It’s Always Good To Try New Things

I Like Pig Butts and I Can Not Lie ...   The BUTTS is written inside the outline of the back end of a pig and the letters are blaring white on a screaming red background. I wandered toward that shirt like a moth to the flame.    I am with a friend in Scott, Louisiana after completing the final forty miles of a four-day bike ride through Acadiana - aka Cajun Country. The bike ride has finished at the Scott, LA Boudin Festival.  We have dealt with all the post-ride bike shipping and packing chores, wolfed down our end of the ride Jambalaya and a delicious cold beer and have headed inside the festival gates.     Naturally, the first stop on that 85 degree afternoon was the beer wagon. When we asked the beer guy for a recommendation of the best boudin (Pronounced boo-daan - a pig intestine casing stuffed with a mix of rice and pork and other meats and secret spice recipes) he leaned in close and said, "Well. I can't give ya'll any RECOMMENDATIONS, now. But I CAN tell you what I like ... " And he proceeded to describe the red tent and virtues of regular boudin versus smoked.     So off we went to the favorited Red tent. A big cauldron of bubbling fry grease was at the front. Hot and spicy smells wafted out as we stood staring at the menu, debating the heck this food language meant. Luckily Harold, his son Harold and wife Ramona stepped in and gave us a tour of the menu and a taste of their delicious tasso (chunks of slow cooked pork in a spicy sauce). After great deliberation and consultations with Harold and Harold Jr.,  I choose the basic boudin, employed

Transformations …

Another personal essay published February 23 on Curetoday.com.  Even though cancer treatment is behind me ... hopefully forever ... I've learned that sharing my story and voicing many of those feelings and fears that cancer patients know is truly helpful for others and healing for me.  So I've begun sharing and writing about my treatment based on journal entries that have remained private until now.   I watched the warm water rinse away the long hair that clung between my fingers and wrapped around my hands and wrists. I ran my hands through hair and rinsed away the hair again. And again. And again. It was time. My oncology nurse had prepared me for this moment. “I will bet my last paycheck you will lose your hair”, he said. “Make sure you procure protection for your head from the cold and sun.” Which was good advice. Hair turns out to be surprisingly practical. But his advice didn’t touch my worst fears. My hair was soft and fine and honey blonde. Now that beautiful hair would be gone, replaced by the scarves and hats that are a symbol of sickness. My bald head would scream “CANCER” like a neon sign, flashing “Sick person, right here”. Strangers would look at me and see a disease. But I wasn’t a diseased sick person. I was healthy and strong and fit and capable and attractive. At least I was until this breast cancer came out of nowhere. I hated the idea of the world seeing anything else. A request to my friends yielded a cascade of gift certificates and hats and scarves. A trip to the wig shop became an adventure as we tried on dozens of wigs. And as we laughed and experimented it occurred to me that I could become anyone I wanted. Perhaps a platinum blonde Marilyn Monroe? Or sexy

Mobile Mardi Gras

Mobile, Alabama is home to (arguably) the country's first Mardi Gras.  They have been parading and celebrating for over 150 years.  Think of the Mobile's Mardi Gras as a more "family friendly" version of New Orlean's notorious party - the kind your mother will enjoy, too.  The last two years I've visited Mobile with my Mom and attended some of the Mardi Gras parades.  I've loved the spirit of fun ... everyone is smiling and playing.  Great music.  Fying Moonpies.  Tons of throws.  Festive hats.  All walks of Mobile Society are out and about together. This celebration of culture and traditions is special. I'm sharing some photos from attending two parades this year on the Saturday before Fat Tuesday and LundiGras in February 2016.   More photos from 2015 Mardi Gras are in the photo galleries link.  If you want to learn more about Mobile's fabulous celebration, check out the Mobile Mask.

Marathons … The Post-Cancer Body

CURE Magazine published my essay:  Marathons: Coming to terms with a post-cancer Reality.  You can read the published article  here. CURE is a magazine most cancer patients come across at some point during their treatment ... They print a physical magazine quarterly and copies are widely available at cancer centers and doctor's offices ... And patients and their loved ones spend a lot of time in waiting rooms reading magazines.  Subscriptions are free by signing up online at their website.  And they have extensive content online at www.curetoday.com and social media.  I'm excited this article was published by CURE because they have such a strong audience of cancer patients, caregivers and families.  I hope it will help others avoid my mistakes. The text of the article printed in CURE is below: ---------------------------- Marathons "I'm signing up for a half marathon this spring. Who's with me?" My heart sank as I read this on my young friend's Facebook page ... a friend still in the early stages of breast cancer treatment with months of surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation ahead of her. I recognized this trap. Before breast cancer, I was an amateur athlete ... never the fastest or the strongest but I found joy in testing my physical strength and endurance. I biked across the US and India and completed triathlons and runs. After being diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and enduring a year of surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, I had set an ambitious goal for the one-year anniversary of the end of my treatment: to bike 10,000 miles over three months in Asia and spectacularly thumb my nose at the cancer that had stopped me cold and left my body broken. And why not? The media and the Internet promote glorious stories of cancer patients completing near-impossible physical feats. And I took this message to heart. I was a survivor.

Cancer Moonshot can change our Cancer Conversation

I sat on the case of Syrah, breathing deeply to slow my racing heart, letting the dizziness pass in the cool silence of the industrial wine storage cooler. Sitting alone in the dark, I finally accepted that no amount of toughness, fight, positive thinking, survival spirit or resiliency was going to give me the prize I sought: to spectacularly defeat cancer. Before breast cancer, I biked across the US and India. Now, after a year of surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, I set an audacious goal: to bike 10,000 miles over three months in Asia and spectacularly thumb my nose at the cancer that had stopped me cold and left my body broken. And why not? The media and the Internet promote glorious stories of cancer patients completing near-impossible physical feats. And I took this message to heart. I was a survivor. I had beat cancer. If they could do it, I would too. I trained for months, gradually increasing the miles and difficulty of each ride and slowly building strength and stamina. But now, after nearly passing out during a bike ride in front of a rural winery I had to face facts. My hard work, determination and positive attitude were not enough to restore my health or pedal my damaged body back to pre-cancer strength. Consultations with my doctors later - and their warnings to get to the emergency room if anything like that ever happened again - confirmed my fears. I had failed. The months after were the most depressing of my life. In hindsight I realize that trying to do that ride was completely unreasonable ... and probably dangerous. It certainly delayed my true healing, and led to a host of other painful, avoidable medical problems. I had listened to the hype and myth of cancer survival instead of listening to my

What Makes an Image Memorable?

A friend recently sent me a Washington Post Article about a study out where scientists test images for Memorability. Take a look at these four photographs I took in Africa last spring and rank them according to which photo you believe is most "Memorable".  As in, "The viewer likely to remember the image 100 seconds after they first saw the image.           Ready for the Results?  I was surprised ...   I love all of these photos.  But my favorite image of the entire travels to Africa - the Girl in Pink - ranked the lowest on memorability.  A mere 46.5% of you, the the viewers, will remember this photo for more than 100 seconds. The most memorable photo of this group is the Flamingo ... ranked high as very memorable with 81% memorability beyond 100 seconds.  BeeEater follows with 75% and Dunes of Namibia with 66%, a mediocre medium. Much of the basis of this study boils down to what graphic designers and professional photographers already know about photo composition and color of an image.  They earn their living choosing the images and designing the graphics that please the eye and successfully sell their wares ... they want you to remember their image from the advertisement you saw when you are out shopping for your next pair of shoes. Where the study falls short, though, is in measuring the intangible.  To me, a memorable image awakens emotions.  Or shows an unrecognized truth.  Or prompts re-living a memory.  Or peaks curiosity and a desire to learn more about a person or a place. To me, the little girl in her white dress and bright pink coat slowly sauntering barefoot along the boardwalk - lost in her own world and thoughts and framed by the mountains of South Africa's Southern Cape - evokes my curiosity and stirs my imagination more than a picture-perfect image of a beautifully posed and

New Guidelines are a Big step forward for Breast Cancer Post-Treatment Care

Medical oncologists have finally turned their attention to the hundreds of thousands of women who survived their breast cancer. The American Cancer Society and the American Society of Clinical Oncologists released new guidelines to help primary care doctors and oncologists monitor and treat their patients properly after breast cancer treatment ends. At last there is a comprehensive document that provides detailed diagnosis and treatment information for the myriad of side effects breast cancer treatment leaves in its wake. I encourage every breast cancer patient to sit down with these guidelines and a big cup of coffee (you'll need it - they are a dense read) and a highlighter.  Then take a copy in with you to your next appointment with your primary care doc or oncologist and ask questions.  And if you have a friend struggling with any post-treatment side effects, sending them this document could be invaluable to help them identify and get care they need. When my active breast cancer treatment ended in fall 2012, I transitioned from over 100 medical appointments in a year to being released on my own recognizance with a brand new, completely alien and malfunctioning body. During treatment and for the next two years, side effects from surgery, chemotherapy and radiation kept popping up like the moles that tear up your newly planted lawn. Identifying what was "normal", what was treatable, and what might be a serious - or even a deadly indication of the cancer returning - was a mystery. I Googled symptoms. I trolled online blogs for information. I called my oncology nurses with questions. I spent many hours and a lot of money seeking relief, seeking out physical therapists, massage therapists, acupuncturists and anyone else who might be able to get my post-treatment alien-inhabited body back to something remotely active, pain-free and normal. Many breast

I’d like some Bad-Ass Arms, please

UPDATED January 31 We won second place with Rosie the Riveter - We Can Do It. I'm excited for a fun design with a motivating message ... And I get two free sleeves. Thanks everyone for voting. They changed the design a bit ... You can see the final here. https://www.lymphedivas.com/en/shop/we-can-do-it   -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Getting past cancer treatment usually means learning to live with a handful of side-effects treatment leaves in its wake.  For me, the hardest side-effect to live with is lymphedema.  And I'm sick of the ugly medical-grade garments necessary to control the condition to do what I love - particularly biking. So I partnered with designer extraordinaire Maggie Flynn (who also designed this website) and pro-photographer Mary Lou Harris to create three designs of lymphedema arm sleeves that will be fun and inspiring to wear biking, exercising, in a meeting or on any occasion where something strong and sassy is much more appropriate and something boring and medically necessary. We entered a design contest for a company called LympheDIVAs to design compression sleeves, and the voting for the top three winning sleeves happens between now and November 29: Please Vote Here:    LympheDIVA Arm Sleeve Design Contest Survey                   Wouldn't it be  fun to go out and about in Wonder Woman Arms?  Or sport a Rosie The Riveter We Can Do It arm when biking to raise money for a cause or running a race?  Or don Beautiful Cascade Mountain Arms for that lovely ride in the country side with the Cascade mountains framing the horizon to the East?  I think so.  And if we win this contest, LympheDIVA's will manufacture the designs, and I - and other women - will get to wear something fun and empowering. So ... please go to that survey and vote to give us some great Bad-Ass arm choices that represent the spirit of getting on with life -

Surviving Breast Cancer Protocols

I wrote this post in my personal cancer journal shortly after being diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2011.  Today - October 25, 2015 - is my four-year "Cancerversary".  Given this week's news about changing mammogram recommendations, which will put even more of the burden on women to make sure they receive appropriate breast cancer screening, I am sharing my diagnosis story more publicly in hopes it helps others help themselves  ... and listen to their body ... and get good care.   The new mammogram recommendations have stirred up a lot of confusion. To me, the message that matters most is still to stand up for yourself and your health care ... because ultimately you are your best chance of making sure you get the health care you need, regardless of screening protocols.  Now, when asked, I tell younger women:  Yes, get your mammogram as the default precaution - even though it's imperfect and even though it didn't work for me - unless you and your doctor discuss the pros and cons of delaying and you are comfortable with that decision based on your personal family history and situation.   Yes, do your self exam.  And most importantly, mammogram or not, be ready to stand up for yourself and fight for good medical care. You are welcome to share this to those who you believe will benefit.  Thanks. Protocols in health treatment can guarantee a reasonable standard of care, but they are also formidable barriers.  My cancer diagnosis was a wake-up call. Last October I called to schedule my regular mammogram.  I felt around on a self-exam (which I rarely did) before going in, and to my surprise found something - a hard round pea-sized knot up near my right armpit.  I went in to the breast center for my appointment and told them that I

Vino-culture

The smell roasting pork had me looking longingly back over my shoulder at the grill with a gutted piglet spinning over the coals, lovingly basted by a man who clearly took his pig very seriously. At my near-wrecking of the bike as I smiled and waved, the little group gathered around the spit waived me down and beckoned us over.   We just smiled ourselves into something special. We were riding west into Mikulov, a small town in the center of Moravian wine country. I was bored ... the Greenways trail we had been following had spent too many miles on the barren trail through the border no-man's land. The communist government had cleared everything along this strip so they could patrol and shoot whatever moved without obstruction. And they had done such a thorough job I had lost interest in the ride beyond marveling at the difference between the cultural desert we traveled and the rest of this rich country that had amazed. So I led us off the trail onto a little detour into a small town seeking something a little more interesting. Seek and you shall find. As we rode past a little wine cellar road outside of the village my nose let me to roast pig and a wine-making party.   Crates of white reisling and purple cabernet grapes picked that morning waited in a trailer across the road. The cellar buzzed with a family busily shoveling grapes and juice that had just been crushed into a barrel with a screw lid to squish out the last of the juice. A young boy used a strainer to take out debris. A man with a garden hose syphoned the juice into a larger bucket into the lower level of the brick cellar. The walls of the lower cellar are gunky with white mildew and mold.

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