Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Out Of My Hands

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I felt this overwhelming sense of powerlessness. Previously in my life I had never so much as had a stitch or spent one night in a hospital. Then suddenly within a year, I was dealing with the incapacitating effects of chemo, coping with the pain of a mastectomy and feeling exhausted from radiation.

Before getting cancer, my only health problem was high cholesterol and being overweight--all things that I could control by eating better. But this cancer thing was not going to go away by simply going on a diet. The scary part was that even with all the treatments I was going through, there was no guarantee that I would end up cancer-free.

I realized half of what happens to me is simply out of my hands. So I might as well accept that as serenely as possible. We can't change it, so just shrug your shoulders and get on with it.

That said, we might as well seize what we can control to help get a positive outcome. For example, none of my doctors told me to eat better and exercise while I was battling cancer, but common sense tells me it can't hurt. Plus, when you feel as though your life is spinning out control, it helps when you are doing your part to manage the chaos.

Even today as I walk through life cancer-free, I am reminded of all things that I cannot control and realize the choices I make throughout the day can at least make some difference. After surviving cancer, it becomes more important to exercise your choice to build a better life.

Blogger's note: Reposting a post from a couple of years ago by popular request.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Samantha Harris's Double Mastectomy Choice Will Impact Lives

Samantha Harris, who once co-hosted Dancing With The Stars and is currently an Entertainment Tonight correspondent, has announced she will have a double-mastectomy after learning she has breast cancer.

Samantha is only 40 years old with two little girls--ages six and three. She represents the growing trend among younger women that are getting diagnosed with breast cancer. On ET last Friday night, she started sobbing as she read an email of support from a breast cancer survivor on her iPad.

Samantha Harris
I couldn't help but jump on to her facebook page and add my own encouraging comment. I told her I was six years cancer free, that I had chosen the most radical treatment route to battle breast cancer, and I believed that choice saved my life. I assured her she had made the right decision and before she knew it, life would be back to normal. I also suggested she use her fame to raise breast cancer awareness. By doing so, she could potentially save many lives.

Every time high-profile celebrities step up to the spotlight and announce not only that they have breast cancer, but have opted for a double mastectomy, I can't help but give them a huge shout-out on this blog. 

They help take the fear away from women who are faced with losing their breasts. They give them courage to choose a radical approach that will give them the best shot at surviving breast cancer. Not every women in the same shoes has that kind of the power.

My mother used to tell me, when you have the power, USE it. I am so happy Samantha Harris and so many other high-profile women of her generation have chosen to go public with their breast cancer battle. It is a growing epidemic among them after all.

Thoughts and prayers to you and your family, Samantha Harris. Trust me, you will do just fine.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Introducing Trash To Treasure DIY Decorating!

After four months, my website, has finally gone live!

The mission of this website is to inspire others to think twice about buying something new and reinventomg what they already have.

My tagline? Rescue. Repurpose. Restyle.

It is also targeted to flea market, tag sale and thrift shop addicts like me that are always on the hunt for junk that they can turn into upcycled gold. If that's what you are into, do please checkout my website.

I not only cover diy projects, I document how I am refreshing one room at a time in my home.

Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Shirley Temple Black: Breast Cancer Awareness Pioneer

Blogger's Note:  My mother was named after Shirley Temple and mom is my hero. So is Shirley Temple because she was a breast cancer survivor pioneer, raising awareness about the disease way back in 1972. RIP Shirley Temple and thank you for talking about your breast cancer fight to the world.

Tuesday, 11 Feb 2014 11:03 AM
By Charlotte Libov
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Shirley Temple Black was an iconic child movie superstar who later became an important diplomat. But her greatest legacy may be her pioneering role in breast cancer awareness.
Black died Monday at age of 85. No cause of death was announced.
In 1972 she startled the world when she spoke out from her hospital bed in Stanford, Calif., where she was recuperating from a mastectomy to remove a cancerous tumor in her left breast. At the time, women – especially movie stars – didn’t generally talk about their medical problems in public.

Her openness led the way years later for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Susan G. Komen “Race for the Cure,” both of which are credited with saving thousands of women’s lives.'“My doctors have assured me that they are 100 percent certain the cancer is removed,” Black said at the time. “The only reason I am telling you this is to convince other women to watch for any lump or unusual symptom. There is almost certain cure for this cancer if it is caught early enough.”  
Black’s brave and candid approach to her illness was remarkable for the time. She told a reporter that she “reached up to feel the void” after her left breast was removed.
“It was an amputation, and I faced it,” she said.

After going public with her illness, she received 50,000 letters of support. Black’s decision to speak out helped pave the way for later high-profile breast cancer survivors including former first lady Betty Ford and Happy Rockefeller, both of whom wrote books on the subject in an effort to help other women with the disease.  
Her enduring contributions to women’s health were recognized as recently as two years ago, when the Journal for Women’s Health lauded her not only as the “first public figure to come forward and write about breast cancer,” but also for her contributions to the then-fledgling consumer health movement.

When Black underwent her surgery, women routinely went into the hospital thinking they were going in for a breast biopsy only to awaken from surgery to find their breasts gone.
Doctors and family members often believed women wouldn’t be able to handle the news if they were told prior to surgery that they needed a mastectomy. That mentality, thanks in part to Black’s efforts, is considered unacceptable today.    
Black wrote in McCall’s magazine that it was outrageous that women should not have the right to make their own decisions about treatment, saying, “The doctor can make the incision, I’ll make the decision.”

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pursuing A New Passion

I apologize for my lack of posts lately but I am about to launch a new website, The site showcases how I  have repurposed old furniture and home accessories and given these sorry pieces a new lease on life.

This has been a hobby of mine for years. But when I realized I'd been living in my townhouse for 10 years and each room needed some serious refreshing,  I started building the website as a way to document my progress and stay on track.

I hope to launch the website, tomorrow, January 19. Take a look! In this blog I have always advocated breast cancer survivors to find their passions and pursue them. It is a way of honoring the fact that you've been given a second chance in life.

I love writing. I love hunting through tag sales, flea markets and Goodwill to find old things and refinish them. This website ties all my passions together in one tidy bow.

Since we have all stepped into a new year, I invite you to think about what you REALLY love to do and just do it.


Friday, December 27, 2013

I Did It My Way

As  I have stated numerous time on previous posts, I hate Christmas. But this year was different because I finally put my foot down and stated this is how I want to do it, and if that's not acceptable, I'm bowing out.

Christmas day in Florida with my cousins and brother.
I hadn't gone down to Florida to spend time with my mom, aunt, uncle and cousins for probably 20 years. Neither had my brother because he felt spending Christmas with his sons was more important. This year all the circumstances were perfect to pack our bags and head down there during the holiday season. I made it clear to my brother and mom that I had no intention of buying them gifts, and they should do the same.

What I did want was to throw a great big party. And that's exactly what I did on the Sunday before Christmas. It gave me an opportunity to invite a few old friends over in addition to my family. I started cooking at at 6am in the morning but it was entirely worth it when everyone thanked me for having such a great time.

For me that's what Christmas is all about. Just gathering with all the people you love and hanging out. Forget about running to the mall. That just turns the whole season into a chore. I gotta say this is one of the best Christmases I've had in many years because I finally did it my way.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

RIP My Beloved Tigger

Today was one of those difficult days when you realize the years of joy your pet has bestowed upon you has come to end. For me, it was an abrupt end. I found my beloved Tigger laying half-conscious in my bedroom this morning, gasping for air. When I lifted him up to rush him to the car, he was limp and I knew right then it was not a good thing.

Rest In Peace Tigger
I got him to the emergency veterinary hospital and within minutes the doctor confirmed he was on the verge of dying of heart failure. I told her I didn't want him to suffer. So she rushed him into a room so I could say my last goodbye. But as  she layed him down with needles at his side to euthanize him,  his blank stare made me realize he was already dead. The vet listened to his heartbeat and confirmed Tigger was gone.

With that, she graciously stepped out of the room. I snuggled my nose into his gorgeous, orange striped fur and told him how very much I would miss him. As I looked down upon him for one last time, I told him I did the best I could to take care of him and love him for the 10-plus years of his life. In my heart I felt some acknowledgement and that's what allowed me to leave the room.

The whole ordeal took place in less than an hour. I came back home to see my two remaining cats waiting patiently outside. As they sauntered inside,  it didn't take Gypsy long to realize something was amiss. He started snooping around for his Best Bud. He jumped on the ottoman where Tigger and him usually slept together. His  eyes darted around the room looking for Tigger to jump up to his side.  He let out a few meager meows as if to call for him.

Now, tonight I see that Gypsy refuses to jump up on the ottoman or the top of the club chair where both Tigger and Gypsy had sat snuggled together a mere 24 hours ago. Instead, Gypsy makes two modest attempts to snuggle with my other cat, Mango. He meekly reaches out to Mango with his paw, inching his way closer to him, but Mango will have none of it. He has always been the Lone Ranger. Gypsy and Tigger were a pair. In fact, Gypsy is the one that lead me to Tigger laying on the floor, gasping for breath. 

Tigger & Gypsy
As sad as this day is, I can't say it was a surprise. Tigger was seriously overweight. I knew he was a ticking time bomb, but with two other cats to feed, I didn't know how to manage the problem. They say indoor cats live longer. In my case, that theory is totally wrong. Both Mango and Gypsy get outside to run at least twice a day. Mango is 12 years old and the vet tells me he's in great shape. Gypsy is about 7 years old and has energy to spare, still playing like a kitten.

While those two cats went out to burn calories off, Tigger just sat and waited. He was a couch potato his entire life. Perhaps I would have tested the waters and let him outside, but he was scared to go out. Besides, the woman that gave me Tigger as a kitten made me sign a contract promising that  I would never let him outdoors. I kept my promise.

I have done my best to take good care of all my cats. I know there are people out there who view me as this crazy cat lady who doesn't have just one, or two, but THREE freakin' cats! To them I say: I don't care what you think. You have no idea. Each one of my cats has offered me their unique brand of  unconditional love. 

With Tigger, it was in the early morning right after his two brothers--Mango and Gypsy--leaped out of the front door. There would be a moment when he would let out a slight whimper because he felt left behind. But he quickly realized he had me all to myself. As soon as I sat on the couch for my first sip of coffee, he jumped on to my lap, sprawled out and purred with gusto. That was our ritual, our daily special moment. None of my other cats did that. It was a Tigger thing.

He was big and fat and snuggly just like a teddy bear, which is why I nicknamed him Chubby Cubby. Now there is this gaping hole in my heart. It is a feeling that I am familiar with. I lost two cats back in 2000 within two months of each other. Despite this pain, I accept it as the price for loving animals.  I said it back in 2000, and I will say it again: I wouldn't have traded my 10 years of joy with Tigger in order to avoid this sad day for anything.

Tigger was the only cat that didn't show up at my doorstep--sucker that I am for strays. I searched for him. I decided I wanted an orange tabby kitten in 2003 and trolled the internet for days. Finally there he was- pictured online huddled in a cage among other kittens. All of them looked scared and a little sad. His feral mother had given birth to a litter in a garage during a rainy spring and then died. He was sequestered in a woman's basement  among countless other cats.  Tigger's rescuer, Jodi Todd, founded Castaway Cats Inc. and she lived just three miles away from me. I will never forget picking him out of that cage as a frightened baby and falling instantly in love.

I had found the orange tabby cat that I had always wanted.  But owning him wasn't instantaneous. First, Jodi took him on a field trip to my house to inspect everything and see how my other rescue cat responded to him. I passed the test.  A week later she brought Tigger (who she named Skipper) over. I gave her an $80 contribution for neutering him and giving him all his shots. Then, she made me sign a contract stating that if for any reason I  chose not to keep my little orange ball of fur, I was to return him immediately to her. Furthermore, I had to  promise that I would not declaw Tigger or let him outdoors.  I signed the contract no questions asked, and Tigger was finally mine.

I kept my three-month old kitten in my master bathroom room for a couple days until he willingly ventured out to explore. Within a week, he marched around with his striped tail upright like he owned the joint. Although he got along with my other cat well enough, it wasn't until five years later--in 2008--that Tigger found a Best Bud. I brought a stray cat inside after my condo association was trying to catch him and take him away. He would surely be euthanized. For months, Tigger pressed his nose and paw to the window whenever he caught Gypsy's eye outside.

When he finally got to unite with this scrappy alley cat, they became inseparable. For the last five years of Tigger's life, he luxuriated in Gypsy's companionship and love.  Now that he's gone, it breaks my heart to see Gypsy sitting on the living room ottoman alone.

Thank you Jodi Todd for giving me such a precious gift that I have enjoyed for more than 10 years.

Goodbye Chubby Cubby. You were truly loved.