Monday, April 30, 2012


Day 30 — the final day — of the WEGO Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge, and we're making "word clouds" about our blogs using this really cool widget over at Wordle. Here's what I've come up with:

Sunday, April 29, 2012


WOW: Day 29 of the WEGO Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge. Almost to the finish line! I'm told brevity is a skill worth honing and today I am to tell you a story in just six sentences. Here goes:

India's Oven, on Pico Blvd., was a casualty of the Los Angeles riots.
(Copyright © The Big C and Me)
Exactly 20 years ago today, I watched the Los Angeles riots unfold from my second-story apartment, where I could smell the fires burning all around me — from Fairfax and Pico to Olympic and La Brea. 

Having just completed training as an emergency room volunteer, I grabbed my little blue and white uniform and headed to the hospital — where I found a scene straight out of the movies. 

I spent six hours comforting shell-shocked patients who had been injured by everything from glass to bullets to bricks. Afraid to go home, I left my car in the hospital parking lot and caught a ride to a girlfriend's house with an elderly gentleman (also an ER volunteer) who happened to live near my friend on the other (far safer) side of the hill. 

We sped through the empty streets of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, past midnight, past the newly imposed curfew, afraid of being pulled over by the cops or, worse, coming across who-knows-what-kind-of-trouble. 

The three of us stayed up late drinking long-forgotten booze at my friend's kitchen table while trying to process the dramatic and historic civil unrest we had witnessed.


Day 28 of the WEGO Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge — just 3 more days to go! Today's task is to finish this sentence: "The First Time I..." So I'll tell you about the first time I received a blog award from a fellow blogger.

Michelle (from Ramblings of a Peacock) found me floating in the ethers of the internet last November and gave me a "One Lovely Blog" nod here. Unfamiliar with the concept (and knee-deep in preparing for yet another surgery), I thanked her, promptly posted the award on my blog, and did nothing further. (Technically I'm to nominate 15 newly discovered blogs, and reveal 7 tidbits about myself. You can see why I chose to do nothing!)

But then it happened again. Yesterday, Launna from Letters From Launna gave me "The Versatile Blogger Award." How nice is that?  So 
I chose "bloggers bestowing bloggers" as my "first time" for two reasons: 
1) It's the first time I've received any kind of anything for blogging; and 
2) neither Michelle nor Launna are cancer survivors. They're both moms who write about things that inspire them. The fact that they found a blog written by someone going through breast cancer interesting and inspiring enough to not only keep reading but to give a bloggy award? Pretty amazing.

I'm bending the rules a bit ... while some of the blogs below are new to me, others I'm listing just 'cause I love 'um. (
For more of my favorites, see "Big C Favorites" at left.) I'm also only listing 11 blog winners (rather than 15) for each award because, well, 11 seems like a good number. And I'll spare you the 7 tidbits about me. Each blog below is linked, so feel free to click away!


1) Yvonne of Time to Consider the Lilies is a transplanted Irishwoman living in Arizona and writing about her breast cancer experience with great grace and wisdom. 
2) Nancy of Nancy's Point fame always has great points to share. She lost her mom to breast cancer and writes of her own BC journey from a lovely lake in Wisconsin.
3) Shortly after Liz of Paw-Paw Salad moved from Sydney to Darwin (in Australia's remote Northern Territory), she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Liz recently started blogging in her special corner of the world; stop by, say hi!
4) Follow Terri at A Fresh Chapter on her Adventure of Hope as she volunteers her way around the globe learning how cancer affects folks in third-world countries.
5) Cynthia of The River and the Sea blogs about life post-inflammatory breast cancer, and compiles a Monday post full of the latest health links.
6) Delightful Rachel at Ticking Time Bombs is a 21-year-old college student in Los Angeles who had a prophylactic mastectomy after testing positive for the BRCA gene. She is experiencing complications from her reconstruction surgery so please show her some bloggy love!
7) Mina at The World According to the Little Fish is a busy mom in Idaho juggling adoption, her husband's health and the recent death of her mom from cancer.  
8) Sandra from Tales of a Golf Gal is a southern mom (and grand mom) who writes about golf, decorating, and her fight with sarcoma.
9) Nancy over at The Pink Underbelly is a BC survivor living in Texas with her family and numerous pets, including a pot-bellied pig. Nancy 
puts the spunk in spunky!
10) Canadian Carrie at Our Journey blogs about life as a mom of three, complete with caring for her youngest, who was born with a congenital heart defect. Carrie recently had a breast cancer scare. All is B9. (YAY!)
11) Sarah at Being Sarah writes of loss, love, breast cancer — and the healing power of a good British garden.


AnneMarie at Chemo-Brain is a breast cancer survivor with family history who is on a mission: to educate the masses about BC and pink ribbon syndrome. She has more rants than you can shake a New Yawk stick at. Love her!
2) Marie lives in Ireland and is the brains behind Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer, the website that has helped so many BC bloggers discover and connect with one other via her Friday Roundups. Concise, witty and always wise: That's our Marie!
3) Jan at Mourning Has Broken is a former patent attorney turned breast cancer and lymphedema advocate, and a steadfast blogger since 2008. 
4) Shannon at Green Monkey Tales writes from Connecticut with great comedic tension about life in BC land. And it's a delightfully raucous ride!
5) Kathi is The Accidental Amazon! She's also the sass behind the "Grumblers for the Cure" — and there is nothing accidental about her viewpoint. Vim and vigor abound on her breast cancer blog.
6) Stacey at Bringing Up Goliath is a mom writing about breast cancer and loss in all its imperfections and shades of gray.   
7) Alli at Life in Transition blogs about her fight with Stage III breast cancer as she transitions into a new life on her own.
8) Beth at Calling the Shots is a self-described cancer thriver and patient advocate with plenty to teach us on how to stand up for ourselves as patients. 
9) Cathleen over at My Half-Glassed Life lives in South Carolina and writes with wit and wonder about cancer and widowhood.
10) Catherine at Bumpy Boobs is "laughing, chatting, doodling and ranting" about her dance with breast cancer at the age of 27. 
11) Ann at But Doctor... I Hate Pink is fighting the wild west of metastatic breast cancer in California. Her blog chronicles the ups, the downs, the everything in-betweens of life first as a Stage II and now Stage IV patient. Her signature humor is evident in every post. Follow her!

Friday, April 27, 2012


It's Day 27 of the WEGO Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge and the finish line is in sight! Today's task: List the five most difficult things about having breast cancer, as well as the five good things that keep me going. A total of 10 things I got out of cancer.


  1. Being forced to face my mortality
  2. Having a lack of energy during the day and trouble sleeping at night
  3. Hiding my under-construction chest
  4. Taking Tamoxifen
  5. Spending so much time dealing with doctors appointments, preparing for surgery, having surgery, recovering from surgery and follow-ups — it's inordinate, ridiculous, and a full-time job!


  1. Taking a stand against Pinktober (read my posts here, here and here)
  2. Discovering a vibrant, worldwide and uber-supportive web of fabulous, fascinating and funny cancer survivors
  3. Realizing that right now, this moment, is the only "for sure" that any of us have
  4. Making exercise, eating well and being kind to myself a top priority
  5. Falling in love with writing again — and finding my voice via this blog

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Day 26 of the WEGO Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge and my assignment is to write a catchy tagline. (You know, like what Mad Men's Don Draper asks Peggy Olsen to do.) By definition, a tagline is a memorable phrase that sums up the tone and premise of a brand. The brand in this case is my blog.

I already had a tagline of sorts: 

"Dealing with the pink elephant in the room

while learning what the "Big C" really means:


Not sure this describes exactly what my blog is about, but it sure makes today's writing task short and sweet! (Sort of like a sip of 60s Seagrams on the rocks...) It also ties in nicely with my blog's "theme song"!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


It's Day 25 of the WEGO Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge and I'm to tell you a memory — but I have to write it in the third person. Here goes!

There is a woman, a very private woman (let's call her "Our Lady With Cancer") who felt oddly ignored during and after her breast cancer "experience." And it seems Our Lady With Cancer brought it all on herself. How so? In choosing not to tell everyone on earth about her diagnosis, she cut off a large lifeline of people that could have made her journey so much easier. 

You see, coming out publicly about having cancer is not in Our Lady With Cancer's blood. She is diligent about keeping references to her health off of Facebook. To her "friends" not in the know, they would never know what she is really going through. And that's the way she likes it. She continues to post pretty pictures and comment on others' FB posts, but she keeps the biggest secret of her life to herself — an attempt at controlling an uncontrollable beast.

She tells the people who need to know — the people she is closest to, her family, the folks she trusts. But she can't handle the thought of being talked about or rejected during this very vulnerable time. So she continues to keep "it" quiet.

She also tells a select few people who are large cogs in her social wheel... people she knows will get the word out. She doesn't want to have to say "I have cancer" too many times. She knows if she turns on the faucet, they will come to the trough.

So it comes as quite a shock when Our Lady With Cancer's pool of support slowly dries up in the weeks and months following her bilateral mastectomy. Though she doesn't talk about "it" on Facebook, she is still surprised when no one addresses her dance with cancer — publicly or privately.

Even members of her extended family are strangely silent. How can this be? She imagines how some would handle a cancer diagnosis — how it would be all they talked about, every detail dripping in drama, drama, drama.

Well, be careful what you wish for, Our Lady With Cancer: You never wanted too much attention, and so you never got it. Our Lady begins to question her worth as a friend, a family member, a patient, a human being in need. She struggles with asking for help when help has never been offered in the first place. The fear of rejection is stifling her vulnerability. 

One day she goes to lunch with a friend (who is also friends with one of the "cogs") and is shocked to learn said friend doesn't know she has cancer. WTF? Our Lady With Cancer emails another former friend — and finds that person similarly shocked. Turns out the cog has kept quiet — respecting the very privacy that is so beloved by Our Lady With Cancer. (Well, what do you know about that!)

Our Lady With Cancer attends a baby shower. The room is packed with people. She decides not to keep "it" a secret any longer. She will openly and gladly talk about her breast cancer experience with anyone at the party who asks. Yet, remarkably, no one does.

But this time, she is not silenced. Our Lady With Cancer brings "it" up. She shocks many in the room that day. Jaws drop left and right. She talks about her fears, her cancer, her reconstruction. In fact, cancer is all she talks about. When she leaves the party, it is with a newfound (and hard-won) freedom. And a lightness of being. An almost unbearable lightness of being.

Now Our Lady With Cancer mentions "it" whenever it is appropriate. On the hiking trail, she falls into conversation with another hiker and tells him she is recovering from breast cancer surgery; he in turn tells her about a close friend with breast cancer who just completed the Ironman. At a farmer's market, Our Lady With Cancer asks for help to her car because she cannot carry heavy bags after her double mastectomy; the woman helping her reveals her own battle with stomach cancer. 
Our Lady With Cancer is no longer afraid to talk about cancer. And she realizes an old school truth: People are not talking about her. They are not focused on her. They are focused on themselves.

After a friend is diagnosed, Our Lady With Cancer emails — expressing concern and revealing her own cancer. The woman writes back, "Yes, I know. I heard." Our Lady With Cancer understands that people do not always know what to say to people who have cancer. Especially private people who have cancer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


It's Day 24 of the WEGO Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge. Yesterday's challenge was to write about anything I wanted. And I wanted to write about nothing. So that's what I did!

Today, however, the challenge is thus: "Give your health focus a mascot." I've been thinking about this since yesterday (knowing I was going to be writing about it today), and I had a few ideas, but the most poignant one I could come up with to represent breast cancer is something we actually all possess. It's different for each and every one of us. And yet it's the same. 

So what is it?

It's YOU. As a child. Little you, with a fresh face and creaseless skin and not a care in the world (other than having to stop playing in order to come in for dinner). It's the you that you were way before life's inequities entered the room. Before you realized that life was unfair, and difficult, and oh-so-messy. Well before you had to worry about everything yourself.

The age at which we were this innocent, this unscathed, this scarless varies by person, of course; but we all started out this way — protected from the reality of life and all that can go right and wrong.

Putting a face on my cancer means showing the world the innocence I once knew. That face is the essence of who I was then — but also who I still am now. I wrote some solid advice to my 16-year-old self on Day 10 of this challenge (read that here), and it can easily be applied to a child, any child, at any age. Even the 2-year-old above.

If we view cancer through the eyes of a child (and not through the artificial prism of Pink that has covered breast cancer like, well, like a cancer) we can connect with the need and desire to protect our inner (and outer) child from a similar fate. 

Find a photo of a very young you and make it your mascot. Look in your eyes. What do you see? That's the essence of you. If you have kids, you'll see them in there too. (If you don't have kids, you will see other people's kids.) 

So how do we protect these innocent children from ever having to go through a cancer diagnosis themselves? We can start by being a part of the search for prevention, the search for a cure. Sign up with the Army of Women. You don't need to have breast cancer to join the force. You just need to be a woman. Because that is the one risk factor we all share.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


OK, Day 22 of the WEGO Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge says to write myself a reminder (a Post It,as it were), a la the sticky notes found on the blog, Things We Forget. As for where I would post this, well, I think grade schools would be a start. 'cause wouldn't you have wanted to learn this early on?

"Everything has its wonders,

even darkness and silence,

and I learn,

whatever state I may be in,

therein to be content."

—Helen Keller

Saturday, April 21, 2012


I skipped Day 20 yesterday of the WEGO Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge (I'm allowed two "get out of writing" passes). But today's exercise (Day #21) is wild and wacky and I couldn't wait to try it! (It's one of my favorites of the writing challenge thus far.) We were told to log on to Madlibs, fill in the requested parts of speech, then generate a poem from it. It's trippy! Mine came out in the rhythm of Sylvia Plath. Check it out!
By Renn and Sylvia Plath
I chew my sweaters and all the moon clashes in darkness; 

I argue my Rockefellers and all is understand again.
(I gnaw and separate you up inside my hammer.)

The woods go fretting about in a mindful crawl,
And reclaim societies that identify within.
I justify my violet and all the companion trains 
each afternoon.

A liar improves from the ledge, but the screenplay's mountain justifies,
And dominates gold and silver's river:
I justify my violet and all the companion trains 
each afternoon.

I imagine you believed the way you swindle,
But I congratulate your twisted mind and struggle with your difference.
(I gnaw and separate you up inside my hammer.)
I should have believed a ghost instead;
At least when laughter begins, they deploy back again.
I justify my violet and all the companion trains 
each afternoon.
(I gnaw and separate you up inside my hammer.) 

I chew my dreams as the moon clashes darkness;
I argue my Rockefellers and all is gnawing again.
(I understand I believe you up inside my society.)

The woods go fretting about in mindful alarm,
And reclaim relief identifying within:
I justify my violet and all the companion trains 
each afternoon.

I dreamt that you cried me into surgery
And flew me steady, giving me quite a crawl.
(I understand I believe you up inside my society.)

The screenplay improves from the ledge, and the liar's mountain justifies:
dominating gold and silver rivers:
I justify my violet and all the companion trains 
each afternoon.

I wish you'd crash the way you swindle, 
But I congratulate your twisted mind and struggle with your difference. (I understand I believe you up inside my society.)

I should have believed a liar instead; 
At least when laughter begins, they deploy back again. I justify my violet and all the companion trains each afternoon.
(I understand I believe you up inside my society.)