Tag Archives: Breast Cancer Awareness

Wrong Turns, Road Blocks, and Crossroads

Well, this is embarrassing. It’s been seven months since I’ve written and in that time I’ve had more than enough to talk about. But, life hasn’t stopped moving once and in my defense, I did get another cat, take on another writing gig (which has come and gone), continued Portland After Dark, and started my big girl job as a radio news anchor. I may have stopped writing, but this world never stopped spinning and through it all you never stopped fighting. Even though I know some days it I know it felt as if you were the only one.

Your diagnosis was a hard blow to all of us. There were days when fear, anger, and doubt closed in, suffocating good spirits and hope. And I can only speak for myself. I can’t imagine how you felt, but we often forget that it was you who had cancer.

In those first few months, I felt as if I wanted to be suffering with you and for you. I wished I could sit next to you, tubes in my arms, the chemo pumping into my system as we gossiped, laughed, and complained. Almost like our pedicures. And there you have it. Comparing your months of chemo, dry skin, hair loss, nausea, and pain to a pedicure just shows how estranged I really was. And when it was all said and done, though it will never truly be said and done, I was absent altogether. When the glitz, glamour, and show was over, I was out of the auditorium before the curtain dropped.

Abby, I am sorry I was never there. I’m sorry I never saw a chemo treatment, I’m sorry I never drove you to the doctor, and most of all I am sorry I was never around to talk because some days that’s probably what you needed most.

When you have cancer or any disease, I imagine at first it feels as if everyone is behind you and fighting for you. You can hear their war cries and the beat of their drums, but as the days pass, the treatments continue, the acceptance settles in, I wonder if you ever looked back to see that we’d all left to go back home.

If you did ever feel that way, I want you to know that while I may have taken a detour to fight some smaller battles of my own, I will always be your second in command and you can rest assured that our roads will forever intersect.


So let’s get to it. Monday is the big day. You’ll complete your double mastectomy with the removal of your right breast and then you’ll go straight into reconstructive surgery, which I’ve been told is called Autologous or Flap reconstruction. Let’s stick with the former as it sounds much more serious and will certainly garner more shock and concern. 😉

Sister, I don’t know how many more times I can say it, but I’ll say it until the end- I am so extremely proud of you, your life, the paths you’ve taken, and the way you’ve traveled them.

Our lives are so far apart these days. While you’re cleaning up after a beautiful, mischievous four-year-old, I am cleaning the poop of two wicked cats. As you drive to yet another doctor’s appointment, I head to the station to announce that local game wardens put down a deer. And when you’re driving home through the Pennsylvania hills, I’m losing my shit on a woman who won’t let me parallel park.

As divided as our lives may be, we’re bonded perpetually by our mother’s blood- and her appreciation of stretch pants, Garth Brooks, and baked mac and cheese.

Sister, you’ve reached the halfway point of your journey and while it may be a never ending one with some lonely paths, I promise there is no wrong turn that could lead me too far from you. See you at our crossroads.



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My Heart, Your Heart, Her Heart

HEY! I wanna talk to you. Yeah, I got something to say. How come for my whole life does everything I do get compared to everything you do? Huh? How come when I have a problem it’s one you’ve already solved? How come-how come do you always have it worse? How come when I, you know, when something happens to me, how come mom says, “Well, when your sister…” Huh? Huh? HOW COME?

Whew. 10-year-old Olivia needed to get that off her chest. It’s the plight of every little sister. It’s nothing we can control or something we can change. Moms are worn out by the time we come along. They’ve just about given up and you, little sister, you are the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Two weeks ago I called my mom just to talk. I’d been suffering from a bit of anxiety, which can really get me down, and just needed to know that I wasn’t dying, that I didn’t have a heart murmur, I wasn’t going to be broke forever, I’m not a bad person, that I can be loved, and it’s not the end of the world. You know. The usual doubts. I told my mother about flatulence that’d been trapped in my rib cage for weeks at which point she said what every little sister dreads to hear, “Oh, you don’t have to worry honey. Just think of your sister….Who had cancer. And went bald. And was sick for a year. Remember? She was bald. Her breast is-”

ALL RIGHT! All right. Yes. I remember. She was bald. And with that my mother goes back to discussing the shop and her latest tiff with gram, whose shout of defense I hear in the distance. “Well, we love you and everything will be fine. Just pray.” Click. Dial tone….

I sit up from the back of the car, where I’d hidden, to find Fil in the garage grinning because he found a snorkel and mask. “Wanna go look at logs?”

I sat there staring into nothing. That stare when really you’re basically just looking at the inside of your own eyeballs. I felt as if nothing in my life was of any importance to anyone else. And after my mom brought up cancer, I started to wonder if anything in my life would ever be important to myself let alone anyone else. When would my life not be compared to yours? When would my problems not be overshadowed by yours? Now that you’ve had cancer everything seems so minor. If my appendix burst right this minute my first thought would be “at least it’s not cancer.”

How are any of us supposed to have a bad day when you beat cancer? How is any life changing event supposed to change anything when you could have died from cancer?

I can’t find a full time job. At least you don’t have full time cancer.

My friends are all in New York. At least your friends don’t have cancer.

My cat pooped over the side of her litter box. At least she didn’t poop cancer.

I mean, come on already. What do I have to do around here to get some sympathy?! Well, you could get- SHUT UP!

And here’s the thing, the entire time I’m writing this and I know the entire time you’re reading this, we’re laughing. What on earth do we have to laugh about? That I’m slightly jealous of your cancer and you’re slightly jealous of me not having work every day?

If there is anything that mom taught us and taught us well, it’s that there is ALWAYS something really funny in everything. And if it wasn’t for that, well, we’d have nothing.

For every little sister who feels ignored, for every big sister who’s always had to help, and for every tired mother who refuses to choose, your problems, your worries, and your disappointments are never yours alone. We share it all. We share a laugh. We share a heart. 10339640_10152464146028092_5578394802688100569_n


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Don’t start. I know it already. It’s been too long. I’ve been slacking and I’m not proud of myself. When I started this blog, I wanted to try my very best to make it the one thing I stuck with from beginning to, well, there really is no end. And that’s what brought me back here today, Sunday, July 20, 2014.

On August 31 you’ll celebrate your one-year anniversary.

This September 10th will mark a year since Fil and I made the move to Portland, ME.

And on October 2nd I’ll sit down at the table for my morning coffee where I sat a year ago and cried after mom called to say, “I have some bad news.”

I was sitting there, Fil wasn’t quite home yet. I had just gotten off the phone and Butch, our maintenance man, arrived to fix our stove. I offered him water and though I thought I could hide it, when he saw the tears in my eyes he sighed and said, “We’ll get ‘er fixed, hon. Won’t take long.”

Once Fil arrived, we sat at the table and held hands while Butch fixed our shitty little stove. Thinking it over, I wonder if Butch really thought that’s what I was crying over. It would explain why he’s so quick to come switch the breakers each time I blow a fuse.

I was in the car with Shannen today, heading to the Yarmouth Clam Festival. Yeah, that’s a thing here.  I could tell Shannen was out of it. She’s usually upbeat and chatty. Today she just wanted to ride, so I let her. I cranked up the country and we drove.  An hour in the wrong direction to be truthful.  After a while I asked Shannen what was up. How she was feeling?

“I feel like I’m in limbo.”


“I feel like I’m not going anywhere. Nothing is happening for me.”

I thought about it for a minute. I’m getting better at holding onto my thoughts and articulating them when the time is right.

“Shannen, I think we’re all used to things happening very fast in our generation. And I think we might be at a spot, you know, after high school, after college, when things might start slowing down for us. And I think it’s okay to let it slow down.”

She shook her head, not really satisfied, but I was. I took that hour drive going the wrong way to really think about the passage of time.

Just yesterday mom told me, “Fil will be home before you know it. Everything just goes so quickly anymore.” And that was really telling. Momma has come to a point where her life is picking up pace again. She see’s her eldest daughter married with a baby girl and her youngest living ten hours away and teaching. Gram and Pap are getting older, though Gram would hate that it’s in writing now, published for anyone in the world to see, but it is true. We’re all getting older, but it’s mom, it’s gram, it’s pap who see it. Why? Because one minute they see a bald, chubby little towhead and the next minute Paige has flipped her Barbie Jeep from driving too fast.

Time. It’s a tricky little bastard, huh? Some days it feels like it’s not moving at all as you stare at your ceiling fan, wondering if you’ll ever pass your permit test and how the hell did Jeri get her permit before you when she’s like seven months younger, and if you don’t pass it, how will you ever leave Martinsburg??? And other days you’re sitting in your apartment with your cat and your things and your bills and wondering how in the hell will you ever pay for new tires so you can get back to Martinsburg???

Time. That bastard.

It won’t feel like a year ago to me. I’m not sure it will ever feel like it’s in the past. Cancer isn’t an old boyfriend.  Well, except for that one Italian guy. He was a real tumor, but that’s another story…

Cancer will never be in our past. It will never be history. We will never talk about it in terms of “remember that time you had cancer?” Not you, mom, or I. It will always be part of our present. We will always be on the watch and there will always be that tiny bit of fear. Yesterday I was  reminded to schedule my yearly OBGYN appointment and this year I will be requesting my first mammogram, really making breast cancer a part of my own present.

This week mom will have the BRCA test and we will finally know whether or not this was a coincidence or simply fate. And if it was fate, if it is fate, we will be ready this time.

October 2nd will mark the day you were diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago and the day my stove broke. Things have never been quite the same since, but I’ll tell you one thing….

This morning I made one mean BLT.





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If You’re Scared…

Today you find out your treatment. How they’ll deal with it all, how they’ll BEAT it. How they’ll make you healthy! I want to tell you something. I want you to remember this.

If you’re scared remember your first day of school.

If you’re scared remember moving to the farm when you were little.

If you’re scared remember being the last kid on the school bus.

If you’re scared remember the three of us living in the apartment.

If you’re scared remember living on your own at 17.

If you’re scared remember the two of us sleeping in the attic and the bed falling.

If you’re scared remember moving away.

If you’re scared remember driving from Cincinnati in a snow storm on Christmas.

If you’re scared remember your first heart break.

If you’re scared remember letting yourself fall in love again.

If you’re scared remember carrying another life inside of you for 9 months.

If you’re scared remember bringing her into our world.

If you’re scared remember saying “yes.”

If you’re scared remember walking down the aisle.

If you’re scared remember we love you.

And if you’re scared remember all the times you told me not to be.

A little Stevie for the ride home. 😀

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Big SqueezeAbout 72 hours ago my best friend, my long time idol, my big sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. And for 72 hours I’ve been angry, I’ve been crying, and I’ve been beating myself over the head for moving ten hours away.

It’ll be a month this Friday since my parents and I packed a UHAUL full of family hand-me-downs. From our sofa to bath towels, Fil’s family and mine made sure that our first home would be just that- a home. Our apartment is just right. Perfect if I do say so myself. We often look at each other and think we don’t deserve it or wonder how we got so lucky. We’ve narrowed it down to this: our families, friends, a dose of hard work, and lots of faith.

Since Wednesday, though, I’ll admit, that faith has been tested. When I first heard the news my first thought was, “Why my sister?” Immediately I scolded myself. We shouldn’t think that way. Or so we’ve been taught not to. Everything happens for a reason. This too shall pass. He never gives you something you can’t handle. They all went through my mind. Those verbal teddy bears your mom hands you in a crisis. But this time they just don’t seem to be working. The teddies aren’t enough to keep the nightmare away.

Aside from the anxiety, I’ve felt a great deal of guilt. Guilty for moving away to Portland, Maine simply because we like it here. Guilty for not being home with my sister when she needs me the most. Guilty for not being able to make my niece laugh, not being there to hug my mom, and help my grandparents. Now, my family knows I do not deal well with guilt. The tiniest inkling of it and I’ll spill my guts. From my first crush to my first joint, my parents have heard it all. But this guilt is different. It keeps me awake. It keeps the wheels in my mind spinning and spinning, the way a car does in mud. Not getting anywhere, but still going. The other night I was so overwhelmed that I nearly packed a bag and left. Left the cat, left Fil, left Portland. Just to be home to give my sister a hug. I know I can’t do that though. I wouldn’t do that. Because in the end I know my big sister wouldn’t want me to.

So what can I do for my sister ten hours away? My tears aren’t getting anywhere except for being washed down the shower drain, which honestly has become a safety hazard. It’s dangerous to shave your legs with tears in your eyes. My guilt isn’t getting me closer to her. Just gives me bags under my eyes. My anger doesn’t help at all, only gives the cupboards and doors a hard time. So, I asked again, what can I do while I live ten hours away? Ten hours away in a brand new place? A place full of life, people, art, and nature? Hell, I went to school for it. The least I could do is, well, do it. I’ll write. I will write for my sister and maybe after awhile it won’t just be for my sister. Maybe it will be for my friends, my neighbors, maybe even strangers. Maybe this will be for anyone who is having a hard day and needs a distraction. So, that’s what I’ll call this-My Sister’s Distraction. I’ve been that for most of her life, but hopefully this time it does some good.

I’m going to write about my adventures in Portland, Maine. I’m going to write about the kids I teach and the tourists I sell cheese to on Saturdays. I’ll write about the farmer’s market, the ocean, the art galleries, the bums…I’ll write about it all. That’s what I can do. That’s what I can do for my sister. I’ll give her a distraction. A productive, insightful (okay, maybe not all the time) distraction.

All I can ask is that you only leave friendly comments. All others will be ignored and deleted. Share this with whomever you like, correct my grammar, and, if you can, give your sister a hug.

Much love,


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