My Little Bs Have the Big C

A Breast Cancer Blog For Young Women


I Have Always Been Aware


Me on the left, next to my grandmother, my brother, Jesse on the right and my cousin in the front.

I honestly can’t remember a time that I didn’t know about breast cancer.  Along with the Holocaust stories my grandmother would share with me, crying in anger for what she had experienced, she would also cry about losing her breast to cancer.  She often complained about the pain she was in and how uncomfortable her prosthetics were.  I remember seeing her body, one breast completely mangled, missing, concave.

Breast cancer is something that’s inherited in my family.  Some families get long legs, blue eyes, dimples.  We get breast cancer.

I always knew that breast cancer was going to happen to me but I planned out the way it was going to happen.  I’d be in my 60s.  I would have been getting yearly mammograms for 20 years at that point so, when we caught it, it would be very early stage.  Treatment would be minimal.  I would be praised by doctors for being so diligent about my care.  They’d wish that there were more patients like me.

I never expected to avoid the cancer.  I just never imagined, in a million years, that it would happen to me in my 30s and that it’s effects would be so life altering.

This is one reason why breast cancer awareness month is so hard for me.  Because I was so aware of the fact that it would happen to me and even though I was more aware than most thirty something year olds, it didn’t make a difference.  I still needed to lose my breast.  I still needed chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy.

I think we should completely do away with Breast Cancer Awareness Month and replace it with Breast Cancer Advocacy Month.  It should be a month where doctors and nurses go into underserved communities to provide free care to all women.  It should be a month where congress hears the pleas and needs of my metastatic sisters.  It should be a time when the whole breast cancer community comes together; patients, doctors, researchers, etc…to discuss what we need to move forward.  It should be a time when awareness looks like real statistics and information for men and women rather than cutesy slogans, pink products and images that sexualize and demean our disease.

Awareness only gets you so far.  It helps us to be curious and, hopefully, diligent about our bodies and care.  But that’s it.  And that’s not enough.  I am proof that it’s not enough.



The Grass Is Always Greener

I had another pouty session for myself recently.  I got the results of my blood test back from my oncologist and, for right now, they are reading as post-menopausal.  When your cancer is ER+, this is the news you want to hear.  You want your body to be making as little estrogen as possible.  I have be purposefully and likely permanently put into menopause.  While I suppose this is good news, I’m really very depressed by it.  I never minded getting my period that much.  It’s not like I liked it or anything (I had terrible cramps and crazy mood swings) but getting it every month let me know that my body was still working and healthy.  It was something I could count on.  I knew exactly when it was coming (often down to the hour) and it made me feel like a woman.

I haven’t gotten my period in nearly two years.  Sometimes I mention this and a woman’s first response is “Oh, that’s so awesome!!!!”  I can see why one would say that.  But the loss of my period is directly linked to my loss of femininity.  Not only is that thing that made me a woman, that I could count on every month, gone, but so is my ability to have more children.  And that just fucking sucks.

Sometimes I forget that, in reality, I’m really very lucky.  Yes, cancer was shit and it’s the gift that keeps on giving but, I’m here and, at least for now, I’m not going anywhere.  While I complain about being forced into menopause, I know that there are many women who wish they could be on medications like Tamoxifen or Zoladex (which I’m off of right now) to keep cancer at bay.  Women who are triple negative or diagnosed stage IV.  But sometimes I think about the women who are not ER+, (who would give their right leg to be on this medication) and think, well, at least they have a shot of having a baby (if chemo didn’t force them into menopause).  It’s stupid.  It’s insensitive.  But it’s how I think sometimes.

Sometimes the grass seems greener on the other side.


But knowing that in many ways I have it good, I don’t want to forget that this can change tomorrow.  My luck could run out and I might wish for the days of hot flashes and infertility being my biggest worry.  I know that at any time I could become one of the 30%.

So, to continue with this October breast cancer month thing that we’re in, I want to highlight a couple of organizations that are working on a cure for the only breast cancer that kills, stage IV.  While all breast cancer sucks and the treatments for it have the most awful effects, there is no cure for stage IV, only treatment and management.  This needs to change.  Like, yesterday!!!!!!  These organizations are fighting the good fight and are dedicated completely to finding a cure.  There are no fancy advertisements.  No pink boas or ribbons.  Just research, research, research.  If you have some money that you have been aching to donate, I urge you to consider donating to METavivor and Metup.

Here’s METavivor’s mission.

METAvivor is dedicated to the specific fight of women and men living with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. At the time of METAvivor’s founding, no organization was dedicated to funding research for the disease and no patient groups were speaking out about the dearth of stage 4 cancer research.  While more and more people have taken up the cry for more stage 4 research, METAvivor remains the sole US organization dedicated to awarding annual stage 4 breast cancer research.

Here’s Metup’s Mission

MET UP is committed to changing the landscape of metastatic cancer through direct action. We protest and demonstrate; we meet with government and health officials and researchers; we support research into metastatic disease; and we speak out against the sexualizing of breast cancer. We are convinced that the deaths of women and men from metastatic breast cancer are a paramount issue, and we pledge ourselves to oppose all who deny the reality of the 522,000 people who will die from metastatic breast cancer globally every year while waiting for a cure to be found.



Don’t Put Your Money Where Your Boob Is



Grumble, grumble.


Stomp foot.

It’s that time of year again.  October.  Pinktober.  The time of year that America and the world is supposed to “celebrate” breast cancer, bring awareness to the disease and get every woman to touch their boobs.  And, while we’re at it, buy a few pink things to support the cause.

But do me a favor.  Do not buy a pink toaster, kitchen aid, pen, purse, drink, lipstick, donut or bagel for me.  Do not buy a pink bra, t-shirt, socks, boa or scarf to show your support.  Please, do not buy a pink car, bucket of fried chicken, gun (yes, there are pink guns people!!!!), perfume, football, stiletto or nail polish because you think it’s helping.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s probably not.

I know you are buying these things because you are a good person and you are trying to help and why not get something cute you can show off while you’re at it?  I get it.  I do!  You’re heart is in the right place.  But when you buy these things, you need to ask, “where is this money really going and how much of it is spent on research?”  Breast Cancer Action has four questions you should be asking and they are good ones.  So if you really want that pink thing you found at your local shop, take a look at these questions to ask first.

  • Does any money from this program go to breast cancer products?  How much?
  • What organization will get the money?  What will they do with the funds?  How do these programs turn the tide of the breast cancer epidemic?
  • Is there a “cap” on the amount of money you will donate?  Has this amount already been met?
  • Does this purchase put you or someone you know at risk to toxins linked to breast cancer?

If after asking all of these questions you still want to buy something “pink” because of how it makes you feel, go for it.  At least you’ve done your research.  But I urge you to also donate directly to organizations that are working to cure metastatic breast cancer or that are providing essential services to those who are going through treatment or have finished active treatment.  Which ones, you ask?  Well, there are a lot and my goal is to feature as many of them as possible in the month of October.

In this post, I’d like to feature organizations that I have personally used that I am eternally grateful for.  They are not researchers.  They are not going to cure the disease.  But they make living with breast cancer a little more tolerable.  I hope that you can give any amount to their cause because they have helped so many women like myself.  What they do is nothing short of extraordinary.

5 Under 40 Foundation

Mission: To provide medical, wellness and beauty services to women under the age of 40 who have been diagnosed with breast cancer or have tested positive for a BRCA gene mutation. We focus on a woman’s whole being in order to empower, foster hope and improve the quality of life for women in the face of this disease.

The organization was started by Jennifer Finkelstein, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 32, 2 months before her wedding day.  The organization focuses on working with women who were diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 40 or have test positive for the BRCA gene mutation.  The money they receive goes toward services like medical (mammograms, lymphedema support, nipple tattoos, medical massage therapy), wellness (personal training, yoga, nutrition) and beauty (quality wigs, makeup, scarves).  The organization also holds support groups with leaders in the field such as nutritionists, oncologists, makeup artists, lymphedema specialists and more.

5 Under 40 helped to fund my very expensive lymphedema therapy and I have been to countless support group sessions.  I find the services they provide invaluable and have seen first hand the impact they have had on dozens of young women.  Please donate!!!!


Hair We Share

Mission:  “To help maintain the dignity, confidence and self-esteem of those affected by medical hair loss.”

Hair We Share makes custom wigs for men, women and children who suffer from medical hair loss.  This can be from cancer treatment, for alopecia or due to a trauma.  The organization relies solely on hair  and monetary donations.

Hair we Share generously donated a wig for me and I was ever so grateful.  Please consider making a donation in any dollar amount that you can afford.  Or, if you are considering donating your hair, this would be a great organization to consider.


Hidden Warriors

Hidden Warriors mission has many levels and goals that I invite you to read here but it’s main goal is to use costume and makeup role play as a way to empower women who have undergone cancer treatment.  Women dress up as “warriors” with over the top head pieces, costumes, fantasy makeup and then do a photo shoot while holding a power pose and listening to music that the warrior finds empowering.

I participated in their workshop last winter and it was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in a long time.  What they do is truly unique and the director is passionate about empowering women to find the warriors within themselves as a way to help fight the disease and live a more positive lifestyle after treatment (or during treatment).

They are trying to do as many of these workshops as possible but need donations to make it happen.  If you would like to donate, your money would be going to a worthwhile cause.


What organizations have helped you through the cancer process?  Please comment below.


My Name is, No

noBreast cancer took so much from me; my breast, my self-confidence, my health, my comfort, my feeling of safety and more.  But one thing I decided I wasn’t going to let it take from me is my professional credibility.  I pushed through the terrors of side effects from chemo and radiation and continued working throughout.  I wrote periodic emails to employers letting them know how well I was doing and that I would happily accept any work that they through my way (with some restrictions, of course).  I didn’t want people to see me as sick or incapable.  I had worked so hard to make a good name for myself, I didn’t want all of that work to go to waste because of cancer.

For the last two years, I said yes to as much work as possible.  In a way, I hid from my cancer at work.  At work, I was so focused on my participants and students that I forgot about cancer.  At a time when I cried every day for fear of recurrence or because I was mourning my past pre-cancer life, work was a respite from my emotions and fears.  It worked for a while but by the end of June this year, I started to burn out.  I started procrastinating (more than usual) and didn’t want to do my lesson plans or prep work.  I dreaded going in each day if I wasn’t fully prepared.  I tried to find short cuts.

This is not me.  I am an over-achiever.  An A+ students.  I don’t do things half way.  I knew something had to change.

This summer, I planned on all of the things I was going to do for myself; see shows, movies, go to museums, take up the cello again…  But work took up more time than I anticipated.  The time I was going to take for myself was spent in preparation for working with very new immigrants.  The work was great, fulfilling.  I am proud of the work that I did with them.  I made a difference in their lives and learning.  But, I didn’t do the things that I said I’d do for myself.  There was no self-care.

As soon as I finished this job, the offers for fall work started coming in and it seemed that they wanted answers fast.  My heart started racing.  I felt panicked.  I chose to take some time for myself, go on vacation with my family, turn on my away message and meditate on what it was that I really wanted for myself.

Ah, there’s the problem.  What I really want for myself.

You see, I’m a people pleaser.  I want people to be my best friend, to see me as important, invaluable, easy to work with.  If it will make someone else happy or make their life or job easier, I will say yes even if it doesn’t bring me joy.  That’s how I roll.  That’s my mojo.

But as I approach 40 and after having endured cancer and raising a child, I’m starting to look at my life and wonder, what have I done for me lately?  What am I doing that feeds me, that challenges me, that makes me happy, that teaches me?  And the answer is, not a whole lot.

I love my work.  I mean, I LOVE MY WORK!  I don’t want to start hating it but if I keep saying yes to the kinds of work that don’t bring me joy just to get the paycheck, to make my employer happy, to work with a difficult group that no one else will work with even if it makes me miserable…that’s it.  I’ll burn out completely.  And then what?

So, I’ve made a big decision.  This really is huge for me.  I have decided that this year is going to be the year of “no.”  It makes me anxious just to write it hear but I feel like I need to learn how to start saying it.

Already this year, I’ve said, “no” to going back to a school where I was undervalued.  I’ve said no to work that was too far away from home.  I’ve said no to working with new organizations so I wouldn’t spread myself too thin (this was a hard one for me).  These “no’s” have been terrifying for me but I always hear about people saying no to things that don’t fulfill them and then, suddenly, they leave room for all of the opportunities that bring them joy.  That’s what I want for myself.

So, when I say that this is the year of “no,” what I’m trying to say is that I want to say yes to myself.  I want to leave room in my life for new experiences, to master a new skill, to take in some art, to make my health a priority, to be home to give my son dinner every night, to have some time for myself and to start serious work on my passion project (have you seen the post below and filled out the survey?).

Saying no to others will never be easy for me.  It just won’t.  I’m always afraid I will burn a bridge.  But I need to start doing it.  I need to grow.  I need to shape this “new normal.”  I hate thinking about that but I’m done fighting for the person I used to be.  She’s gone.  And as I shape my new self and my new life, I want it filled with joy.

I read this great article about the power of no.  Have you read it?

I found a bunch of memes and quotes and I couldn’t choose just one.  Sorry.  No, I’m not.  I love them!



Passion Project

You know that I would never say that cancer was a gift.  You know I would be caught dead even thinking that good things (besides you guys of course) can come from cancer.  Never, never, never, never, never!  I never understood that point of view and while I respect it, I don’t connect with it.  When I think of the good things in my life, I think that they happened in spite of cancer, not because of it.  I don’t give cancer credit for anything except for all of the pain it has caused me, my family and friends.  This doesn’t mean that I can’t let my experience with cancer inspire me to do some good in the world.

Many of you may know this about me (some of you might not) but my passion in life is the intersection of theatre and storytelling.  I love hearing a good story.  If I could just talk to people all day and hear about their lives, I’d be happy.  If I could turn their stories into a piece of theatre, I’d be living my passion.

This summer, when I took my long blogging break, I wasn’t just on vacation.  I took a week long intensive where I immersed myself in interview based/documentary theatre with the Ping Chong + Company.  Ping Chong’s mission is to produce “theatrical works addressing the important cultural and civic issues of our times, striving to reach the widest audiences with the greatest level of artistic innovation and social integrity.”  These can be done by using oral history projects or fuller scale, multidisciplinary productions.  For me, oral history is where it’s at, and I learned how to interview individuals and turn their stories into theatre using his particular technique while infusing my own.

The goal of this is an idea that’s been brewing in my mind for a very long time and that I have finally started to pursue.  I would like to create a theatrical piece (this can mean many things and look different ways) based on stories told by breast cancer survivors, caregivers, doctors, nurses, administrators, researchers, etc…  If there is anything that I have learned from blogging and from reading everything that you all write, it’s that we all have powerful stories to tell.  We are a community of strong women and men who share a common experience.  And while we share a cancer diagnosis, the way we experience it, the way our families experience it, our treatment, our survivorship, our faith, our outlook are all unique.  This has caused men and women our community to form close bonds.  It has also caused tension and disagreement.

I believe that everyone’s story has worth and that if we listen to each other use theatre as a way to put ourselves in other people’s shoes, we can strengthen our community, learn from each other, gain a deeper understanding of the uniqueness of a common experience and develop a great sense of empathy for everyone who is in the breast cancer world.

Where am I with all of this?  I’m at the very beginning.  This blog post here is the first step I am taking into making this idea become a reality.

I have a seven year plan that I worked out with my therapist.

  1. Within the next few months, I am organizing myself.  I am going to take classes in grant writing and looking for funding for this project.  I’m going to try to become more computer savvy so I can organize my notes better.  I want to find out and speak to people who may have done similar work.  I want to start getting questions together for a first step interviewing process.
  2. The two year plan is to have my first production with men and women affected by breast cancer.  This included survivors, caregivers, widows and widowers, doctors, nurses, administrators, researchers, etc…  A production can be a reading for a small group of friends or can be a mounted theatrical piece where a wider audience is invited.
  3. The five-seven year plan is that this work continues and evolves.  I would like it to tour hospitals around the country and around the world.  I would also like to do workshops where men and women who would like to participate can tell there story.

This is where I’m at right now.  Of course, things can change a bit but I’m excited to get the first step started.  So this is where you all come in.  I would love it if you answered these questions.

1. If someone asked you to participate in a project of this kind, why would you or why would you not want to participate (participation can look like sharing your story in an interview only, sharing your story in a group setting using theatrical techniques or sharing your story in a group setting with the intent of creating a theatrical sharing or performance)?

2. Do you know of anyone who has done a similar project (theatre, art, photography, dance, etc…) that you think would be willing to speak to me about their experience?

3. If you were to see a show about breast cancer what would you like to see or what would you expect to see?

Just three questions for now.  I am also putting these questions in a survey monkey.  Feel free to use that or to comment below if you are more comfortable.  

I am so excited to get started and to hear your thoughts!!!!!




Leave a comment

Goodnight, Sweetheart

Last night was the last time I put Oliver to bed as a baby.  He’s still my baby, of course, but today he started pre-k and will be going to school five days a week from now until….  As I put him to bed, I was aware of all of the changes we are about to experience.  He is going to learn so much and make so many new friends.  Last night I knew that as I took him to school in the morning, I was setting him up for his next stage of independence from me and Ken.  So, I held him a little longer and nuzzled his curls on my nose, as I like to do, long after he fell asleep.  He didn’t want me to sing him songs but, instead, asked nervous questions about his first day.  “What do I do if I don’t understand the teacher?  What do I do if I don’t understand what the teacher tells me to do?  What happens if the teacher sends me home and puts me on the train by myself?”  He was worried.  I calmed his fears and he woke up this morning with a crazy, wild energy and anticipation to see his new school and meet his teachers.

We started off by creating his pre-k poster of some of his favorite things this year.  He was happy to answer all of them.

This is what he looked like last year at the same time.  Can you believe how much he has grown?


The school is really close, less than a mile away and only two stops on the bus!  Ken was working so I had to bring him and a suitcase worth of school supplies with me.  You see the suit case in the picture but not the other bag I had on my shoulder.  So much stuff!

The school, which has over 500 pre-k students this year had the children come in two groups.  We were the afternoon group.  The good thing was that one of Oliver’s best friends was in the afternoon group.  They are in different classes but that didn’t seem to get them down.

Once we got in, we found our classroom.  Oliver has two very sweet teachers.  They had toys set up for the children to play with and Oliver ran over without taking his backpack off and made himself at home.

He was doing so well so I said a quick goodbye.  Funnily enough, I didn’t cry!  That’s so unlike me!  Maybe because I had an hour and a half to myself that I decided to spend with some other parents I knew at a local cafe.  I had the most delicious blueberry/hibiscus iced tea!!!!

When I came to pick Oliver up, his teacher was finishing up a book.  When it was done, the children noticed all of the parents in the room and ran to us.  Class dismissed?  I went to the teacher to thank her and she told me that Oliver made a prediction about the book!  An “A” student on day one!  That’s my boy!!!!!

We left and got lunch with his friend at a local restaurant and then went to a playground to burn some energy.  As we walked home, we stopped at another cafe and Oliver looked at me with those sweet eyes of his and pointed to a pink cupcake.  How can I refuse him on his first day of pre-k?

Today, my baby became a little boy.   He started real school.  He’s just going to keep getting bigger and older.  I can’t even!


Two Year Mastectaversary

It’s hard to believe that two years ago, at this moment, doctors were standing over me and saving my life by amputating my breast.  I still remember the fear I felt that morning like it was yesterday.  It might as well have been yesterday.  But it’s been two whole years and it’s hard to wrap my brain around that.

Even though it’s been two years and I have had my initial DIEP Flap reconstruction, I still have more “tweaking” surgeries to go.  I want my plastic surgeon to fix the shape of my breast.  The symmetry is good and I even think the size but it’s still round and flat instead of cone shaped.  I also have to have nipple put on and I’m trying to decide if I want a realistic nipple tattoo or something a little more artsy and decorative.

So, the journey (I know some of you hate that word, I’m ok with it) is not over.  Far from it.  But look how far I’ve come?

Here is my mastectomy story.

This is why I chose a single over a double mastectomy.

A hospital packing list for your mastectomy.

How long did it take for you to finish all of your reconstruction surgeries?

Did you opt to go for a natural tattoo of the aureola or for something artsy and decorative?  How did you make that decision.