Thursday, December 30, 2010

What Breast Cancer Survival Looks Like: Caryn Rosenberg 2 Years Later - MORE Magazine

What Breast Cancer Survival Looks Like: Caryn Rosenberg 2 Years Later - MORE Magazine

I am posting this article in tribute of my dear friend and our newest angel, Caryn Rosenberg. She fought with dignity, humor, love and grace. You will be missed by all of us. You commanded us at your party to celebrate life and that I am attempting to do. You may not have been a mom but looked out for one and all like we were all family.

I am also posting this article in honor of Steven Rosenberg who exemplified the role of partner and care-giver. You were loved to the extreme by Caryn and glad to be able to call you friend.

RIP Caryn, 1960-2010.

Love and hugs,

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Creative Knitting | Easy Knitting for Everyone

Creative Knitting | Easy Knitting for Everyone

As the Holidays approach, I am constantly looking for something new to make. I will probably get the supplies for this one and work on it during the year. Then the biggest question looms in the background as I knit: To whom do I give this away to? It is very hard to part with a creation like this let alone make the decision. Will the receiver appreciate it? Will they take care of it the way I would? The answers are not as important as the love transferred to the giftee from the gifter! I have been brought to tears hearing stories from relatives about the baby blankets I have made and sent off to the tiny recipients. I am so glad that the love I knitted or crocheted into every stitch was received so well.

Well, I have plenty of projects to tend to and blogging will never help get them done! Looking forward to making presents and one day even making something for me!

Love and hugs,

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

When "Thank you" is Just Not Enough

Today marks the very first Annual National Previvor* Day, in the middle of National HBOC (Heriditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer)Week. Due to the efforts of Sue Friedman, Executive Director of FORCE and Representative Wasserman Schultz, H. Res 1522 was passed UNANIMOUSLY in Congress. Cancer does not recognize party lines, race, creed, nationality or sexual preference. I am proud of our politicians that they threw aside biases and voted to approve this very special milestone.

*Previvor (according to Wikipedia)
A cancer previvor is a person who is not diagnosed with cancer, but has a survived the predisposition, or higher risk, of cancer due to a certain genetic mutation.[1] As such, this is the first generation in human history who, armed with information about a predisposition to a cancer after opting in to DNA testing, can make informed choices prior to cancer diagnosis.

Like many others in my sphere of influence, I witnessed first-hand the toll cancer takes on a loved one. My father passed away from Breast Cancer in 1989 after a 5 year battle. In 1996, I found out I carried the BRCA2 Genetic Mutation. This meant I had a predisposition to both Breast and Ovarian Cancers in addition to my strong family history. In 2002, I had my first of many surgeries to remove my ovaries, ending one stage of my womanhood. Being 42 I was not in favor of more children but I still felt that tug of never being able to have more and having that choice stripped away from me in deference to avoiding Ovarian Cancer and reducing my Breast Cancer risk by half.

By 2006, I had had several scares and a multitude of mammograms, biopsies, MRi's, ultrasounds and my stress level was at an all-time high. Having never had cancer, I felt out of place in the survivor support groups both in person and on the Internet. My fiancé convinced me to seek another opinion and I went to an oncologist for help. I was put on Tamoxofin as a prophylactic measure. This was met with mostly contempt from survivors along with comments such as, "You don't know what it is like to be a survivor", "How can you even begin to compare your life with ours". I was in tears because I had nowhere to turn for help.

I began investigating the Internet with a ferocity. I discovered FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered ( and found a home! I was in tears again but these were happy tears! They got me! I was not the only one out there. I heard discussions about genetic testing, prophylactic surgeries, reconstruction (or not), talking to family members and an overall feeling of belonging. In 2007, with love, support and information from my family, friends and my FORCE Family, I had the next of a series of surgeries to have my breasts removed and reconstructed. I encountered many speed bumps along the way. When someone would tell me I was "mutilating" my body, I had FORCE to turn to. In 2008, I attended my very first JoiningFORCEs Conference in Tampa, FL. This was followed by the next one held in Orlando, FL. Each trip, I learned more and more and brought back more to share with my fellow BRCA community in Philadelphia.

In the words of Dr. Friedman in her recent blog entry,
An estimated 750,000 people—about .2% of the entire U.S. population—carry a BRCA mutation. Not a large group compared to our overall population, yet we shoulder about 10-14% of the breast and ovarian cancer burden, and our cancer risk is some of the highest known to science.
. I am part of that percentage.

The importance of the HBOC Week and Previvor Day cannot be felt as poignant as it is with those of us in the BRCA community. This will help pave the way for more research and hopefully, a way to reduce and maybe even eradicate Breast and Ovarian Cancers in, perhaps, my child's lifetime. FORCE has brought an empowerment and sense of belonging to me more than any other group could possibly have done. Out of this has sprung a wonderful new book, released during HBOC Week, Previvors: Facing the Breast Cancer Gene and Making Life-Changing Decisions by Dina Roth Port, a FORCE member.

We have also been fortunate to have a view from another FORCE member and friend, Diane Tropea Greene, Apron Strings: Inhereting Courage, Wisdom and . . . Breast Cancer. This chronicles a family of sisters and their journey through their family's ordeal with cancers.
Apron Strings: Inheriting Courage, Wisdom and . . . Breast Cancer

My friend and film-maker/researcher, Joanna Rudnick, was prompted to make a documentary following her family and her own search for answers to make an informed decision after learning she carried the genetic mutation. Her film, In the Family, is incisive and educational in a grounded way. I have since become good friends with one of the FORCE women in the film and glad we met 3 years ago!

I am having trouble typing through the tears forming. Had I never found out about my mutation I carry, my surgeon was almost certain I would have had a bout with Breast Cancer at some point. It was a matter of when, not if. As a matter of fact, they did discover a stage zero DCIS in my pathology. A Bilateral Prophylactic Mastectomy would have been the treatment for me and that is exactly what I had done. I am here, defying my risk of 85-90%, seeing my child grow up to become a man and graduate next year from high school. This year, we celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary, and I never would have gotten here if not for him. I am happy to be able to celebrate this momentous occasion of HBOC Week with my fellow FORCE Members and look forward to many, many more!

Love and hugs,

Thursday, September 9, 2010

To Mature or Not to Mature, That is the Question!

I am amazed at the changes in people over the course of many years. The change in family members is the hardest to see sometimes. My brother has turned out just like our father in so many ways. Makes me sad that Daddy is not here to see him interact with the kids. Others, like my friends and acquaintances from my teenage years are the ones I have trouble understanding.

I had two very good friends in high school. Due to relationships, they have not spoken in several years. I am still friends with both of them, even if one I just rekindled our friendship again. I will not stop associating with one over the other, just not have them present at occasions together. I would hope, however, that they are MATURE enough at this point, that they can set aside differences. We were friends over 30 years ago and still are, like the intervening years never happened.

What I do not understand so much are the people who have not MATURED at all. They are still forming cliques and excluding people from them. In talking to one of our former classmates, we marveled at the associations that have formed post-graduation in the past couple years since the advent of Facebook. There are a few women who would never have been in each other's circles back then who are now thick as thieves now. Who knew? And some of the superficial antics that go on are what I would term, IMMATURE. Then again, maybe I am still not MATURE enough to not have sour grapes over being excluded.

Fast forward to college years. I suppose since we were tossed together without any prior knowledge of each other's circumstances, we had no preconceived notions about one another. We were already starting to MATURE. I am certainly glad to have gotten in touch with so many familiar faces so that we can catch up with each other.

Now I have branched out into other areas of friendships with people who have gone through college, some grad school, one or two marriages, births and deaths, careers and lifestyles changes. I accept these people at face value. Some I have begun iron-clad relationships with and others I keep at arms' length so I do not get hurt. Is this being MATURE or just cautious? I have found what I want out of a friendship and what I am willing to give back. If there is not a good balance, then I question if it is a healthy one to start. Very similar to what I went through with romantic relationships after my divorce. I am saddened by one friend in particular who seems to have pulled away. I feel as though it is based on finances or in my case, lack thereof. The jury is still out on this one!

Additionally, I have made some strong friendships with several women who are active in the fight against Cancer. I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in whatever it takes to raise awareness and and funds. Being MATURE means having to deal with life and death in a totally different way than we did when we were younger. The "buffer" generation of our grandparents is gone and our parents' generation is starting to disappear. When we were teens and young 20-somethings we were invincible in our minds. Nothing could touch us! Now, we see the ravages of disease affect our peers and their loved ones.

It has touched us personally as well. I am very active in FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered. If you know me at all, you already know this. Over the summer, I went to the very first funeral of one of our local members. It really made me MATURE some more. One of the biggest things it made me realize was that, although trite, our time on the earth is limited. So, in agreement with my friend from school, cast off those people who seem to be so shallow and continue with those who you can laugh, cry, share good and bad with, whenever you need to.

Thanks for listening!
Love and hugs,

Friday, August 27, 2010

Saying Prayers and Moving Forward

I have come to notice that I did not blog at all in the month of August. While my erstwhile fellow bloggers have latched onto news headlines, heated topics and their own journeys, I have blithely ignored typing anything at all. Not that I don't have things to say or nothing on my mind. Rather, the things on my mind are very difficult to put into writing. I have a handful of wonderful friends with whom I share some of my innermost feelings but even there I hold back. Larry, my husband and best friend, does not see a whole picture.

This past month has seen a lot of events. Birthdays are numerous among my family and friends over the summer months and it seems like a summer-long celebration of life. It started with just that: One of my FORCE Friends(Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, www, had celebrated her 50th birthday. She wanted us all to celebrate LIFE and our various journeys that got us to this point in time and how our lives have all intersected. She has been battling Breast Cancer for several years and been Stage IV for quite some time. As of this writing, she is in hospice at home. Her husband wants everyone to understand that this is not the end, but rather for her to catch up and be able to be in her own home instead of the hospital. But from what he says, she is tired of the fight and the chemotherapy, the stomach problems, the fatigue and the headaches and IV bags.

It is selfish of us to have her keep fighting when she herself wants none of it. I realized the same thing when my father was nearing the end of his battle with Breast Cancer.

Where I would normally recite and sing the Mishebayrach for her and others who are trying to keep fighting this beastly disease, I have heard another song recorded by Debbie Friendman. It is called "Mourning into Dancing" and her YouTube recording is

Many of the songs and prayers Friedman sings are on this album:

The lyrics are universal and transcends all faiths as does so much of Friedman's liturgy. I will remember my family and friends' battles with cancers, their grace and spirit. And I pray that from this day forward that God, or however you perceive a Higher Power, will be with us all when we are in need, whether or not we know it ourselves. The lyrics follow:

He's turned my mourning
Into dancing again
He's lifted my sorrows
I can't stay silent
I must sing
For His joy has come

Where there once
Was only hurt
He gave His healing hand
Where there once
Was only pain
He brought comfort
Like a friend
I feel the sweetness
Of His love
Piercing my darkness
I see the bright
And morning sun
As it ushers in
His joyful gladness

You've turned my mourning
Into dancing again
You've lifted my sorrows
And I can't stay silent
I must sing
For Your joy has come

Where there once
Was only hurt
You gave Your
Healing hand
Where the once
Was only pain
You brought comfort
Like a friend
I feel the sweetness
Of Your love
Piercing my darkness
I see the bright
And morning sun
As it ushers in
Your joyful gladness

Your anger lasts
For a moment in time
But Your favor is here
And will on me for
All my life time

Sending Shalom, Peace, and my Love and hugs to all!


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Asking for Your Help with Advocacy of Hereditary Cancers

I am appealing to everyone's good nature to help in a way that is at no cost at all and can help so many people across the country. By taking just a few moments of your day, you can help get the necessary cosponsors to help pass HR#1522. So far, we still need 80 of the 100 needed. The last week in September will be designated Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week with that Wednesday being Previvor Day.

To help out with the text of your email, here is what I sent based on the suggested email on the FORCE page:

Sample eMail to your Representative:

Dear Representative Schwartz:

I am writing to urge you to sign on as a co-sponsor of the legislation to establish Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week, HR#1522, introduced by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL).

The legislation calls for designating the last week of September as “National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week” and Wednesday of that week as “National Previvor Day.”

HBOC Week and Previvor Day will raise awareness of hereditary cancer, leading to more education, research and resources. Knowledge of a genetic predisposition to cancer, available risk management and treatment options can save lives!

I carry the BRCA1 mutation. I lost my Grandmother, Father and Cousin to this disease before we knew anything about BRCA and it’s effects. The knowledge I gained about this disease allowed me to take steps that have significantly reduced my risk. I want to make sure ALL women (and men) have that knowledge.

If you are willing to co-sponsor this bill, please contact Coby Dolan ( or Danielle Gilbert ( at Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz's office.

Thank you for your support.


Beth Cohen

Feel free to adjust it as you see fit. This bill, when passed, will enable so much more research, education and funding to be made available and will help SAVE lives!

Once again, I am thanking all of you in advance for your help. I am grateful to FORCE and its members for being there for me every step of the way to help me deal with the BRCA2 gene mutation that has affected me and my family.

Here is what you need to do:
Follow the link at the bottom of the page to go to the FORCE Advocacy page to read about the bill and its details. While there, FORCE also provides a link to find the email contact for your Representative.

FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered -- Hereditary, Genetic Breast or Ovarian Cancer and BRCA Issues

Love and Hugs,


Friday, July 16, 2010

Beauty and the Breast: empowering portraits of women who have had mastectomies

I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to know that I carry the BRCA2 genetic mutation. I am very lucky that with today's medical advances I could have the prophylactic surgeries to help prevent breast and ovarian cancers so that I can live a long and full life with my family and friends. Moreover, I am so happy to be able to call these brave and wonderful women who volunteered for this project, my friends and fellow BRCA Sisters through FORCCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered ( Last and by no means least, I am grateful and truly one of the luckiest women on Earth to have my husband, Larry, who still sees me as a sexy and lovely woman and makes me feel as loved as I love him!

Beauty and the Breast: empowering portraits of women who have had mastectomies

If you feel as I do about this project, please help FORCE and donate what you can so they can continue to help women and men around the world deal with hereditary cancers.

Love and hugs,

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

'Conference Recap, Hilton Head Week, Upcoming Webinar and More'

'Conference Recap, Hilton Head Week, Upcoming Webinar and More'

Glad you all have a chance to review the highlights of the 5th Annual Joining FORCES Conference. I was not able to be there this year but looking forward to attending in 2011!

Love and hugs,

Friday, June 25, 2010


Well, most of you who are following my blog know that I support FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered ( Let me get the appeal out there first! We need your votes and need you to pass this along to others as well. FORCE will be able to receive a portion of $250K from Chase Giving. Here is the link:

This is the FORCE Mission Statement:

"To provide unbiased information and resources regarding hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. To provide support to families and individuals affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. To raise awareness of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. To advocate for the community affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. To promote research specific to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. To reduce disparities among under-served populations by promoting access to information, resources and clinical trials specific to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer."

I myself am a Previvor and have a very strong family history of both Breast and Ovarian Cancers. FORCE has helped in ways I never knew were possible from an online community. I was given unconditional love, support and advice.

Through monies donated by corporations and individuals, the following cna be done:

$1,000 delivers the latest in BRCA research and information to 500 families.

$500 gives 60,000 visitors access to our website for one month.

$300 provides a scholarship to our conference to one person that could not otherwise attend.

$200 provides life-saving information to 100 people through our newsletter.

$100 provides phone-based support and resources via our Helpline for one month.

$50 provides a package of informational brochures to doctors offices and hospitals.

Donations to FORCE are tax-deductible. 100% of the funds go to the organization to continue our mission. Many companies will also match donations made by their employees.

Please ask your employer if your company has a matching gifts policy.

I only ask that you take a few seconds and vote for FORCE. If the spirit moves you, please donate directly through our secure network:

Love and hugs,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fun Event: Quarter Auction!

Please Join Us for a Fun Evening AT
A Quarter Auction Event

You will enjoy playing, socializing and WINNING for just quarters
– up to 100 items on the auction block and no item over 4 quarters!

Come enjoy a spectacular
Ladies Night Out (Men welcome too!)

Friday, May 21st
Begins Promptly @ 7:30pm – 9:30pm
No tickets sold…first come first served
Doors open at 6:30 pm
Friendship Fire Company
269 Green Street in Royersford, PA 19468

$3.00 per guest ages 7 to Adult (includes 1 paddle for bidding)
$1.00 for each additional paddle.

Arrive Early as seating is limited
Please RSVP so I can reserve your seating!

Bring your quarters for bidding and WIN Products from vendors such as:

Do You Bake? Tupperware
Southern Living At Home Avon
Mia Bella’s Gourmet Candles Longaberger
Thirty One Tastefully Simple
Mary Kay Bella’s Beads & Baubles

*Vendors subject to change*

I look forward to hearing from you soon and seeing you at night of FUN!!

Beth Cohen Pfeiffer, Judy Kopperman, Jen Aube
DO YOU BAKE? Consultants

Please bring this invite or say DO YOU BAKE? at the door

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Genes Now Fit: A BRCA Journey, Part 2

So where was I? Oh yes, I had found out I carried the BRCA2 gene mutation. Everyone should realize that we all carry two copies of the BRCA2 gene, one from each of our parents. If one of these is mutated, it increases your risk if the one good gene is harmed. The best way I have seen it discussed is in the movie, "In the Family".

I have met the filmmaker, Joanna Rudnick as well as her Mom, and some of the brave women interviewed, Olga and Martha. I highly recommend it and will go into it further in another blog.

I am jumping wayyy ahead! In 1996 when I learned of my status, I had extensive genetic counseling so that I could make informed decisions about what I wanted to do. The options were far-ranging from increased surveillance to surgeries. At that point in time, my son was very young and I was involved in a rocky marriage. I did not need more stress so I opted for increased surveillance. What did this entail?

1. Mammograms every year faithfully! If anything unusual was found an ultrasound and/or MRI.
2. Breast exams once a year with my GYN and six months later with my breast surgeon.
3. Blood work once a year testing my CA-125 which is a marker for Ovarian Cancer.
4. Once a year a Transvaginal Ultrasound. This was not a fun test for a number of reasons but it gave them a good idea of what was going on with my ovaries.

This went on for six years. During the interim, I went through a divorce and mananged to get my life back in order. I even met a man who in 2005 became my 2nd husband. In 2002, I was getting my breast exam with my breast surgeon who happens to also be a former high school classmate of mine. When I first went to him, I was so very embarassed because I had a huge crush on him in 10th grade. The first time I went, I turned beet red because here was my teen crush "feeling me up"! After a shared laugh about it, neither one of us mentioned it again and he became my sounding board about what I was going through with my BRCA journey. We were able to talk easily together and I knew if he recommended anything it was not for economic gain for himself. At the age of 42, I was not going to have more kids. AS an aside, I had babysat my six month old niece and it swayed me over to ending my baby rearing days!

The doctor's suggestion was to have a Bilateral Salpingo Oophorectomy (BSO)which would remove my ovaries and fallopian tubes. (See definition: The surgery would reduce my breast cancer risk by 50% and my ovarian cancer risk down to 3%. Larry and I discussed it thoroughly and felt it was a good way to go for me and our futrure together. April of 2002 I went in to same-day procedures and had the BSO. It was able to be done laporoscopically so I came back to my room in less than 2 hours and ready to go home before lunch! Best of all, my risk was lowered and gave me a better outlook on the future. In about a week I was back to work and feeling OK. It was almost two weeks before I felt up to engaging in anything remotely intimate however! The standard procedure afterwards
at the time was to go on low-estrogen birth-control for 5 years. In 2010, it is put into close inspection and may not be what your doctor will want to do.

This is as good as any to stop and rest up for the balance of the trek!

Love and hugs,

Friday, May 7, 2010

My Genes Now Fit: A BRCA Journey, Part 1

The Background

Our family has a history like many families: Our ancestors came over from Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th Century to escape persecution and have more opportunities. They passed through Ellis Island, settled in a big city, Philadelphia in our case, and flourished. What we did not know was that there was something else growing as well and it would take most of the Century to discover.

In 1984, my father was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had not known too much about his mother, whom I am named for, other than she died from breast cancer when my dad was a teenager. Dad, being pretty stoic himself, never talked about it. My mother was the one who told me about my grandmother and the fact that she had two occurances and her mother died from either breast or ovarian cancer as well. My dad's oncologist commented that he had 4 cases of male breast cancer that year alone. In 1984, nobody was prepared to realize just how rare that really is. He received a radical mastectomy and we received the pathology report before he even was in recovery.

My younger brother was on a school trip to French-speaking Europe. I never made a long-distance call before and the operators both here and in France were so understanding since my vision was so blurry while I tried reading numbers off of the itinerary paperwork. From this point on, I always seem to call my brother when something bad is going on and he helps to ground me.He may be ten years my junior but so many years wiser.

Mom and I got home from the hospital in the wee hours and at 7 AM Dad called saying he was ready to come home. So, bleary-eyed but anxious, we picked him up at the hospital. Three days later he was back at the surgeon's office with a raging infection. As a post-script, I should not be surprised when I developed infections after my surgery!

Dad endured chemotherapy IV once a week for 5 years. This is so archaic compared to today's regimen of dose dense chemo. He was also on Tamoxifen every day the entire time. He got chemo on Wednesdays and Mom was with him during his infusion. We had a family business at the time and I ran the store while they dealt with the doctors' visits. Some afternoons they stopped in to make sure the walls hadn't caved in and it kept Daddy feeling a part of everything. If Daddy felt OK, he would come in later in the day and stay until closing at 9 PM. The store sold furniture so if he was feeling droopy he would lay down on a sofa or relax in a comfy wing chair.

I saw him go through so much and never really complain much. He wasn't thrilled with having to give up cigars and pipes but the alcohol was easy to forgo. He took Compazine for the nausea that continually plagued him, Lasix for the edema, bloodthinner to ward off clots and wore the compression stockings for the blood clot he DID have in his leg. Not much kept him down and when he got his port in his chest, he was happier with not being stuck in the arm anymore for anything.

Nothing really prepared us or him for the drastic surgery his oncologist proposed: he was to have his testicles removed to help keep estrogen production down. The breast cancer cells thrive with estrogen present in the body. Testicles are analogous to ovararies and perform similar functions. This was a devestating blow to him. I really don't think he ever recovered physically or mentally from that.

In 1989, dad passed away. The cause of death was liver failure. My uncle, dad's younger brother was shaken very badly. During the next several years he researched the libraries and later the Internet. He also did a family tree and realized we had a startling family history. Putting his research together with that he discovered a pattern of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Some family members were diagnosed with "female cancer" which is hard to decipher exactly what it was. Armed with the tree and his findings, he talked to Dr. Mary B.Daly at Fox Chase Cancer Center in 1996. (See Dr. Daly's biography:

Dr. Daly and the genetic counselor had our family come in to hear about the testing being done for the newly discovered Breast Cancer Gene (BRCA).

Cancer risk assessment looks at your personal and possible inherited genetic factors that may put you at higher possibility for getting cancer. We comprehensively examine your profile for all cancer types, including — but not limited to — breast cancer, ovarian cancer, gastrointestinal cancers, prostate cancer, and melanoma. Knowing your risk helps you learn what you can do to lower your chances of getting cancer

Since we had a strong family history coupled with an Ashkenazi Jewish
ancestry, we were at a higher risk. Those of us present agreed to give blood samples and we were able to acquire the frozen sample of my dad's pathology. I later found FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered ( on the Internet and learned about Hereditary Cancer:

All cancers are caused by changes to materials in our bodies called “genes.” These are units of information in every cell of our bodies. Everyone has two copies of each gene, one from each parent. During development, genes tell our cells what type of tissue to become—a skin cell vs. a muscle cell, for example—and in later life, when to divide and make more cells. Genes also determine which proteins to make based on the type of cell and its needs. Some genes tell our bodies how to repair damage from environmental toxins, sun exposure, dietary factors, hormones, and other influences, or tell our cells when to stop growing.

When changes called “mutations” occur in the genes, certain cells can grow out of control and cause cancer. Gene mutations that can lead to cancer usually happen later in life. Over time, these changes occur as a result of the aging process, from exposure to things such as smoke, hormones, certain viruses, certain chemicals or from dietary influences. Not all damage to our cells leads to cancer, however, because our bodies have many methods for repairing damage and because we are all born with two copies of these damage-repairing genes.

I was completely floored to find out that my test and my dad's came back as positive for BRCA2. I spent several sessions with the genetic counselor going over my options and a plan of action. I opted for increased surveillance. The thought at the age of 36 to have any surgeries to remove body parts was too much to handle at the time. I was also in the middle of a rocky marriage and I was not up to handling surgery.

I had been getting mammograms every year since I was 28 because of the insistence from my dad's oncologist. Now I was getting a blood test for CA125, a marker for ovarian cancer, twice a year breast check and the piece de resistance the Transvaginal Ultrasound. The mammogram was nothing to me compared to that! I dreaded it every year but I did not want ovarian cancer sneaking up on me. It is a silent killer and there were two cousins who died from it. The thing that was still puzzling to me was the fact that so many healthcare professionals still had no clue about the risk coming from the father's side of the family. There was no spot to check off saying mt father had breast cancer. The intake person at the mammograms always did a double take on that one. Their standard comment was that it didn't matter as much if it was with my father.

Today, we know that not only does it matter but it raises the risk even higher when being BRCA2 positive. So, for the following six years this was my journey, testing and heightened awareness of my body. The next steps I took were not until 2002 and I will delve into that in the next part.

PART 2: Beyond Surveillance

Movie Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I am not a big fan of Foreign Language films with English subtitles. I always seem to get lost somewhere between reading and trying to watch the action. But this time was very different and I believe it is because I read the book first, in English of course!

This is the first book in The Millenium Trilogy. I found it a bit difficult to get into in the beginning. But then the action picked up and the mystery was revealed. The hero. Michael Blomkvist, is introduced and he is a reporter and has lost a libel suit brought against him and sentenced to a three-month jail sentence. He is also being investigated by an all-star young hacker, Lisbeth, who actually believes in his innocence.

Michael is then contacted by Mr. Vanger, a retired industrialist, whose last wish is to find his favorite niece who disappeared some 40 years ago and presumed dead. The lives of these people are intertwined and the history uncovered is as twisted as an old tree. Michael and Lisbeth also team up eventually and her past and present seem to start to merge as they uncover the truth of Harriet Vanger's mystery.

I give the Swedish film five stars! It is still playing on the screen in the smaller art theaters and it has a much bigger impact in the theater. Since I had read the book, reading the names, places and other information was easier to concentrate on the movements on the screen. If you miss it in the theater buy it and the trilogy and get ready for intrigue and suspense.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Too Much Information??

I am not one to mince words. Nor do I suffer in silence, ha ha! So today I am posing questions concerning major changes in my Half Century Body.

First of all, the gray hair is multiplying. Its OK since I have been coloring my hair as far back as in high school. I used to gather at my friend Karen's house and we experimented. One time we tried to put henna in our hair. Both of us have dark hair, well, according to memory it was dark. So henna was a failure since it really didn't show up. Afterwards when I tried it at home, I thought my mother would kill me while I was using it because I caused some henna stains on the wallpaper and no real evidence of it doing a thing to my hair.

Then one time we tried using hair painting which was what they called highlights in the 70's. This became disaster number two because if I recall, we bleached part of her mom's bath towel. Nothing like an Italian screaming at you except my Jewish mother screaming for similar atrocities to her bathroom. Ok, no more experiments and no more mad moms!

Today, I try to very carefully color my hair using a salon (expensive but the gray is totally eradicated) or by the box from the shelf put on with some help from my husband. This method is cheaper but the color is not consistent and I end up with the gray showing itself earlier. But why is the gray overpopulating itself in the first place? I am about 80% gray in the front and it proceeds over my scalp to about 30% in the back. And its WHITE not really gray so that it does not take up the color well at all! If it was over the entire surface, I might be tempted to allow myself to go all white. It can be very pretty like my Mom-Mom's hair was. But no, it is in shocks like Cruella DeVille and maybe my younger boys will oft like to compare me to, I am not into cartooning myself.

I can reconcile myself to using hair color products, that is minor. This brings me to my second inquiry. I am not happy with, shall I be tactful, leakage. Yup, having a problem there. If I sneeze, cough, laugh or even cross my eyes, I need to run for a bathroom. I tried cutting back on fluids, lowering my caffeine intake (that really hurt) and watching my sugar ingestion in case I may be pre-diabetic. Being diabetic can be a possibility as it runs in the family and this causes extra output of urine due to sugar spilling over into the bladder. TMI yet folks? You have no idea! I have taken to carrying extra underwear in a ziploc . . . just in case. It beats going around commando! Poise is no longer a term used in describing good manners but rather what I might to buy instead of pads! Depends cannot be far behind but I am not going there for many years yet . . . I hope!!

The third thing I am dealing with is the snap, crackle and grind of my joints. My scoliosis has gotten worse. My knees are louder than my husband's snoring. My elbows crack, hips pop and back is all-around losing ground. My feet hurt even when I am not standing. Can we say Arthritis? Guess so! Why? I have been pretty good with exercise. Ok, so lazy is a major term in my lexicon, but I try. I walk when I can, swim at the YMCA and I do lots of handwork like knitting to keep my hands from tightening up. So why do I make such noises after getting up from the table? I am grunting and groaning and no sex is involved!

Which brings me to another subject! I have already had my introduction to menopause much earlier than my contemporaries because at age 42 I had both ovaries removed prophylactically to help reduce my cancer risk. The hot flashes are not as bad anymore. I can layer clothing with the best of them and Larry has gotten used to sleeping with being alternately frozen and burning up depending on the position of the window and/or blankets.

But what about this "being in my prime" horse manure? And if I am in my "prime" why didn't it come with a younger man to take advantage of it? Oh, I get paid attention to very well. And I will attest to practicing saying, "Cuddling is so much better now! I really enjoy it and it replaces hot sex. After all, we are older now." Do I really believe what I am espousing? Yes, to some extent. But I kind of miss it. Safe sex has changed its meaning. It is safe as long as nobody moves the wrong way and pulls a muscle or pops a joint! Funny how meanings such as that change with age.

I have changed as well. No amount of skin creams or magical herbals or yoga will erase the timelines. It will not turn back the clock. I will attempt to grow old gracefully but whining and kicking the whole way. As long as my inner child never grows old.

Love and hugs,

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The "Brady Bunch" is Definitely a Hoax or A Blended Family Takes Patience, Not a Housekeeper!

When I separated form my first husband, I was the mother of a 3 1/2 year old son. I tried to date men who were also parents. I was not sure it was a good thing because the men still demanded time from just me, not me and my son. So back to the drawing board every time when dealing with a woman and her child was too overwhelming for them. I was OK with that because my son was the primary concern of my life and if the potential suitors didn't like it then I was better off without them.

Then one day, I met a man who was the father of a son who was 2 1/2 years younger than mine and his son lived with him! Not a weekend warrior! A man who appeared to really care about his kids. He was fine with doing activities along with my son, and not in a weird or skeevy way. My mother always had me concerned about meeting a pedophile and believe me, I think I did at least once and ran from it real fast!

The years rolled on and we decided to make it legal and we married. I am his third wife and was the only one whom he said was family oriented. I accepted his two older boys from his first wife along with their kids (I became an instant Mom-Mom) and their extended families. His youngest son from his second union was now living with his mother. We had him on weekends but there was no set schedule. Our boys got along as any stepbrothers will, with animosity and friendship seemingly interchangeable. All is well. Or so I thought . . .

Fast forward to the present, five years plus a couple months. My stepson's mother has decided to go on a vacation with her current husband. He is staying with us and it a bit complicated since I have to drive him back and forth to his school as he lives in the school district adjacent to ours. This is a two-week stint for all of us. Adjustments to a fourth person in the house takes some doing when it is more than for a long weekend. Consideration for one another takes on a whole other flavor. Schedules are changed up, especially because I am the only one who drives.

The video game is the great equalizer with the boys but the tension is so thick in the house between me and my stepson you can choke on it. He resents his mother going away yet again, and I don't like being taken for granted. He wants to do things like he does at her house, and we have rules here that he needs to understand. Yes, I know it is stricter here but by no means is this a benevolent dictatorship! I just want cooperation and good table manners and respect. He wants to go to bed when he wants, eat like a neanderthal and act like a typical teenage boy. I know I can't change the last of that, but am I really asking too much with the others?

Look, the mom exemplified as Carol Brady does not exist. There is no way on this Earth that when you throw all of us together and expect candy and roses to bloom is nonsense. Personalities alone clash constantly. And when the stepmother resents the husband's ex-wife and her lifestyle, the stepson resents the stepmother's unwelcome interaction in his life and a husband caught in the middle trying to appease everyone you have chaos! And chaos causes disasters.

I realize it is difficult for me not to criticize but I am not using a double-standard. I criticize and coach indiscriminately. Both boys get it with both barrels. After a traumatic episode yesterday, my husband pointed out that if MY son caused it he would be getting yelled at from the time he was picked up until he went to bed that night! As it was, I blew my top but I held back so that I didn't say too much I would regret.

Today, things are back to somewhat normal. I drove both kids to school, came home, had my coffee and breakfast and will take out something to cook for dinner. I will pick them up after school, at two different places at two different times and double check about their respective homework assignments and make sure they get them done. As of this writing, I am still job hunting, so it is a lucky thing I am this available.

I have no problem making a blended family. We need more than a weekend here and two weeks there or we will never have a seamless transition. Additionally, I know I can never expect it to be easy. Depending on what happens in the next few months, maybe we will have a big change in the dynamic of our household. Maybe it will be pretty much the same, with weekend warrior mentality. But I have learned a huge lesson and that is that teenage boys have raging hormones and it upsets the balance of nature and I have to learn to hold my temper in check. Being 14 is a disease cured by turning 15 which is a disease too and is cured by turning 16 and so on. As is evidenced by my older stepsons, it keeps on going into adulthood so I may as well give up and just bestow as much love as I can . . . along with plenty of my homemade cookies!

Love and hugs gang,

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Discrimination is not color or race-related sometimes

I am not a skinny person, never have been and probably never will! All my life I have been overweight. I am fat. Very simple. Not chunky, big-boned, stocky, nor plump-pleasantly or otherwise. However, I do take a great offense to the headline today about how ABC refused to air and FOX wanted to edit the new Lane Bryant ad.

Here it is via YouTube:

Highlight the link above and paste it into a new tab to view the commercial. Go ahead, I will wait. No really, go watch it. It is only a minute if that.

So, what did you think? Yes, it is a fat woman in lingerie. Fat women have a sex life believe it or not. They are able to carry on a relationship. And she is really pretty too. All curves. So why did the networks have such problems? They air the Victoria Secret ads during prime time television all the time. The ads are every bit as suggestive. Maybe even more so.

I suppose it dispels the myth that fat people sit at home eating pastries and watching Wheel of Fortune. How could a woman who is not built like a stick figure ever have any kind of life? I will tell you how. The woman in these ads are happy in their bodies. They are probably physically and mentally more balanced than the typical runway model. Whatever happened to the "full-figured" of the past? Marilyn Monroe dress size was a 16 on average. May West had no shortage of admirers. And Jane Russell launched a whole line of lingerie designed for real women. Going back to Napoleanic times, champagne glasses were formed by the size and shape of Marie Antionette's breast and the capacity of said glass was not the size of a shot!

I am tired of trying to buy skinny girls' clothes just blown up to fit a larger size. It reminds me of "Silly Putty" after it picks up an image from the comics and pulling it like taffy-it never looks the same. Lane Bryant and other retailers realize there is a, pardon the expression, large segment of the buying public who appreciate the thought that they should have a cloting line designed just for them. It tickled me to no end when a thin woman wanted to know if a dress came in a smaller size while shopping with her plus-sized friend. The salesperson turned to her very pleasantly and told the skinny a** to go to another store as they cannot accomodate her here. Yes! Buh Bye!

And so, as America has come to realize that real women DO have curves and can obviously turn on the men in their life, I have begun to appreciate the man in my life who loves ME, not my dress size!

Love and hugs,

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Book Review: "Apron Strings: Inheriting Courage, Wisdom and . . .Breast Cancer"

I have been very fortunate to have met brave people. Those that have battled Cancer are among the most brave of all. The first who comes to mind is of course my Father. In his mid-fifties, he must have known the lumo he found on his breast was Cancer. It was ignored as was my Father's way with anything that foreshadowed a problem. After he went through a battery of tests, his worst fear was confirmed, it was Breast Cancer. He went in for a mastectomy and endured 5 years of weekly chemotherapy and various procedures meant to end the Beast, Breast Cancer.

I was very proud of my Father. He never really complained. And because of our family history of Breast Cancer, we participated in the 1st of many tests for the BRCA gene mutation. My Mom was able to get the frozen section of his pathology and it was tested as well. My results as well as Dad's came back BRCA2+. The ensuing genetic counseling helped prepare me for a course of action.

In the interim, I researched the Internet and discovered FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered ( Through this wonderful organization devoted to families with history of Breast and Ovarian Cancers, I also found a new friend, Diane Tropea Greene.

Diane had written a book, "Apron Strings: Inheriting Courage, Wisdom and ... Breast Cancer". I looked in the local book stores and couldn't find it. While Diane and I emailed and talked over the phone, we got to know each other. She also sent me a signed copy of her book. She also came to the Joining FORCES Annual Conference with one of her sisters. I recommended the book to everyone who I came in contact with at the Conference as well as back home.

Diane writes:
Apron Strings: Inheriting Courage, Wisdom and... Breast Cancer is my family’s story of hope and survival against seemingly insurmountable odds. It is written, in part, to honor the memory of family members who so bravely faced their cancer with courage, grace and dignity. It is because of their strength that my generation had the perseverance to delve into our past and make tough and inconceivable choices, to emerge victorious. Their defeat has enabled our victory.

The book starts out at a family member's funeral, just one of many that have dealt with cancer. Diane herself is also a Breast Cancer survivor and the journey leads her to Genetic Testing. She discovers she too carries the BRCA gene mutation. This can and does often lead to an increased risk of not only Breast Cancer but also Ovarian, Pancreatic, Melanoma and Colon Cancer among others. The risk of the average woman is 8-12% over her lifetime. If a man or a woman carry the BRCA muation, it can increase their risk up to 90% or higher. This is another kind of journey that Diane, her sisters and other family members have chosen to take to reduce their risk.

At times very sad but alternately funny, Diane recants a true-life story of one extended family's ordeal with Cancer and how they are handling it. How do they tell the various cousins about the testing results? how can they try to halt Cancer's path in their family? And what of the next generation of children already getting to the age they might want to be tested.

I applaud Diane for being able to get the word out about Breast Cancer and beating the odds!

Monday, April 12, 2010

MRI is a loud test!

I have spent the last month or so complaining about my back. I have tried heat, ice, ibuprofen, Tylenol and rest. Nothing has really helped. I guess my husband Larry is tired of hearing about it even though his back is VERY bad from degenerative disc disease and arthritis. I always listen to his kvetching (complaining). So while we were at his pain management doctor's appointment he had me show the nurse. We were still waiting for the doctor to come in after all and had time to kill.

I showed Trish the hollow in my back at the waist and her comment was "Oh my God", so I took this to mean I better show the doctor! After he was finished with Larry and reviewing his problems, he took a look at my back. We all thought if it wasn't anything to worry about, I would just suffer along, not in silence mind you, but still muddle through. Scott, the doctor, examined it and declared it a "scoliosis". I knew I had one and obviously it had gotten worse due to my pain level. Just about everyone in my family has some degree of it, my brother's is bad enough that his one shoulder droops. My Dad had it and one leg was actually a bit shorter than the other.

According to Wikipedia:
Scoliosis (from Greek: skoliōsis meaning "crooked condition," from skolios, "crooked")[1] is a medical condition in which a person's spine is curved from side to side. Although it is a complex three-dimensional deformity, on an x-ray, viewed from the rear, the spine of an individual with a typical scoliosis may look more like an "S" or a "C" than a straight line. It is typically classified as either congenital (caused by vertebral anomalies present at birth), idiopathic (cause unknown, sub-classified as infantile, juvenile, adolescent, or adult according to when onset occurred) or neuromuscular (having developed as a secondary symptom of another condition, such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy, spinal muscular atrophy or physical trauma). This condition affects approximately 7 million people in the United States.

Well! Now I know the scientific definition. As to what to do next, Scott wrote a prescription for an X-ray as well as an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). I had one several years ago to see if there was a problem with my head (yes, obvious joke here) and also one Breast MRI before I had my mastectomies. Depending on the facility, they have different ways of administering it. First of all, it is LOUD! After you are set up on the table, you are sent into a tube, kind of space age feeling. Note to some: Yes it can feel like a coffin so see if you need one if it can be an open MRI. I like the one at Abington Hospital because they give you special headphones that are metal-free and you can request your kind of music or radio station. They have no metal otherwise the magnets in the machine would pull them off of your head!

So after the diagnostics are complete and then reviewed we will go from there. No use worrying over what will be until after they take an informed look at my back. Of course, who knows when any of it will be since the doctor's office has to get a pre-certification first! Good thing the health care system has not changed yet or I would up the river without a paddle, and you know the name of that creek I am riding on with my lousy luck!

Off to bed with my nightly regimen of OTC pain killers. I think tonight's DVD will be "The Thin Man" starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. I really enjoy this series and we have all six movies. The two actors play so well together and though the dialogue is not like a murder mystery of today and it lacks the contemporary forensics, it is a wonderfully clean, family friendly romantic comedy. Larry had no idea I even knew who the actors were let alone a huge fan of Nora and Nick Charles, the main characters. I was thrilled to know he was too! So, we will snuggle up with an old favorite tonight and see what is on tomorrow's line-up!

Enjoy your week, your family and try to laugh at life!
Love and hugs,

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Happy Birthday James and Kayla!

We gathered at Jennifer and Tom's house for a kids' birthday party.  They had a very cute petting zoo  there.  I have to tell you, I was expecting poop all over and a big stinky mess.  I was wrong!  The owner followed followed all the sheep, goats and the one llama around with a brush and bucket.  No smell!  Tom shouldn't have bothered to mow the lawn since the goats and sheep were busy eating when the kids ran out of Cheerios to feed them.

Here are the photos in a slide show!

Love and hugs,

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Spotlight on Small Business, Faith and Hope Boutique

Having been part of a family business for over 20 years, I would like to take the time on my personal blog to shine a spotlight on samll businesses, especially one that supports the cancer survivor/previvor community.

This blog is focused today on Faith and Hope Boutique, located in both Abington and Philadelphia, PA.  When I was going through my upheavals in my BRCA journey, I ended up losing my left implant following my Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy (PBM) due to very bad staph infections.  I was a mess emotionally because of the way I looked with a skin flap on the one side just hanging there.  I had heard about Faith and Hope Boutique  through my plastic surgeon, Dr. Brian Buinewicz (  He suggested I visit and see what they can help with to even out the sides.  Never having been one to wallow much, I visitied my mom and she encouraged me to go over there since the store was around the corner.

I met Jeanette first, she is pictured on the left.  She heard my long, sad and involved story.  Turns out that she and her sister, Bonnie, also had the same PBM and used Dr. B!  During Jeanette's chemotherapy and after their surgeries, neither one of them could find a store that sold the camisoles and bras needed post-surgically.  Jeanette also wanted to find nice looking hats, pretty and stylish scarves and wigs when she was also under-going chemotherapy.  So, the idea for Faith and Hope Boutique was born!  They opened the Abington store in October, 2007.  Soon afterward, an opportunity arose to open another branch located at the University of Pennsylvania.  They alternate who tends after which store.  Everything they have is there to help cancer survivors of all types.  Since Jeanette is a survivor of breast cancer(4 years now) she is very aware of what a survivor is looking for in supplies.  Bonnie, a previvor, underwent the PBM at the same time as her sister to be a support of one another.

To quote the ladies, who care about their community as well:  "Our mission is to enhance the lives of women affected by breast cancer from diagnosis, throughout their treatment and living well - beyond!  Faith & Hope Boutique is a one of a kind shop, reaching out to Survivors & Friends who are transformed, but not defined by the disease." 

Speaking for myself, I was treated with care and compassion.  When I got my mastectomy bra and fitted with a fiber-fill prosthetic, I cried and so did Jeanette.  According to Bonnie, the crying happens all the time.  You feel transformed into a swan from an ugly duckling.  I felt "normal" again, like a woman. 
The tears were happy ones as well as relief.  As I got my fills on the left side with the tissue expander, I took out pieces of the fiberfill so the tow sides were even.  I have been back for post-surgical bras that fit without irritating areas where scar tissue has formed.  I have bought survivor-themed jewelry, car magnets, hats, scarves and clothing! 

AND NOW THEY ARE ACCEPTING MEDICARE and can direct bill for their patients!  What this means is that they are slowly getting approved with other Insurers too so they can direct bill for bras and prosthetics which are considered durable medical supplies.

There have been other friends of mine who have had other cancers other than breast cancer.  I had a gift basket made up and sent to one of my former college friends when she was undergoing her chemo.  The Internet site they have displays more of the popular items they carry.  I still use the Lindy skin care products that have a good SPF content since I am at a higher risk for melanoma due to being BRCA2+.

Both ladies are also very involved in their community.  Jeanette and Bonnie both help with Young Survivors Coaltion of Greater Philadelphia ( and host an annual "Courage Night" in October.  Jeanette also runs the YSC support group at Gilda's Club in Warminster (  Bonnie is very active in the Philadelphia Outreach chapter of FORCE (  The Abington store also hosts a Book Club the 2nd Thursday of every month.  You can also follow them on Facebook, Faith and Hope Boutique!  All of these venues have given me a chance to meet new friends and help where I can too.

Please visit either in person or online.  The two locations are staffed by survivors and previvors who have gone through the experiences and help those in need.
Abington location:
1915 Guernsey Ave.
Abington, PA 19001
215-885-1143  Hours: closed Monday, Tues-Fri 10-6, Sat 10-3

U of P location:
Perelman Center @UPHS
3400 Civic Center Blvd.
1st Floor, suite #1-680
Philadelphia, PA 19104
215-615-3321  Hours: Mon-Fri 10-4

And of course 24/7 on the web at

If you know of a family-owned small business you would like to see spotlighted, please forward me the information!

Love and hugs,

"The Big C": A Drop of Humor?

I just saw a preview for a new series on Showtime.  It is called "The Big C" and stars two of my favorite actors, Laura Linney and Oliver Platt.  This is the link to see a short preview so you can judge for yourself.

I am not entirely sure how the cancer survivors out there are going to view this.  Anything expressed remember, comes from my own opinion, no facts unless I can back them up are being stated.  As a previvor, one who has a hereditary or genetic predisposition for cancer but has not been diagnosed with cancer (see FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, I can see many issues evolving. 

There are many schools of thought and I have a toe skimming in many of them.  I agree that Life is not all seriousness and we need to add a dollop of humor in order to be able to get through Life less scathed.  Gilda Radner once said that Cancer does not like to laughed at, I am paraphrasing.  I have heard stories of cancer patients who would rent the Three Stooges Colection of movies and sit and watch and laugh.  In my father's case, he and Mom used to watch Abbott and Costello films at every chance they had.  Laughter is the best medicine so they say.  The truth really is that it only takes 2 muscles to smile and many, many more to frown.  So maybe laughter will not cure cancer but it makes it a bit easier to get through it.  Anyone who saw the movie, The Bucket List, can remember the bittersweet laughter shared by the two main characters.  My own reaction to ANY kind of stress or sticky situation  is to tell a joke or make people laugh.  I may interject humor too much but I would rather be distracted in that way.

Humor can definitely break the ice.  My uncle always started a speech before a group with a joke relevant to his subject and the audience.  But what about cancer is funny?  The other view, not really against humor, can be seen as more serious rather than being negative.  The treatments, procedures, decisions, plans and sacrifices are certainly not to be taken lightly.  Too many lives will be touched.  The world's view of a cancer patient has changed but laughter is not always associated with them.  More often fear, anger and pity are the feelings present.  Not to make light or even be sarcastic about a patient's feelings regarding their disease, but the family and friends surrounding them tend to be cautious at times, not knowing what the reaction will be until that first time they encounter the situation.  I was witness to my father's cancer journey.  Maybe today with the dose-dense treatments, he would have survived.  One cannot use 20/20 hindsight with the past like that.  So what does one do when faced with a diagnosis of cancer?

It is a very personal choice on how that patient decides to live their life.  Over the years, I have been fortunate to know many warriors and glad to say a huge number of survivors.  Some stay in denial a long time.  There are those that plan every single minute they have to either live the fullest or make sure all is in order "in case" they don't survive.  We also have patients who take it in stride and resolve to not let cancer get the best of them.  Are any of the choices right or wrong?  Who is the judge on that?  Who even has the right to presume the answer lies elsewhere for that patient?  The answer lies with each individual heart.  I marvel at the woman who sits stoically through chemo treatments right next to the one whose friends have shown up to give her a makeover while being infused.  The dichotomy happens all the time.  Each patient's personality is the key to how they handle their situation.  As a previvor, I think we go through similar though not entirely the same reactions. 

OK, so what about the TV series?  I will wait until it comes out on Showtime to make up my mind.  I am hoping it will treat cancer with the respect, fear and courage it deserves.  Yes cancer does derserve all of this.  If not, it can take over your life and love.  Cancer can demolish it.  But only if you let it.  That was how my Dad fought against Cancer.  If I ever am diagnosed, I will be just like my Daddy, face it and deal with it every day and take it in stride.  And in my opnion, the best way to prevent that from happening is to laugh.  Laugh so hard that it hurts the sides of your face.  So very hard you have to do the squeeze your legs crab walk to the bathroom to avoid an accident.  Laugh until you cry.  Then have a good cry and put in your favorite comedy, cuddle up with your family and friends and start the laughter all over again.

Love and hugs gang,

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

All in Moderation? The 12 Step (C) Guide to Social Networks!

There are times I feel like I have another addiction!  I know I am addicted to food, I even attended Overeaters Anonymous meetings and was once successful in losing weight.  They took the basic 12 Step Guide from Alcohilics Anonymous and replaced the word "alcohol" with the word "food".  The same priciples were involved with sponsors and coming to meetings and following the 12 Steps.  Now once a person is addicted to alcohol and they abstain they can take up an addiction to replace it, like smoking or chewing gum or gambling or sex.  You get the idea.  Someone powerless over food hasn't too many choices.  After all, you need food to survive, just not as much as you were eating. 

And following on this premise, I believe I have now replaced eating with the Internet.  Specifically, Facebook.  Oh, I started out very lightly.  I joined some non-profit organizations like FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered ( in order to better understand my BRCA2 genetic mutation.  It is still a place I visit at least once a day to make sure I still have a soft place to land.  Or to be there to give back to the people who helped me with support, information and unconditional love.  There are newbies all the time who need questions answered and you never know when you will be able to help a fellow "previvor" (n. ...a person who does not have cancer yet, but is at a higher, elevated risk to get cancer. Previvors are demonstrated in those women and men who test positive for the BRCA gene mutation.  Via Webster's Dictionary).

There were a few of those.  Then, I graduated into something more.  A place that is not so private.  I found MySpace and thought it was great since I got to reconnect with former classmates and friends I had made along the way.  I had a chance to keep in touch with family who lived both near and far.  I heard my stepson's new songs he posted on his "page" under the musicians' section.  But it was just not satisfying.  There were too many creeps and scams and too many young people.

I heard about a new place.  A place where so many connections can be made that pretty soon, I was anouncing my 100th friend, then my 500th!  The place of course is Facebook.  It is littered with the same snags as MySpace.  The phishing scams are easy to detect.  For example, the group that promises to give you first crack at a bigger barn for Farmville, a new Apple IPad, more money, more sex, less fat, more jobs, and the like.  Facebook allowed communication with the world in a different way.  I was still helping FORCE by promoting our local Philadelphia Outreach Group.  I posted about a friend's book that was instrumental in affirming my decision to have my prophylactic surgeries (more on that in a future blog).  Another friend has set up a Memorial Site for her daughter's late father.  There is a store owned by 2 sisters and I help with to increasing their customer base by reaching out to survivors whom then they help with their products and services.   The list goes on.

So, since I am AGAIN unemployed and spend so much with an Internet connection open, what does is hurt to have a tab with Facebook up?  None that I can see.  I have over 800 friends.  And believe it or not, there is some little tidbit I can tell you about each one of them.  Just keeping up with the birthdays is maddening enough!  I am able to reconnect with people I lost touch with on the past 30 or so intervening years.  Even going back as far as elementary school!  At least half a dozen people circa 1971 with whom I have connected.  If I kept my time limited on good ole "FB", as some of us call it, I think my family could accept that.  I do get into some complicated Instant Messaging (IM) almost every day.  Tonight was no exception!

However!  I got invloved in the online gaming on FB.  At one time I was playing more than 20 games!  Way too many.  I was staying up until 2 AM or later.  The first thing I did bleary-eyed and all was check my games.  The last thing at night.  Whenever I had free time and being unemployed there is a lot of that.  I reasoned it away by telling myself it was not costing any money. I was being entertained very cheaply.  When I played word games I was expanding my mind (but only when I actaully looked up a word's meaning).  It was so bad, I was checking in on my mobile phone too!  Reality was a distant buzz when I weakened and "bought" FB credits via my mobile phone account.  That was my epiphany.

Now I was reassessing my committment to games.  I weeded out what I was not really playing.  I culled the ones that I felt were not exciting enough.  Like these games were the end all of my life!  Well, almost at one point.  Seriously!  I have now narrowed iut down to one word game and four interactive games.  It is now manageable.  But in the meantime it is not joke to say I was addicted.  Here is my version of the 12 step guide for FB with aplogies to Bill W. and AA:

1. We admitted we were powerless over Facebook—that our lives had become totally involved with FB morning, noon and night.

2. Came to believe that the Internet has become greater than ourselves and we need to restore ourselves to

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
    (Not much to change here....go with the Basics I say)

4. Made a searching and fearless inventory of what is the bare minimum to play.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to our friends on FB the games we deleted and what we kept.

6. Were entirely ready to block applications whenever necessary.

7. Humbly asked our friends not to send requests and removed our method of payment we used to buy credits or game dollars.

8. Made a list of all persons we had made neighbors and became willing to let them play without us and asked their forgiveness.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would prevent them from getting to the next level up.

10. Continued to cull more games every day and not start new ones.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
      (Again, no changes, just the Basics again)

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to friends and fellow gamers, and to practice these principles in all our postson our wall and our profile.

And now, to play with the 3D people in the real world!

Love and hugs,

Baseball Begins!

Nothing signals Spring more than the blossoms of Daffodils and Hyacinths, reappearrance of the birds and BASEBALL!  I always loved baseball, ever since a little girl of about 6 or 7.  In those days, I was more than the only child, I was the only girl on either side of my family.  My father lived and breathed baseball from April through (back then) September.  He had a collection of baseball cards that he culled through every weekend if not more often.  At that time, he was really playing a not-yet-discovered game, Fantasy Baseball.  Daddy created his own teams and lineups and had a season games played.  Don't know if he kept stats on that but I would not be surprised as numbers were another love of his life being an accountant by trade.

Speaking of baseball cards, how many of you out there who are my generation or older, have heard the stories of the card collections tossed out in the garbage containing a Ty Cobb or rookie card of then unknown Richie "Whitey" Ashburn?  My dad had one of those!  He gave up collecting until my mom was teaching elementary school and she confiscated some baseball cards from a student and brought them home to Daddy.  That started his collecting Phase II!  Much to her chagrin, a consuming passion was reignited and happily kept Daddy occupied for hours a week, all year 'round!

So, who is this beauty in the photo below?  It is my hsuband Larry's great-niece.  Her mom, Jeanine, is Larry's goddaughter so Hailey is very special to them and to us.  She is sporting her Phils jacket and though she lives in a rival team's backyard, they are all loyal Philadelphia fans on football and especially baseball.  Larry's father, Jeanine's grandfather, was a baseball fanatic too.  He was once considered for a minor league position at one time.  Due to a physical disability with his hands, he could not play professional ball.  Though disappointing, his love for the sport never flagged.  He passed on the love of the game to Jeanine the same as my dad did for me. 

We compared notes one time.  As young girls, we learned how to keep a box score.  We learned the meaning of "Tinkers to Evers to Chance", a classic double-play.  The lineup every year got committed to memory along with the numbers on their jerseys.

My Dad, Larry and his father all remember the old stadium, Sheib Park and later, Connie Mac Stadium and the Philadelphia Athletics when the city sported two professional baseball teams.  As a matter of fact, Larry grew up in North Philadelphia, literally a couple blocks away from the old park.  I remember going up to Cooperstown, NY to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  One of the exhibits was a group of seats from the older and now defunct balparks.  I took a photo for posterity.  Several years before, my father and brother had stopped there to see the Museum.  I can almost imagine him sitting in one of the seats, he and his brother waiting for their chance to sneak down to be nearer the playing field.

I grew up viewing baseball at Veterans Stadium, home of the Phillies and the Eagles.  Now we have Citizens Bank Park.  It is supposed to be more like the way the original parks used to be:  natural grass field, closer to the fans and exclusively for BASEBALL!  Yes, it is a wonderful park.  I cannot help but wonder how my dad would feel about today's players, teams and the ever-lengthening season.  He would still be listening on the radio and watching on TV, keeping box scores, collecting cards and thoroughly enjoying Spring!

This is one ritual we always kept an eye out for on TV.  Now on DVD and in our collection at home, we pop it in right before the first Phillies televised home game!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Looking Ahead

Both Larry and I as well as so many Stephanie Meyer fans are greatly anticipating this novella.  I just reread "Eclipse" in preparation for the upoming movie release.  Though we have been watching the DVD of "New Moon" in tandem with the on-demand presentation of "Twilight", this character in the 3rd book of the series seems to beg a more in-depth book.

J. K. Rowling tried to publish beyond the "Potter" series with her book of "Beadle the Bard" and only die-hard fans probably bought it.  But this series taps into the heart of so many with real-life questions as to the existence of werewolves and vampires.  And also that they could be roaming here in the US under our noses.  It so makes sense! 

And all of this was written by Meyer because of a dream she had!  Well, next time a nightmare wakes me up, I am prepared with pencil and paper!  Who knows?  Maybe my name will be right up along with other contemporary writers.  I have high hopes!

Friday, April 2, 2010

It Has Been a Busy Month!

We all recovered from the bad Winter Snows.  Fortunately, we made the right move and had two dead trees removed along with some shrubbery.  Had they been left, we would have had damaged shrubs from the heavy snows and probably a tree coming down into our bedroom!  I am surprised we had good timing.  Like with the Stock Market plummit, I had cashed in on them literally weeks before they devalued.  I used it to pay off some large debts and help get our credit out of the depths of the deep, dark and murky waters of Experion!

Good news that I had gotten a new job in January that was an hourly wage plus commission.  Bad news is that we will officially be laid off as of March 28th.  So I am updating my resume and all of the job sites on the Internet.  I have lost count of how many times I have applied for manager, account representative, customer service supervisor, etc.  Anything that sounds like I am familiar with the field they reside in.  I even applied to markets I would never even think of like automotive, electronics and, one of my favortites, fashion.  One funny note:  I applied to my ex-husband's company which had fired him a couple of years ago.  Seems he had been there for so many years but his salary was not proportionate to his tenure with them.  Forget the fact that he really doesn't win friends or influence enemies and can test the patience of Job.  Never that he offends people right and left and is disrespectful of both employee and vendor alike.  Well, at least he doesn't discriminate.  So he hired a LAWYER!  Yes!  And next thing you know, within two weeks he was let go.  What a surprise!  But wouldn't it be hoot if they hired me?  And in the same department he was fired from?  I am glad the last name Cohen is pretty common and hopefully the HR person won't put it together in their minds.  Working in Center City night be nice for a change.

Anyway, dear Reader, if there are more than one of you out there, I am keeping busy in my own little way.  Knitting, crocheting, scrapbookking (vacation WAS 3 months ago) and generally trying to stay out of trouble.  That translates to not shopping for extranneous goods and resisting the temptation to eat my way out of a depression!  I am going to make a vow here and now:  I intend to drop at least 10 pounds by the end of April.  Since it is already the 2nd, I am not pulling a prank.  I will cut portions, eat healthier and get more exercise.  I will not throw myself into so that I am sure to fail.  And I don't think easing into this will make me a wimp.  No drugs to help just me trying to get rid of this fat!  I don't want to be an obese person anymore. 

I forced myself to watch a show on Discovery Health Channel called "One Ton Mom".  This poor sould was 29 years old and weighed almost 1000 pounds.  I was shocked.  Do you know how much you have to eat just maintain that weight not to mention slather on more?  It shocked me into action.  I had that AH HA moment I have heard about.  If I may get prosaic, an epiphany.  Really.  So, no jelly beans at Easter, even with the excuse of it being for the grandkids.  No Matzah either since I can go through half a pound in one sitting with butter spread over it.  Just pure carbs and not very good ones either.  I am cutting out the bread in leavened or unleavened form.

So, as of tonight, I am greedily watching my son eat half a chocolate donut, yeah where is his religious conviction.  But I sit here on the laptop with diet soda in my cup.  All right, I hear you and will switch to water after this one.  But I must say, this blog will help in a cathartic way and I can vent to the Internet and won't worry I am being whiny!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A not so typical weekend

Here we sit, snug and warm, survivors of the "Snowmaggedon" of 2010.  I just got back from Wally World and picked up supplies for a weekend with our grandkids.  I bought a new game which we can also use for Game Night with the adults too.  Picked up the requisite ice cream and soda flavors which were on sale thank goodness!  Stouffer's Lasagna, garlic bread and salad for dinner.  I also got bread, eggs and sausage for French Toast tomorrow.  Michael and Donna might join us around noon time before they take Jake and Jessie home.

I love having the kids over.  I love the fact that they are comfortable enough to be with us, sometimes more than just overnight.  I am hoping we can take a week down the Jersey Shore with them and the rest of the family.  All depends on whether or not we can get a place for only a week!  Used to be what we paid for a month at the shore is what we pay now for 7 days!  But due to the recession, it may be easier to find a place for a short period of time.

So, I shoved the frozen dinner in the oven, placed my thoughts into cyber space and will take to my room to read until they arrive.  I deserve a wee bit of "me" time!