Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas is ruined!

Ask a member of my family for some family lore, and they will utter the following phrases...

- "we spit on the weak!"
Said by a fairly tipsy aunt about the strength of the family members and the lack thereof of others

- "the golden child"
Referring to my older brother - the one whose shadow we all live in

and the all time favorite -


Why is this so vividly burned on our brains, you ask? Well, according to family history, one fateful Christmas eve, while the three youngest children slept, my oldest brother was helping my parents put presents under the tree. Somehow, and in my mind, it plays out in slow motion like the changing of the tire in "A Christmas Story" - the Christmas tree fell down.

As in over. With the ornaments, lights and all.

And my father doesn't deal all that well in crisis. So he proceeded to flip his shit out.

"Christmas is ruined!" he exclaimed.

Whereas my oldest brother, home from his freshman year of college and quite the smart ass, replied by saying something to effect of

"What do you mean, Christmas is ruined? It's not like anyone stole the presents!"

Way to keep your eye on prize, big guy.

My father, not one to let someone rain on his melodrama parade, didn't appreciate the musings of some 18 yr old punk, especially one who might have a point. So there was some escalation and some yelling. I'm pretty sure at one point, my father told my oldest brother to get out, my brother grabbed his coat. Perhaps my mother stood on a chair and screamed to get them both to listen. It's all legend at this point.

A few hours later, by the light of Christmas morning, the other children crept downstairs to check out the loot. There is was, heaped in all its glory, under a perfect Christmas tree.

Only I noticed the very tiny threads of fishing line securing the tree to the wall.

"Christmas is ruined!" reminds us all that while things look bad, dude - there's still presents. Helps us focus on what's important. And when another Christmas disaster strikes, we can call keep our mind on the loot in the morning.

Like this Christmas, when there was a minor dog scuffle at the parents house which ended in me taking Alan to the emergency room. On Christmas Eve.

Really, combining family tipsiness and dogs who don't know each other that well - hell, it was bound to happen, right? In fact, as my mother was demanding that Alan put his head between his legs to prevent fainting, my drunk little brother exclaimed, "Christmas is ruined!"

Actually, Alan only had a minor hand wound. But it was deep enough and Alan was pale enough to warrant a little trip to the ER and perhaps a tetanus shot. So off we went, over the river and through the woods, only grandmother's house looked a lot like a hospital waiting room.

Things I've learned about the ER in my hometown on Christmas eve:
-Speaking English is helpful but not required.

-Someone will remind you when you present your insurance card that
the last time you were there was February 14, 2006. No shit. Like I forgot about that.

Alan and I spent a surprisingly short time at the ER, thankfully - since Alan's buzz had worn off and the pain from his hand was pretty intense.

But you know what, I didn't go to the hospital for cancer and there were presents under the tree when we got home.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fractal Patterns

For those of you who didn't know, when i was just a wee one, I was quite the math and science prodigy. I was so far ahead in math in high school, they had to make an independent study for me. One where the teacher admitted I was smarter than her. That was the last day I paid attention to a word she said. I was a state science fair champ for like 6 years. My 6 years of work on fractal patterns caused a judge to ask if I was going to be a mathematician or perhaps go into science. I laughed.

Nope, going into theater school. Never to take math or science again. Except "the solar system" and biology for football players. Those don't count.

So many years later, after numerous career paths that never once included math or science, (unless you count calculating 20% interest rates on a used car) I find myself drawn to the science of breast cancer. In fact, I joke that I have an internet oncology degree. When I was diagnosed I spent hours on the web, researching everything I could find. After I finished treatment, I realized I only truly understood MY breast cancer. I was woefully uneducated in the other different types. How could I guide someone else if I didn't understand? How could I help them read their pathology reports, their treatment plans - anything?

So little by little, I researched. I learned about side effects, drugs, treatments, genetic tests - hell, I can even tell you the generic name of most chemo drugs. For any woman going through treatment, I could probably rattle off at least a couple clinical trials they could enroll in. And you know what? I found I really liked it. I don't know if it's that whole right/left brain thing or what. Or if I was so used to people coming back from the dead or some love triangle that it was refreshing to flex my cranial muscles.

So, the pinnacle of science nerdom, the epicenter of all things breast cancer is the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, held every year in - you guessed it - the alamo city. Now, when I think of the Alamo, I think of Pee Wee's Big Adventure, or perhaps William Shattner in Miss Congeniality - but off I went on another trip to Texas for breast cancer.

It was like the ultimate science fair. It's the largest event for doctors, researchers, clinicians - really anyone that does anything with the big BC. 8000 professionals... yes, that's thousand. From all over the world. And only about 150 advocates. That's me. Every 15 minutes a new paper was presented, a new study discussed. Every 15 minutes from 8am-6pm. Then there's the mentor sessions where docs help us common folk understand the findings. Don't forget the working lunches, the symposium dinners, the stroll through drug company lane... all in all, it was breast cancer all day, all the time. For 4 straight days. It was exhausting. And exhilarating. I learned so much. And I was amazed at what I understood.

And the swag! If you want a mousepad, flashdrive, travel blanket, laser pointer... I have one for you. With the obligatory drug company logo, of course. That doesn't even count the pens, post its - you know, "lesser" gifts. All that money... it makes your head spin.

So I came home from San Antonio with a greater knowledge of breast cancer and a even greater desire to learn more.

But seriously, I could wow you with my work on fractal patterns and chaos theory :)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Baby Talk

Alan and I have been having a pretty serious discussion lately. It revolves around babies. As in having them. For those of you hip to the beginning of this whole pink ribbon tale, you know that my world was pretty much ovulation kits and pee sticks before I was diagnosed.

Then the "big C" hit. And any and all plans went right out the window.

So here I am, almost 2 years out from my diagnosis, and so far so good. What does that mean for the fetus factory?

Well, it's a complicated thing. See, I'm hormone positive. Meaning, my cancer fed on estrogen like a high frat boy eats doritos. And pregnancy usually means skyrocketing hormone levels. At the same time, there's no real evidence that shows pregnancy has an adverse effect. Why don't we know for sure? Well, there just aren't enough hormone positive women who have babies after breast cancer to really show us anything. The perks of being special. Some doctors say absolutely no pregnancy. Thankfully, I don't see those doctors. Mine tend to go for a cautious optimism. If it's really a priority of mine, and they can't prove it will hurt me, then they can't stop me.

Pregnancy could very well raise my risk of recurrence. Or not. We just don't know. I guess I could be uber cautious... adopt, get a surrogate, go kid free. But I just can't. And yes, I know it's a risk. I guess it's a risk I'm willing to take. Why?

Because cancer has already taken enough from me, dammit. I refuse to let it take one thing more.

Now, the current thought it that I should continue on my hormonal therapy for 5 years. In fact, I'm in a clinical trial for just that. But all my doctors have told me I could take a "break" after 2 years and try for a kiddie. Pop out one or two, then close up shop for good. I could move to permanent menopause and take another kind of drug - one that's been shown to be a bit more beneficial in post menopausal women. Sounds like a plan to me.

I will say, however, that Alan and I are toying with the idea of stopping tamoxifen and my monthly menopause shots before the 2 full years of hormonal treatment. This seems totally against my usually harsh medical advice I dole out to others. Part of it is life stuff... it's just easier to do it sooner. Then there's the "if you're stopping the drugs early, what's a couple of months?" And maybe the prevailing thought for me is that breast cancer is a crap shoot. You can do everything right and it will come back. You blow off treatment and it never does. There's a bit of "shit happens."

So maybe I have the fatalistic approach of "if I'm going to get breast cancer again, I'll get it again."

Sure, could I get pregnant, get breast cancer again and kick myself? Yep.
But could I do everything right, never get breast cancer but not have a child either? Yep.

I guess I'd rather go through door #1.

I think a lot about getting breast cancer again with small kids. What it would do to them... and I suppose we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Needless to say, Alan and I have a lot to think about.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Don't Mess with Texas!

I recently embarked on my first real trip to Texas. Houston to be exact. The other other experience I had was driving through the panhandle on my way back from a brief stint living in L.A. Texas panhandle + hot car = not happy Courtney.

I traveled to Houston for the Young Survival Coalition's annual affiliate leadership conference. Yep, somehow in the middle of all these shenanigans, I've managed to become an "affiliate leader" here in Atlanta. Actually, I've somehow ended up in charge. I'm reminded of the "Friends" episode where Chandler falls asleep in a meeting and ends up going to Tulsa - you know, the "Paris" of Oklahoma.

In reality, I did offer to take this on. The current leadership needed some fresh blood... and there's a sucker born every minute. And I do have some tremendous experience leading a group of women to greatness (Welcome to Alpha Chi Omega, I'm Courtney, your Rush Chair.)

So off I go. To learn more about the organization, the only national non profit dedicated to the needs of young women diagnosed with breast cancer. Funny enough, that's me! And I really had a great time. Met awesome survivors from around the country, got some great training and left fired up about all the great things we could accomplish for women here in Atlanta.

And I got to to to a Tex-Mex bar complete with line dancing and a giant sparkling armadillo out front.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Circus is Coming!

READER: What are you doing lately, Courtney?

ME: Well, seeing as I have a little time on my hands, there's no better time to try something ridiculous!

READER: What would that be?

ME: What flies through the air with the greatest of ease?

READER: Um, I don't know... (insert some sort of circus freak joke here.)

ME: The answer is ... ME!!!!!

I've begun taking circus classes. Yes, that's in addition to the pole dancing. And no, Alan has not installed a trapeze from my two story family room ceiling... (but man, would that be cool!)

What does it involve? Well, there's the easy stuff, like juggling. I suck at juggling. Like SU-UCK! Alan's tried to help me. So far, no bueno. We do exercises in balance and stuff. We walk a tightrope... so far, it's only about 6 inches off the ground.

Then there's the good stuff. I've been working on the trapeze. I can now do this... this of course, is not me, but my teacher. I'll work on pictures another time.

In addition, I'm working hard on the Spanish web. That's the long rope that hangs from a very tall place. Eventually, I'm supposed to climb to the top, have it spin while I do all sorts of limb tangling tricks. Right now, it sort of reminds me of climbing to the top of the rope in junior high gym class. And I'm currently trying just to make it to the top. Apparently, breast cancer isn't great for upper body strength.

I'm still getting used to the almost full body spandex we're encouraged to wear. Pants get tangled in stuff when you try to climb. I've always believed that spandex is a privilege, not a right. And it is one I currently have not earned.

So while others do holiday shopping, send Christmas cards, and you know... work - I will swing upside down on stripper poles and fling myself on the trapeze.

Lions and tigers and bears! Oh, My!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Move over Norma Rae!

Courtney goes picketing!

Since I was in New York anyway, you know - singing with Jon Secada and all - I figured I'd stay an extra day and do my union duty and picket. As if the WGA had consulted my very own calendar, they scheduled picketing outside my studio the very next day! Woo hoo, freezing my ass off in front of my own office, where cast and crew happily continue working in their cozy warm offices supplied with scripts written by also very warm scabs.

Now, I'm live south of the Mason-Dixon line now. I am not accustomed to the "chill" of December in New York. But I busted out my puffy North Face jacket like the midwestern kid I am, grabbed the gloves, hat and scarf that hadn't seen the outside of my closet in a couple of years and I was good to go.

Here's what I learned from my day of picketing. Picketing sucks. It's boring. People are bitter and angry. And apparently, no one in New York chants those cute "stick it to the man" rhymes like I've imagined. Maybe in L.A.

Walking in circles in the cold is horrible. And I don't care how many donuts Whoopi Goldberg sends out from "The View," it doesn't make up for the hours of walking in that little marked off section of sidewalk, knowing you're getting screwed.

And I only did it one day. One crappy day before flying home to my 70 degree southern oasis where no one requires me to do much of anything. It left me feeling a little bit guilty. After all, what's a WGA writer who doesn't live in New York or LA to do? Spread union propaganda, I suppose. So, if you're interested at all in the strike, check out these sites.

Deadline Hollywood Daily - written by a reporter for LA Weekly... it's the site for news and updates.

United Hollywood - started by union writers

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

$10 to the person who can name a Jon Secada song!

I just returned from singing with Jon Secada. Who the fuck is he? I know, a valid question. You know, we could all remember the name, but not one person could think of the one hit wonder that made him an early 90s superstar. So I thought I would help you. According to Wikipedia, the bastion of all important knowledge, Jon Secada was launched into the latin pop scene (think pre Ricky Martin, Lou Bega) by Gloria Estefan and had the following mildly successful hits:

1992 "Just Another Day"
1992 "Do You Believe In Us"
1992 "Angel

What most people don't know is that if you a. get breast cancer, b. join a gospel choir and c. get invited to sing at the New York Stock Exchange Christmas Tree Lighting, you too could back Jon Secada up in "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

Where am I, you ask? Middle Row, third from the left. Rocking out. To "A Holiday Classic with a Latin Flair."

Who says breast cancer isn't fun?

Here's the choir.

My friend Joy and me under the tree.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

What are you up to, Courtney?

I've been on strike for about a month now. Being on strike blows. Yep, there's some eloquence for ya. Hey big studios - give this out of work writer a job! What have you been doing while on strike, you ask?

Well, my kitchen cupboards are amazingly organized.
The drool is wiped off all the walls.
I've managed to only call my husband and annoy him about 4 times a day.
I check Deadline Hollywood Daily religiously. Like every other minute.
Did you know that there are these amazing systems to organize your garage?
Donna Martin graduates.
Sewing curtains. They're still not done, but more of a "work in progress."
There's this fabulous little pen that cleans your grout.
Maybe now's the time to finish my book proposal... oh, look - "clash of the choirs" is on!
I've finally made some itunes playlists.
Have you heard about this thing called Facebook?

Actually, the first couple weeks were great. Now that the news isn't good, and I've run out of free household tasks to accomplish, it's getting harder. Although I'm doing a ton of traveling in the next couple of weeks, so that will help. And I've been doing a whole lot of breast cancer stuff. I feel like I was a "trophy wife in training." Lots of volunteer work. Only no trophies to show for it.

Going back to work... that would be even better.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

There I go again!

It wouldn't be an interview with Courtney if she didn't say something PG-13 or above. Let's see, I've been quoted in print saying bitch, damn, ass, bastards... hmm. No shit or fuck yet. That I know of.

So I was mentioned on this month's MAMM Magazine. It's a magazine dedicated to cancer and women's issues. I know, a real page turner. But important.

Anyway, the article is titled I Can't Believe You Just Said That! by Sherry Baker.

Here's an excerpt with my perspective on what to do when people say something stupid. Like the person who said, "Well, at least I don't have cancer." to my face. My bald headed, chemo filled face.

Appalled at the thoughtless remarks she heard, Rosanne Kalick researched what people should say and do when interacting with a cancer survivor. She compiled the information in her book Cancer Etiquette: What to Say, What to Do When Someone You Know or Love Has Cancer. “I don’t think boneheaded remarks are said to be malicious. Instead, I think they mostly are the result of fear, shock and concern. Too often the first thing people think is spit out of their mouth,” says Kalick. “Words you might fluff off if you were well, hit you like iron if you have cancer. Compassionate communication is what is needed. What people say and do really does matter.”

Hankins says there isn’t one “correct” way to react to hurtful remarks. Instead, a woman has to find ways of coping that are natural and comfortable for her. “Some people can answer with a zinger, some ignore stupid comments or can laugh at them,” he says. “But some women are so devastated, they can’t make light of inappropriate remarks and may feel devastated for weeks.”

Not Courtney Bugler, 30, of Atlanta. “People speak before they think, but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten genuinely upset. So as hard as it is sometimes, I’d advise people to blow it off. You have more important things to worry about than someone’s stupidity. It’s not worth it,” says Bugler, who was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer in February 2006. “I do appreciate my support group because they do understand. When I share a story, you can see that understanding in their eyes. And you can bet your ass humor helps me deal with it.”

There we have it people... blow it off and swear.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


It's very funny considering how my life is going, but it may surprise you to know that philanthropy hasn't always been my bag. In fact, it's pretty safe to say I never really gave a shit. When I was in college, I was the social chair and the rush chair... facts that probably don't surprise you. I planned parties. I judged women in .4 seconds. When the time for the sorority philanthropy rolled around, I conveniently had something else to do. I did not toss watermelons, cook chili or whatever other bullshit there was to raise money for charity. I did do the Dance Marathon my senior year, but that was only because I was sleeping with someone on the committee. Who was sleeping with someone else - but... I digress.

Point is, me and philanthropy don't really make sense. Not like ham and eggs, or Will Farrell and the jazz flute. So, imagine my surprise when Northwestern University called and asked to profile me for their annual report of donors.

Now, I will start by saying I am not a big donor. Not at all. I think maybe that at my age I donate at all is a big plus. I'm not quite sure why the development office creams their pants about me, but they do. Actually, I do know. One of college roommates works in the office. In fact, many of them read this blog. Hello, NU. I apologize for using the words Northwestern Development and "creams their pants" in the same sentence. Go Cats!

Okay, so Northwestern sent out this photographer... Jeff Gartin for those of you who'd like to know. We did a whole glamour shot photo shoot. We did all this stuff outside by my car. With lights. And umbrella things. My neighbors must have loved that. My profile picture is from this shoot. NU interviewed me for the donor spotlight. Wrote a whole big long thing.

So a couple months later, the annual report came. I found my page. I laughed out loud. For a long time.

A. They made me seem awfully adult. I mean, they somehow make partying and not having a real career seem totally normal.

B. I still managed to reference things mildly inappropriate.

C. They used the term "service and philanthropy." That's what got me. Ha! If the other co-hosts of Halloween pumkin gut wrestling could see me now.

So, here... reprinted from Northwestern for your reading pleasure. I will say, if you're an NU alum, you should really throw them a bone. You get glamour shots!

“If I think of a period in my life that has shaped who I am, what I do with my life, who I go to for advice … it’s my four years at Northwestern,” says Courtney Relihan Bugler.

As a theatre major in the School of Communication and as a member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority, Bugler became acquainted with a diverse group of friends. “What I gained at Northwestern was exposure to many different people I would not have met otherwise. Some of my best friends in the world are the ones I met through Northwestern. And then there are all the stories that go along with them! My favorites ones … those probably wouldn’t be appropriate for print!”

Following graduation, Bugler took a circuitous path to pursue her love for performing arts. While working in Los Angeles as an event planner, she kept her theatre skills honed by producing a review for Northwestern in her free time. She then served a stint working as an activities director on cruise ships, before returning to her native Illinois where fellow alumna Megan McTavish (Communication 71) hired her to write for ABC Television’s All My Children — the daytime soap opera created by alumna Agnes Nixon (Communication 44).

Now that she’s back in the industry she loves, Bugler uses her free time to advocate for young women with breast cancer — a disease with which she was diagnosed a few weeks after her 29th birthday. She originally received care at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, then completed her treatment in Atlanta, where she relocated with her husband, Alan, for his new job. She is currently training to become a crisis counselor for the Y-Me National Breast Cancer Organization. In October 2007, with two Northwestern friends by her side, she participated in the Breast Cancer 3-Day walk benefiting Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Bugler’s life experiences inspire her service and philanthropy. “I’ve been very fortunate, and I feel it is my duty to support others in pursuing similar opportunities that were available to me,” she says. “Why wouldn’t we, as alumni, give what we can to provide other students the same opportunities?”

Bugler has supported the School of Communication Annual Fund, the Theatre/Interpretation Center, and the Student Life Gift Fund — all areas in which she participated while at Northwestern. “Giving to the areas of Northwestern that influenced me the most is my note of thanks and appreciation.”

Freaking hysterical.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Breast Cancer Caucus

I've become something of a single issue voter. Health Care. Breast Cancer and Health Care. That's why I've become so involved in the National Breast Cancer Coalition. Hence why I'm passing on one of my greatest tools for voting this season.

It's called the The Breast Cancer Caucus. Go to the website. Read what each of the candidate has to say on important issues of health care and eradicating breast cancer.

What I thought was even more telling than the statements, was who wrote them and who didn't. Who took the time to make a video and who had some low level communications flunky write it. For example, not one republican made a personal video. Some didn't even respond. Some had very specific plans and goals; others.... not so much. Now, you can be liberal, conservative, independent, whatever. I don't care. But if this is an important issue for you, you should check out this site.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Chemo Angels

In my effort to be all things breast cancer to all people, I recently took part in a wonderful program called Chemo Angels. What's that? Well, you sign up to be an angel to someone going through chemo. You volunteer to send 2 things a week... cards, little gifts, funny pictures, whatever. Sounds great, right? Well, in theory it is. And I was so super excited about it. I was assigned to another young woman with breast cancer. I eagerly gathered little journals, bath salts, snacks and whatever to send to my new charge.

Here's the problem. I realized that I am not a good chemo angel. Aside from the inevitable mailing things twice a week, which - if anyone knows my family - is not really a strong suit, there's the whole "no expectations" thing. Chemo angel recipients are told they are under no obligation to respond. This isn't pen pals, mentoring or anything remotely two way. In fact I was sending things for about a month before I even heard that my person had received anything. I guess in my mind, I was hoping there would be an email or a note saying thanks and that would lead me to helping walk her through her treatment. Not so much. I got 2 short notes from my person. 2 notes in 4 months with me sending things twice a week. And when her chemo was over, I got a note from the program saying she had graduated. No "I'm done... thanks for everything!" Nothing. Nada.

Now, I know this is what I signed up for. And I should still feel good. I mean, who doesn't love getting flowers? or cookie bouquets? So I know I probably helped her through her experience. But I've realized I'm a little selfish. I'm not quite a good enough person to do it just for them. I guess I want to feel good about it, too. And I can't do it anonymously. Not that I need recognition, but I was hoping it would be the beginning of my path to guiding others, and I never got the chance to do that. And I guess there's a part of me that's like, "really? Someone sends you hundreds of dollars in stuff and you can't send a little more than a tiny card?" Maybe cuz if it were me, I would have reached out desperately for another young woman... I didn't know any when I started treatment. But then again, it's not about me, is it? But I have realized I want to be someone more like a mentor.

Now, I still think this is an awesome program. And for those of you who are better people than me - go for it! But I'm no longer a chemo angel. I don't think I could do another person who didn't respond. I'm just not that nice, I guess.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Frosted Pink

So you all know I sing with this gospel choir - a breast cancer survivors gospel choir. If you don't remember, you might want to click here. Well, we recently returned from a trip to L.A. where we were featured in the event, Frosted Pink. It was thing oddly amazing combination of figure skating and music. It was dedicated to the fight against women's cancers. There was Kristi, Nancy, Kurt, Oksana. Who the frick are these people? Fancy figure skaters... hello? Have you never watched ice skating on a Sunday afternoon? Turn off the Lifetime movie people! The musicians were Rascal Flatts, Heart (Man, did I love me some "barracuda"!), Joss Stone, Natalie Cole and others.

And us.

Little ol' Shades of Pink sang with Joss Stone. Little ol' Courtney was featured in a vignette on national TV. Granted, it was Sunday afternoon, but it was national. ABC. And man, the camera must add like 30 pounds!

It was fun. Check out the website. Some of our stuff is on there. And apparently, we'll be taking part in next year's event... Frosted Pink with a twist. This time with gymnasts...

If you'd like, you can also watch the YouTube performances. I have a little ditty before one of them. The joy of being the youngest and white... I'm the "diversity" baby!

Here's our Signature Song Performance

And our stuff with Joss Stone, including the interviews of me and other members of the choir.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Why you shouldn't go drinking in the middle of the day

So I went to Connecticut to visit my aunt a few weeks ago. She just had a litter of Bernese mountain dog puppies. Well, not my aunt specifically... but you get the point. They were flipping adorable. And you know I just HAD to have one. Except there's a small problem. I already have 3 dogs. Three LARGE dogs. All logic and reason says I should not sign up for another 100 pound dog.

But who ever called me reasonable?

After telling my aunt how she should entrust one of her prize show dogs in my care, I proceeded to call my husband, plotting how I would ask/beg/trick him into agreeing to this silliness.

I called him at 4pm. He had apparently spent the afternoon at a bar with his neighborhood boyfriend - a friend of ours who lives down the street. He was - well, inebriated would be generous.

The conversation went like this.

ME: Honey, these puppies are so freaking cute. I need to have one.

ALAN: Sure.

ME: What would you do if I brought one home?

ALAN: Puppies are great! Do it!

ME: You mean it? I can bring home another dog?

ALAN: Why not?

The next day, after calling the airline to confirm our new friend's travels, I call Alan again.

ME: You sure you're okay with the puppy?

ALAN: Huh?

ME: You said I could bring home a puppy.

ALAN: I did?

ME: Yes, you did. And his flight is booked.

ALAN: Shit.

So, that's what happens when you're too drunk to tell your crazy wife no.

So... presenting... RUGBY!!! He's adorbs. And a little stinker. He'll fit in just fine :)

Friday, November 02, 2007


As many of you know, I'm a writer. Like - for reals, ya'll. I write for television. And while I sometimes roll my eyes when yet another character goes into a coma or isn't really dead, I enjoy what I do. I enjoy sitting at home, working in my yoga pants, while 90210 is on in the background. I like being creative. I love the people I work with. I like getting a paycheck for said employment. I love health insurance.

As some of you may or may not know, The Writer's Guild of America is about to go on strike. Power to the Unions! I hear some of you cry. And I believe in my union. My union made sure that when I was "nobody, wanna be writer #3 on the left" and negotiating my first contract, the studio didn't fuck me in the ass. My union makes sure I don't get taken advantage of. Most importantly to me, my union, after only 3 months of membership, responded to my cancer diagnosis by paying over $300,000 in bills. I gladly write that dues check once a quarter.

However, this strike may be long. And I am of course not really prepared. A few weeks, sure. A month, probably. Six? No way in hell. All around me co-workers are freaking out and "the industry" is buzzing. A strike is sad. It's not just the writers... it's actors who won't get those day player gigs that feed their families, it's caterers who won't have regular jobs delivering lunch to the set, it's sound guys and grips and drivers who will possibly be out of work. It sucks. It's scary. It's scary to sit on thousands of dollars in bills and not really be sure where the money will come from. To think to yourself, "Wow- Christmas is coming and I have no idea when I'll work again." To look around your house and think, "What can I do that costs NO MONEY?" (the answer - not a whole lot)

But yesterday, as the news of the impending strike started trickling down, I was with a friend who was getting her brain scanned. She was sitting absolutely still, saying nothing, pushing away the fear that after 2 years of being cancer free- it was back, and I was outside talking about turning in scripts early to avoid the strike. My friend and I joked how the morphine the doctors has given her that morning wasn't working. While she was getting a prescription for a drug that most associate with terminal patients, I had gotten a couple of "man, I need a drink" emails from writer friends. My friend had been having dizzy spells, headaches, coordination problems. I was frantically figuring out just what I could cut out of my budget. She had looked for hours on the internet - searching for reasons other than "breast cancer metastases to the brain." I had been looking for latest news on whether we'd get 6 or 3 cents a dvd.

Is a strike scary? Damn right it is. Is cancer scarier? Fucking unbelievably so. And I did that. So If I have to, I'll get a temp job or Discover the advantages. My husband works, I have family I could trun to if it got really bad. I'll survive. Not everyone is that lucky.

So while everyone else is praying for a short strike, I'll be praying for my friend - hoping that whatever's wrong isn't cancer. And if it is, that she has the strength for the fight. After all, my union keeps telling me to be strong in the face of a battle.

It's all about perspective.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why I walk...

For those of you wondering what this mythical speech was... Here's my nearest recollection of it. I didn't write it in advance or anything - just had some notes. I'll try to piece it together for you. In order to experience the magic, you must imagine me, Ronald McDonald head and all, in track bottoms and a t-shirt. Probably a little sweaty and gross from twenty miles of walking. Perhaps a little tipsy from the celebratory drink at the bar on the end of that day's route. Talking to a group of 2000 or so walkers and volunteers. Trying to be eloquent. Trying to toe the line between funny and - my favorite word - inspirational. This is what came out.

My husband and I rang in 2006 with a kiss. We brought in the New Year with promises of a wonderful life together. We had recently bought our first house and would be moving in the new year. My husband was about to graduate and had a great job lined up. I was finally doing something I loved. We were planning to have a baby. In fact we were trying - very hard - for that baby already. My husband looked me in the eyes, gave me a kiss and told me, "To 2006 - the best year of our lives."

We had no idea that lump I felt a month before would change everything.

On Valentine's Day 2006, I was in the hospital getting tests and a biopsy. Because nothing says "I love you" like the clamp of a mammogram machine and core needles. Two days later, our world collapsed.

"You have breast cancer."

It was a month after my 29th birthday. And I have no family history.

In the midst of phone calls and doctors appointments and freaking out, a package arrived at our apartment. It was information for The Breast Cancer 3 day. My husband had requested it. Like any man, he was looking for a way to "fix it", to do "something." He signed us up for our first 3-day for October of 2006. It would be something to work toward, a reason to get my butt out of bed during chemo, a celebration of victory.

My journey continued. I had surgery. I harvested and froze eggs to protect that family we had planned for. I had chemo. Halfway through chemo I moved from Chicago to Atlanta. Nothing gets you out of moving heavy boxes like cancer. I underwent radiation treatments. I started hormone therapy. I'm currently in a trial that keeps me in menopause in the hopes of keeping the cancer away.

And in October of 06 I walked my first 3-day. I was bald and chubby, only a month after my treatment ended. I was tired. It was hard. People asked me, "How can you do it?"

My response... "How could I not?"

Since being diagnosed with breast cancer, I've met wonderful groups of people who show me each and every day what courage really means. I've made friends and found new sisters. And last Valentine's Day... instead of laying on a cold, hard hospital table, I jumped from a plane at 14,000 feet. Since breast cancer, I've posed nude for photos, swung on a trapeze, taken pole dance lessons, joined a survivors gospel choir... there is nothing too wild and too crazy. I am living proof that breast cancer can hit anyone, anywhere. I am proof that you can find a new way to live.

Because you have to.

So that's why I walk. And I will keep walking:

Until doctors stop saying, "You're too young for breast cancer."
Until women everywhere get access to the same care I was lucky enough to receive.
Until research doesn't just find a cure, but the cause of breast cancer.
Until no one, and I mean not a single person, faces cancer alone.

I walk for Ruby and Candy - beautiful strong women who lost this fight. Who taught me more about grace and dignity than I could ever imagine.

I walk for members of my support groups. For the women who take the time to share their stories and help those of us following them on this path.

I walk for survivors everywhere.

I walk for all the names on those signs on everyone's backs.

I walk for the names on those tents outside.

I walk for the names on the signs at the cheering stations.

And for the people who took the time to make them.

I walk for the woman who is sitting at home right now, waiting for that life changing phone call.

I walk for every person whose life has been changed by breast cancer.

For the families and friends. For my own nieces. And for hopefully one day my frozen babies that I have waiting for me.

And I walk for me. Because, dammit, I deserve a lifetime.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The 3-day

Heather, Me & Jill

I walked my second Breast Cancer 3-day this weekend. This year, I was joined by my husband and two friends from college - Heather and Jill. I've lived in Atlanta a little over a year, so this time; I actually knew others on the walk. One of my closest friends in the ATL, Jenn, joined us as well.

How was the second one, you ask? Was it any less meaningful? Had it gotten old?
Me, Jenn, Jill and Heather at Opening Ceremonies

Jill, Heather and Me walking over the Chatahoochie River

Sure, I knew about some of the "pref nite pitfalls" - the times when tears were pretty much a given. Opening ceremonies, cheering stations, closing ceremonies. And I had hair this time, so I wasn't quite the walking ad for cancer I was last year. Not nearly as many people came up to me and gave me the sad eyes, which I was grateful for.

Alan was a champ. Although he was pretty grumpy the second day... he hadn't slept well. We found a bar at the end of the route on Saturday and got Alan a pick me up beer. Or three. Apparently, about 200 other walkers had the same idea.

Here we are at the bar.

Saturday night, I was also chosen to "tell my story" for the group of walkers and crew. I had to get up and rehash a whole bunch of cancer stuff. I attempted to keep any stray tears and not to drop the "f" bomb. I managed to keep from sniffling for the most part - and I only said "dammit" once. Not bad.

Funny though, once you put your life story out there on display, people feel the need to come up and talk to you about it. And I encourage it. However, in my speech, I did mention the whole frozen babies thing... and as only happens in the south, I'm convinced... that's the part people listened to. So I got a lot of "you'll have those babies, honey," randomly in all parts of camp and on the route. That wasn't really the point of the aforementioned speech, just what some people heard.

I swear, nothing gets a collective gasp from the audience like saying you're 30 years old and in menopause.

One thing that did move me greatly... a couple of women that I walked with into closing ceremonies last year found me. We made an annual date to walk each year together. So here's a shout out to the Dixie Cups!

Alan & Me in Piedmont Park

I am so very glad I did this. And I plan on doing it as long as I'm able.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Mama's Got a Brand New Bag... I mean doctor

Those of you who talk to me regularly, or who read this blog, know that I loved my treatment at Northwestern in Chicago. Loved it. If you have to get cancer, get it at the Ritz, I thought.

Then I moved. Down to the South. And I finished my treatment at a big fancy academic university setting down here. Same thing, right? Same Ritz, different flavor.

Not so much.

I was never really happy at said treatment facility. I didn't click with my doctor, the infusion center was a bloody nightmare, and I had some questions about the care others were getting. But I was lazy. Tired. Didn't feel like doing the research. Figured they didn't kill me so I'd be fine.
This was until I was getting monthly shots for my clinical trial. Confused? See here. Anyway, I'd go for my monthly shot in the ass... one that takes all of .5 seconds - and I'd be waiting for 2-3 hours. The orders weren't in, they didn't know I was coming, they were just slow. It was the biggest crock of bullshit I've ever seen. This was the same place where friends of mine went months between seeing their oncologist - friends who were stage 4 and seeing the nurse instead. The same place that had you go to 3 different places in one appointment.

Yada, yada.

Anyway, recently, I decided I'd had enough. So I switched oncologists. And hospitals. I went with an overwhelming recommendation by the ya-yas. We all know how I trust the ya-yas. Funny enough. Those ya-yas... representative of money, power and families of Atlanta - only one of them was treated where I was. 80% were at the hospital where I was considering. I'm not into math right now, but at sounds good to me. So off I went. Not before I wrote a scathing letter to previous facility - (one I'm told did some good as changes have been made.)

Okay, back to the new hospital. Let me tell you. It's not the Ritz, but hot damn, it's a really great Sheraton.

I went in for my first appointment.
1. I waited for less than 10 minutes.
2. They did my blood work in the same place where my appointment with the doctor was.
3. The oncologist spent 45 minutes with me. Probably more than my other oncologist down here had spent with me total. He asked questions. Told me I sounded like I was a doctor. (I have an internet MD)

When I asked him about a PET scan, he said... "now, I could tell you why they're not necessary, or I could shut up and order the scan." I said, "What do you think?"
His reply? "I'll just order it, then."

I loved him. It was like having a cancer dad right here in Atlanta. I couldn't be happier.

Moral of the story? Sometimes, the "best" place isn't where you'll get the best care. If you're not happy with your doctors, then get new ones. Trust me, it was one of the best decisions I've made since I got cancer.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Multimedia, baby...

You miss the sounds of my dulcid tones? You want something to lull you to sleep at night? You think maybe I got a little of that throaty, sex line kind of voice? Well, here's your chance to listen to me. In preparation for the Breast Cancer 3-day, I did a series of interviews on Star 94 FM here in Atlanta. I am their "Breast Cancer correspondent," if there is such a thing. We've been talking about Breast Cancer, life, the 3-day. I even take questions from callers! Come on, you know you're bored.

You can also click here to see the page on the station's website about me. Nothing like putting it all out there, huh?

Monday, October 01, 2007


Sit back, grab a cup of tea - maybe a blankie, and let me tell you a story. No, it's not about drinking til 4 am with crazy dutch cruise ship officers or how my husband used to have his tongue pierced (yes and yes to both, thank you)... this is about a simpler time. A time when we were involved in things that we felt were VERY important. You know, who will go in the limo post prom or why did they light that soccer ball on fire and kick it around?

I'm talking high school, people. And the reason I look back to a young-mc, daisy duke inspired era is because I find the lessons of high school still relevant upon occasion.

Those who know me now might not believe it, but when I was a teen, I didn't drink. Not a drop. I think I liked being the one kid at the party who wasn't trashed, rather than one of the dozens who did. I also was a big fan of activities that would look good on my college application. So my senior year, I was the Vice President of SADD. But I swear, I made sure everyone who left my keggers had a designated driver. I wasn't opposed to the drinking, per se. Everything in moderation.

Needless to say, I was probably the coolest kid in SADD. I don't say that because I'm actually cool, but most of SADD was full of people who actually didn't attend a party... not one I'd want to go to, at least. I was convinced I was going to make SADD more relevant, so the people who actually needed to hear the message would listen. I had big dreams for our little group.

Long story short (I mean it, I swear)... there was an "incident." There was a dance, people showed up possibly drinking, our moderator wouldn't let them in. (Disclaimer: they were friends of mine) But did she call their parents? Call the cops? No, she sent them away... you know, back to their cars. To drive. After she accused them of drinking. Anyone see the problem here?

So I questioned the decision. I went to her and said I had an issue with the message we were sending, that I wanted to have a discussion with the group and its officers about how we handle things. Well, that didn't sit well with our moderator. After "staying up all night thinking about it" (as an adult, I have a serious problem staying up all night for anything high school related) she SENT ME A NOTE during my fifth period English class. In the note? She kicked me out of S.A.D.D. For possibly poisoning the minds of the younger members. For questioning the logic of sending drunks off to drive. Basically, for saying "Why?"

After some tears (you bet your ass I still put that on my college application) and perhaps an angry parent-teacher meeting, my time with S.A.D.D. was over.

What the fuck does this have to do with real life, you say? Jesus, get on with the story.

So recently, in my current role as "little miss breast cancer" I've had the chance to be a part of numerous organizations. I was contacted by a local group, which shall remain nameless - to be a part of their unique way of reaching out to younger women. I was pretty excited about it - after all, it was just up my crazy alley. They were starting to have meetings to discuss their mission, etc. In one of these emails, the founders told me all about how their primary goal was to teach young women self exams, yada yada yada.

Now, I'm pretty knowledgeable on the whole young women thing. I emailed back, saying I was excited to be a part of it and help shape the group. I did want to talk about the BSE - the breast self exam - I wasn't so sure about it. Why, you ask? Well, there's evidence that shows doing self exams doesn't affect survival for young women. Plus, young women have distinct hormonal issues that means they shouldn't be checking once a month... they should be touching themselves up at different times each month, etc. etc. I wanted to talk about getting to know your body more than anything. Or what to do if you find something and a doctor blows you off.

Well, that put a bee in their bonnet. I was told

1. She wasn't a fan of the phrase "touch yourself up." (How they hell they'll get 16 year olds to listen if they don't speak their language, I don't know. I know at 16 I didn't listen to 30 years olds, much less almost 50.)
2. Their goal was teaching the BSE. Period. (never mind the lack of evidence based research that proves their effectiveness. See this link for example.
3. If I couldn't get on board... "If you are comfortable with that, then we would love to have you. If not, we certainly understand and respect everyones' efforts in the fight against this disease and to be honest........if we are all attacking from different angles then I'm sure that they will get the message. We both are extremely positive and motivated people and we feel very strongly about XXX and we want to make sure that everyone involved with XXX supports our mission.

Does this sound familiar? Well, I replied that I just wanted to raise the discussion. Not change necessary, just open it up. (Not even mentioning the average age of the group was about 45... 30 years older than their target audience.)

Well, I never got an email back. I emailed about a meeting. No one responded. I stopped getting all the announcments about getting together. I was shut down, kicked out, black listed, kicked to the curb.

Just like SADD. Just like the moderator who was too emotionally invested to listen to anything other than her view. Just like the small minded students that were out of touch with the people who needed to hear the message. There's me, only I'm 12 years older but just as mouthy. And I still think that asking questions is important.

So I wish this group all the best. I have other organizations to give my time to. That want open an frank discussion. That value people who think outside the box. Who think awareness if more than dressing in pink.

(stepping off soapbox)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Can I get an Amen?!?!?!?!

Now I understand you wake up in the morning and you think to yourself, "I wonder if Courtney will do something ridiculous today?" We know about the pole dancing, the sky diving, the dogs... what next? Rest assured, ladies and gentlemen, I do not disappoint.

Recently, I joined a gospel choir. As in robe-wearing, Jesus-lifting, not-so-white, gospel choir. But not just any choir. A choir composed entirely of breast cancer survivors. Yep... like 50 of us. We wear pink robes. What else? It's powerful and supportive and fun - even if it is a little different. For me at least.

See, I spent 12 years in Catholic school. I sing with my Cathedral Choir here in Atlanta. I'm used to ... how do I say it... "restrained" faith. Mindful prayer. Chants. Organs. It's the difference between singing in a choir loft in the back of the church to being right there up on the altar, if you get my drift.

I have never raised my hand in prayer, never shouted out in agreement when the priest spoke. Instead of lifting anything up, I bow my head. I sneered if there was clapping. Well, all that's out the window, folks.

My first rehearsal, we lifted ourselves up more than I could count. We trusted in Jesus more than I'd even thought of. Granted, there are a few white women in this group, but we're by far the minority. I am also the youngest member. This is something I'm used to by now. I'm not, however, used to singing without sheet music. This is all by ear. It's a whole new world for me. But I figured, "Hell, I'm in the South now - when in Rome..."

But I tell you, I walked into that room and was immediately embraced - physically and otherwise. I was welcomed. They promised to give me rhythm. And hope. They've done both. We share what we have in common, not what's different. Sure, we sing about Jesus. But we also sing about cancer, encouragement and love.

What is this magical group, you ask? It's called Shades of Pink. It's the only group of its kind in the country. And I'm thrilled and honored to be a part of it. This group has not only taught me the about the value of sisterhood, but of faith -in whatever you believe.

I have big news to share with you on this front, just wait -- it gets more ridiculous. You'll just have to keep reading.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

State of the Union

Today is September 11th. Some of you may remember my entry written last 9/11. (For those of you who cannot quote my blog by date - and really, who can't? - Here it is)

A year ago today I finished active treatment for breast cancer. 1 year already. Wow. I say active treatment because I'm still very much in treatment. I see a doctor or a nurse every month for my clinical trial, I take drugs, I have side effects. For those of you who might think that cancer's over once treatment is done, here's a little insight. (I swear, I tried not to make that sound snarky... don't think I succeeded.)

1 year after treatment...

My hair is still uncomfortably short. Still VERY curly. Still looks like Ronald McDonald. Now approaching an odd mullet stage. Still brown - although I've started a gradual step down approach to becoming blond again.

My eyes are still a little off. I can thank chemo for giving me astigmatism, now I can thank Tamoxifen for continual effects on my eyesight. For those of you who don't know, I was already pretty damn blind. Didn't know it could be worse.

My back is still a problem. We're not quite sure exactly why, but doctors credit the lack of estrogen to bone issues and chemo and tamoxifen to disc problems.

I am in menopause. Still. Will be for a few more years, thanks to my clinical trial. With that comes hot flashes, sleep problems and a spare tire that I can't seem to get rid of.

I am still 30 pounds too heavy. Although the mere fact I've done the whole menopause thing and not GAINED weight makes me happy... but I've now bought fat girl pants for a few seasons now and it's uncalled for.

My joints ache all the time. That's tamoxifen. Every morning when I wake up, it's like I'm walking on pegs for a while. I can't sit still for too long. I'm constantly stretching. Awesome.

My big toe has finally grown out from when I almost lost it... 14 months ago.

I bruise way too easily. This is a common complaint after treatment.

I am sensitive to the sun. If I'm out in it for too long, I get itchy rashes all over.

I take 5... count 'em five... pills every day.
Tamoxifen - hormone therapy
Ambien - for sleep issues
Effexor - for the hot flashes
Prescription Anti-Inflammatory - For the back
Muscle relaxer - also for the back

Once we get my back under control, I might be lucky enough to only take 3 pills a day.

I go to the doctor once a month for a shot that keeps me in menopause. I usually can't sit comfortably for a day or so after it.

Cancer is still a part of my everyday life.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Stepping off the crazy train...

Okay, so I got the call from my doctor. While I very well could have real back problems, "We're pretty sure it has nothing to do with cancer. You're all clear, baby girl."

Yep, I was called baby girl. After a discussion of what my pain could be, I was referred to an internist. I haven't had a doctor that wasn't cancer related in a long time. I don't even know what they do :)

So long story short. I'm nuts. But fingers crossed, still cancer-free.


Fear is an ugly monster. It sits in your closet and waits until you are dressed and ready to go before it jumps out and scares the shit out of you. It's the little voice in the back of your head that you cover with fun or booze or love or activism. It's the fine line between being naive and proactive. If you've had cancer, fear is something you learn to live with every day. Some days are worse than others - the day of a check up, or getting your boobs smooshed in square holes. Some days you forget about fear altogether. But it's never gone. It just hides bakc in your closet behind your winter sweaters.

I am not one to revel in the fear. I'd rather do something ridiculous - use my fear as adreneline. There have been a few times where I have wrestled with fear and it won. And when fear wins, it leaves behind that girl you hate. The girl who's insecure, emotional, pathetic. The girl who worries too much and doesn't do enough. The girl who trades her grace for weakness.

God, I hate that girl.

In the past year and a half, there are a couple times where I've lost my battle with fear. One time was watching friends lose their fight. It made the reality of cancer - the fact that people actually die from this - crystalize in my mind. See I'm not really afraid of cancer coming back. In fact, I sort of beleive one day it will. And if it does, I'll deal with it. Stage IV cancer, however - scares the shit out of me. We can be politically corrrect and look to all the Elizabeth Edwards in the world, but the truth is, right now, stage IV cancer is not curable. It's treatable. Meaning it can buy you time. Hopefully that's enough time for people to figure out how to cure you. But right now, they can't. Stage IV means you don't live until you're 80. When I was diagnosed, I never thought about dying. It was only after digging myself deep into this disease, that the statistics became people. People who died.

So you become afraid. Afraid of getting the call when "we saw something unusual in your scan." Or feeling pain that just doesn't seem to go away.

I'm losing my fight with the fear monster as we speak. See, I've been having back pain for about a month. Now, it could be the fact I've been working out more lately. Unfortunately, the muscle pain is a whole different issue. But it's on my spine - like a bruise on my bone that hasn't gone away. It's bothering me enough that it wakes me up at night sometimes. It's bothered me enough that I moved up my annual PET scan because of it. I went in on Monday. And to be perfectly honest, I didn't get the best feeling from the scan. Little red flags... another tech coming in to look, the tech who tells me I "should call" my doctor. All in all, if I was nervous going in, I'm even more nervous waiting for results.

And I've gone to that dark place. The place I'm not sure I've ever been to. The fear monster squeezes all rational thought out of me. I've thought about living wills and who would get my stuff and what would I want at my funeral. I've thought about the children I may not have or leaving Alan alone. In essence, I've fallen off my rocker with fear. What if this bone pain is bone mets? Could I do it? Could I face it with the same "Strength" everyone tells me I have? I'm really not sure. And then of course, I tell myself not to be stupid. That I'm fine. Stop freaking out for nothing. Except we hear all the time to listen to our body. That we can tell if something's off. And my body is screaming at me. That same yell when I first found the lump.

So I'll sit by the phone. Hope for arthritis or a herniated disc or some other issue that can be solved. Hoping I'm nuts. Overreacting.

Here's to hope beating the shit out of fear.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Link to the Cancer Blog

I was featured the other day on the Cancer Blog....

Check it out here...

The Cancer Blog contains the latest news, stories and reserach on all sorts of cancer.

Pretty cool, huh?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tag, you're it!!!

I’ve been tagged to participate in a meme … to share seven random facts about myself with all of you. I've seen it relate to breast cancer, but that's not my current mood, so these will be regarding just about anything....

1. When I was 18, I sold knives. Cutco, to be exact. I went into the homes of my parents' friends and cut pennies and leather. That job didn't last. But I still think Cutco knives are pretty damn great.

2. My first performing opportunity came in third grade, when i put on my jean skirt and my mother's patent leather heels and lip synched to "Let's Hear it for the Boy." The St. Thomas More talent show was never the same.

3. In high school, I was president of the National Honor Society. I was also on the math team, JETS and speeach team. I was not a huge nerd. I promise. I threw fantastic keggers.

4. Thanks to working on cruise ships, I've seen like 60 countries or so. My favorite place - Buenos Aires. Or Tahiti.

5. Sometimes, if I'm up too late after takng my Ambien (helps me sleep through hot flashes) I get a little "ambien drunk." It leads to conversations I don't remember, impulse online purchases and lots of laughs from my husband.

6. One day, I'd love to live on the water. I miss the ocean.

7. Okay, one breast cancer fact- my surgery scar is on the lower part of my breast, like 6 o'clock. It's a little half circle - leading my boob to look like a one-eyed smiley face.

Those are my facts … what are yours?

The rules:
If you are tagged, you need to start by posting 7 random facts about yourself on your blog. Then list these rules and tag 7 others people (figuratively, obviously). List their names on your blog with a link to get your readers there. Then comment for each of the tagged, letting them know they have been tagged. Get i

I tag these survivors:








Friday, August 03, 2007

Check under your couch cushions...

...Dig in your pockets, grab that jar of change sitting in your junk drawer/dresser/closet.

Open your hearts and your wallets people.

Here's a copy of the email I just sent out...

When I found my lump a little over a year ago, at the age of 28, I had no idea this was my future. I was told that it was probably nothing. That it’s “so very rare for women your age.” I was diagnosed on February 16, 2006. About a month later, a packet came in the mail for the 3-day. Last year, I walked the 3-day at the age of 29, only 5 weeks after my last radiation. I was bald, chubby, tired- but I did it. A couple of friends flew down to walk with me. It was hard and there were times when I wasn’t sure if I could do it… but I did. And I raised over 7,000 dollars. It was hard to see the remembrance tent, to see the t-shirts for those we had lost, to walk through the pain and the anger and the grief. But I did. And I met women who inspired me, who supported me and who laughed with me. I saw examples of how to live after the disease. I saw reasons to start your life after cancer, to find a new normal. I cemented relationships with close friends. I made new ones. I found a way to give back to a community that had given so much to me.

So that’s why I walk. Because for me, cancer took away so much, but little by little I’m getting it back. And I’m giving back. To show others that breast cancer can hit anyone. But at the same time, you find a way to live again. You have to. And that being a part of this new “club” has given me so much. My first 3-day was one of the most moving experiences of my life. And something I plan on doing for all the women who have blessed my life, shown me how to handle it with grace and given me reasons to celebrate. I will walk until we find a way to beat this. Because I have to.

In October of this year, I will be participating in my second Breast Cancer 3-Day. I'll walk 60 miles over the course of three days with thousands of other women and men. The net proceeds will support breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment through the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the National Philanthropic Trust Breast Cancer Fund.

I've set the personal goal to raise at least $10,000 in donations. Yep, you read that right. Ten grand. So I need your help. Would you please consider donating to this cause? Any little bit helps. Just
Follow this link to go to my personal fundraising webpage and donate online.


Thursday, August 02, 2007


One of the things that has kept me busy the last couple of months is my new involvement with Y-Me, a national breast cancer organization. Y-Me provides information and support for anyone affected by breast cancer. I am now an on-call and peer match counselor. What does that mean, you ask? It means that I volunteer from home, taking shifts on their 24 hour a day hotline. The hotline is only manned by survivors. For this, I went to Chicago to be trained for a weekend. I swear, I travel so much for breast cancer now, you'd think I was working for some consulting firm or something. Anyway, I've done some shadowing work on the hotline itself and I've answered a few specific calls where they match people up to survivors with similar characteristics. You guessed it. I get the young ones.

I started the training for this right when all hell was breaking loose with my friends and I've only recently gotten all the technical stuff so I can begin from home. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about all this. I mean, talking to the woman who was stage 4 hit home. Or what about the woman who's afraid she won't have children? In the end, though, it's the people who end their call with, "Thank you. You've made this easier." If only for a day, I made a difference. And while you know I'm not really down with that cheesy shit, it feels good.

Plus, I have to say, the idea of volunteering and helping others, while grabbing a drink from the fridge and sitting in my pajamas is pretty great.

So, have you been affected by breast cancer? Do you need someone to talk to? Bitch, vent, ask questions? Give Y-Me a call.

Who knows? Maybe I'll be on the other end.


Who here hasn't been lured into some activity with the free t-shirt? It's up there with free pizza or "punch and pie." Much better than the key chain or "soda koozie." I think I have 3 credit cards due to this very ploy. You'd think the free t-shirt would lose its charm once you're old enough to legally enter the bar you've been going to for 3 years, but no. If it weren't for those t-shirts, what would you
a. work out in,
b. mow the lawn or
c. sleep in?

When I was younger, I had tons of t-shirts from high school activities. Student groups, sports, various community theater productions. I earned my t-shirts through sweat and watching 16 year olds make out in the hallway during "play practice." By the time I was ready to leave my parent's nest, I had amassed a ridiculous quantity of these pre-shrunk cotton wonders. In fact, my mother made me a queen sized quilt of my teen glory.

Ahh, college. The land of visa shirts and discover bottle openers. My high school shirts were replaced with numerous sorority shirts. Alpha Chi Omega shirts for dances and philanthropies and rush. T-shirts supporting our pledges, our football team, our intermural sports teams. (I myself was a three sport intermural player... I digress.) Then there were t-shirts of quotes when I was on the Student Funding Board (yes, I was a student government dork, too.) Or perhaps you'd like a zippered hoodie from "Guys and Dolls?" I always had something to wear when watching Dawson's Creek in the TV room or listening to Ace of Base while studying.

About a year after college, I worked on cruise ships. Alas! Another source for free shirts! I crossed the equator and kissed the fish, little kids tie-dyed ones for me, we launched a new ship, I promoted t-shirts that changed color in the sun. Slowly but surely, as my college shirts got faded, ripped, painted on or otherwise nasty, I had an MS Amsterdam shirt to take their place in my drawer.

So here I am, out of school, off ships - in the "real world." Just as my ship shirts were yellowing and I could no longer justify wearing the "AXO pledge class is GRR-RR-EAT!" shirt, another beacon of free clothing entered my life. Just when I was telling my husband, "What the hell will I do... I'm running out of t-shirts. Am I actually going to have to go to Old Navy and BUY one?" Just when I thought I would have to actually purchase said items, the t-shirt gods shined their light upon me.

I got breast cancer.

My drawer is now full of shirts from walking, racing, living. I have an abundance of pink. Shirts that tell me to "feel my boobies" or "get involved." Survivor Shirts. Remembrance shirts. In the course of a year, I think I've gotten like ten shirts.

Thank God. My Fall Fest 1999 t-shirt was getting lonely.

Sure, some of these "Free t-shirts" were actually free. Some were a "gift" for my participation. But a free survivor t-shirt? Free?

It only cost me thousands of dollars, half my boob and my dignity. Sure, I'll take two. Do you have them in extra large? What if they shrink?

Can never have enough t-shirts.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Shark Week

Okay, after watching
all together too much
Discovery Channel Shark Week,
I've come to a conclusion:

While living with cancer and dying from cancer are horrible, scary, shitty things, it could be worse:

I could be eaten alive by sharks.

Seriously, way worse.

Or bears. Bears effing freak me out.

I know I've been a little MIA. It's been a combination of being very very busy with some super exciting things, as well as "taking a little break." But I'm back.
To be continued...

Monday, July 02, 2007


My friend Ruby passed away last week. She was 33. Her breast cancer story is one that strikes fear in many of our hearts. Fear, sadness and a whole lot of anger. Ruby was finishing her radiation treatment when I moved to Atlanta and joined the young women's support group at Emory. She was one of the first people I met in my new town. With a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye, she talked of working out, living healthy, not letting this get in the way of living. A few months ago, she was talking about having a baby. Man or no man. Buying a new townhouse. She was one of the original members of this support group, started only about a year and a half ago.

Then in February, as I celebrated my one year cancerversary, Ruby - just about to finish herceptin - was diagnosed with a recurrence to her bones, liver and lungs. Except it probably wasn't a recurrence. The cancer had probably been there the whole time. She had no symptoms and it was finally found in a scan she pushed for. She asked for the scan for 6 months. So off she went, to start the whole ordeal over again - chemo, clinical trials.... she was only on them for about a month and a half before her body started to shut down and she was too sick for anything. There was nothing else to do. She had gone from a stage IV diagnosis to hospice in 3 months. She passed away in a friend's home, surrounded by family and friends. Members of our support group had visited just the day before, bringing a candle we had lit in her honor at our last meeting.

One of our group reminded us, "If you hang around people with cancer, some of them will die. It is cancer, after all." Doesn't make it any easier. And while I think I was better prepared because of Candy, this is was a different level of involvement. I saw it as my job to make sure the other people in our group were okay. As I mentioned before, I've been pretty active in visiting her and taking the lead in helping the rest of my group... phone calls, updates, daily check-ins. While it came as no surprise and in some ways was a blessing, it still sucks. It still scares the shit out of this small group of strong women who have been made stronger through this battle. There are a few things I've learned from Ruby's life and her death.

- Life is for living. At one point in the hospital, Ruby looked at me - all jaundiced and weak - and smiled, "If I had known this would happen, I would have eaten more cheeseburgers and fried chicken." Not that we should all run out and give ourselves heart disease, but if my time on this earth is limited, I'm going to have a damn good time.

- Some shit just doesn't matter. Ruby had some people who had hurt her in her life. As the end was near, she looked at me and said, "When you're dying, that stuff doesn't matter. Save your energy for what does." Wise woman. You don't have to be dying to live like that.

- Be your own health advocate. If that means pushing a doctor, then by all means, push. If it means you raise hell and bitch to get what you want, then do it. Or get someone else to do it for you. If it doesn't feel right or you're not happy with your care - find someone who will take care of you the way you deserve. You should trust them with your life. Because, in fact, you are.

What is Ruby's legacy? To me, it is the gift of friendship. Our group at Emory went from a small gathering of women with something in common that met every month to a truly close knit group of friends who had more in common than we ever realized. Through Ruby's crisis and her death, we became bonded in a way we never expected - but at least for me, am so grateful for. I not only have some "cancer friends" but real friends. And a group of amazing women who prove themselves up to the challenge - circling the wagons at a moment's notice. And a group to share margaritas with every month after the regular meeting is over. Ruby gave us that. Months from now or even years, we will sit around the table and tell stories of Ruby. She is the first member of our group to pass - watching over those women in that room. Those who join us will hear tales of Ruby and her mango margaritas. Or Ruby declaring she'd walk back into Emory a miracle.

She was. And she still is. We are lucky to have known her. And we will honor her memory but continuing to be there for each other. By still cracking jokes. And cracking skulls. And drinking mango margaritas.

Here's to you, Ruby.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Freaking out

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but upon reflecting upon the whole drama that is cancer, it's occurred to me more than once that not one person freaked out in front of me. The sad eyes, sure. Maybe the extra squeeze in the hug. Or a little vocal wavering on the phone. But outside of the, "okay, I have cancer, I'll be fine," I never had to deal with someone else's emotions really. Not one person cried in front of me. No one got hysterical. No one really made it about them.

At least not in front of my face.

My mother teared up when I came out of surgery. I was too drugged up under the wonders of anesthesia to notice. Alan told me he'd cry while he watched me sleep. (A collective sigh of cuteness.) I'm sure friends got off the phone with me and proceeded to call their mommies. A friend recently told me there were a lot of freak outs on her part.

Of course there were. Your friend has cancer. Fuck. I flipped out a little when my friend Dave found out he had cancer. "What does that mean?" "Why the hell did it have to happen to such a nice kid?" I didn't really go there - but I'm sure the thought of my possible mortality struck somebody's mind. People do die of cancer, after all.

This same person now regularly points out that I had cancer, and shit- that was major stuff. It's like it's just hitting her now. The lifetime of tests and scares and menopause and can I eat soy? (The answer is no, btw. Soy is an estrogen. Estrogen is bad.) It's not unlike my own realization. See, when you're doing it, after the initial "Are you fucking kidding me?" you just put your head down and do it. What else can you do? It's only when you have a chance to breathe that the enormity of the situation strikes you.

I have to give my friends credit. Thank you for not flipping out. One drama at a time. Thank you for calling and emailing and sending me presents. Thank you for never asking, "Are you going to die?" Thank you for never putting me in the position to have to make you feel better. At least not a lot. Even though I'm getting further out, thank you for realizing cancer is still very much a part of my life. Thanks for still reading.

In an effort to be "interactive," I will now cast an informal poll. Those of you who know me personally, did you freak out at any point? Did it involve tears? Drama? Booze? What did you do? Scream, call a friend, call your mom? Enquiring minds want to know. Post comments here.

Thank you for bucking up and being good little campers. Now go eat some cake.