From Cancer

Me & My Mini Me (a short history of some of the videos we made)

August 22, 2012 Before the VLOG we just texted back and forth and I superpower wish I had those old videos, but this is the first time I VLOGGED about Maya.

2 We had a thing about sock monkeys. This is a video I made for her September 14, 2012

3 Sept. 15, 2012 that time i interviewed Maya for my VLOG in which she shares her superpower: that smile. aka the day when Maya stole everybody’s hearts on my VLOG (not to mention the heart of my VLOG and the VLOG itself).

4. Mason Arts Festival Sept. 17, 2012

5. Oct 2, 2012 the first time Maya hijacked my vlog and i knew it was time to dust off the old resume and start hitting the pavement looking for a new job

6. Oct 4, 2012 that time I literally had to picket even for a cup of coffee when my sweet mini me Maya the Magnificent hijacked my VLOG for the Taking Down Cancer segment of the show, for a second time. Despite the loss of my non-existent wages for my VLOG “job” these were my most fave times in the history of my VLOG not to mention some of the most precious moments of my life.

7. Oct. 10, 2012 Just another time Maya took over my VLOG—had me dragged away even, LMFAO!

8. Nov. 30, 2012 Maya’s laugh on #helium. Best. Sound. EVER. in the history of the world.

9. Dec. 10, 2012 Maya aka the Claw Whisperer

10. feb 5, 2013 Hijacked again! Maya takes over my VLOG and takes down cancer #mayacraft style

11. feb 17, 2013 that time maya came with me to get my dragonfly tattoo and her mama brought mimosas.

12. March 7, 2013. that time i ran the jerusalem half marathon with maya in my heart and her name on my shirt.

13. march 20, 2013. That time i prayed for maya at the wailing wall.

14. April 29, 2013 Maya, her purple crayon, and my purple mane.

15. April 30, 2013 Maya’s Magnificent Idea: #RAK the best kinda antidote to random acts of violence.

16. July 12, 2013 Like Mama like Maya

17. August 10, 2013 that time Maya’s magnificent mama jumped on the bed to wake Maya and her sister Anna up for me.

18. Aug 20, 2013 Pink & Blues sisters. once upon a time when we got our hairs colored together.

19. Aug 26, 2013 my rainbow sock monkey twin my mini me gave me

20. feb 24, 2014 reality bites. my fist attempt at spoken word. i wrote this after my friend vanessa died. she is the inspiration for my vlog. that same week maya’s mama and i went to the funeral of a little girl. this kills me to watch it. missing v. but also knowing that i could say it all again with maya on my mind. i’m wearing the stupid cancer tshirt maya gave me.

21. april 14, 2014 the flight of lovely dragonflies That time Maya, our friend Suleika Jaouad, and I were conspiring to do an epic event for The Dragonfly Foundation. Cancer doesn’t exactly cooperate, and the event didn’t go down but damn we had fun dreaming. Suleika is a beautiful soul who has dealt with the same kinda #AML#fuckcancer that Maya dealt with. She chronicled her battle in her “Life Interrupted” column for the The New York Times. And won an EMMY for her NYT video series. Maya adored her. She was one of her sheroes. And is one of mine.

22.  June 1, 2014 A video I made for Maya cuz URANUS gas. In which she (and savannah) once again hijacked the taking down cancer segment of the show by kicking cancer’s uranus gas.

23. June 13, 2014 That time I caught up with Suleika and 1)score an EMMY 2) prove the detour sometimes IS the destination 3) muse upon the notion of sprinkling kindness.

24. Aug 23, 2014 That time Maya and I did the ALS #icebucketchallenge and Anna Awesome Sauce dropped almost all of the ice freaking cold water on my head!

25. Oct 14, 2014 This is one of my faves. Just a day in the life. Maya and me. Goofing off and sending videos back and forth.

26. Feb 16, 2015 At the Dragonfly gala with Maya and crew

27.  Feb 24, 2015 just a video exchange with maya once when she was bored in the waiting room at the dr’s office.

28.  Pie Day 2015 Maya’s not in this one but I did it for Dragonfly.

29. Sept 1, 2015 Dear Cancer, a spoken word retrospective on my 7 year cancerversary, in which I speak of my purpose of being a cancer activist, especially when it picks on kids.

30. July 4, 2016 A taking down cancer I made with Yoss and Freddy for Maya shortly after she went back to the hospital for her 3rd damn battle with AML.

31. July 15, 2016 Another video exchange with Maya while she was at Children’s in the thick of her third damn battle with AML, in which she gave me a tour of her room!

32. Another taking down cancer video I made for Maya, and also I gave her a reciprocal tour of my balcony.

33. July 18, 2016 A video I made to send Maya with a bunch of my friends at a local storytelling event in Cincinnati called Bespoken Live. It’s an evening of crafted storytelling riffing off a four letter word. Kinda like The Moth. The word of the evening was FREE.

34. Aug 11, 2016 A video my Redheads and I made for Maya in which we take down cancer in a pool and then Amanda sings the Cancer is a Bitch song she wrote for me.

35. August 14, 2016 Maya and I made this taking down cancer video when I visited her at Children’s Hospital, right before she went to St. Jude for the 3rd bone marrow transplant.

36.  sept 12, 2016 a play it forward challenge video I made for Maya’s magnificent mama and Maya

37.  March 16, 2017 just a video dave and i made for maya cuz we lava her

38. Oct. 8, 2017 And last but not least, the video I made for her at the queen bee 1/2 marathon this year, which i ran in memory of her.

 

Sometimes The Stars Align… and Sometimes The Sky Falls

[I am reposting this #tbt in honor and sweet memory of my little warrior sister, Maya the Magnificent aka my mini me. I wrote it 3 years ago. A time part of me wishes I had the superpower to throw back this Thursday to. My sweet Maya finished her loooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnngggggg battle against #AML #fuckcancer. 9/12/03 – 10/2/17. She was only 14. #butthoughshebebutlittleshewasfierce She was 6 when she got diagnosed with AML. 3 battles. 3 bone marrow transplants. Think about it. Half. Her. Short. But. Sweet. Life. She spent her last year at St. Jude fighting for her life. Every damn day. 365. She had her 3rd bone marrow transplant the day after her 13th birthday. She spent her entire year of being 13 in the hospital fighting for her life. She turned 14 in the hospital. She finished her fight a few days after she turned 14. The last video I got from her was of her opening up the birthday presents I sent her. A nurse walked in and interrupted her and kinda rained on that parade and sweet Maya’s eyes rained a little and the gift parade ended. I don’t even know if she got to open them all and it breaks my heart but that’s not even the point. The point is, cancer is a motherfucker. And before anybody says Maya lost her battle, please don’t. Maya didn’t lose her battle; and cancer sure as hell didn’t win. Please don’t give cancer that kinda #fakenews credit. The cancer is no more. Maya kicked its ass, took down its number like nobody’s biz, took. cancer. down. And Maya is forever. She will live on and on to infinity and beyond in the hearts and memories and Maya shaped holes she left down here  This is the truth as best as I know it: Maya fought the good fight; she finished her race; she kept the faith #likeaboss. Like she told me on one of the old videos we used to make together, her superpower weapon was her smile. I am here to testify to that, her truth. Her. Smile. Slayed. It slayed me. And I know it slayed cancer. I seriously don’t know many adults that have gone through suffering like my girl Maya with such grace. And I will never be the same from the pleasure of knowing her and being loved by her. I always say she made me want to be the best version I could be of myself. And my hard truth was, I don’t think we were done. That time the sky fell.]

This is how Maya and I met.

My little warrior sister Maya the Magnificent aka my mini me

Maya’s mama posted this pic on my Facebook wall, after they saw a video I shot at a Stand Up To Cancer event we had for my 2-year cancerversary in August 2010. The video was my daughter’s entry in SU2C’s “Up To You” music video contest. The challenge was to put your own spin on the song. The top 3 would be featured on the SU2C show that September.

This was my sweet Amanda’s spin on the song. I shot the film (that’s why I’m not in it) and my sweet Mikeyy edited the video. The band behind her is the rest of The Kicked-in Fence: her brothers Matt (guitar) and Mikeyy (djembe) and their friend Dustin Boudinet (guitar). All the lovely peeps are the kinds of friends I got by with a little help from. A few of them I miss because they have since finished their own cancer battles. Which only makes this video more precious because it captures a moment when we all stood up to cancer together. It. was. magical.

Amanda got 4th place in the contest. But the point is, this is the ripple Maya caught a wave, or rather a high-5, into our lives on. After Maya saw the video, she asked her mom to take that epic pic of her giving me a SU2C high-5 and standing up to cancer with me. Is their anything more precious?

Me & Maya… or is it Maya & me?

The reason I bring this all up is because everybody’s always asking me about how Maya and I met.

So once upon a time 9 years ago, I happened to flip on the TV and catch the first Stand Up To Cancer show, while recovering from my double mastectomy and my first chemo cocktail hangover. I know this sounds super self-centered, but I felt like it was made for me TV. Like maybe somehow the stars aligned and the big dipper was pouring out the proverbial spoonful of sugar over the Evanshire. (Of course, I took it shaken not stirred, in case you’re wondering;)

[…And somehow the dots in that constellation connected Maya and me and my life will never be the same from her light shining bright like a diamond like it did/still does/always will. Fly high, Magnificent Maya. #twinkletwinkle little star…]

#WWBD? Day

It’s the night before my birthday. I’ve been feeling all the feels about getting to have another birthday, another road-trip around the sun, all day today. This one will be my 52nd. But I’d like to take 5 before I hit the gas, hit the road, chase the sunset. Cuz ever since 3 years ago today, on another day before my birthday, I got other feels that I just gotta repect. Feels that make me feel like taking a knee, to remember, to honor, my friend/doppelganger/breast cancer sister/fellow aerodynamic runner/SCAR girl Barbie Ritzco aka Marathon Barbie aka Gunnery Sergeant Barbara Ritzco, USMC.

I don’t know if she’s resting in peace or not cuz I imagine the SCAR girl reunion in heaven is still a bit lit since Barbie got there 3 years ago today. Still. Damn, I miss her like hell down here. And even though she’s still with me in spirit… or maybe it’s phantom pain, like sometimes how I feel something in my boobs that aren’t there anymore. The price of love. The proof. Of love. A beauty mark that she was here. Etched in me. Like a #WWBD? carved into, our outta, my soul. Maybe that old saying “you can’t take anything with you” is #fakenews. Cuz it sure feels like she took a part of me with her. I like that thought. The beauty mark she left on me, was also a piece of me she took with her. #partinggifts

So #WWBD? What. Would. Barbie. Do? That is the question I ruminate today, the day before my birthday, as I remember her.

Last month, I was happy, honored, and humbled to help bring David Jay’s Unknown Soldier Project to Cincinnati. One of the superpower most special parts of this exhibit, for me, besides getting the old SCAR Cincy crew together, was seeing my friend Barbie’s SCAR portrait on exhibit with The Unknown Soldier Project for the first time. Though to me, it felt more like: Finally.

On the surface, Gunnery Sergeant Barbara Ritzco’s portrait might seem to be a rather “unusual deployment” in The Unknown Soldier exhibition. Her amputation is not like the other amputations in the exhibit. Her IED was breast cancer to the chest. Her amputation was the collateral damage. Her battle with breast cancer was her unusual deployment, and one she would always say was the hardest one because it took her away from the men who served under her. Reluctantly, though, as she watched the lump grow on her chest, trying to will it away so as not to leave her brothers behind. And in the end, she laid down her life for her brothers all the same. Barbie died a couple weeks before her 40th birthday. She died planning her 20th year retirement party (with her sister who had enlisted with her). Which ended up being her sister’s retirement party and Barbie’s celebration of life. And we are proud to see her The SCAR Project portrait rightfully in this band of brothers and sisters. The following is Barbie’s The SCAR Project bio, in her own words, written shortly after her diagnosis at 36.

“Training didn’t prepare me. A weapon, a FLAK jacket and a Kevlar helmet didn’t protect from THIS enemy. 18 years active duty.  Two combat deployments. I was diagnosed with Stage IIIB Breast Cancer, after only four months in Afghanistan.

Perseverance, endurance, determination. Things that have been taught to me and instilled in me. Giving up or giving in is not an option. I have skydived, surfed, swam, cycled and completed about 15 Marathons since my diagnosis.

I didn’t set out to accomplish all these things with any real purpose.  I needed to remain active for my own sanity and dignity. Adapt and overcome. I am adapting to my new life with Breast Cancer and using it as my motivation to keep moving forward. I have been led, unarmed, to a different battlefield, in a different fight, one that is uncertain, unpredicted, and currently undefeated.

I am not going to ever get over Breast Cancer or move past it. I will live with it for the rest of my life. Remission is not a cure. I don’t believe people actually “see” Breast Cancer. They hear about it but they don’t listen. It is a terrible thing that happens to everyone else but could never happen to them. Everyone needs to understand and visually see the realness of this disease. Breast Cancer takes no prisoners. It can take anyone at any time.

The SCAR Project has allowed me to uniquely express myself and showcase how Breast Cancer has broken me down and stripped me of every feminine indicator yet I fight, unprotected, unarmed, and unwavering… but most importantly, unashamed.”

Click HERE to read Barbie’s SCAR story in her own words on The SCAR Project Blog.

Click HERE to see footage of Barbie sharing her SCAR story at The SCAR Toronto Exhibition in 2014.

Click HERE to see footage of Barbie’s SCAR portrait hanging with her band of brothers at The Unknown Soldier Exhibit in Cincinnati last month.

Anatomy of the C-word

9 years ago today was the mother of all inciting incidents for me. My doctor called and said the damn c-word to me. No, the bad one: cancer. Tonight, FB memories reminded me of a few postcards from the road #shakennotstirred #breastcancer #chemococktails #memorylane…

Here’s a recap, post by post. #nofilter

August 20, 2008: No post cuz Day 1 and I didn’t know it yet.

August 20, 2009: No post but still downing chemo cocktails.

August 20, 2010: 2 years ago today… my breast surgeon said the C-word to me. I say, F the c-word. I don’t mean to offend; it’s just what’s on my mind.

Also: Chapter 16 is a wrap

August 20, 2011: Three years ago today I found out I had cancer. The past 1096 days have been a lot of me crowd surfing like in this video. Last night I watched soul surfer and learned how to really surf. Wow. Today this song goes out to all my survivor siblings. I’m part of your crowd so go ahead, surf, hang ten even!

August 20, 2012:

A year of living sincerely – Day 1

Also: Country strong.

https://youtu.be/STvnp0phjMw
RUNKEEPER
Also: Cheers and thank God for 1461 days!
August 20, 2013:High freaking 5 everybody! Well, it’s been 5 years since I got that damn phone call with those nasty damn words that I had cancer. Except for the incredible mercy of God, I don’t know how I got here…how I get to be here… but here we are… and what. a. CrAzYRiDe it’s been!

Last year on August 20, to celebrate my 4-year cancerversary milestone, while simultaneously kicking off the countdown to my fab 5-year cancerversary/not-a-chemo-cocktail-party (THIS FRIDAY NIGHT Y’ALL!!), I started a video blog of “A Year of Living Sincerely” in honor of my beautiful friend V and her www.thelivesincerelyproject.com.

Last night I posted episode 206 about the Little Miami 1/2 marathon I ran on Sunday. It was my 4th half, and my first to run in under 2 hours! My finish was 1:56:43, which placed me 4th in my age category! That finish seems rather apropos to how I’m feeling today.

Also: Getting party supplies for Friday night’s not-chemo-cocktail party!!

Also: My beautiful friend V and me.

August 20, 2014: Hello FB loves! So, today’s my 6-year Cancerversary aka #shakennotstirred day—what, what?! (Go me, BOO cancer!) Anyway, so here’s some thoughts, a couple chapters from my book, Shaken Not Stirred . . . a Chemo Cocktail, about the way this day went down 6 years ago when we heard the C-word, a link to the Kindle version of my book which is FREE today AND TOMO, and a link to the “Cancer is a Bitch” song by my Redheads.

Also: Love, love, LOVE me some Jennifer Pastiloff. Looking so freaking forward to Labor Day Retreat with her in Ojai, Cali. David Evans is sending me as a gift for my 6-year cancerversary (which is TODAY–yay me, BOO cancer) and my birthday (which is next month). I never ever know what to ask for, and it always drives Dave and the Redheads bOnKeRs that I don’t make lists from them to make their lives easier, lol. But THAT’S how much I love me some Jen Pastiloff. I actually made a cancerversary/birthday list. With one thing on it. BAM.

I LOVE this excerpt from an article of hers. Hell I pretty much love everything she writes. But this one seems timely. Hell it kinda seems timely all the time.

This.

“Here’s what I say to you, to me, and to anyone that cares to read this: The long and the short is this: stop judging so much. People are doing their best. You are doing your best. You will keep getting better. You will keep rising to the occasion. You will keep meeting yourself in the coffee shop or bar and telling yourself what your Highest Self would do now. What Love would do now. And now. And now.”

And this.

“I will love harder.”

That’s really all that matters, isn’t it? LOVE.

Word. That word. Love. The end.

August 20, 2015: Do you know what today is?
7 years ago TODAY
My doctor called and said that bad c-word to me.
No, the really bad one…cancer.
But 
Here I am
7 years later…
I GET TO STILL BE HERE!
Cuz today is my lucky day!
#lucky7 #luckyme
I’m the luckiest duck!
And p.s. #fuckcancer

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Also: Hi 5K! #postcardfrommymorningwalk #recovery #comeback I would’ve done 7, for my #lucky7 year cancerversary, if my insides would have promised me they wouldn’t fall out. But they wouldn’t put it in writing. #toughlove.

I burned 199 calories at an average pace of 23:31 per mi.
RUNKEEPER
Also: So…to celebrate my upcoming #lucky7 year cancerversary, the Kindle edition of Shaken Not Stirred . . . a Chemo Cocktail will be FREE over this looooooonnnng and happiest of weekends of Aug 20-24, 2015. Please help me give the big middle finger to cancer, and download the crap out of my book! Please share and have your friends help me #flipoffcancer. And, if you feel like leaving me a #NotaLoneStarReview you will not only make my freaking day, but you will most DEF win at life, in my book. Click HERE.
August 20, 2016: No post cuz I was with the Grace project on the road-trip to Houston.
August 20, 2017: 9 yrs ago today my doc called and said the damn c-word to me. No, the bad one: cancer. Lifting a glass 2 my health & a finger 2

 

Sending Love & #goodjoujou To Olivia Newton John and Flipping Off Cancer

                              20 years:(
                            #fuckcancer

I have my quarterly oncology check up coming up next week.

THIS. is just another reason why, once the #pinkmonkey has jumped on your back, the damn pink monkey is always on your back. Always.

Practically everybody knows the stats that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. But the collateral damage from all the pink is that too many peeps believe we are done (even though pink means rare) and breast cancer is now a “manageable” thing. That just because we who are the 1’s in 8 have a whole month dedicated to us, that breast cancer is the good even lucky kinda cancer to get. Cancer is an insidious bastard and there are no good kinds. Even if you get a whole month filled with bottomless pink buckets of fried chicken dedicated to your cancer like I get with mine. Even if all the chicken BREASTS in the buckets don’t seem the most sympathetic kinda “support” for “aerodynamic” breast cancer peeps like me. But I digress.

1 in 8. That doesn’t seem like a lot if you are in a room with me. And I don’t mind taking that bullet one bit for you. I love you and hope you never have to join this damn exclusive club.

But here’s the thing. Whenever I’m in a room with 9 of my fellow 1 in 8’s, stats hit the fan like #shithitsthefan. To the point: 3 out of 10 of us who have been diagnosed with breast cancer will recur and become metastatic aka #stage4. There is no cure for stage 4. And there is no stage 5.

30%. Not manageable. Not good. Not lucky. Yeah, it’s better than a coin toss. Unless you already rolled a 1 out of 8. Like I did. And like my 9 friends in the room did. That’s why the odds don’t always feel like they are with us. That’s why the pink monkey always is. On our backs.

I was so superpower sad to see that Olivia Newton John has, after 20 years remission, recurred and gone metastatic. #fuckcancer She will be in my prayers, with all my other friends who also have to fight that fight every damn day of their lives for the rest of their lives.

That’s not OK with me. And the #truthbomb is that until we do something different with the way we fight breast cancer, 3 out of 10 of me & my gang, regardless of how aware we were or how early our diagnosis, will experience recurrence.

Now, I’m not against awareness, at all, so don’t get me wrong here. But it seems to me the shift that needs to happen in the way we fight breast cancer is a shift toward the other end of the spectrum, not taking away from awareness, but a laser beam kinda focus on #metastatic cancer, on curing the kind of cancer that kills. Would 30% be too much to ask, if you or someone you knew was in the 30%? Cuz here’s the current situation is that, of all the monies raised to fight cancer, only 7% goes for Metastatic research.

7% #wtf?! #amiright?! #notok #stage4needsmore #moreresearch #dontignorestage4 #thereisnostage5 

Shaken Not Stirred…a Chemo Cocktail Turns 5 Today!

when-you-hear-that-wine-cork-pop

Holy WOW! Talk about a happy #blastfromthepast of a #fbf memory! So today is Shaken Not Stirred . . . a Chemo Cocktail‘s birthday! Once upon a time 5 years ago tonight aka 11/11/11 at 11:11pm I made the first biggest dream of my life come true, pushed PUBLISH, my book went live on Amazon, and we popped a cork on a bottle of champagne to celebrate!
Besides obvi popping another cork today, I thought it would be superkaPOWer fun to #SHAKEN things up a bit and give away 5 signed copies in honor of my book baby’s 5th bday. So if you’d like to enter to win one, for yourself or for a gift, send me a #postcardfromtheroad from wherever you are, and I’ll #shaken them all up and randomly pick 5. (Don’t forget to write down the name and addy for me to inscribe and mail to.) Here’s my addy: PO Box 882, West Chester, OH 45071.


And in case you are wondering what to buy a 5-year-old? The best. gift. EVER. that you could (pretty please _/\_) get my sweet book baby that would #shaken up and rock its (and my) world like no other…would be to click HERE and give it the ol’ thumbs up and shiny stars on Amazon. 5-year-olds LOVE stars! (As a self-published author, that is not just my bread and butter, but like Popeye’s spinach to me.) So thank you from the bottom of my heart to anyone who has already written a review or will go do that most uber epic act of kindness for my book baby!


Cheers and BIG love,

Me

4,207,680 Minutes

moments

[So I have a late but very important date with my sweet Mikeyy TONITE! Because. THIS. happened 8 years ago. TONITE…the beginning of my accidental memoir SHAKEN NOT STIRRED…A CHEMO COCKTAIL…the night Bitch wine saved my life…the night I found a damn spot in my left breast…before I knew it was cancer…the last night in my memory of life before cancer…a sweet and perfect moment with my sweet Mikeyy…the night we watched Perseus’s meteor showers and I learned to count my lucky stars before they hatch. “That time with Mikeyy is etched in my soul as a perfect snapshot of—not my life passing before my eyes, in the dying sense—but more like a haiku, capturing what it was all about.” I think that moment was the diving board into all the lovely 4,207,680 minutes I have been lucky enough to experience since. Each and every one of those precious moments has been one helluva ride. I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t trade getting to sit here watching Perseus do his thing again from where I’m at now, EIGHT years later. Anyway, so here’s where that once upon a time began…]

Chapter 2


When the Stars Go Blue
(Cue: Tim McGraw *I don’t know if you know it, but each of my chapters has a soundtrack to it. The songs are from my own chemo cocktail mix that I listened to during cancer, chemo, recovery, and writing Shaken Not Stirred.)

On August 11, 2008 there were meteor showers over Cincinnati. My world was rocked that night, but it had nothing to do with the meteors that my teenage son Mikeyy and I watched in the wee hours of that sleepless in Cincinnati kind of night.

Previous to Perseus’s fireworks display, somewhere in between the lines of August 11 and 12, I’d awakened particularly parched from the end-of-season cocktail party I’d thrown that evening at the Evanshire, aka my home sweet home.

Being somewhat of a newbie tennis freak, I’d played on three tennis teams that summer. My neighborhood team had just won the division championship. My United States Tennis Association (USTA) team had just played in the district championship tournament. We actually won the districts, but.

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And the big but (yeah, they say everybody’s got one) was that the win pushed one of our player’s ratings into a higher bracket, which.

And the “rhymes-with-a-witch” was that “the win?” officially disqualified all her matches and our team from the victory, not to mention a road trip to regionals. The trophy didn’t have a chance to slip through our fingers; we never even got to touch it before the ruling came raining down on our parade.

For the cocktail party, I’d grabbed several bottles of a certain Grenache that had caught my eye from across the wine store where I was searching for just the right red and/or white to go with our blues. It had a hot pink label with elegant cursive lettering that read Bitch.

Cancer is a bitch wine

My tennis girlfriends cracked up when I presented the wine. Then we all sighed, and said, “Yeah, it sure was.” We uncorked the wine. It was the best of times and we were making the best of the worst of times. We ate and drank and made merry. I went to bed thirsty.

I knew I would wake up in the middle of the night dying-of-thirst thirsty.

What I didn’t know was that dying of thirst would end up saving my life.

It was five o’clock somewhere—for me it was somewhere in the middle of the night when I woke up from a dream in which I was practically dying of thirst and trying desperately, though unsuccessfully, to quench it.

“Need . . . H . . . 2 . . . Ohhhh,” I sputtered out in a dry whisper like I was some kind of a tumbleweed, searching for an oasis.

“So. [click] Very. [click] Thirsty.”

I couldn’t even peel my tongue off the roof of my mouth.

I’d dealt with similar middle-of-the-night dehydration before, so I had the drill down, practically in my sleep. I tumbled out of bed, crawled across the bedroom floor, slithered down the stairs more like a Slinky than a snake, and somehow found myself standing in front of the kitchen sink. I guzzled a glass of water, diluting the dehydration and dousing the dream.

Then I poured another, and headed to the study to sip on the second one while checking Facebook. And I played a little Scramble, to try and unscramble the fog in my brain.

That’s when I bumped up against my desk—Ouch. I felt—and heard—an unexpected thud.

Something had gone bump in the night— and the bump was on me: my left breast, to be more specific.

My jaw fell to the floor and my eyebrows formed a question mark as I held my breath, brought my hand to my breast, and felt the lump.

I cannot explain the shock and awe I felt. It was like a meteor to my chest, literally. I remember the lump felt like a shooter marble right beneath the “milky way.” I was pretty sure it wasn’t there the day before. My hubby, Dave didn’t mention anything about marbles later that night. I’m sorry if that’s TMI, but I don’t see how we could’ve missed a meteor like that.

I don’t know how long I sat there trying to imagine what in the world the marble could be. I found myself checking and rechecking to see if it was really there. Then I kept checking and rechecking to see if it was still there. Part of me thought I was imagining things. But, no, it was still there. Part of me started imagining things. I felt the meteor again, and then stared out the window.

My fourteen-year-old son Mikeyy was lying out on the driveway, gazing up at the meteor showers in the sky. I let go of my own gravity and let myself get pulled into his world for a little while— snuggling up next to him and watching the sky fall, like it was a movie.

That time with Mikeyy is etched in my soul as a perfect snapshot of—not my life passing before my eyes, in the dying sense—but more like a haiku, capturing what it was all about.

When the meteor show was over, I had a hard time keeping my thoughts from spiraling out of control. A sensible part of me, that I had to dig way down deep for, took all the other parts of me, and put them to bed.

Not wanting to wake Dave, I lay there, deciding to wait out the night. I waited for him to wake. I waited to see if it would just go away. I waited. And prayed.

Since my thoughts like to play connect the dots, this would be where my inner Lady Macbeth spoke up, as “Out, damn’d spot” were the words that came out. This seemed like a reasonable prayer, so I went with it.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to say to Dave when he awoke. The truth is, I generally obsess over just about anything I even think of, processing it at from every angle before it gets “on deck,” on the tip of my tongue. Just to make sure I say what I mean to say, and that I articulate it the way I mean it. Extroverting is not my strong suit. I can do it, but I don’t think I do it very well. And it wears me out. I had nothing by the time he woke up. I was worn out, wound up, and ended up just winging it.

Some words tumbled out into the air and then seemed to settle in a cloud over Dave. He groaned one of those “groanings which cannot be uttered,” (like he already knew, too) and fearfully, mechanically, reached over toward the spot.

Dave said that waking up to that morning was like waking up on the worst possible side of the bed ever.

“I was still pretty groggy when Joules asked me about a lump she had found on her breast. She’s pretty random and often catches me off guard, but in twenty years of marriage, she had never asked anything quite like this. As soon as I felt the obvious lump, the fog instantly cleared and I was wide awake. My heart and mind started racing, but I tried not to let her see my fear. Outside I was saying, “Hmm, that’s strange,” but inside I was frantically praying, “Please, God, no! Please, God, no! Please, God, no!” Ever since we had a friend diagnosed with breast cancer, I held a secret fear that it might strike Joules one day. This fear only intensified when our friend lost her seven-year battle. Before that, cancer was something other people got. Old people. People with unhealthy lifestyles. People I didn’t know. But our friend was young, healthy (fit, even), a wife and mom, a good and godly woman. And she was one of Joules’s closest friends. Suddenly breast cancer was very real to me, and very scary.”

I won’t ever forget that groan. Dave’s middle name, Wayne, means wagon, and I could just feel him bearing the weight that was to come.

He felt the spot; I had not imagined it.

He got out of bed and made a pot of coffee. Dave makes coffee for me every morning. Even brings a cup up to our bedroom and sets it on my nightstand to help me wake up, smell the coffee, rise and shine, seize the day. Yes, I am spoiled. I admit it.

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Then he headed to the study with his computer, and began researching what “not bad” things it could be. At first we were hoping it might be a cyst, or hormones. Or even a boil—at which point, I channeled my inner Job. Then he began adding big words that started with fibro– and pap– and ended in –oma, and my brain went all foggy again.

I poured another cup of coffee and called my sister, Jennie, who lives in Charleston, to tell her about the damn spot. She’s my baby sister, but also my best friend. She’s also a little ADHD. I happen to love her rabbit trails, so I figured I could thumb a ride on her distraction.

Jennie later described the rabbit hole she fell in when I told her about the lump.

“The day Joules called me and told me about the damn spot she found, I asked her if she thought it might just be a pimple or something weird like that. I tried to be reassuring for her and myself. The thing is, Joules has always been the strong one, and almost like a mother to me, all my life. And to me, nothing bad could or would ever happen to her. But when we hung up the phone, the knot that seemed to have tied in my throat came undone, and my tears broke free. My glass is not always as full as my sister’s, and it sort of felt like it had just tipped over.”

Dave made an appointment with my gynecologist for three o’clock that afternoon. I had chosen her because I was not really into doctors at the time. She was a naturopath, but also an MD. Basically, she was into alternative/non-traditional—with leanings toward Eastern—medicine. I liked that she was not a traditional medical evangelist, but had that training as well, in the palette of her doctor’s bag. I did not worry that she would jump to any radical medical conclusions because that was not her holistic style. I felt we were sort of on the same page and that everything could be OK, because she was the most likely doctor to find alternative explanations for the spot, and alternative ways of spot removal.

Meanwhile, Dave told me I should go ahead and go to a tennis clinic I’d already signed up and paid for, to try to keep my mind off that damn spot until three.

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—So that’s the end of the chapter, but obvi… there’s more chapters, and way more to the story besides just me standing there waiting for the tennis ball to cross the net so I can CRUSH it! *Spoiler alert: I CRUSH IT! But if you feel like turning the page to see for yourself, SHAKEN NOT STIRRED…A CHEMO COCKTAIL is avail on Amazon and Kindle. Click HERE. And TODAY, in commemoration of that night 8 years ago when my stars went blue but thankfully not out, and in celebration and with deep gratitude for each and every one of the 4,207,680 minutes-with-me-in-it/moments made, not to mention, another late but very important date with my sweet Mikeyy tonite…THE KINDLE VERSION IS FREE!

All I Want For Christmas Is No More Cancer

Last Chemo Cocktail

Whoa. 6 years ago yesterday. My last chemo cocktail. My Redheads came to sing Christmas carols in the cocktail lounge that day. And they sang my very favorite Christmas song EVER, the “Cancer is a Bitch” song, which they wrote for me in the stairwell of the chemo lounge, while I was downing that last (24/24) damn cocktail that day.

Here’s some superkaPOWer happy footage of me getting unhooked:

Not everybody gets a drum roll AND a guitar roll like that! And that adorbs bald chick sitting next to me is my chemo sister Shelly. We met in the chemo cocktail lounge on my birthday and was pretty much the best birthday present EVER. #chemoisthickerthanwater. To this day, we still book our oncology maintenance appointments together whenever possible. Talk about double trouble!

chemo sisters forever

Here’s the bootleg footage of the Redheads singing my song to me that day. (The song begins at 1:20, so fast forward a bit if you want to skip the set up.)

There wasn’t a dry eye in the room, and I still can’t watch that video without my eyes leaking all over the place. But catchy chorus, yeah?! I think it’s obvi why it’s the theme song to SHAKEN NOT STIRRED…A CHEMO COCKTAIL!

My sweet Redheads old band aka The Kicked-in Fence recorded a pretty freaking stellar studio version on their Cheesin’ Moon EP. Click HERE for the iTunes link if you feel like cranking it up and singing cancer is a bitch with us really loud. It’s a super fun way to flip off cancer, and also makes a good stocking stuffer for pretty much anybody says amen to the chorus.

Sitting in that chemo cocktail lounge and downing my last chemo cocktail 6 years ago yesterday, all I really wanted for Christmas, obvi, was NO MORE CANCER! I was lucky, and received the amazing gift of no more chemo! Here’s a cool pix that sums up how, not just me, but the whole family, felt about that.

no more chemo jump

But just because I’m STILL jumping up and down over my good fortune to STILL be here to celebrate another merry Christmas and another happy new year… it’s STILL all I really want for Christmas. NO. MORE. CANCER. And not just in the no more chemo sense, for me. NO. MORE. CANCER.  Period. End of its story. I STILL have so many TOO MANY friends STILL fighting the bitch that is cancer this Christmas. That is not OK with me. And that is why even though, God-willing, cancer is done with me, I am not done with it. Not until I get my wish. NO. MORE. CANCER. It’s really all I really want for Christmas. This holiday season I’m praying my ass off for that, singing the chorus of my fave Christmas song at the top of my lungs, and sending all my love, to all of my survivor, and especially my metavivor (stage 4 metastatic breast cancer fighters whose cancer fight never ends cuz there is no cure for metastic breast cancer), peeps. #cancerisabitch #stage4needsmore #dontignorestage4

Lifting a Not-a-Chemo-Cocktail on the Occasion of #SHAKEN’s Birthday

A Real Live Book!
Beside myself holding the first copy! #tbtNovember2011 #hotoffthepresses

Holy WOW! Seems like yesterday. They grow up so fast! But yesterday was in fact Shaken Not Stirred…a Chemo Cocktail’s birthday! Once upon a time 4 years ago yesterday aka 11/11/11 at 11:11pm I made the biggest dream of my life come true, pushed PUBLISH, my book went live on Amazon, and we popped a cork on a bottle of champagne to celebrate!

Besides the obvi popping of another cork in celebration, I thought it would be super fun to ‪#‎SHAKEN‬ things up a bit and give away 4 signed copies in honor of my book baby’s 4th bday.

The New Phone Books Are Here!

So if you’d like to enter to win one, for yourself or for a gift, send me a ‪#‎postcardfromtheroad‬ from wherever you are, and I’ll #shaken them all up and randomly pick 4. (Don’t forget to write down the name and addy for me to inscribe and mail to.) Send me postcards and make my mailbox happy at: PO Box 882, West Chester, OH 45071.

And in case you are wondering what to buy a 4-year-old? The best. gift. EVER. that you could (pretty please _/\_) get my sweet book baby that would #shaken up and rock it’s (and my) world like no other…would be to give it the ol’ thumbs up and shiny stars on Amazon and/or Goodreads. 4-year-olds LOVE stars! (As a self-published author, that is not just my bread and butter, but like Popeye’s spinach to me.) So thank you from the bottom of my heart to anyone who has already written a review or will go do that most uber epic act of kindness for my book baby!

Click HERE to go forth and do uber epic act of kindness!

Cheers and BIG love,
Joules

MASK

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This is a #fbf to a superpower freaky Friday I had two weeks ago, in which I did a superkaPOWer scary thing and go up ON A STAGE at a storytelling event in Cincinnati. The event was produced by my friends at Rebel Storytellers. These BESPOKEN events are seriously one of the funnest night’s out in #Cincy. (Save the date: the next BESPOKEN event is January 15, 2016!) The storytellers (and the band) (also there is improv) all riff on a 4-letter word. Previous words have been: KISS last Valentines Day, HERO this past summer, and MASK was the one we just did the week before Halloween. None of the storytellers know what any of the other storytellers are riffing about. It’s pretty magical how it all fits together and unfolds.

Here’s a selfie I took from the stage to remember that time I channeled my inner #littlebravetoaster and did a superkaPOWer scary thing. (As you can see some of those scary peeps are obvi zombies getting ready to jump the stage…or break out the thriller dance;)

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Here’s a video the hubcap made of my MASK story:

Click HERE to read my MASK story. So superpower STOKED to have it up on my friend Jen Pastiloff’s most uber fab Manifest-Station!

To sum up: doing scary things ROCKS!

My next BIG scary thing is the #Route66 marathon/world’s shortest ultra in Tulsa later this month. I signed up before I got sidelined during August and September, when I had to have Operation #outdamngolfball #golfballectomy #hysterectomy #oopherectomy #wholeshebangectomy surgery. I feel like I’m back at least 75%—which is way better than when I wondered if I would ever be able to run again without my insides falling out! I ran the #cincinnati #queenbee #halfmarathon a few weeks ago to gauge where I was in the #comeback process, and whether or not I thought I could/should go for the full at Tulsa’s epic #route66marathon. My conclusion is: #ithinkican #tulsaorbust #okiedokie. It may not be the fastest or prettiest marathon in the world, but the finish line and obvi the BLING will still taste superpower yummy! I will run, walk, CRAWL to it if I have to! #turtlepower #slowandsteadyeatsthebling #cowabunga! And also obvi, I’ll be instagramming it UP! So make sure you follow me there @joulesevans if you wanna get some kicks on Route 66 by taking a virtual run on #themotherroad with me!

What’s a scary thing you’ve done recently and what’s the next scary thing on tap for you? Post below. #ithinkyoucantoo!