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I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin & a best friend. I am a poet, a lawyer & a survivor. I've learned that God will give you a second chance.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Brave II


Saturday I posted about the song Brave by Sara Bareilles. The song is about being brave and being true to yourself by being wholly you. But it is also about being brave in the face of adversity. Saturday night I attended a fundraiser for a young woman who is dying from Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. Her aunt, Ivette is a co-worker. Our relationship is one of colleagues since we work in different offices, but our departments intersect quite a bit.
Several of us from work attended the fundraiser. We sat together as friends more than as co-workers. There were inside jokes and idle gossip, but there was also a solidarity that we were there for Ivette. We know Ivette from work, and we love Ivette. We want her to know that she is not alone as she faces this family tragedy.
It was difficult for me to attend. I wanted to be there more than anything else. I wanted to show support but was uncertain about what I might encounter; what could I say to this family? You see, while everyone’s life has a limit, Ivette’s niece has been given a death sentence all too early. What could I possibly say to show my support? While I understand the disease I cannot offer words of hope to someone who is dying. I can’t say “Hang in there. Things will be ok” because they won’t.
Jeannette is 30 years old, with two children and has been given months to live. She was there. She stood tall and proud. She worked her way through the room, stopping at each table to say “thank you” to the guests that had attended. There were hugs and pictures with friends. Aunt Ivette sat with us. Both she and Jeannette knew we were there for Ivette. In many ways the fundraiser was a celebration of Jeannette’s life. But it was also a time for her friends and family to say “good-bye.”
What struck me was how brave this young woman truly is. In the face of adversity she showed up. She is sick. She is dying. Yet she rallied her strength to come out for an evening event filled with people and entertainment. I am sure she was exhausted the next day. And she was bald. I was so proud of her. I know the courage that it took. Many people commented on the fact that she showed up bald. No wig. No scarf. No hat. Bald. One of my friends captured the moment when she said, “Look how beautiful she is.”
Yes, she is and always will be beautiful. And she is brave.

 

 
If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Brave



I heard that Sara Bareilles wrote this song for a friend who is struggling with coming out. I understand that the phrase “coming out” usually means a disclosure to family and friends that you are gay. But before I learned her reason for this song it had touched my heart for another reason.

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer I kept the diagnosis to myself. My husband knew. I was slow to disclose to my family and only a select few knew the diagnosis before I had surgery. Once I knew I would undergo chemotherapy I told my close circle of friends. Once I lost my hair, everyone knew.
I was quite brave when it came to going bald. No, nt really. I was terrified and all I wanted to do was crawl under the covers and hide. But that was not the reality I was facing. So I became stubborn. I decided on hats. No wigs. I was not going to hide. My attitude was: If I have to go through this, you’re all going through it with me. My husband says I gave the world the finger. And he is right. In my own way I was telling cancer to f**k off. (I have a little bit of my father in me).
Being brave in the face of adversity is not the same bravery of this song. The bravery in this song is about living it every day. It is about being wholly who you are, who you are called to be. I know my story has a purpose. I want to share it. But I struggle with being “the face” of someone who has survived cancer. I can talk to people who already know. I bet I could even talk to an audience of strangers. I struggle with telling someone for the first time.
After completing treatment, passing the bar exam, and leaving my financial aid job I found myself faced with the unknown. I had a temporary job in Worcester. After ten wonderful months that allowed me to heal emotionally while making new friends I landed my current (paying) job. A job that I love. The job that is a perfect fit between my years of experience and my law degree. However, I was now faced with a new workplace family that did not know my story. And I wanted to keep it that way. Or so I thought.
I became friends with two of my co-workers. Close work friends. You know the kind; you can talk about anything and everything about work. And you can share your personal story. You can even get together outside of work for a cup of coffee or go to each other’s homes for a visit. They become part of your life. But they didn’t know my story. As women we would talk about clothes and hair. We would make jokes and laugh at mutual adversities that being a woman entails. Every once in a while I would find myself about to say something about my hair that only those who “knew” would understand, and I would find myself holding back. I couldn’t be myself.
And then I started having anxiety attacks. On a visit to my oncologist I found my heart racing and my blood pressure rise. In fact, my doctor commented on my heart rate. She dismissed it as “white coat syndrome” and I let it go. The truth is, I felt that I was lying. I was lying to my new friends. I was lying to my co-workers. I was lying to myself about who I am today. So I took them aside, closed the office door, and came out.

After that it was easier to quietly disclose my history to my co-workers. I’m able to talk about it in quiet conversation. And I’m willing to answer questions, share my knowledge, and speak up when I want to. I am also a friend to those in need. I have been introduced to friends of friends. I am here to listen, and love, and support. Yes, I am a reluctant survivor but I know my story has a purpose.

I just need to be Sara Bareilles brave.
If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Souvenirs You Never Lose

And scars are souvenirs you never lose
The past is never far
Did you lose yourself somewhere out there?
Did you get to be a star?
And don’t it make you sad to know that life
Is more than who we are?
-       The Goo Goo Dolls; Name

I often think about this song; especially the line “scars are souvenirs you never lose.” My friend Christine is recovering from Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. She is well on her way through recovery, but she will never be the same. She recently posted this quote from Khalil Gibran:

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

A friend responded with this quote from Chris Cleave:

“We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means I survived.”

The song by the Goo Goo Dolls goes on to say that the past is never far. This is so true when you are looking at your scars. I see my scars every day. Yes, every day. There are mirrors in my bathroom, and when I step out of the shower I am reminded of who I am today. I am lucky I didn’t lose myself, though that could easily happen to any of us faced with tragedy.

I’m not sure I understand the line “don’t it make you sad to know that life is more than who we are?” because I am glad that life is more than just me or just who I am. In fact, life is more than just individuals and how we interact. In so many ways the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. What we give to each other through our actions, friendships and love is bigger than just you and me. That legacy goes on through the years and can touch generations. In fact, I am touched today by people I never met because someone, at some time, had an impact on my parents, my siblings, my friends. Yes, life is more than who we are. And no, it don’t make me sad.

I don’t like my scars. I don’t hate them, but I don’t love them either. I look at them and they are a reminder of days (and months) gone by. In some ways I have accepted them as part of who I am now. It’s almost like they’ve always been there, and it has been less than six years. My scars are deep. I will never be whole again. At least not physically. And while my scars are souvenirs I’ll never lose, I have emerged stronger and my scars mean that I survived.

 

 
If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Public Rant

I don't like to rant in public. In fact, I don't think it's a good idea. I will rant to colleagues at work, or to friends and family in a private conversation. But I don't think it's a good idea to put it in writing because once it is published you can't take it back. Oh, you can delete a post, but once it's on the Internet it's not really gone.

When I need to rant I will write, and write, and write until I get it all out. However, I keep it to myself. I will then write an opinion piece, with links to resources that have helped form my opinion, and share that with the public. I do try to be reasonable.

Lately I've been wanting to rant about those who express an opinion as if it were fact. It seems to be happening a lot lately; at least in my world. A friend of mine posted this picture on Facebook and it pretty much sums up how I've been feeling.


Enough said.







If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Kiwi the Shelter Kitty

I first learned of Kiwi the Shelter Kitty from Homer, the blind wonder cat who is featured in Gwen Cooper’s Homer's OdysseyI began following Kiwi the Shelter Kitty on Facebook because she has the same name as my Forever Young kitty, Kiwi. Kiwi the Shelter Kitty passed away yesterday. She was diagnosed with granulomatous neoplasm in her lung; in other words, she had lung cancer. She died during surgery.

My own Kiwi had a recent health issue that resulted in surgery and a change of diet due to calcium oxalate stones in her bladder. Of course my mind went straight to “cancer” while we were trying to determine the cause of her litter box problems. In the end, surgery was necessary because none of the non-surgical treatments worked.

Today, my heart is breaking. My heart breaks because a family has lost their dear companion, who was only eight years old. More than that, my heart breaks because our animal companions can, and sometimes do, get cancer. My heart will always break when I learn the news of a cancer diagnosis. A little bit of me will be taken away each time, until there is a cure.

Rest in peace, sweet Kiwi the Shelter Kitty. And for those of you who share your home with a four-foot, furry animal companion, give them an extra kiss and belly rub tonight.
Kiwi the Shelter Kitty


P.S. Kiwi the Shelter Kitty’s medical bills are in the thousands and not covered by insurance. If you wish to make a donation to help defray the costs, you can do so at YouCaring.



If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Summer of Transition

Do you remember the summer after you graduated from high school? I do. And while it does not seem like yesterday, it is hard to believe that it has been over 30 years. A summer filled with parties, going to the movies and hanging out with my boyfriend. My friends consisted of those who were home for the summer after their first year in college; they regaled us with tales of their freshman year. There were also friends who would stay behind for their last year in high school. It was a summer of excitement and anticipation. It was a summer for making memories and saying “good-bye.” It was a summer of transition.

My Goddaughter, Kate graduated from high school on Father’s Day. She goes by Kate now. She is no longer Peanut or Katie. That happened sometime over this past year. She is done with high school and is going away to college in September. She turned 18 two weeks after her graduation. That seems about right. She is now an adult.
I was at her graduation and found myself getting a little misty with sentiment. We recently went shopping together to buy things for her dorm room. We spent time talking about adult matters as well as giggling over boys like teenage girls will do. And I realized that my sentiment isn’t just about her milestone; her transition is also mine. We (she and I) made it to her graduation.

You see, in a moment of weakness filled with tears of fear, I gave God my wish list. Seeing Kate graduate from high school was on that list.

She has so much to look forward to; so many new and exciting adventures. In fact, she and I are planning her semester abroad because, of course, I will have to visit her. But for now, I would tell her to enjoy this summer. Take every opportunity to hang out with your friends. Eat ice cream. Go to the movies. Don’t pick on your younger sister too much; she’s going to miss you. (Really, she is). Oh, and indulge your mother and her best friend as we try to capture those last moments of your childhood before we release you to the world.

I love you, Kathryn Rose.

 

 
If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor.