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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Let It Go

Way before Frozen made “Let it Go” an over-sung household mantra, my attempts to let go gave me periodic headaches.
Once I get attached, whether to a person, relationship, activity, or idea, I tend to hang on—even after what others plainly see as the expiration date.
Over the years, I’ve been chided for searching for the pony in the room full of pony-doo, and beating the horse until way after it is dead. There was even a decade when I proudly displayed a “When Life Gives You Lemons” poster, oblivious to the notion that it might be wiser to ditch sour lemons than make lemonade.
So here’s my current dilemma. A couple of years ago, three women a.k.a. “broads” and I decided to start a blog. In creating 4Broadminds, we each had our own goals. Two and a half years later, our goals have been met.
A while back, we asked ourselves whether 4Broadminds had run its course. On some level, I knew it had, but true to form, I found it hard to let go. My 4Broadmind’s posts have helped me soul-search, connect, and recently, been a lifeline in figuring out how to live with cancer. There are definitely more posts churning inside me. I kept asking myself, what happens to them if I let 4Broadminds go?
Then I remembered something a wise person taught me about letting go.
Letting go doesn’t mean I can’t continue to have some version of whatever I'm clutching in my life. When I finally let it go, I make room for something new and different—and maybe even better—to grow in its place.
And so 4Broadminds, it is time to let go.
I’ll miss the camaraderie of co-blogging with Chris, Julie, and Mary. I suspect there's a new blog inside me. It’s still percolating—the ups and downs of everyday life and values, the love and support of family and friends, living with cancer. I’m toying with calling it, Life on Purpose 
It’s meant so much to get to know you through your comments and to let you get to know me. Your support and encouragement are priceless. Thank you.
Stay tuned for the next chapter.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Top Ten Reasons to Be Thankful for Being Bald

Recently, my friend, Tina, reminded me of one of her mother’s many sayings, “You get used to hanging if you hang long enough.”

That got me thinking about how back in July, being bald alarmed me. Five months later, I’m still glad baldness is temporary, but I also see an upside.  

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here’s my list of The Top Ten Reasons to be Thankful for Being Bald:
10. You save a bundle on shampoo and conditioner.

9.  Month after month, you never have to shave your legs.

8.  No eyelashes to get stuck in your eyes.

7.  You get to laugh out loud when your friend, Dot, recites Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Bear, Fuzzy Wuzzy Had no Hair!

6.  No jaunts to the hairdresser to choke on nail lacquer or hairspray fumes.

5.  Your annual skin check at the dermatologist is easier when she can actually see your scalp.

4. You never have a bad hair day.

3. No fretting about grays.

2. You can put on your husband’s goofy hair hat, rock the Guy Fieri look, and remember not to take yourself too seriously.

And the # 1 Reason to be Thankful for Being Bald:

This too shall pass. Your hair grows back!

“They” say you don’t always get the hair you had before chemo. Salt-and-pepper might grow back gray and curly might come in straight. I liked the wash-and-wear-just-enough-curl in my old hair, but to show up Fuzzy Wuzzy, I’ll take what I get.

Did I miss anything on my Top Ten Reasons to Be Thankful for Being Bald? And, what’s on your list of things you once dreaded and learned to be thankful for?

P.S. To thank you for stopping by, I’m running a Thanks-Giveaway. Win e-book copies of CAPE MAYBE and PEACE BY PIECE.

Easy to enter:
1.  Follow this link to my Facebook Author Page

2.  Like my Facebook Author Page (on the banner at the top)

3.  Look for the Thanks-Giveaway post and confirm in comments that you liked the page

That’s it; 3 simple steps and you are entered. For a bonus entry, share the link on your FB timeline or tweet so your friends can enter too.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

What Not to Say to Someone with Cancer

by Carol Fragale Brill

Are you old enough to remember the old Art Linkletter show, “Kids say the Darnedest Things? It turns out, adults do too. Since sharing I have cancer, I have heard some doozies. Maybe it’s that facing someone with an illness or disability unsettles us to the point where we grope for words, or ramble and unintentionally blurt out the not-so-empathetic thing.
Here are some of the “darnedest” things I wish I could un-hear.  
1.    Cancer Stories with unhappy endings - “My (fill in the blank; sister, mother, cousin, neighbor) just DIED from cancer.” Or even worse “Died from the same kind of cancer you have.
I can’t tell you how many times, after hearing I have cancer, the first thing someone tells me is about someone that died. Most of us have at least one personal story about someone who suffered an unpleasant cancer death.

Unless I ask you, this is not a good time to remind me that people die from cancer. If you feel compelled to share, make it a hopeful story about someone who beat the sucker and is cancer-free.  

2.    Chemo Horror Stories. “Do you know how often after chemo, cancer returns with a vengeance?”
In what universe does a person in the midst of chemo treatments need to hear cancer and vengeance in the same sentence? The only thing the local store-owner who said this to me accomplished is making me want to avoid him and his store with a vengeance.

Before starting chemo, I was freaked out enough about losing my hair, the possibility of nausea and vomiting, and the long list of other potential side-effects shared by my doctor without being bombarded with unsolicited real-life accounts of organ damage, excruciating mouth sores, fingernails that turned black and fell off, or life-threatening dehydration. There is only so much cancer and chemo horror I can take-in without completely wigging-out. If I want to hear the gory details, trust that when I’m ready I’ll ask you.

And for the record, my experience with chemo isn’t nearly as nasty as those alarming stories. That’s what I’d like someone embarking on their own chemo journey to hear.

3.    The royal “We”. We will get through this,” “Just six chemo treatments? We can do that.”

On a recent episode of Parenthood, I almost cheered out loud when a character who plays a cancer survivor complained about how much “we” statements bugged her.

Not all “we” statements bother me. I love to hear “we” when you mean you and someone else like, “we are praying,” or “we want to help.”

I know my cancer causes distress to those who care about me. I believe when you say “we” you mean you want to be there and support me. Instead, what I hear is you believe you’re experiencing the same thing as me--that you have as much skin in this game as Jim and me.
“We” can wish it were different. The reality is this cancer is happening inside only my body. That changes my life and Jim’s in ways it doesn’t impact anyone else. There are parts of having cancer I have no choice but to do alone—parts even Jim can’t do for me.

Melissa Etheridge, a cancer survivor, says it poignantly in her beautiful song, “This is Not Goodbye,”  

Where I go now, I go alone.
This path I walk, these days of stone. 

Before using the royal “we” it might help to ask yourself, “How does her cancer change my day to day life?” If you are doing pretty much what you always did, consider ditching the “we.”  

I know no one intends to upset me when they say these darnedest things. Innocent or not, some remarks nearly pushed me over the edge in the early weeks after my diagnosis when I was numb and fragile—when it was nearly impossible for me to hear a sad cancer story and not project the same thing happening to me. While I’m getting better at not agonizing and melting down, there are still things that rattle my hope and that I’d rather not hear. 

This was a hard post for me to write. I don’t know if others with cancer feel the way I do, so in spite of the title, this post is about me with cancer, not we with cancer.

Please share in comments and help me better appreciate and understand the flip-side, What does hearing a person has cancer—or any serious illness or disability—feel and sound like to you? 

And, follow this link to hear Melissa Etheridge’s song, “This is Not Goodbye”