Peace on October 21st

Pink Ink…
A 1st for today! A guest posting by one of my besties. A friend who has held my hand from afar. She gave me many things including my prized chemo bag and space to cry for my daughter. She has loved Lil B as only another Leo can! You never know how you affect someone’s life. I am honored to have her as a sister-friend! Enjoy!

Guest Ink…

Thirty two years ago today, when I was eight years old, my dear mother, Dorothy Louise Taylor Hall, died from colon cancer at the age of 40. I am now 40 and my oldest son is 8. And my dear friend PinkInk is battling breast cancer and fighting to ensure she will be around for her daughter, Lil B. It has all come around full circle, but not by coincidence. In the deepest place in my heart I know that it is by my mother’s angelic design. You see, I am Lil B. I see myself in her. I am the little girl who lost her mother to cancer. Although, unlike the “3 Bs”, we didn’t get to fight her battle – it was too sudden and short, a mere two weeks from detection to death, and then we were left shocked and shattered trying to pick up the pieces.

This day, October 21st, which has always been dark, sad, lonely and gray for me, is now a day a victory. Victory for PinkInk. See, PinkInk’s going to win. In fact, she’s already won. Because she is fighting it every single day with an open and accessible candor, a remarkable and natural sense of humor, by arming her sweet Lil B with information and thus interest and understanding so she too can participate in the fight. She is fighting by walking for Komen, being interviewed in magazines and on local news stations and most of all with her dialogue to all of us, her friends, family, followers and supporters, collectively her admirers, who she keeps posted and updated with this blog, quippy emails and texts and with her closest friends – long, deep and emotional conversations, e.g. “cancer real talk” as she has famously coined it.

During one (of many) of these conversations with PinkInk recently, we were talking about how it was for me to lose my mother. After all, I am what she DOES NOT want for Lil B. I am the reason she is fighting. So that Lil B will NOT be me. I’ve always loved Lil B dearly but this fight of PinkInk’s is to me, a fight for Lil B. I didn’t get to fight for my mother. My family kept the gravity of her illness from my brother and me because we were so young. I don’t blame him, especially now that I’m a parent. How do you tell your child that their mother is dying? I didn’t even know or fully understand how sick she was. In fact, she wrote me a letter from the hospital saying that she would be home in few days, not to worry, and that I should carry on my normal tasks of doing my homework and not arguing with my older brother (well 1 out of 2 ain’t bad!). A few days later she was gone. So when I see Lil B walking for the cause and doing super adorable promotional videos for Komen, my heart is warmed. I have joined this fight along with and for Lil B in my mother’s honor, for my sake and for Lil B’s benefit.

Lori flew in to help me celebrate kicking Cancer’s butt!

I once heard someone say that if there’s day that you always dread when it comes every year because of a death, tragedy or terrible memory, you should actively seek out ways to do things on that day to create new and positive memories so that bad ones don’t always incarcerate you. So today, on October 21st, I claim victory. Not loss. Victory for PinkInk, for Lil B, for myself and for all the little girls whose moms are battling or lost their battles to cancer. And for the moms, God bless their brave souls, especially my dear PinkInk. YOU fight on, since my mother could not, so that you can win, Lil B can win and I can win. This is a new day. I won’t cry for the loss of my mother (even though I cried therapeutic buckets writing this), I will rejoice in the victory that we are claiming. The victory here is PinkInk’s fight – the educating of others, the passionate outreach to everyone, the determination, the 31 days of wearing pink, the blogging, the recording of videos, the tweeting, the Instagram pics of the day, “being on her grind” as she so regularly refers to the sum total. Making a difference – a real difference – by turning the pink ribbon into a tapestry, a line, which others can easily access, grab a hold of, and follow the ride meaningfully into the depths of their hearts. Thank you PinkInk.

Your battle has given me something I never ever dreamed possible… peace on October 21st.

And so it began

Pink Ink…

September 15, 2011, I got THE call. The one that told me a detour was coming. I told you there would be a lot of “anniversaries” coming. Well this is one of the big ones. A year ago today, I was told I had invasive ductal carcinoma, grade 3, stage 2 or 3 depending on which report you read. Triple negative breast cancer. You know, the one that black people get. The one that can kill you.

If you troll the Internet, you can find a million articles or posts on how people reacted to the life changing news. If you have been following me, you know I cried for about 5 minutes and then bucked up and prepared to tell folks. Prepared to fight! So today my post is not about me. It’s about my caregiver, my knight in shining armor. The love of my life. Below is an “UNEDITED” excerpt from my book. (You knew I had to write one!) Hopefully it gives an insight into the task he faced from the moment we got the news. It is a bit long, but it is just an intro into how he was thrown head 1st into Life in the Cancer Lane. Here we go…

last picture of us together before diagnosis

“It was official. We had to tell people.

B first called our parents. I was not there for those conversations. I knew that I could not emotionally handle hearing our parents’ grief. I did not know how that grief would present itself, (Tears, screaming, denial, silence?) But I knew I had to focus on me. I can only imagine how difficult that must have been for my husband to share that news with our parents. At the time, he only spoke to our mothers. Both fathers were out. He had to be strong for my mom and reassure her. We don’t really “do grief” well in my family. My aunt had breast cancer 10 years ago, and we never really talked about how it affected her or my mom. So I had no idea how she would handle this!

But B also had to be strong for his mom, so she wouldn’t be worried about him. After all, his dad was a prostate cancer survivor. They had been down this road. When I asked how the moms handled it, he responded that they were “as expected”. I didn’t ask more because I didn’t want to know, and I didn’t want to have him have to tell it.

Next, we had to tell Lil B. We were just going to tell her, no subterfuge. She knew we were waiting for the news. She is a very astute little girl. There is no way we could have kept something like this from her.
B met her at the bus stop outside our house. She was her regular perky self, talking about her day, and asking where I was. Daddy didn’t usually meet her at the bus stop. Walking in the door, she saw my face, and said, “Did you find out?”

“Yes, Mommy has breast cancer.” My husband said before I could answer.

“NOOOO! Mommy” she screamed as she burst into tears and tried to run to her room.

That kind of sadness and pain is something no mother wants to hear coming from her child. My heart broke right then into a million pieces. Tears! More tears! I ran to the bathroom to wipe them away while B held her in a bear hug. This was the baby girl I had dreamed and prayed for! This was the girl who kept a smile on my face…most times! The love of my life! Watching her cry, knowing she understood the severity of this news, broke me in two! I had to go to her. I came back and joined the hug. I told her it would be ok.

“Think about all the people you know who have survived breast cancer. Miss Maureen. Aunt Mona, Dr. Lindell. We will be ok. You just have to help me.” I tried to reassure her.

Amazingly, after about 5 minutes, she was calm and sat down for a snack and to start on her homework. I snuck back into my room and cried a few more tears. All I could think about was how I was ruining her 4th grade year! Who would take care of her? How would she manage? B knew I was having a “moment”. He knows me so well. He came back to hug me and bring me back out front. We HAD to be together. We HAD to fight this together. We HAD to be strong together. With a sigh, I held his hand and walked back out front.

That night we all slept together, holding each other tight.

But not before he sent “the email”…

Family and Friends – Today we learned that Barbra has breast cancer. Many of you will recognize this as ironic because she has done so much volunteer work in the fight against breast cancer. However, it is a fact and we are going to fight it together until she is cured. I apologize for having to inform you in this fashion, but there are so many people who deserve to know that I couldn’t possibly call everyone. It’s my fault and not Barb’s if anyone is offended that I didn’t get to them directly. Know that Barb has handled this well. It’s heavy, but she’s strong and has demonstrated that through what’s been a very fast diagnosis. This came out of nowhere. We’re only beginning to form the outline of a treatment plan, so I don’t have much more to share, but I ask that you keep us in your thoughts and prayers. This email is not going to a long list of people, so you are free to share this information with those whom you feel should know and would care to know. We’re not going to post it on Facebook or any social media, so I’d ask you to refrain from that as well. We’re also not going to do a lot of blast email updates – we’re just going to focus on our family and on what’s to come. Please be patient with us – we might not call, text or email back as quickly as normal. We’re happy to talk, but please give us a couple of days to digest this and to make sure Blayre is ok. We love all of you and thank you in advance for the support we know you will provide.

B.

And so it began…

Old friend

Pink Ink…

“The best mirror is an old friend”
-George Herbert

School started today! It seemed like just yesterday Lil B was packing up her 4th grade desk for summer break! Before she left for school, she was talking about the things she was looking forward to. They included things like, choir practice, getting to know her new teacher, and seeing her old friends.

She also said she looked forward to a year without worrying about me and breast cancer!

Wow!

What do you say to that? I just hugged her and said that we will have a great year. Lil B then said that she was sad that her “best friend” from school was going to a new school this year. I reminded her that they would still see each other. (She lives 5 minutes way!) As only Lil B could, she responded with a hug, and said “Hopefully we will be like you and Miss Lizzie.”

I hope so as well.

Lizzie and I met when I changed schools in 7th grade, and quickly became thick as thieves. We never had any teenage girl drama with each other, and kept each other sane in our granola private school. But when we headed off to college, we went our separate ways. Last May, we reconnected at our high school reunion, 20+ years later. It was like we hadn’t skipped a beat. Our laughter picked up where it left off. It was kind of scary!

Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Lizzie was right there, every step of the way! She’s a nurse and very close with the woman who founded breastcancer.org. She immediately offered me resources and support. Sometimes she questioned my treatment! But most often she was like “What the he*#, is going on? Why is this happening to you?” I came to enjoy and expect her 3am PST texts asking how I was, or just sending her love. Lizzie always asked me if it was ok to ask for more details. I was like “You’re crazy! I give “#cancerrealtalk”.(see twitter) Ask away!” All the way from Philly, she was…present, right there with me in the Cancer Lane! Last month, she came to visit her family, and see me in person. It was 1986 all over again! Even though I was having those awful headaches, she made me laugh. Big B just shook his head, and said he could see why we were friends. Lizzie and Lil B bonded…being Leos and all! (Ironically, her daughter ‘s birthday is the day before mine-Leos & Aquarius’ unite!).

Twenty plus years later, I appreciate and value her friendship more than I did at 18.

So as Lil B headed to school, I silently prayed that one day she will have a “Lizzie”.

I pray that she will have an …old friend.