Sunday, January 29, 2012

Questioning The Meaning of Life

"Is That All There Is?"--Peggy Lee

If you've fought the fight against breast cancer--like me--there comes a point when you begin to question the very point of your life.

I know I did. I started to analyze how I was spending the energy of my days and asked myself: Is this worth it? One of the things that upset me was the way my career took a zig from writing and editing and zagged into selling to make a living. Four years after this career change, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Someone told me after my diagnosis, that if I didn't start being true to myself by commiting myself to write as a hobby, my cancer would come back because I was not experiencing the creative outlet that writing gave me.

That's how this blog was born. I knew I needed some vehicle--beyond a basic journal--to express myself. To this day, I believe it is my lifesaver. My job is hard. It pays the bills and I have some good days. But for the most part, I don't like it. If I did not have a way to reach out and write to the masses, as I did for so many years when I was a trade magazine writer, I think I would become very depressed.

So if any of you out there have not found your passion and are not taking the time to express it, do it NOW.  It will be another source of your healing process. You've got to take a moment every day to do what you love. If you are lucky enough to make money at it, so much the better. Regardless, it is one way to give your life purpose. Trust me.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pink Light Burlesque: Breast Cancer Survivors Strip Down & Celebrate


Courtesy Time Magazine
Jennifer Burke used to prize her breasts as her best feature. But it wasn’t until she had a double mastectomy that she found herself performing a burlesque striptease in front of an enthusiastic New York City crowd.
Pink Light Burlesque, a free program for breast cancer survivors, helps women reclaim and celebrate their bodies — to the delight of an audience. “I felt so empowered,” Burke says of her performance. “We are survivors and we want to celebrate that by overcoming the very thing that scares us — taking our clothes off in public!”
Burke was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks the lymph nodes, at the tender age of 19. “I was really angry. I hated life,” recalls Burke, now 42. “The only thing I knew about the disease was that a distant relative had died from it, and that really scared me.”
Five years later, after successful treatment with mantle field radiation therapy, doctors found another occurrence of Hodgkin’s lymphoma — this time, in her groin. They hadn’t treated her pelvis with the first round of radiation treatment for fear of affecting her fertility.
Burke beat her cancer for a second time with chemotherapy. She began to exercise frequently and eat healthier. But 16 years later, Burke found a lump in her breast during a routine self-exam. “It turns out that all the radiation treatment I received as a teenager for Hodgkin’s was the cause of my newly found breast cancer,” Burke says. “I felt like the rug was being pulled out from underneath me.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, survivors of Hodgkin’s disease have three times the risk of developing another cancer than do people who have not been diagnosed with the disease. Overall, the risk of a second cancer is more than 20% in the first 20 years after treatment, and the risk is highest when patients are treated with mantle field radiation.
“This is why I wanted to be part of the first Pink Light Burlesque show,” says Burke, who still has Stage 1 cancer, but is forgoing further treatment due to financial concerns and a reluctance to undergo hormonal therapy. “I wanted to bring awareness not only to breast cancer, but to the fact that there are thousands of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer as secondary cancer caused by radiation treatments they received earlier in life.”
More information on Pink Light Burlesque’s free program for breast cancer patients can be found at PinkLightBurlesque.com.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Another Birthday, Another Chance

I said it before and I'll say it again. There's nothing happy about a birthday, especially when you turn 55 years old. Everyone talks about the big 0 birthdays--turning 30, 40, 50, but what about the 5 birthdays when you're halfway to that dreaded 60 birthday mark?

Those half-way point birthdays have alway given me pause to reflect. And I gotta tell ya, I'm not too happy about where I am. Since I turned 50, I spent almost 4 years wrangling through a relationship that was destined for doom. Then again, I suppose since he was the only man there during such a vulnerable time in my life while I battled breast cancer, I probably would still choose to stay with him.

I'm going to forgive myself for that choice in the past.  Joe called me last December 23 and asked if he could come stay with me during Christmas. But I said no. I couldn't have him disrupting my families' holiday. I felt guilty about that. But I pointed out he had his own family to go to. I know I made the right decision. I knew that once I let him through my door, it would be hard as hell to get him back out.

I've come a long way since last March in that regard. I felt like I went through the mill in that relationship, and the very thought of going out and meeting someone new sounds exhausting. A year ago I pushed someone away just because I wasn't ready to get inolved. Maybe that was a wrong decision. I'm going out to dinner with a few people tonight. It's not the same as having a boyfriend make a splash for your birhtday. (Not that all of them did.)

In the end, there's nothing I can do. I can't turn back the clock, I can't redo the scenes of my past. I've got   to live with my choices. I have to look forward and believe it's never too late to make things change--no matter what age. I'm 55 years old. I'll get over that. Happy birthday to me!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Review of My Blog

Battling Breast Cancer With Class
Hit songs by Beyonce and India.Arie appear on Marcy's uplifting blog here, with the intention of bolstering the spirits of those confront breast cancer with aggressive and empowering beats. This page is also strewn with informative videos and links to help cancer battlers feel a little closer to living normal lives; make-up tips, for example, and fashion advice are prevalent here. Marcy just completed the last of three surgeries related to her cancer last year, and her optimism pours through each post.
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General
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Monday, January 16, 2012

A Compassionate Boss Gone Too Soon

Odded, center, with his wife and daughter.
I found out yesterday that my former boss--who I worked under during two years of breast cancer treatment and breast reconstruction--suddenly died.

He was just 37 years old and leaves behind a wife and three daughters ranging from three years old to 10. Given how young he was, his sudden death remains a mystery. The shock and grief I feel over his passing has brought back a flood of memories of how much he helped me during my battle with cancer.

I will never forget our first discussion about my cancer diagnosis back in March 2008. He assured me that I could take time off and go on disability while I underwent chemo, surgery and radiation. But I said no, I had every intention of continuing to work. Yeah, you could say I was naive.

That said, when I underwent chemo for 16 weeks, he let me go home early on Fridays as soon as the nausea kicked-in from the Wednesday sessions. When I had to go through all of my surgeries, he kept me on the payroll even though I was on medical leave. He exempted me from meeting productivity sales goals the whole time I was going through treatment. Towards the end of my treatment while I was undergoing six weeks of radiation, he took me out to lunch and said that I was his inspiration throughout my cancer battle. That made me feel really good.

One thing is for sure, Odded had my back. He did everything he could do in his power to make my life less stressful while I was battling breast cancer. When I told him I decided to leave my job a year ago for another opportunity, I wept in his arms and said I would never forget how kind he was to me during my illness. He just gave me that signature dazzling smile he was known for and replied: it was nothing.

I don't know how I would have managed through such a difficult time without him. And now he's gone. A 37-year-old man with three little girls and wife has gone too soon.

Dear Odded, thank you for what you did for me during my time of need. I will always treasure the memory of your smile that could light up a room and your infectious laughter. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Keep Your Eye on The Prize

Last night I had myself a little pity party, because I had to work till 8:30pm last night and was utterly exhausted. I kept thinking to myself, there's gotta be a better way to make a living.

Then I started thinking of the people I know who have been without work for well over a year. For them, they would feel lucky to regain the feeling of working hard in exchange for a paycheck they could count on.

This post is an effort to shake off the negativity of last night and count my blessings. So I don't have the job of my dreams. It's still up to me to make my dreams come true. One day at a time. That means setting aside time every day to do that.

On Sunday, I had a deep tissue massage and at the end of the session, the massage therapist looked down at me and said very sternly: "You have WAY too much tension in your shoulders and your neck. Either come once a week for a month or come back for a 90 minute session. I can't perform miracles in just an hour."

This morning my neck is so stiff I can hardly turn it.  Ever since I got breast cancer,  I will never underestimate how stress negatively impacts the body. That's when I go off into my fantasy world of winning the lottery so I can quit my job and live happily ever after--stress free.

I keep looking over at the unpaid bills and mentally tally up the commissions I have yet to make in order to pay everything up. There's quite a gap. That's how it all starts.

So I guess I will just start with this quote to get me going for the day:

Some people dream of success... while others wake up and work hard at it.  ~Author Unknown




Sunday, January 8, 2012

Just Trying To Get By

In my lifetime so far, I've been a baby sitter,  department store salesperson, waitress, beauty queen,  part-time model, flight attendant, editor and writer, bartender, and currently a sales rep selling internet advertising. I took a beating with only two sales during the month of December. With the holidays behind us, business is finally picking up again.

What I find difficult sometimes is the endless and persistant pounding on doors to make a sale happen. I realize that I should be grateful just to have a job, since I have some family members that have been out of work for well over a year. I like the fact that I'm not tied to a desk all day long.

I just get worn down by the hard-hitting wheeling and dealing when hammering out a deal. At the end of the transaction I am often mentally and emotionally exhausted. I've been selling for a living since the second half of 2004 and I believe it has hardened me.

When I have a bad week selling I long for the days as an editor sitting at my desk cranking out a story when the only pressure I felt was meeting a deadline. Those were the days.

The growing usage of the internet has significantly shrunk the pool of trade magazine editors that companies need. And that's what I did for 16 years. For instance, this accessories trade magazine that I worked at for three years went from 12 issues a year to 6 issues a year all because of the internet. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out they only need half the staff they used to have.

Anyway,  I feel fortunate that I know how to both hustle a product or write to keep the bills paid. 

Like so many others these days, I'm just trying to get by. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Resolution Customization

I've been around too long to realize cliche New Year's Resolutions such as losing weight and getting in shape don't  usually work--at least for me. You can turn over a new leaf in that area of your life at any day, time or minute of the year. I should know. I do it all the time. There will always be a gym around the corner, and a weight loss center just down the road. They are open for business year 'round and some fitness centers can be used 24/7. For those of you who are zealous about getting in shape, it's nice to know you can pump iron at 2 AM if the mood strikes you. That would never be me. I think everyone should choose a New Year's resolution by understanding what they REALLY need to change.

As I stand on the cusp of turning 55 years old (on January 21 to be exact) I think a New Year's resolution should be as unique and customized as each person's thumb print. I believe you should choose your resolution based on what has been holding you back in life for far too long. You should look at your shortcomings then face the music head on to decide how the hell you're going to fix it.

For me, I'm beginning to worry that I'm a borderline hoarder. Every time I watch that TV show Hoarders I can just picture the TV crew knocking on my door with their masks on their faces, elbow-length rubber gloves and a dumpster sitting next to my driveway for all the neighbors to see. It's one of my worst nightmares.

Rest assured, my whole house isn't a mess. It's the dark closets and the garage that are starting to look scary. When one of my cats goes missing for a couple hours, I have visions they may be trapped beneath a big ball made up of clothes, christmas lights and electrical cables. When I see those lifeless, flattened cats being pulled out of the clutter on Hoarders I shutter with horror.

That's when I realize that if I don't get my act together, I could unwittingly kill one of my beloved animals because of disorganization gone amuck. I will tell you however, I've made progress. My mother came up from Florida for Christmas and acted like a drill sargent for two days. I would tackle a mess in a corner then feel overwhelmed and head for the couch from exhaustion. She would pick away and then urge me to  come back and carry on. We got quite a bit done.

The clothes have been conquered, but now there's the papers. When I bought my new car, I lost the title to my old car in the paper pile and had to spend three hours and $25 at the DMV to get a new copy last week. Not fun. I fully understand how my disorganization brings unneeded chaos to my life.

The question is, how do I break this behavior for good? Should I see a therapist? Maybe I should go to a hypmotist. Here's a thought. Maybe there should be a 12-step program for those of us that are organizationally challenged. It could be called Clutterers Anonymous. If I could find a meeting spot, I would be the first to sign up. One thing for sure, curing my disorganization disorder is MY resolution for 2012.

P.S, Since I wrote this post, I googled Clutterers Anonymous. Lo and behold the organization is alive and well and there are meetings across the country. The closest one to me is in Greenwich, CT on Tuesday at noon. I may just drop by.