writingLast year I was contacted by Betsy Barbour, a former co-worker whom I had not seen in over a decade. It turned out she was working with a good friend of my husband’s, and had been hearing about this woman who was fighting cancer discovered when her baby was born. However, it wasn’t until she caught a glimpse of my photograph in a blog post while looking over her colleague’s shoulder that she realized the woman she’d been hearing about all these months was someone she knew. Me.

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vagimageI just had sex with my husband and it hurt like hell. It’s not because of anything he did; we’ve always had great sex. It’s just that intercourse has been painful since my cancer surgery, which included a radical hysterectomy. (This involves the removal of the entire uterus, tissue on the sides of the uterus, the cervix, and the top part of the vagina.) The painful intercourse could be caused by a number of factors. It is likely that I have scar tissue where my cervix was removed, and friction against the vaginal cuff is painful. There’s also a condition called vaginal stenosis, where the vagina is actually shortened or narrowed as a result of vaginal radiotherapy or certain gynecologic cancer surgeries. Read More →

photoI always had difficulty asking for what I wanted or needed. I never wanted to be a bother, or cause anyone any trouble. Even when asked if I wanted something, or if someone could do something for me, it wouldn’t be unusual for me to demurely decline, stating, “Oh no, that’s okay”, even if deep down I really wanted to say yes.

I also often held back when I received something I didn’t like, whether it was a disappointing dish in a restaurant or an unflattering hairstyle. I can’t count how many times I quietly paid for something with which I wasn’t satisfied, only to then turn around and seek it elsewhere, hoping for better results. Read More →

LTYMSo this is happening.

In an effort to step out of my comfort zone, at the suggestion of a friend, I auditioned to be part of the first ever Nashville cast of Listen To Your Mother, a collaborative performance which features live readings by local writers on the joys and challenges of motherhood, all in celebration of Mother’s Day. (Think Vagina Monologues, but about motherhood.) Born of the creative work of mothers who publish on-line, each production is directed, produced, and performed by local communities, for local communities. This year, the production will run in 32 different cities, including Nashville on Saturday, April 26th, 2014, at the Tennessee Performing Art Center’s Polk Theater.

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2014-01-25-comparison-thumbTeddy Roosevelt is quoted as saying “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I’ve found this to be particularly true in the area of my own personal journey with cancer. I learned the hard way that comparing my disease to someone else’s not only steals my joy, it has the potential to chip away at my resolve. It can keep me awake at night, in a vortex of fearful speculation of my own making.

A little over two years ago, I was diagnosed with Stage IIIC fallopian tube cancer; and I’ve been managing my cancer and the subsequent side effects of treatment pretty much continuously ever since. In that time, I’ve learned that staying present and keeping a strong mental attitude are essential to my well being. Having recently been told that my cancer is of the recurrent sort, maintaining this mindset is now more important than ever. Read More →

2013-12-09-1fav_DSC_3118-thumbAbout a year ago, I learned about some “worrisome” spots that had shown up on my quarterly CT scan. This was about six months after my last of 24 chemotherapy infusions, and to say I was bummed upon hearing the news would be an understatement. But I slowly wrapped my brain around the notion of a “third option” relating to cancer, the third option being something between permanent remission from cancer… and death.

Now the thought of just “learning to live with” cancer was unappealing then and is unappealing now. Of course, I (and anyone else without a death wish) would prefer to live a long life, free of illness and disease, without the scepter of cancer hanging over my head. But as a couple of wise blokes named Mick Jagger and Keith Richards once wrote, you can’t always get what you want. Read More →

2013-09-07-photoBefore my surgery, I spoke openly about my decision to undergo a prophylactic bi-lateral mastectomy in the wake of a BRCA-1 diagnosis. I’m now about six weeks post-surgery, the (proud?) owner of two brand spanking new “foobs” (fake boobs), and I’ve had some time to process the new additions.

First, I believe there’s a huge misconception among the general populous about what it means to have one’s breasts removed and replaced with artificial ones (if they are replaced at all). When speaking about my upcoming surgery, I had many well-meaning people say things like, “Well at least you get new boobs!” and, “Your husband must be so excited… has he picked ’em out yet?”

Yeah, well, it’s not quite like that. Not at all, in fact. Read More →

2013-07-14-babylipsWhat do I have in common with Angelina Jolie (besides oversized lips that are apparent even in our baby photos)?

We’re both moms.

We both discovered through DNA testing that we carry the BRCA1 genetic mutation.

We were both told we have an 87 percent chance of contracting breast cancer in our respective lifetimes.

We both opted for a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy to dramatically reduce our risks.

And we have both been criticized for our decisions. Read More →

bald2I’ve noticed something in the year and a half since my diagnosis with Stage IIIC cancer. People treat me differently. And I don’t just mean the way people reacted when they first learned I had cancer or saw my tell-tale bald head (a phenomenon I call “Cancer Face“). I mean the way those in my inner and outer circles still behave around me, even a year out of treatment.

There’s apparently a certain grace extended to those who were nearly lost that other, “luckier,” ones don’t receive. I guess almost dying and having an unknown prognosis gives you some sort of pass. Not that I receive perks or free stuff. I’m talking about gentleness of attitude, and mercy. Read More →