Thursday, May 31, 2012


(© 2012 The Big C and Me)
I was scrolling through some of my old blog posts and found one that was written exactly one year ago today. In it, I talk about how to manage the post-diagnosis but pre-surgery chaos that every patient has to deal with. 

"I took cancer from an angry rolling boil down to a simmer by determining the who, what, when, where,why and how of my diagnosis. This not only gave me a path and a direction, but a sorely needed compass. 
Once you figure it out, managing your cancer chaos gets much easier." 

Read the rest of the post hereI hope it helps any newbies out there.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


A Duke University research team is currently looking for women who live anywhere in the U.S. and have undergone surgical treatment for any type or stage of breast cancer to participate in an Army of Women quality-of-life study.

What could be easier than that?

  • You must live in the United States
  • You have had a diagnosis of breast cancer at any stage — including DCIS, LCIS or Stage IV metastatic breast cancer
  • You have had surgery to treat your breast cancer
  • You are female
  • You are 18 years of age or older
  • You have access to a computer

  • Go to the Army of Women study requirements page (click here) and then click "Sign Me Up!" 
  • If you are eligible, you will be sent an email with instructions on how to complete the survey online. The survey is completely confidential, and it asks some compelling questions about your experience post-surgery; I encourage you to be brutally honest! The medical community needs to know how utterly jarring and life-altering breast cancer surgery and reconstruction really is. Only then can things begin to change.

Please tell any and all friends and family members who have had surgery for breast cancer about this study. It's one small way we can all make a difference! For more AOW studies, see my recent posts here and here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Ernest Hemingway was a big fan of brevity; his most famous short story is a perfect example:
"For sale: baby shoes, never worn." 

Proves the point that you don't need a lot of words to make a point! Larry Smith, founder of SMITH Magazine, believes that too. Back in 2006, he created the tantalizing Six-Word Memoir® project with the following tagline: Everyone has a story. What's yours? Then he invited folks to tell their stories — in half a dozen words. No more, no less. 

My challenge to you all today is: Can you condense your cancer experience into just six words? I say we give it a whirl! I'm inviting everyone to participate, because everyone has a breast cancer story. Even if you don't have breast cancer yourself, your life has somehow been touched by it. Let's put a six-word face on BC.

I'll start: Cancer called. Wish I hadn't answered.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Three things happened this week that birthed this blog post.

First, I was catching up on my blog reading when I checked in on Jan from Mourning Has Broken; her post title caught my eye. By the time I was done reading it, my emotions had run the gamut. She had shared a secret she'd been harboring for years, and was so brave in revealing her truth that I couldn't comment quickly enough! This is what I wrote:

  • "When I first started reading this post and saw the words “blog party,” I thought oh, this is going to be a funny post. As I started reading I realized it was serious — but I thought you were telling the story of the girl in the video. THEN I finally realized you were telling your own story. And then I watched the video. And now I want to give you a great big hug and say you are AWESOME and brave and amazing for sharing your secret! So proud of you!! And so sorry you have suffered with this disorder on top of suffering with BC and lymphedema. It ain’t fair. Truth be told I think we all have idiosyncratic behaviors that we use to keep our anxieties at bay. Some people drink too much. Some eat too much (as you have described). Some have compulsive routines that bring a measure of calm to a very topsy turvy world. Some are hooked into being drama queens. Some people exercise too much. Oh, the list goes on. The important thing to know is that we’re all just trying to cope. And you are definitely not alone. I suspect you have helped more than one person with your sharing today. Good on you!"

That's a cancer surviver for you: Strong, brave, and not afraid to tell the truth. (To read Jan's revealing post, click here.) I continued on with my blog reading.

Next, I popped in and out of a number of blogs (you know how that goes: One blog leads to another, and another...) before I landed on a sweet little one that (again) caught my eye: "Things I'm afraid to tell you." Intriguing title. Sounds like what Jan just did. I keep reading.

I quickly learn that blogging has gotten too pretty, too perfect, and too polished (not my words, but those of other writers). In fact, a movement is underway to bring more honesty to the blogosphere

More honesty? Really? Again, I think of Jan's post. And I keep reading: A group of bloggers have challenged each other to be more authentic by writing about the stuff they don't normally discuss on their blogs. You know, the things they are afraid to tell you.

As I'm sure you guessed by now, these are not cancer bloggers. 
So what's this 'movement' all about? Blog envy. It's (apparently) a real thing. Bloggers see beautiful things on other beautiful sites and have a misperception that the blogger has a beautiful life too — free from the many things that make us all human. Bloggers want to see that their fellow bloggers aren't perfect.
Well come on over to Cancerland! I'll show you a community of bloggers that is not shy about sharing its dirty laundry. Heck, it's why we're here in the first place! Our blogs are our attempt to make sense out of cancer, purging our minds of the darkness that hides within its cracks and crannies. 

Yes, I had a good laugh at the humor of it all. But don't get me wrong — I mean no disrespect to anyone out there who is blogging about something other than cancer. (Talk about blog envy — I wish I wrote about travel, not tissue expanders!) We need those kinds of blogs too: The ones focused on the pretty things, the ones we go to in order to forget (for a moment, anyway) our troubles. They're all important. It's just that I had no idea that "blog envy" existed. 'cause I have never felt it. So I decided to leave a comment. And here is what I wrote:

  • "This is my first time visiting your blog (I followed a link to 'Things I'm afraid to tell you' and landed here). I feel compelled to leave you a post. I started blogging after a breast cancer diagnosis, and honesty is the backbone of my little corner of the blogosphere. I am stitched into a supportive, witty community of cancer survivors who tell it like it is every single day. No holds barred over there. No one afraid to tell their truth. There is transparency aplenty. And talent. And humor! Lots of humor. Really. But I had no idea that it wasn't like that in other web niches. Never really thought about it before. Kinda having an AHA moment over here — seeing a benefit to cancer I never noticed before. Thank you!"

I felt a great deal of honesty and transparency in leaving my comment. Maybe one person will check out my blog and discover some of your blogs too. We never know the ripple effect that one toe in the water can create. (Ever hopeful am I.)

Lastly, I read a brilliant post by Suleika Jaouad, who writes a column in The New York Times about her experience as a young adult with cancer (in Suleika's case, it is acute myeloid leukemia). The title of her article also caught my eye: "Posting Your Cancer on Facebook."

Whoa. Talk about truth telling. I don't share in that way on Facebook. That's my cancer-free zone. I'm just not comfortable talking about all my 'stuff' to all my peeps when all of them probably don't really want to know all the gorey details. That's why I have this blog. If you are a regular reader, you're not afraid of my truth or my cancer. And that makes me feel safe. Facebook does not feel safe to me in that regard.

Suleika was deep into chemo when she decided to finally "come clean" on Facebook. She writes that it felt "inauthentic, even dishonest" that her FB profile did not reflect her current reality as a cancer patient. I have to give her props; I'm just not ready to do it. 

And that's not blog envy. That's just the truth.

(To read Suleika's revealing post, click here.)

Amended to add: The Huffington Post has picked up on this "truth-telling" phenomenon (aka, TIATTY). OY. Too bad no one mentions cancer bloggers...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


(Copyright © 2012 The Big C and Me)
I found this sign tucked in a tiny flower garden that rimmed a seaside restaurant. I think it's pretty true for people, too.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


YAY... it's May! That means the great Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge is over! Wow: 30 blog posts in 30 days (with two "get out of writing" days thrown in as a life raft); that really was a challenge. Not that I didn't love participating; I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. But blogging every day is hard for a slow writer like me. In fact, that's the main reason I committed to doing it. Writing every day would have to speed me up, wouldn't it?

Old habits, old dogs and many hours later... well, you get my drift. Some things never change. But I digress.

Hats off to my three HAWMC co-challengers: Marie, Jan and Yvonne. Knowing they were also digging deep spurred me on when I might otherwise have thrown in the towel.

So what were some of my favorite prompts? Creating a cancer haiku on Day 6 was fun. (I liked it so much I wrote another on hot flashes the same day. So not like me.)

I really got a kick out of Day 21's Mad Lib; I typed random words in — and a Sylvia Plath poem came out. (There's no way I could have come up with "Captivating Cancer's Captivating Cancer" all on my own!)

On Day 19, I enjoyed imagining the five people I'd love to have over for dinner if I could go back in time. Speaking of time, writing about my first time getting a bloggy award (and being able to show some bloggy love to 22 of my favorite blogs) on Day 28 was a very satisfying challenge.

My third-person post, Our Lady With Cancer (Day 25) was a tough one to write. That confession was long overdue.

My 5 Challenges and 5 Victories on Day 27 allowed me to see that cancer really can give back more than it takes away.

But my favorite post of the challenge was your favorite too: It's Not My Fault I Got Cancer generated the most hits and seemed to strike a chord with readers as well: It garnered the most comments. Coming in a close second? 10 Tips for a Happy Life — the letter to my 16-year-old self.

For now, so long, farewell, HAWMC. I will embrace the respite from daily blogging that May brings. See y'all soon.

PS: The fact that I was able to work Don Draper into a blog on breast cancer? Brilliant, if I do say so myself. ;-)