Saturday, October 22, 2022

There is no such thing as a routine mammogram when your sister had breast cancer

Ten years ago this month, my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer.

We had no family history. She did not have a lump. And they only found it because she is ridiculously, brilliantly diligent: she never skips an annual exam of anything, and when they told her she should have annual mammograms and ultrasounds "just to be safe" due to the density of her breasts, she did so. The mammogram didn't catch it, but the ultrasound did. It was small and stage 1. The type of cancer she had was the most aggressive kind, and it is very possible that if she had skipped a year...because ya' know, we don't really have that in our family...she may not be around right now.

Yes. Happy ending. 
She's happy and healthy and all is well.
I won't say she "beat" cancer, because I've always felt that to say that about those who survived is to imply that those who didn't, didn't fight hard enough. Cancer is a bitch. And sometimes, no matter what you do or what you believe or how much of a great attitude you have, cancer wins. 

So, yes, we are some of the lucky ones.

That's not to say she didn't fight. She fought like a bad ass. She not only listened to her doctors' recommendations, she challenged them, went beyond them, did what was right for her, and did it all with a sense of humor. (After each of her multiple surgeries, she would swing her drains around like a pin up girl with a feather boa and drawl: "Look, Lizy, aren't I sexy?").

At the time, I don't think I processed it all too much. Some of it might have been self-preservation (read: denial). Some of it might have been that I was in the throes of raising two little boys. I look back and often wonder: "Good God, how did we all make it through that? How did she make it through all that?" We all know--or can imagine--how hard the war with cancer is, but the details...the everyday, the private horrors...It is amazing how we, as humans, can put our "big girl pants" on and do what's gotta be done.

My sister has some physical scars from her duel with the big C, but I'm pretty sure all of us have some emotional ones. She says her cancer changed her life. She's proud and relieved to say that she's "one of those" who feels she is better off because of it. I suspect we all are. I don't think any of us take much for granted (most days), but every May when I walk into that dark room in my paper robe, I have to remind myself to breathe. I never, ever miss my annual appointment. I don't even allow it to run "a little late." I feel like that's one small way I can pay homage to my beautiful, brave sister. 

So, ladies. Don't miss that appointment. Don't skip it. Don't put it off. Because you're probably fine. But you owe it to yourself and all those who have fought the fight to put on that damn paper gown, walk into that room, and breathe.


In honor of breast cancer awareness month and my sister, here are a couple of posts I wrote back then. 

My Sister Has Breast Cancer (or Time to Put on Your Big Girl Pants)- I wrote this one while sitting in the waiting room when she was having her double mastectomy on November 3, 2012

My Sister HAD Breast Cancer (or: Time to Pop Open the Sangria) - I wrote this one after celebrating her last clean scan on February 3, 2016.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

My babies are in high school...together

Today my babies went to high school together. The same babies for whom I started this blog. The same babies I thought would never grow up and let me sleep in late on a weekend or take a shower in peace. I started this blog to survive the early years of motherhood...a time I found awe-inspiring, disorienting, overwhelming, and exhausting. Now, here I am: standing in my driveway, waving, taking pictures, watching them walk together to Ben's car, put their backpacks in the trunk almost in unison, get in the car, and drive off. 

For the last 12 years, we always had one or both of our boys with us at our school where we teach. We drove the 40-minute commute in different combinations: somedays all four of us; other days split into pairs (those mornings when we knew the boys sitting in the back seat together for that long was going to be a really bad idea); and yet other days split into a ratio of 1 to 3 ("You take them today because I have them in the afternoon and I really need some quiet time this morning.").

For the last 12 years, they were always around...hanging out in our classrooms in the mornings or afternoons, being excused from class to see us because they needed something for a headache, or a form they'd forgotten to get signed, a snack, or just because they were running an errand for their teacher and stopped by on the way to say "hi." And my husband's and my favorite moments: those spontaneous, unexpected sightings in the hallways which would usually result in a high five, a passing joke, or (especially these last couple of years with our "gentle giant") a body-jarring hug.

Today, Aidan Kai (aka The Baby) started high school.

We overhead them talking about it last night:

"Don't worry, Kai. We'll get there early and I'll walk you around to all of your classes so you'll know where to go. And maybe I can even meet you in between some of the classes." 

"Ok, thanks, Ben. And oh, can we use our phones in class, or is it like elementary and middle school?"

"No," Ben held back a chuckle. "You can use your phone."

"Then can I text you during the day?"

"Yeah. Sure." 

We were ready, as parents, for this new chapter. We were ready to be, for the first time, just Mom and Dad, and not Mr. and Mrs. be able to let go after having them with us from kindergarten to 8th know they will be in situations--academically and socially--that we not only will know very little about, but will also not be able to step in and intercede. We have no "pull" now.

Knowing Aidan Kai, who has always been a little shyer, a little less daring socially, will have his big brother there to guide him gives us peace of mind. And to know Ben actually wants Kai there...that gives us a satisfaction we cannot express. We spent their whole lives trying to get them to bond, to rely on each other, to be kinder to each other than to anyone. Years spent camping and traveling and playing and talking...we think they are paying off now. 

Towards the end of last school year, Ben told me: "You know, I'm excited about Kai coming to school with me next year. I think it's going to be fun to have him there, to be at the same school again."

Our boys...


Today when I got home from work, before I wrote this post, I went back to my first-ever blog post about the boys. It made my heart ache a little for those babies, but it also made my heart swell with pride and joy and excitement watching who they are growing up to be as individuals, but also, as brothers. 

*Here's my original post from March 8, 2009.

Introducing: The Boys

Here they are...the source of much of my joy and frustrations: The Boys.

Ben's 3 1/2. He's a rock star, for sure. And not only in his parents' very biased minds. Everyone who knows him thinks he's a rock star. So does he. Fortunately, on most days, we totally lucked out with this one. He really is everything you'd want your kid to be: funny, smart, athletic, and (almost always) sweet. But we are well aware that we need to keep a tight leash on this one. He's scary bright. He also inherited some of his parents' "best" qualities: stubborn and opinionated. His favorite sayings? "Watch me," "Try to catch me!" and "I know that."

Then along came Aidan Kai. The name "Aidan" means "fire." The name "Kai" means "ocean" in Hawaiian. So there you go...a walking contradiction. He's only been around for 7 months, but he's already given us our share of contradictory feelings as well: "Isn't he the cutest thing EVER?" and "Why the heck did we want another one, again?" He spent the first 4 1/2 months of his life wailing, shrieking, crying, and making everyone around him state the obvious: "But Ben was never like this!" And although he now spends most of his time flashing his dimples, he's still known as our "High Maintenance Boy." I feel strangely protective of Aidan Kai. Perhaps it's all the sibling comparisons from everyone, perhaps it's the dimples, perhaps it's the High Maintenance label that has been permanently affixed to him, but I can just relate to him. I can't wait to see what kind of kid he's gonna be.


Thursday, January 20, 2022

Holding On


I used to sneak into your room

while you slept

your chubby little arms up over your head

in relaxed tiny fists

the dimples on your cheeks

matched the ones on your hands


no matter how big you grew

no matter how distant your infancy started to feel

I would foolishly measure your little-ness

by those hand dimples


innocent, soft, milky white hands

with sweet short fingers, neatly trimmed nails

tiny peekaboo dimples over each knuckle

assuring me of what still remained:

your baby-ness and mushy-ness and delicious-ness


as long as I could still see those tiny hand dimples

I could believe you were still a baby

My baby

they filled in a while ago

along with your face and shoulders and arms

you are truly living up to your nickname now

The Gentle Giant

your shoulders almost as broad as your daddy’s

your muscles almost as strong


when I hug you

I have to get on my tippy toes

your arms surround me and make me question


at this point

is protecting who


those tiny, boyish, dimply hands are now

nearly the largest in the house

they open jars and lift heavy things

and can now hold me back with ease

when I try to tickle or wrestle with you

like we used to


the sweetness and softness are still there

when you humor me and still let me

hold your hand in the car while I drive

but now my hand is enveloped

swallowed by yours

they are grown-man-hands

but still feel like my baby’s hands


I snuck into your room last night

your now chiseled face was nearly hidden

by your Jurassic Park comforter

your body so big that

one foot nearly touched the wall at the end of the bed

it made my heart sing and ache to see that

your hand was curled around

an orange stuffed dinosaur

but as I leaned in to steal a silent kiss

I most definitely did not see


hand dimples