What Women Do Best

Posted: October 30th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: breast cancer, mastectomy, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

A dear friend of mine shared this news video with me today. She said, “I thought of all the people, you would appreciate this story.” You are so right, Snoopy Girl! I’m passing it forward.

Recently in, “Flipped Thank Yous,” I wrote, “… Yours and my experience as breast cancer patients was far different than what women just five, 10, 15 years ago was. It was rough, but those women did what women do best — they spoke up and started networking to make things better …”

The breast cancer survivors in this news video did exactly that. They reached out to make a difference in another woman’s life. They forwarded mindful kindness, via a chair.


… those women did what women do best — they spoke up and started networking to make things better …”

From simply sharing a chair, these women gained so much more than just physical comfort after mastectomy surgery. They gained the comfort of knowing someone else cared about them in their time of need. They went on to gain the comfort of new friendships. And, as they make arrangements to pass the chair along to yet another woman, they’ve each gained comfort from making a difference within their community … What women do best.

Be a friend in time of need.

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What Is Paramount

Posted: October 29th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: mastectomy, path of rememberance, radiation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Yesterday was the anniversary of one of the most significant life-changing decisions that I have thus far followed through on. Bigger than decisions like marriage, career, divorce or moving across the country. Yesterday marked the fourth anniversary of my bilateral mastectomy.  My pragmatism and intuition told me that cutting to the chase, although  having “just” stage zero breast cancer, was the right think to do. While some tried saying that I was having a hysterical ‘knee-jerk’ reaction, I knew better.

Barkhamsted Bike Boots

A lovely banana snack view while sitting atop a dam.

I had a seriously stacked genetic breast cancer tree, even though I tested negative for the BRACA gene. My daily struggles with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue are serious. My chances of rebounding well after the traditional breast cancer regimen — lumpectomy and rounds of radiation — well, they didn’t look good for me.

On a good day, I was already functioning on a healthy radiation patient’s downward slope. And, after reading and discussing my odds with doctors, of them finally being stacked higher in my favor if I was free of any ticking time bombs on my body? I knew a bilateral was the way to go. And after the surgery, it was found that the “healthy” breast was full of cancer cells. I made the right choice.

Now four years after that, how am I doing? I’m content with life. I’m happy. And, that’s largely because of my friends, family and framily.

At some point during my trek through breast cancer, as a patient or now as a survivor, they became huge contributors to my overall quality of life. Whether they’ve shared support, reflection, an ass-kicking of reality, or, some uproarious laughter — they’ve been an integral part of my life feeling blessed and rich. They’re actively thanked for that, quite often.

As this anniversary had been approaching I kept finding myself asking, “What has having had cancer done to my life? What have I learned? And, how have I subsequently grown from that?”

Annie Me Painting

Annie treated me to a “Candied Skull” painting party. Lots of fun!

For certain, this is what I’ve learned is important to my life:

Treasuring high-quality friends is paramount.

People with integrity and honor are like rare treasures. When they flow through your life, honor them with your respect, support, honesty, laughter and love whenever possible. Be sure and spontaneously remind them just how wonderfully they make your life sparkle.

Peacefully letting go of toxic acquaintances is paramount.

If someone proves themselves to be toxic, I do my best to just let them go in peace. It took a while to learn to do this. It also took a while to learn how to do this.

I am actively working on embracing that ‘everybody is at where they’re at.’ It doesn’t make anyone good or bad. It just becomes more a matter as to if I can make a healthy contribution to their lives, and them to mine.

Everyone deserves a fair chance. But if someone proves to not be a good mesh into my life? I’ve learned that it’s far healthier to let them go — for me and for them. I give thanks for whatever was good within them and then I let them go.

Barkhamsted bike parked

“Lucky Luke” resting at the reservoir.

Consciously living in a state of gratitude is paramount.

This one is super simple … Be thankful for what you do have. Really, that’s it.

No walking around with Daisies falling out of your brains and butterflies kissing your footprints kind of bliss. Focus on what you do have, be thankful for it.

Did you wake up today? Did you walk to the bathroom on your own? Where you able to go to the bathroom on your own? Can you bathe yourself? Can you fix yourself a sandwich? Do you have shoes on your feet, proper clothing for a season? Some change in your pocket, a roof over your head?

No matter how bad it gets, if you can answer “yes” to any of those questions — you have it far better than millions of other human beings who woke up today do. For, someone out there today would give anything to bask in your good fortune.

Told ya it was simple.

Having a sense of humor is paramount.

My sense of humor is my number one coping skill. Scientifically speaking, there is all kinds of research out there that supports that laughter does all kinds of wonderful things for our bodies. No matter how bleak a situation may be, if I can find a sliver of humor in it, I’ll have experienced a ray of hope.

Humor has gotten me through some tough spots in life. Well, okay, it’s gotten me into some too. But that’s beside the point!

♦   ♦   ♦

So, how did I celebrate my 4th anniversary yesterday? It began with some Allman Brother’s tunes blasting through my morning coffee as I got ready to seize a balmy 70ºF fall’s day with a ride on “Lucky Luke” — I gave thanks for all of my friends, family and of course, my bike! I had a gorgeous two+ hour ride on the bike and later a fun evening at a painting party with my friend, Annie. It made for a most lovely anniversary day.

Stormdrain 2

Small details of a reservoir storm drain.

One last note … I’d like to make sure that this is left in my written trail of remembrance … Know that every nanosecond of your positive contribution to someone’s life really does matter. Keep on spreading that life-affirming manure, ’cause it really does count.

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“Happy Inked Anniversary”

Posted: October 21st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Mastectomy Scar Tattoo, mastectomy scar tattoos | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

If you had told me one year ago today, while I was having a beautiful “forever bra” tattooed over my mastectomy scars (that was so generously donated by Personal. PINK)  that I’d not only be an advocate for tattooing — but that I’d have modeled those tattoos for a nationally published magazine? I’d have told you that you were plain crazy!

"Modern Woman" Fall/Winter 2014

“Modern Woman” Fall/Winter 2014

Yet, here I sit, a year later to the day, not only celebrating the one year anniversary of  getting inked for the first time in my life at the inaugural “P.INK Day” — but also providing a link to where you can purchase a USA Today’s “Modern Woman – Fall/Winter 2014″ magazine with a feature article about Personal P.INK; my mastectomy scar tattoo story; and, even pictures of my tattoos in it too! (The picture of me on my bike is an extra bonus!)

Purchase “Modern Woman” magazine here

Wild, crazy and amazing, right? I ended up learning, not really. As long as you’re open to celebrating life in a state of gratitude and are open to contributing to the collective good, anything is possible. Anything!

Personal P.INK, their team of wonderful volunteers and the tattoo artists who donated their superb talents last year set out to make a difference. They did that and so much more. They healed and changed a lot of lives last year. And, they changed even more lives this year — A dozen tattoo studios across the country gifted mastectomy scar tattoos to 38 survivors on 10/10/14!

Tattooed "Forever Bra" Photo credit Bradly E. Clift

My tattooed “Forever Bra.”  Photo: Bradley E. Clift  ♦  Hair & Makeup: Annie Duncan Popp

I honestly had no idea a few months ago that a breezy phone conversation, about how P.INK and Shannon Purvis Barron from Indigo Rose Tattoo Studio changed my life, with writer Stephanie Anderson Witmer, would end up landing me as the featured survivor in her magazine article. I’m still blown away and deeply humbled by this honor.

Thank you so much, Stephanie, for putting Personal P.INK’s mission forefront and center in your article! Thank you for making sure the voices of breast cancer survivors were heard during October. And, thank you for using such kind adjectives to describe my energy and personality. My inner-circle usually just uses words like “tenacious” “opinionated” and “obnoxious.”

Seriously though, so many blessings have come forth from these mastectomy tattoos … I have been blessed with a friendship that I will cherish ’till my last breath, Shannon, my tattoo artist. Her energy is now imprinted upon my soul via her artwork. Her friendship and love is a lovely extra bonus.

Shannon Purvis Brown tattooing me 10/21/13

Shannon Purvis Barron tattooing me 10/21/13 Photo: Gigi Stoll

Another blessing … Personal P.INK gifted us survivors with far more than just tattoos. They gifted us a joyous healing. These tattoos blessed my life more than just covering my scars.

They blessed me with finally being able to move forward past my scars. They blessed me with feeling beautiful underneath again. And now, most importantly, they have blessed me with an opportunity to be a part of sharing this joyous healing experience with other survivors too.

As long as P.INK keeps asking me to step up to the plate and contribute to their cause — I will. It’s the least that I can do to pay their gift to my life forward.

So guess what? Yes — I’m a shameless “Happy Inked Anniversary” pledge seeker! Yes — I’m going to hit you up, yet again, to donate to Personal P.INK. They are a totally legitimate organization that is able to gift mastectomy scar tattoos solely via donations from caring people like you. If ever you wanted your “pink dollars” to count? They will for sure count with this legitimate organization.

Thank you for being a part of a beautiful life! I love you today!

Photo credit: Bradley E. Clift

A prized possession, “Lucky Luke.” Photo: Bradley E. Clift ♦ Hair & Makeup: Annie Duncan Popp

Various Links Provided For Your Convenience

Link to purchase “Modern Woman” Fall/Winter 2014 magazine

Link to the on-line version of the “Modern Woman” magazine article.

(No picture of my tattoos though)

Link to  donate to Personal P.INK

Link to Indigo Rose Tattoo Studio‘s Facebook page

Link to Personal P.INK’s Pinetrest page

Link to Personal P.INK’s Facebook page

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