Mary Anne Chylinski – This is for you!!!!!

I could never have known on this day what I know today.    This image was taken on May 30, 2014.  Mary Anne, Christa and I were headed to Long Island.  We had raised money for the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society and Team in Training.   I had finished my Leukemia treatment in February and was stubborn enough to believe I could ride my bicycle the 74 miles from beginning to end.  There was also a big contingency of peeps from the Albany area that was pushing with the “Yes, You Can” undertone.   Mary Anne and Christa had been huge supporters through all my random adventures and continued to tell me that I could do things that I wasn’t totally sure I could.

What we didn’t know was that within months Mary Anne would be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  What we didn’t know was that she would spend a year and half on different types of chemo trying to fight this disease.  We didn’t know that she would be part of a clinical trial at Sloane Kettering.  Mary Anne’s stamina and determination and persistence were unwavering.   The first trial didn’t work.   There were conversations about tumors growing.

In November we all went to the local Holiday Tractor Parade.  We watched sixty five tractors full of thousands of lights pass down the quaint Main Street of Greenwich.  The smell of fried dough filled the air.  Mary Anne waited in the long, long line for her fill of fried food with sugar on top.  Christmas music played in the air as a light dusting of snow fell on the village.  It was just another day and another parade and another holiday season but being in the presence of Mary Anne and Christa reminded me of the fragility of it all.

A few days later I popped in at Mary Anne’s house.  We sat and chatted and ate celery with peanut butter covered in raisins.  She was losing weight and looked tired.

“I need to tell you something,” Mary Anne said.

“Sure. Go for it,” was my reaction.

“I’ve been having un-kind thoughts and want to talk to you about them.”

“OK.  What’s going on?”  My stomach dropped a little bit.

“When we were at the tractor parade and we were walking back to your house, I was thinking about some things.  I wondered why it was that you had cancer twice and now you are okay and why I’ve been going through this for a year and a half and it’s still going on.”

Tears welled up in my eyes.  She was saying exactly what I had been thinking over and over again.  Her honesty and courage to have this conversation gave me permission to do the same.

“I don’t know Mary Anne.  I just don’t know.”  I sobbed and heaved and cried and blabbered “I’m SO ANGRY.”

We sat at the table together and cried.

We didn’t say anything .

She handed me the tissues.

We allowed each other space to regroup.

“I don’t believe that God picks who lives and who doesn’t,” I sniffled.  “I just don’t believe it.  I don’t know why I am okay and you are still going through this.  I’m so sad.”

“I’m sad too.”

The conversation could not have lasted more than four minutes but it was profound and moving and one of the most honest interactions I have ever had.  We ate more celery and peanut butter and raisins.

Not long after this interaction Mary Anne was offered a second clinical trial at Sloane Kettering.  Her doctor’s dedication was unwavering.  She wanted to try another drug to help with the weight loss and change the direction of the disease.  And that’s exactly what it did.

Mary Anne tried the new drug.

The tumors stopped spreading.

She stopped losing weight.

During our last conversation I learned that the tumors have shrunk.  She was headed to the gym for a little work out.

THIS is why I agreed to be part of Cycle for Survival.  I believe that Mary Anne is still alive because of the research and the clinical trials that happen at Sloane.   Any donation you make goes towards this research.   We never know who will need this next.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE

 

 

 

Resisting 5-0 isn’t so easy

It started around Thanksgiving.  It started to hit me that OMG – THIS was going to be my last holiday season in my 40s.  The big 5-0 was just around the corner.   So I started to make all the right decisions regarding resisting the aging process.

 

Let me tell you what that looks like.

 

  • Tattoed eyebrows and eyeliner. That phrase – needles in my eyes?  Yeah- did it.

 

  • Having Botchilism injected into my forehead to get rid of the canyons in my forehead. It was a bit painful as a bunch of needles poked and prodded and immediately created bee sting like bumps on my forehead but I think I look 45 instead of 49 now.

 

  • That same day, my friend Nicole and I decided to go for a walk in the beautiful snowstorm. We tracked around the little village of Greenwich – up through the school field and into the cemetery.   We stopped to talk to a friend who was out walking her dog and commented on the gorgeous, magnificent beauty around us.   As we left the brief encounter I snapped pictures of the evergreens and bright blue sky and felt at peace with the universe.   The next steps were through soft, fluffy snow that was covering a sheet of ice. My feet lost their balance and I quickly found myself horizontal on the ground after hearing a loud, LOUD SNAP from when I tried to stop the fall with my right hand.   My heart stopped.  My breathing stopped.  I couldn’t see.   It took a bit for Nicole to get me up, schlep me home and convince me that Urgent Care would be a good place to go.  Needless to say, within a few days I had a metal plate and some pins installed in my forearm.   This transaction was complete with some good pain meds, a black cast and a new subscription to Showtime and HBO.  I always thought that if I broke a bone it would be during some dramatic adventure – not just walking around the block.  It’s SO OLD LADY.

 

  • In an effort to multi-task during my convalescence, I decided to schedule Lasik surgery to get rid of the umpteen pairs of cheaters and contacts and Warby Parker glasses laying around the house.  Yesterday I had my eyes cut open and lasered back together and today I have 20/20 vision.  There were tons of middle aged people sitting in the waiting room this morning and it is becoming clearly evident that I belong to a new group.

 

As this whole age thing kicked in this fall, a friend asked me to be part of a spin class/bike ride fund raiser.  It would be a great excuse for some “OLD” friends to get together.  I wanted to resist because time is often limited these days but my friend had recently lost her brother to cancer and she was dedicated to make a difference and help find a cure.

The Charity is Sloan Kettering and I’ve been resisting writing this letter.  I’m resisting asking for money because there are SO many organizations in need.  I’m resisting because it hits close to home.  I’m resisting because I don’t want to cry when I think about my friend who is going through her second clinical trial at Sloane and I am scared for her.  I’m resisting because I don’t want to let people know that I am angry cancer still exists.   I’m resisting because I feel guilty.  I feel guilty  about resisting 5-0 when I should be screaming out loud with gratitude that I actually made it through my Forties.

I resist writing this letter because the truth is challenging. 

I don’t know why some of us make it and others don’t.

But I do know that since I am still here, I need to help others when I can.

 

Just for today, that request comes in the form of asking you to donate a few dollars to Cycle for Survival, a fundraising arm of Sloan Kettering.  In exchange for your donation, I’ll stop telling you all my tales of woe as I get older….

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE!!!!!

 

 

 

 

I think I need a therapist.. Or maybe Google is good enough.


help-support-advice

I’m being stubborn.  I don’t really want a therapist right now.  So I got a brilliant idea to google shit instead.

For instance, I recently googled  “How to tell someone they are an asshole and not kill the relationship.”    Obviously a therapist would have some great advice and would probably dig deeper into what’s going on.  That’s probably exactly what I am avoiding but I don’t care.  Google had some awesome links without digging.     One blog listed out the steps.

1- Talk about the positive.

2- Take responsibility for my part.

3- Use “I feel” statements.  Such as “I feel frustrated when you….”

Ugh.  What I really want to say is “Why do you have to be such an asshole and why can’t you just listen to me?”   But I read these posts and breathe and wait.    And then hit the PURCHASE button and buy the book “The No Asshole Rule.”    Actually, I bought two copies thinking that I would share it with someone.  Hmmm.

 

A few days later I googled “How to get rid of anger.”   That seemed like progress to me.  I had moved past the pissed off stage and was looking for some coping strategies.  Google -1  Therapist-0.   Of course there were tons of posts about releasing anger and blah, blah, blah.   But after a quick overview of several posts, I realized that a lot of them  were saying the same thing.   Exercise, Meditation, Help someone else.  Damn.  Those things again.  Those healthy, responsible behaviors that are the simple solution to most everything but that I resist on a regular REGULAR basis.

 

Yup.  I have some shit going on. My lighthearted, warm, funimg_1698 and fuzzy side has a counterpart that IS pissed off.   It’s the part that gets angry when I get real and look at my life and know that cancer has been part of it, not once but twice now.  It’s the part that doesn’t have time to deal with assholes when there are so many more important things to deal with in this world.  It’s probably not about one particular person.  It’s the part that really wants to do something that matters in the world before my time is up.  It’s the part that prays and prays and prays for direction and then is pissed off that I have to wait and wait and wait for something that feels right.

 

 

And then it comes.  Something feels right.  This summer I dedicated myself to trying to get back in shape.  It’s a real stinking effort and I consistently have to set goals and commitments for myself so that there is something I am working towards.  While ramping this part of my life up again, I joined a new gym.  It’s called Challenge by Choice and run by an absolute badass, Jodi Mehan.  I don’t like it.  Really I don’t.    I showed up last week and she asked how I was and I said “Angry.”   How’s that for rigorous honesty?   And then I lifted these little dinky dumb bells so many times that my arms were on fire.  And I sweat so much that it felt like I had been dunked in a lake.  And my legs were so stressed that it was hard to walk to my car.   And I was a little less angry.

 

October is pissed off month for me.  For those of you that don’t know it, the pink ribbons bug the shit out of me.   It hasn’t always been this way but after going through breast cancer, my relationship changed with the corporate organizations that solicit funds for this cause.  I don’t want a pink ribbon t-shirt or a pink ribbon magnet or a pink ribbon hat. I don’t want organizations to spend funds on material chachkis.  I don’t want to be part of that type of business entity.

OK Bethany – get to the point.  What do you want?

I don’t want to be angry any more so I go to this stupid gym.  And now they are having this stupid Grind for Cancer event.   I’m pissed off about it but the more I hear about it, the more it infiltrates my soul. And I am reminded about the blog post How to Get Rid of Anger – exercise, meditate and help others.  I need to get out of myself.  I need to stop being such a King Baby and do something meaningful.  I need to do something for someone else.  (Don’t let this all fool you.  It sounds philanthropic and good hearted but really it is self serving.  I just don’t want to be angry any more.)

 

This event is schedulsaturday-oct-22ed for Saturday, October 22 at 7:00am.  It’s a HIIT workout which means High Intesity Interval Training a.k.a. Kick Your Ass.   I have committed to doing this event.  Now I want to raise money for the cause and am asking people for donations that will all be sent to a local breast cancer support group.  This feeds my core belief that if I donate money, I want it to go to a person in need, not inflated administrative costs.  I want it to go to someone who can’t clean their house for themselves or go grocery shopping on their own.  I want the money to help someone that is having difficulty making their co-pays.  I want it to help pay for someone’s gas or meals to be delivered or to send a random care package to a stranger the day after a chemo treatment.   I want all these things because I know that those are the things that mattered to me most. Those are the things that brought me to tears while I laid in the fetal position praying for help.  These are the things that opened my heart to accept the love and kindness of strangers.  These are the things that changed my life.  And for those things I am always ALWAYS grateful.

 

So, if in some small way I can make a commitment to go to another stupid, really hard workout and at the same time ask people to support me in this cause, I will feel as though I am paying forward the unconditional love that has been shown to me in the past.  BETTER YET – if you wan
t to COME AND WORK OUT WITH ME THAT would be FANTASTIC.  The event is Saturday, October 22.  We could sweat, sweachallenge-by-choicet, sweat and not be angry and actually I might even laugh my ass off afterwards.  It’s that giddy, lack of oxygen state that is a really great high.  You really should come and try it with me.   We could probably
find a place to have breakfast afterwards too.
Long story short… I’m asking for money.

 

CLICK HERE  to find the DONATE button.   All funds will go to Get Your Rack Back and will support women and their families from the local community.   You are going to help others AND ME.  You are going to motivate me to be better – physically and emotionally.  And believe me, I need all the help I can get.  Smile.  Smile.  Wink.  Wink.

Thanks for being my favorite therapist today.

Rock on!!!!

 

 

 

Ticking Things Off.

The great part about lists is scratching things off.  Actually, I like to highlight them with a yellow highlighter.  There is a huge sense of accomplishment and pride attached to that sheet of paper.  It’s a symbol that I was productive and therefore somehow good.  This  48 things to do in my 48th year list isn’t really headed in that direction.  This list is more a lesson in humility and acceptance – in other words, I’ll be lucky if I get half way through it.

This does not mean it has been a wasted exercise.

There are still lessons to learn.  For one –  I’m not good at sticking to regularly scheduled tasks, i.e. #10 do yoga twice a month, #12 watch one Oscar winning movie every month, #14 try a new vegetable every month, #15 write three pages a day for twelve weeks and #16 send 10 greeting cards every month.  Even writing the “every month”, “every week”, “every day” phrases makes me cringe today.  I feel boxed in, claustrophobic, like there is an elephant sitting on my chest.  I know what was going on though.   When I made the list I was hoping I could  turn myself into that really organized person that has the extra super special Passion Planner with the complete ToDo list every day. At the end of the day the list is all checked off or moved to the following day.   You know the person – the friend that has that calendar thing in the kitchen with big black sharpie X’s through each day.  They also probably have a grocery shopping list that they carry around with them and maybe they even have clipped coupons and know that milk is cheaper at Price Chopper this week but that avocados are two for $1.29 at Hannaford.   You know.  THAT person.  I always think that I want to be THAT person but I can never quite make it work.   SO-the lesson is – I’m not going to try any more.  I just can’t fit in that world no matter how much I admire those people and wish it was me.  RESOLUTION – Next years list will not have multiple day/week/month commitments.

Exception to the rule – #26 – Meditate three times a week.  It might need to be re-worded.   Meditate.   Just do it.  Sometimes it seems hokey to talk about but this practice (no matter how regular or irregular) has changed my life.  By meditating when I can, I am learning how to work with another muscle in my body – my brain.  If my thoughts are in some negative neural pathway rut, I now have a better shot of noticing this and MAY be able to switch lanes.   MAY being the key word in that sentence. My goal with this practice is to have a more peaceful state of being.  Doesn’t that sound lovely?  Peaceful State of Being.  Sounds like sitting outside on a summer evening and listening to the wind blow and the peepers peep and feeling a nice warm breeze blowIMG_5361 (2) through the air.  Wait, wait.  That’s what I am doing right now.   All that -with my laptop.  Creating a Peaceful State of Being… AND being aware of it as it happens AND being grateful for each opportunity to do that.   There’s no clear cut answer on how to find these moments, it’s just taking the time to find my bliss, be still and breathe.  For the Peaceful State of Being reason alone, I will keep meditation as part of next year’s list – just maybe without the numerical qualifiers.

By the way, I don’t do this alone.  Sometimes Punky likes to sit with me too… He’s LOVE on four legs

Other things that got ticked off the list.

#2- Paid off credit card.  Boring.  Responsible.  CHECK.

#4 – Paint the house.  Needed it.  Got it done.  CHECK

#9 – Watch Sunset from a Beach.  Lake George and St. Petersburg.  Thank You TINA BUELL.  I’m lake george sunsetst pete sunsetactually going to say that we completed a week vacation at the beach #46 too.  Even though it was only four or five days.  It’s GE… Good
Enough.

 

 

#11 – Color a Full Coloring Book.  Killed it.  Done.

#13 – Do a Ten Day Cleanse.  Well I tried.  I did four days or something like that.  I’m really not that great with long term commitment.  Hmmm.  I might want to think about that.

 

#14 – Try new vegetable every month.  I am going to call it as done as done can be.  Even though I only tried three new vegetablepickled rampss.   Brussel Sprouts, Pickled Ramps (supplied by the ever lovely Barbara Price – my new neighbor and local forager) and an artichoke.    I think the avocado was last year.

This vegetable thing is a stretch. We literally grew up on hot dogs, Kraft macaroni and cheese and Spam.   Mom isn’t a big veggie person so as close as we got was green beans out of a can.  Maybe peas too.   I’m giving myself a little bit of a pat on the back about this vegetable thing.  I’ve stuck with eating brussel sprouts for the entire year and will probably continue to do so.

The tough thing about trying new vegetables is that you have to google them and figure out how to cook them and wonder if there is going to be a gag reflex when eating them.  (Amazing… 48 years old not 12.)

Yay for me!   Writing another blog post.  And yes, I will hit submit again – without worrying if it is perfect or boring or if I have the right adjectives or adverbs or if anyone will actually read it.  I will hit submit because I like to write and playing around with this blog thing makes me happy.  PERIOD.

Just Do It. Easier said then done.

cropped-48.pngIn September of last year, I was all excited to make a list of 48 things to do while I was 48.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.   Now as I get closer to September again, I’m feeling a bit under the gun.   There are only so many weekends left in the summer and there are a lot of things on the list that will probably not get ticked off and that’s cool because I’ve learned some things about me.

The first thing on last years list was to make a budget and stick to it.  That lasted about five days.   I need to figure out how to reword the budget thing so that I can actually make it achievable.  Hmm.  Maybe it’s not really about changing the words to suit my needs but more about changing me to accomplish what I set out to.  Damn.  I hate when I catch myself trying to cheat the system.   Maybe I really do need to Make A Budget AND Stick To It.    Because it is responsible and smart and Suzie Orman and every financial planner in the world says so.  And like my cousin Lynn says “Who is going to pay for your groceries when you are 65?” It just doesn’t seem fun.  It seems Big Girl and Boring.  I am not committing to it yet but will consider it.

Another thing I learned is that I don’t really dig those meditation coloring books.  In fact, I wanted to tear them to shreds and burn them when I finally sat down to “find peace between the lines.”   There was ZERO serenity involved with picking which pink pencil to use on the 164 petals of the teeny, tiny flowers that were surrounded by magical black and white butterflies and endless floral options.  It felt more like torture. So one day when I left them on the deck and a torrential downpour blew through, I was pretty thrilled to watch the water soak through the stacks of paper.  There would be no checking it off my  list.  There would be no more torture about “Just Do It.”  I would no longer work really hard at finishing a complete coloring book because in the end, who really cares that it was on my list?   And so what… it’s a COLORING BOOK for God’s sake.  Phew…   glad that one is done and over.

Do a handstand and a backbend are on the list.  This may or may not be do-able in the next month.

Start my blog again was on the list.   I did ONE blog post… It was the actual list from last year.   But writing has been in and out of my consciousness for the entire year.  THIS is the one that I would really like to spend some more time with.  I recently watched a video by Gary Vaynerchuck, an entrepreneur, writer and social media guru.  The quick overview – follow your passion, be truthful, talk to the world and “fuck fear”.  (He’s got a whole NYC persona, tough guy, cut to the chase attitude about him that I love.)  Along with a few other peeps that have been put in my life recently, I’m motivated to start writing out loud again. I’m Scared.  I’m Nervous.  I’m Wondering if what I have to say matters and if my writing is good enough.  And within seconds I have caught myself …. STOP DOING THAT TO YOURSELF.  DO what you like.  And I like to write.

SO JUST DO IT and hit the publish button to START….

How to eat an elephant (not really). Or… how to lead a full life…

cropped-dr-seuss-elephant1.jpg

Lists. It’s all about the lists.

And then it is about one bite at a time. Or one step at a time. Or one day or one year at a time.
OR…One thing at a time…

I’ve been inspired by my buddy Paige Stoub to make a list for my birthday.  (Granted it was easier for her… 30 things to do when you are 30 is a lot different than 48 things to do when you are 48.)  But I’m game.

OK… Here goes….  My commitment to me.  Things to do.

1 Make a budget and stick to it
2 Pay off credit card and line of credit
3 new roof on porch
4 paint house
5 extra insulation in seam wall

God – it sounds awful so far, doesn’t it?
6 run a 5k
7 learn Spanish
8 see a sunrise from the top of a mountain.
9 watch the sunset from a beach
10 do yoga twice a month
11 color a full coloring book

BTW… one showed up in the mail today with pencils and everything.  Who did that???  Thank you
12 watch one oscar winning movie every month
13 do a ten day cleanse
14 try one new vegetable a month
15 go hang gliding
16 send ten greeting cards a month
17 plan a flower garden
18 plan a deck
19 celebrate Denise’s 50th birthday
20 celebrate Tina’s birthday
21 celebrate Jackie’s birthday
22 celebrate Jodi’s birthday
23 scrape the paint off the stairs going to second floor
24 paint a landscape
25 Journey Dance at Kirpalu
26 Meditate three times a week
27 Ride bike to Cossayuna General Store
28 Update my passport
29 Do a backbend
30 Do a handstand
31 Read ten books
32 Go to live music at least five times
33 Volunteer at New Year’s Eve event
34 Take Chey to NYC
35 Visit MOMA
36 Visit Hayden Planetarium
37 Get a massage once a month
38 Go skiing
39 Take a cooking lesson
40 Start blog again —- yeah!!!!!!
41 Ride the Gore Gondola
42 Spend the night in Keene Valley
43 Vacation for a week at the beach
44 Go to the track with Shannon
45 Go to a Kelly and Michael show
46 Go to a Moth StorySlam event
47 **Surprise***
48 Hike five mountains

And one more… just because…
49 Research “Cancer Survivors Do Kenya” as a volunteer program.

And one more because I forgot

50 Finish Kitchen renovation

And that’s that…. I’m exhausted now.  Gotta add nap to the list.