Saturday, August 24, 2013

Help Me Cross The Finish Line at ACS Making Strides

It's that time of year, again!

I will be attending this year's ACS Making Strides Against Breast Cancer on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Lake Eola in beautiful downtown Orlando. It will be a lovely day -- no matter what. And, I expect to be up "bright and early" that morning all ready for the 5K walk around the streets of Orlando.

This year I registered as an individual. However, I still have an ACS MSABC website that you can visit and where online donations can be made. You can visit:

I greatly appreciate any contribution. If you can recall (if you're old enough to do so)  the March of Dimes only asked for donations of 10 cents per person to rid the world of polio. It worked! Now, with inflation, dollars make the difference. But seriously, even a gift of $5 or $10 can make a significant difference. By going online to this secure site, you can make a personal contribution that will go towards the ACS mission of providing patient services, education, advocacy and research. I am alive today thanks to drugs created by researchers funded through ACS dollars. For me, it is truly and matter of life and death.

I have personally lost too many dear friends and family to breast cancer. At this time, I want to recall Nancy and Ellen. Both were amazing women. Neither wanted to lose her battle. They fought courageously. Nancy was an elementary school teacher and she loved her kindergartens. Every summer she would shop for books and toys that she would use to stock her classroom. She also adored her family -- they meant the world to her. She would be so proud to know that one daughter became a CPA and the other, an attorney. Ellen was a leader when it came to advocacy. She spent countless hours in Tallahassee and in Washington, DC fighting for research dollars through the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network. When I met her, we were on the bus to Tallahassee and trust me, when Ellen spoke -- people listened. And, they opened up their checkbooks and at the congressional level -- they voted to give more dollars to ACS research. She was also loved by her family.

I miss these incredible friends and "sisters" -- they will always remain reasons for me to Make Strides Against Breast Cancer. Please, find your reason and then, make a generous donation. 

I thank you, in advance, for caring. I am sending out Pink Hugs to all of you. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Day by day by day -- Say A Prayer for Me

That's how life feels. I wake up (thank goodness) and I do the same things over and over again. The routines are the same. Day in and day out. Very little changes although I wish there would be some major change. I simply don't know what that would be.

For instance. The past three days I've woken up about the same time, between 8:10 a.m. and 8:20 a.m. Twice I got up to answer the phone. But, even with that phone call, I was still on my way to getting up anyway. So, the caller didn't change much about my routine.

It's rare for me to set the alarm unless I have a doctor's appointment or a hospital visit. If so, I need to ensure that I am ready to either get to the location or I need to be ready for pick up. Those days, I may find myself getting up as early as 7 a.m. depending upon pick up time. I am not thrilled but, my body does do something interesting. I usually wake up about five to 10 minutes prior to the alarm, which I hate hearing. I actually jump out of bed before the alarm, in most cases, and since I'm already up -- I will begin my routine. There was a time when I would try to go back to sleep and wait until I heard that "blasted" alarm go off. Oh, I remember those days. I was working back then. Interesting?

Well, I get into the bathroom and begin my daily morning rituals. All the usual stuff, nothing out of the ordinary. If I have already planned my wardrobe for the day, I will quickly review what I selected and take what I need into the bathroom with me. If I haven't selected my clothes, I will go to the drawers and begin that "insane" process. Why insane? Because my wardrobe is so limited that I really have next to nothing to wear -- it's actually a good thing I no longer work. My entire wardrobe is "super casual." I have very little to wear. After losing so much weight, I still kept wearing clothes that were way too big. Then, I finally realized I needed something "smaller" and so I went shopping for a few things. With a limited budget that places clothing not only near the bottom of the list but on the "Is it really necessary or can I get away without it list?" ... Let's just say that I wear the same stuff over and over again. Each week it's basically the same outfits. I try to change it out a bit -- maybe a different top. Or maybe I'll wear a different pair of sneakers. Since I exercise most of the time, I don't have a need for a "frilly" wardrobe although it would be great to have "real workout" clothes. I had a few items but they are beginning to fall apart as well from "wear and tear." Fortunately, my friends at the Y don't really notice what I'm wearing -- we all look "sweaty" and "ready for a heavy duty workout" so the clothes are not really noticed. (Although I do take note of the members who are able to buy nice matching sets for Zumba or who can afford a nice pair of Capri's that fit right.) When I have a few extra dollars, I hit the markets -- Goodwill, Hope, or any of the thrift stores where for about $3 I can find a "new" pair of pants or a top for less.  Thank goodness for bargains!

Once I am dressed and I've taken my morning medications,  then it's time for breakfast. No matter what, I do eat breakfast everyday. I may not eat immediately, but I know the importance of this meal. It was "pounded" into me during diabetes education classes. Breakfast, we were told, was an essential meal and never to be forgotten. If possible, I create a menu that includes a protein, a carb, a fruit, dairy and a fat. That's how I was taught. So, maybe I will have an egg, slice of toast, a glass of skim milk, some margarine on my toast and either a piece of fruit or a small glass of juice. Or, I may reach for the oatmeal adding some fresh or dried fruits and nuts. I may also add Greek yogurt to that meal, bringing in a great source of protein.

I know how to eat healthy -- but then again, it's a matter of what I have in the pantry or refrigerator. Like clothing -- food is on a special list -- it's a "luxury" item. Please don't misunderstand what I mean here. I'm eating -- and I am by no means starving. What I do want to explain is that being on a "limited budget" has its challenges. Since the guidelines for food benefits seem to indicate that I "earn too much money" to receive any extra help, I need to be creative. Like with my clothing where I seek out bargains or thrifty options, I have found some help in this area as well. Thank goodness for local churches and area food pantries. While I never thought I would be standing in line for any of these places, I do have plenty of company each time I visit a location for help. There are many wonderful men and women out there who never thought they would need this extra help -- but here we are. All together at the local food bank, getting our weekly allotment. If lucky, maybe this week they will have eggs. Or perhaps extra fresh fruit or veggies?

My day in and day out routine is rather simple. I am a survivor. I do whatever I have to do to make things happen. If I need something -- eventually, I will get it. Medications. I get those. They are on my priority list. Vitamins and supplements. I try not to run out, but if I do, it's only for a short time. Food. Trust me, I eat -- breakfast, lunch and dinner, even a snack or two. While I may not always eat the foods I would prefer (since I have to work my menu and diet around what I can get or find) I am doing quite well. Per all my medical testing, apparently I am doing all the right things. While I may want to eat a very healthy diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, healthier proteins, etc., I may need to make modifications based on what I can get and what's in the pantry and refrigerator/freezer. But, I can assure you that when I can get my hands on the "best" I enjoy it. When I have to settle for "second best" I am also extremely grateful. Considering that there are individuals not eating everyday or starving because food is not available -- believe me, I am happy living day by day by day.

Surviving cancer has been a major life changing experience. I have learned to appreciate "little things" and I have come to realize that even "out of date" items are still okay. Bottom line for this survivor -- I don't "sweat the small stuff" any longer. Living day by day by day is A - OK with me. I can make a meal out of anything and I can make it healthy, too. I can make an outfit out of whatever I find in my closet or drawers. I can still walk with pride and hold my head up high. Why? Very simple. I am able to get up each and everyday. I don't take that for granted. I don't even take breathing or walking for granted. I am so forever grateful to the people who have helped me reach this "day..." "this point in my life"... that I can find the beauty and happiness in every moment that I am awake. I love my simple daily routine. If this is living -- I am truly blessed.

(By the way, if you're listening to my prayers, I would not be the least bit upset if you "blessed" me with a bit of financial well being. Even in "Fiddler on the Roof" he sang the song "If I Were a Rich Man." Personally, I don't think it would spoil any "plan" if I came into a few extra dollars and was able to help my family and friends. Whenever you can make this happen, I would be most appreciative. Meanwhile, I'll  keep doing what I'm doing. Thanks. Amen.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Whole New Chapter Begins

I realize that when I started writing this blog, Marilyn's Byline, I had a "hidden agenda." I wanted to promote my book, which at the time was a work in progress. It was suggested to me by a wonderfully talented young woman by the name of Sultana Ali that I start this blog. First, she had to tell what a "blog" was. I had no idea. Then, I had to find someone to help me get stated. That artistically talented individual was Thomas Thorspecken, better known as Thor. He helped me get into and the rest, as they say, is history. Oh, and I did get some additional help (artistically) from a well-known graphic designer, Edward Feldman. He took my original concept and made it look -- well, much more exciting as well as professional. I wanted to thank all three of these incredible people for their help, especially at a time when I was still coming out of my "fog."

Marilyn's Byline started out as a way to let people know I was writing -- something I had stopped doing for way too many years. The years between 2002 - 2007 were downright horrible, physically and mentally. I could barely function on a daily basis let alone attempt anything remotely resembling a piece of writing. (Or anything that made sense.) I was a mess. My brain was overcome by chemo brain, a real dysfunction from which I still continue to suffer -- although I am better able to handle those moments.

In late 2007, Brian Feldman (aka: my son) helped me apply for a literature grant from United Arts of Central Florida. I wrote on my application that I would write a play about cancer survivors and take that piece to a public play reading, all within a year's time. Talk about impossible! Even the judging panel who were there to determine if I would get the grant noted that this project was "impossible" even for professionals like themselves. But I was in la-la land and told them: "I'm a cancer survivor. I can do anything." I said that line three times. I knew I wasn't going to get the grant -- but, I did! Of course, as you may already know, I finished the project in March 2010 -- two years after I started. Chemonologues became a reality when it was read by a group of professional actors on the stage at Theatre Downtown in Orlando. I was "mentored" by Julia Gagne, formerly with Valencia Community College. She also directed the play reading.

Now, I have completed my book "High Maintenance." I am still deciding how to publish my memoir. The exciting thing is -- I completed the book. I did it. I spent three years writing -- but it's done. For me, that's a "giant" accomplishment. There was a time (between 2002 and 2007) where my brain could not have done this work. I could not even write two words in a sentence that made any sense. I was a totally dysfunctional person -- I could barely do anything physical. I had to learn how to "walk," again, twice. (2005 and 2008 after breaking my femurs) I spent plenty of time in hospitals and rehab centers. I endured surgeries, including the loss of the upper lobe of my left lung. (My breast cancer journey began to resemble a lung cancer survivor's journey.) Mentally, emotionally -- I was a wreck! I needed to get off the "roller-coaster, merry-go-round" I was on.

Today, I am writing this new post with a whole different attitude. I feel great! I exercise on a regular basis. I enjoy exercising because I can see and feel the difference it has made. I do "crazy things" such as Zumba, water fitness, basic spinning and Tai Chi. I have tried many other classes along the way. I also enjoy working my muscles -- working at each session to gain better muscle tone and strength. It has become a passion for me.

Thus, my new "blog" is about how my life has improved since I became whole again. What a feeling it is to know that each day I am truly "getting better and stronger." I just celebrated another year on August 9. I love it! I have a whole year to expand my horizons. To learn new things and accomplish goals. (Such as publishing my book) It doesn't get much better than that. So, join me on this incredible journey -- my adventure into year 61. You are invited to encourage me, join me, (which means you need to get off the sofa and start moving) and most importantly, support me. I cannot do this myself. I realized my limitations in 2002 and since then, I have depended upon family and friends for physical, emotional and spiritual support. I will have an awesome year. I cannot wait to see all the amazing things that will happen as each week and each month over the coming 61st year of my life as Marilyn Susan Wattman-Feldman unfolds.

Here's to the next chapter in my life!