CONNECTIONS

So, bear with me.. a lot has happened this week, and I’m writing on pure emotion right now. I’ll do my best to be eloquent (heck, I’m gonna do my best to spell-check…), so here goes!

Connection. There is a serious connection between my interest in running and my interest in running partners. I have to admit, I haven’t run in a long time. I was definitely in a groove for a while, but now, with this awful cold in my head and chest, I’m just not that interested. Truth is, I’m not that interested in running this next 1/2 marathon. Yet, the connection between “Marathon Before Mastectomy” and actually seeing it through is too significant for me not to do it. I’d hate to look back — 20/20 hindsight — and think “Damn, finishing that second 1/2 marathon really pushed me to heal faster, think more positive, and embrace the struggle with being BRCA.” But, right now, those are words in my head, and not quite motivation in my heart. So, for all those readers and friends who have commented, “I don’t know how you do it, Liza!” or “WOW! You’re so dedicated, Liza!”, the truth is, I’m not. I am your classic Exercise Drop Out. And, especially since I haven’t seen the scale move in 9, almost 10, months, very little of me wants to keep going. I want to give up. I wish I could type some very cool and inspirational ribbon on this one, friends, but I just can’t. It wouldn’t be honest. And that honesty really sucks right now.

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Connections. I went to graduate school in the “late 1990′s” (damn, that was a long time ago!), and was surrounded by amazing people. Certainly, I always assumed we’d all go into the field — higher education administration — and we’d all cross paths again as college directors, college deans, and college presidents. As I connect with people on Facebook, I realize that very few of us are still in the field. Some have become actors, some are directors of non-profit agencies, some are consultants, authors, and work-at-home parents. I recently became connected again to one of my classmates, Jennifer Carriere Spock. Jennifer and I stayed connected a bit longer after graduate school because she took over my job after I left Wesleyan, and I was fortunate to stay in touch with her for the next few years. But, Jennifer left higher education and took the leap to follow her heart. Jennifer blossomed into an artist.

****

Connections. I opened my front door to find a package in an 8 1/2″ x 11″ box. Upon opening it, an article fell out about a BRCA author who had recently released a book. Still inside the box, however, was the true gift. It was a painting called “Brave Girl” that, in a small way, this MB4M journey inspired. Jennifer created photo cards and prints from her custom art piece and asked if she could donate 50% of her sales to an organization of my choice. “FORCE,” I wrote. “FORCE gave me the gift of education, sisterhood, and confidence.” Sisterhood. From there, Jennifer created another custom piece of a diverse representation of women with the pink and teal colors symbolic of breast and ovarian cancer awareness (I got a sneak peek, but it’s not ready yet for worldly glory! Link to follow soon!). She is now a featured artist with FORCE. Though she is giving proceeds of her paintings, the true gift is in her art. She is an environmentally responsible artist, a wonderful woman, and an amazing human being.

******

Connections. I met with the plastic surgeon today. My brave husband, Jorge, accompanied me on this very stressful journey, and I am so thankful for his

The rough sketch of my mastectomy (with a random other boob mid-hip! hah!)

support. As we spoke to the surgeon, turns out he is very familiar with Jorge’s current school because his wife is starting her own school. Even before talking about surgery, tissue expanders, drains, and recovery, we were sharing common ground — a connection — of education and interest. Immediately, my anxiety decreased.

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Connections. There are a few connections that are causing me some fear and anxiety about even making them. I met with my friend and colleague, an attorney, who gave me resources for getting my will, estate, and proxy in order prior to surgery. Not a connection I wanted to really face, but I know it’s an incredibly important one. I also contacted my singer-turned-photographer college friend, Jessica Haynes McDaniel, who will be taking family photos for us in a few weeks. When I was at Richard’s funeral, what struck me most was the beautiful family portrait he had taken with Becky, Tracey and Toby prior to his passing. I stood in front of that photo for over an hour, just thankful that they had that memory together. These connections, especially these two, are joyous and important, and yet, it would be dishonest of me not to call out the morbid overtones of it all. So, there it is.. morbid overtones mentioned. Moving on….

*********

Connections. My daughter, Joli, started a new school this year. And, unfortunately, she was picked on by an older student right away. Joli has a physical disAbility – a prosthetic eye – that is noticeable because her eyelid above her prosthesis lays lower than her eyelid above her “seeing” eye. This older student decided to get in Joli’s face and call attention to it — to the entire school yard. For a week, we talked about how “different is special” and how “kids sometimes don’t know how to ask about your eye.” We also talked about what to do if this little girl decided to get physical with Joli (cue Jorge’s Queens, NY upbringing). Each day, for more than a week, I asked Joli if the girl was bothering her. She hesitantly replied, “No.” Today, Joli came home from school to tell me that she actually played with that girl at recess today. She mentioned that the girl asked about her eye, again, but this time the girl “asked nicely. Kinda like she was interested, you know, Mom?” From that moment, I decided to become interested in what my kids were doing. Notorious for texting while they are talking to me, typing while they are eating, or doing laundry while they are doing homework, I rarely share “common and interesting moments” with them. I’m not talking big ones — soccer games, karate practice, pick up from school. I’m talking little ones, the ones that matter. The ones that they’ll remember long after they’ve grown up. The ones they’ll think about when they are parents, too.

********

Connections. I’m starting to process the connection between my anxiety about surgery, my lack of interest in running, my increased interest in my family, and my desire to be a better mom. I’m processing the connections between wanting to shut down and scream, crawl into bed and run away, laugh and cry. I am connecting wanting to live with the reality of dying. Thinking positive and embracing the negative. With honoring the fear, and moving on with courage.

The time is here, now, friends. I began this blog back in January 2010 with a surgery date of June. Then November. And, now, November is no longer some nebulous time frame. November 18th is my date.

From now until November 18th, I have a range of doctor’s appointments and tests to run prior to surgery.

I have a range of emotions to feel and to not feel. To dismiss and to embrace. To be both scared and afraid. Courageous and anxious. Fearless and terrified.

And, through this all, I thank you for being my connections.

Getting ready to meet with the plastic surgeon. Yes, in a paper gown.

Peace, love, and 59 days,

Liza

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20 Responses to CONNECTIONS

  1. Casey says:

    You are the bravest and strongest woman I know. Your girls are lucky to have you as a mom, as a role model – I know I am! I can’t wait to see your family pics. :)

  2. Becky Watt says:

    Liza — another beautiful, meaningful and fascinating post. Someday you should make this journey into a book — we can all relate to at least a little of what you are saying. (I’ve been great about exercise for 2 years and the last 6 months I’ve fallen off the wagon and we all get feelings of fear and love of family, etc.) So thank you for continuing to share your powerful story with us — it isn’t powerful because you are perfect or because you finished that marathon, it is perfect because you are so honest and that honesty is so incredibly powerful.

    And on another random note. If you can brave it, I think about asking Jess (or one of your sisters or Jorge) to take some tasteful nude photos before the surgery. My mom’s best friend did before her double mastectomy and she was always thankful for them. Just a thought. . .

    Becky :)

    • Liza says:

      Becky!!! Oh, Becky. It’s been way too many years since we’ve last seen one another. I’m definitely doing tasteful nudes (and not so tasteful ones– haha .. kidding!). I appreciate your words and support. It’s been hard being honest, but I think it’s what’s helped me process this best. I can’t wait to see you again, Becky!

  3. Karyn says:

    Praying for you now, and for many more anxious and stressful days to come… Love to you!

    • Liza says:

      Thanks Karen! Needed this, and will need lots of prayers coming my way. Not feeling very strong these days, so any bit helps! Miss you all, and I can’t wait to meet your family one day — soon!

  4. Carra Gamberdella says:

    Oh Liza…how is it that we go months and months without “connecting” via phone or email or social media, yet I feel so very connected to you every day? Your honesty is a lesson for us all, and I am grateful to you for inviting us on this journey with you. Much love, Carra

  5. Olivia says:

    Liza, this is an amazing post! You are so honest and that is beautiful. You also look rockin’! I’m going to put November 18th on our calendar, so we can all share in this day with you. And, of course, you’ll be getting the Lovely recoup plan… :) we love you!
    Olivia + Jenny

  6. Sally says:

    Thanks for yet another beautifully written, honest post about your journey. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you are amazing and strong and beautiful. I feel so blessed to know you.

    Love, love, love,
    Sally

  7. Min (Liza's favorite) says:

    Mrs. Talusan,

    I cannot describe how much I’m impressed with your undaunted courage.
    Knowing and reading your thoughts on this website, I think I got to know you a lot better than I used to. I will fully support whatever you do, because you are the bravest woman (also my ALANA-A boss) I know. I agree with you that running is very boring and challenging, but I do it just for hockey. I do not like it, but I do it in order to get into shape for hockey. So just like you said above, push yourself for your health! I will support you with all my power.

    Love,

    Min Kim’ 2013

  8. Emily (Cobb Henry) says:

    Thinking of you every day, Liza (and I’m not just saying that; if it wasn’t true, I’d just skip it all together ;o) ). Your journey has helped me make a concerted effort to feel more connected to everything around me – my family, my friends, my body, just *life* – and I’m so much more conscious to not take things for granted. Even though I’m now only running a few miles a few times a week, I hope you know that I’m with you every step of the way.

    (Gonna pose a totally private question now, for all the world to read… Will you also have reconstructive surgery? And, if so, would it be completed at the same time as the mastectomy, or will you need/want to wait?)

    xo

    • Liza says:

      Girl, ain’t nothing private these days! First, good for you for running — couple miles a week? I haven’t run a couple miles IN weeks! Yes, reconstruction right away if all goes well. If not, then we have to do tissue expanders and stuff. But, I am anticipating an easy reconstruction. Will blog about that next!

  9. Colleen says:

    Liza:
    I don’t believe there is a day that goes by that I do not think of you. Talk about a connection! I barely knew you when you were at FA and now you are, as I see it, an Angel who walks among us. Teaching, sharing, reminding… Know that you and your family are always in my prayers & you are in the “special” Monday night prayer book with Dugger & Co.
    xoxox
    PS – Please DO NOT HESITATE to let me/us know if there is anything that we can do to help or make this road a little smoother.

    • Liza says:

      Thanks Colleen! I can’t wait to see everyone again, God willing, at Fall Fair. I forsee a giant pig pile near the registration table :) Thanks for all your prayers. I’ve needed it these past few weeks.

  10. Mari-Chris says:

    Liza,
    Once again you have me in tears at my desk. (I know-I should be working)
    You are just amazing and I’m not lying when I tell you that you keep me going every day. I must mention you to my husband once a week when we run together. Usually it starts something like “you know that amazing woman Liza I told you about..”
    Anyway, thank you so much for your strength and courage. Please know that we are all thinking of you and supporting you in your journey.
    One step at a time you’ll get there and you’ll hear the cheering from miles away!
    Peace and strength,
    M-C

    • Liza says:

      Hi MC! So, I’ll be one at the 1/2 marathon dragging my heels across the finish line as you kick back (after running your own 1/2 marathon!) with the complimentary beers. Dang, I hope there is beer left for me… :) Much love to you!

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