Blog title borrowed from poet Ted Kooser
Diego, or Little (Big) D,
Today you are no longer three.
You are four!
You are a thinker and noticer of details. An empathizer. Lover of school and your best friend, Sean. You are a builder and a book fan, a nighttime snuggler and long-hug giver. You are a rule-follower and master power-struggler. Five-star tantrum thrower. Like your mama you are a green-juice downer, avoider of being on the spot, and fan of rock and roll. Like your papi you are an agile mover, hard worker, and do-the-right-thinger.
I love our bedtime chats and having conversations about the weird stuff in Beatrix Potter stories.
Happy Birthday, kid. I love you and your little heart of gold.
A few notes on Breast Cancer Awareness Month
I feel ambivalent about what many of us “in the club” refer to as Pinktober. I think there are a lot of companies slapping a pink ribbon here, there and everywhere, making huge profits, and donating a small fraction of those profits to breast cancer causes. I also think that The Face of Pinktober, The Komen Foundation, does not spend their money wisely.
I don’t think breast cancer awareness is making a dent where it truly counts. It is important, of course, that more women (and men!) are aware of self-exams and screenings, because catching it early gives you a chance to survive. However, catching it early doesn’t guarantee survival. 40,000 people will die this year from breast cancer having spread to other parts of their bodies (stage IV), and 95% of them caught it early.
Breast cancer can return as stage IV, sometimes decades later, for anyone in remission—regardless of whether it was originally staged I, II or III. I met a woman recently who was in remission for 10 years from stage I breast cancer when it showed up in her liver, and another woman who was in remission for 25 years from stage II breast cancer when it showed up in a lymph node.
Today, stage IV breast cancer is incurable. People with stage IV (affectionately known as ‘metsters’ because the cancer has metastasized) are living longer due to advances in treatment, but what we need is a cure. The only way we will find a cure is if we fund research. Unfortunately, Komen uses the word “cure” as a branding tactic, but compared to the amount of money they spend on other things, I think the amount they give to research is disproportionately low.
Although I am more at peace than ever with uncertainty, there are times that fear knocks me down and I struggle to breathe, because of the tangible possibility of recurrence and my kids losing me.
Here are two organizations that I discovered through a brave metster who knows her shit—both of them putting money where it really counts:
If you’re donating this month, please remember that Komen isn’t the only place to send your dollars. In the end, Komen isn’t all bad. I donated to them this morning for a fundraiser at our kids’ school. But, the majority of our donations this month are going the above organizations, as well as The American Cancer Society, who does a lot of great work.
Thanks for reading this,
check your boobs (guys too!),
and it’s the weekend—make it a good one.
It’s Friday morning. I walk the kids into school. D and I leave Lu at her classroom and begin to head to his. Halfway across the courtyard he stops, drops my hand, and says, I want to walk by myself. I bend down and kiss his head and he walks away and joins a group of classmates. They enter their classroom together, squeezing through the door as a unit. These are the things you know, that one day your child will stop wanting you to walk him all the way, but it’s another thing that happens without warning. I walk to my car, thinking about a friend who has lost her mother, and there are so many things that happen without warning, and there is no preparing, and my heart is heavy and I hear the noise of kids talking and giggling as they make their way into school.
Just googled ‘is it safe to use seventh generation dish soap as bubble bath for my kids’, while sitting beside the tub, while they played in the best bubble bath ever.
The parents at D and Lu’s school are really involved. Like everything, there are two sides to the coin. We are in the classroom at regular intervals, observing our kids, checking in with the teacher, throwing fun parties, going in to read multicultural books with themes like patience and compassion and teamwork. There is another side, though, from which I am recoiling, just two months into the school year. It’s the side where mothers gang up on another mother who is trying to organize something, a window decoration, for example, because she isn’t doing it the way it was done last year. A thread of passive-aggressive emails begins, and they are replying to all, so we’re all witnessing it, and Luis and I are reading them together, on the couch, between episodes of Parenthood, in disbelief. I think about parents encouraging programs like the one with the diverse, themed books, and I wonder how we can teach our kids to be patient, compassionate team players when we are engaging in mean girl behavior. One could argue that our kids aren’t reading the emails, that they’re oblivious to our tiffs. But they aren’t. They will, eventually, overhear us talking to another parent about another parent. They will pick up on unkind tones. They will sense our attitudes towards everything, and they will mimic them. I am thinking a lot these days about being conscious. It’s so valuable to pause, I think—to respond rather than react, and to do so from a place that is in line with the values you hope your kids will embody.
It’s a rainy Wednesday. The house is quiet, even though there’s so much noise. Traffic. Horns. The fish tank filter bubbling away. I just finished a piece about breast cancer—it will be a busy writing month, you know, October, or Pinktober, or Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I am finally focusing on other things after 14 months of intensive treatment, and there was a time that I longed for the day I would grab my certificate of completion and walk away from this ordeal. I didn’t want it to consume me, my writing, my future career choices. I don’t think it will. But I realize that it will be part of all of that. I am a psychotherapist and a writer and a breast cancer survivor; the triangle just makes sense. Besides, breast cancer is everywhere, it seems. My close group of girlfriends met for dinner recently and three of us talked at one end of the table about our breast cancer. Yes. Our. Two of them were diagnosed within a year of me. It’s one of those times when you say If someone had told us ten years ago that we’d be in a restaurant bathroom comparing scars and we laugh because it is funny, sometimes, cancer. I remember when Luis and I were in pre-op before my double mastectomy, and we were laughing about everything. The weird suit that plugged into the wall and blew up like a baloon to keep me warm. The anesthesiologist with whom I cracked jokes about vodka being a clear liquid. My plastic surgeon came in to mark my chest with lines for the temporary implants, and he was surprised and said Wow, you’re really having a good time. We can’t always laugh, of course, but thank god we do when we can. Because breast cancer isn’t going anywhere. Not yet. There’s so much we need to pay attention to before it does: Chemicals in our environment. Drugs that actually cure. So, it’s almost October. I feel quiet and thoughtful and motivated, and I’m also laughing. Always laughing. When I can.
Binge-watching Parenthood on Netflix. So good. Anyone else a fan?
Well isn’t that the truth.