About Me...

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In a nut shell : I'm a wife, a full time working mom, a teacher, a Star Wars geek, comic book nerd, Disney enthusiast, hockey Mom, a decade long breast cancer survivor, and oh let's not forget such a happy, sassy, southern mess!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Pink Cotton Candy Monster

Have you ever noticed just how much pink October brings? Yes I know it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month but I sometimes wonder if the stores put up so much pink people become blind to it.

Now don't go getting me wrong, I really do appreciate the fact stores scramble to display pink teddy bears, bags and pink ribbon magnets for everyone to purchase but I have to stop and ask myself is this pink washing or helpful to the cause?

I guess it started for me when I walked into one of our local grocery stores a few weeks back and was just blown away by what I saw; the whole store seemed to have gone pink. There were signs here and signs there, buy this and buy that. Everything from the soups, to the chips to the go green take home bags were pink or had pink ribbons on them.

I was a bit overwhelmed to tell you the truth. I felt as if I was being devoured by a larger than life size pink cotton candy monster! So if I felt this way then how did the rest of the non breast cancer customers feel? So this is where it gets a bit harry for me; do I give into this" Let's go Pink for a Cure" or do I stand down? Seriously this is a dilemma for me. But maybe not for the reasons you think.

(Yes I am aware a good amount of funds do not go to breast cancer research. My thoughts on this are: Going pink to encourage support and to take part in the "go get your boobies squashed campaign is fine", BUT make sure people know you are not contributing funds to the cause! Many would still buy the products, make note of the cause and even give them as gifts to breast cancer survivors. )

Let me let you in on a secret most breast cancer survivors won't admit too except only to one another: We have a love and hate relationship with the color PINK! Yep, love it, hate it, make it go away, and then embrace it all over again! I have said many times we are a different breed. We are fighters, strong, passionate, sometimes fearful and insecure, uncertain for sure and at the end of the day we are SURVIVORS who not only bleed pink but end up wrapped in a pink ribbon for life.

Just a couple weeks back I was honored to take part in a local story related to Alisa Murray's Hope and Inspiration Calendars. If you are not familiar with her work, Alisa puts a personal touch on breast cancer with not just a quote, or a story but through the art of photography. Just last year the boys and I were featured for the month of February in her 2009 calendar. I was honored on this day as I spent several hours with four wonderful and beautiful survivors of all ages and backgrounds. All of our stories were different but there was one common thread between us and it was we all survived breast cancer!

As I was leaving I overheard one of these women ask this question, “Have you noticed now that you have had breast cancer everyone seems to give you all pink gifts?" It made me giggle because I knew the feeling. It's not a bad thing at all. In fact receiving the gift of pink means a lot to me, I am not ashamed or afraid of the color pink.

In fact when I receive a gift bearing the color pink I am touched and I take to heart it means more people, mostly women, are thinking about breast cancer. I know my heart skips a beat every time my precious boys pick up something pink and I hear the words," Mommy, Mommy look! It's pink, it's for breast cancer!" But I will tell you hearing those words is also a two edged sword through the gut because our children are too young to relate to pink as they do. But just as I was not given a choice in the matter, sadly neither were they.

So again I ask is it good to paint the town pink? Well yes and no. Am I straddling the fence? No and let me tell you why. I feel if letting the pink cotton candy monster lose saves just one life then how can anyone argue? BUT it is also a double edged sword too because too many people have become deaf to the cause, basically they have become used to seeing the color pink up they don't see or acknowledge the meaning behind the color anymore. It has no personal meaning for them so they ignore it. Sure maybe they throw some change into the collection plate but do they really care, do they really understand why supporting breast cancer awareness is so important?

Many even know a breast cancer survivor, have had their lives touched by the beast but she survived, what's the big deal now right? You would be surprised how many hold this view. Believe me I know because after reaching remission I have seen many "In the fight. Let's wear pink" drop out of my life. Many begin to think and feel the next person will pick up their sword and sadly what happens is in the end id you are left standing alone with your sword in hand and countless more on the ground around you because everyone else has lost interest in fighting the pink beast.

So these are my thoughts on all this as we close out October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month: If we are going to paint the town pink then let's educate the town as well, put our personal touches on the color pink and open up our own lives and stories to the world. Because if we just sit on the curb and fuss about the pink paint, close our eyes and ignore this time of the year then how are we any different from the people who hide blindly to the cause? How will lives be saved from this beast if we stay on the sidelines?

I say it's time we as survivors take back the color PINK and make it personal again. Let’s be part of the solution as Fight Pink (http://www.fightpink.org/) or part of the transformation as Alisa is with her calendars ( http://www.alisamurray.com/ )What do you say? Are you in? Let's come together next year, October 2010, and make a difference, shout it loudly to the world and make PINK ours again!


Monday, October 19, 2009

Dear Boobie Fairy,

Dear Boobie Fairy,

Now I hear it's that time of year again, some call it BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH. A time of year when folk all over the world focus on defeating this beast we call Breast Cancer. She's a real menace you see. Scratching and clawing her way from one boobie to the next. She takes what's not hers and flees without so much as a please or a thank you.

I have given this a lot of thought and so if you don't mind my dear I would like to ask you for just a small favor ? One is all I really need for just one has gone missing. Oh please oh please just one wish I need? Just a little bit of pink fairy dust sprinkled over me today if you please? For you see I woke up this morning and realized the breast cancer feign had snatched my left boobie away.

Now I stand here looking into a not so magical mirror with only one breast staring back at me. Oh it's not so pretty with wrinkled up skin and an ugly scar spread across the place where my breast used to be.

I have thought this through a time or two you see. If the tooth fairy named Larry can leave coins for old teeth why can't a Boobie Fairy named Shirley sprinkle some pink fairy dust and swap the old boobie out for a new one?

I need a makeover you see. Why can't you just wave your magic wand around a bit and sprinkle some of your special boobie dust over me? Maybe if I wish really hard and concentrate on pink power my breast will re appear?

OK OK, so it isn't as easy as all that. No there isn't a Boobie Fairy and there isn't such a thing as special pink fairy dust waiting for me somewhere behind the curtains. But there is HOPE. I know because I live in her presence every day. Hope is the glue holding my life together in the absence of a lost breast and in the wake of the cancer which took it from me.

Last week I went for my six month mammogram. I walked by the pretty in pink tree in their waiting area. I read through some of the names of those lost and those who now celebrate new life. I picked up a tag and wrote down Kim's name and tied it on. My heart stopped to remember her as I said a prayer. Then it was time to change for my mammogram. As I was undressing and slipping into one of the facilities robes I did something I rarely do: I noticed my missing breast. It just sort of happened. I looked into the mirror and before I could look away my half reformed breast had just slipped out. I stood there for a moment or two , maybe three just staring.

After all this time you would think I would find it easier to see but the truth is even though I have accepted my new body I rarely take the time to take inventory of this feigns handy work. I know it is gone and I know it has not been completely reconstructed yet. I suppose I seem to fall somewhere in between. Kinda like a boobie limbo of sorts if such a place exists.

I wasn't appalled nor I did I reach to quickly cover myself up. No, I stood there for a bit and took it all in. This is who I am now. I am stronger, more confident, even if I still hide behind my layered looks and baggie T shirts. It's not about the glitter or the cleavage, no it's about life and the living of it. I don't need a Boobie Fairy to lighten my load or to bring me a brand new breast to be seen as beautiful. I am in no need of magical pink dust to enhance who I am or a breast to define who I have become as a woman. No. What I need is everything I already have: A second lease on life. I am grateful for the family who loves me, good friends who surround me with support and a sisterhood I am now a part of.

Would I say breast cancer has defined me as a woman? No not at all. I am still Christina, the very same little girl who grew up with diabetes , became a breast cancer survivor and lived to tell her story. What I would say is this: My Battle with breast cancer definitely has defined me as a woman. All I have been through since 2006 has deepened my character, pruned my soul and in the process smoothed away all the rough ideas of who the world said I should be.

I heard Eunice Kennedy Shriver used to say "Use adversity for a purpose" Well I believe this is my new motto Shirley, the Boobie Fairy. So I am off without any pink fairy dust or a boobie swap. You see sweet Boobie Fairy of mine I think it's about time I let my real beauty out to sing. Life as a survivor is a miracle in and of itself even if my miracle is a work in progress.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Turning the Streets Pink

Saturday, October 03, 2009 was a day to remember. On this day I joined over 27, 128 people, 1,194 different teams, 1600 breast cancer survivors and an estimated turn out of over 33, 000 for the 2009 Komen Houston Race For the Cure. We ALL came from different paths, different faiths, different ways of life, different parts of the city and different backgrounds but we ALL came for one reason: To Eradicate Breast Cancer.

A sea of survivors, mothers, fathers, little ones, babies in pink slings, children in wagons and teens holding the hands of their mothers and grandmothers walking some 3.1 miles in honor and in memory of those they love turned out to raced and walked together side by side. Yes we were there to make a difference and to raise the battle call but we were also there to remember and to take quiet pause for those we have lost.

For just a moment let me share my own thoughtful insight here with those who may ask how 33, 000 women, men and children wearing pink and all kinds of crazy ensembles can do anything but crowd the streets? Well let me tell you we were not just there to spread awareness or to fundraise for a cure stripping the pockets of everyone in our path. NO, we were there to walk for what could be... a world without the stinging claw of breast cancer. We were there to make a change, to spread our wings and breakaway from the poison of chemo, radiation and death. We were there to embrace those survivors and pay tribute to the fallen among us.

We come every year to walk in the pouring rain, the sweltering heat and humidity. We walk with crazy hats, pink wigs, smiling and somber faces, fresh scares and old ones. We walk for hope and for life, to make our mark and to hold the hands and the hopes of tomorrows generation living inside each one of us.

There is an old Beatles song called Black Bird. The lyrics go like this: " Blackbird singing in the dead of night. Take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life you were only waiting for this moment to arise. Blackbird fly, Blackbird fly into the light of the dark black night."

Many through the years have asked the meaning behind this song, well I can tell you in my own life these lyrics apply to my own battle with breast cancer and the reason for why we come together and crowd your streets once a year.You see my friend for so many of us the weight of breast cancer seems to hold an ending we do not want to face, to know or to feel. This is the life we lead without a choice. It is not simple, never easy but this is the one thing I know: Nothing have I ever seen as beautiful as 1, 194 SURVIVORS of BREAST CANCER adored in pink, side by side, embracing, crying, laughing and bringing light into the dark black night together.

So I ask you my friend this month as you see the ads and the pink ribbons spread through out your day take a moment to remember those we have lost and to encourage those men and women who have survived breast cancer. Wear something pink in their honor, take a moment and say a prayer, light a candle for the Pink Warriors still fighting. You need no heavenly sign to embrace those you know who have survived.... just open arms and an open heart.

Nothing has changed my life as Breast Cancer has, but God's grace has led me through each step and each mile. I would never have chosen this path for my life but now that I am here navigating these seas I would not change my course for all the money in the world. I am stronger , deeper and my life has more clarity than I could ever have imagined since 2006 intimately introduced me to a life of Pink Ribbons.

Even though many days the miles have seemed longer than they should I have grown in this life which was chosen for me. My life has been given new meaning and I am better for the men and women I have embraced along this journey. So what do you say? Will you jump in, take my hand and take this leap of hope with me? As for me, well I will continue to dance, to walk and to crowd downtown Houston's streets turning the streets pink for as long as I am given breath to do so. So watch out for us during this month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and every other month in between for as Josephine Hart says, "Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive."


Thursday, October 1, 2009

October Is Here

Can you hear the howling wind? I can. The trees are rustling and I am restless. Do you feel the chill in the air tonight? So many forces seem at play right here , right now. Do I regret my path, do I fear the journey ahead? No, but I feel weary already. Time seems to be standing still. I feel as if I have crossed into an alternate reality yet my feet are still planted right here in the ground. The minutes pass every so slowly and with every tick of the clock I grow more aware something is wrong, something is moving, festering, expanding within my breast.

Yes the sun has risen in the east today but I know, yes I am painfully aware my life has changed. I am no longer living in youth's blissful denial. No today the call has come.... today I became one of just under 10,000 women under 40 in the US to be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.

That was 2006. This is 2009 and though many feared they would lose me here I stand. Today, October 1, 2009, marks the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness month. I had no idea three years ago at the age of 32 I would be counted among any kind of statistics yet I was, and I still am today but I am counted as a survivor. Even though my triple negative breast cancer only counts for 10-20% of the breast cancers found I am a survivor and what a powerful word it is too!

Someone once said, “Breast Cancer does not define me as a women, but my battle with breast cancer does.” Honestly those few but powerful words are about as close to the truth as it gets.

I have to admit I wish it was all behind us but three years after losing my breast to the beast we still wake to she her shadow lurking in the distance. Just last night Johnny and I sat shaking our heads over the troubles that we have faced together. Honestly there are still those moments when my missing breast takes my breathe away. I still have moments when I expect to see my lifelong friend, but then I realize she betrayed me and faced the guillotine.

Seriously what little girl dances around pretending one day she will lose her breast? Take a moment and think about it because whether or not she dreams about being dragged off into the uniboob dungeon or not the odds are not in her favor of escaping it's grip. This sweet little girl and her court of ladies has a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer and becoming 1 in 35 to die from it in their lifetimes as the statistics stand today.

Absolutely this beast came into our lives to rip them apart. She drew first blood and backed us into a deep dark cave. But what she didn't know was we weren't the giving up kind! Sure this beast came to ravage and to destroy but she only strengthened what she sought to dissipate. The sun is still rising' and yep without shame we are still barking at the moon. My life has been turned upside down and yes I am still waiting to finish my breast reconstruction. But... the hardest part is behind us. We have learned how to bend not to break.

We have climbed the mountains and pushed through the dark nights together. I have seen my boys brave as soldiers face the beast with her teeth showing and claws protruding. So many times my family has carried me, all the weight of my burdens and still had room in their hearts to embrace my weakness as strength. I have learned through all the ups and downs of living life with breast cancer life throws curve balls every chance she gets. I can say from experience once you have dodged a few of them you learn to deal, then cope and finally to survive.

So with a bit of humor and some frustration I live my life proudly as a uniboober. I guess in my warped sense of thinking, I have accepted my new state of mind and come to see my life clearly as I become a walking , talking open book. I have allowed the clarity of this insanity define me. Does that even make sense? You see I am apart of a very special and beautiful group of men and women who call themselves survivors. Honestly, after all the struggles, the battles and the hardships I would have it no other way because in the end I would not change a thing

Sure you may view me as some kind of a crazy woman, possibly a complete lunatic, lacking healthy living brain cells ( and you know you are probably not too far off ) but with or with or without those old cells I am still standing here with a new lease on life.

The truth is this: I have lived with breast cancer, the loss of my left breast, a bald head, a complete lack of eyebrows and eyelashes, not to mention the drama of having my nails fall off. Did I like it? No, absolutely not! But it is my life, my burden and now my cause.

October is here... may we remember those we have lost, fight for all those whose battle is still emerging , embrace those who have survived and be the difference that saves a life!