The only difference between me and the Tin Man is that, well, he has the muscle strength to lift an Ax.


In my pre-mastectomy days — before 16 days ago — I was the Wiz of Multitasking. Let me put it this way: On a good day, I could breastfeed with one arm, vacuum with the other hand, have a steak grilling and potatoes boiling, email on my mobile device, put away groceries that I had picked up in between going to three different schools/day cares to get the children .. all while still wearing the jacket I came in with. All at the same time.

That was an easy day.

Correction – that was an easy 30 minutes.

In the following 90 minutes, I would easily get everyone fed, have dishes washed, helped to get homework done, pajamas put on, laundry either started or folded (sometimes both if I had come home during my lunch break to put the laundry that I started at 6am into the drier, and then got another load started to be ready for when I came home), 3 glasses of warm milk into 1 bottle and 2 cups, then more email from work, maybe some blogging, Facebook (of course!), tidy the house, catch up on a show or two, and then off to bed. The next morning, I would get ready for my 5am run, get 3 glasses of warm milk into 1 bottle and 2 cups ready if the kids woke up before I came home, check email, change out of sweaty clothes and put a load of laundry in, lunches made, grumpy kids showered and dressed, kiss the husband, scurry out the door (already 10 minutes behind schedule) with three kids, everyone in car seats, and drop off to 3 different schools/day care before my 8:30am meeting.

That’s just the home routine.

Unlike the movie, in my life, the Wiz never steps out from behind the curtain. Even before I get out of my car to take the 5 minute walk from the parking lot to my desk, I have already responded to at least a half dozen emails, made a few phone calls, and started on my morning schedule. I have no fewer than 12 balls in the air and manage, most days, to keep them from all falling down.

I have little patience for anyone who can’t keep up with this pace. For, after years of doing this, This Pace is, well, simply, Normal.


On Day 16, I am getting better at putting on my underwear.

I’m breaking records now;¬† it takes me only 2 minutes — down from 8 minutes just a week ago. Today, I can now do it without wincing in pain or running out of breath. Just a week ago, I was carefully bending, dropping the underwear on the floor, spreading the garment so that the leg holes are distinguishable, stepping into said leg holes, attempting to use my other foot to bring the fabric up just enough for me to reach, painfully, down with the tips of my fingers, and inhale-exhale as I, eventually, got the underwear to my knees. I know at my knees that it’s going to be at least another 3 minutes. In a clumsy dance between my rigid arms and my bruised ribs, I shimmied like a Jello-O mold forgotten in a freezer for too long, trying to get my twisted undergarments high enough for me to call it a day.

In those 8 minutes, and now only 2 minutes, I think of nothing other than My Underwear.

At Day 16, and every day between Day 1 and now, it is impossible for me — both physically and mentally — to multitask.

The Wiz has stepped out from behind the Curtain.

Each task, each movement, has intent, meaning and purpose. Each thought is singular. Each word is chosen. Each action its own. I am not, though, hyper aware of that one task; rather, I am absolutely unaware of anything else. When I eat, before I can even focus on the intense flavor of my food, I must first figure out how to move my hand to my fork, my fork to my plate, my food towards my mouth. Most often than not, food spills onto my shirt and to my chest that fails to register the sensation of something dropping onto it.
Grace warned me about this.

“Liza, after you eat. Check your bra. Every time. A few times during the meal, just pull the front of your bra gently away from your body and see the light below. Then … blow.”

Pull. Check. Whhheeeeeeew.

Each, and every, time, enough food drops down my compression bra for my dog to curiously place his nose near my lap. For, he knows, when he hears whheeeeeeeeew, there will be crumbs.

The problem is that I can’t feel it. I can’t feel much of anything on my skin. I’m starting to feel the deep soreness in my chest — the work of muscles healing, scar tissue forming, and implants settling. It’s the soreness of fluid reabsorbing, of joints shifting, and of nerves rebuilding. Yet, I can’t feel anything on my skin. Like the Tin Man, my body moves in pieces, at distinct joints, and in choppy motions. Like the Tin Man, I’m rusty. And, like the Tin Man, I’m gonna have to accept in my heart that things have changed. They have to change.


Sitting at my dining room table — in clear view of the landscape where I would tornado my way through multiple tasks — I can focus on only one thing: the movement of my fingers hitting the keyboard of my old, white laptop. Even the screams of my husband’s “Call of Duty” doesn’t interfere with my writing; in the past, I would hear my own voice, see my own words, and play the game of army commandos in my ears.

Not anymore.

I am singular. I am here. I am present.

Thank you to Jade Franco for providing this mobile upload from her Dominican Republic paradise.

I am Focus.

I am learning to heal at pace of my body, learning to move gently with my battered and bruised chest, and learning to embrace the beauty somewhere over this rainbow.

Peace, love, and redefining life behind the Curtain,


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One Response to FOCUS

  1. chien-chi says:

    Dear Liza,

    Like you, I was a multi-tasker before my cancer experience and like you, I learn to live in the present and treasure little things like a hug from my children or a cup of hot tea in a cold morning. We are the lucky ones with loving family and supportive friends and we are proactive about dealing with this illness. As I mentioned in my e-mail, I’d love to work with you to generate the awareness of BC in the AA community and there are lots to be done yet…

    Cheers and Chills,


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