Sunday, March 24, 2013


The Big "C"
The "C" word

No matter how you put it, cancer sucks.  There is no way around it.  It seems that I am reminded of this more and more every day--especially of late.


Is it because I am getting "increasingly more mature" (ie. getting older)?  

I guess it could be.  As we approach our 50's that is when our bodies start to fail.  Why does it seem to me that I feel healthier than I did in my 30's?  I am conscious about what I put in my body, and I exercise.  So do most of those around me.  Doesn't diet and exercise help to prevent cancer?   My hope is that it will prevent a recurrence for me.  So why hasn't it for those around me?

 Is it because I have surrounded myself by those fighting for a cure?  

Well, that makes sense too.  Before I was diagnosed, I only knew of two people who had cancer.  One was my best friend's dad, and the other was a family friend.  Back then, they were both considered "older" to me.  Through my affiliation with Komen and TWP, I often feel surrounded by cancer.  On a daily basis I am either hearing an update on someone's battle, or I am being asked to say an extra prayer for a friend in need.  The more people you know with cancer is relative to the amount of people you know.  I guess I could just know a lot of people.  Because of what I experienced, maybe I am more empathetic to the situations around me.  I wonder if I would be the same way if my life had been different.  I would like to think that I would still be trying to make a difference, but I don't know. 

Is it because years ago we never talked about it?  

Quite possibly so.  As a kid, do you ever remember your parents saying the word "cancer?"  Not in my house, and my parents are young.  It was that someone was very sick.  Never even mind the word "breast."  Maybe it is that cancer was just as rampant, but people couldn't make themselves say the words because the unknown beast was just too scary to them.  

Is it because we have the advanced technology to know that someone has cancer?

I'm sure that is part of it.  The survival rates for all types of cancer have increased over the years, especially in the last five.  If it hadn't been for ultrasound, I may not have known I had cancer when I did.  I was one of the ones whose mammogram came back clear.  Luckily for me, I had a doctor who requested more testing.  If it had been 10-15 years earlier, would I be a seven year survivor?  Maybe not.  When a woman is diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, she has a 90-95% five year survival rate.  When I look at that in teacher terms, that's an "A." Years ago, maybe that person would have died.  Now they are surviving, and many are living life as if nothing ever happened.  They wear their survivorship on their sleeve, like a badge of honor.  They have faced the enemy, and won the battle.   

Looking at the broader picture, I guess that we recognize that there is so much cancer because of all the aforementioned reasons.  Putting all these reasons together does not make it any more bearable.   Each and every time I hear of someone starting their fight against cancer, or having a set back as the result of a chemo regimen not working, I am just as affected as I was the time before; however, there are times when it hits me like a punch in the face.  This is one of those times.  

Then I think about how much more fulfilling my life has become because of cancer.  Part of the cancer battle is remaining positive--mind over matter.  I like to think I am a better person because of cancer.

I look at Tina.  She has shown so much fortitude and courage.  She stayed strong throughout Emma's battle, ensuring that her daughter would too, and never gave up hope.  I know that each day must be a struggle for her.  She has now taken her experience and is giving back to the children of MGH by donating Pillow Pets and Nooks.  She was even named to Mass General's prestigious list--"The One Hundred" as one of the volunteers whose "diligence, philanthropy and passion have helped advance the fight against cancer."  I am so happy that she will be honored at this exclusive event. 

Of course there is Bridget, who is now Komen's face of breast cancer.  She has inspired hope in so many women all around the country with her words and her heart.  I believe that she will continue to make a difference in years to come.  She will be leaving her legacy.  I can't imagine what my 3-Day experience would have been like without meeting her.  Life is so not fair.

But Maurine is in my heart most of all these days.  Like B, she inspires, but I just can't explain Mo to you if you haven't met her.  She is one of a kind.  Her infectious sense of humor brings a chuckle to all those she encounters.  When I think of the funniest moments with TWP, you can bet that Mo is in 90% of them, like when she tells the story of her prosthesis falling out of her bathing suit and floating in the water or when she says, "Next year I'm going to do this walk on a bicycle" in our video.  Her uplifting spirit and zest for life are contagious.  No matter how increasingly difficult her battle is becoming, she continues to bring a smile to those around her.

As many of us have said, time and time again, yes, cancer truly sucks.  We cannot let it take control.  We cannot just sit back and watch it consume those surrounding us.  We must take a lesson from those fighting this battle.  We need to smile, look cancer in the face, and say, "F-YOU!"  


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

TWP--Making the Most of Each Day

Here in New England you would have no idea that spring is arriving in just a few days.  Fortunately for me, I have taken this 6th snow day to freshen up my blog.  It has been long forgotten.  When I don't write, I really miss it; however, as with many things, I seem to get into a routine, and when I finally do sit down to write, I find everything in my power to procrastinate.  No more delaying.  I have LOTS to share!

Well, the 3-Day season is upon us.  It has taken awhile, but I am finally starting to get excited.  I don't know why.  It could be that it is different without Bridget at the helm of the Boston 3-Day.  This time last year I was getting frequent emails with requests for GSMs or other 3-Day events. I miss hearing from her.  She is such a trooper, still fighting the fight.  I admire her so much, being 29 years old and having more grace and dignity in her pinky than most people have overall.  She will be in my heart every single step of that 60 miles.

Many of you may be aware that this year's TWP 3-Day walkers will look a little different.  A few women in our group have decided to take some time off from walking to focus on our non-profit, which is growing so rapidly that we desperately need them to do this.  I appreciate what a difficult decision this was for them.  They have assured me that they will always be part of the 3-Day, and that the 3-Day will be part of them.  At first I was terribly sad.  I really couldn't imagine doing this walk without Patty and Cheryl, but then I thought about it.  We are going to have the best walker-stalkers ever!!!  Look out Pink Angels!  Cheryl and Michele did such a bang-up job escorting us on the Jimmy Fund Walk that I can't even imagine what the 3-Day will be like.

The most exciting news that I have to share in regard to the 3-Day has to do with Boston's Youth Corps.  Drum roll please...Maddie and Mia are members of the 2013 Boston YC!  Wahoo!  We are all so excited!  For those who don't know, YC is made up of twenty 10-16 year olds who crew the 3-Day.  They work at pit stops, set up tents, help around camp, and, most importantly, cheer on the walkers.  To be selected for YC is no easy task.  The girls had to write several short essays and have a phone interview.  Fortunately, they were selected out of 50 applicants!   It shouldn't be a surprise to me--they have been preparing for this role for seven years!  They have already started fundraising, and are doing better than I am!  Each one of them has to raise $500, but they hope to raise more.  Both girls are almost half way there.  I am such a proud Mama!  If you would like to donate to them, I have included links to their 3-Day pages:  Maddie's page, Mia's page.  If you are feeling generous, I am accepting donations too!  Just click the link on the side of the page.

In addition to all the 3-Day excitement that is building, Tough Warrior Princesses, the non-profit, is growing and reaching more people.  All the members of our Executive Board work full-time.  What was supposed to be a part-time gig has developed into so much more. We have had to evolve and change.  We are not just that group of women who walk for breast cancer.  We donate money to cancer research.  We educate the public.  We provide support to women affected by ANY cancer.  That support has been emotional, physical, and financial.  When I become overwhelmed with what the future holds for TWP, I have to take a step back and relish in all we have done.  So here is the highlight reel...
  1. TWP has raised almost $250,000 for research.
  2. We received our first grant last year!
  3. We had 3 unbelievably successful Silent Auctions
  4. Threw a Princess Tea Party
  5. Provided daily transportation to Dana Farber for a friend in need
  6. Provided daily meals for that friend too!
  7. Gave 20 survivor baskets to women
  8. We "Lit the Town Pink"
  9. Created Amesbury Cancer Awareness calendars
  10. Banded 30 people together 2 weeks before the Jimmy Fund Walk to raise $15,000 in honor of Emma
  11. Partnered with the YWCA in Newburyport
  12. Gave an extra-special Christmas to a young woman and her family
  13. Provided gift cards and financial support to several women 
Personally, I think that list is pretty impressive, especially considering I never thought I would be a part of something so meaningful.

The best part is that this list is growing.  We have two exciting endeavors in the works. First, I recently received an email from the Director of Programs at the Commonwealth Newburyport Cancer Center.  They want to develop a partnership with TWP.  This is exactly what we have been hoping for.  Through this partnership, we hope to assist more women.  Patty and I will be going on a tour of the facility next week and meeting to discuss our future endeavors.  We will be working together to plan a Survivor's Day Celebration scheduled for June 27th at the Firehouse in Newburyport.  We will keep you up to date as details arrive.  In the meantime, there is a great workshop scheduled for this week:

The second piece of exciting news began last week with an email from our friend CJ.  For those that remember our video, yes it feels like forever ago, CJ was a member of the production staff.  You may recall me talking about our film posse who followed us around those 3 memorable days in July.  CJ was our lead guy.  Our crew is honestly one of the main reasons that TWP came to be what it is today.  Without the exposure from that film, we would probably still be struggling to grow our membership and get our name out.  That film showed us that we truly can make a difference.  For that I am forever grateful.  As I sat in Trader Joe's parking lot that afternoon, ready to make the hour trek home from work, I decided to quickly check my email.  It was exciting to hear from CJ, but the reason we were hearing from him was even better.  CJ is working with a Florida based company called Just LiveJust Live is a lifestyle/fitness apparel company.  Their vision is to provide people with the inspiration to make the most of each day.  CJ's email was suggesting that we partner up with Just Live and make another video of the 3-Day!  While I was absolutely thrilled, I felt that TWP had changed in the last few years.  We are much more than walkers.  I believe there is a greater story to tell--many stories.  Who were we to turn down more fame, so we agreed to a conference call with Jared, the owner of Just Live.  A couple hours and another phone call later, we have struck up a partnership.  Both CJ and Jared saw what we see in the TWP.  They, too, recognized there is so much more, and they believe that we embody the mission and ideas of Just Live.  That being said, we are embarking on another new journey and partnership.  CJ hopes to share our story while promoting Just Live.  I have great faith in him and our future together.

So, the future is brimming with opportunity for the TWP.  I look forward to sharing this excitement with all of you!