Thursday, October 29, 2009

Life with Breast Cancer: a visit with author ANNE MARIE BENNETT

Grab your cocoa, coffee or tea, faithful readers ... and settle in to read an account of MY experience reading BRIGHT SIDE OF THE ROAD: A Spiritual Journey Through Breast Cancer, by author and seven-year breast cancer survivor Anne Marie Bennett.

I first "met" Anne Marie about 10 days ago, while visiting my friend Karen's blog, Square-Peg Reflections ( ) ... and I immediately sent Anne Marie an e-mail, asking if I could host her on my blog for a virtual BLOG TOUR. {You, too, can host Anne Marie on YOUR blog ... check her site for all the details !!}
So, everyone, "meet"Anne Marie:

So here's the deal: Anne Marie journaled her way through her breast cancer - diagnosis, two surgeries, twelve weeks of chemotherapy, and forty-two radiation treatments. As Anne Marie says so poignantly in her book, "Holy Mother of God. Cancer. The C word. I've known this all along, but suddenly the realization creeps up on me and wham! I am startled into amazement whenever I think of it this way."

Starting with her diagnosis; as she sits in the waiting room of the clinic where she's been sent for a follow-up to her routine mammogram, this is what she goes through:
"One by one the four other women are given the thumbs-up-you-can-go-home-now sign from the older woman behind the counter. One by one, I watch them leave. I close the magazine and think of statistics. What is it, one woman in eight that ends up with breast cancer? Or is it one woman in ten? Six? I can't remember. But how many women do I know who have had breast cancer? Absolutely none. The odds are not in my favor. This realization dawns on me slowly as I lay the magazine down on the table beside me and look around at the empty waiting room. What if today, I am the woman who doesn't get the thumbs-up sign?".

And then there's the biopsy. And the waiting that comes after. And then, the conversation with her doctor. Followed by ...
"Dazed and disoriented, I manage to steer myself through the lobby to the ladies room where I sit on the floor of the handicapped stall and cry quietly into my hands. I'm wondering why Dr. Karp didn't say 'You Have Cancer' instead of 'There Were Cancerous Cells in Your Biopsy'. Because no matter how it's phrased, it all boils down to the fact that I have cancer. I. Have. Cancer."

Then there's the wondering that we all go through when something bad happens to us or to a loved one:

"Have I made myself sick? Have I brought this on myself? But how? Feelings not spoken? Bitterness and resentments simmering beneath the surface? Ancient grief buried within my body?"
Who among us has NOT asked those very same, or similar, questions. "what have I done to make this happen?" It's a popular refrain, and a very common reaction to news we don't want to live with. Can you all name a time in YOUR life when you asked those same questions? And if not those, then "why me? why my father? why my child?" ...
I do so love that Anne Marie found encouragement and inspiration from Olivia Newton-John who asked, basically, "why NOT me?" when she walked her own cancer journey.

As a patient myself with plenty of other maladies, I could so totally relate to this journal entry from Anne Marie:
"This gown, this perennial object of hospital fashion, takes away some of my identity, my uniqueness, and instantly labels me 'patient'. I don't like this feeling at all. It puts me at a distinct disadvantage in this day full of doctors."

So - how are you all doing so far? Is this hitting close to home for some of you? TOO close to home for some, I expect. It sure grabbed me and kept me engaged all the way through. Like so many people who love and care for and support those who are living with a cancer diagnosis, I feel mostly helpless in the face of such a foe. Cancer. with that capital C. you know, don't you, that the abbreviation for "cancer" is simply CA ? I've lived my entire life in California, and you all know that CA is also the abbreviation for my home state. I don't much care for them using CA to denote cancer in a patient's chart. Be that as it may, because now I am digressing ...
Anne Marie's story continues:

"I stand on the front porch for a moment and breathe in the fresh air. It's been an entire week since I've stepped out of the house, so this new freedom feels delightfully delicious to me. I go to the bank, to the corner cafe for some chai, and to the grocery store for ingredients for dinner. These errands take only thirty minutes, but I'm completely exhausted, so I climb back into bed and sit for a long time in the silence, first with my journal, and then with a new novel."

Distractions as well as QUIET TIME proved to be quite soothing and healing for Anne Marie, as I assume they would be for me in her situation. I treasure quiet time, and I do like a good distraction from my worries. I really related to her journal entries, too, about just needing to ... nap.

And on my other blog, I intend to also do a blog post (tonight, I hope) about how Anne Marie loves being creative, and the role that art and writing played in her journey, and how they continue to help her heal ... herself, and others.
On life with chemo: "By 1:15 it's over and I'm giddy with relief. I can't believe how normal I feel. It's almost as if nothing's happened at all. I know they told me most people don't throw up during chemo, but I never quite believed them."

On on-line support groups / friends: "I've forgotten how long it takes to bond with people emotionally in 'real time' as opposed to cyberspace, where I bonded with Dawn and Elizabeth so quickly due to the speed and immediate intimacy of email."

So when Anne Marie journals about her oncologist asking her how her SPIRIT is doing, I fall in love with him. "I am in awe that he has asked me this ..." she says. Towards the end of this amazing book, we are reminded to ask anyone we might be supporting through cancer how THEIR spirit is doing ...
And I'm going to end this post with a very eye-opening entry by Anne Marie ... one that I can also relate to, but had probably not thought of in the context of OTHERS feeling this way, too:
"I'm not exactly ashamed of having breast cancer, but I am quite sick of talking about it all the time. No, that's not it exactly. What I'm tired of is worrying about how much the other person already knows, and how much I should tell them, and how they're going to take the news, and how I need to reassure them that I'm going to be all right. I find this exhausting."
I could excerpt the day away, but I am not going to. I want you to visit Anne Marie's site and I want you to order her book. If not for yourself, then for someone who might need to read it.
Anne Marie can be found at: and you can order her book right there on her website! It's going to be the best $14.95 you've spent in ages, I promise you that. It's full of her candor and insight and her PERSONAL journey with breast cancer. It also provides helpful lists at the end of the book for resources, for support, and for affirmations to see you through - whether you are the patient, the family member, the friend, or the caregiver.
Thank you for joining me today on this journey with a breast cancer survivor.
I dedicate today's post to my girlfriends, Marsha and Lori, who are shining inspirational examples for me of how to live graciously with breast cancer. And in loving memory of our friend, Lorraine, who lost her battle with breast cancer ... I think of her all the time.
-- Davielle

Friday, October 9, 2009


As we continue on through the month of OCTOBER, let's remember that it is, after all, BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH and let's do what we can to "think PINK" ...
I was reminded today as I cruised a website { } that there's a great 'clearinghouse' for all things PINK and PINK-MINDED known as "Make Mine Pink" ... visit them here:
"Girly Finds" is a Friday feature over at MAKE MINE PINK

So many delicious vendors to visit can be found there !!!
And as I visited my friend Karen Caterson's web pages this afternoon, I came across a book on her "bedside book stack" list, that I think must be worth sharing with you all {although I have to say, I have never thumbed thru this book in person, I SO trust Karen's review of it that I am going out on a limb here and sharing it with all of you} ...

Bright Side of the Road: A Spiritual Journey Through Breast Cancer
by Anne Marie Bennett

You can click here on this link to see the book via Amazon:

And if you have even one similar interest to me, you will likely enjoy Karen's writings over on her Square-Peg Reflections site:
To tie Karen and her writings in to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I want to give a shout-out and a big "plug" to Karen's "CHOOSING ME: Finding Comfort, Joy and Beauty in the Me I am NOW". As Karen so poignantly asks: "Would you rather fly a copper kite in a thunderstorm than talk about (or even think about) body-image?" Oh, boy, could I relate to that! If you answered "yes!" to her clever question, this is a link you MUST visit:

I personally have sent Karen a (very long) "testimonial" about her CHOOSING ME piece -- I have the CD right where I can listen to it when I take a bath, or am in the car and want to give my self-esteem and body-image self a serious TALKING TO !!! Karen deals with BODY IMAGE (eek!) issues in a caring, compassionate, humorous way that really made a world of difference to me.

If you take that thought process out just a tiny bit - not even much of a stretch - you will realize that women who are dealing with breast cancer are even more likely to have a "body image issue" at some point in their journey. Right? Let's take a moment to ponder that thought ... there are so many aspects of BREAST CANCER that I had never been made aware of, nor thought of, that I am facing right now as my dear friend Lori takes her own BC "walk", if you will. Treatment options, including surgery ... post-op treatment choices to be made, reconstruction options to consider, lifestyle alterations that can enhance (or detract from) one's personal healing process, etc.

SO many details, SO much to learn, SO much of that "unknown" that when one receives a diagnosis like "breast cancer", one is then forced to research and absorb and integrate into a life that will never after be quite the same ...

I have been blessed to have dear friends who were willing to share their experience with me: Lorraine, Melba, Marsha, Rita, Lori ... It is a GIFT to us all when these brave women SHARE THEIR STORY with others.

If you or a friend/loved one are in need of healing words ... please visit BONE SIGH ARTS, the site of talented and soulful TERRI ST. CLOUD ... { }

because we ALL matter ...
And one other amazing woman that gets a shout-out from me this Friday afternoon: author and shame researcher, DR. BRENE BROWN. She is a skilled speaker, who SPEAKS to "shame" issues and "self-esteem" issues ... you name it, if you can claim it, Brene can address it !!!
I found her "I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST ME (but it isn't)" book {and readalong} to be immensely insightful and helpful earlier this year.

So ... lighting a candle for all women who are living with breast cancer, and in honor of those who are fighting the good fight (visit the Susan G. Komen Foundation website to help out), in memory of those who lost their breast cancer fight (sweet Lorraine, the beautiful Margerita, and the most brave Erika), and just so GRATEFUL to all those who care for those with breast cancer ...
And with a special "praise God!" for the most excellent news that my friend Lori received this week, post surgery ... all clear margins, no cancerous lymph nodes, and that a 'satellite' tumor was found during her mastectomy that would not have been found if they had done a lumpectomy instead. God is good, and His hand was all over her terrific outcome. PRAYER REQUESTS going out to all of you, please, for continued and perfect HEALING for Lori as she takes her next steps ...
I remain - humbled -
-- Davielle

Thursday, October 1, 2009


That's right, friends. Today is OCTOBER 1, 2009, and October is officially BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH.

How will YOU recognize this critical health issue in October? Will you wear PINK every day? Will you color your hair PINK, like my friend Suzi's dog GIGI has done? Will you sport your PINK "breast cancer support" rubber wristband/s all month? Will you buy PINK products, or products that give a portion of sales to Breast Cancer Research? Will you eat PINK yogurt for breakfast, and will you order a PINK strawberry shake at the drive-thru? Will you carry a PINK purse, or wear PINK shoes, or a PINK hair clip? Maybe paint your finger or toe nails PINK ???

More importantly, will you talk to your daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts, cousins, neighbors, friends -- all the women you know -- to tell them what YOU know and what YOU have experienced when it comes to BREAST CANCER ?????

Do you have a relative or friend who has lost their battle with breast cancer? I do.

Do you have a relative or friend who is currently fighting for a full recovery, after finding out recently that they have breast cancer? I do.

Do you have relative or friend who has fought the fight and won, and is now all clear of her breast cancer? I do.

Do you have a relative or friend who participates in Races, Walks, and other Fundraisers on behalf of ... the American Cancer Society, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, or any one of the many organizations that fund cancer research? I do.

In 2008, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, the largest series of 5K runs/fitness walks in the world, with well over one million participants since 2005. The Komen Race for the Cure Series raises significant funds and awareness for the fight against breast cancer, celebrates breast cancer survivorship, and honors those who have lost their battle with the disease. To find out more about the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and to find a race near you -- click here:

Here is the link for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (the organization), with links there for patients and health care providers and caregivers, for those who have just been diagnosed, or for those who have a friend who has just been diagnosed ... this site offers the full gamut of resources:

And an organization that has been around as long as I can remember, the AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY has a long history of raising cancer awareness: Beginning in 1946 with $1 million, the Society’s research program has invested about $3 billion in cancer research. The Society has funded 42 Nobel Prize winners early in their careers.

The American Cancer Society is the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer through research, education, advocacy, and service. With more than two million volunteers nationwide, the American Cancer Society is one of the oldest and largest voluntary health agencies in the United States.

Click here to find out more about what the American Cancer Society is doing in the fight against breast cancer:

And with regards to PREVENTION, here's a link to the American Cancer Society's page on lowering your breast cancer risk, and celebrating breast cancer survivors:

This may seem unnecessary, but the President of the United States, Barack Obama, has formally proclaimed October 2009 as "Breast Cancer Awareness Month" -- I don't know if each President has done this, year in and year out, but here's the link to said proclamation in case you're interested:

And yet another resource ... the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. ... find them here:

And here's an easy one: just click on this link and then CLICK TO GIVE so that free mammograms can be provided ... to those who need them.

Whatever you do, please please please do something - anything - to help increase awareness of this critical health issue ... and remember ... women are not the only ones to be diagnosed with breast cancer. The American Cancer Society covers that topic here: ttp://

I wish you all an enlightened and informed OCTOBER, and I thank you for reading through this long post this morning.

-- Davielle