November 1st, In Great Detail

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Hauntings, Mom, Whining

Lots going on, kittens, but I am still determined to clear out my Draft posts. Only relevant ones, natch, and I decided to go from oldest to newest. I flinched and nearly fled from this one during editing, but for reasons I won’t explain here, it is miraculously timed.

The last edit date was mid-November, 2010. It’s very, very stale but I’m powering through it because I don’t want to ever have to remember it in detail again.

Apologies for the scattered nature as I try and capture the chaotic and ancient thoughts to pin them down to the page. I don’t know why I started writing about the bittersweet nature of my wedding anniversary the way I did, but I’m honoring my old draft by way of keeping the format and filling in holes.

I’m also creating a Kamikat Alert to warn when emo is flowing freely. I give this one the highest possible. I’ve been crying nonstop while reading/editing it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On November 1, 2002, Chooch and I went on our first official date. The following summer, we became engaged and then my mother told us her cancer had returned. A few months after that, we married. Completely by accident, we were married on the same exact date, a year later, on November 1, 2003. (When I say by accident, I mean it. Chooch would have to confirm, but I think it was well after our first wedding anniversary that we realized that it was a double anniversary.)

In the fall of 2005, my mother was over two years into her second occurrence of breast cancer. Nothing had worked, and as a last resort she had pushed really hard to get into a clinical trial for a new medication that was in its first round of human trials. She was that determined to live. I watched her fight like a battle-hardened warrior, but she couldn’t beat it alone. She needed the medical community to fight for her, too, so she got them.

This chemo ‘cocktail’ was particularly nasty, and while I won’t go into details beyond that, we realized too late it was killing her instead of the cancer, which continued to grow and spread. She was hospitalized in early October 2005 because her body functions were shutting down. At the time, it was just one more hospital trip that I drove her to, in a very long line of them in the few months since I quit school to help her and my dad as they were overwhelmed and I worried for my dad’s health. I am still haunted by the fact that when she walked into the emergency room that day that we had no idea that she would never go home, or that it would be the last few steps of freedom she would ever take.

Her body barely recovered and we almost lost her at one point. She went in and out of a sleepy/coma-like state and lost the ability to walk. She slowly emerged and then on November 1st, we finally got the answer we were bugging her oncologist for – we were told that there were no treatment options. One of us must have asked what was next, if not chemo, because he started talking about “making her comfortable” and “managing her pain” and that he believed she may have as long as six months to live.

As was common at this point, Mom and I were alone when we got the news and after he left us we grieved as you might expect. We clung to each other and wept. I reassured her and she reassured me. I don’t really remember much more of the day. I know we told my dad, but I don’t remember it. I got home that night, and don’t remember much other than picking up the phone to resume my usual evening activity after spending time with her during the day — spend the next few hours on the phone with my siblings and Mom’s siblings and whoever else wanted an update. I knew I was lucky to be able to help her and it was important to me to relay the news, in whatever detail they needed, to family and friends.

The first person I reached was my Mom’s sister. Needless to say, this particular pronouncement required an excruciating retelling of every detail. She knew that I would be on the phone with this news for anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, explaining, reassuring and relaying requests and information to and from my Mom.

Mom’s sister offered at some point to make the calls so that Chooch and I could find some time to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary, which was also that day. I was hesitant, but also in desperate need for a reprieve from it all.  I agreed and she promised to call my brother and sister as well as her brother. I didn’t know how much I needed to not be the messenger of this particular message any more, until she moment that she took the task from me.

Tangent: I can still remember seeing the bag of candy she had on her hospital table as we talked about what the oncologist talked. The day before had been Halloween, and she’d wanted to have candy to give out in case any kids that were stuck in the hospital were trick or treating. To my knowledge, the only trick or treater she had was my son L.T. He was eight years old. Once in his costume, we went to visit her again and she loaded him up. When I looked at that nearly full bag of candy the next day, I was thinking how impossibly wrong it was that her last Halloween was spent in the hospital. She always loved Halloween and the joy it brought kids, all kids. I still wonder if that thought occurred to her, too, the next morning as we hugged, cried and tried to make sense of it.

Back to my wedding anniversary night, and not even an hour passed before I got a call from my sister. I don’t even think we’d had time to decide whether to go out to dinner to celebrate or order in and coccoon. My baby sister (9 years younger) was crying inconsolably from my aunt’s call. Some of the information got confused and it scared the living hell out of her. At the time, my sister was living with her husband was in the Army and stationed in Texas while all the rest of us were in Virginia. She carried a lot of guilt about this, and it’s possible she still does. I really wish I could take that from her. Mom was over the moon that my sister was starting a new life married to the man she loves, rather than sitting in the hospital room, watching as she wasted away. Their mother/daughter bond was so strong, she never once questioned my sister’s love or loyalty. In typical fashion, Mom saw beyond herself and could only grin with joy for the happiness sis found and still finds with her husband of now nine years.

But when I heard the terror in my lil’ sister’s voice, I was immediately shamed. Yes, of course, I realize that I was entitled to a night off to catch my breath and stay sane and have some joy for ourselves. Just not at this price. I was grateful that she called, as the thought of having gone off for a romantic dinner while she sobbed desperately would have haunted me forever. Chooch and I agreed that it was more important that I untangle the information. I don’t even remember what exactly it was that upset everyone, it’s too deep in the shadows.

I soothed my sister and called my brother. Sure enough, he was reeling, as well. I again went over all the information and gave reassurances. I then called my mom’s brother and cleared up his questions. Finally, I called Auntie, to reiterate the information to her to make sure she understood, because what she relayed wasn’t completely accurate. I was frustrated, but never at her. After all, she’d just found out her big sis was really and truly dying now, of the same thing that took their mom and their grandmother before that. Her intentions were the very best and I remain grateful for the love she demonstrated by trying to give me a night off.

Hours later, I finished the last call and vowed to myself to never delegate that job again. Somehow, when there was something that needed to be done, I was able to push my fears and horror at what I was hearing and seeing to the side and get things done. Maybe it was because I was the one “in the trenches” with Mom, and in every way we were at war. It was every day.

A few days later, my parents celebrated their wedding anniversary. My dad snuck a bottle of wine into her hospital room and they had as romantic a dinner for two as possible. It was hard, lifting the mood before I left, but we all did our damnedest. I can’t imagine how bittersweet that dinner was, and I love them so much for celebrating their last anniversary.

Do you want to know what I think was the hardest? The cancer was already in her bones, had spread to her Mom’s skull, and we believe, to her brain. We aren’t sure because the scans and most non-life-supporting testing stopped. When it’s terminal, why continue putting her through it? We already knew from DNA testing that it was the breast cancer from 1991. It had returned and was in her colon, bones, stomach and skull. We knew she was going to die, just like her mom and her grandma had, from breast cancer.

Our suspicion that it spread to her brain was because she started losing memories, when her mind had always been sharp as a tack. Just another horrible degradation before she dies, why not? Grateful that you still have your mind while you’re dying from cancer and unable to walk? Not for long, with this disease. It’s when I first got a taste of the cruelty of a failing memory, at least as I experience it. You don’t get to choose who’s face you’ll forget. Hell, you don’t even get to remember that you forgot them to apologize later!

But the possible spread of cancer to my mom’s brain was confirmed, in my mind, by her question upon my arrival one day. The only silver lining was that LT was not at my side as he frequently was, since it was a school day.

Her question? When her oncologist would be coming to meet with her about resuming her chemo? The cancer was growing unchecked while we did nothing. Would I call him to her room to discuss it?

I froze. I blinked. The words made no sense. Wait, I thought, what’s wrong with my brain? Nothing. I just couldn’t accept what her question meant. Tears sprang to my eyes. She didn’t remember the death sentence she was given, weeks earlier. I don’t even think I took a breath.

I wanted to say, “Okay, Mom. I’ll get him here as soon as possible. Want a pedicure? How was breakfast?” Deflect, distract, redirect. Sure, it would be a lie. But it seemed like a kindness. Maybe she’d remember on her own? Was that kinder? Maybe, but I feared what would happen when she found out the truth. In my mind, it was more cruel to waste what little time we had left with deception and lies. She took great pride in being a strong woman. She hated lies and had never been a delicate flower in need of babying. She was NiNi, Warrior Queen, and she hid from nothing. Khaleesi, would’ve been more fitting, if she’d known the reference.

Yet… silence. No words came out. Just her looking up at me with those beautiful, trusting eyes.

Ah, yes, another blow, just so. I immediately understood. Our roles had switched. She was the innocent and helpless one now, and I was the one in charge (by family agreement) of protecting her. Keeping her safe. Casting out her fears. Comforting her.

But, how? She was my touchstone and my source of unconditional love, my central support beam my entire life. She was my mommy! Then, when I needed her more than I have ever needed her, to be stronger than I could ever hope to be on my own, I couldn’t reach for her hand to comfort mine.

In my head, I screamed, cried, kicked and fought against it all.
I refused.
I would not do it.
No way am I strong enough.
Nope, the doctor can come back and tell her.

Instead, I found myself holding her hands in my shaking ones as I told her, again. We cried as we had the first time, because to her, it was the first time. I don’t even know what I felt. I just curled up with her on the hospital bed, tightly clinging to each other, with vigilant and respectful eyes checking on us from the door from time to time by the palliative care staff. We grieved again.

And when she asked a few weeks later, I told her again. It’s foggy after that, I don’t know how many times I had to tell her, in total. I’m grateful that I was there for her, but she was drifting further and further away from me, one shimmery silvery wisp at a time.

By way of bringing it current, and possibly to a point (*gasp*), the intervening years has let go of our anniversary as a bittersweet day. I do think of Mom, but instead of sadness and tears from the hospital room, I now see her laughing and smiling with us at our wedding. I picture she and Chooch killing the bottle of Dom when my parents toasted our engagement. (Damn, she was adorable tipsy, although I rarely saw it.) I remember her teasing me that Chooch was using me to get to her because they were the true soul mates — straight faced and with a wickedly cocked eyebrow, as only she could do. And letting me know what I needed to know most, because she knew the three of us (my two sons and I) better than anyone else: that she approved of him as my husband and as step-dad to my sons.

She told us in a hundred different ways that she thought he was right for me/us, but most poignantly when she asked us to move up the wedding to ensure she would be alive to attend. We did, and she did. It was a chaotic and magnificent day that I treasure all the more because she was there. She was beatific, at peace over my sons and I with Chooch in our lives and the knowledge that my sister would be soon married to the love of her life. My brother and his wife were happy and strong. Everyone else was healthy. What more could a mother need to know before she dies?

She passed away in the wee hours of January 13, 2006, a little over three months after that walk in to the emergency room. She was 62. She and my father were together over four decades. She had three kids, seven grandkids and, since her passing, three great-grandkids. She wrote, painted, baked, worked gardened, taught, played and gave hugs that could make you forget why you needed one in the first place.

 

I’ve reclaimed November 1st as the celebration of love and family, as it’s intended. Chooch and I celebrate our love, our bond and our marriage, with number 10 later this year. Times are chaotic, but our love is like Valyrian steel baby, folded a thousand times in fire. Besides, Mom would kick my ass if I let anything get in the way of celebrating our anniversary. She certainly set the example on that one.

There are several songs that are intertwined with Mom in my mind. This is one of the most powerful. I didn’t find a video by Colin Hay for the song I first heard on the Garden State soundtrack, but this is my favorite of the fan submitted videos I viewed. I almost didn’t include it for fear of being accusations of being maudlin, overly sentimental or pity seeking, but…

Fuck that. I really miss my Mommy today. I’m going to treat my broken heart to a good cry.

“I just don’t think I’ll ever get over you”
Song by Colin Hays, formerly of Men at Work
Video submitted to youtube by EmjayTulip.And as always, Mom was right. Chooch is my soul mate. No one else could have given my laugh lines and wrinkles in the intervening years.

Time Heals All Wounds? Meh.

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Family, Mom, No Whining, Whining

Today is my Mom’s birthday.  Somehow, the math shows that she would have been 70. It doesn’t seem possible for her birthday and not her to make it to a new decade and new things that the public would allow for her to complain about. Aches, pains, less patience with the horrible people that you encounter during a random day. All the stuff society deafens an ear to, but doesn’t disrespect them for. She would have met her first two great-grandchildren and would be rubbing her granddaughter’s belly in anticipation of the one on the way. It’s unfathomable to me that these beloved children were never held in her arms. Surreal.

I was going to choose today as my first time intentionally not going to her grave on a significant day. (I certainly haven’t made it for every birthday, Mother’s Day, death day and Christmas, so don’t try and paint me with a Sainted Daughter brush. Illness or other issues sprang up and prevented me on those occasions that I did not make it. This is just the first time I made a decision to not go.)  Kind of a tip of the hat to all the progress I’ve made in therapy, by honoring her here instead of at her graveside, where it honors her death, not her life. But LT wants to go, so we’ll go.

As for the title of the post, I was reflecting on how we had to do math to figure out how old she would’ve been. And we did it several more times because the milestone aspect of the year was like a kick to the babymaker. So, I guess time “heals” all wounds, if you mean that you forget just enough to feel a bit guilty. I’ve also recently discovered that I couldn’t remember the final chemo (clinical trials) primary drug name that I believe shortened her life by at least 3 months, so good was it at destroying every living thing in its path, including most of my Mom’s remaining abilities. (No, I’m not litigious, she knew what she was signing up for. But I remain pissed.) I remember it now, but the fact that for even a few weeks, I couldn’t recall it –I was stunned.

Whether because of time or my terrible memory lapses, I’m forgetting things about her. Hopefully just the unpleasant things, but even if I do lose more, there are a kajillion wonderful and loving memories there. I really only need a few, preferably the ones with her arms squeezing me in a tight hug. That and her laughter are the things I miss most. I guess I’ve reverted back to being a little girl where she is concerned. It really is the stuff I miss most. Hugs and giggles from a woman long gone, but wow, did she leave a mark on those that loved her.

I write this guiltily, as I have loved ones that have lost their Moms, too. Some that have been grieving as long as I have and may still be in or just coming out of the denial phase and some who are just starting to fear the grief coming their way.

A little girl, far too young, that has found maternal nurturing in her step-mother, Thank God. I still miss her Mom, tho’, as our friendship was only just reaching full bloom. The young girl is immeasurably happy in her new life, and the memory of her mother is respected and kept alive.

A beloved friend of mine, with the loss of her Mom so fresh that I am at a loss on what to say and can only seemingly give physical comfort. I remember what that feels like when you have a bond as close as theirs, and I remember that nothing anyone could say could soften the blow. All I can suss out to do is hug her a lot and say, ‘I love you,’ as much as possible.

Another loved one, who lost her Mom around when I lost mine, is a Mom herself. She had a biopsy yesterday, so we are praying and waiting out test results. Additional prayers are welcome!

A childhood friend and former sister-in-law has had a recurrence of breast cancer, she’s a Mom of two and their Dad died previously this year. The cancer is spreading quick and I don’t even know what to pray for anymore, other than peace and no-pain for her and her family. Okay, and a miracle that cures her. (Dream big or go home.) My Mom loved this woman, too, and I know she’s fighting for those babies to keep their Mommy as long as possible.  Any positive energy you can spare her way would be immensely appreciated.

If the urge strikes, maybe you could throw out a prayer, energy, vibes, best wishes or whatever you feel appropriate to any or all I’ve listed, or to women or men in your life struggling with loss. It’s pretty fucking ridiculous that I know this many, but in truth, I know of even more fighting for their lives or supporting someone in the fight to survive. Having been a support system during such a time, I know it takes a toll. I’m sending out positive energy, strength and peace your way. And hey, don’t wait as long as I did to get help with all you are seeing/experiencing. It’s a real mother fucker to dig out from under years later.

Tonight we honor her by having dessert first. LT has requested an ice cream cake, and we are picking it up on our way back from Arlington Cemetery. Today we celebrate her life, laughter, joy and love for her family.

I’m the wee one in the middle of the picture. It’s the earliest I have been able to find of her holding me, with my adorable brother happily taking the Big Brother moniker.

The mimosas are indeed in bloom. Love you forever, Pocket Mom.

 

**Apologies for any spelling or grammatical errors. I don’t have it in me to proofread this.

Do Me A Solid?

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Breast Health, No Whining, Soulful

So, I like boobs and I’m guessing you do, too. Because of this common bond, I’m going to ask the following favors of you:

1) Get a mammogram if advised or, if not advised (male or too young), encourage a woman that has been putting it off to get one.
2) Only buy pink crap in October if you are buying it anyways. Otherwise, donate the money directly to a worthy cause. Then 100% of your money will go to the charity, instead of 2%.
3) Do a monthly breast screening, females and males. In the shower, with soap, grope yourself. Men get it, too. And boys, check out your danglies while you’re at it!
4) Realize that you are your own hero in cancer prevention, breast or otherwise. If you see something suspicious, regardless of where it is, GET IT CHECKED OUT!

I personally thank you for following the above steps, if you choose to. ♥

Unlike my FB and G+ posts, I’m going to add an additional favor:
Please give a moment of thought as to whether or not you have anything you would like to voice in my Breast Cancer Anthology. I have a few amazing works already, and have been promised more. I would love to include more writing, however, including images. If you are afraid you will not make it into the book, write it and send it along anyways. Sometimes sending things out into the world can be very cathartic. Also, you can submit as Anonymous, although, if selected, it adds a level of complication for the compensation.

Vivid Mommy

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Chooch, Dizzy, Dizzy, Family, Friends, Mom, No Whining, Too Long For Twitter, Vestibular Migraine

Just like millions of other people, Mother’s Day is a rough one for me because my mother is deceased. I’m also a mom, which makes it a very bittersweet day. When you add that this year, for what I recall as the first time in 20 years, I won’t see any of our kids, it ensured that I’d be avoiding social media and anywhere that I’d be inundated with the message that I don’t want to be reminded of. Yep, I’m bitter. Then I realized I hadn’t checked in on friends since yesterday and decided to check Twitter and make sure all was well.

As expected, there was a deluge of Mother’s Day wishes being exchanged. One that really touched me was by friend and author Mur Lafferty: “PT has made me toast and yogurt and a can of selzer and brought it to me in bed. “i didn’t know how to make coffee.” I nearly cried.”

On the other end of the spectrum, brand new dad Cheyenne Wright posted “A bit out of sorts. This is the first chance I’ve had to celebrate a Mothers Day in 18 years.”

That one got me right in my vulnerable spot. I closed Twitter as I realized my dizziness had kicked in with an anxiety attack and now-standard accompanying trembles. It was not at all surprising if you understand my current health situation, and I cursed myself for logging in. My husband unwittingly helped my through the brunt of the symptoms (Hey Chooch, this is why I was upset earlier), but I still feel the need to share something about my Mom today. I don’t do this easily because:

  1. I’ve been told in extremely loving ways that I need to try and move on from grieving her as I do, out of concern that it may be unhealthy;
  2. I’ve been accused of talking about my Mom and/or my health issues to garner sympathy for some unknown purpose, either witnessed by me or as reported by others;
  3. I’m not entirely sure Mom would approve of what I want to share.

To those from item 1, I say a sincere thank you for your concern. But my highly remarkable Mom left a massive hole in my world, and it is simply taking a long time for me to heal. In some ways, I never will because I will always miss her. That’s simply the price of having a jewel like her for a Mom, and I’m willing to pay it. Know that I’m making progress and doing the best that I can, and you should feel free to delete any message, change the subject, or ignore any posts. I expect nothing from you when the need arises for me to talk about her.

To those from item 2, I say without hesitation ~ kiss my ass. You don’t understand me now and never did, regardless of what you may believe. Yes, yes, I know, “Never feed a troll,” as it only encourages them. But I’m tired of not defending myself when I’m being vilified and disrespected to those I care about. So I’m using this post to “balls up” and remind myself that my Mom didn’t raise me to be a doormat. In fact, she specifically counseled me on the need to stand up to some of the aforementioned “item 2” people. I feel no guilt over including this paragraph, because they will only be identified to themselves and to those that they’ve trash talked about me. It’s unlikely that most of them will ever read this, except for some that may be looking for ammunition, but this is my little corner of the internet and I’m tired of censoring myself when others won’t.

And for item 3, I mean that Mom would probably not like this picture because she’s not wearing makeup. She was intensely self-conscious and hid from cameras most of my life. I’m posting it anyways, because later in life she embraced her silly side in fantastic fashion and stopped running from cameras. Also, it’s one of my very favorite pictures of her, as it documents a very special moment in our lives.

The tiny hair clips were part of her 60th birthday gift from me. I had gotten a basket and decorated it with silk flowers and ribbons and filled it with brightly colored hair clips, ponytail holders, barrettes, hair bands and a tiara. I wanted to celebrate that the chemo for her newly diagnosed breast cancer wouldn’t make her hair fall out like it did when she battled it in ’91, and it was insanely fun (and cathartic) to pick them out in the girl/teen accessory section.

When we realized that some of the little clips matched her vibrantly colored shirt, my sister put her hair in the little twists that my then-early-teenaged nieces were known to wear for a time, and we couldn’t resist snapping a picture of the spontaneous hairstyle and her reaction to it. A few months later her chemo was changed because it wasn’t working, and her hair promptly fell out. Two and a half years later she was gone.

But I present you with photographic evidence that my Mom was highly remarkable. Even when faced for a second time with the same life-threatening disease that she watched eat away at her mother and grandmother until there was nothing left of them, she was still able to laugh. And when presented with a gift that in hindsight may have unkindly brought the cancer back to the forefront of her mind, she giggled and was delightfully silly. As only she could be.

I won’t exaggerate and say it was Great Bravery or Courage documented in this moment, because it wasn’t. It was just a silly and spontaneous moment. And damned if it’s not one of the most treasured moments of my life. Isn’t she glorious?
Funnest Mom Evah!

This post is written to honor my Mom, Nat, Jaimie, Terry and Zach ~ five people who are no longer with us that are at the forefront of my mind. The first three I miss terribly. The fourth and fifth I never met, but because of their impact on people that I dearly love, I desperately wish I had. You are missed.

Rules of Etiquette, Lesson Four

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Health, Mom

This week addresses a breach of etiquette. Having had to deal with this exact situation when my mother was terminally ill, I cannot stress enough the kindness in the simple phrase:

“To go to the room of an invalid unless invited (is a breach of etiquette).”

When someone that there is a less than pleasant history pops into your room on the palliative ward unannounced, it doesn’t matter how lovely the flowers you bring are. The patient is in whatever state allows them momentary comfort and they’re suddenly left scrambling to improve their appearance for the well-meaning visitor. And that’s what it was, someone from the past that knew that Mom was terminal and stuck in hospital and wanted to come by and show support. There was no malicious intent at all.

Nevertheless, an act of kindness when one is struggling through illness should also give thought to the wishes of the patient’s comfort. Surprises sound like a great idea, but are not in this situation. When she was expecting guests, we had a beauty routine that made her more comfortable as to her appearance and allowed her to fully enjoy the visit.

So yeah, check first and then shower them with as much love and attention as they welcome.

It is about them after all.

Rock Concert and Breast Cancer Fundraiser

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Breast Health, Chooch, Music

On Friday, April 22nd, my husband’s band, Ditched by Kate, will be playing at Axum’s Level X Lounge in DC. They will generously donate their profits for the evening in a split between myself and two other ladies that are raising funds for breast cancer charities.

For the $10 cover charge, you get entry to the concert where you will enjoy a delightful show by Ditched by Kate and Shana Tucker (ChamberSoul cellist, singer-songwriter). She has a great vibe and truly lovely music.

And while having all this fun, you will have the knowledge that you have contributed to the very worthwhile cause of giving hope to the dream that our daughters and granddaughters will never die of this horrible disease.

There will hopefully be an opportunity to buy raffle tickets for a prize that is currently being determined, but I’ll post details when that is decided.

There will definitely be Ditched By Kate merchandise on sale. Come and enjoy this celebration of life with us!

March Fourth Is A Day To March Forth

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Firsts, Friends, Mom, Soulful, Too Long For Twitter

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but I hate posting twice in the same day. This second post is not one I can resist, so you’ll have to bear with me.

Earlier today I submitted my paperwork to establish my own small (teensy, really) business. This is extremely exciting, as it will hopefully allow for some income in a “work at home” way as well as allow us some creative opportunities.

Now, this morning I already announced that I now have the verbal, soon to be written, legal rights to publish my Mom’s short story and will be moving forward with my breast cancer charity anthology. Submission guidelines for written works as well as cover and inside art will be posted as soon as I have the details fine-tuned.

Then, around noon, I excitedly dropped off the business filing paperwork at the Richmond office immediately prior to picking up my visiting friend M.A. in PA from her mass transit delivery system.

She immediately told me that it was the perfect day for it because of March the Fourth being a day to March Forth, which is exactly what I had done. The crazy coincidence of it all swept me up in a giddy excitement. The perfect, unplanned timing of it was such a lovely surprise. Especially when I looked down to see that I had absent-mindedly put a t-shirt with “Realize” emblazoned across the front.

So take a moment today and be bold. Do something you’ve been putting off. Take on a new project or finish up an old one. Do anything, so long as it’s a step forward in some way.

Happy Fourth of March!

Update on Charity Book

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Books, Breast Cancer, Breast Health, Firsts, No Whining

I’m definitely moving forward on this. I intend to meet with my father as soon as he’s able to discuss and hopefully attain the rights. If I’m unable to get them, then I have a story in mind to use as the center piece in its place.

I’m also considering following the advice of a friend to shop the book around to publishers. There are significant pros and cons to this, but I’ll make that decision once I have the completed manuscript in hand.

For those interested, please email me at VivMuse@gmail.com to join my contact list. Once I have more information I will contact those folks first, and will then post here as well.

Many thanks for the stories shared with me from the few that showed interest in this project. It’s definitely motivated me to move forward and inspired me to seek out works from other venues.

And extreme gratitude to those that have offered assistance in the hopes of helping to make this a successful venture.  It means so much to go from a whimsical thought to knowing that I have the help of seasoned professionals to keep me from ruining the noble intention of this book.

Gauging Interest on Stories for Charity

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Books, Breast Cancer, Firsts, No Whining, Soulful, Too Long For Twitter

Edit – March 3, 2011 – This project is definitely moving forward. I’m fine tuning details now and will post an official announcement with submission guidelines shortly. Thank you for your interest. ~Viv

~~~~Original Post~~~~

I am contemplating seeking out the rights from my father to publish a story my mother wrote about the death of her beloved grandmother.  I don’t want to make money off of it, I just want to share it. Chooch and I discussed podcasting it, but I think I would prefer something Greater be done with it.

It’s the only complete story of hers that I’ve found, or likely ever will find, so I can’t do a collection of her stories. I’m considering making it the centerpiece in a book I hope to write about her. For this I would need time and distance from the subject to not feel overwhelmed and never finish it.

The other idea is to do a compilation of stories from other people that have been impacted, preferably on breast cancer but may include a wider variety of cancers. All profits would go to fund cancer research, if any are made. What I would need for this is submissions from folks that have a story to tell regarding breast cancer. While the story can be fictional, my preference would be that the author has either battled the disease or knows someone that did and was impacted by their struggle.

Again, my preference would be breast cancer stories since it has devastated my mother’s and my own life so profoundly with the loss of my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great aunts. It also looms greatly over my sister and I. That said, having lost my husband’s beloved brother to a different form of cancer, let alone several others, I’m not going to rule out including other cancer stories if I don’t have enough breast cancer stories to make a nicely sized anthology.

Let me be specific here, the story doesn’t have to be about the disease itself. For example, my mother’s story is in the voice of a child, and mentions aspects of the disease but is not clinical in nature. I envision a paragraph at the beginning of each story by the author, and this is where the inclusion of the story can be explained if not directly obvious.

Also, I plan on accepted works being paid an extremely modest fee.

What I’m asking is for anyone interested in submitting a short story to send an email to VivMuse@gmail.com and include:

  • Your level of interest (Definite, unsure)
  • What type of cancer your story will involve (so I can determine how many breast cancer stories are out there)
  • The expected length of your submission. I’m willing to consider anything up to 30k words, be it flash fiction, poetry, short story or novella.
  • An estimate of how quickly you think you can submit the work.

Please do not make submissions at this time.

If I move forward, this will likely either be a long-term project (as long as 16 months) or a short-term project (preferred – as short as 5 months), depending on the response that I get, so please be honest about your turn around estimate.

Please note, this will likely be the first publication in the publishing house that Chooch and I have been planning to start for over three years now.

And if you are someone that has never written beyond work or school requirements before, be fearless! If I move forward, I will accept submissions from anyone, regardless of experience level.

I humbly request that you share this post far and wide, even if you are not interested in participating yourself.

~~~I’m closing comments here, as I prefer that all discussion occur via email. ~~~

Five Years in the Blink of an Eye

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Family, Mom, No Whining, Soulful

My beloved mother passed away five years ago today. She spent the last two and a half years fighting for her life against breast cancer and her body was destroyed in the process. It was an ugly battle, but at least she was given a peaceful end. There was no pain or fear as she was carried away while she slept with her son watching over her. It was supposed to be my night with her, but he really wanted to stay that night. I’m morbidly jealous not to have been with her at the very end, but also grateful to have gotten caught up on sleep. It was a wrenching and traumatizing day as I tried to comfort the kids and family, helped finalize her pre-planned funeral arrangements, cleared out her room and contacted family members. Praise Baby Jesus for Chooch, is how I can best sum it up the months before and after her passing.

Today I honor the memory of her life, but to be honest it’s easier to do on her birthday. I frequently get flashes of the ugly stuff, but not as frequent as it used to be. I’ve forgotten some of the finer details, which I’m grateful for and don’t explore. Some things are better off forgotten, after all, especially since I was her primary caretaker for the last five months of her life. Ugly stuff that can’t be unseen, but is finally starting to fade.

It’s hard watching someone you love so much waste away slowly. The only good thing about having as much time as we did with it looming was that there was no “unfinished business” left behind to haunt us. She adored and was adored. Friends, family, co-workers and neighbors all came together for her and she knew it. There is only peace and love surrounding her memory, and for that I’m grateful as she certainly deserves such an honor.

Much in the same way I took back my anniversary in November, I’m taking back today as well. I will not “grieve” in the traditional sense. Five years is long enough for that, as I know she would tell me. Instead, I’m taking this as a Day of Power. I’m challenging myself to do something that I’ve been afraid of doing, for my own personal reasons. It will take bravery and confidence, two things I traditionally lack but I’m trying hard not to let that stop me. And as I look back at how much my life has changed since she started looking over me in a different way, I know she’s proud of me. Proud of the bravery I’ve demonstrated, the positive changes I’ve made, and the woman I was and am evolving into.

I take my inspiration from this photo of my mother from the day of her high school graduation. I never saw this photo while she was alive to ask about it, but to me she’s embracing her future as a woman of power. She certainly did her best to raise me as one. I’m slower to it than she was, but I’m getting there.

Love you forever, Pocket Mom.