Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My Last Days: Meet Ann, Soul Pancake Production

Sometimes, when you least expect it, life shows you that you have just bowled a strike.


I have posted over 500 blog posts here, and I don't think in all those words I've captured my feelings as accurately as the Soul Pancake crew did in this ten minute video. These are talented people who managed to understand my essence as a mother what a wonderful family I have.

I hope you enjoy watching it as much as we have.

The video speaks for itself and is so beautiful that there isn't much left to say.

 Below I listed all the folks involved and I thank them all, but especially Justin, who led the way, Ahmed, who chatted with this old lady during boring moments, Emily who is as sweet as she is beautiful, and Jordan, who recorded me peeing and never said a word.

Every single one of the people involved in this filming were so kind and gentle with my family that I cannot begin to express my gratitude. Let me just say that I will never forget you and neither will my family. What was supposed to be just a fun, silly thing to do that might be a good blog post turned into something truly special and unforgettable. My family, long after I'm gone, will be able to watch this video and remember the good times we shared and how much we love each other, and that is a true gift.

It's hard to take yourself out of the picture, but I think the video shows that love happens, sadness happens but life will go on. We are but a brief moment in time - all of us.

If you are so moved, feel free to comment here, but please, also take the time to go to YouTube and see the other videos in the series and leave a comment for the people doing thoughtful shows like this. I enjoy watching cute cats online as much as the next person, but people who create the kind of thing that Soul Pancake does, with as much talent as they do, are worthy of being told they are adding to the world..

Thank you:
Director/Producer: Justin Baldoni
Executive Producer: Golriz Gundry
Producer: Ahmed Kolacek
Editor/Associate Producer: Kevin Filippini
Associate Producer: Fouad Elgohari
Production Coordinator: Emily Foxler
DP: Sam Rosenthal
Sound Recordist: Jordon Justice
Music: Jamey Heath Colorist: Bruce Goodman / Hot Pixel Post
Mixed by: Lisa Fowle / Dragonfly Sound Special
Thanks: Sunset Edit

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Is that picture not one of the most glorious rooms you have ever seen?  As quintessentially Christmas as that looks, it is not as comforting as my home, which is not big, professionally decorated, shining, or luxurious. None of that matters, because it's full of family I love.

Today was our Christmas gathering, a tradition born when I became part of a blended family.  I didn't want my stepchildren to be torn over going to mother's or dad's on Christmas Day, or have any worries during a time that should be special.   So years ago, I decided to change our traditional Christmas morning to an appetizer party on Christmas Eve.  I make a spread, we share news, exchange gifts, and enjoy each other's company.  My family has grown over the years, with marriages and relationships, and my tiny living room is getting crowded - and more full of love.

Today was the best gathering ever.   And happiness caused me to think of all the others who have been involved in my life during these three years with cancer, and who I also wish could be there to share my Christmas cheer.

The best I can do is thank people here.

First, to all my faithful blog readers, (and even those of you who cheat on me with other blogs), and to all who like my page on facebook (or are too lazy to unlike it),  I thank you for your support, your love, your prayers, thoughts, loyalty, and kind words.  I appreciate the regular readers who worry for me but never speak,  and I thank all of you who leave me comments.  I also thank my blogging sisters who repost things I say, who lend their support and allow me to voice my own opinion on their topics.   This li'l ol' blog was born of laziness -  so I could update my family on my condition without having to make dozens of phone calls, but it's turned into something quite different.  You readers have helped me more than you can ever know.

My sister has been amazingly generous and has taken time off work to help my family post-surgery, and she contacts me at least monthly to check in, even when I'm bad at contacting her.   My friend Jodie has put up with me for 25 years.  Together we have been through bad times and good, and she knows me better than anybody.   We were single mothers together, days I remember as joyous rather than hard, probably because of her.  Like with my sister, distance keeps us from visiting often, but she is the one who helped redecorate my room.  Twenty-five years ago, when I met her on the street and she invited a virtual stranger over to her house, saying yes was one of the best decisions I ever made.

To all my other friends who have brought me food, gift certificates, treats, chocolate,  blankets, money, advice, comfort;  who have checked up on me by text or email, and visited me and ignored the state of my house and especially those who have been gracious about the dog noses going where they should not go, I also thank you.  I appreciate former coworkers who update me with gossip, although I am not working and not entitled.  To all those who sent me Christmas cards (although I never send them back) - thank you.    Each of you,  in your own way, has enriched my life,  which is more meaningful knowing that I've made yours scarier.

To my doctors, nurses, the entire staff at my chemo office, and the pharmacy employees; I'm grateful for your professionalism and good cheer.  Having cancer sucks.  I can only imagine how much worse it would be if I went to chemo and my nurses were grouchy, my doctor uncaring, my medical techs rude, or if I picked up my prescriptions and was treated like an addict or like they weren't important.  Instead, I see smiling faces,  kindness, understanding and respect from each and every one of you.  It is amazing.

I also thank my son's teachers, who have not treated him differently because he's the son of a terminal cancer patient.   I appreciate the gift of normality, and the belief that he can live up to high standards in spite of a more nerve-wracking home life.  (Although, B Team in Science Bowl would be nice- just sayin'.)

For the organizations who are there for me and others like me:  Capital Cleaning who does Cleaning for a Reason in my area and really gives me some relief, Mother's Grace who gave me gift certificates for travel, the American Cancer Society who helped with gas and wigs, and many other organizations who have provided small things such as hats or soaps - your generosity is not unnoticed. Making the life of a sick person a little easier is more important than you know.

For my nephew Cody and his wife Steen, who are about to give birth to the first child of the next generation of our family:  you will do this generation proud and will build on the hard work of those who came before.   I hope I can tell my new great-niece or great-nephew stories about Daddy and I making omelets and eating spicy food.  And to Zack, Alex and Kayley. My thoughts and love are with you.

For those who will never know they have made my life easier - for the authors who have written books that have taken me away to different times and places, to the artists who have given me something new to think about, to radio hosts like Armstrong and Getty or Dennis Miller who make me laugh every day, and  to the people who do TV (both well-respected and not, from Duck Dynasty, Hoarders and Intervention to the Walking Dead and Breaking Bad), thank you for giving me something to take my mind off myself.

I started this post by mentioning the people who celebrated Christmas with me today.  Thank you for being the people I love most in this world and even more, thank you for being the kind of people who are worthy of that love.  My children and step-children and someday new relatives:  you are good, wonderful, kind people.  You are my legacy.  I'm so proud of you.

I hope that you all have a Merry Christmas.

Healthline Contest

It is contest season! And, I have been nominated for another "Best Blog" award. Only this one, ladies and gentlemen, has a prize.

 The winner gets $1000.00.

 Yes, $1000.00!

 Remember, I have a child who will be going to college in two years. So, if you could please vote for me, that would be amazing. And, vote often. That's about five schoolbooks - right?  Once you click on the button you have to log in with your twitter or facebook and search for my blog.  Currently, I'm on page 3 alphabetically.
best health blogs 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

What gives value to life?

I have gone back and forth about posting these thoughts. It is obvious that as a mother, my heart is hurting because of what happened  a week ago Friday. Anybody who knows me, knows my main identity is as a mother, and I believe the death of even one innocent child is tragic, and I can't help but relate to the parents' suffering.  I don't want this post taken the wrong way or appear to be minimizing a terrible massacre, so I've  pondered deeply whether to hit "publish" or not.  But, I decided to go ahead.  This is, after all, a blog about my personal experience with terminal breast cancer and the things I think about as I deal with it. This is one of those things.

In light of Friday's shooting, after my brief expression of sympathy, a comment was left on my blog that said, "breast cancer is nothing compared to the slaughter of innocents..." Since then, I have been thinking about that statement,  as well as the value of my life and those who will die from cancer this year.

I admit, I took that comment personally. Because my blog, where the comment was left, is about my living with terminal breast cancer.  For me, breast cancer is something. Something huge and significant.

It is the disease I will die from and sooner rather than later. Before long, my husband will lose his wife, my children will lose their mother. Because of cancer, my sister will grow old without me to reminisce with, my best friend will lose her closest confidante, my step-daughters will lose a person who loves them, and I will just be a story to my grandchildren.  There will be weddings and holidays and graduations, at which I will be just a fading memory.  Tens of thousands of women and their families this year alone will experience the same sad ending.

I can't agree that breast cancer is nothing in comparison, as the poster said.

At the same time, I recognize that the deaths of those 20 children is horrific and heinous and unforgivable.

Here's the thing:  I can't also help but feel that the deaths of the 40,000 women who will die this year from breast cancer is also horrific.  I think the 20 children who die every day from childhood cancer is horrible.

I can't weigh the value of a human life, as that poster could. All loss of innocent life is horrible.  None of it is "nothing."

Of course, I understand that it is different when children die and in a gruesome way. It is, rightly, far more tragic. As a society, we hold the loss of any child to be the loss of potential, of possibility, of dreams - it's the loss of the illusion of safety, and the loss of a future.  This incident represented a breakdown of society.

In contrast, most of us who are dying of breast cancer are not young and our futures have mostly been written. Most of us have lived unexceptional lives.  We die painfully and slowly; and everybody has time to get used to it.  Our deaths are quiet, and even though it may happen 40 years too soon, it's only a tragedy to those who knew us.  We won't be in the media, and we only represent a failure of medicine,  not of society itself.

In a shooting massacre such as the one last Friday, we relate to the suffering of the families, and the shock of it all. It hits us like a freight train blasting through the fabric of society, and we cry "horror!"  We learn the names of the 27 people involved and we rightly cry.

The 40,000 of us who are massacred by breast cancer each year, one by one, are silent raindrops, unseen and unnoticed, sliding down a hidden window to oblivion.  I wonder, if there was time to learn all of our stories, meet our children, see our end days, would you also cry in frustration at the sheer magnitude of the loss?  If you lined up 40,000 middle-aged woman and shot them, would it mean more?

Or, would it still be nothing, comparatively?

I don't know.

What I do know this this:  whether you are slaughtered by cancer, or slaughtered by a gunman - it's a tragedy. None of those things are "nothing."  People have value, whether they are age 5 or 50.   Human experience is full of catastrophe, both great and small.  And, we are all destined to die. Unfortunately, for many of us, it will be before "our time" and when that happens, people suffer.

We are all collectively mourning, as well as trying to explain the explainable.   Why does a crazy man shoot children in a school?  Why do cells in certain people go ballistic and kill their host?

We don't know.

Comparing tragedies ignores the fact that a death that shouldn't occur can happen to any of us, anywhere, of any age.

I'm sorry for anybody who has to lose somebody too soon. And, that includes my family. But it also includes all parents who have to cope of the loss of a child, as that must be an unbearable grief.

Even if that child dies of cancer.

No, it is not "nothing."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Daily Twos

I receive hundreds of sales pitches asking me to promote products on my blog.  Surprisingly, this happens all year long, not just in October. This is because people are requesting that I write about their product whether it has anything to do with cancer or not. Apparently, businesses and charities think I am so desperate for content that I will write - for free - about anything they send me.  Maybe they think I sigh in relief when their promo hits my in-box. "Thank goodness somebody sent me their information about a Healthy Hoo Haw spray. I am running out things to say about myself."

As if.

One of my big pet peeves is that companies tell me about these fabulous products, and expect me to write about it, without ever sending me a sample.   I mean, Healthy Hoo Haw spray might have been right up my alley, had I known it didn't cause itching or smell like pumpkin.  It would be irresponsible for me to tell you about it without previewing it first.

So, imagine my disappointment when this pitch landed in my email with no offer to see it in person:

"A local environmental non-profit organization known for its composting initiatives has created a calendar titled “The Ladies of Manure 2013” as an off-beat way to inspire “greener” living by South Florida’s folks." 

I thought people sat on the potty in their yards in Alabama, not Florida.  My bad.

Aside from asking me to work for free,  this environmental company expected me to do it with a subject that doesn't relate to my topic and is highly local, and therefore has no value to the vast majority of my readers. As I have always said (and done), I will post the very occasional freebies if I believe my readers can be helped and it is within my topic.  

But this is totally unrelated to cancer, so I was about to hit delete.

When I read this:

"Through this calendar we want to try and get you to rethink all your waste, even your daily ones and twos....."

Aha.  Now it makes sense.  A person who has cancer pain and takes painkillers, whose liver is messed up, and who has been doing chemotherapy for three years, definitely has learned to rethink their "daily twos."

Of course, I say "daily" in the loosest possible way.

And, I say "loosest" in the hardest possible way.

Unless I have c.diff, in which case, it is looser than you can imagine.

Our cancerish #2 rethinking has more to do with getting on a good laxative/softener schedule than what to do with the culminating product afterwards.  Usually, we are just so happy to have a product at all that we get giddy with delight, and the resulting flush is music to our ears.  

Now, I suppose, this calendar could give us ideas on how to cherish those Terrible Twos forever, and turn a mean cancer side effect into beautiful flowers.

So now I can see why they want me to promote their poop and pee composting calendar on my cancer website.

But they didn't give me a calendar.  

"Ah!" you are saying. "But, Ann, this is a non-profit.  They should not be sending out free things.  You, out of the kindness of your heart, should be posting about composting your poop for free anyway."  And, maybe you are right.  We all know that non-profits never send out anything for free. No mailing labels.  No stationary.  No four color publications.  No rubber bracelets.  No pens or any kind of costly trinket.  Nope, they never give anything away in the hopes of gaining a little more.  If I want a free calendar, I will have to get a plain, undecorated one from my pharmacy, like everybody else.

So, in spirit of the season, and with the hope of Daily Two Good Karma  - while I won't mention the name of the non-profit - there are enough hints in here that if you are an environmentalist, compost-interested, green loving, poop-saving, chicks on toilets fetishist, you can figure out how to buy this calendar and give to the cause.

To those who want to send me pitches:  

My hard work building this blog should not go unrewarded. I have spent years trying to come up with content people want to read.  I've shared my personal experiences in the hopes that readers will be comforted by the fact that if I can do this cancer thing, even when metastatic, they can too.  If  you want your product noticed, then do what I did. Spend 3 years building a blog, pouring your heart out, thinking of jokes and trying your best to help people feel better in some way.  Then you won't need me.   Don't be that coat-tail rider on Survivor. Even if they win, they are despised.  (They may have a million dollars, but nobody likes them.)

But if you want a short-cut?  At least send me a freaking calendar.

Friday, December 14, 2012


My regularly scheduled post has been cancelled.  My heart, mind, thoughts, and deep love go out to all who are suffering from today's horrific event.    Those of us who work in schools know that this kind of thing is possible, but we never believe it will happen to us.  And, today, sadly, our myths were shattered once again.

News is still chaotic but I hear that teachers and staff protected and saved some children, and for that, I am thankful and proud.  But still, my heart goes out to all the children who died, their futures snuffed, in this senseless killing.  

We will grieve together as a nation for all the children lost.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Myths about Living with Terminal Cancer


You realize the importance of life and set about making dreams happen.


You play The Simpsons Tapped Out for 8 hours a day.


You make sure your insurance/retirement/SSDI/IRA's are set up properly for your death.


You chat on Facebook about how cute your greyhound looks with fabric antlers.


You leave stories of your life for your children, complete scrapbooks, and do all those things that you always thought you'd finish in your free time.


What free time? A Hoarders marathon is on.


Cancer causes depression.


Your only depression is because you can no longer aspire to be on Survivor.  You know in your heart you would have Outwitted, Outplayed and Outlasted.

Well, maybe not outlasted.


You are more understanding of the faults of others, and a lot nicer to people who annoy you.


You are every bit as exasperated as always, but now people feel guilty if they upset you. Bonus: you can use their guilt to get chocolate.


You downsize so that nobody will have troubles dealing with your stuff upon your death.


Isn't that iPad/cappuccino machine/sweater just darling? You can never have too many.


You travel to all those places you always wanted to see.


Airports suck.  Let's just go have a double tall mocha. Your treat.


You become more focused, organized, and spiritual.


You are the same disorganized, sloppy, easily amused, distracted .....okay, I'm bored now.

See what I mean?