Tagged Breast Cancer

Local SCAR Project Subject “Thinking Pink” with Fox 19, and on the Style Network “Baring It All”

[this article is cross-posted at thescarprojectcincy blog.]

Young Cincinnati breast cancer survivor and SCAR Project subject Vanessa Tiemeier was featured on the Fox 19 News “Think Pink” segment for June. (Click HERE to view.) On July 9th, Vanessa will be one of four young women to be featured in the Style Network’s premiere of Patricia Zagarella’s SCAR Project documentary: “Baring It All.” (Click HERE to stay tuned for more info and the trailer, and of course, please LIKE the Facebook page:) This September 29 – October 2, Vanessa’s portrait in which she bared her breast cancer scars, will be one of 30 featured in the Cincinnati premiere of the Pulitzer nominated SCAR Project.

When I met Vanessa, she was standing beside her portrait at the New York City debut of The SCAR Project last October.

She was talking about her experience being photographed for The SCAR Project. I was struck by a number of things about Vanessa. Besides the fact that she was also a breast cancer survivor from Cincinnati who I happened to meet at an art gallery in the Big Apple when I drove there with my chemo sister Shelly to see the opening of an photographic exhibit Vanessa’s portrait was featured in…she was ONLY 29 and her hair was so long. This was probably only significant to me, because even now I still don’t feel that 45 classifies me as an old breast cancer survivor. (Though technically, I suppose it’s true that I am technically old enough to be her Mum. Hmph.) Anyway, the thing about breast cancer is that it doesn’t have no R-E-S-P-E-C-T. That’s pretty much the message of The SCAR Project, and what Vanessa (my senior in fighting breast cancer) was basically saying: Breast Cancer does not play by the rules. If you thought only old women like me get breast cancer, think again. Young women get it too.

This. Is. Wrong.

Which is why a shy girl like Vanessa would be willing to bare it all, her breast cancer SCARs, exposing them for what they really are: (Surviving Cancer. Absolute Reality.)

I could tell how shy she was the way she kept attempting to defer to her portrait, pointing our eyes onto it, when we were looking at her. She had something to say about her absolute reality of surviving breast cancer, but she wanted her portrait to speak. “That’s why I decided to do be photographed for The SCAR Project,” she told me. “I don’t communicate verbally as much as I do visually. It was a way to talk about it without talking about it. I know it’s cliche about a picture being worth 1000 words, but that was my idea behind it.” I could tell how proud she was of her portrait, and to be part of The SCAR Project, because it was bigger than herself with its message of breast cancer awareness for young women, like herself. I noticed this in all the young breast cancer survivor SCAR Project “models” I met that night. Each of them had bared it all, exposing beauty in spite of SCARs, and courage in the face of breast cancer, not to mention, a society where some women are sick of pink and every man’s a breast man.

This humility was probably one of the things that struck me most about Vanessa. It was not in her plans to become a face for young women with breast cancer. Her plans were simply to get married and have a big family. She fell in love and got married at 24. Nine months later…instead of the baby carriage part that was supposed to come next…she had the cancer part to deal with. Then when she was re-diagnosed three years later, before she was finished with treatment and given the go ahead to try and try to fill that baby carriage, she was faced with the absolute reality of a hysterectomy and not having children. “That was the most difficult part to swallow,” said Vanessa.

“I don’t really make plans anymore,” she continued, when I asked her what her plans were now. “I’ve learned plans are crap and to cherish the moment. This moment. I try do this day by day and spend time with the people that mean the most. Try to be the best aunt, wife, sister, daughter I can be. Yeah,” she finishes up with a happy sigh, obviously savoring the moment of thinking about each of those roles and the ones she loves.

This again strikes me. Note she didn’t say anything about her unassuming role in being one of the faces of young women facing breast cancer. Obviously, that wasn’t in her plans. But there she is, beautifully embodying it, embracing each moment.

It’s like blooming.

It’s like turning the tables on cancer. Which reminds me of this song, by Vanessa’s sister Christina Blust. Tumor you are so freaking mistaken.

Kickin’ It With Kristi

On Saturday I did the Columbus Race for the Cure with Team Kickin’ It With Kristi. That’s Kristi, leading her team of true blues in a sea of pink. And by sea of pink, think 50,000 peeps. Wow. Just wow.

Kristi is kickin’ Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer.

The week before Easter Kristi found out that the breast cancer she’d been diagnosed with in 2007, had recurred, having spread to both lungs and her liver. On Good Friday she found out it was also in her hip, pelvis, lower spine, and kidney. A few days later she found out it was also in both sides of her brain.

She finished up 12 rounds of full brain radiation the day before the Race. Hopefully the radiation zapped all the cancer cells POOF gone. Later this month she will begin chemo which will hopefully shrink the tumors in her lungs.

Kristi is only 32. She just turned 32 on Easter. Her son, Chase, turned one-year-old the day before that. She also has a sweet little girl named Addison Hope, who is four-years-old. Addison’s middle name is not an accident. Kristi found out she was pregnant with Addison when she first found out she had breast cancer in 2007.

Addie’s a miracle, like hope is a miracle. She was born on Thanksgiving day, and after Kristi had gone through her first 4 rounds of chemo. Then she had 5 more rounds of “bad” chemo. Then a year of Herceptin. While Kristi was kickin’ cancer for the first time, she and Addie grew their hair out together.

I met Kristi right before her last chemo in December 2008. It was at a breast cancer event at my tennis club on a good week in between rounds 5 and 6, of my 24 chemo cocktails. The first thing I remember about Kristi was her smile and that she walked around like she’d just kicked cancer’s ass. And she had the cutest curly head of hair; I was in a pink Nike ball cap that said TENNIS on it. Meeting Kristi was like getting a postcard from hope.

The postcard had a p.s. with a tennis club membership to get me back out on the courts where my hat was tickled pink at the thought of being. Kristi had received an award from the Tiffany Foundation at the Five Seasons Sports Club’s Ballers Against Breast Cancer event in 2007, when she was pretty much wearing my hat, so to speak. I was in awe when Kristi spoke and shared her story. She said Addie had just turned one. Addison Hope. She had only one more round of chemo to go. So much hope. I was in a chemo fog or something when she mentioned the Tiffany Award and called my name because I did not see it coming. But the tennis was definitely something I looked forward to. Hope.

Hope happened. Fast forward one year, to December 2009, and imagine Kristi with even longer goldilocks, and me without even a hint of a wave in my own new du, but a bunch of salt and pepper, straight up, on top. Imagine that I am back out on the courts by then, and my team is even going to win the play-offs that week. And imagine that I only have one more round of chemo left. Just like Kristi did the year before. And just like Kristi, I got to give the Tiffany Award to the recipient: Mary Jo Cropper. Which was quite humbling, since I had my mammogram at the breast cancer center named after her—in a way she helped saved my life.

Life happened. Fast forward another year, to December 2010, and imagine me having kicked cancer like Kristi, and now trying to figure out life after cancer.

Fast forward to Saturday’s Race and we’re all blue and wearing Kickin’ It With Kristi t-shirts. Cancer happened. Kristi’s fighting for her life again. And she’s going to kick cancer again.

Please pray for her whenever you think of me. If you’re on Facebook, please join the prayer chain for Kristi Frazier. Let’s kick it with Kristi.

I’d like to see this sign with Kristi holding it next year (then me the next cuz I’m such a freaking copycat):

I’d also like to see a sign like this on Kristi’s back in 15 years, and me still trying to keep up with her.

Although, in 15 years Addie will be graduating high school, and my Amanda will be getting regular mammograms. So I hope there won’t even be a Race for the Cure because I hope we’ll find one before then.

The SCAR Project Cincy

The Pulitzer nominated SCAR Project Exhibit is coming to Cincinnati September 29-October 2. The SCAR Project is a series of large-scale portraits of young breast cancer survivors shot by fashion photographer David Jay. The SCAR Project premiered in New York City last October. Cincinnati will be the first city outside the Big Apple to host the collection, which puts a raw, unflinching face on the young women—underneath the pink ribbon.

[Cincinnati Exhibition]

The SCAR Project

Surviving Cancer. Absolute Reality.

Breast Cancer Is Not a Pink Ribbon

Photography by David Jay

www.thescarproject.org

Pictured above is local breast cancer survivor/SCAR model Vanessa Tiemeier. The SCAR Project Cincy is dedicated to her, and to the more than 10,000 women under the age of 40 who will be diagnosed this year. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in young women ages 15-40.

The SCAR Project subjects range from ages 18 to 35 and represent the often overlooked group of young women living with breast cancer. They journeyed from across America and the world to be photographed for The SCAR Project.

The SCAR Project mission is three-fold: Raise public consciousness of early-onset breast cancer, raise funds for breast cancer research/outreach programs and help young survivors see their scars, faces, figures and experiences through a new, honest and ultimately empowering.

This is why we are so passionate about bringing The SCAR Project to Cincinnati, where we have a ridiculous high incidence of breast cancer.

Let’s do something about that.

Litsa Spanos, of Art Design Consultants, will graciously host the Cincinnati Exhibition of The SCAR Project, brought to you by the Cincinnati Committee: Joules Evans, SCAR model Vanessa Tiemeier, Shelly Emrick, and Litsa Spanos. The exhibit will run September 29-October 2, 2011. Stay tuned for details and ticket information.

This blog will chronicle the SCAR Project coming to Cincy.

Indy Race for the Cure

I don’t have enough back to pin enough “in memory of” and “in celebration of” papers on my Race for the Cure shirts. This, is a very sad but true fact.

Damn cancer.

That is why I can’t seem to get enough of Racing for the Cure. It’s not just a 5K. And I don’t walk it alone. I carry a lot of peeps I love with me. They ‘aint heavy, they’re my sisters and brothers. Yes, men can get breast cancer, too. But no, I don’t just write breast cancer sibs on my shirt. I hate all cancer. I have friends with brain, cervical, kidney, leukemia, liver, melanoma, ovarian, prostate, thyroid… cancer on my shirt too.

The night before the race I like to spend some time thinking about all my way too many friends who are fighting or have fought the big damn C. It’s sweet communion as I write their names on my shirts. I think of some of them, resting in peace, and I feel lucky to have known them, to follow after them, to race in their memory. I think of the rest, like me, who are still running our race and I hope we win, and find a cure. Which makes me think of everybody else I know… which makes me run harder. Cancer is a bitch. Don’t want to write any more names on my shirt.

This race for the cure was special, because I ran it with my Mum, who is also a survivor, and my daughter Amanda’s friend Kiley, also a survivor (cervical). Even though I had genetic testing and was found NOT to carry the breast cancer gene, my Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. Right before my very last-23/24-chemo cocktail. I know, it sucked, as much as it sounds. But she is doing well, currently also cancer free!

Here we are the morning of the race. On our marks, get set… but first, a publicity shot with sock monkey. And… Go! Here’s Mum and Kiley in the middle of the sea of pink. And it was a sea, at least 41,410 peeps deep. We took note of race numbers while we walked, to see just how many peeps were in this sea. 41,410 was the biggest number we found. There might have been more, but there were at least that many. Yikes. How cool is that? To walk with so many? To share in this fellowship? To be part of something so big?

My number was 504.

I have no idea why this uploaded sideways. I tried it twice. Whatever. It is what it is. And, now that I come to think of it, somehow appropriate. I call it, “Caffeinated.” Although, truth is, I really wasn’t very caffeinated. First, it was freaking freezing out, so I was using the coffee as a hand warmer. And second, I was trying to be smart since we were racing and not potty dancing for a cure.

Here are a couple of cool random photos that I really loved from the race:

That tiny dot in the middle of my poor photo is a giant “PINK” elephant, courtesy of the Indianapolis Zoo! How freaking cool was that?! Luckily he didn’t trumpet and spray us all with water from the fountain of his trunk, because it was so cold the water would have turned into ice cubes and that would have been one hail of a mess.

As you can see, the Indy dogs were not to be outdone by the breast cancer aware elephants. This was my personal favorite, a dog sporting a save the tatas t-shirt.

Speaking of Save the Tatas, I superheart this foundation. As you can imagine, I especially connect with their sense of humor. And besides humor, in the fight against breast cancer, they promote awareness and fund cutting edge research toward a cure. Check them out at www.savethetatas.com. Use my discount code: “Shaken” at the checkout to receive 15% off your entire order!

#98 Save The Tatas Foundation

All in all, it was a hot race on a cold day. The only thing missing was pink SURVIVOR bracelets:(

Couldn’t find one anywhere. About froze my bum off looking for one to replace the one I broke last week. It’s funny how I sort of feel “vulnerable” without one on. Like a superhero without their cape or something. I’ve outlived 4 so far. Now, it’s become a challenge. Joules 4-Survivor bracelets 0. That’s right, I live hard.

andthat’swhyineedanotherpinksurvivorbraceletfix

All I can say is I hope they have them at the Race in Atlanta.

Well, the trail for pink SURVIVOR bracelets might have been cold, but boy oh boy, did the hot tub feel good after. Ahhh…

#99 Hot tubs

Despite the cold, I really like doing race for the cures. I like getting caught up in the fervor to end breast cancer.

#100 I like imagining a world without breast cancer.

I hope to see that reality.

For all the peeps not on my shirt.

And in honor of all my peeps on my shirt. Here are the credits, in no particular order:

Tiffany Romero Floth, Karen Wellington, Missy, Amy Inkrot, Sue Thompson, Shelly, Marty, Mum, Mary Kate Bourquin, Kiley, Maria Meyer, Yott’s Mum, Cathy Baker, her Mom, and Grandma, Uncle Bill, Auntie Cheryl, my friend Rebecca’s hub, Mary Janet, Kandi Castles Ferrandino, Roxanne, Ron, his wife Sue, and his daughter Amy, Kiley, her Mom Jeanne, Kristi Frazier, Monica, Heather Ray, Patty’s Mama, Mike’s Dad, Jennie’s Mom, Sonya Montemayor, Paige, Mary Jo Cropper, Savannah Hope Swandal, Leanne Davis, Janet Cross, Leah Hartlaub, Keith Gilbert, Mean Jeanne the machine (Megan’s Mum), Janice Hubbard, Kim O’Donnell, Katie, Rich, Big Joyce, Donna Scheffler, Nikki, Julie Garvin Luce, Cynci Wenck, MaryBeth Dupo, Crystal Tatum-Brown, Flora Melchionna, Alison Tarbell-Irwin, Christine Lalama, Linda Wimmers, Susan Fuchtman, Vanessa Tiemeier, Melissa Ward, Marcy Emmons, Rachel Marks, Anita Dalton Lupp, Don Boudinet, Krysti Hughett, Gail Konop Baker, Marilyn Teague, Anita Mason, Julie “Cruise” H., Anne “Etch a Sketch” E., Floyd Penrose, Leona, Sherry Kemper, Kim Wanamaker’s sister, Tracie Metzger, Tami Boehmer, Irmgard Allen, Patricia Fitzwater, Julie Butler, Martha Butler, Kathy Arsenault, Karen Dubois, Jill Davis Lamaster, Heddit Ott, Lou, Sheila Henderson, Phyllis, Carol Egenolf Bramlet, Lori Warner, Shelly Spate, Deb Mulligan, Stacey Karlosky, Charlene Staats Rack, Cyndi and Bill Walsh, Michael Hernandez, Debbie Smith, Jo, Ann who hates pink, Geralyn Lucas, Lance Armstrong, Daria, and me.

#101 the number of peeps I “walked with”

That’s… too many peeps.

Let’s… find a cure. Meanwhile, everybody else, stay off my shirt!

No Peas in the Pod!

So. Very. Thankful.

#18 my oncologist, Dr. Lower, and all the amazing cancer ass kicking staff of Ohio Hematology Care. Yesterday, I had my 3-month check-up. Everything seems peachy, and although I wait for the blood tests to arrive by snail, no news is good news.

#19 my breast surgeon, Dr. Stahl, and her cancer ass kicking side-kick nurse, Rita. Today, I had my 6-month check up. There were no peas in the pod.

#20 holidays from doctor’s appointments.

#21 lunch with my chemo sis-tahs, Shelly and Julie.

#22 and #23 Two thumbs up and a clean bill of health, for 3 and 6 months, respectively.