This is a big one for someone who can hold a grudge like none other...
I learned during my illness that harboring bad feelings, being angry and upset only spiraled me to feel worse and worse and worse - I learned that people would leave me and hurt me even though I was missing a tit and bald and barely able to stand.... I learned that people would pity me and think obviously how glad they were not to be me ...
I also learned that holding on to these slights, these betrayals and these absolute bad things would only bring me down worse than I was - soo I instead focused on all who were shining their light to help me and promised myself that I would try to be a light for others and not be so petty so childlike and so negative....
I forgave others but more importantly I forgave myself for being a jerk for being negative and for ultimately having a body that failed. As I continue to heal from my bso, I am still practicing forgiveness of me and all that I continue to struggle with such as forgiving others and being a light and not to shine it on me for who I am but for how I could maybe help others.
It’s so funny how in laws are sometimes not always harmonious - been there, done that ... as part of the old pre-cancer me I inherited an old rivalry of mom vs grandma from my own mom. When she moved out, my grandma was there to raise us. My mom always felt like my grandma monopolized our time and even perhaps was the catalyst for her ultimately leaving when I was about 12 or 13.
This was inbred in me that a mother in law is a threat to a mother’s relationship despite me not being angry at my own grandma - in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. I was not mad, I was devastated when she passed away when I was 23 years old and I miss her every day still.
This does not change the fact that I also love my mom - though anyone will tell you we are more like best friends than mother and daughter.
So all of this history really screwed with me - until cancer. I will say that my mother in law and I are freakishly alike in many ways and that in a way my husband married his mother (it’s ok- despite trying really hard NOT to I think I kind of married my father - how to break this cycle for my kids I just don’t know...)
I am thankful for my mother in law - our history is crazy - we have had huge ups and downs but she (and my father in law, may he Rest In Peace) always have been there for us in soo many ways.
During my recent convalescence post ovary and tube removal, I have been struggling hard. My mother in law stayed for as many days as she could and while here she kept the children busy, slept with them downstairs so I could sleep at night, cleaned my whole house (including my fridge and windows), did alll of my laundry (there was a lot) and cooked and fed the people who are always hungry in my house.
She was only supposed to stay 1-2 nights but took pity on my as I hobbled around with intense pain written all over my face. I am thankful to call her mom - though we do still drive each other crazy. That’s normal :).
Of course on this Veteran’s Day I am super grateful for everyone who served and continues to serve to keep us safe. My husband was a police officer for many years and saw many things - I watched a mini-documentary about PTSD today and Vietnam War veterans which was quick and eye opening.
I am also thankful for my continued healing as I actually wore jeans today and went out for a bit.
God bless America and all of our veterans!
When I lived in Italy I had a few nicknames - the bambina (I was the youngest person studying for my MBA), succo d’arancia (because every bar we went to for dancing or any event at the school, that’s what I drank) and “positiva” because I was always smiling and laughing.
At 21 living in a foreign country on my own studying exciting stuff like black scholes models and stuff - what didn’t I have to smile about? Maybe getting dumped via transcontinental phone call? Nahhh... maybe learning my dad had an operation ... nahhh... how about recognizing my grandma who helped raise me was very sick? That one yes...
But through it all, my life has been a big series of ups and downs but I more often than not am smiling and laughing even when inside I don’t feel it — since cancer though I never asked “why me?” Instead I have laughed and joked and though petrified at first I learned really quickly that the whole world of positive thoughts and smiles is a hell of a lot better than any alternative.
I joke that I’m so happy it must be that I’m stupid because you know stage 3 cancer is no joke but inside I feel just happy it was found happy it’s “out” and as I get close to my cancerversary recognize that getting to almost 2 years then 5 then 10 then 20+++ is my goal, my plan and my prayer.
I spent most of my life hearing my relatives beg for “peace” and seeing the exact opposite - we are Italian and we fight a lot.
I also then continued my life in the world of in between - of issues and anxieties and worries. When I first married my husband he went off to Atlantic City with a friend and went incommunicado for days - it was a few days before our local wedding as we had eloped and he was just missing. Something he never got was that as an Italian woman, if I don’t hear from you in a few days I assume you’re dead.
It was a big part of my controlling tendencies (though he was just wrong for disappearing for days of course)... getting cancer meant I couldn’t be in control anymore and it highlighted I truly never was in control.
I learned early on in this process of unknowns and scary medical jargon that I could not maintain my pre cancer mentality and I had to embrace peace and the unknown. I have done it pretty well with the partner to this and tomorrow’s gratitude preview - positivity.
Yesterday I had a procedure done to remove my ovaries and fallopian tubes and a D&C. Prior to my whole cancer experience, I had only gone under anesthesia a few times with my first experience at 32 for my first of 2 D&Cs for the miscarriages I had between my daughter and son.
I was so worried about going under anesthesia for the first D&C but it was fine - I woke up feeling refreshed and great - less so after the second one but at that point I was officially depressed and convinced I would never have another child.
Then, my son, backwards in the womb to keep his head near my heartbeat was born via c-section and the whole Labor and delivery floor was in shock as I got up out of bed around 2am after a 9am delivery the day before and walked to the bathroom to pee (first was getting the catheter out). I was walking to the shower and dropped something and bent to get it when the nurses all yelled to stop - it was fine. That afternoon, when my obgyn saw me sitting on the bed and bending towards my toes he was flabbergasted and sent me home early.
For many years, I avoided hospitals until a small cyst on my hip had to be removed. My parents came with me and my husband - my only concern was to not tell my children and to make sure my mom knew all of my passwords so she could share my diaries online and in paper with the kids - dramatic much?
My dad quasi threatened the surgeon to make sure I would be ok or else...
Then, you know - breast cancer and the need for more important surgery the kind that is a big deal and was thankfully done at Sloan - I woke up laughing and happy despite not wanting to see my new body... I walked around and was doing my exercises for my arm that night and released early the next morning...
Then this week - the reason my day 7 is a day late - my surgery to remove my ovaries and fallopian tubes along with a D&C - I was called a model patient as I walked around the corridors and despite being in pain, I am still doing what I can to heal. This time, I am so thankful for my body and all that is has been through - the surgeries and the way it seems to hopefully be able to withstand it all to still be strong and able to carry me forwards, thank you body.
As I prep this morning to go to Memorial Sloan Kettering to remove my ovaries and fallopian tubes as a precautionary measure against my hormone positive breast cancer (hopefully) - I know that I could not and would not have been here without them.
From my first visit to Sloan on December 5 2016 to my radical mastectomy and lymph node removal took 11 days. A local hospital had told me they would operate in a few months. I have felt beyond safe loved for and cared about at Sloan - every visit, every procedure, every follow up (and as a clinical trial patient, I have a lot of those).
I will update this post after my procedure but to the amazing team at Memorial Sloan Kettering, I am so thankful for each and every one of you.
Today, I am thankful for social media. It seems crazy, right, that I would save a day for this but for those of us in our community, our tribe, we get it.
See when I was diagnosed, I was the only person I knew with breast cancer. I had no idea what to do about it except what I felt was right at the time - to bury it, hide it, pretend all was ok and just be ashamed without showing my emotions and it seems I might be part British instead of Italian.
I was unable to deal with being sick and I handled it as best I could until the time came when I gave in to my need to get it out and began to write and with each at first anonymous post, I felt more and more empowered until I was the person you all know and can't believe she is posting all of this stuff omg can she stop - ME.
And in that time of being "me" and sharing and not being too shy (at all), I found my tribe - folks from Ireland, Guatemala, Florida, NYC, Baltimore, California and MORE - people who are now more friends than just squares on an Instagram feed- people who get it, who support one another and who are the voice in the dark that answers to my own and that gets it... in one way or another.
It is hard to connect as all of us are in this together but some of us get worse news than others, some of my friends died and continue to die and it can be so hard to be so aware of this possibility - we all try to keep each other sane, though, and focused on the here and now because really that is all ANY OF US know - even those of us never touched by cancer.
Today is for my friends - those who I have yet to meet in person, those who I have, those who continue to share, those who opted out of sharing to get back to "normal" and all in between - I love you all!
I have always been a bit of a loner - which is strange considering how outgoing and extroverted I can be - but the truth is inside I am an introvert who enjoys reading, reading, writing and being a "homebody". I also love to travel, go out, be with friends and such but for so long being a mom and a caretaker was all I knew and I did not do much of the rest.
In addition to being a bit of a loner, I am also half Sicilian meaning that with family there have been lots of "vendettas" and non communication amongst factions and wow even using the word "factions" represents war... I am weird.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 39 years old, my first and unwavering decision was to hide in my shame and to not let people in AT ALL. I did tell a few of my closest friends but even them I tried to keep at arms lengths. Some of them might have appreciated that as like everyone who has dealt with a life changing diagnosis, I did lose some friends... But those who stuck by me did NOT like the arms length move and forced themselves in and for that, I am forever grateful.
You do not need a girl squad like Taylor Swift but you do need people who will always be there for you, no matter the time of day or night, no matter their other life responsibilities and man oh man did I learn this the hard way. I recognized my shortcomings in my relationships with others and I forgave myself for being such a dweeb while recognizing that people who stick - they are golden.
For my family, I have always been the glue keeping everyone together after divorce, fighting, etc but being able to sit back and not be the one controlling everyone and everything proved that they all survived without the puppetmaster (lol). I love them all and recognize that though blood makes a family it is the ability to stick together that really means love is there. I also am old enough to recognize the need to forgive and forget those who did x or y and just move on, if there is something to move on with - and also knowing that just because we share DNA it does not mean we will share life.
Through it all, knowing that people have your back is key and I am so damn lucky that not only do they have my back but they also have the backs of my husband and children and all of us as we continue to adjust to this world of living after cancer. Thank you to all of my friends and family for being a part of my life, a part of my heart and may you always know I got your back, too!
My kids - I would not be me without them, I can’t remember what life was like before them. Becoming a mom defined me like nothing else would or could. Not even being a survivor is more tattooed on my soul than being a mom.
I had some issues with mom-hood - my mom left the family when I was young and it left me all kinds of skewed with what being a mom means. To me, pre cancer, being a mom was all it was everything it was all that mattered. I did not do anything without my kids and partly there were circumstances that made that my only option but also I made it my only option, too.
When I got sick the hardest thing the only reason why I wish I never ever got cancer is because I had to tell my kids and in my opinion ruin their lives - or did it?
It sucked donkey balls but it really opened up their lives in ways nothing but stage 3 fucking cancer can do - I had no option but to let go to give them freedom and to watch people step up and help out.
Day in and day out though even during my illness I am the stable person in their lives - meaning I’m the one who provides the sense of routine and order - it is just who I am deep down but I also know that I’m still Lisa and though I was a motherless child they are not nor will they ever be - they will know I worked hard to balance my need for control with my love of them and my love of myself and that sometimes I lost that particular tug of war and sometimes I won.
I want them to look back on their childhood as a time when their mom went from being their all their only to being a more balanced and open person who still was the one with the bulk of the child caring and work but who also focused on herself and them with equal care and love.
Recently I told my son I needed to rest and he told me I should have done that before I had kids and that moms can’t rest and I fixed that and told him that was mom 1.0 and now we have mom 2.0 and I’m better because I can rest and opt out of the constant entertainment of children...
My daughter knows I’m leaving to go to Italy with my dad in February and she’s all like,”you are abandoning us...” and v1.0 of my software of motherhood would never have let me even consider this trip period - I would never have wanted to go. At all.
But I know that I’m not like my mom - I’m not leaving for good and no matter how statistics and reality hits me with the world of cancer patient / survivor I have no intention of leaving them motherless - and I won’t. Fuck cancer.
I’m thankful for my kids because they teach me every day how it feels to walk around knowing my heart and soul lives in large part with them - that they follow me and learn from me and that the most meaningful contribution in this world for the future is raising them to be normal, functional and most important kind.
One day they will take my narrative over or explain in their own words what it was like to watch Lisa their mom go from living only for them to living for herself and them and I hope they always know I love them and support them and won’t leave them...