A life worth living…

April 13, 2009

Five signs you have lived a good life….

1) There is no parking at your wake.  Cars fill the lot, litter the street and swell into vacant  lots nearby.

2) The guest book has been filled two hours into the wake.  The funeral home scrambles to find more pages or another book.

3) Your mass cards have photographs of the natural world you loved on the front and a quote by Dr Seuss on the back.

4) The seats for your funeral are full 20 minutes before the service is scheduled to begin.  Ten minutes before a line forms at the door and by the time the service starts, bodies are pressed against walls, filling corridors and oozing out onto the street.

5) The sound of soft sobs, delicate sniffles and purses being rummaged for tissues provides a soothing back drop to the eulogy your daughters gave you.  People cry for you, for your children and for a sense of loss they can not quite put into words. 

For A&A, my deepest sympathies for the loss of your mother.  She most certainly led a life that was well worth living. 

“Don’t cry because it is over, Smile because it happened” Dr. Seuss.


The moment I saw the envelope I knew was it was; a reminder about my 6 month mammogram and biopsy. Since last spring I had been using all of my very best ‘ignore it and it will go away’ tactics, but there was no denying the envelope was real and it was time to face the music. Six months ago, during a routine exam my Dr found a number of lumps in both of my breasts. After some very painful and very ineffective attempts aspirating them (read: stick a needle into your ta-ta and try to suck out whatever is inside) he concluded they were solid masses and I needed to see a surgeon. My surgeon concluded pretty quickly that they were NOT CANCER (maybe i should have started with that) but they needed to be dealt with, as they could become cancerous. Sixteen in total, we would start with the larger more difficult ones and move on to the smaller ones. I know that their is no excuse, no reason to ignore your heath, but since I am being so honest….here are the five reasons I have put it off for six months.

1) It hurts – yup, it does. Anyone who is wearing a white coat or a set of scrubs and tells you you will only feel a slight pinch is LYING. Apparently they are not capable of using any sort of numbing technique. This means all biopsy’s, not matter how close to my ribcage, are done with me wide awake and feeling everything and it hurts.

2) It is time consuming – Due to the non-numbing situation, they are only able to do a few at a time for fear that it might be too much for my body to take…or for them to take when I start screaming bloody murder. This means I have to go in at least five or six times for appointments that can only be made smack in the middle of the day at a hospital that is notoriously running behind schedule to spend most of my work day in a waiting room reading back issues of US magazine. I have a brand new job and no sick time, you do the math.

3) It is expensive- Because I am too young to be getting mammograms every six months my health insurance does not pay for them. Yes, you are reading this correctly. My health insurance does not feel my mammograms are necessary even though my Dr has ordered them and needs them to keep record of the progress of my tumors (ALL 16 of them). The last conversation I had with Horrible Heath Insurance Helga went something like this:

Me: I am calling because according to the information I have, all mammograms are covered. However, I am being billed for mine in the full amount.

HHH: Well, all preventative mammograms are covered, as are follow up mammograms. Not mammograms that are ordered by your physician. You are too young to qualify for preventative mammograms and you need to have first mammograms for follow up mammograms.

Me: So, you you mean to tell me that if there was nothing wrong with me you would cover the mammogram, but since my Dr is worried about something, you won’t.

HHH: We like to encourage preventive care and good healthy behavior.

Me: But you just said that I don’t qualify for preventative mammograms because I am not old enough and I am trying to engage in healthy behavior by seeing the Dr and taking care of this. I feel like I am being punished for being young and having this heath issue.

HHH: Is there anything else I can help you with today?

Me: * CLICK*

4) It is aggravating – Horrible Heath Insurance Helga is not the only one making my life difficult. Every time you call the scheduling office you get transferred to a million people. No one can figure out whose patient I am or what waiting room I should be sitting in leaving me to wander around the hospital in that oh so attractive gown looking for my Dr and my handbag. Once I find the correct place and lay down for my umpteenth sonogram no one will tell me anything and I can’t figure out who should be doing what. For example, another fine bit of information from Horrible Heath Insurance Helga.

HHH: We pay for the surgeon to read the biopsy but not perform the biopsy. We pay for the radiologist to perform the biopsy and to read the sonogram but not to perform the sonogram. We pay for the sonogram to be performed by a tech but not to be read by the tech. If the biopsy is done with the assistance of a sonogram we pay for the radiologist to perform both the sonogram and the biopsy but then do not pay for both the radiologist and the surgeon to read the sonogram and biopsy. This is all listed on our website for additional clarity.


5) I am scared. There, I said it.

Five Moments of Silence

August 19, 2008

I had planned on writing a few posts about my vacation when I returned today. However, when I started my morning routine with a cup of coffee and NPR.org, I saw that writer, journalist and fellow blogger Leroy Sievers lost his battle with cancer this past weekend.  Living with this ferocious disease is something that has hit very close to home for me at different points over the last ten years.  Leroy’s honesty, candor and approach to living with cancer allowed his readers to step inside a very private fight and cheer him on.  He managed to make us laugh and make us cry as we sent our best wishes, our hopes and our prayers to him. If you want to read some of his posts you can look at his blog called My Cancer and if you are feeling up to it, send his wife a message.  In the meantime, I want to take a few moments of quiet silence:

For Leroy

For the people who loved him

For the thousands of people who fight the same battle day in and day out

For the people who love them

For the men and women, the Doctors and Nurses, the lab techs and friendly faces who help those battling the disease fight a few more days.

From the moment I started this blog (a whopping 19 posts ago) I have struggled with the concept of how much I wanted to share about my personal life, what I wanted to say about my friends and my family. What stories were mine to tell and what stories belonged to someone else, to be told in their own way, with their own voice. Then this evening (while still on vacation) I received three phone calls in rapid succession from my family. Yesterday, my brothers college roommate and close friend, committed suicide. The details are horrific, and are not mine to share, but, I would like to share with all of you, the five things I hope to help my brother understand as he buries his friend.

1- Grief comes in waves. There are moments when the pain encapsulates your being with such force, you wonder if you will ever be able to exhale again. Then, there are moments when the hurt seems to subside. Moments when you believe you are moving through the dark could and then the pain rushes in and washes over you again. Don’t fight the grief any more than you would fight the tide, both are futile.

2- It is ok to be angry. it is ok to be frustrated or pissed. It is ok to yell and scream and go for a run because you can’t think of any other way to expel the emotion from your body. It is also ok to laugh, to think about the funny things he said or the way he always wore his hair to the right side.

3- It is not your fault, and there is nothing you could have done. I know people will be telling you this a lot over the next few days and I hope with all of my heart that you hear them. Please do not over think every conversation you had, every word you heard, every rise and fall to the tone of his voice.

4- It is going to get worse before it gets better. The days ahead of you will be long. The hugs will be endless and the tears will flow. We have already spoken about the role you want to take in his memorial and I applaud you for your strength, but it will not be easy. Know that it will be hard and know that I believe you can do it.

5- I love you brother. I love you more today than I did yesterday and I will love you more tomorrow than I did today. I love you unconditionally in a way only siblings can. When the grief swallows you like a tsunami wave, remember how many people love you and feel our arms supporting you under the deep and painful sea.

Today was a tough day. Not necessarily a bad one, but a toughie. It was not my last day at my job, but it was the day of my goodbye party and the last time I would see some extremely special people and it was hard. It got me thinking about former tough days and where this one ranked and so, I thought I would share my top five list of tough days* (in chronological order)

1)Loosing the cross country county championship in 10th grade. – We were favored to win and I ran my heart out (breaking my own personal record). It was our captain’s last year and I adored her. Even at 16 I genuinely wanted the victory for her more than for myself and when it came down to a tie breaker, I felt like I let her down. If I had passed one more person, if any of us had passed one more person, we would have had it. It was the day I discovered that sometimes doing your best just is not good enough and that sometimes, like victory, failure is a group effort.

2)The day I found out my high school boyfriend had cheated on me – I know, this one should have been a no brainer. He was a year older than me and already at college. To be perfectly honest he was out of my league to begin with. But, he genuinely seemed to adore me and I genuinely seemed to believe him. It was the day I discovered that just because someone tells you they love you, does not mean they won’t hurt you and we don’t all live happily ever after with the captain of the lacrosse team. It was my first heart break and somewhere, beneath the marks from my sports bra and deep under my rib cage, I know there is a little scar.

3) The afternoon my parents came up to New England to tell my brother and I my dad had cancer – As fate would have it, my brother got into his first choice college where I happened to be going to graduate school and we were living about 20 minutes from each other. My parents told us they wanted to come up to take us out to brunch to celebrate some birthdays. When they walked in I could see that my mom had been crying. My dad sat at my round kitchen table on one of those chairs that swivels around, looked me in the eye and said, “your dads sick kiddo”. It was the worst combination of seemingly innocent words I had ever heard and it was the day I discovered my father was human, fragile and mortal.

4) The day my brother got into some trouble I could not get him out of – The details of this story are my brothers to tell, not mine, but it was serious trouble. It was the day I discovered that just because I had four years on him, did not mean I could protect him forever, and that you can’t wish someones pain away.

5) Moving my best friend out of her house prior to her divorce – We sat in a room going through pictures and piles and shoving 6 years of her life into whatever boxes and bags we could find. I had been there when they met, the day they got engaged and stood beside her when they took their vows. I felt like I could have, I should have, done more. It was the day I discovered that love is not always enough, but some days, friendship is.

So, where does today rank on my list? I don’t know yet. I know that there are times in your life when you know something has changed and even if it has changed for the better, you can never go back. Today was one of those days.

As a side note: As I have stated numerous times before, I am not a writer. I am more of a venter or an observer. But today, while driving home crying, listening to sappy love songs on 105.1, I had the urge to go home, sit at the computer and write about what I was feeling. It was the first time I wanted to use this blog as an outlet rather than as a sounding board and that felt good. So, maybe it was not such a bad day after all.

*Note- death of friends and family were intentionally left off of this list. As anyone who has lost someone they love can tell you, the experience is no where near a ‘bad’ day.