Friday, January 20, 2006
In Which I Ask for Your Help (or, Look at What a Sucker She Is!)
I remember the big adjustment I went through when chemo was over and I was healing from surgery. I felt as if I had put down my weapons and was no longer armed for battle. I waited for signs of the enemy, looked in all the nooks and crannies, and no sign. Surely he was hiding, weapons drawn, and ready to aim. There was nothing I could do. I had fired off all my ammo and either I got him or he would recover only to conquer me once and for all.

This feeling is not uncommon for anyone who has faced cancer and experienced the wrath of treatment. I decided I would feel as though I were being proactive by continuing to raise awareness, and when possible, raising funds for research. One way I chose to do this is through the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. Last year I was a team captain of a very successful first-time team of my co-workers that raised over $7,000 as well as raising a whole lot of spirits and awareness. It was an awesome event for me on many levels last year and I look forward to this year's event.

At the first planning meeting the co-chairs kept saying that there were two committee chair slots that needed to be filled. One of the positions didn't seem so burdensome so I made an offer*. After all, most of the work would be done up front and not at the event, so what was the harm, right? Here is a loose interpretation of the conversation that ensued after I offered my help:

Me: I offer to chair Committee X.

Nice Coordinator Lady (NCL): Oh, this other nice lady from the local college just volunteered for that; however, we still have the Survivor Chair position open and you don't have to be a survivor to be chair.

Me: How can you chair if you didn't survive?

NCL: No, you don't have to have had cancer.

Me: Oh. (Hmm. I guess I don't have the post-chemo look any longer. Cool.) That probably isn't a good fit because I really dislike most of the survivor stuff anyway. I'm not into the applause and special recognition. Asking me to chair that would be torture.

NCL: You'd be surprised how many people feel the same way.

Me: No, no really. I'll just stay as a team captain and help out wherever else you need me.

NCL: If you are Survivor Chair, it's your show and you can do whatever you want. It's your show.

Me: You mean I could have "co-survivors" join the opening lap, and I could move the start line closer to the stage, and I could make sure that all day not one stinking person sings "Wind Beneath My Wings" or some such ilk intended as "inspirational" songs? I could use other songs not intended to force you to tears?

NCL: It's your show. You will reach the survivors who feel the way you do.

Me: You have a deal.

For those of you not familiar with Relay for Life, it is a 24-hour event that unites community in the fight against cancer. It is a celebration of life as well as an opportunity to remember those who have lost their lives to cancer. The event starts with the first lap by the survivors and then each team has at least one team member on the track at all times during the event.

I will admit I had a hard time walking around the field while others applauded. I felt I had to do it because I wrangled other survivors into it and they wanted to walk with me (guilt goes very far with me). I just kept thinking why are you people applauding me? This cannot be the most noteworthy thing in my life. I work hard, I'm dedicated, I volunteer for many organizations, and you applaud because I drew the lucky lotto number and got cancer?

And then there were the songs! Oh gosh, the songs. There was a selection of songs played by a DJ and then there were some talented local singers who came by to sing a few songs. My Heart Will Go On, Hero, Angel, I Made it Through The Rain, Let me be Your Hero Baby . . . Was crying a requirement at this event? Don't get me wrong about this. I love this event, but give us music to make us groove so we can walk those laps with a little energy. This was just daytime stuff. At night there was a moving and emotional ceremony with a bagpiper leading us all around the track lit only by the luminaries. Crying was required and it certainly happened. You had to be made of stone to avoid it at this point, but it had its place in a very therapeutic sense.

So I'm changing the show a little. We will open the kick-off lap by having survivors invite their caregivers (also known in some circles as "Co-survivors") to join them (where would be without them?). The music has to rock, but not be cliche (No Destiny's Child "Survivor" or the tired "I will Survive" or the theme from Rocky). The survivor's booth will have great goodie bags for survivors of all ages as well as other things yet to be determined. There will not be one cliche thing in that booth. Not a one.

So this is where I need your help, oh wise Internets. What song should I request for the kick-off? I have received two suggestions so far: Jesus Walks (Kanye West) and Celebration (Kool and the Gang). I want non-cliche songs that will serve the mission of the event (a celebration of life), but not force the tears. Any ideas? No idea, unless it involves Celine Dion, will be ridiculed. I promise.

Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
15 chimed in

Thursday, January 12, 2006
Celebrating The In-Between Times
I was trying to think of reasons to postpone my three-month labs (tumor markers and such) as well as a one-year post mastectomy chest x-ray recommended by my oncology surgeon. It isn't that I am afraid of needles or dislike x-rays. Throughout diagnosis and treatment, I grew to dislike the waiting . . . and the . . . waiting . . . and in some cases, the results. I could use the excuse of business travel, or *cough* a mysterious flu, or oops! is it that time already? can I reschedule? In reality, postponing it only postpones reality and if I have learned nothing else, I have learned there is no escape from reality.

I just dislike the big milestones . . . every three months, every six months, once a year. It feels like I get a mini life lease for three months that will hopefully be renewed at the end of the term. I get so focused on the next tests that I forget to enjoy the actual time in-between. Just as I was sorting through these feelings, I received my Daily OM email. Sometimes these emails are messages I need to hear and other times not. Amazingly, this was one I needed to hear and I can't say it any better myself . With complete credit to Daily OM, I am reposting it here (emphasis added). Enjoy.

The Joy Of Being
Celebrating The In-Between Times

While celebrations are intended to honor life's more momentous occasions, much of real life tends to happen during the in-between times. While moving from one moment in time to the next is seldom considered a significant occurrence, it is during those in-between times that we are most in tune with life's most profound, albeit simple joys. Between birth and death, triumph and sorrow, beginnings and endings, we enjoy innumerable experiences that often happen unnoticed. These times are just as worthy of celebration.

The in-between times are seldom about landmark moments. How you choose to celebrate them or which moments you choose to celebrate is up to you. You may want to celebrate the simple facts that you are alive and that every day is a chance to spend time with the people you care about or do the work that you love. Then again, when you look at the good that exists in your life, many reasons for celebrating the in-between times may become clear: a cup of your favorite tea, a beautiful sunrise, a good book, and the smell of fresh air can be reasons for celebration.

Celebrating the in-between times can be as easy as paying special attention to them when they do happen, rather than taking them for granted. It's your focus of attention that can turn an in-between time into a celebration. You can also pay homage to the in-between times by slowing down and allowing yourself time to look around and allow your heart and mind to take in all of your life's wonders. Far too often, we can let those simple moments of awe pass us by. The in-between times are when life happens to us between the pauses that we take to honor our milestones occasions. Without the in-between times, there would be no big moments to celebrate.
Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
6 chimed in

Monday, January 09, 2006
Where in the World . . . ?
I decided to take to the open road and have a break. A couple of days of not worrying about upcoming blood tests and tumor markers. Throw caution to the wind and take a gamble on life. There it was, stretched out before me. Oh sure, it's no Paris, no Tuscan villa, no New York City . . . but it sure seemed like it was all those rolled into one. One smoky, loud, bright, raucus version, that is.

I wasn't even day dreaming of dollar signs or mingling in the hip party scene (even she was there too). I kept wondering if all that smoke would affect my upcoming chest x-ray and lab work. Yep, I can totally leave the cancer behind me. Right.

P.S. Please go give your best healing wishes to Cancer, Baby. She could use them right now.
Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
3 chimed in

Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Friends for the Journey . . .
I'm always amazed by the virtual community of bloggers. We get to know one another's stories, get a glimpse of one another's lives, and, especially those of us united around the cancer theme, grow to virtually care for one another. Like the people that exist in our physical world, blogger friends appear, touch our lives, and eventually move on.

One of my favorite bloggers has decided it is time to put his site to rest for now. I am saddened for selfish reasons, but I am glad that he recognizes the importance of moving forward with his life. Greg at California Hammonds has given all of us who have visited his site a bold, honest, and deeply moving view of his wife's courageous battle with breast cancer. Greg chronicled their story before, during, and after cancer entered their lives. He has generously shared his life and in doing so helped so many to heal and yet others to understand how this battle impacts the lives of everyone it touches. Greg is a very talented writer who is able to express himself in a way that is best described as poetic.

If you have ever been to California Hammonds, be sure to stop by and tell Greg thanks for giving such a gift to the virtual community. Best wishes always to you and your girls, Greg.
Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
2 chimed in

Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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