Mami Mondays: She Fights Like a Girl

Like a Girl Today is National Breast Cancer Awareness Day. We have seen the seas of pink. The strides taken, the solidarity shown.

Today, I want to share a story with you. From the daughter of a breast cancer survivor. Because the ribbons and the pink are all well and good but I want us to put a face to the name. A personal story to the cause. Stride on, sistahs!

Breast cancer has consumed my life.

Breast cancer has been impacting my life since I was 12. I'm now 33 and it still continues to be a pain in the tit. Yeah I said it. So this year I decided to put up a fact each day about Breast Cancer on my FB page. My hope is that people would take the information and help with finding a cure or take a look at their own health but also to cope with the daily pain of this illness.

I know for me, I've avoiding dealing with my early screening. Why you ask? My mom was 38 when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. It was such a speedy process back then. She was diagnosed and then had a partial mastectomy within a few months. Once she recovered from surgery, she had a chemotherapy.

Now let's stop for a moment. I was 12 when this all happened. To say I grew up quickly is an understatement. I took over all the duties in the house. I learned to cook, clean and grocery shop like a pro. As my mother's only daughter, I took on the responsibility without hesitation. My mom has always been there for me so it was my time to watch after her.

The older I became, the push was put on me to have a mammogram at 28. I was scared out of my mind. So I pushed it off and pushed it off until I was 30. When I finally had it done I was literally in tears because I had to have the pictures done 3 times. I called my mom like "what the hell is going on?". She kindly and sweetly told me its just a precaution. If they feel they see something, they do it again.

Side note: never have a mammogram at the end of breast feeding, it will definitely impact the results. But thank goodness I did it because I was on the road to having a baseline and the results came back negative.

Now let's fast forward to 2013. This year should have been filled with joy for the fact that my Moore Clan was welcoming our fourth child. Yes, 4 children! God has blessed us with the ability to bring life into this world to nurture. But my feeling of joy was put on the back burner because breast cancer decided to pop back up again in my mother.

It's been exactly 20 years since she fought like a girl and now had to do it all over again. However, this time around, my brother and I were old enough to know exactly what was going on and knew to ask tons of questions. Every appointment my mom had, one of us was there with her.

There was no opportunity for us not to know how things were going to play out for my mom. The process was in hyperdrive with surgery within a month of diagnosis. We are grateful everything moved so quickly because it was determined the tumor was a stage 3 mass. Anyone that has encountered cancer knows stage 3 is never good.

At this point my mom has finished her big chemo treatments and is on the road to recovery with maintenance chemo. As for me, I've had my princess and we are all trying to settle into a crazy world of normalcy.

~~~

Life goes on, doesn't it? I've watched Tia go through some of this over the last couple of years. Her mom fights like a girl and we are all rooting for her! I think the message is: get checked, talk to your loved ones into getting checked. Stay alert and take care of yourself. Thank you Tia for writing this. I think I asked you for this like a month after you had your princess and you delivered between breastfeedings and naps. Thank you for taking the time.

TiaAbout Tia: 

Tia Moore, a wife and mother of 4 princesses ranging in age from 9 years old to 7 weeks old. She shares what little time she has outside the home as a licensed insurance agent and cheerleading coach. 

She is a lover of cheerleading which she shares with her mother and daughters. If you want to find her, you can see her at the gym or in the yard perfecting her routines.

Cholangiocarcinoma

Doesn't that sound like something funny or benign? "Hey, stop making me laugh with that cholangiocarcinoma of yours!".

Mami died of it. It killed her in 10 months. No questions asked. One powerful round of 2 chemo drugs that reduced the tumor to half its size in the first half of the treatment and seemed like doubled in size within a few short weeks after the treatment ended.

Cholangiocarcinoma. Bile duct cancer. About 2,500 cases discovered every year in the US with only 5 to 10% of them being intrahepatic, or inside the liver. The survival rate for people diagnosed with early-stage cholangiocarcinoma is about 30%. However, only about 20% of cholangiocarcinoma is found at an early stage.

All that said, Mami had less than 6% chance of survival. Thing is, we were lucky. I've heard of cases when this is found and all they can do is stitch the patient back up and send them home to die. We had 10 months with her. Ten months where she fought as hard as she could. With appointments, radiation, chemo, biliary catheters and way too much time being spent in a hospital room.

But 10 months nonetheless and for that, I am grateful.

February is Cholangiocarcinoma awareness month. Ironic because as many of you know it's also the anniversary month of my mother's passing. I wanted to share something of this disease with you.

But there are so many medical terms, so many ins and outs. If you come upon this page looking for information for yourself or a loved one, I don't want you to focus on the percentages. They are just that: numbers. I believed in Mami's treatment up to the very end. And I didn't think those odds applied to us because you can't let yourself think that way when you're in the fight. If you are reading this, keep fighting. Equip yourself with knowledge and a great team of doctors and you can beat this thing. I believe that, even after our experiences.

I am grateful that we were able to meet a pair of wonderful doctors that did so much to bring us hope and understanding of this disease.

Dr. Roh at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Wow. I only wish we had found you earlier. It is my belief that if we had, things might've turned out differently. Thank you for showing compassion during our visits. For holding Mami's hand. For being genuinely concerned about her and her family. Thank you for caring. After we saw you that first day, Mami had renewed hope. I believe it was the human touch, the holding of the gaze that did that. I will be eternally grateful.

Dr. Maddipatla, I loved that you drew on the exam table paper. That you finally identified specifically what was going on inside of Mami. That your staff was compassionate and caring and always available to me for any questions I might have. Thank you for that call after one of her last stays at the hospital where you wanted to share with me some additional alternatives for treatment and giving us one last bout of hope. We so appreciated you taking the time to look. I can tell you that her previous oncologist never took that kind of time. It meant the world to me that you weren't condescending. That you spoke to me clearly and as your equal. We were partners in the fight and for that, I have no words bigger than thank you.

We hear about all kinds of different cancers but rarely hear of this one. I'd never heard of it until we were faced with it. This month, I want to do my part in sharing some of the factual information but I also wanted to make it a point to tell you about these great doctors that we found on our journey. They weren't all like that but man, am I thankful that the last couple were. I think they prepared us for what was to come and more importantly gave Mami comfort that she was getting the best treatment possible.

For more information on cholangiocarcinoma, head on over to the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation's Facebook page. For signs and symptoms of this disease, you can check out The Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation as well as Cancer.org.

Don't forget that if you ever feel ill or don't feel "right" consult with a doctor. I'm providing this information to bring awareness to this disease. But also to remind you to listen to your body and seek medical attention as needed.

As always, feel free to share your stories here. Do you have experience with this disease?

The Eulogy I Never Gave

One of my mom's friends came up to me after the funeral and told me she'd been disappointed to not have heard me speak. I eulogized my grandmother and she thought I'd do the same for Mami. But I didn't. I let her childhood friend go on and on and on about her. Because it made me happy to have gotten a little bit more of the story we did not know. The part of Mami that she didn't speak much about. But since then, I keep thinking that perhaps I should have. I found a copy of my grandmother's eulogy recently and it struck a chord. The title of it was: I will not mourn her. I couldn't say the same thing about Mami though.

If I'd written a eulogy 2 years ago I would have included the bible passages that the church would not let us read because they felt they knew a little more about death than we did. You see, I wanted to read 1 Corinthians 13. Because it defined my mother. But apparently, that verse is only appropriate for weddings because it's about love.

I remember reading it to her in the middle of the night as we stood around waiting for that final breath. Remember my dad attempting to read from the bible but being unable to form the words as his beloved laid there, eyes closed with life seeping away with each breath. It was as if his breath was taken away as well. So, I took it from him and let him leave the room as he cried.

And I read the words that described her so that she would hear them and would take them with her to where she was going.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Faith, hope and love. Some days I wish I could go back to that last day. When I sat at her desk while she watched from her bed. I wish I'd crawled into bed with her. Held her. Told her I loved her and how much I would miss her. But I didn't. We spoke every once in a while. I took care of whatever needs she had. Asked her if she wanted food, water. Made sure she was comfortable. I tried to make her feel like this was just another day. That I did not mind caring for her every need. Because I didn't.

If I'd crawled into bed with her she would probably have kicked me out. If I'd shed a tear, she would've told me to stop it. To not start with the waterworks. But oh, how I wish.

Mami was everything. I don't know how to describe our relationship. I know that my eulogy to her was written before she passed as I got inspired to write Denial or Deliverance and then I did do the obituary to share the news but, sometimes I think there should have been more.

But there wasn't. Because I think that's how she wanted it.

After she passed, my mom was moved by a relative while we waited for the funeral home. Her face, slack with the lack of life was frozen in one of her funny face. Though I was mad that she was moved at the time, I can't help but think this was one of her many pranks, her many jokes.

If I'd eulogized her, I wouldn't have spoken of the pain or the sorrow. I would've spoken of the laughter. The sense of humor that she instilled in her kids. The pranks. I would've told everyone how one of my brother's favorite things to do was call her and change his voice to sound like my dad. And what a kick she used to get out of that. I would've spoken of the fact that my sweet mami used to go to the park for lunch when she worked at a convent and play pranks on people. Strangers who she'd never laid eyes on would be greeted by this pretty young woman and asked a thousand questions as if they were old friends. The poor people never had a clue. She would leave them wondering where they knew her from. Yeah, she was funny.

Perhaps I would remind everyone of how when she was telling a joke, Mami would sometimes laugh so hard she would start crying and the words would come in fits and spurts. That her laughter was contagious. As was her love.

So many people loved her. At times that was a source of strife for us. We never felt like we had her to ourselves. The kids, I mean. There was a little resentment there. But now it just means that there are more people for us to share her memory with. More people that understand what we mean when we say we miss her. When we reminisce on her life, her legacy.

Mami leaves behind nothing but love. Love that ties us all to her and that by extension ties us all to one another. She left this world a better place because she taught us to give, she showed us the meaning of sacrifice and she reminded us of what's important.

If she was here right now she would tell me she didn't need a eulogy. But she would advise me that the best way to eulogize her is through my life. Living the way I was made to live. Doing the things that are deep needs of my heart. Loving the child that she waited so long for and never allowing myself to stop reaching for my bliss.

Mami passed away on 2/2/11 at 11:11 a.m. but every day, there are glimpses of her and for that, I am grateful. We will celebrate her homegoing by gathering together in her name and sharing some of the stories of our hearts. Do you do something special to honor a loved one?

Bang the Drum: A Face of Courage

Many of you know my story. You've passed through this site and have read something about me losing my mami to cholangiocarcinoma (gallbladder cancer) last year. What you might not know is that my papi is a cancer survivor. Five years ago this September, I sat in a doctor’s office with my parents and my sister and heard the news that I already knew was coming. I must’ve appeared detached with my notebook and my questions because I remember the doctor asking me if I was a case worker. Um no, I’m just anal retentive thankyouverymuch.

Papi had stage II laryngeal cancer. He’d already had surgery to remove a polyp from his vocal chords and so the next steps would be radiation. After the diagnosis, it was almost as if they had told him he had high cholesterol or something. At no point in time did I see him anything other than “let’s get the gloves on and do this”. I knew from day one he would be okay in the same way that I felt deep in my gut that mami’s cancer was a whole different beast that we’d never seen before.

Through the appointments with the radiologist, the measurements, the discussions, he was strong. We were happy about that but, it was more than that. I remember we were in the waiting area of the cancer institute one day and started up a chat with a lady there. Her husband had the same type of cancer and had also been battling depression. She took one look at dad and asked how he was doing it.

See, when you get radiation, especially on your throat, you are in a good deal of pain. The first few days are okay but later on, it’s even difficult to swallow saliva, let alone food. A lot of people lose weight and have a hard time getting through meals. We’d read all of the pamphlets and booklets, came up with shakes and ways that he could eat his food during this time. Everyone gets those and everyone knows what needs to be done.

Doing it, is a whole different thing. And man, did dad do it. He actually GAINED weight during his treatment. We had a week or so before his radiation started and so he prepared by increasing his calories. He would blend his food when he couldn’t swallow well and would will himself to do so when chances are every cell in his being was telling him to do otherwise.

Papi was determined that cancer wasn’t shit to him. I thought he was crazy. But, just like I realized that mami wasn’t in denial but rather was at peace with her path towards the end, papi was determined as all hell that this wasn’t changing his life. Do you know this man was remodeling the master bath when he got diagnosed and he continued to do the work?! Like a remodel. A new bathroom. Knocking down walls, putting in a bathtub, the whole shebang!

Yes, it took him longer than it would have if he had not been going through radiation. Some days he would do very little and often he would be seen sleeping on the couch because radiation makes you super tired. There were days that mom would get mad at him for not resting but, he wouldn’t listen.

When speaking to others and having them tell me what they went through with a similar treatment, I can’t imagine the pain he was feeling. But he never talked about it, just fought on. And, I’m glad he did. Five years ago this September, my dad was diagnosed with cancer and he kicked cancer’s ass.  In the face of everything that has happened since, I’ve grown to realize that doing that takes a lot more courage than I ever thought.

This October, Ford Warriors in Pink® has launched its first ever produced documentary, “Bang the Drum: Living Out Loud in the Face of Breast Cancer.” The film honors 11 men and women breast cancer survivors who have demonstrated strength and courage in their battle with its “Models of Courage” program. 2012 marks Ford Motor Company’s 18th year of support for the breast cancer cause. In that time, Ford has dedicated more than $115 million to the breast cancer cause.

http://youtu.be/qLB2RqcVLJA

You too can get involved in this tremendously worthy program! When you buy Ford Warriors in Pink apparel at fordcares.com, 100 percent of the net proceeds go directly to support breast cancer awareness all year long.

To keep connected, be sure to check out Ford Warriors in Pink on Facebook and follow@WarriorsinPink on Twitter.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Ford Warriors in Pink. The opinions and text are all mine.

The Ex Files

I'm sitting in the hospital. Waiting. It's weird how good I am in places like this. The(ex)man is in surgery having a hernia repaired. Each time someone came in prior to the surgery he was asked to recount his "interesting" history. Pretty simple, really. I've heard it a million times but hearing it 5 more times today just reminded me of a few things. Here's how the story goes:

  1. Driving home at age 30 after a day of playing football and a night out on the town, he feels dehydrated and has to pull over to puke
  2. Realizes he can't drive himself after sitting on the side of the road for about 40 minutes, calls his sister
  3. Pukes the rest of the water in his stomach at home. Too weak to get up. Sister calls ambulance
  4. Ambulance gets there. BP: 210/120 (he can't remember the specific # but it was up in this range). Paramedics call hospital, hospital instructs on what meds to give. He gets rushed to the ER. Due to the high BP he "technically" suffers 2 heart attacks
  5. Once at the hospital his organs start to shut down. His sister is told he may not make it through the night. His parents get in the car for what must have been the longest drive ever in the history of driving
  6. Collapsed lungs. Kidneys shut down. He's put on life support. They don't know what's wrong. He is out
  7. On day 6 they discover that he has a malignant pheochromocytoma (if you watch House, it's the episode with LL in it)
  8. Surgery is performed to remove the rare and malignant tumor. Meanwhile he stays "out" for close to 6 weeks losing 40 pounds in the process

And here he is 8 years later. We have not always been cool. Things have not always been well. But how can you not care about the person that shares your heart in the form of a child? We have found a great medium at this point, though and I am so grateful for that. I sometimes see posts & tweets about ex's and their troubles. Though we are not free of issues (who is?). I can say that so many of those things that are, in fact, trivial, have been placed (after much thought, arguing and compromise) outside of our circle. People see us at times and comment on how well we get along. I don't know how else we could do it. Other than to leave our own feelings about the past right where they belong and try hard to focus on the love we feel for our daughter and the love and appreciation we feel and have felt for one another.

It's just a hernia repair, right? Nothing to worry about but I know that he is not loving being in this space.  Not considering all he went through the last time he was in a hospital.

I told him I was going to blog about his antics. His flirting with the nurses, the harassment he received from the EKG tech. The cool lavender gown they gave him. Did you know that gowns now come with a hose that connects to a warmer (yes, people! Look it up!). I won't post the pic tho (I'll save it for later threats).

I try not to dwell on the what if's of life.  The how's or why's. But whenever I hear this story and truly look at the implications of what happened on that one fateful day in December 8 years ago, I can't help but be grateful that he survived it all. After all, the frog princess is here because he made it through.

I Wish She'd Had More Birthdays

Every year for the last 7 or so, I've participated in the Relay for Life.  I loved the idea of doing something to help others, enjoyed the events because it gave me a chance to pull together a team of friends, join for a common cause and generally have a great time at the overnight events.  And so, this became part of my yearly to do list which I very much looked forward to. My dad was diagnosed with stage II Laryngeal cancer in September of 2007.  And the relay had a different meaning for me. But, the odds were good and after 29 days of radiation, it was as if it'd never happened.  He's been cancer-free ever since and has had more birthdays since.

After that, I met the frog princess's dad.  He is a survivor of a pheochromocytoma. He'd been in a coma for 6 days before the doctors found out what was wrong and he remained in a coma for 6 weeks.  And the relay had a different meaning for me.  Malignant pheo's are rare and the survival rate at 5 years is 48%.  But he has been cancer-free since 2004 and has had more birthdays since.

Then, on April 6th, 2010, mami was diagnosed. I remember that the relay certainly had a different meaning for me that May.  Because it seemed that we were fighting a different animal this time.  We had a 10-month battle with cholangiocarcinoma.  We all fought.  We all prayed.  We thought we had a chance even though this type of cancer has a very low rate of survival.  In the end, Randall (it's what we called the tumor) got the best of her.  We don't say that he won because she is pain-free and in heaven now so the joke's on him!

Mami died 4 days before she turned 65.  And oh, I wish she'd had more birthdays!  I will once again sign up for our relay for life this coming spring.  Because I want to make sure that YOU and I have more birthdays. Do you participate in a local Relay?

This post is sponsored by American Cancer Society.

It Takes a Village: Alice's Bucket List

I found Alice's blog about a week or so after she began her posts.  It moved me to tears and, during a time when I was mourning the loss of my mami, it gave me a little perspective.  Here was this 15-year old girl that had a bucket list because the doctors had done all they could for her. I find her blog amazing. It's a constant reminder of what's really important.  It's also wonderful to see her crossing off those items on her list thanks to those that she has reached.  After all, it takes a village, doesn't it?

I have been planning this for a while but, haven't gotten around to it. I won't give any excuses.  I am here now.  To ask you for a favor.  About three years ago I was moved by Lord-knows-what to send for a packet from DKMS.  I clearly remember doing this maybe a month before I got pregnant.  And I remember being concerned when I found out I was pregnant thinking that they'd call me up and I wouldn't be able to donate my marrow.  They didn't call but ever since then, I've wanted others to follow suit.  Especially those of us of ethnic background. Bone marrow is hard to come by but, for those kids and adults of different ethnic groups, that number is drastically smaller.

I can tell you the test is quite simple. You get a swab, some paperwork that you have to fill out (your pertinent information, etc), a postage paid envelope to return the swab in and voila! It is done! Doesn't it sound simple? Ten minutes of your time (I'm accounting for you slow pokes that haven't handwritten anything since the 3rd grade. You'll need a little more time than the rest).

So how about you click on Get Swabbed and order your own kit?  You'll be adding to the growing list of donors, thereby helping Alice cross of the #1 thing on her Bucket List.  Still need convincing?  Check out these videos and then let me know how you feel.

Meet Shannon...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXefpqOTetQ&NR=1

This is a cute video of kids role playing. Though they are adorable, the topic and the facts are quite sobering...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOQo-cfWQN0&feature=player_embedded#!

If you are on Twitter, please be sure to follow Alice at @Alice_Pyne.  She would very much like to trend so, if at all possible, throw up a Tweet with the hashtag #alicebucketlist for her, will you?  She has also started a non-profit to help sick kids in need It's called Alice's Escape (@AlicesEscapes).  Alice is proof not only that it takes a village but that, it's never too late to fulfill your purpose in life.

I am eternally grateful for the lessons this now 16 year old has taught me. Have you ordered your kit? If so, leave me a comment and let me know!

 Update: Alice passed away peacefully on 1/12/13. Her mother says: Our darling girl, Alice, gained her angel wings today. She passed away peacefully with Simon, Milly and myself by her side. We are devastated and know that our lives will never again be the same. #NightNightAlice

Monday Musings: Remembering to Live

Tonight, I awaited in distress patiently for my frog princess to finally go to sleep (she skipped another nap today and she gets very aggravated though I don't know if she realizes she's doing it to herself).  I had a lot to say. I planned on writing a blog about women.  How we pass judgement (myself included), how instead of helping out at times (because of that same judgement) we allow other women to drown in their personal sea of decisions when we could very well throw a life raft to help them out or at least be honest enough in our love for them to explain ourselves while still honoring the love and bond that we share (before all hell breaks loose).  I was going to write about how some women, so unhappy in their own lives will add to a situation that they are not even a part of, their own flare of bullshit and drama, simply to watch the fire burn because it is easier to do that than to face their own iniquities, disappointments and sad lives. Then my sister posted something on FB and tagged me on it.  It was a video of someone I knew and the story of his graduation day.  And as usual, God used a very real, very painful thing to redirect my attention.

See, my sister posted the video because she had heard that John had died.  John.  Dead.  Ms. Tweeka Weed herself gone from this earth?  I'm pissed with myself that I didn't keep in touch but, I do not lie when I tell you that I thought of him often.  You might be confused at this point in time and asking yourself: who is she talking about? Is it a he or is it a she?

John was his birth name but Tweeka was his personality.  See, John dressed in drag. Well, scratch that, John owned drag.  Tweeka was fabulous, fantastic and fine!  All over-the-top and wonderful. Always with a beautiful smile plastered on that bright face.

I won't ever forget the day that he was lusciously shampooing my hair (I swear, I think he's the only man that probably could've made me orgasm from a shampoo! A fact which he loved to remind me of) and with the same bright smile on his face told me in the most nonchalant way that he was HIV positive.  He said he wanted me to know because he considered me a friend but that he was going to be okay.  And I believed that.  Because when Tweeka spoke, people listened.  I believe it's why he was such an influential advocate in the community.

Tweeka was diagnosed with sinonasal carcinoma earlier in the year and this is what ultimately took his life.  I'm pissed off at cancer right now because that's two people that were so full of life and THE WANT TO LIVE gone this year.  You might not understand why I am writing about this today since Monday Musings is about finding the beauty in life in order to make it through the week.  That's simple to answer:

LIFE IS SHORT. LIVE IT! That's the one thing that I can say about Tweeka, SHE LIVED!  And although I didn't keep up with my sweet friend, I never once had a doubt in my mind that John was out there doing the best he could to fulfill his purpose in life.  I knew that he was out there STILL SMILING IN SPITE OF HIS CIRCUMSTANCES.  Still motivating others and above all always making people laugh (oh and using his easy bake oven ;-) ).

One day Tweeka made this comment to me and I always found it eerie.  I have this dress that looks rather fabulous on me and he was in love with it.  That day I walked in the shop and he handed me my glass of wine and in a very matter of fact way he told me that he wanted my dress and then he said he wanted to be buried in it. In my mind, I thought: NO! You are going to be fine.  But even then it seemed that he was okay with whatever life might bring.  I think it's because he was living at that moment, in that space.  I'm not saying he didn't get concerned, I'm sure he did.  But his spirit was such that all he could stand to do was live in the now.  Although I have cleared out my closet several times since, that dress still hangs in it.  I loved it before but his appreciation for it made me love it more.  And not a time goes by when I wear that dress that I do not think of Ms. Tweeka Weed herself!  The bitch would probably look better than me in it!  And if she wants it, she can certainly have it!

So, are you ready to get past the petty bullshit of this world, the judgement of others (and yourself) and get down and dirty and look at your own life, your own decisions, your own situation and simply, beautifully, live?

I will enjoy this moment a little bit more.  I will enjoy the struggles, the betrayals, the disappointments.  Because I want to concentrate on living.  Now.  Because tomorrow is never promised.

F#@k Cancer: A Tribute to Those That Fought the Good Fight

After mami was first diagnosed, I was in a Hallmark store and saw the coolest mug ever.  It simply read F#@k Cancer! I bought it and mami kept it on her nightstand with pencils and trinkets.  My siblings and I always smiled when we saw it there. Last night, as I tweeted about how I was feeling after hearing that Steve Jobs had passed, I thought of that phrase.  What can I say?  I find myself in this house where my mami lived, looking at her namesake running and playing in this space. I read about Steve Jobs. I contemplate his passing and think about how difficult these last few years must have been for him. And yet...

I feel as if he probably lived with that phrase every day he woke up.  F#@k Cancer!  He had to in order to have survived as long as he did.  Pancreatic cancer is one of the most swift and vicious cancers out there. Almost always a death sentence.  Since his diagnosis, Steve did so much.  He never stopped living even though he certain knew he was dying.  We can learn so much from that.  Learn so much from him.

People will talk about his genius in business and technology, I don't think anyone can argue with that.  But, I am more interested in his outlook on life.  His every day form of thinking.  I loved this quote from his now famous 2005 Stanford commencement speech:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

The line that touches me most? Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.  I've been thinking a lot about my life, my decisions and my future lately. I've come to realize in these last few weeks of being at home after an unceremonious parting with my company that, I must pursue my passion.  Now.  For exactly the same reason that Steve mentions.  My time is limited.  What better time to risk it all in an attempt to fulfill my dreams of being a writer than now?

I have known people affected by cancer.  I have known great warriors who fought their best battles against this disease.  They all had an interminable amount of courage, a zest for living and an attitude of f#@k cancer!  When mami and I talked about the possibility of there being no more treatment options for her, she dismissed me and said: pppfff, those tumors are going to dry up with or without medications.  F#@k cancer is what she was saying.  And I loved her for it.

My mami and Steve Jobs (along with others - and you know who they are) had a lot in common.  What does a world renowned genius CEO have in common with a mother who didn't finish high school and did manual labor most of her life? Courage.  A fearlessness that transcended time and space, probably because of the strength in their faith.  A clear understanding of how precious life is.  An uncompromising conviction of what (and who) is truly important in this world.  And a F#@k cancer attitude.

I have learned many lessons watching my mother battle cancer.  And I can now, sadly, say the same thing about Steve.  But make no mistake about it, they did NOT lose their war against the disease.  On the contrary, being pain free and finally transcending to that space in which we all hope to be some day is the biggest victory of all.