From Chemo

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!

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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

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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!

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.

 

 

Good Ol’ Perseus

[So this happened 7 years ago tonight…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 3681641.4 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. Don’t get me wrong. I’m thanking God and my lucky stars this recent golf ball scare was not another cancer trip. I most def don’t ever wanna do that again. Hell no. But, I wouldn’t trade getting to sit here watching Perseus do his thing again from where I’m at now, #lucky7 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,”9 (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 obvs… 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. The Kindle version is avail for $2.99 with the purchase of the paperback, which is $9.99. On August 20, in commemoration of the day I heard the C-word, the Kindle version will be FREE.

And stay tuned…cuz while I’m sitting here on the sidelines, recovering from my recent surgery…I’m wrapping up recording the audio book version of #shakennotstirred.

P.S. Here’s the iTunes Link to the theme song to my book, the “Cancer is a Bitch” Song by the Kicked-in Fence aka my Redheads<3 To download the Cancer is a Bitch song, click HERE. It’s only 99 cents.

I Walk (Hop/Skip) The (Dashed/Dotted) Line

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So I’ve never done this before, but sometimes I get a note from somebody who’s reading SHAKEN NOT STIRRED…A CHEMO COCKTAIL, and today I got one that just started my day off with the biggest and best kinda bang like kaPOW! and I thought I’d share…

“I’m reading the page in your book with the Boob Lube and had to stop to tell you how hella-fabulous it is. I mean, seriously…a dashed line for me to dog ear the page? You, my friend, are a literary genius. Yep. Right up there with ole Bill S. himself.” ~Kim.

First of all, thank you, Kim. For this kind note, your kind words…but also, let me not neglect to say, for your service. _/_ YOU. so. very. much. made. my. day. today. Before my day had even started! Your note was the first thing I read this morning. Before I’d even had a sip of my coffee. But boy did it make my coffee taste like the best. cup. ever!

I remember cracking myself up about that dashed line. I had to ask my youngest son, Mikeyy, to help me put it in the book since I am so. very. NOT. tech savvy. Also I’m basically not good with straight lines (even dashed ones) (even when I haven’t been “cheers”ing;).

Anyway, most of the notes I get about SHAKEN are from peeps downing their own damn chemo cocktails…and they all humble me down to the ground, which I figure is a pretty damn good praying position, so that’s how I usually roll with it. It means more than words, to be able to walk with someone through their own journey, as they walk through mine, via SHAKEN.

And this note I received this morning…from a badass military veteran/breast cancer warrior sister/friend of mine reading my book and sharing my joy over that dashed line…walking the line with me, if you will…also makes me hit the dirt, heavily laden with gratitude. So I thought I’d lighten the load a little and share;)

And while I’m in this uber fab/fun sharing mood, I thought, why not also share this link about Boob Lube, which I remember making me LMFAO a little when I found out about it when I was writing SHAKEN. I thought/think it was SUCH a superpower freaking clever product to encourage breast health awareness. Still do.

And while we’re on the topic of breast health awareness…this would be a mighty fine time to go check yourself. In fact, I’ll end this post now so you can go do that.