November 5, 2007

Were I to use this blog only to recount the kindnesses of friends and strangers, I would still post every day, and it would be cram-packed full of stories.  I would write today of the kindness of my friend Mike, who picked us up yesterday when our car stalled and I was stuck with a carful of groceries and a toddler — who was NOT going to ride in the front seat of the tow truck, despite how happy it would have made him.  I would write of the kindness of Stimey, who watched my kids this morning while I went to cancer yoga to work on the pain and weakness in my upper chest.  I would write of Jacquie, who brought over dinner and special treats from Trader Joe’s.  I would write of the elves that quietly leave me a bag of goodies every morning I go to chemo, cheering me on the days I don’t want to step outside and go down to the hospital for treatment.

I would write of the kindness of my parents and my husband’s parents, who have put their lives on hold to care for us during this time when I am having trouble caring for myself.

I would write the first paragraph over and over, until it became boring for you, for every week, a mom helps me with the kids while I go to cancer yoga.  Every week, a mom brings over dinner, to give our caregivers a bit of a break.  Every week, a mom calls to see what she can pick up for me at the store, to see if there’s an errand I need running that I can’t pull myself out of bed to go and do.  Every week, I get cards and letters from cousins and aunts and friends, bringing a bit of cheer.

Every week, you, my blogfriends, leave me comments and send me email, checking in, asking about me, letting me know that I am not alone.

And because of you, all of you, I am gathering the strength to go on, to pick myself up, and to get back to the business of living.

Today I am stronger than I was yesterday.  The chemo is working.  The tumor is shrinking.  And my spirit — my spirit is stronger than it has ever been.  Today I am reminded of all the good there is in the world. 

Whatever your day brings, I hope that it brings you as well a moment of kindness, and a moment of peace.

Welcome to WebChat!

October 24, 2007

Welcome to today’s webchat with Fox 5 News!  I’ll be online live at from 5:30 to 6:30 tonight and then I’ll archive the chat (and link the video clip) over here — post your questions over there if you can, over here if you can’t, and I’ll answer them as best I can!

For those of you I haven’t met before, here’s a quick intro: I am a 34-year-old mother of two beautiful baby boys.  The oldest just turned 3, and the little one is 9 months old.  They are my life.  Before kids, I was a program scientist at NASA Headquarters.  I ran several research grant programs, started an Early Career Fellowship and Workshop, and ran selections for the Discovery Program of small ($350-$425M) planetary missions.  I loved working for NASA, and, at the time, that was my life.  I’m kind of single-minded like that! 

Right now, I’m dealing with a new diagnosis and treatment of inflammatory breast cancer, and blogging as I go.  I have hundreds of blogging friends who have written about me and my disease on their own web sites, and many of them even sport the cool-looking Team WhyMommy logo that you see on the bar over to the left.  I use this site to keep up with them and to let my friends and family know how I’m doing as well.  I’m happy to have visitors from all over the world join me here at Toddler Planet — on the days after chemo, when I’m stuck in bed, they’re often the only people I get to see besides my immediate family.

Welcome to Toddler Planet.


This is me and my youngest.  I call him Little Bear here on the Internet.

What I Saw At the Walk

October 23, 2007

What I saw at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, continued from previous post

I saw women and men united in a common cause, but not necessarily the one that I had suspected.  It wasn’t that we were all walking against breast cancer.  It was that each woman and man there had come out to support a survivor or walk in memory of a pathfinder who had lost her battle with cancer. 

I saw hundreds of small groups here and there, scattered across the Hunt Valley Mall parking lot and environs, dressed in matching t-shirts, scarves, hats, or simply clasping each others’ hands.  Walking with their friends.  Walking with their family.  Walking in memory of one who mattered.

I saw a group of coworkers united as they walked by in green shirts decorated with the name of their company and the name of their survivor, walking proudly along with them.

I saw a group of friends clasp one anothers’ hands as they walked silently with the words “In memory” on their backs.

I saw a trio of young women walk tall and proud with pink scarves in their hair.

I saw a quartet of seniors walking slowly, but not silently, behind them.  Four women with pink shirts, caps, and scarves, all survivors.  All together.  All laughing, and going to and from the exhibits like toddlers eager to see what would be next.

I saw a merry band of walkers in pink satin capes, joking with one another as they approached the start line.

I saw a man walking alone, holding a sign commemorating his late wife, at the finish line.

I saw teenagers handing out stuffed bears, musicians playing, volunteers making it all happen, and a well-staffed tent just for survivors.

I saw people gasp as we passed them with our stroller decked out with signs (“Walking with WhyMommy” and “IBC: Breast Cancer with NO LUMP”).  Very few people asked me directly about IBC, but dozens asked my cousins, and we passed out the cards I’d made for BlogHer and thought to bring along at the last minute.

I saw women lining up for pictures to commemorate the day, stickers for their hats, stuff for their bags, and medical literature on a new chemotherapy regimen for their cancer.

I saw overstuffed mascots, toilet paper giveaways, sun chip snacks, and a host of other booths from local and national retailers eager to give out paper and support the cause.

I saw entirely too many teenagers and young women walking in pairs or small groups with the words “For Mom” on their backs.

I saw grandmothers walking the mile, for their friends, for their family, and for each other.

I saw grown men cry.

And then I turned to my family and friends, and I saw their love for me and my mother-in-law, and I thanked God that we could fight this fight against breast cancer.  That we have the science, the medicine, and the tools to begin the fight, and the faith to finish it.  I took their hands and began to walk.

What I Saw at the Race

October 23, 2007

On Sunday, October 14, I walked a mile in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to raise awareness of inflammatory breast cancer.  I wrote last week about how it felt to walk it, and how hard it was, just 3 days after chemo, but I want to share with you all a bit of what I saw at the race. 

I didn’t know what to expect.  I had never been to a benefit walk before, and I hadn’t run a race since high school.  I had read blogs of friends who had done a walk for breast cancer, and I diligently bought and read a beautiful photoessay book called Why We Walk, but I wasn’t sure how the walk would speak to me.  Would it be a great big massive upwelling of support and tears?  Would survivors who had never met hug each other and be all gushy?  Would I be overcome at the sight of the thousands of walkers united to raise money, awareness, and support for those with a breast cancer diagnosis?

What would that cold morning in October bring?

As it turns out, the race was a beautiful, unifying event, but not exactly in the way I expected.  There were 32,000 walkers registered, raising $2.7 M, all walking in the same direction, at the same time, with determination to fight this cancer in any way that they could.  It was a stunning reminder of the number of women and men that are affected each year by breast cancer.

But there weren’t as many pink shirts as I expected.

I should back up a little.  Susan G. Komen For The Cure was founded to honor Suzy Komen, who was diagnosed 25 years ago at the age of 33.  She lived 3 years after her diagnosis.  Her sister, Nancy Brinker (now a DC local) founded the organization and the race in her honor.  Every year, at every race, the survivors don pink shirts and hats, and are feted with roses, stickers (for their hats — one for every year), music, and giveaways from local or national companies.  The pink hats and shirts make survivors easy to pick out in a crowd.  (They also turned my simple red hoodie into a cacophony of colors fighting amongst one another; but that was my dumb luck.  The weather turned so quickly I forgot a winter coat and had to make do with red hoodie and scarf.  I never realized how COLD my neck would get without my long hair to cover it.)  Whereas the white shirts of the other walkers and runners were covered with tiny sponsor names and logos, the back of each pink shirt was adorned simply with the words:

I walk for those who have walked before me
and for those who walk beside me

25 years

It made a statement.

On the one hand, the number of women in the pink shirts was dwarfed by the sheer number of supporters that they had brought with them.  I was, in some weird way, thrown off at the fact that I didn’t see dozens of young survivors, moms my age, walking around with their babies in strollers and toddlers at hand.  I had expected it.

On the other hand, even one pink shirt is too many.  This disease affects entirely too many women and men.  We have to find a better way to screen for this disease and prevent its development … before it becomes so deadly.  We really do.

With that in mind, I should mention that I walked not for myself, but with my mother-in-law, Jane, who I love, and for my internet friends LawMom, Stella, Aimee, Angela, and all of my IBC sisters who are fighting for their lives.  Their names were on my back as I walked that day, and I thought of each of them often.

This is getting really long.  I’m going to continue this in my next post.  Please bear with me, and leave comments on the next post if you’ve got ’em.

baby in blankets

Little Bear and Widget, all bundled up against the cold October morning. Aren’t these blankets gorgeous? The blue one was a baby gift from WhyDaddy’s aunt; the yellow one was hand-knit by Grammy, and the pink one was quilted by a friend of ours from BREW beagle rescue, and given to us by the whole group.  Absolutely lovely.  And warm.