Monday, March 16, 2015


Gail, Diane and I spending some quality time together (left to right).

 Last summer I was afraid to cross the Sea to Sky suspension bridge (see my blog post from October 20, 2014).

Not like Diane. My darling cousin faced down her fears and did everything possible to cross her cancer "bridge."  She absorbed terrible treatments that came with punishing physical costs in an attempt to earn more time.  Emotionally she endured a horrifying roller coaster ride.  Diane wanted that part to stop, but she never wanted to arrive at the end of the line.

I have known many of us who have faced similar trials.  But this is my cousin and it hurts more than I could have ever have imagined.  This is one life lesson, and terribly sad growth event, I could bloody well have done without.  I've reluctantly joined a new club.  It's the one where close loved ones can offer support and try to make life easier, but are ultimately and frustratingly impotent in the face of a terminal disease that has barged obnoxiously into a life, far too soon.

 Thirteen years ago Diane was diagnosed with breast cancer, took treatment and survived.  She raised her championship English Bulldogs, showed them internationally and built a fine life full of friends.  Nine months ago a persistent cough foreshadowed an intractable lung cancer.  It took her life.  Ironically we were hoping for a breast cancer metastasis thinking that there would be more treatment options for her.

Remembering Diane's courage and grit takes my breath away.  No — rather it makes me aware of how precious each breath is.

RIP dear cousin.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Acres of Flesh

I “aquasize” at my community pool with dozens of other women of a certain age.  Originally an outdoor pool, now it’s covered with a bubble.  It's cold in the winter and we thrash around with fury to keep from turning blue.  Our young, toned instructors take no prisoners during the classes.  Who knew you could sweat underwater?

After the workout, we drag our exhausted bodies out of the water and head to the communal showers and dressing room.  It's either sluice off commando-style here or smell of chlorine for the rest of the day.  Dozens of women sharing six showers is an exercise in community building like no other.

More specifically, this change room is basically an empty room furnished with one bench surrounded by metal lockers and three cubicles with dodgy, plastic curtains.  However, we don't give a damn about modesty.  Towels are used for drying rather than hiding.  Conversations about daily events, the news and great TV shows go around the room among damp, naked strangers.  It's a great group of all shapes and sizes, business women, teachers, retirees, actors, cooks, volunteers – and we all dress together.

Recently, I asked this group what they wanted to know about breast cancer.  I heard, "What are the statistics? Who is still alive and living in spite of having, or having had the disease?"

Then I heard a gentle voice beside me pipe up, "Well, I'm still alive." Emphasis on “I'm!"

As we were both buck naked, I saw that she had a scar similar to mine and in the same spot.

Note: Blame the following on water in my ears.

"How long has it been?" I asked.  "Five years," she said.  I said that my scar was from 23 years ago and I challenged her to beat me in the Long Distance Staying Alive race.  She looked confused and then said, "I mean 30 originally."   Wahoo – it is always a treat to meet someone who has passed through Breast Cancer Land longer than I.

I said that it was wonderful that that she was entering her 31st year, breast cancer free.  She gave me a confused look, leaned over to me and said, “You have it wrong.  I was 30 when I had my first breast cancer surgery and that was 50 years ago."  She had 50 plus years of living post breast cancer under her bathing suit and also had a second run-in with it during the last five years.  So far she's winning that race too.

Don't ya just love it!