Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year in Review Part Two

Wow, how fitting that I write this on the very last day of 2008. Hard to believe that this year is all but over. My sentimental side gets the best of me at this time of year and so hence this look back...

I've become aware of the fact that writing this year in review blog may just take the place of one of those annoying holiday letters you get in the mail.
You know those people who write you a Christmas Card and slip in this really gag-worthy...Johnny got a promotion...Little Suzy is the smartest kid in her class, We're going to Cabo San Lucas and you're not update letters. Well, I just thought of that and I apologize if my year in review resembles that because that is not the intention. Ehh...what do you care if this is a snore...go back to facebook.

The summer of 2008 was a particularly memorable one for a couple of reasons. To start things off, my sister Mary got engaged to her boyfriend Karl. Mary asked me to be her maid of honor...and of course, I was honored to accept the duty. My little sister is getting married in July. It has been widely acknowledged publicly that a dance-off will take place at the wedding...between my brother in law to be and myself. There are bets now being taken as to who will win...but I have to say...I am taking this very seriously.

Also this summer I began working with a great organization called Melissa's Living Legacy Teen Cancer Foundation (Teens Living with Cancer). They are an amazing organization that helps support and guide teenagers through the unique challenges of cancer during that difficult life stage of adolescence.

On the way to the LiveSTRONG Summit this year Mom and I took a roadtrip.
The goal was to rack up three states...putting my state count to I'd be that much closer to making my 30 in the 30th goal. I have to say it's one of the ways my Mom is so special...just being game for such a crazy adventure because she knew it meant something to me.
I broke in my new (to me) car Smurfette (yep she's a blue Hyndaui Elantra) on this trip and I added Illinois, Wisconisin and Indiana to my state roster. I think the highlight had to be a visit to the Indiana Dunes National Park.
As an environmentalist, my Mom had always taught me an appreciation for the treasure that we have near my aunt's cottage at Pine Grove (Selkirk) on Lake Ontario. To the unschooled dunes might just seem like really cool piles of someone who truly understands they are a sanctuary for unique species of birds, plants and animals. Supposedly, Indiana is the only other place that you can find sand dunes near fresh water. Fortunately their dunes are protected by state law and federal law...unfortunately for the residents of Selkirk can all attest to the fact that the sand dunes there were not at the time most of them were mowed down by development. We can all think the Brennan Dynasty for that environmental wallup.

That roadtrip was all combined with making my way to the 2008 LiveStrong Summit in Columbus Ohio. I attended as one of 1,000 delegates across the country. Mom spent the first evening at the Summit and both of us were able to hear John McCain speak along with Lance Armstrong and Paula Zahn in a townhall specifically dealing with cancer. We won't go into my own feelings on what McCain had to bring to the table on this issue...but let's just say I wish Obama had been there to share his thoughts.

I met so many amazing people touched by cancer in so many different ways...survivors, co-survivors, non-profit professionals, people in the medical field. Everyone had one goal in common: to make cancer a national priority. I'm Too Young For This was well represented there. Okay so hanging with Lance Armstrong was pretty cool, but we didn't really hang out..he was kinda busy (Kate Hudson was in town). The true big bonus was linking up with a huge group of i[2]yers from all over that congregated there.
That weekend was absoultely edition to the knowledge, training and networking it offered, I made some amazing friends there in Columbus.

I have to say the summer was pretty action packed right to the last drop of fun. My friend Jenise had a birthday party that rivaled all 30th birthday parties on August 30th at the New York State Fair no less. Her sense of humor and tongue in cheek whimsy is obvious in this birthday party invite.
Summer came and went...but the fall was pretty crazy too. Nicole, my right hand woman in our i[2]y group got us registered as our very own kickball team in a tournament. That's right...a team filled with cancer survivors! We wanted to show everyone what a bunch of cancer survivors can really do! Yeah! Boo-ya! Well, okay we did get our butts kicked... but the team playing us had a slighltly unfair advantage---a former Rochester Rhino playing with them.

September was the most amazing Light The Night yet for Leah's Line-up. Our team together raised more than $3,000 for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. I was an ambassador of Rochester's walk along with an 8th grader named Tony. Tony and I had a lot of fun shooting the commercial at Channel 8 with Elizabeth Harness, this year's spokesperson. We had a pretty darn large team this year and everyone helped make it a success, even little Lucy (AKA Leah's Magic Medecine) who was so tuckered out at the end of the walk that she took a nap.

Another milestone was acheived in 2008---My 30th state! Back around the time of cancer diagnosis #2, when things were darkest, I'd made this something on my bucket list and I was determined to do it! I'll have you all know that the state that made the 30th distinction was ---drumroll please...Connecticut. I happened to share this special occasion with my best friend, Jillian which made it even better. She wanted to help me get this 30th state done so we hopped a ferry from Long Island to Mystic CT...and in late September mission accomplished. I've always loved watching the movie Mystic Pizza so our trip included a stop in the actual Mystic Pizza restaurant. Jillian and I ate our fare share of pizza in college...and sadly for most of those four years at Bonaventure a decent slice was hard to come by. Jillian has on more than one occasion proved to me that New York City and Long Island make the state's best pizza. However Mystic Conneticut isn't doing too bad for itself. Yummy!

In October...I ventured back to my alma mater to do a presentation with Curt Balch where we spoke to students on the issue of young adult cancer survivorship. St. Bonaventure was incredibly generous with their support of us and of I'm Too Young For This as well and proved it with a fundraiser for i[2]y that following weekend.

Just a few days later was the annual dinner for Melissa's Living Legacy. It was quite a busy weekend with Sean Swarner the guest speaker for that event in town. This Ironman/mountain climber was even nice enough to throw in a speech for students and staff at my school. Sean was kept hopping that whole weekend and never stopped smiling even through the garbage plate he devoured just hours before his keynote. He also inspired me to do something I never thought I'd do. I climbed to the top of a rock wall. That's right...that same girl whose fear of heights kept her from climbing trees as a kid. Originally, I thought I'd hang out at the bottom with other spectators.
I made a pact with i[2]y founder Matthew Zachary...he'd do it---if and only if I did it. Ask Matthew--that promise was kept. He proved to all of us i[2]yers that there's a little mountaineer in everyone, even the uber technologically inclined.

One of the most memorable moments of 2008? Right up there had to be my friend Zach DeRidder winning the LiveSTRONG video contest. He was the little engine that could and he grabbed the votes and hearts of people all across the nation...maybe across the world. We are sooo proud of the Z-Man!

Okay, I'm running out of time...and you're likely running out of patience reading this so I'll cut to the chase...there were some other cool things about turning 31...which I thought would be painful...but actually was not. I could tell you about the blizzard of 2008 which was not so cool. It cancelled my plans to journey to NYC December 19th. That was a major bummer. I was so looking forward to seeing Rockefeller Center lit up for Christmas and of course congregating with some fellow i[2]yers. But we won't go into's just going to make me sad again.

Instead I have to just focus on what's ahead for the new year. I'm jumping into 2009 with a fresh perspective on life that 2008 helped bring about for me. I'm feeling more and more like things are headed in the right may take a little elbow grease and a little faith on my part...but I have high hopes for 2009. Lots of things to accomplish...and lots of memories to make.

For all of us looking at a new year...and thinking about what we'd like to see in it...remember...
Life is really like a you have to enjoy those big bites. Every bite!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Leah's Year in Review Part One

Now that the wrapping paper has been thrown aside...I'd like to take a moment heading into this new year to acknowledge all that I am grateful for. Life has been very good to me this year.

One year ago I was in a very different place than I am today and perhaps that is the beauty of the passage of time. Nothing remains the same and we are all in constant motion. Life moves on.
In acknowledgement of that I'd like to do Leah's year in review. Looking back at 2008....

I celebrated New Years 2008 with friends and for the first time in 4 years I wasn't sick when the ball dropped. This was a very big deal for me.

In February I travelled to Kansas to see my cousins...I got two states out of that trip...if you count time spent in Missouri shopping and eating. It was of during quite a cold snap but Julia and Emily and I found lots of ways to entertain ourselves indoors. As usual I can always be persuaded to play dress is never too old for that. In the few months they had been based at Fort Leavenworth the girls had taken up horseback riding. I had the chance to get back on a horse for the first time in years and realized one thing. It's never good to stay away from something you love for too long. This is so true of many things in life. Note to self: I have to take opportunities to ride more often.

In March James and I travelled from Albany to surprise Carol in Boston for her 30th birthday!
We had quite a grand time, especially when you add the fact that it was St. Patrick's Day weekend. The South Boston Parade was the most fun I've had on St. Pattys Day ever. Okay, I've had a lot of fun on this day pretty much annually...but this took the cake. One might say I got a little too crazy at the parade but Carol and James were okay with that...right? You only live once and if you want to dance with the guy dressed like Sam Adams...why not do it? And if he swings you up in the air in the process then all the better. If you want to high five 100 people in Southie in half an hour ya do it...the mood really called for it. By the end of the parade as we piled on to the T, which was absolutely mobbed, I had the beads and green lollypops to account for my fun. Mardi Gras this was not and I didn't bare anything to get them (it was too cold)...but fun fun fun!

On the way home James put up with my singing in the long car ride and even joined I think it's safe to say we're kindred roadtrippers.

In April I sat down with my list and realized that if I wanted to get 30 states under my belt in my 30th year I'd have to get crackin'. Mom jumped in the car to head with me to Michigan for a very short trip through Canada and into Port Huron Michigan, the capital city of the Great Lakes.
Port Huron is a really cool place to visit. You can see the real blog from that trip here.
As it happens that blog grabbed the attention of a Port Huron tourism website and the webmaster asked for my permission to use it. She even sent me a check. It didn't quite pay for the gas there but it was a nice little compliment.

May was quite possibly my busiest month ever...after months and months of planning we held our first Stupid Cancer happy hour here in Rochester. This was followed the next day with a trek to Syracuse for the first OMG young adult cancer conference. Hard to believe that at that point I'd been communicating with I'm Too Young For This founder Matthew Zachary for almost a year and this was the first time we met in person.
All of us involved had quite the crazy weekend...but in the end it was every bit worth it!

Another exciting thing in May...the trip to Montana to Camp Mak-A-Dream for the Young Adult Survivors Conference. I met some friends there that I hope to keep in touch with for many years to come. Almost a week of fresh air, scenery, workshops, a hike or two and plenty of fun was what my body and my spirit needed. Oh and did I mention that the 4 hr lay-over on the way there got me a bonus state...Minnesota. This put my state count at 26.

Three days after returning home I did the keynote speech along with Matthew Zachary for the Ithaca Cancer Resource Center's annual luncheon.

And then...there was the passing of Blanche, my long struggling car. After almost ten years of me behind her wheel she finally turned over for the last time...and expired. It was time to say goodbye to the car that seemingly for so long just wouldn't quit. Read about her life and times here.

Another clean scan...who isn't happy about those results?...I started summer off on the right foot.
This was a real turning point for me as things started to get just a little bit easier in the whole process of putting cancer behind me...don't know why, maybe because a year and a half had gone by since treatment ended. Suddenly I felt okay to snap a few quick pics with my favorite chemo nurse, Carol and Lori my favorite office staffer. The tension was still there but somehow I feel like a whole new patient they are seeing. This is definitely a place I've spent a lot of time. Like it or not a lot of my memories of my late 20s were in large part spent in and out of Strong Memorial.

As with all things...we have to take the good memories, the laughter and the happy moments in, even as they are tinged with the sad or hard memories. There is joy even here.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Speaking of Heroes

William Duxbury was an incredible man...and to boot I had the honor of calling him Grandpa.
My sister, Mary and I lost our beloved Grandpa on December 10th 1988...20 years ago.

My memories of him are somewhat softened by the lens of childhood and the passage of time but my heart is still full of as much love as I had for him then.

When I was a little girl making Grandpa smile or getting his attention was tops on my list. He was a quiet man who was bright and loving and when he said something you listened. I watched others all around me who respected my Gramps...marvelling at his wisdom in so many areas of life. He was in his own simple kind way larger than life to me.

Mary and I were his only grandkids...and his pride was obvious whenever he showed us off. Boy, did he make you feel loved. He was a man of few words most of the time. The exact opposite of his two spritish grandchildren sometimes jabbering even through mealtime.
He'd quietly say "Let your meat stop your mouth." And he'd smile while he tinked his spoon round his coffee cup. You loved him for the way he said was never harsh.

Grandpa was the one who taught me to swim. He spent many hours in the summer with me swimming up at the lake. He gently instructed me and showed me the crawl, demonstrated the proper way to turn my face just so in the water. He didn't just watch me swim. He'd say 'watch this' and swim past me like a man twenty years younger. Then he'd tell me to try. And I would. I wanted nothing more than to hear him say "that's a good job, Leah" and when I got it right he would. This would be just about the time Grandma would come over the hill, telling us both dinner was ready. The sun would be going down.

Grandpa's vote of confidence was like a special prize and I always won it. He was proud of me trying and wanting to succeed. Mary and I were both water lovers but he used to call me a fish. He'd grown up poor and taught himself to swim as a kid. That's just the way he was. His whole life if he wanted to do something he just set about doing it, learning it. He never seemed to fear anything and I wanted to be just like him. And so though I received swimming lessons from a professional instructor when I was a kid, I'll always consider my Gramps my one true coach.

About 3 years after my Grandpa's death (he died when I was 11 years old) I joined the newly formed swim team at school. Our school had only recently built the indoor pool, everything about it was showroom new, so I was joining an experimental breed of school athletes...and I was fearful at first.

The night of my first swim meet much to my delight, my Grandma was up in the stands with my parents and sister. They were in for a show, I thought. I'd not mastered a graceful entrance into the pool, afterall I was a lake swimmer, so when they spotted me begin my event it must have been a sight.I was one big plunky splash. But I swam like there was a shark at my heels with a kinesthetic memory of each stroke, each breath and powerful push. It was written there and had remained...because of my Grandpa. When I hit the touchpad one of my teammates leaned down into the pool to tell me, inexperienced as I was, that I had actually won my event. I started to gasp harder and tears formed. My disbelief was overshadowed by a soft and silent wish. I wish he'd been there to see me do it. To see his little fish beat all those other kids who might have had fancy lessons or gone to schools that had afforded pools in their budgets many many years before. And Grandma took pride in hearing me say that this win was for Grandpa.

I didn't get the chance to be the athlete I'd wanted to be in high school. My illness deferred that dream. But in a strange parallel line my Grandfather had lost out on his own pursuit of athletic identity. As a young man he'd earned his shot at college through football only to lose it all after an injury during a game. A bright student, he'd had to leave Alfred because once football was over so too, was his tuition break. A college degree was not in the cards. But Willy did not despair because some bends in the road are just meant to be. He met my grandmother not long after he returned home.

He taught me by example that life is not about perfection or having the best of all things, and the best circumstances. He showed that life was about rolling with the punches and never carrying a chip on your shoulder if it didn't work out your way. I know that no matter what--- my Grandpa would have delighted in whatever it was that I gave to the world.

To him, Mary and I were bright stars...and his pride was in what we could do...and that made our lives enriched. Love, acceptance and a kind gentle spirit. William Duxbury was my grandfather...and twenty years after he left this earth he is still with me. His lessons and his love are imprinted on my heart forever.

In Loving Memory of William Duxbury 1912-1988

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My definition of a hero

Those of you faithful readers of my blog know about Zach DeRidder.
One year ago I met Zach and his best friend Michael in a hospital waiting area "by the candy machines" as Zach likes to say...and well, my life has never been the same since.

Zach's struggle with liver cancer since diagnosis in January 2006 has been three years of uncertainty. His survival is a testament to his absolute determination to never give up.
Unforunately, Zach's journey has taken yet another frightening turn. Very late this past Sunday night Zach was rushed to the hospital with a very low body temperature and blood pressure. He was admitted to ICU at once. Just hours later I received the call from his mom and that night I went to the hospital to see him. Michael and his wife Alice sped two hours from their home in Corning to come be with Zach.

I walked cautiously and nervously into the room. I was really afraid of what I might see.
Zach, a devout Mormon who truly is led by his faith, was surrounded bedside by members of his church. Zach was ready with a bright smile and he gave me a joyous greeting immediately flooding me with relief. With this guy's air of positvity it's absolutely impossible to feel doom and gloom.

Zach's pastor blessed him before he was wheeled off for a procedure. While we waited for Zach to get out of surgery Michael, Alice and I shared dinner in the hospital cafeteria and reminisced about all that had happened since Zach, Michael and I were first introduced that October afternoon last year by the candy machines. We were in awe of how good it was and how reassuring it felt to see Zach smiling and his bubbly self in spite of all that he is enduring.

I wanted to share with you what I have learned from my courageous friend... the young man that by all accounts before his illness was an athlete, a hard worker and a generous and unfailingly giving human being. Except for his health, none of that has changed.

When he got out of surgery I watched Zach ask his doctor matter of factly and simply "what do I have to do to get home for Christmas?" He reminded him several times that his sister was performing in the Nutcracker this weekend...and he wanted to see her dance. There were no promises of his release and Zach nodded with reluctant acknowledgement. This is serious. Serious enough to come between Zach and his plans.

The picture above shows Zach proudly holding a signed copy of Keep Climbing, a book that was overnighted to me by Sean Swarner, who Zach befriended when Sean was here in October. Zach has this book and Lance Armstrong's book "It's not About the Bike" by his bedside. These books and Scripture are his textbooks, which he highlights and pours over like textbooks. He is treating this like any challenge he's faced before, soaking up inspiration and learning all he can about how to give it everything he's got.

Zach's method is really quite inspiring. He is very conciously lining up those heroes in his life, those who have done it before, beat the odds and shared with others. This is what Zach hopes he can do as well. But he has already touched so many. He is only accutely aware of the impact he has had on people around the country and around the world. When his story was broadcast over the internet for all to see and he won the LiveSTRONG contest...he had not even seen the video. You can not get more humble or pure than that. His friends Tim and Michael had rushed to create not one, but two videos, one of which garnered him entrance as a finalist to the contest.

Since winning that contest and that signed bike from Lance so many hearts have been lifted by the Z-Man. I think when we look at what we have facing us, the frustrations or the challenges in our own lives, we have to just for a moment think of Zach. It's hard to argue our excuses for bad attitudes when we take on his example. Through the hardships and obstacles he looks at life like a great party. Even the hospital is a joyous and happy place because Zach is in Room 6. You see it in the smiles of all who enter his room. This guy doesn't back down and he doesn't give in. Attitude is everything...and he has it. No matter what the future holds for him he's told me himself that he is going to enjoy what he has.

I keep thinking of that moment more than a month ago when I realized fully how this guy really lives. He was not supposed to actively participate in indoor rock climbing with us. Can you imagine that being in the doctor's orders for someone in his condition? He'd made me think he'd hang below with me ( because I'm really chicken about heights) while rooting others on. That gave me my excuse to cherish the role of cheerleader...hold someone's clipboard and watch from the safety of the floor below.

I have to forgive Zach now for his dishonesty...but I think he knew all along he couldn't resist. Before I knew it he was signing the consent form and was my absolute panic. Perhaps somewhere deep inside he was thinking he had to grab this chance. I urged him not to and expressed my fears for his well-being. In his condition the concern was more than justified it was absolutely warranted.
But he turned to me and looked me straight in the eye and said "Leah, you've gotta live like you're dying". It scared the crap out of me...I wanted to stop his crazy talk...and turn around but he did it. He climbed to the very top of the wall and came down skillfully. He proved me so very wrong and brought everyone there in Rock Ventures who witnessed it to tears. And yes, my excuse was gone...I climbed too.

He scaled to the top...and he didn't look back at the decision with any regret. He was triumphant in utter exhaustion. He smiled as wide as I'd ever seen. Really this was just another day in the life of Zach DeRidder. But a day in my life that I will never, ever forget.

Is it possible that an amazing attitude toward life like this can help us face anything?
If you're betting against haven't met Zach.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Roller coaster

Emotional roller coaster is a cliche I don't always like using. I'll make an exception for this entry because that's where I'm at.
Friday was a fearful afternoon...but by that Friday evening a call from my doctor dispelled whatever things were working through my head. Scan---clean.
Absolute celebration...Twenty friends and I celebrated at my birthday dinner that night.
By the way my 21st birthday was awesome!

But after this weekend, I can't help but think about a friend whose battle continues. I celebrate my news but not without that tint of sadness that I wish everyone could have good news.
Please keep my friend in your thoughts.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Positive thinking

I have lots of things to be thankful for...counting blessings is easier these days.
But I worry sometimes...can I admit that? Yeah...I guess I can confide that it's an uneasiness that accompanies having lived a life on the edge of catastrophe for so long.
Important check-up today.
It's that knock on wood thing I guess.

So as a form of distraction and an overall attempt at making my mood better I am going to write a list of random laughworthy items. These things (words, phrases and concepts) whether the memories they produce, the images they conjure up or just the cadence of the word itself...they make me laugh. And I am certain that by the end of this list I will be cracking a smile.

  • Chia pets
  • Fanny packs---my mom still can't understand people's aversion to them
  • Crazy Science videos -- I filled in for Chem class today and saw oiled up leotard clad jugglers demonstrating atomic principles---among other edu-tainment atrocities.
  • kid leashes (come on, please parents!)
  • Fuzzy dice
  • The Wiggles
  • Abe Vigoda
  • Chuck Norris
  • Charo
There...that's I am smiling.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Birthdays, mashed up cake and ice cream and other gushies

If you are a regular reader of my already know by now I'm entirely sentimental. Even more so perhaps during the approach of significant life milestones. Well we all are to some extent.

This year's birthday isn't particularly significant- that one was last year.

But as I look back at this picture taken on my 8th or 9th birthday (can't remember) I smile.

We were at Chuck-E-Cheese's...

We ate pizza and had ice cream sundaes...Well my friends had pizza, I had a hot dog (because I didn't like pizza back then). I know what you are thinking--weird kid, huh?
There are birthday traditions that stand. Things like good friends, and good food and laugher never get old...even if the birthday girl is. Ha ha!

But my favorite birthday tradition by far is going to sound a little corny...but here goes.

I remember back then my dad would tell me "the birthday story"... The birthday story is something that Mary and I always was tailored to each of our respective entrances into the world.

For mine he'd start by waking me up and saying
"I remember...and he'd fill in (6, 7,8 or,9 years) ago today...I had a beautiful baby girl."

He'd tell me all the things he remembered about the day I was born. He'd tell me about what my mom said when she saw me...or how happy they were to have a daughter after waiting for me.

Back then I used to kind of wince when dad would say that...and feign the "oh Dad!!" any kid does when their parent gets all gushy. But secretly I loved hearing that story told exactly the same way. My dad still tells me that story the same way...even all these years later... and yes, I still go out for cake and ice cream with my friends. Old friends, new friends...and birthdays still are about feeling special to the people you love....but can we get down to the real heart of why I write this?...

I'm turnng another year older next week...and I love it! I am alive..and I am approaching almost 2 years of being cancer free!!!

Age is just a number my friends and blog readers...and given the assured sanitary conditions I would SO be that young at heart woman who dove into the ball pit.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nobody puts Leah in a corner

This picture is truly from the vault.
First day of school...sometime in the 1980s.

I look at this picture of the little girl posing on the picnic table with her brand new lunch box and it makes me think of hope and endless possibility.

But if I told you what happened to that Snoopy lunch'd probably cry, like I do when I think about it.

An older bully on the bus asked to "see my lunch box". Gullible in the dictionary...yeah, that starts sometime in the first grade. The overgrown lardo with the school's most enviable Hot Wheels collection then proceeded to scratch out Snoopy and Charlie's faces with a dime. Instantly the tears came...but I sat paralyzed unable to even speak out in protest. I could have screamed for Mr. Lighthall, my bus driver and sometime childhood hero...but no.
I watched Charlie Brown ceremonially decapitated and his canine companion obliterated.

I'm really okay with this now (okay maybe I still weep when I read Peanuts strips)...but after years of searching and self-examination I learned that this was just an early sign of my quiet passive nature. But in recent years I've found my moxy. Sometimes in small ways, sometimes in larger more momentus ones.

I think a real turning point in recent years came when my nurse practitioner spoke harshly to me in clinic during chemo...It took me a little gumption but I told her off on the phone when she checked in with me. I've often failed to show that assertive self. But it's about time I stopped equating standing up for myself as a bad thing. I'm not saying I'm suddenly barking orders or giving the goods to all who deserve it but there are small moments when I find my moxy. HEY, MOXY I repeated it...I love that word.

A few recent examples:

  • I went to see the movie Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist with a friend. The theater was filled with an abundance of upper middle class teenagers who needed a serious chaperone. After listening to them yammer on over the movie, screwing around and generally dsirupting my good-money-paid-out film experience....I had had enough. Through clenched teeth I bellowed "SHUT UP". They actually did...weird. Must be the teacher mojo.

  • I got peeved when they cut the size of my Pantene conditioner...but charged me the same price. I called. They're not going to do anything about it... but I got a coupon.

  • I was on a first date a few weeks ago with a young man who seemed great on paper. But this was paper only. During our meal he kept leering over at a group of mixed race friends having a great time and snubbed his nose and called them an "ecclectic group". How fast can you say...Check please!
    Do you see this lovely dating pool of single men I work with? Tragic!

  • My friendly neighborhood cell phone representative tried to tell me that he'd heard Radio Shack "no longer sells" the I-Go. In my mind this seemed a blatant attempt to get me to buy their brand of car charger. Radio Shack Henrietta has been informed of this little sly fox's game...and I'm going by today to tell him he's wrong. (as if he didn't know that).

    BOOY-ah...from one cartoon dog to another... I've been called sweety, sugar by many...and yes I am sweet... but get my doggy dander up enough and I can have my MOXY too. Especially when I fight for the UNDERDOG....GRRRRR....

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mary and Karl Part Deux---and this is interactive!

Mary is going to kill me but I can't help this. After last post night's post I had a feeling I would be getting a phone call/email/text from Mary. I am psychic...
I chose a better picture Mary. This one is way cuter...

Here is my sister and my soon to be brother in law supporting me in full force at the Leukemia Lymphoma Society this year. By the way...I will be sending an email out to all who walked but Leah's Line-up raised over $3,000! We held our position as #6 in team fundraisers in Rochester! Part of that success is due to this cute couple who rallied the people they love to care about this cause...

Okay enough of that sugar coated stuff...did you know that my brother in law is a youtube star...yes, he is...and it's time the world see the brilliant inventor my sister is about to marry.

After viewing'll want to find out more about this couple...and perhaps join their fan club. But I am only supplying "the public" with the link to their fan website if I get comments. COME ON NOW, if you COMMENT...then I will throw up the link.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

couples to watch in 2009

Mary and Karl
My sister is getting married in less than 9 months... for those of you who don't know Mary...
she is a real live firecracker...(well, okay...yeah we both are)....
But Karl is the fire marshall, so to speak who has "tamed" this crazy woman.

And this crazy woman, my sister Mar-Mar-- picked me to be her M.O.H.

And Mary despite all of my crazy ways has agreed to try to accept me flaws and all in my role ...I'm really a horrible wedding planner/helper. I mean dig this...I am the kind of girl who thinks it would be a good idea to have Karaoke and smores at a wedding reception. But she loves me anyway, and against her better judgement she's kept me "honorable"...that's right out, cause this maid is full of honor...yes--siree!
Mary's wedding is certainly going to be my big event of '09...but this year is shaping up to be quite a year of weddings! I was doing some thinking the other day and I realized that several of my friends are getting married this year. The calendar is filling up quickly.
So I thought I'd give you a brief look at the other cute couples I know getting hitched in '09.
Matt and Sadie
Halloween Alter Egos:
Jose Cuervo and Snap (to Crackle and Pop)

Scott and Jackie

Best attributes:
Scott- Good in sticky situations ( after stroller wheels that rolled in State Fair cow barn rolled into my leg)
Jackie- Whips up party trays to rival Martha and still manages to rock the party game circuit.

Deidre and Andrew
Claims to fame--
Deidre: Newspaper editor extroridinaire who still carries a penchant for boy bands.
Andrew: Is on the cover of Ray LaMontagne's Live at Bonnaroo album (really he is)...
and he manages to forgive his girl for loving O-Town

Rob and Carrie
I knew them way back when-- Carrie and I were roommates when she met Rob.
Yeah, I saw it coming...I so saw this coming. (I'm a bridesmaid)

Margaret and Joel

When she knew it was Prince Charming- Joel was clearly the one for Margaret....and I told her this, when I heard he got her Season One of the GOLDEN GIRLS for her birthday. That my friends...that, is a man in love.

A lot of weddings this year...and come late June the frenzy will begin. Lots of planning ahead for these special couples... but you can bet I'll be there for the par---tay.

Why you befriend a neurologist

I am Chapter 5 of a new book coming out called Chemo Brain...yeah, that's hot.

But no, really about a year ago I was interviewed by a Boston Globe reporter writing a book on the real life effect of chemotherapy treatments on patients. She gathered anecdotal evidence from dozens of patients who lent their credence to a long held but oft' dispelled observation...that some changes take place after being poisoned over a period of months...go figure!
Actually, last week I got a facebook message from a Bona alum who is (small world!) editing that book and saw my name. The book will be released sometime in early 2009 I believe.

I'm not excusing any of my Amelia Bedelia tendencies, but I just seem to be getting worse with misplacing things. And now I'm in the book...literally.

Let's call this meta-cognitive overload. I have so much going on now in my life that all these compartments are being totally least that's what I think. I don't know if this makes sense...but I'll have to ask Ellen about this.

***Ellen is my friend from childhood that I've recently re-connected with from my days as a Cabbage Patch toting lass in Mexico NY. Ellen is a neurologist now in San to see her again while she came to Rochester for a wedding.

But anyway, back to the subject at hand. Why I write this blog?
Drumroll please... I lost my cell phone.
That's right...I lost my cell phone with several hundred phone numbers inside. Phone numbers that I could not begin to reconstruct....and no I have no back up list...I am a technological tragedy of this cell phone age.

But I have decided to take a really gutsy attitude about this. I have resigned myself to think that if someone is important they'll call me...and then I'll have their phone number...if not...c'est la vie. I know, I'm really just stretching this for all it's worth to avoid kicking myself for losing items. But I have devised a spiritual meaning in all this.

I believe that this is actually phone kharma coming to me...inside that phone were numbers that perhaps had not been purged in years. My gosh, just for one example: inside that phone was the number of the radiologist I dated back a few years ago (I was certain I could utilize that for medical second opinion in the future), and several other numbers which just should have been removed from phone in question. The disappearance of my cell is pretty much a sign that I need to start streamlining my life....okay it's also a sign that I have to remember where I put things...but this is a larger picture I'm looking at. Because I'm not a simple minded girl...absent minded yes...simple minded no.

Things that are set free and come back to you are things that will be in your life. Those that fall away, are just better in your deleted file. So I will breathe a deep sigh and have faith that those numbers don't really amount to all that much in the grand scheme of life. Those that wish to get in touch with me can...I'm not hard to find. Let go...stop stressing...right?

Can I really convince myself of this?
Have I done a good job of convincing you that I'm okay with this?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Why you stand in line

I won't tell you the frustrating life stuff that's been going on...because it's faded to the background.

Last night was election night...and for the first time in 8 years I felt okay, much more at peace.

Just four years ago I stood in line to vote when any rational person would have been in bed or even in a hospital. I was on heavy drugs...and I was still recovering from my radical neck dissection, still unable to move my neck, feeling and really looking like Frankenstein. If there was anyone in line I went to high school with or once traded laughs with they wouldn't have known it was me. I stood among strangers who eyeballed this strange young woman with the funny looking neck and

I had not had the time to fill out an absentee ballot before cancer threw my life into a tailspin...but I had to vote. It mattered to me enough to put aside vanity and comfort to get in line and vote. Waiting in line, standing even was excrutiating.
But in 2004 I did...and at least I know I cast my vote.

Whether it was the heavy strength pain killers or just the raw emotion of standing in line when I wasn't really physically able to do so...I cried like a crazy girl watching a Steel Magnolias, Beaches Marathon after results came in.
But I had NO regrets because I had been there. But still it's hard to swallow such frustration at such a time. The issues of health care that were cornerstones of my voting choice were issues I now stood in full a life I couldn't recognize. And the end of 2004 felt like the precipice of another 4 years of fear and anxiety.

Last night...four years after that voting day...I cast my vote again, healthy, strong and feeling that I had weighed all options and thought about my choices long and hard. This time I quietly slipped in among the crowd. Cancer's scars have faded. But life is very changed and I am four years wiser for it. I can know, in every fiber of my being, that this mattered to me in a very different mattered again and I never will take this right for granted. Electoral college or state or blue state, standing in line with 131 million Americans strong...whoever our choice was...truly is the only place to be on the First Tuesday in November.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Just a small town girl...livin in a lonely world...

Come know the rest.
This sign appeared around the corner from my house. Everytime I drive past it I smile. Graffiti is bad, I know...but there's something just smile worthy about this one and I can't help that the Journey-loving hoodlum that put it up knows it adds character to my already colorful and ecclectic neighborhood.

It takes me back to last March when James, Carol and I and all of her Boston friends celebrated Carol's 30th in that piano bar outside Fenway. I'd requested the song and didn't realized that in order for them to play it there has to be a significant flurry of dollar bills thrown down on the song to confirm that the request actually gets played. Well, needless to say I wasn't the only one in attendance with a soft spot for the song...and before we knew it the whole place was pounding and stamping feet and we were not denied. Good times...sang our hearts out.

Not that I want to give anyone ideas but if we used stop signs with this theme...maybe these creative artists could have a Fleetwood Mac sign "Don't STOP thinking about tomorrow"
a Supremes sign "STOP in the name of love"...

I'll say it again...I love my neighborhood.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween...November is here

I am so wiped out. I need some Sunny D...some Vitamin D and I need to stop living in a world of flourescent lights...I need daylight and fresh air....ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Anyway, Happy Halloween. Does it sound like I'm getting the blues because the days are getting longer. This happens every year...and especially as I approach my birthday. Stepping into November does it to me. The beautiful fall foliage is going to be clumping on the ground and it takes the romance away from fall...technically we're still in autumn but November always feels like winter.

I am already thinking about visiting some place warm on holiday break in February...My friend Kevin called yesterday suggesting L.A. as a destination, where he lives. He lives near the beach...I can't say that this sounds too bad. I've been wanting to visit my friend Jackie anyway, along with a few other people I've met along the way that live out there. Never been, it's a possibility. How is it that I've been to Hawaii twice but never California. Well, LAX does not count...sitting in an airport does not qualify as time well spent in a state. Please see my post on Minnesota back in May.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pretense, parlor tricks and fear

I forgot to blog about this Blue Carpet event I went to at Club Tribecca a week or so ago. It was a party for the launch of Metromix. I've written for Insider freelance for over three years now. I don't necessarily like the way things are going, especially with the departure of their editor, who I respected. He is someone that over the interaction of mostly email all these years, I really trusted and valued his opinions. We won't discuss what the upper management forces did... since I really don't know the whole story, but the handwriting on the wall is there---and change is a brewing at Insider.

Being there on the "Blue Carpet" and wearing those shoes that I can't walk in made me miss my comparatively careless flip flop wearing days only weeks before...and eating those African berries that cost several $100s a pound I kept thinking why am I here? Everyone else in that room was circling around and I just looked at my friend Megan...and probably we were both thinking the same thing. Sometimes you just want to ditch the pretense. I wanted to be somewhere else...and not sure where. It's because I'm getting older that the restlessness appears at random moments.

So I happened to see they had hired a psychic for this event...and sectioned her off in a little alcove. Since this event is where they spend way too much money on things that essentially make them look cool, I decided the only thing to do is capitalize on it...and then chastize them later. My psychic told me some very interesting things, some of which I will not share here.

But what she did tell me was that I am in the Death stage or Death cycle. Now the horrified look on my face was enough to get her to rephrase..."your birthday," she said..."you're about to turn over a new year..."and she remarked that everything I do up until now is just kind of wrapping up in my cycle and something about the alignment....some more stuff that made no cosmic sense to me. I listened intently but this for me always seems more parlor trick than something I should lean on or trust.

Okay, so she told me I was fairly independent, duh...yeah. She told me I was looking for something I couldn't find. Okay, yeah, sure. Easy to see...So she told me I was making changes in my life...isn't everyone? But when she told me I was not facing my fears and putting effort into a task I need to finish...I breathed in deeply. I know what she is talking about. It's in my computer...maybe I need to print out the pages and start doing this the old fashioned way. Fear...fear. What am I afraid of...I'm a writer...this is not I afraid to finish? Or am I afraid that finally finishing the story of my life will make it all there on paper to really see.

Okay, I know we celebrate birthdays...but I've discussed this before...I don't feel this age thing. I feel like sometimes I'm age adjusted and that age that I am should be the number minus the years I've lost in between so depending on the variables and the mathematical computations...I'm anywhere between 17,18 or maybe 26 or 27. So we'll round it out and say I'm 25 if you were to "age adjust" me.

But here I am ruminating over age and worrying about nothing. You all know my friend Zach and the battle he is facing...worry is not in his vocabulary. He is the most courageous person I know, fears nothing. I've been thinking about this a lot actually especially this weekend when I watched this seemingly frail and fragile man scale to the top of a rock wall--and I convinced myself that whatever my fear was in doing this I had to try because I had to prove it to myself I could too...and I did.

I love this picture because it shows everything I believe in someone's strength of character and heart. Yes, the climber to the left is physically strong, but the climber on the right is full of something that in this life I may never be able to fully understand. Worrying about turning a year older really seems stupid when you look at it through that lens, because time and another year are a gift.

I'm trying... and when I turn 31, I'm going to be happy to see another year. Ten years ago, I was celebrating that milestone of legal drinking age (and it happens to fall on the 21st) so you could imagine the fun that 21 on the 21st is for a college's license for a grand celebration. And recently one of our young adult survivors who I knew was turning 22 said she wanted to do it up big...and then I remembered this young woman spent her 21st birthday last year in the she has decided for this year to pretend she is 21 again. What a beautiful for once maybe I can pretend with her...oh, how far off that seems.

I end this post with just a note of levity because I've been kind of crazed lately. I have to slow down just a little bit in my life. My friend Kevin and I were actually talking last night on the phone and we both agreed that we should become plumbers because that's easier to quantify and explain to people. And then I told him about picking out bridesmaids dresses...something every guy wants to here about, right? Perhaps it's a great mystery to guys...well picture this.
I am soooo stretched thin and tired lately I forgot AGAIN that the same day I dressed in an outfit inspired by the 1980s era. It was for our school's spirit week---I swear...Decade day. I showed up at the bridal shop with a crimped mass of hair, frosted pink eyeshadow-tie dyed shirt black tights underneath my rolled up jeans with various other accessories. I could have fit right in in a Cyndi Lauper video. Moments like this...are just too me.
My poor sister. Her wedding....and all she wants is a maid of honor who can help her make decisions...and I don't know where my head is at.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What do Everest climbers eat when visiting Rochester

Sean Swarner came to speak for Melissa's Living Legacy's annual benefit, supporting Teens Living with cancer...the website I am currently working on web content for. One of many projects.

Not for anything, but what a fun weekend. Sean is a delight and if you want to book him to speak for you take my word for it, he's a package deal...entertainment included.

Here he is sharing his nutrition knowledge with none other than Matthew Zachary, founder of I'm Too Young For This, who flew in from San Fran (where he was shamelessly networking at yet another conference) to attend. We told Sean that garbage plates were like the Rocky Mountain oyster equivalant of Rochester cuisine...he bought it...and so then decided he was game. He ate the ENTIRE garbage plate.
I have to give him real props for that.

And if you don't think this proves that he is an Ironman he then decided to give a speech just hours after this. And I was in the audience he managed to keep the stomach churning and gurgling really low on the white noise meter.

Subsequently, Sean is no longer planning the adventure grand slam...he is in bed with a bottle of Maalox, thinking to himself...gee, that God forsaken place where they frequent eat mushed picnic food on a platter for fun....I survived cancer...twice...survived the Seven Summits and the Ironman with one fully functioning lung and now---done in by this. All homage to Nick Tahoe

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Forgotten cancerversaries

Hi everyone...

September 30th 2008 arrived...and for the first time since that infamous date four years ago I didn't dread it....I actually forgot.

On September 30th 2004 I was diagnosed with thyroid was a horrifying defining moment and a dark date in my that I never would forget...or so I thought.

But this year I didn't remember it...or at least didn't mark its approach. When I opened Outlook yesterday and checked email at work the date popped up at me like an old ghost.

I almost smiled when I saw it...thinking that although my life right now is so much about cancer---about helping other people who are experiencing it...writing, advocating, speaking for and fundraising for cancer...that in some way I am moving on. didn't haunt least not today. Not for this day.

Perhaps it was the fear of facing the very word, the anger of having to even accept it into my life that allowed me to dread dates and remembrances. But I've come a long way. I've grown and I've changed a lot in four years. I used to be embarrassed, ashamed and even lonely in the fact that I had cancer. That seems so long ago. Now I obviously am unafraid to put my heart on the electronic sleeve that is my blog. I used to be so hesitant to look in the mirror at the scars. Well, I don't celebrate them...not yet...but I know they are there and I can trace the lines of my story.'s not you...that is a part of's what I gave to myself while I battled you. So there! Cancer.

September 30th
Then May 18th...
A cancerversary?
Really it's just another day.
Just another a life I'm able to live

Life is good.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Please vote for Zach!!!!

Hi everyone!

A friend of mine---an extraordinary friend of mine---is a finalist in an amazing video contest through

Zach DeRidder, a 23 year old from Lyons NY is in the running to win the grand prize, a signed bike from Lance Armstrong. He is a young man who has endured unfathomable adversity since he was discovered to have liver cancer more than 2 years ago. But his story is a testatment to his incredible strength and will to survive and show the world the impossible can be done.

The winner will be determined by the number of votes.
VOTING BEGAN YESTERDAY and you can help him win a signed bike by Lance Armstrong, his hero.
Each person can vote once per day every day until this SUNDAY SEPT 21.

One entrant in particular who is edging Zach out (at least in views) is a well connected former business man. This contest means a lot to Zach, perhaps more than anyone in it. He doesn't have contacts in the 'business world', but he is a young man with lots of friends, and even strangers marvel at him and his incredible positive attitude and example.

His entry name is MHallstr4.
BE ONE OF THOSE and vote for Zach every day...starting now.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The wheels of cheese are turning

The morning began with cheese. You can say it's too early for cheese but I would not agree. According to advertising of the past, everything goes better with it. In fact, our hotel in Pleasant Prarie was right near the Jelly Belly Headquarters and I chose to indulge my love of cheese rather than fill myself with the sugary magic pebbles. Mom agreed. She's good like that. She knows her cheeses...I mean she's a dynamo, a real Cheese whiz. Ha ha. So off we went to Mars Cheese Castle. We sample lots of yummy cheeses. Mom loves samples as much as I do. The only thing she initially objected any thought of buying the ubiquitous Wisconsin cheese hat. But when peaking at the $20 price tag both of us were in the same frame of mind. So instead we took our picture in the store. A little side note about my mother, Sally, she gets kind of nervous when I come up with goofy ideas like this. So regardless of the fact she didn't like the 3rd or 4th picure of us in our Cheddar Chapaus or the Swiss Berets she kept whining "someone will see us. That's good.." As if you could be arrested in Wisconsin for trying on cheese hats in a gift store that you have no intention of buying. Well, stranger things have happened you know.

Then it was off to Illinois...this time we decided to stop in Oak Park Illinois, where Frank Lloyd Wright made his home and studio. So naturally, Oak Park would contain the world's largest collection of the architect's homes. We did a self-guided walking tour of all the homes on the map with this crazy little MP3 player that Mom and I both were endlessly frustrated with. It kept turning off when we paused it to cross the street. So when we rebooted it, it took quite a bit of time. But the houses were fantastic and very diverse, every inspiration from Tudor to Japanese to even Mayan influence. Amazing!
Here I am in front of Mr. Wright's home. I don't know if he was much of a party man, but I could totally see this place being the perfect spot for a backyard barbeque. Fun stuff... but it was time to get back on the road to Indiana.
Next stop: the Indiana Dunes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tuesday recap

** Please note this blog is a recap, the hotel's internet was down. So humor me.... read it like it happened today...
Monday night we didn't make it to the Indiana state line and just decided to stay the night in Ohio.

Then...after a nice stay in a surprisingly decent $32 a night motel in Perrysburg Ohio we were up and in the car. Over the Indiana state line...Now where to? A quick glance through the tour book revealed that we were not too far from South Bend Indiana... home of Notre Dame and the world famous Fighting Irish!

After some difficulty finding our way to the visitor center, Mom and I were right on time to make the walking tour of campus. Slight problem. Mom needed her hat so she rifled through the car while I ran to meet up with the tour group. There they were...but no Mom. I called out to the tour group as they headed off. One dumb numbnut heard me and never alerted anyone else. I watched the tour walk off at a quick pace while I fumbled with my cell to call Mom. They formed into tiny moving dots in the distance and disappeared around a bend. Mom and I subsequently stalked a group of people on campus for 500 yards until we realized they were not the tour group. Plan B. Get a campus map and try to give ourselves the tour.
An interesting bit of advice for those of you trying to navigate Notre Dame University....

DO NOT TRUST THE MAP. Ask everyone you see instead of trusting the map. Even the friendly groundskeeper that stopped to give us directions to various highlighted buildings said 'that map makes no sense'. Coming from a easily navigable and small upstate NY college perspective Mom and I were overwhelmed...but at our leisurely pace we plodded along. I'm a big fan of the movie Rudy. So I enjoyed every minute of this. Right down to the yummy looking school logo cookies in the cafe. The site of the golden dome was breathtaking.
NOTE TO SELF: Must watch Rudy for 101st time when back home.

Next up we headed through Illinois and bypassed it---save a quick rest-stop visit.
We crossed over into Wisconin in the late afternoon. The first stop was the visitor's center. My first reaction to Wisconsin? These people have it goin' on. Just look at this lovely line up of recycling receptacles. Seriously, I think Wisconisn has something over New York when it comes to environmental friendliness. I counted 5 batches of these recycling clusters just at this one rest stop. I've watched so many people at NY rest stops chuck plastic bottles that it's turned my stomach so this my friends, was a welcome breath of fresh air. Wisconisn, you get my vote of confidence.

At the rest stop we grabbed a bunch of those travel brochures and hotel coupon booklets. By the way if you are travelling on a road trip...this is the ONLY way to get hotels. Reservations are for the birds. Show up with that booklet and you'll save a lot of cash.
We drove into Kenosha Wisconsin and into Racine. Once you get through the dingier parts of Racine you come to a kind of cute downtown area and some really cool waterfront finds. Mom and I selected a restaurant randomly called Chartroom Charlie's which overlooked a marina. By the time we got there it was pretty late for dinner.
The parking lot was virtually empty, we almost turned around but took a second look and boy am I glad we did. Inside the restaurant was colorful strung with lights and a whimsical playground for the imaginative mood we were both in. And the food ? YUMMMMY.

Tuesday night we forked over a little more moola for a LaQuinta in Pleasant Prarie Wisconsin. Not the uber bargain from the other night, but we paid for the promise of superior internet. Supposedly, according to the advertising...La Quinta is Spanish for internet. As you can see from the lateness of this post that advertising is decidely false.
Although it pays to complain politely. Because I must say the LaQuinta manager knocked some of our bill off for the inconvenience.

Monday, July 21, 2008

End of a day's journey

What a wonderful Mom I have. She agreed to accompany me on my roadtrip before the LiveStrong Summit. The single goal of this pre-Summit roadtrip is to pick up three states (three of the four remaining to complete my goal of 30 states visited in my 30th year).

So as life's journey's often happen, the unexpected and the unplanned are often the most meaningful. We found a little town called Vermillion Ohio where we ate dinner. I have a soft spot in my heart for charming lake-side little villages and Vermillion is certainly high on my list of undiscovered jewels, for sure. Mom and I had dinner at a restaurant overlooking a river and watched the comings and goings of boaters. It was a nice way to end a day's drive. We then drove over to the public beach just in time to see the sunset over Lake Erie. Beautiful, isn't it? No really, I actually took this picture. Stay tuned. This intrepid traveller can't wait to share with you the next stops on the journey. Tomorrow's itinerary: Indiana.