Category Archives: Beautiful things
This is a story of renewal, perfect for the Spring.
This tree you see endowed with so many glorious orange orbs was, not so long ago, a barren and unhappy thing. She was planted in the area of my yard most welcoming to citrus. By that I mean it was hot, sunny most of the day, and protected from the wind. It was also right inside the front gate, so every day, many times, I would walk by my little growing mandarin orange tree and mentally entreat her to “please grow.” I put her on the drip system, I gave her citrus food, good earth, and I infused her with doses of iron and fish emulsion. You know, I paid attention to her. And she responded. Grew into a fine-looking specimen. But she never, ever set any fruit. Year after year, strong green growth, zero fruit.
The value in a fruit tree is … um … fruit. Without fruit, it’s just a nice shrub, and in my little patch of warm, sunny yard, if a fruit tree was simply going to be a tree, then she had to make room for someone else who would provide. But she was a healthy tree, and I’m a pushover when it comes to ending the life of a sturdy grower. So we banished her to the backyard, in an afternoon-only sunny spot where the earth hadn’t been amended with all manner of lovely soil but rather had a clay-like consistency. We gave her a nice hole twice as wide as deep, put her on the drip, and said a prayer.
She proceeded to drop each and every leaf, as if she was hot and needed to expose her branches to the fresh air. Or she didn’t care anymore. In the short order of two weeks, she went from a green, robust citrus bush to a craggy looking old lady. The move killed her spirit. Feeling like I had failed her, I took some consolation in knowing that I hadn’t simply ripped her out by the roots and dumped her unceremoniously into the compost pile. We had at least given her a second chance.
But when, after a rain fall, I took a walk out the back door towards the compost pile, I noticed that my naked mandarin orange tree was adorned with delicate white flower buds. Somehow, after jettisoning every bit of exterior life, this cagey tree was going through a re-birth. And not just a few fruits on the maiden voyage. Oh no, she was covered in flowers that I knew, weather and wind and birds willing, would turn someday into precious fruit.
So you see. Sometimes we just need to find the right patch of dirt for us to fully flower. And it might not be the patch of dirt everyone thinks is perfect for our growth. Yet if it feeds us, then all is right with the world.
Call it the law of attraction. Or karma. Or just a spectacular coincidence.
But what would you call it if you had a conversation with your mentor about how you really really should think about speaking to others about your topic of passion, and not just in a casual way but in a Stand-Up-Before-You-And-Get-Paid fashion. Then you leave that person and stop at the library and check out a few books on public speaking before you pick up your son to go home. And at home the little light on your answering machine is blinking. And the nice lady who just left you a message says how she would like you to be the program speaker for her upcoming fundraising event.
I mean, what do you call that? Other than ah-mazing.
I’ll take it, of course. And ask for many more helpings, please. If all I must do is focus on what I want to happen, which is sometimes harder to do than I would like, then I should get on that.
And so should you.
Maybe we should all sit down with a pen and pencil, and just focus in on a few things here this new year that we would like to happen. Maybe say them out loud a few times.
That way, whomever is listening can get right on the job of making our dreams come true.
Do you know what it feels like to come out?
I certainly don’t, but I’m trying.
Now, please, my sexuality is firmly fixed in the heter-oh category, but I’m speaking more metaphorically. I’m not sure why this is so hard for me, but I struggle with embracing the fact that the things I care about matter. And that expressing my point of view is valid, and shouldn’t mean I need to apologize. Or be embarrassed. Or worry that I am coming off as pushy.
There are so many facets to every matter, and we all have the power to stand squarely on our own convictions, just as long as we do it nicely. With grace. Dignity. I’d like to reiterate that point to the two rather militant ladies who set up shop across from my local market with signs of President Obama donning a Hitler mustache. I told them that I would have been interested in learning of their point of view, except that the little hair patch they superimposed upon our Commander in Chief was offensive. She wagged her finger at me and told me something about thermonuclear war and Russia and Israel, and that “I should be ashamed of myself” for not snuggling right up next to her and denouncing Obama, as he clearly is just like Hitler.
I wonder how successful she was pulling people to her side with that tactic.
Unlike this woman, I come from a mother who never wants to be a bother. It’s a noble trait. And her maternal point-of-view runs deep within me. Although I sigh when I see her don the “I don’t want to be a bother” cloak, I do it myself. My work now as a champion of talking to kids about a parent’s cancer means, by the very nature of the conversation, that I have to embrace my point of view and repeat it to others.
By the transitive property, that means championing myself.
So many of us are trying to sell ourselves, or our wares, or our thoughts every single day. We struggle with, as my friend Karen so aptly described it, “the little voice” inside us that doubts ourselves, when we should be thinking of “the big voice” that carries the greater, more inspiring message we embody.
So here’s to believing in oneself. Hip hip! To not apologizing for our delightful points of view. Hurray! Because, as I tell my son all the time, if we all had the same point of view, then the world would be a very boring place indeed.
I know no.
No, this can’t be happening.
No, I don’t want to lose my hair.
No, thank you, I’ll pass on daily radiation.
In truth, I couldn’t say no. I had to figure out a way to square my new horrid reality. No matter how much I wanted to turn and flee, I had to face the music.
Last weekend I had the chance to meet an array of women who have stomped on the word “no.” I’ll tell you about two.
Rebecca Byrne, who along with me was chosen as a 2011 Pink Power Mom for her work as an advocate for breast cancer patients, was 13-weeks pregnant when she found out she had breast cancer. Her doctor told her that no, she couldn’t continue her pregnancy. She needed to terminate it immediately, and start radiation.
Rebecca pivoted out of that office and found another doctor, who allowed her to be treated for cancer while continuing her pregnancy. Her daughter Emelia is now a happy 1-year-old, and not surprisingly, Rebecca used that same tenacity to start the We Will Not Lay Down 2 Cancer non-profit.
Karen Neblett, who heads up sales for Kids II, the company behind the Pink Power Mom program, has a different relationship to the word no. Firstly, she doesn’t ever accept “no” as the final answer. She likes to think of a “no” as meaning something more delightful, like “not at this moment in time.” Things shift, she said. Options open up. At its essence, she said, a “no” simply means you must find another path. The path to “yes”.
I am embracing this attitude. Because life can be filled with people telling you “no” for a million reasons, but those who make things happen in this world simply pirouette past the word and sashay on.
So, here’s to staying nimble. Let’s juke, jive, bob and weave around the negatives in life.
Remember, just like the Australian band Bomba said in their song “Busted”:
“Cursed is the walker who will never travel light.”
Turns out, plenty. Plenty of people care, and sometimes it feels good just to see who does. As I take stock of what I’ve done in the past year, I’d like to publicly share the cancer centers where Nowhere Hair is doing good work. I thank them for their support and for realizing that healing – true healing – comes when all members of the family are included.
Alegent Health Cancer Center Omaha, Nebraska
Alta Bates Medical Center Berkeley, CA
Baltimore Medical Center Baltimore, MD
Beth C. Wright Cancer Resource Center Ellsworth, ME
Beverly Hills Cancer Center Beverly Hills, CA
Bonheur Children’s Hospital Memphis, TN
Bozeman Deaconess Cancer Center Bozeman, Montana
California Cancer Care San Mateo, CA
Carol Simon Cancer Center Morristown, NJ
Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Cancer Center Los Angeles, CA
Center for Breast Care Burbank, CA
Center For Cancer Care Goshen, IL
Central Florida Cancer Institute Winter Haven, FL
CHW Sacramento Sacramento, CA
Colac Area Health Patient Library Australia
Concord Hospital Library Concord, New Hampshire
CPMC Institute for Health and Healing San Francisco, CA
Cross Cancer Institute Alberta, CANADA
Dana Farber Cancer Institute Boston, MA
Diablo Valley Oncology/Hematology Pleasant Hill, CA
El Camino Hospital Cancer Center Mountain View, CA
Ellis Fischel Cancer Center Gift Shop Columbia, MO
Fairbanks Cancer Center Fairbanks, Alaska
Florida Hospital Orlando, FL
Foley Cancer Center Rutland, Vermont
Fox Chase Cancer Centere Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Frederick Memorial Hospital Frederick, MD
Gibbs Regional Cancer Spartanburg, South Carolina
Helen F. Graham Cancer Center Newark, Delaware
Hickman Cancer Center Adrian, Michigan
Huntsman Cancer Institute Learning Center Salt Lake City, Utah
John Muir Hospital Women’s Resource Center Oakland, CA
Kaiser Permanente – San Rafael Breast San Rafael, CA
Kansas City Cancer Center Kansas City, MO
LSU Feist-Weiller Cancer Center Shreveport, Louisiana
Marin Cancer Resource Center Greenbrae, CA
Martin O’Neil Cancer Center St. Helena, CA
Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, W Virginia Univ. Morgantown, West Virginia
Massey Cancer Center Virginia Commonwealth U. Richmond, VA
Mayo Clinic Cancer Center Rochester, Minnesota
MD Anderson Houston, Texas
Memorial Cancer Institute Pembroke Pines, FL
Memorial Sloan-Kettering NYC
Mid-Columbia Medical Center The Dalles, OR
Mills Peninsula Cancer Center San Mateo, CA
Mountain States Tumor Institute Boise, Idaho
National Institutes of Health Bethesda, MD
Nevada Cancer Institute Las Vegas, Nevada
Norris Cotton Cancer Center Lebanon, New Hampshire
Norris Cotton Cancer Center St. Johnsbury, Vermont
Northwest Cancer Specialists Portland, OR
Northwestern Memorial Hospital Chicago, Illinois
NYU Cancer Institute NYC
Palo Alto Medical Foundation Palo Alto, CA
Payson Center at Concord Hospital Concord, New Hampshire
Pink Lotus Breast Center Beverly Hills, CA
Premier Oncology Santa Monica, CA
Providence Cancer Center Portland, OR
Queen of the Valley Medical Center Napa, CA
Rocky Mountain Oncology Casper, Wyoming
Roger Maris Cancer Center Fargo, North Dakota
Rutland Regional Medical Center Rutland, VT
Saint Anthony’s Hospital Cancer Center Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Saint John’s Health Center Santa Monica, CA
Sanford Cancer Center Souix Falls, South Dakota
Santa Monica Hem/Onc Consultants Santa Monica, CA
Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital Santa Rosa, CA
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Seattle, WA
Seattle Cancer Treatment & Wellness Seattle, WA
Sequoia Hospital Redwood City, CA
Simms/Mann UCLA Center for Integrated Oncology LA, CA
Siteman Cancer Center St. Louis, Missouri
St. Johns Health System Anderson, Indiana
St. Louis Children’s Hospital St. Louis, MI
St. Mary’s Lacks Cancer Center Grand Rapids, Michigan
St. Peters Helena, Montana
Stanford Cancer Center Stanford, CA
Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre Toronto, CANADA
Sutter Cancer Center Sacramento, CA
Swedish Cancer Institute Seattle, WA
Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center Miami, FL
The Angeles Clinic Los Angeles, CA
The Cancer Institute at St. Alexius Hoffman Estates, IL
Touro Infirmary New Orleans, LA
Tower Hematology/Oncology Medical Group Beverly Hills, CA
UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology Los Angeles, CA
UCSF Cancer Center San Francisco, CA
U. of Arkansas, Winthrop Rockefeller Cancer Center Little Rock, AR
University of Alabama – Kirklin Clinic Alabama
University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center Chicago, Ill
University of Vermont Cancer Center S. Burlington, VT
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center Los Angeles, CA
West Virginia University Hospital Morgantown, West Virginia
Women & Infants Hospital Providence, Rhode Island
Don’t see your favorite? Give them my phone number: 415.388.2757 and tell them what they’re missing.
The train tracks from Alaska into Canada.
I am lucky enough to now be blogging for Facing Cancer Canada, which gives me an outlet to talk very much to the cancer community. “It won’t always be about cancer,” I told Chantal, my contact there. “My life is not all about cancer.” She understood, and actually encouraged me to simply write what moves me, as they want to show all sides of the cancer experience. In it, after it, through it.
This is my second blog post.
We’re a posse that understands the meaningfulness of firsts. First time in the infusion lab. First tug and eerie release of your here-to-fore sturdy hair. First time hearing the solid “thunk” of the door closing as everyone flees the radiation room, yet you are left behind.
So many firsts. So many difficult firsts.
But life has a way of evening things out. The pendulum swings back. The trick, it seems, is to catch it and go for a new ride. Take a chance. Try something new.
I am now on the side of more pleasant firsts, thankfully. Like this past weekend, I was part of a gala event called Truth Be Told for the Premiere Oncology Foundation in Santa Monica, California. I was invited as a storyteller, along with 10 other cancer survivors, to put a face on this disease.
I grabbed, and I swung. I mean, I’m not a professional speaker. I like speaking. Do it a lot, actually, every day. But not on stage. And certainly not alone, without notes or a podium. Terrifying? You bet. But so amazingly juicy to force myself to push through my comfort zone.
Not only did I get to simmer for 2 days with some soulful people, but I got to share my work with the audience, and ask them to consider the importance of including our kids in our cancer treatment. In other words, saying yes to opening myself up to strangers allowed me to further a discussion that I am passionate about.
Life is just a series of firsts, punctuated by long stretches of the same old, same old. For cancer patients, saying yes is part of the treatment. We have to agree to some protocol and move forward. But having an enthusiastic “Sure!” to what comes after we’re all finished with our doctor visits, that is part of the wisdom borne of a cancer diagnosis.