Saturday, August 17, 2013

Four More Years!?!

Four years ago today, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. 1,461 days ago, a doctor walked in, sat down next to me and with sad puppy dog eyes, gave me terrible news.  I was not scared.  I was not worried about what was to come.   I accepted what he said and immediately moved forward:  "Okay, what is my treatment and when will I be done?"

I was absolutely sure I would be done.

If this was a Star Trek episode or an old Twilight Zone - if you could take my old brain out, the brain that inhabited my body four years ago, and pop it into the body I occupy now, it would run screaming, as far away as it could go.   Emergency systems would activate and it would vacate immediately, red lights blinking, sirens blaring, veins pulsing.  "What?" it would yell, "What the hell is this?  What is happening?  Why does every bone hurt, what is this pain across my midsection, why can't I lift my arms, why do I feel nauseated, why are there so many scars and missing body parts?  What the HELL happened?  The hair - it's grey!? The body, it wears pajamas in the daytime? My fingernails are ridged, crumbling and dark, wtf?"

And, because my brain tries to look for the positive, "Well, at least I'm fashionably thin, heroin chic, in fact. Is that still in style?"

That Ann could not have imagined living the way this Ann does - with the pain, lack of energy, weakness, constant exhaustion and the need for help that makes up day-to-day life.  That Ann, the healthy, active, bossy, working, fashionable, in-charge person of four years ago had no idea what she was about to endure: numerous surgeries both large and small, life threatening infections, year after year of chemo, dying bone marrow, test after test after test, radiation and dyes and contrasts, hopes raised and hopes dashed. Ann of four years ago would have been stunned into horror if she was suddenly transported into Ann of today, shocked as if she had taken a polar plunge into the icy shore of Alaskan waters, in winter.

Early on, when that brown-eyed doctor gave me the news, I was unable to imagine this future.  A doctor's words didn't clue me in, but neither did reading about other people's experiences in blogs or forums or articles. It turns out, one can't imagine this, what it's like to be in treatment for four years, to live with the knowledge of what your end will be, to have your future taken away.  It has to be lived. My brain had to be here.

And, I suppose, if I live another four years - an extreme long-shot to be sure but others have done it - the same shock will happen as I think back to today.  I can't imagine what it would be like to be in treatment for 8 years, even after having done so for four.  I can't imagine the wreckage another four years will bring, both to my mental state and my body. It can get worse?

Do I even want to know?

No.  It is hard to imagine four more years of a life like this. But it is far harder to imagine not living it.

There are times I wish we lived in a Twilight Zone episode.  Would it not be fantastic to be able to drop our brains into somebody else's body for a time, just to walk in their footsteps?  I think I'd pick Jennifer Aniston, or maybe Melinda Gates.  I have no idea what it would be like to be a world-recognized beauty, or a wealthy philanthropist, both women who can have anything they want without thinking twice.  It sounds glamorous but I know they have problems too and it would be interesting to experience them.  It would also be nice to feel healthy again.  Of course, if people could choose where to drop their brains, I suspect those people would be chosen all the time.  There would be fights by brains all lining up waiting for a chance to get in Jennifer's skull.  And, brain fights are ugly, trust me.

Me and the homeless guy on the street corner?  We would not be fought over, I'm sure.  So to make it more interesting,  let's say we could do it to others - push a button on somebody, their brains pop out and you could drop them wherever you want.  I think this is a perk only those of us with metastatic cancer or other life-ending disease should get, don't you think?  We all know those people who tend to overly complain about piddly stuff while we are planning our own funerals.  We could drop that woman who constantly whines about her wrinkles or her extra five pounds into our bodies so she could know what we experience.   It would be wonderful to stop them in their tracks and have their brains scramble back to their own heads, realizing, "Oh yeah, life really is pretty good, I didn't really have a problem."

Personally, I might start with Oprah, complaining about not being shown a $38,000 purse in favor of a $30,000 purse, or complaining that Hermes wouldn't open their shop for her after hours, both incidents she deemed worthy of international attention.  Oprah has forgotten what a real problem is, and worse, she's forgotten the mission that made her famous - the one of reminding women to be grateful.

Being grateful is important.  Oprah, after all, can afford a $38,000 purse, and I'm sure she has plenty in her closet - a closet that is certainly bigger than my house.  She has trusted friends and loved ones, she has a body that functions and that allows her to travel to Switzerland, and likely has a long life ahead of her that will be full of joys. And yet, she looks at what most would consider a marvelous life through a lens that keeps her from enjoying these immense gifts fully. Too many people focus on minor problems and  imagine situations that may not be true, and a jolt of reality is what they need. What's more real than living with incurable cancer and in constant treatment?

So, Oprah, bzzzzz!  The button is pushed and your brain is about to enter my body so you can get an idea of what hardship is really like.

You know what else would be fun?  Cross-species brain exchange.  Wouldn't it be interesting to get a brain's eye view of what your dog is thinking as it lays on the hard floor under your feet as you are typing away?  Wouldn't it be satisfying to finally understand - really understand - why the washing machine is so damn frightening but the dryer isn't?   Nothing says relaxation like a cat in a sunbeam - wouldn't it be pleasant to experience that?  I think those of us with terminal illnesses could learn a little bit about acceptance and living day-to-day from our pets.

The truth that my Brain of Four Years Ago (B4YA) would discover is that I'm now a person limited by my physical capabilities and dependent on others, something that formerly independent brain would have a hard time believing. These limits cause changes in thinking, as do four years of drugs infused and ingested, as well as the stress of knowing that I will miss all I had planned in life: work, retiring with my husband, travel, seeing weddings, graduations, grandchildren. Mourning these things takes a toll and no, none of us who have metastatic cancer are ever the same.  Our pre-diagnosis brains may not even recognize us without the ability to think beyond three months. So much of human thought process is taken up with what will be, what we'll do, that when that is taken away, we are inevitably different.  With metastatic cancer, our lives are lived in 3 month increments.

Try it:  For the next week, be conscious of what you think and say, and every time you mention or think of something that will happen more than 3 months from now, realize you can't plan for it.  Anything beyond three months is out.

Your former brain might also be surprised that you want things to be easy now.  Easy may not have been on your radar before, but now it's important.  Your life is ending and it exists as it is: people must evaluate you on the entirety of what they know and nothing can be changed. There is no more time to fix or modify anything.  It's natural to end up wanting to gather round the people whose love is simple and made up of acceptance.  This means there may be different people in your life than you might have thought there would be before diagnosis.  Some people naturally know how to make things easy on you, and understand that things should be easy on you at this point - that it isn't a selfish desire, or at least, an unrighteous desire: when should things be easy on us if not for when we are dying?   These people you seek out now are those who are able to allow you to relax, and don't ask for much back. They will send a card or gift and not be upset if you don't get a thank you back to them quickly, or at all.  They will give you the benefit of the doubt, they will be kind and naturally understand your suffering; that you are changed by drugs, therapies, grief and have less ability to give.

Some people, unintentionally, still need too much from you, like you were the B4YA.  It becomes too exhausting to deal with other people's emotions, whether it be to comfort them, break through their denial, explain misunderstandings, or manage their personal problems as you would have in the past.

You just can't do it anymore  - you are mourning.  Your life has died.  Many don't understand that, and it becomes too hard to explain.  It's not that you feel their needs are unimportant, it's just that you have too many of your own, so you must let them go.  Your brain needs ease and you need acceptance.

After four years of cancer, knowing the end is closer than the beginning - what is important?  A hummingbird drinking from a flower.  The brilliant smiles of your sons.  A baby's excited movements.  A dog so happy to see you that their tail is helicoptering. A cat that cuddles next to your stomach.  A meal and card left on the porch.  A hot bubble bath.  A life partner who gently rubs your arm. Someone who texts you a joke.  A friend who drives thousands of miles to visit, only to peacefully color with you.  These small things are full of comfort and warmth.

If you took my brain out of my head four years ago and dropped it into my skull now, yes, I would be physically shocked at the changes - as if I had been plunged into that Alaskan water.  But after a few gasps, I would notice that my loved ones are there, gently wrapping me in a warm towel and giving me hot, soothing tea.

And, at the end of life, that's all we need, and that is enough.  


  1. God bless you...and your courage to keep fighting. I'm in remission from breast cancer. I was diagnosed 5 years ago this past June.

    Warm hugs and my prayers are with you.

    1. Five years - let's hope you are one that the five year number is the magic number that indicates remission forever. My thoughts are with you. *hugs*

  2. You are simply AMAZING! Someone should publish your blogs into a book. Many lessons learned from your wisdom & experiences, for us all- cancer or no cancer.

    1. There are a lot of cancer books out there, but it's nice to think you believe mine could be in the pack. Thank you!

  3. So beautiful and poignant, Ann. I hung on your every word, as I always do. Sending you hugs.

  4. Simply beautiful. I truly wish a few people around me could learn these lessons of what is truly important in life. I think many people would enjoy their blessed and healthy lives a lot more if walked in the shoes of someone with cancer or heart disease or extreme poverty for a time, without knowing it was temporary of course. Anonymous above is right about your writing, these blogs should be compiled into a book.
    Elizabeth J.

  5. This is such a lovely piece of writing. And it puts into words exactly how I feel too. I was diagnosed 2 years and 2 months ago - metastatic from the go. Like you, I find it difficult to look beyond the short term future. My family all believe that I can go on for many years. They only hear the good that my Oncologist says. It is their way of being positive. So it is hard for me to deal with my own more realistic thoughts and fears. I live in constant fear that I will leave my son too soon. He is 19 but still has no idea what life is about. I need to see him find work, become independent, settle down. He only has me. His father isn't around and he still has not dealt with what he sees as rejection on that front. I fear that I won't be around for these things so what will become of him. I grieve for the fact that I won't see his children. That they won't know the essence of who I was and how much I would have loved them. I want to be able to tell them stories of when their dad was young. And about when I was young. The life I have led.
    Surely it is not wrong to want these things. People without this illness take all this for granted. They don't give it a thought. So I carry on like they expect me to. I plan beyond the 3 months. I book a holiday for next year. I talk about the future as if I will be part of it. But I won't. Life for me is the next 3 months. It's the holding of breath as my oncologist reads the results from the latest scan. Its allowing myself to believe that there may be another 3 months. But when will time run out. When will there no longer be another 3 months. When will my family have to finally face the truth.
    There is no answer to these questions. No-one can tell me for certain how much life I can still lead.
    Reading your piece has made me re-evaluate my life. I need to start appreciating what I have got at this moment. I need to slow down and appreciate the small things. I need to see the beauty in the things around me. I need to look beyond the stresses of every day life.
    I need to live, not just exist.
    Thanks Ann. I am so glad that you have the support that you do. You are doing so much good for the likes of me with your writing. You seem to get in our heads and put into words exactly how we feel. We need you to have many more 3 months. We hope..........that's all we have. X

    1. We worry about our children so much, don't we? That is the hardest part. I don't think we ever get them raised enough to think they won't need us.

      It's hard for our families to grasp what living life in 3 month increments is like. And, I'm glad they don't know why we have to manage our lives like that. I have told them all that women can die of cancer very quickly - that it is not a long, slow decline like they imagine, that it often sudden, but I don't think they wrap their heads around it; they aren't in this world the way I am. And, that's probably for the best. Mentally, it's easy for them to think there will be time and I have shared my knowledge and now it's up to them how they want to manage it.


  6. I think you are at a place where it's just about being real and in the moment, and I love to read your entries on Facebook because I either smile, or have something to think about, and I get to know what's going on with you. You're more alive than most "healthy" people I know. I hope that you're around for quite a while to come (not a new wish, but a sincere one!).

  7. Have been feeling depressed over some nasty unresolved interpersonal conflicts - Think I was directed here to be given some perspective. Thanks Ann!

    p.s. your blogs CAPTCHA's are really hard...

    1. Sorry about the CAPTCHA's, I can't control them unfortunately, they go with the blog software.

  8. I have thought of same idea someone mentioned above! Get someone who is capable to get your blogs published into a book! The proceeds could go towards your family to help them when you are not around. I love your blog- it's my favourite one of all the many I have read and follow. It's. half full of humour,wisdom, tears and laughter.

  9. Replies
    1. Got it! :) Tanks so much! It's nice to be somebody's favorite. :)

  10. Thank you Ann. I'm not yet where you are--2-1/2 years into stage 4, on chemo, but still physically able, albeit with fatigue and a feeling that another shoe is about to drop. I so desperately want to get to where you are emotionally in this journey. I was there for a while, appreciating every moment. Depression and anxiety can obscure those positive feelings and I feel guilty for being blue when I'm still basically capable to function like other folks. My prayer is that your post will wash over me and revive my love and reverence for all that is around me. So many good things, and you are among them. Blessings and more blessings...Beverly

    1. I don't think you should be hard on yourself - it is natural to feel depression and sadness when faced with something like this. You are human. I do hope you get back to where you don't think too far ahead and just live the day as it is, with appreciation.

      I think that people go back and forth depending on the way they are feeling physically; nothing you feel is unnatural or wrong. *hugs*

  11. I thank everybody for their comments, by the way. I am not smart enough to respond to every single one but I read them all! :)

  12. Thanks for sharing your heart, Ann. Your perspective is always thought-provoking and honest.

  13. Wow.. I found myself really sucked into this post! I forgot I was at work. Really great Ann! Suddenly, I want to smack Oprah too.

  14. Love your blog, have been following for quite some time. My grandson, age 2, is slowly dying from the after effects of horrific chemo to try to stop a very aggressive cancer: neuroblastoma. I'm trying to support my daughter, his momma, the best way I can, but it is heartbreaking and almost unbelievably painful to watch someone so beautiful and sweet die a slow, painful death, and watch your sweet daughter try to cope, shutting down, trying harder, blaming herself, losing her friends and her life as she focuses more and more on trying to heal him. We are in some kind of terrible test here.

    1. There is nothing I can say to console you as your family goes through such a terrible experience. I have often been grateful that it is me having to go through this disease and not one of my children. Your daughter is going through the worst experience a human can, and I guess just be there to hold her when she needs it. I'm very sorry.

    2. aaah, thank you Ann, i know you understand. So many don't. And she doesn't let me hold her lately. I walk a razor edge of hovering, giving space, just loving her is all I can do. I quit my job and schooling (was training to be a midwife) 9 months ago, and have no regrets. It has been terrible, beautiful, an honor and a continuing discovery of the core of all of us. Blogs like yours help immeasurably, since my sweet little Bhau can't speak and tell us what it's like for him... He does exist in a happy world (when he is not in pain) where he doesn't know that he is sick, that at least is a blessing. And the community of wonderful families we have met on the children's cancer ward has been an unexpected joy as well.

    3. She probably is so fragile that any outreach would make her feel like she would shatter emotionally - she feels she needs to be strong for her son, just like you feel you need to be strong for her.

      I'm very glad that Bhau is happy and I hope his pain is minimal and stays that way. I think your ability to see any good and beauty in such a tragic situation is a shining example of how resilient human beings are.

      I wish with all my heart that no child had to go through this - that no parent or grandparent had to watch helplessly. I'd go through cancer a thousand times to save a child; wouldn't we all?

      Hug little Bhau for me, and try to remember to take care of yourself as much as you can.

  15. Great article! I’m interested in learning how to help people in my town receiving cancer treatment or who have family members going through it.

    What are your big fears or frustrations? What have you tried that hasn’t worked? What do you need help with?

    Please email me at or

    1. John Paul - the best way to help people is to get involved with your local cancer center - here in Silicon Valley it would be Palo Alto Medical Foundation... depending on your skills they can put you in touch with folks... you can visit hospitals, get involved in hospice - many things.

      Biggest fears - duh! dealing with death and leaving your family & friends.

      Frustrations - not being able to do the things you used to do... like go for a walk, do the dishes, make dinner and the list goes on and on.

      What have you tried that didn't work - many things - Ann has gone through 4 years of chemo, radiation and hormone therapy. Don't even go there with the "natural" therapies - if she thought those would have worked she would have tried them.

      What does she need help with - being healthy, living her life pain free, living for another 2 years to see her son into and through his first year of college.

      So if you can
      1) find a cure - that would be useful
      2) help raise money for her son's college education
      3) make it so that she can wake up every day before noon and be pain free

      In closing - judging by your email address of (which i checked out the site) I believe it is similar to cancer treatment centers.

      Trust me - I'm sure Ann has checked out all of her options. That being said, if you truly do want to help out folks and their families then get involved in your community and meet them face to face to see the true effects of cancer on patients and their families.

      I'm 4 years and 11 months NED and still live with the fear of recurrence every day that I wake up.

      The best to you and yours and I sincerely hope you never have to experience this fight yourself or for a close family member.

    2. Wait, what?

      After a post where I specifically said I'm now sick enough to need things to be easy and uncomplicated, you decide to ask me to contact you and write you about my fears, frustrations, and what I think people in my situation need? Yet, right on this very blog you will find hundreds of posts describing exactly what you are asking.

      My email address is in my profile. If, after reading some of my blog, you come up with specific questions that I can help you with, I would be very happy to answer them. But I can't write you a dissertation on what cancer patients need, are afraid of and are frustrated by - there are too many of us, too many different types and degrees of cancer.

      Our families have entirely different fears, frustrations and needs, and I can't speak for them.

      Like I tell my high school son, do your research and ask questions that are relevant to what you are trying to learn.

      This request, while well-meaning, is tantamount to saying to a cancer patient, "If I can do anything for you, just let me know." It puts all the onus and work on us.

      Good luck in your endeavors. I hope you learn enough to ask me some real questions.

  16. Wow, Ann. I love your blog, but this entry was amazing to me. How you manage to combine such emotional power with a lot of laughs is incredible. (And thank you for pointing out the overwhelming self-involvement that is Oprah). I plan to forward this entry to any doctor or practitioner who says that breast cancer is "curable".
    Best, Sandra

  17. Ann, just gotta tell you how much I love your blog and wait for each new entry. But this one was special. I've been battling away for 4 years too (went pretty much directly from Stage II to Stage IV), and I'm so tired.
    Like you, I long to do simple things that healthy people take for granted - like go for a long walk without my walker, like feeling my body's real age (30's) instead of 80's, and be able to eat without the assistance of drugs at every meal.
    Thank you for putting everything so well, and in a much more comedic manner than I ever could.

  18. Wow. What an outstanding essay. This essay should be widely published. The New Yorker comes to mind. Ann, you are truly an imaginative, marvelous, and gifted writer. I thank you for sharing this essay with me and with all of your readers. Jeanne Armstrong

  19. Thanks, Ann. Great blog. Really helps me to understand what Kiri's going through and how to relate to her life & make it easier and better however I can.

    Helen, my heart goes out to you, your daughter, and your little grandson. My own daughter, 28, is battling metastatic breast cancer. I know what you are going through.

    I love Ann's take on gratitude. Truly, that and the love of those closest to us are the best and most effective weapons we have in this war.

    I send you all hope for comfort and peace.

    1. Thank you Zoe! And peace and strength to you as well as you stand by your daughter. Love, Helen

  20. Dear Ann -
    WOW! You hit several "nails" squarely with this long, but very relevant post.

    I was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer just 13 years ago, been stage IV for over 11 years, in remission for 9 years, but still took my drug until 4 years ago.

    Brain mets came along to interrupt my nice remission, plus some other side effects that are permanent. As much as I have tried to rehab myself every time I had a setback, there is only so far my body can come back after the treatments. That is never far enough for my self satisfaction, but I have had to learn to accept my limitations. You address this mutual problem so well.

    In my scenario I STILL plan 3 months or so into the future. Taking life in small chunks does have the advantage you pointed out of reeling one in and staying more focused on the NOW and near future.

    Each season is something I know very well. How cold or warm my house will be, what will grow or die in my gardens and when. How my surrounding neighborhood will change and adapt. When my snowbird neighbors will go away and return now signals a lot more than their absence or presence.

    Having drunk from each day or contributed at my current energy level is appreciated by my family. At times they expect more and I try to give it, but often the result is exhaustion. I need to mete out my life's energy in certain doses.

    Four years or thirteen years, the result is the same on many levels. It is still unbelievable to me that I may be "cured" as my cancer has changed me in so many ways. And I still have the feeling that it is lurking close by.

    But your reference to hummingbirds brings me back to the small daily pleasures that make up my life. Several years ago I got a hummimgbird feeder. That was when I was so fatigued that I would forget the ratio of fine sugar to water to put in the feeder. Now I never let it run out and the little birds come throughout the year. This is one thing that is constant through the seasonal changes. There is a strange affiliation between the hummingbirds and myself. They come close to me when I am reading or just sitting on my patio.

    And I never have time to think about or even shop for a new purse! Let alone thousands to fritter away. When I do shop for myself, it for something I need in the immediate time frame. Perhaps this is something I have learned from cancer; not to overbuy even if items are on sale, a good deal, etc.

    My hope for you is that your recent treatments will hold your cancer back, allowing you to regain a little more strength. And I know just how hard that is, but it is human nature not to give up.

    Your brain is still working well even though your body can't usually keep up. That is one frustration that never leaves me. I want to do more than I am physically able.

  21. Ann...thank you so much for this post. I plan on showing it to my plastic surgeon. The man who I wish can inhabit my body and brain even for one day to learn what a mess he made of me (long story, wont bore you with it)
    Writing about how your old self would never recognize your new self is so true of those of us who have gone through cancer treatment. Im NED as far as I know so I will absolutely not try to say I know how you feel but there are days I look in the mirror and ask myself who the hell this person is. My bloated/fat body (thank you menopause), aching back and front (thank you reconstruction) horrible joint pain, no eyebrows or eyelashes (thank you taxotere) are a constant reminder that I am not the person I was, nor will I ever be. I am greatful to be alive but I do look at my friends who have no big worries and im envious (that used to be me) because I have this black cloud over me all the time
    Thank you again for sharing this - roz

  22. Thank you for your thoughts and your brain...

  23. As always, I love reading your posts - a unique combination of info, brilliance, and humor. Thank you!

    I had a qualm, though, about your description of the Oprah's recent comments. As I understand it, the issue had nothing to do with the purses themselves (crazy expensive as they were); the issue was whether the salespeople treated her differently because she's Black -- likely because of their unexamined stereotypes about race rather than outright animus. Since those kinds of unexamined stereotypes can cause all sorts of real harm in the world, I don't think Oprah was being self-centered to bring them up. If anything, she was taking a personal risk, since people generally prefer it when their celebrities stay away from controversial topics.

    Hmm. Now that I think about it, I actually see a (distant) connection to topics you blog about, since people also have unexamined stereotypes about people with cancer. In jargony language, it's called "cognitive bias" or "implicit bias." It's the sort of thing that causes some employers to fire people with cancer because they assume they can't possibly function as employees anymore.

    1. According to everybody who worked at the shop, Oprah had it wrong and it was a misunderstanding. The purse was up very high and the woman didn't think Oprah was interested enough for her to take it down, which was based on a conversation probably hindered by a language difference.

      Even if the shopgirl hadn't shown Oprah the purse based on appearance, it may not have had to do with her color. Maybe that woman wouldn't have shown me the purse either.

      However, I believe the shopkeeper's point of view because a) their job is to sell expensive items and they know that wealthy people can look "regular" and b) Oprah has a history of looking at the world through the lens of bias and accusing others of racism. This is not the first or even second time she's done this. She seems to immediately assume that somebody doesn't want to do something for her because she's black, when there other valid reasons.

      My point was despite the wonderful life she has made for herself, both through hard work and a great amount of luck, and the millions who worship her, she is still interpreting any misunderstanding as racism. It's a very narrow viewpoint she's not been able to grow beyond, and because of that, she is not able to fully appreciate the great gifts she's been given.

      I have no idea if Switzerland has "unexamined stereotypes about race" but certainly, in the US, racism is not unexamined.

      There are racists in the US and probably Switzerland, just like there are people who fire people because of cancer.

      There are also cancer patients who assume their disease is why they are being fired, when it could be something else entirely. If you look at the world through a monocle, whether it be cancer or race, and never try to see things in a larger sense, you are always going to have a small focus and you will never be able to truly appreciate what you do have.

    2. Ann, I really appreciate your long reply. You are so generous to me and your other readers - I am grateful. And bottom line, I think you are absolutely right about keeping a positive focus and an open mind. And that means all of us - not just those of us with cancer. (I myself am in the "nervous NED" category - several years out from a Triple Negative IDC diagnosis and double mastectomy, and still Stage 1, as far as I know.)

      Speaking of my lack of knowledge: I should emphasize that I have no way to know what really happened in Switzerland; it might have no relation to Oprah's race at all. I'm shocked anyone buys $38,000 purses, in any event.

      Where we might differ is in our view of how stereotypes tend to work in the brain. I am a nerdy cognitive-science-researcher type, so that probably gives me an unusual perspective. But I do want to assure you, mine is not an accusatory, negative perspective. I am a big believer in people's intrinsic goodness, and also in our ability to make positive change in the world, if we work together. I really don't want to hijack your thread, but if anyone wants to read up on this topic, they could check out the recent book by Banaji and Greenwald called "Blindspot."

      Thanks again for your honest, powerful writing. It means a lot to me to be able to learn from your blog.

  24. Ann
    You are amazing. You capture how I and so many others feel. Your writing is also of a really high quality and I agree I think this piece should have a wider audience.
    I think of you a lot, sending strength from Australia.

  25. Ann,
    It is amazing how well you express what so many of us feel and think. I am not at your point. (You are in my prayers, by the way.) But, once you have been through "the works" (chemo, surgery, radiation), and had a recurrence anyway, your whole outlook on life and the future changes.
    Even though I just got word I was in remission, I so get this. I know not only will my health never return to what it use to be even if I stay in remission, but that I have no guarantees of how permanent or how long remission will be. In fact one young resident admitted once in the bones, recurrences tend to keep happening. (I used the "teacher look" on him to get him to talk - he was young enough it worked. I think my oncologists suspect something. I have been accused of "scaring the residents." LOL)

    I find I often hesitate at planning for the future. I recently started volunteering again for a small private school as their music teacher. Last year, I was planning a program for them and starting a recorder class, when I was suddenly diagnosed with mets to the spine and had to go back into treatment immediately. So now, as I am looking at Christmas programs, the thought keeps going through my head, pick something they can keep working at without me IF.....

    When my older daughter asked if I was going to make my grandbaby a Christmas stocking or if she needed to, I jumped at the chance. Why? He will have something to remember his grandma by, IF.....

    When my youngest wanted to take a position in Europe, I had to bite my tongue and force myself to encourage her to take the opportunity of a lifetime, because echoing inside my head was that what IF.....

    Ann, I truly think you need to consider turning this blog into a book. And then, it ought to be required reading in med school for oncologists. It would give them a view inside their patients' world that they can't get in just their short appointments and many tests and scans.
    Elizabeth J.

  26. Hi Ann I just watched your mini movie and you and yourmfamilymare so precious. I've followed you since late 2011 and I was mean to you in a message and I want to say I'm sorry. You are a wonderful amazing woman. You have helped many people with your blog and your writing on You are so beautiful. Much love to you and your family.

    1. Amy, thank you for the apology. I always admire somebody who can do that.

      That said, I have no memory of your being mean to me! It takes a kind hear to say they are sorry for something. *hugs*

  27. Awe thanks Ann for being so gracious, I agree with your other readers that you are an amazing candid writer with realism and humor. I know a publisher would be very interested in your story. That would be a great idea to publish a book titled "But Doctor I Hate Pink" I think it would be great for families, BC patients and the health care community. My sister would have really enjoyed your writing.

  28. As soon as I saw "B4YA" my brain went, "ooh, cancer gene"…oh dear!


Thank you for commenting. If the post is over 14 days old, the comment will be moderated and will approved later. This is a spam prevention technique - but I love to hear from you!