Monday, January 24, 2011

2011--A Big Year

2011--This is a BIG year for me.  There was a time almost 5 years ago when I wondered if I would see this year.  This spring I will celebrate 5 years of survival.  In the world of breast cancer, that is a HUGE anniversary.  Over the last few years there have actually been times when I have forgotten that I had cancer.  They are most always times when I am doing something fun with my family--skiing, sitting on the beach at the Cape, running around Amesbury for M & M's Amazing Race birthday party, and several others. In the beginning, I never thought that would happen.  Mind you, these times are not always frequent, but they are there.  What exactly does that mean?  To me, it means that I am doing everything I can to stop this cancer from invading my body once again.  When I was first diagnosed, no one would have anticipated that I would run a 5K and then actually continue to run after the race.  I also never expected that I personally would raise almost $20,000 for breast cancer research--I had a hard time selling Girl Scout Cookies when I was a kid!  But to me, the most important thing in warding off my cancer is surrounding myself with positive energy--energy from me, my family, my friends, and of course the TWP's!  The people in my life are the ones that have gotten me through these five years.

Over the last few days I have been very nostalgic, reflective, and super emotional.  If I wasn't in menopause, I would think that I was PMSing.  Many of you have heard of my friend Bridget, and hopefully have read her blog My Big Girl Pants through the links I have shared.  If you have not, you really should read it.  Bridget is a 28 year old woman who has been living 6 years with metastatic breast cancer.  If you look in the dictionary, next to the word "hope" you will see Bridget's name.  Every time I read what she has written, I remember how fortunate I am to be surrounded by caring and inspirational people.  That in turn, brings me back to that summer five years ago.  I am sure that everyone of you have been in the situation that my family and friends were in that summer.  What do I say to her?  Can I do anything to help?  Does she want to talk about it, or should I just ignore it and pretend life as usual.  When I was diagnosed, I was very open about my situation--hiding it was not going to make it go away.  I am a high school teacher and a firm believer in teachable moments.  For that reason, I just opened up and let everyone in--family, friends, and students alike.  Because of this, I was lucky enough to have my friends do some really cool things for me.   I would love to list everything that they have done for me over time, but there is absolutely no way I could; however, I will include some of my favorites--a video of faculty and students wishing me well as I started chemo, a pajamagram, my red lipstick on the day of my mastectomy, Dream Dinners from Zach's baseball team, Tracy's picture of her photoshopped bald head, the basket of gift cards and activities for the kids from Zach's kindergarten class, my radiation kit, the hundreds of cards that hung on a bulletin board in my computer room for over a year, my surprise visit on my last day of chemo, and probably one of my personal favorites--house cleaning (something I have continued in the following years!)  Why do I tell you this?  Because it is so important to reach out to friends and family in need.  Most likely, they don't know what to say either.  If they don't want you around, they will let you know.  Nothing is lost by making an effort.

So, making an effort.  That is what I am planning to do.  The other day Patty and I sat at lunch talking about our upcoming speaking engagement.  Yep, we have been asked to speak at the Haverhill Rotary Club in March.  We were discussing the approach we were going to take, and Patty shared her New Year's resolution with me--"BE MORE."  It struck me.  I can do that. I can be a better parent, friend, and teacher.  I can work harder.  I can raise more money.  I can beat cancer.