From Chemo

Typing a Tribute to Jenny Pagliaro “Fast As I Can” ~RIP

RIP Jenny Pagliaro. Singer of Roses and Cigarettes. She was only 35. Her song “Fast As I Can” is about living with metastatic breast cancer. She was a sister I didn’t know personally. But I take her death very personally. I’m 53. The same beast that tried to kill me 10 years ago, killed her today. At 35. I’m not OK with that. With any of it.

Everybody knows that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime. I am one of the 1 in 8. But not everybody knows that 3 out of 10 of those 1 women in 8 (that’s 30% of all initial breast cancer diagnosis regardless of stage) will have a breast cancer recurrence, become metastatic, become one of the 113 women who die every day in our country. If you are inside the breast cancer world, it feels like everybody outside the breast cancer world thinks that since we all think pink in October, that we got breast cancer “handled”. I doubt Olivia Pope would consider the situation handled.

I keep posting about my friends keeping on dying cuz they keep on dying and I am a witness to their lives and they will not go softly into the night if I stand up here on this platform and say there name out loud and proud, do my part to pay forward my own good fortune by helping keep their memory alive.

Today Jenny Pagliaro is one of the 113 women (and #mengetbreastcancertoo) die from breast cancer every day in our country. There are 112 more women, who are not famous rock stars who wrote uber fab breast cancer anthems, that will die from metastatic breast cancer. Just like Jenny Pagliaro. But without the fanfare. It will not be on the evening news. The world will not notice. Except we in the breast cancer community will notice. We feel each one. We all know many of them. Some of deeper in the breast cancer movement have people they know and love die everyday, sometimes more than one friend a day. We all know it could be us. We don’t have breast cancer handled. It is NOT a manageable disease.

It’s not a fluke that Jenny Pagliaro or any of my friends who die on a given day, die on any given day. It’s what cancer does. It has one job, and it does it well. Approximately 800 women (and men) get breast cancer in the US every day, and 113 die every day. We haven’t done much to change those ugly stats. Pink has not handled cancer.

Metastatic breast cancer research is where our focus needs to be. UCLA Metastatic breast cancer researcher Dennis Slamon’s discovery of the targeted immunotherapy aka Herceptin is the only reason I’m sitting here typing these word. It used to be 100% fatal kind to get. His work was focused on metastatic breast cancer patients without any options remaining who had all been told to go home and get their homes in order. He took these “hopeless” cases, gave them hope and Herceptin, and ended up turning the tide for Her2 breast cancer patients like me. Before we didn’t have a bullet against the beast. Now we have a bullet. So far, so good, mine’s been a silver bullet.

But my point is, we need to do this with all the cancers, not just breast cancers. This is where we need to be putting our monies, into metastatic cancer research. The #truthbomb is, if we cure metastatic cancers, then it becomes a manageable disease cuz nobody is dying from it. Then we are “handling” it. I recommend METAvivor Research and Support Inc. 100% of everything they raise goes to metastatic breast cancer research. The kind that kills. The kind we should be focusing on. They are focusing on it. They got one job and I believe they are gonna do it.

Meanwhile, Pagliaro’s song “Fast As I Can” resonates deep with me today.  Here’s a really good Billboard article about her. Here are a couple quotes I pulled outta it that hit me where I live as fast as I can.

“The upbeat, twangy songs message about living life to the fullest shines through, even as it chronicles Pagliaro’s frequent hospital visits for cancer treatment.”

&

“This song was written about my battle with stage IV breast cancer,” Pagliaro told Billboard at the time. “It’s about not letting the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced stop you from living your dreams.”

The New Phone Books Are Here!

[You know that scene in The Jerk where Steve Martin gets stoked over “The new phonebooks are here!” A similar scene went down here today, when I realized that Shaken has 100 reviews on Amazon! This is so very timely not to mention encouragingAF as my sweet Amanda (the best personal assistant EVER) & I put the noses to the grindstone to take the old red pencil and mark up the recording for the Audible version.]

So damn grateful for the kindness of reviews. It seems like a little thing, but to all of us who put our works out in the world, it is actually all the things & a bag of chips with a cherry on top. Not counting Amazon sales (which is the only thing Amazon counts… They don’t count the 1k+ books I’ve bought (from them) and sold from the trunk of my car on my travels around the country, solo or with The Grace Project.) I have personally looked into the eyes and put over 1000 books in people’s hands. True, I’ve only sold about half those. The others I have used as thank you cards to my gracious hosts in my travels around the country/world; I have donated to many friends of friends who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and I couldn’t bring myself to charge them on top of what they are going through; I’ve sold them at my book release parties and other book events like the #Milford Readers & Writers festival, my library’s local author book fair, and other events and appearance, or foundations have asked me to donate books to their fundraisers and I always do. –My point is not to Pat myself on the damn back or anything here. Patting yourself on the back never feels quite as sweet as somebody else patting you on the back. My point in opening my vein here, is cuz I don’t know how else to properly express the depth of gratitude I’m feeling to hit the milestone of 100 reviews. Last week I had a conversation with somebody who challenged my legitimacy as an author cuz I’m self published and they wondered if anybody but the hubcap has ever bought my book. Kinda sent me spiraling. I did not leave my house the next day, even called in sick to occupational therapy for my #write hand. After laying around the house all damn day I still couldn’t sleep that night. After scrolling through Facebook like a prayer list as I am won’t to do in the middle of the night, I ended up clicking onto my Amazon Shaken Not Stirred . . . a Chemo Cocktail page and read through every single review sending out mad love and gratitude to all those crazy beautiful souls. I’ve recently realized what a miracle it is to get Amazon reviews at all, since over the years I’ve had various people I’ve personally handed books to in my travels around the country contact me saying they tried to give me a review but Amazon won’t accept it cuz they aren’t a verified purchase since they bought one at an event or outta the trunk of my car. And they always take down any reviews from friends and family. I get that, kinda? but I also don’t. The hubcap & redheads all wrote reviews I thought anybody looking for a cancer memoir would find helpful since they lived through it too. It wasn’t just my story. They weren’t just gushy sweet nothings but thoughtful reviews. But Amazon took them down. Whatever. Back to my point. Bowing down in gratitude. It truly is one of the best ways to love your fave authors.

Speaking of, I have a lot of fave author friends out there. Please feel free to post the links for your books so all my friends can know all know and love all your good books like I do. And please always try to go and leave a kind word for them on Amazon. #fortheloveofbooksandauthors

Red

Blast from the past FB memory of bc (before cancer) Joules. 11 years ago today. Probably cuz I’m in a strange space contemplating life & death and especially the life & death of my step-sister Shele, this old memory popping up this morning, led me down a road and I decided to follow it to see where it would take me. Curiously, serendipitously, it led me from this random day in March 11 years ago, to the random day that August the poem the picture inspired, to another random day that same August–precisely on August 23–when I was contemplating my own life and possible death and Shele got in a car, drove from Indy, and showed up to the prayer meeting we had at the Evanshire to kick off my cancer battle. I will never ever forget that. We didn’t know each other very well. We didn’t grow up together. We weren’t the Brady Bunch. We had a whole lifetime before we met and a few lifetimes after. We lived in the same city for a little while and that was lovely. She introduced me to Shania Twain on one of our girls nights out. I can never hear Shania and not think of her. I had a dream of seeing Shania in concert with Shele that will always be an unchecked box. Cuz the box on her calender at the end of the dash was checked off on Wednesday, March 20, 2019. The box on my calendar for tomorrow is to get in the car, drive to Indy, & show up to celebrate her life. Which seems fitting, to me. Honoring to her, since that’s how she lived her life as far as I knew. She showed up. It’s really the least we can do. But it’s also everything, which I am reminded as I remember Shele and her fine art of showing up.
[While I was working on this little meditation and preface to my poem, I realized that Red is also the color for Stroke & Aneurysm Awareness. Sweet serendipity, circling back to my step-sister Shele, like a benediction. Rest in peace. Loved you like a sister.

Red

What was she thinking?
The writing was on the shirt
Red. Read it and weep.

Red means stop. Smell the
Roses NOW. Think on these things…
Capture this moment.

Take a snapshot. Write
A haiku about the girl
With long hair and curves.

Red flag hiding on
The billboard that chest would be
Come what may someday

Soon. Some random day
In August. As inciting
Incidents are wont

To do making much
Ado like they do. Outta
Nowhere. But leading

Somewhere. In my case
Aerodynamic. Cancer
Wasn’t on my mind.

Not on my radar.
I wasn’t 42 yet–
The proverbial

Answer to my life,
universe, everything me.
My left boob was red

Hot*. But not like the
Happy ending kind of hot
But goodbye girls kind.

Good riddance pound of
Flesh. I like you better off
My chest. The one thing

Is swimsuit shopping
In a curvy world. That girl
Didn’t have to think

Twice. This girl though
Whose cup overflows. Doesn’t
Translate to swimsuits.

*breast thermography is a non-traditional way to scan for breast cancer, and red basically means hot (cancer activity) areas on the scan. #nutshell

#marchmarchness #writeclub #haikuchallenge #haikuaday #haiku #poetry#becausetheworldneedsmorepoetry #red #breastcancer #cancer#mastectomy #swimsuitshopping #thestruggleisreal

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

 

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

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

IMG_5409

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!

Amanda Then & Now

A Redheaded Retrospective in 3 Parts 

(Part I)

by Amanda Benton

Then. [17 year-old Amanda Michele freaking Evans. Freshman at University of Cincinnati. Journalism student. While simultaneously going to nail tech school. And working part time as a Noodle Ambassador at Noodles & Co. This pic was taken when she and I took a little holiday away from cancer and college to go to Chicago so she could try out for American Idol.] This is what she wrote for my book:

Legends and stories often have more to do with shaping a culture or person than the actuality behind those stories. I like this—I think it’s true. Please, don’t take the following as the word of God, but rather as the discombobulated memories of a girl. The facts here may have been entirely made up.

There is a tremor that runs through this memory—as an earthquake in my brainwaves. We all gathered in my brother Matt’s bedroom. My dad was on speakerphone—he was away somewhere. The doctor was on a different speaker. Gravity was unsure of what to do. The air felt unsteady and wobbled like a depressive drunk. I think it had grown thicker, too, possibly to catch me when I heard what it somehow already knew.

I don’t know what the doctor said. I don’t even remember the doctor’s gender. The only distinct thing that I remember is the sound of an implosion—and then the feeling of being submerged. It felt as though my spinal cord had been snapped and my brain set afloat in the stormy sea of cerebrospinal fluid. I think of the execution of Nicholas II, the last Russian tsar: a family lined up and murdered—shot. My brothers broke. My Mum instantly became mortal. My Dad, though . . . In my memory, there was an audible creaking—as though his spine was an ancient tree being straightened out. A groaning—as though he were a wooden ship being stressed from too much weight. A thump—as this new load, in sickness, dropped on him: the sound of a man becoming Atlas.

I walked away from the room, only able to stand because of the air’s thickness pillowing around me. Everything felt loosened and unconnected as I treaded downstairs to the couch. Be the adult, now—that’s what I was thinking.

I walked up to my Aunt Jennie. So far, so strong. But as I tried to force the word cancer out of my mouth, I found myself to be broken, too. Collapsed. Aunt Jennie’s arms gathered me up, and I remember resting against her breasts. I felt as though I were merely a page in a book and the epitome’s cover slammed heavily against me.

We wept.

Now. [24-year-old Mrs. Amanda Michele BENTON. Graduated from UC with a degree in Journalism and Creative Writing on June 9, 2012. Got married THE NEXT DAY. Spent their first year of marriage abroad with her new hubby working as missionaries in Wales and Malawi. Now they live in Denver. Amanda is a copywriter and social media manager for two non-profits run by financial guru Billy Epperhart; Gary is studying at Denver Seminary to become an Air Force chaplain. They have two bunnies: Carl Bernard Benton the ginger bunny, and Pichu Bombchu Benton. This pic of me and my baby girl was taken at their fairy tale wedding.] This is what she wrote for my #lucky7 year cancerversary.

kiss the bride

It’s so interesting how our bodies can rebel against their own rules. I try to think about the why and the how. We try to think about chemicals, diet, stress, fate, inactivity, hyperactivity, hatred, passion, society, greed. The reality is that cancer is either random or so buried in the backbone of the world today: something in the air, something in our lifestyle, something in our hearts.

It doesn’t help. Because it really just seems to be the roll of a dice. The question is, who rolled?

I tend to prefer shutting difficult emotions away rather than facing them. This is why I spent the year that my mom spent fighting cancer filling my mind with distractions. Maybe if I tackle a relationship, two different schools and my first job all in one, then I’ll be able to escape from my uncomfortable reality.

I don’t think I cried much that year. I am the undying optimist at times, but that doesn’t mean I’m ignorant. Yes, I know this cancer word floating over us has a reputation for death. No, I don’t want to think about it. Maybe, we’ll beat the odds. Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe. What if?

I remember breaking down once. I remember a stick shift rendered impossible by a port embedded in her skin. I remember selling the car, and realizing that the woman who once carried me in her body, fed me through her own blood, and destroyed parts of herself in giving me life, this woman was weak. She was small. Human. Sick. Maybe dying.

I realized that something deep was charging like the Rohirrim up the mountains of my throat and I silently shut myself into the laundry room to hurl understanding after understanding out of my body. I didn’t want to understand, but releasing that growth out in the open helped me see how we all were changing. I felt the dice roll and the casino thugs fling me out on the street. Time to figure things out.

But, things got better. Our rapid, strong response saved the day. Or maybe the dice rolled that way, although they didn’t for a lot of other people.

For me, I have some deep convictions about what really went on. And Who was rolling the dice. And why it all worked out in the end for us.

I see a family that’s a closer, stronger. But I see a family that lives in PTSD. I see fear behind our eyes.

I see health, but I see the ghost of chance hovering over us making us doubt our paths and our futures.

I hate this haunting and wondering. There are doors in my house that I have shut and will not open. I keep them locked and let the dust settle. I explore new hallways and new rooms.

I hate being followed by that which is dead. So I reject it at every chance and choose hope. And so I channel everything into courage for a better future. And still, I am optimism.

happily ever after
And they lived happily ever after…

Dear Cancer (A Spoken Word Retrospective Upon The Occasion Of My #Lucky7-Year Cancerversary)

[An Open Vein I Mean Letter To #fuckcancer]

Dear Cancer,

I am still here.

#lucky7 years out from that day

(the mother of bad daze)

when my doctor called and said that damn c-word

(the mother of curse words)

to me

(the mother of my sweet Redheads)

My. 3. Reasons.

Who fell into 3 separate heaps on the floor

At the sound of that word.

Sticks and stones…

—My ass.

Words don’t hurt…

—Bullshit.

I call bullshit on that.

That one word hurt like hell.

It shook the ground beneath us.

I stood my ground though

A little #shakennotstirred

—but only because I am mommy hear me fucking ROAR if you hurt my kids

And that damn word

Knocked all 3 of my babies—

Amanda 17.

Matt 15.

Mikeyy 13.

—it knocked all 3 of them

Down

To the ground

In one fell swoop.

3 separate, sobbing heaps.

3 puddles.

And there I was

One very sick and mortal, broken mama

2 heaving, soon-to-be-leaving, breasts

3 broken hearts to hold

But only 2 arms

And 1 lap.

THE hardest mommy moment EVER.

But something kicked into gear for me—

Some superpower mommy gear I didn’t even know I had

Somehow I managed to gather them up

With these two hands.

We held on tight.

Literally, for dear life.

My life.

It’s been 2,565 tomorrows

That I didn’t know I would get to see

Since that damn day.

2,565 gifts

I’ve gotten to open.

2,565 days I’ve gotten to seize

Days I’ve wrung both the sunshine

And the daylight out of

—before the sun set on me.

2,565 chances to make sure my 3 reasons knew

Out loud and clear and proud

That my one thing

Was to cash in all my chips on loving them

And playing my cards in such a way

That they would miss the crap out of me—

If, by chance, the odds were not in my favor

(But, they were. Thank God. And may they ever be.)

2,565 days to spend myself making sure they remember me loving them HARD.

P.S. I think they do.

So take THAT cancer.

Or should I say, CANTcer?

Anyway, 7 years in a nutshell?

It’s been the ride of my life.

And what.

A ride.

It’s been.

Even the hard parts

Cuz even they meant I’m still here

And my hands are in the air:

Yes…and…

NOW.

Cuz it’s where I’m at.

And what a gift the present IS.

Raise your hand if you’re present…

*raises hand

HERE!

(I don’t see your hand CANTcer.)

Now, in case you’re wondering

This is NOT where I say thank you, cancer

And bust out singing how you made me into this fighter.

Hell no.

The truth is—

My 3 Reasons,

And loving THEM. (Not fighting you.)

That’s what made me stronger.

I thank THEM.

I thank my sweet Amanda.

I thank my sweet Matteo.

I thank my sweet Mikeyy.

But you?

No thank YOU. Very much.

Then why am I even bothering to tell you all this?

You’d think I’d be over you by now.

You’d think I’d have gotten everything “off my chest”

#breastcancerhumor

But I haven’t.

You may be done with me

And God-willing, this is my case

Closed.

Period.

End of THAT story.

But, it’s not your will.

It’s God’s

And I’m cool with that

Come what may.

And may his will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

And in me, too.

Amen.

But…

Regardless of all that

You oughta know [cue: Alanis Morissette]

I’m not done with you yet, damn cancer

Not as long as this ticker

—That you tried to seek and destroy

With the Red Devil

And the mustard gas

And even the good Herceptinis

Aka my chemo cocktail.

Not as long as this ticker keeps ticking.

Not as long as you keep picking on my friends

—Especially, when you go picking on kids.

That’s the lowest blow of them all, you motherfucker.

So, let me repeat…

Not as long as this ticker keeps going and going…

Like that pink bunny

—I don’t know what keeps him going.

Or my heart, for that matter

Except this is what I do know:

It beats for my friends

And especially, the kids.

And you, cancer, have ticked. ME. Off.