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!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Agent of the SBCA (Survivors of Breast Cancer Agency)

I woke up this morning as I do every other weekday morning falling out of bed, turning on the computer, crawling my way into the kitchen and into the boy’s rooms. Once my eyes finally open I put breakfast on the table, get back packs in order and stop to pause and kiss my children on their way out the door reminding them to say their prayers. After cleaning up, making beds, washing up the dishes, putting the dog out and taking a deep breath the silence becomes almost deafening honestly. I know I should embrace the quiet and enjoy my orderly house for the day right? I do, really, but I also miss my kids and the sometimes crazy but always beautiful noise they bring into my life on a daily basis.

With all we have been through as a family over the last 4 years you would think I would be tougher than this right? You know the “one tough mama” thing? I may be stubborn but tough… not at all. I am a simple woman, a mother and a wife who sometimes feels a bit inadequate but always tries with her whole heart. I sometimes wonder if I am doing enough maybe too much at times, but always trying right? Maybe I should think of myself as a badge, pink suit and pistol carrying agent of the SBCA (Survivors of Breast Cancer Agency)? I can just see it now…..Storming through doors, running the streets, chasing down the beast, out of breathe saying “book ‘em Boob O” ! I know, I know I could be Captain Breast-less! Yes I can see it now!

Seriously though, I sometimes wonder if this is not how the world sees many survivors of breast cancer. I know it sounds hilarious but many of those who survive become poster children for the Untouchables. Many begin to see us as super strong, invincible and unbreakable but the truth is we are still battling our own inner beast, even if she is just circling at the moment; she is still waiting to attack!

As breast cancer alumni we live everyday with our scars and for those of us who have survived though our battles are different, they are still a daily struggle. Every morning we face the mirror and our scars. Most days they are just part of the background, not the whole picture but there are some days when they are all we see. Many grow tired of the cause, of hearing you talk of your battle and the road which has brought you full circle. You won; you beat the beast right, so move on. Sadly these are the kind of opinions which lead to many survivors pushing away, locking themselves behind closed doors and struggles with their scars alone.

It has four years since I myself lost my breast to cancer. My breast was taken from me in a rather brutal way if you really sit down and think about it. Honestly I envision the surgeon removing and slicing my young, yes beautiful breast up like a piece of cake. Did I jump up and down asking to live as a uniboober in a two boobed world? Not in the least, but it is the hand I have been dealt. So today I ask you as family, friends, and loved ones to take a step back and put yourself in our shoes if just for a minute. Close your eyes and envision yourself in front of the mirror… now think about opening your robe and seeing what we see. Think about losing your breast, of waking up one morning and having it suddenly gone and in your breast’s place a scar stretching from one side of your left chest to under your arm. Now think about the courage it takes to face the world each and every day….

So as we head in to October, I encourage you my friends during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to take the time to dig deep within yourself. Don’t roll your eyes when you see the pink ribbons rolled out or allow yourself a quiet riot inside because your are tired of hearing about breast cancer and all the woes. I can tell you each and every survivor is tired of the fight too. Instead ask yourself how you would face the beast if it were you, your wife, your mother or your daughter, even your son? Why not exchange shoes with those who have fought the fight and appreciate them for just a moment instead of pushing them far and away from your life. Take the survivor in your life seriously, treat them with care, maybe to lunch, pick up the phone and ask how they are doing and really listen this time.

Making a commitment to breast cancer is not just turning in lids though this is a wonderful way to contribute. No, making the commitment is deciding to stay the course with those who you know personally fighting the beast. If we are going to win this battle then we have to climb outside our own windows and get a little dirty. Making the fight against breast cancer personal means we have to get up close with those who have survived and those who are fighting to survive.

I think I will just take a moment now to put on my badge, straighten my pink suit and grab my pink breast cancer fighting pistol making sure my boob is tightly in place before I step out the door today as an agent of the SBCA. The only thing I still need is a partner to cuff the beast… are you willing?


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Life Inside A Shrinking Box

Can you imagine a world where the journey is the destination? Where the sky is turned upside down and the sun has turned blue? A place where the train does not take you there, but where you follow the tracks instead? Maybe a world where there is no normal and the meaning of the word normal is unusual?

I know of a place, a world not too far off the beaten path where the destination is just the beginning… A place where you are who you are from the inside out instead of from the outside in. A world like no other you have ever seen where a promise is the gift we find in our journey instead of the promise we never find at end of the rainbow.

Yes, a place where nothing makes sense at all yet everything makes perfect sense at the same time? Have you ever thought about a world where we could simply be ourselves? Not a world where we are trapped inside a shrinking box?

For me this world well it would be a place where living with one breast in a two boobed world is not just ok but beautiful. Where my lopsided profile would fit in perfectly without the overcast of a sex driven, over crazed perfect 10 shadow of a world?

When was the last time you honestly thought of a beautiful woman having just one breast or with none? Does losing a breast mean I lose who I am? Or that I am incapable of sexuality or beauty? Should I have to retreat to the back corners of the room, inside the darkness of what once was? Or is there a world where true beauty has no size, no mirror image to copy but comes from within, deep inside who we really are and can be? What if there was no normal, no “10” just a rainbow of possibilities instead?

Is it possible to discover a place where the one element the out world deems as a woman’s definition of beauty can be removed and still find her provocatively beautiful? I truly wonder if there is a place like this. If we as pawns in our own game can pull back the shrinking walls of this world we have created for ourselves? I would like to think one day we can.

I am but only one voice for now… trying desperately to escape this box, stepping out one tiny step at a time. Yes the shadows loom over me, reaching out to consume me, to continue to crowd in from behind me as they hiss and hurl their opposition to who I am becoming. But this I know… if I continue with my journey, knowing it is not the destination leading me but the discovery of who I am as both a woman and a survivor one day the touch, the feel of and the absence of a breast will be nothing to fear.

Beauty is not defined by anything but our own imaginations. Having two breasts and a perfect body, long flowing hair and un-stretched skin does not make a woman beautiful. Yes it can enhancer her beauty but it is merely an outward perception to think it completely defines her!

No real true beauty is found in the journey which both gives and takes away from each of us daily. I can’t tell you the thought of being breast less in a world of perfect make believe images isn’t scary or intimidating but I can tell you for the first time in my life I am free. I have found the inner me; the woman undefined not by just a bra but by having just one breast.

I have broken out of that box, the one with four small walls trying to keep me defined by the world’s idea of a woman. I have today, and tomorrow. I have a husband who finds me sexy with or without my breasts and two boys who are learning to view women for their real, true inner worth and beauty and you know what? It really is perfectly ok with me.

~ Christina

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Saying Goodbye

I awoke today with sadness, a heaviness lurking just under the surface. This grief came suddenly yet not unexpectedly. I tried as I willed to push it back, as far away from my heart as possible not wanting to have to face cancer’s long cold stare. But all the same cancer crawled out from its ugly rock and looked me straight in the face. Yes, cancer came to my door today and hit me over the head. You know the one we all see sitting there, unmoving as we dance and walk around it day in and day out?

It has been hard for me to see as I have tried to navigate through the heavy darkness since it rolled into my heart yesterday. The truth is I have been stumbling around in a fog since the dubious rock sitting outside my door brought news of the loss of one of cancer’s most powerful voices. His name was Donald A. Wilhem .

Don was more than an author or another blogger.  No Don was both a friend and cancer survivor as well. In fact Don was a four time survivor and five time cancer fighter. Don had a way about himself that warmed your soul while challenging you to look deeper within yourself. Don continually made me laugh with his outside the box theories on life, balancing life as both a husband and a cancer warrior. Don was a wealth of insight, with a great sense of humor and a real character. He really had a one of a kind charm about him I have rarely come across in my lifetime. Don in just being himself had a way of inspiring those he knew leaving you asking yourself what more you could do for others.

I will be honest with you when I first met Don; I was not so sure of his “take no hostages” outlook on life. Truthfully he startled me, shook me up a bit. He was so bold without fear of what the world thought of him. Don was courageous and uplifting, absolutely not afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve or call a spade a spade. I can’t tell you how many times Don left me speechless, with his charismatic ways. But you know the truth is these are all the reasons why I came to love Don so much.

Don’s book, This Time's A Charm", is both awe inspiring and hard hitting. To be honest when I first read his book I was not sure what to expect  as I read from page to page. I would put it down, pick it back up again, keep reading, stop reading and think to myself “whoa, who is this guy”?

But I came away from reading Don’s book a changed person. The one thing I can tell you about Don’s book; “This Time’s A Charm” is that it is not your average hope and inspiration book. I re -read Don's story Monday afternoon after hearing he had gone into hospice, just a day before Don took his last step toward completing this part of his journey. As I read through his vivid and honest story-telling I felt as if I were indeed surviving boot camp... grateful for the experience, thankful for the insight and very aware Don was a force to be reckoned with. He had a way of bringing you right to him, face to face and a way of relating his journey in a very honest way.

Don was indeed very raw, uncut and uncensored about his battle with lymphoma . He held nothing back; he was very explicit in his writing about his own experiences with cancer while encouraging the reader to "go all in". Don was an inspiration and no matter how bad things got he could always bring me back to the here and now, not the worries of tomorrow or the defeats of yesterday but the beauty of today. No matter where life took us Don could relate to the fears, the sadness and the humor cancer brought to each of our doorsteps.

I guess I thought Don was invisible, as I watched him charge the battle field… so today I grieve for my friend, though I know he would not want us to. I know if he could he would tell us to chin up, continue with our own journeys, and carry on with the light life offers all of us.

Saying goodbye is never easy, so I chose to day till we meet again Don. You are my hero; an inspiration though gone will never be forgotten. Don you have one of those beautiful bright shining lights which never die…though you may have passed into the next part of your journey as you said yourself, your light will continue to burn for all to see.

Don, we will miss you… though I dare say I know you will be keeping an watchful eye on all of us from the comfy perch you have chosen to rest upon.


If you would like to learn more about Don, his book and his amazing positive outlook on life please check out his blog and website. http://www.thistimesacharm.com/

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Queen of Wishful Thinking

There are moments in my life when I seriously question where my childhood dreams went wrong. I mean was I the only little girl who wondered what it might be like to travel to distant lands and experience the world through untouched eyes?

What about all those long afternoons spent under the tree of Hopes and Dreams? Didn’t we all steal a moment at least once under her majestic canopy? Do you remember feeling the wind brush your face and the warm kiss of the sun as you lay under her blowing leaves? Oh I do! How I longed and dreamed of dancing everyday beneath this beautiful tree with all her grandeur.

Oh the charming scenes I would play out in my imagination, the worthy king by my side, the smell of the mad hatter’s tea, the glass slipper finally being placed upon my foot, becoming a queen to a handsome, strong king who saves the day? Well as my story unfolded life didn’t quite go so romantically now did it? Nope, not really….

The fall down the Rabbit’s hole, well it was a bit too bumpy for my taste, the glass slipper; well it was a bit uncomfortable, the tea was a bit too tart, causing all my hair to fall out and as for being a queen, well all that got me was the title of “Queen of Wishful Thinking”.

Falling down the rabbit’s hole and chasing after the white rabbit? Dreams of a mad hatter, tea and cakes, talking mice and a fairy godmother, well it’s not that they don’t have some place in our lives… believe me they do! The honest truth is sometimes this dream of ours, these ideas of what we think a perfect life is supposed to be doesn’t really work out. No, it doesn’t mean life isn’t beautiful, because life is a work of art just a very untidy, messed up, chaotic beautiful work of art if you know what I mean.

We are not meant to live perfect lives, no, we are meant to struggle. Why do I say this? Well because the struggle puts life in perspective. If we don’t have to challenge life then we don’t have to embrace it either. It blows me away each and every day I wake up to a new day, the sun rise, and the memories of dreams long forgotten, my husband’s kiss and the touch of my children’s goodbye hugs all bring my struggles into focus. These are the real treasures of life.

We are given the honor of the throne not by right, nor by the perfect fit of a glass slipper. We don’t just fall down a rabbit’s hole, nope we are generally pushed, and frankly become as mad as a hatter along the way. The truth is unending love is found not in the forever after of our childhood stories, but instead in the struggle, the effort of everyday life, in everyday love.

The wild whisper we hear blowing on the wind is just a long lost friend calling us home. Embrace it my friend, take it all in. Explore the tunnel to wonderland, sit down for tea, dance with the fairy godmother and allow yourself to be queen if just for a moment. Go ahead look back with the same childlike innocence you once had and dream again only this time embrace the struggle skipping along beside you.

You know, thinking about it I for one do not mind having the title,” Queen of Wishful Thinking” bestowed upon me. Actually I think it suits me quite well because through all the twisted paths, long journeys and detours life has taken me on and despite all my wishful grandeurs of a perfect life I believe I have finally found my way back home to the tree of Hopes and Dreams, even if it is a little un kept and overgrown, she has after all had her share of struggles too.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

No Ordinary Princess

What has cancer taken from me? Well honestly this is a very loaded question. If we look at just the surface we can find many, many things…like for starters my breast? I can tell you this one was not easy to let go of. Seriously I was not keen on this detour life offered me.

I did not go into the O.R. skipping while whistling a joyous tune I can assure you! It was not like I said yepee and accepted an invitation to Cinderella’s Ball or anything like that. Nope it was more like losing my glass slipper on the way to the ball and walking on broken glass the rest of the way to get there. The truth is I knew if I did not walk through the shattered glass beneath me on my way and let go of my breast I would have had to let go of my life.

Yes I lost my hair, my eyebrows, and my lashes (Not ideal for a princess. I mean seriously how does the crown stay on?) And I lost time with my children…time watching them grow, giggle and laugh through what was supposed to be an ideal childhood. But look deeper and you will also see I lost my fear, my vanity and my idea of what the world told me I needed to be. Truly I lost “the me” I once was and came back through the door a stronger, better me than I ever knew was possible. Far greater, would have been the loss of this knowledge and the friendships I have forged along the way than losing my breast.

Yes looking at the whole picture, cancer has stolen many things from me, robbed me in many different forms, yet she has also given me many wonderful opportunities as well. For one I am no ordinary card carrying princess and I am ok with that. I can be a lope sided, pieced together, broken, glued back together, bent tiara wearing kind of gal without fear of how I look to the world. I have never walked this path alone; each step has been taken knowing I have the grace of my faith and the love, support and encouragement of those closest to me. I have been given a second lease on life, a new standard, a way to live my life without the rose colored glasses. I am free to be me, a woman with one breast and happy to be so. I know you may be hearing this saying yeah right, rolling your eyes, thinking you are out of your mind lady! But seriously having a matching pair of boobies does not make me a woman nor do they define me as one either! Living life one breast at a time is not just a challenge but actually a great way to live life with humor, action and grace. I know you are thinking to yourself, better you than me, and you may be right there, but the honest truth is I am not ashamed nor am I embarrassed by my one boobed chest. I am who I am, a fighter, a mother, a wife and a survivor. My battle scars are just that, scars, proof of life, reminders of this battle we call breast cancer and of the life I did not have to forfeit.

Broken glass, well it is in no way my idea of a fun day at the park, yet with each mark, each cut, and each suffering I have felt along the way I really have found the deeper meaning of life. All the pain I have been allowed to feel has come with a promise, a hope and yes a price. Has it been easy? No way, not in a million years but even with all the broken tomorrows I was promised when this journey began I am tied to this journey, to see it to the end. Nothing is worth gaining without struggle. I see the struggle of living as a gift, a reward meant to empower each of us.

So I sit here today knowing I am a testament of life’s struggles, of the beast’s wreckage and of hope’s calling. I may have fallen at the beast’s feet many times during this battle yet I know in the end I will overcome either by death or a new day. Wishful thinking won’t keep the ship from sinking… honestly the ship will sink! One person with only one bucket in hand, bailing out water of a sinking battle worn ship, well let’s be honest here… the ship will sink to the bottom depths.

But… with the right tools, some push and shove and the strength of humor, determination, numbers and team work you realize you just may have a fighting chance! This I know, I may be one soul, but I am surrounded by thousands, all part of the effort, the cause and the voice of hope we call survivors. In the end, after you have walked across broken glass, taken off your rose colored glasses and arrived fashionably late for the Ball you learn the greatest part of this journey we call life is not the destination, but the detours along the way!