn’t hit the floor (yet), that I heard nothing. Or there was the time I walked upstairs to find a collection of neighborhood kids trying REALLY hard to throw their Legos up into the ceiling fan 10ft. above them. It was their intense concentration on timing their throws just right that kept them so quiet. Luckily we managed to walk away from that one with only a few chips in the paint and not broken windows. Or broken teeth.

Whether it’s the loud or quiet variety, boys bring with them a noise and energy all their own and I wouldn’t trade it. They are unbridled, eager, and full of spice — they are alive. And nobody sleeps harder than a tired boy after a long day of play, except maybe their mother. But today I, for one, will still be picking up the trail of socks, toys, books, and paper airplanes my boys have cast aside, all in a day’s work. Because boys have one other thing in common: Messes.

Don’t even get me STARTED about the messes.

Five Awesome Breast Cancer Gifts

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Cancer can take away so much, and yet nothing in my life has taught me more about myself or revealed more to me about others. So in essence, cancer is a gift. I know, I know, for the Hnaths it’s the gift that keeps on giving! Ba-dum-bum.

In my traditional glass-is-half-full approach, I hope you will forgive me if I take an opportunity to offer up what I have been GIVEN by this insidious disease. And if you, or someone dear to you, has battled it, feel free to comment on what cancer has done FOR you, too.

I have added to my list over the last year, and will continue to do so, but I think these are my top five to this point. I will post some more every so often. Enjoy!

  1. Never again will I feel compelled to scramble to find something pink to wear to my kids’ Breast Cancer Awareness basketball games. I. Am. Aware.
  1. Finally proof that Angelina Jolie and I share more in common than simply a love of bad-ass tattoos and hot husbands. BRAC- POSITIVE FOREVAHHH, BABYYYY!!
  1. Because my genes decided to revolt, I am, at the ripe old age of 42, the first of my friends to be officially menopausal. (Does that make me a Meno-pioneer? A Mentor-pause?) So I will never again have to find creative ways to carry or conceal “feminine” products. Awwww yeahhhh. You’re jealous, admit it.
  1. Having any hair = Good hair day
  1. Three little words I never expected being able to incorporate into my vocabulary: Bras are optional. That’s right ladies, read it and weep.