Monthly Archives: March 2011

What is Wrong With America

Need I say more?

First in the back seat of every mini-van driving up to Tahoe (because what kid could possibly just stare out the window and dream), then at the gas pump, then in my local Wells Fargo bank, and now in my bathroom.

True, it’s the Simpsons, but no.  No no no.

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Filed under Stupid things

C4YW Final Thoughts

This blog appeared on the Living Beyond Breast Cancer site today.

 

As with most things, the anxiety around something new never quite plays out and the unexpected benefits delight.  Such was my experience at C4YW this year in Orlando.  Unequivocally, it was a great conference for me to attend.

Why?

These young women were brave.  Honest.  Open.   Grateful.  Healing.  I met women smack in the middle of treatment, who had climbed aboard a plane to come to Orlando, because this conference was that important to them.  They wanted to be surrounded by other young women who understood, and learn about issues that affect them specifically.

They let me into their lives, these women, sharing their stories, the names of their children (sometimes with halting voices and tears), and their worries.  As someone just starting out selling my book, this was as real as it gets.

I was able to press 45 books into the hands of women with children at home, nurses who treat those women, and representatives of cancer support groups and national (and international) organizations who make it their business and passion to help these women.

Being an exhibitor on your own is a vigorous experience. For a total of 19 hours over 3 days, I stood up and talked to those who came by and expressed interest in my book. Gravity takes hold, and my toes, after being embraced by stylish yet slightly unforgiving footwear, swelled like ballpark franks. The second morning, instead of manning my table at an unforgivable 7:30 am until 6 pm (that’s 4:30 am for us west coast bodies!), I opted instead to get some fresh air and a run outside and slide in at 9 am.

I had hoped to go see a few of the speakers. But I learned that an exhibitor is not necessarily a participant, unless you sign up to be a participant.  Now I know.   And second, the exhibit hall, open during almost all the hours of the conference, never really quieted down.  When most participants were in sessions, there were always a few others wandering in there, and that was also the best time to talk with other exhibitors.  As business is about making contacts, this was a priceless opportunity to either meet face-to-face some of the people I’ve been emailing or talking to on the phone, or introduce myself to new organizations.  When things got slow, I introduced myself, handed over a book, and encouraged them to read my work at their leisure.

I was struck by how many of us there on the exhibit side had a cancer diagnosis behind us.  To wit:  Josh at Lymphedivas, whose sister started the company because she couldn’t stand the ugly compression sleeves offered to her.  Danielle and Angelle started Chemo Beanies because these two sisters couldn’t find something stylish and comfortable to wear when they lost their hair. Susan from the BeauBeau started a company to offer fashionable turbans to women with medical hair loss.  Although she came from  a family of women diagnosed with breast cancer, a diagnosis of Alopecia Areata motivated her. Countless non-profit organizations have been started to offer support and advice, from KC at Families Who Support Breast Cancer Survivors to Sarah at Project3One to a metastatic disease group represented by a mom and her young daughter.  Next door to me  Susan mixed personal experience with love and tenderness as she fitted women with a very beautiful (and sexy) double-arm compression garment she found manufactured in Italy.  When I introduced myself to the three ladies at the Anita booth behind me, helping fit beautiful bras and swimsuits for women who have had a mastectomy surgery, I learned that Twila was a 19-year survivor, Merri was closing in on 10 years, and Colleen, diagnosed more recently, was 7 months out.

If any participant wanted to see “life after cancer” in full, glorious view, she had to look no further than the exhibit hall and at the other participants. It pains me that there are so many young women who need a breast cancer related conference, but  there is comfort in  knowing that by offering targeted programming in a supportive environment, people will gratefully gather to see that they are not alone.

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C4YW First Timer

My dad, Jack.

I was asked to write a blog about my attendance at the Conference For Young Women being offered by the Living Beyond Breast Cancer and Young Survival Coalition Groups in Orlando, Florida in February.  This is what I wrote BEFORE I went.  Stay tuned for the follow-up.

A First Timer:  Why I’m Going to Orlando

Cancer scares me.  It probably scares you, too.  We don’t know why it came when it came (in my case at 33), and whether it will ever come back.  I’ve spent 11 years trying to distance myself from this ugly word.  Force it from my consciousness.  Expel it from my daily routine.  Impossible at first, obviously, and ridiculously close for too many years, the sting of the connection between cancer and me has dissolved into the shadows.

So why in the world have I voluntarily plopped myself back into the froth?  Because now that it doesn’t haunt me, I’m compelled to help others wade through it with some grace, dignity and peace of mind.  How?

First, I’ve written and self-published on my own dime a children’s book explaining cancer of a loved one to young kids called Nowhere Hair.  I wrote it because I wanted to offer young women a book that helps them find the words to explain their baldness to their kids.  I wrote it to say, “You’re still hip, strong, brave, beautiful. You’re still an amazing mother.  And oh yeah, you’re bald.”  I wrote it to say to kids, “You’re confused.  Scared.  You have questions.  But yeah, you’re still a kid who will appreciate if cancer can be approached in an honest, yet whimsical way.”  I’ve been told this little book does the heavy lifting without being heavy.  Kelly Corrigan, New York Times bestselling author of The Middle Place and Lift, who I share both a diagnosis, surgeon, and life outlook with, has also said that my words “put it all in the proper perspective.  A wonderful tool for families.”

So second, armed with this kind of validation, I’ve signed up for C4YW.  I’m anxious to meet those women brave enough to face their cancer head on and see if I can help them find the right words that are so elusive when you are in the midst of it all.  Perhaps they’ll see an 11-year survivor turning an ugly diagnosis into something beautiful.  Perhaps I’ll find inspiration from their stories.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m a bit wobbly about how this will feel.  After all, C4YW is three days of being surrounded by all things breast cancer, including young women (and perhaps some men?) who have been handed a pretty heavy load.  Will they be hopeful?  Angry?  Will all this talk of cancer feel overwhelming or empowering?  Will cancer descend upon my shoulders and wrap around me again?

I don’t know.  I’ve never been to something like this.  I’ll just have to see.  (And honestly, this conference grows in attendance every year, so I’m putting my money on the joyful/hopeful outcome.)  I plan on sharing with you when it’s over.

While I’ll be there with my author hat on, I’m also attending as a young survivor.  I can’t wait to hear Sandra Steinberger’s talk: The Case for a Greener World: Breast Cancer and the Environment.  I live in Marin County, California, which happens to be the breast cancer epicenter of the world.   You better believe I’ve been paying attention to how I live and what I put around and on this body of mine.  She promises to teach me how to “protect myself from the many harmful chemical exposures plaguing our environment today.”  Well, right on sister.  I’m all ears.

Of course, I’m also interested in hearing Dr. Shenin Sachedina’s talk, “The ABC’s of Talking to Your Child about Breast Cancer.”  Perhaps I can glean some new information, or offer some feedback from the women who have written to me.  This topic is my passion.  And like me, Dr. Sachedina’s written a children’s book to help explain the seemingly unexplainable, and there is nothing so wonderful as to meet a kindred soul.

So here’s to jumping into the great unknown.  Along with more than 800 other young women with cancer and the people who love them and dedicate their professional lives to care for them and cure them, I will be in Orlando with my arms open wide.

Sue Glader is a writer, mother and breast cancer survivor living in Mill Valley, California.  Her book, Nowhere Hair, is available at her website www.NowhereHair.com and through Amazon.   Her blog, Poking Around Life, can be found at www.SueGlader.wordpress.com.  Join Nowhere Hair’s Beautifully Bald Initiative at www.facebook.com/NowhereHair.

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Filed under Beautiful things