BECAUSE, SOME DAYS, IT RAINS

Hello, everyone!

First, thank you to all of you who posted on Facebook, Twitter, or emailed me about wanting to join me on this beginning journey. I’m so thankful that you’re with me! In fact, this post is because YOU’RE keeping ME on the right track! This video is because you keep me accountable!

Just to keep track, so far, I’ve only done a 20 minute walk. Nothing fast. Nothing fancy. Just walked the dog for 20 minutes. If ONE walk counts as “doing well”, then, high-five to me!

Until this morning…

Yes, it’s true. I don’t run in the rain.

I barely even run when there is impending rain.

Don’t ask me where that comes from — I have no idea whatsoever.

But, what I DO know is that I committed to going on this journey towards getting back into good physical health. Today, my alarm went off at 5:30am and, though it was still dark, I could tell there was IMPENDING rain (see above).

Snooze. Bed.

Without my accountability to all of you, I probably would have just gone about business as usual. But, I knew I had to keep moving forward. So, I signed up for a virtual ballet class. Thanks to Gina’s absolutely busy lifestyle and her commitment to fitness and dance, I have been using VirtualFit on and off for 2 years. It’s an incredible way to get a great workout, to have a LIVE class, and to do it all from the comfort of my 4’x5′ rug in my bedroom. What I love about the class (vs a pre-recorded workout) is that I get to wave hello, someone on the other end says, “Great job, Liza!” and I see other moms struggling with the second set of sit-ups, just like me.

Tomorrow is a new day. I have my walking/running clothes by my bedside, again, in case it’s not raining.

Not too late, if you haven’t moved forward today. Before you go to bed, just take 5 minutes to close your eyes and breathe deeply. Or, if you can, get up and take a 10 minute walk tomorrow. Take the longer route back from class. Park just a little bit further. Go to the bathroom stalls on the other end of the building. I dunno. Just move a teeny bit more than you did yesterday.

Peace, love, and praying for sun,
Liza

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STARTING AGAIN

Hello everyone!

Over the past five years, my life has been an on-and-off start with running and training for half-marathons. Most recently, I trained for the Disney half-marathon which was held on February 22nd. But, unfortunately, due to medical issues, I wasn’t able to go.

Well, okay, medical issues and a record-breaking amount of snow in New England!

But, I’m starting up again!

Throughout the years, people have commented about wanting to get started with a running routine. Usually, they are asking because I’ve already posted that I was up to 8, 9, 10, 12 miles. BUT, here’s your chance to get in at the start WITH me! I’d love some virtual running company, and I’d love to hear about your own progress!

Today marked Day 1. I haven’t gone running since November 10, 2014 — a full 5 months ago….

I’ve decided that I want to run 13.1 miles before my 40th birthday in September, so I’m following a running schedule that gets me there. If you’re interested in checking out a great running schedule, I highly recommend Jeff Galloway’s run-walk-run method. It’s a great way to ease your body into running in those early phases, and it’s a very helpful way to keep going during those super duper long runs.

I’ll be doing a modified version of it — some days, I feel great and run longer distances. Other days, I just try to get myself out of the door and onto the road.

I’ll post a helpful running/walking video each week and would love to hear back from you!

Day 1: Walked for 30 minutes (2 miles) with the dog. My feet definitely felt tired – hadn’t walked that long and far in months. The roads are finally cleared of nearly all of the snow, and it was a warm 30 degrees when I left the house! Check out my “hello” video here.

Peace, love and taking it one step and a time,

Liza

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HALF-MARATHON WEEKEND

Yeah, yeah. I’m supposed to be writing this from the warmth of Orlando, Florida. Hot. Sweaty. Fresh from a 13.1 mile run. Dressed as the sassy, “ain’t gonna take no -ish” Lilo, and rocking a finisher’s medal.

Instead, my butt is wet from falling — yet again — into the snow bank as I try to squeeze my size 16 body through the 1/2 inch space between my car and the wall of terror (aka the aforementioned snow bank). Instead of red New Balance runners, I’m decked in two pairs of Smart Wool socks (stolen from my husband who, this very morning, said, “Anyone seen my Smart Wool socks?”) and a pair of winter boots that have seen more ice than Tonya Harding.

This weekend was supposed to be Half-Marathon weekend. Well, it IS half-marathon weekend, I’m just not there running it. You’re welcome for that $300 registration fee, Disney. Don’t spend it all in one place.

Back in July 2014, when the warmth was coming from the sun and not from my electric heaters, I had registered for the Walt Disney World Princess Half-Marathon. I was feeling amazing — running 5x a week and increasing my mileage up to 10 miles on a long run. I got to that point where I craved running. I looked forward to getting out there just as the sun was peeking through the darkness and watched as the sky changed from dark to a graffiti and then to blue. I loved the feel of sweat stinging my eyes, of peeling off my soaked clothing, and of the soreness of the next morning as I began another run.

While running was physical, it was also an emotional symbol of how far I had come. Years prior, I had recovered from a bilateral mastectomy. And, in January 2014, I had completed my precancerous journey and underwent a bilateral oophorectomy as a preventative measure for ovarian cancer. Soon after that surgery, my body began to age. I went into surgical menopause and felt my energy decrease.

Running was my way of fighting back. Running was my way of moving further and further from premature aging. Running was my way of chasing down my health. Running made me feel powerful, clear, and open-minded. 

In September 2014, I began to bleed. Mildly at first, but quickly the bleeding progressed into unmanageable proportions. I went to doctors who tried to diagnose the bleeding through invasive tests, changing medications, and even a surgical procedure to strip my uterus of tissue. None of those helped, and they in fact, left me feeling helpless, confused, and frustrated. 

At first, I ran through the bleeding. But, soon, I couldn’t be more than a minute away from a bathroom or I’d risk the danger of having an accident. And, those came many times. The unpredictable bleeding got so bad that I began to carry around a bag with a change of clothing — which I used a few times.

Whatever you are imagining about this experience, I promise you, multiply it by 2 and you’ll come close to what it was like.

I stopped running.

And, while we are all complaining about the snow here in Boston, I have secretly believed that Mother Nature was being kind to me in the way that she couldn’t. Seven feet of snow, I believe, is Mother Nature’s way of telling me that this running adventure was nothing I could control. She punished by body, but made it easier to accept.

I’m quite certain that, even if I was not going through these medical issues, I would have chosen to not train in this weather. I’m simply just not tough enough to go out in -2 degree weather, single lane roadways, and slippery conditions.

Mother Nature gave me a way out. We sisters take care of each other.

Just this morning, as I drove through yet another snow shower, I saw a bright orange jacket up ahead. A runner. On the road, braving the cold, wet, snowy conditions. In my car, I was at the top of the hill just as the runner was making his way up.

Instinctively, without any oncoming traffic on the other side, I moved all the way over, giving the runner plenty of room not only to swing his arms but also to feel safe sharing the road.

The car in front of me did not.

The car in front of me barely moved over. The car in front of me splashed into a puddle and passed the runner. The car in front of me showered the runner with cold, dirty, freezing water.

And the runner kept running.

As I drove by, the runner waved to me. Smiling. And, I started to cry.

I wanted that feeling — that “nothing can stop me” feeling. That runner’s high. That runner’s determination. That runner’s discipline.

And I remembered that we are all running versions of our own half-marathon every single day. For some of us, it’s physical.

For others, it’s a battle of mental toughness even when you want to give up and cry.

IMG_0067

beautiful photo outside of a Catholic hospital. Snow fell naturally around the state of Mary. (not taken by me)

Peace, love, and running on,

Liza

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THE EH-SO HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH

This time last year, I was recovering from surgery that would reduce my risk of ovarian cancer. (If you missed it, you can catch the brief video here). It would be the last of the surgeries to reduce my risk from my genetic predisposition — the BrCa gene (breast and ovarian cancer gene) that gave me a 80-90% chance of developing breast cancer and a 45-60% chance of developing ovarian cancer. I wasn’t interested in playing those odds, of course. 

This blog was founded as I prepared for my mastectomy back in 2010. I wanted to train for and run a marathon (I ended up running two 1/2 marathons – close enough, right?) before my surgery — a la marathon before mastectomy.

In January 2014, I had my oophorectomy. Now, this was a 15-minute procedure and a 3 day recovery time. Well, the 15-minute procedure went just fine. But, my 3 day recovery time turned in to over 3-5 weeks of infections, allergic reactions, and what felt like my insides turning in to rock.

Once I got all of that under control and my life, sort of, back in order. I started working out again. In June, I was running regularly — 5-6 times a week and building up some serious mileage. In September 2014, I decided that I wanted to run another half-marathon. I was feeling great! I was easily building up my long runs to 6, 7, 8, 9, and then 10 miles. Though I was tired at the end of those runs, my mind and my heart were energetic and filled with joy. I was growing stronger each run, and I began to crave the wind on my face and feeling of sweat building up on a 40 degree day. I loved it.

Knowing that the cold, Northeast conditions were not conducive to winter runs, I registered for the Disney Princess Half Marathon for February 22, 2015. I spent weeks thinking about my costume, and even posted a blog about “I’m not going to tell you what I’m dressing as — you’ll have to wait and see!”

Well, you won’t be waiting to see anything….

On September 30th, as my running rhythm was as smooth as a Billie Holiday melody, I began to bleed. Given that I was in surgical menopause, this was not a good sign. But, I let it go for a while, thinking this was just going to pass.

Well, one week passed.

One month passed.

Two months passed.

I was still bleeding, and it was getting worse.

I finally called my doctor (yes, yes, I know… I should have gone in sooner) and went in for lots of tests. No one could figure out why I was bleeding.  All of my tests came back negative for the usual marker — cancer, etc. The doctors adjusted my hormone levels which only left me depressed and “flat.” I knew that exercise would help me, but I was bleeding so much that I couldn’t stand to be further than 1 minute from a bathroom.

In December, the doctor did a procedure in which they stripped my uterus to see if they could minimize the bleeding.

That didn’t work either.

For Christmas, my family and I travelled to Florida and went to Disney World. I mapped out the race course and memorized where all of the the nearest bathrooms were to the race course.  After a long day in the park, just before the big Mickey Mouse signs faded in my rearview mirror, I whispered, “See you real soon“, even though I had spent most of the day at the park changing pads or racing for a bathroom just before a major accident happened.

There’s something about Disney that makes you believe that anything is possible.

When we returned back from our trip, I called my oncologist to ask what my options were. At this point, I had been bleeding continuously for over 3 1/2 months. We discussed a possible hysterectomy but first she wanted me to go and see a menopause specialist. After all, my symptoms weren’t indicative of cancer, per se, so she felt she couldn’t really help me.

My appointment with the menopause specialist is on February 13 — just a few days before I was going to board a plane for Florida. I guess this whole time I had hopes that maybe the doctor would give me some sort of magic advice and that I would go back to training for the half-marathon …. with less than a week to go.

Well, on Friday, January 23rd at 10:00am, I made the call.

“Hello, and thank you for calling Walt Disney World where every day is a magical day! My name is Marsha, how can I help you today?”

She sounded so happy.

“I’m calling to cancel my reservation, please.”

I choked back tears.

I told her that I wouldn’t be running the half-marathon that weekend and so I needed to cancel my reservation for the Disney resort. I just couldn’t bring myself to actually go there and see all the runners gearing up for the Expo or coming back from the course. My heart just wasn’t ready to break that hard.

I’d be lying to you if I said it was all fine. I’d be lying if I said to you that I’m totally okay with this and, “Whew, glad I saved a few hundred bucks.” But, I’m not fine. I’m sad. I’m disappointed. And, I feel betrayed by my body.

I’ll make it down there one day, I’m sure of it.

After all, where the hell else am I gonna wear my Lilo-inspired running outfit?? Lilo

Peace, love, and Mahalo,

Liza

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WHAT WOULD IT MEAN IF IT WERE TRUE?

If you’ve been following news, world events, or even just your local happenings, your heart is probably heavy, right? I mean, right? Like, how can we actually hear all that is going on and not feel something about it.

I’m not going to rehash it all here because, hopefully, you’ve at least been aware of some, if not all, of the social issues that have been heightened these past few months. The ones that have been weighing most heavily for me are related to

  • systemic racism that people who are Black have been subjected to and the continued dismissal of systemic racism;
  • the atrocities in Nigeria that have been going on for years, but that we in the Western world have only, kind of, sort of begun to pay attention to. In particular, my soul is heavy with the latest massacre and the use of children as suicide bombers
  • the unanticipated violence in Paris and the loss of life and safety
  • our continued acts of generalization and stereotyping despite acts being individual
  • this cold, cold weather we are having in this part of the country, and the privilege I often forget I have related to warmth, access to clean areas, and food

Though social media is the medium I use to communicate with people, to stay in touch with others, to get my world news, and even to send out my own writings, it’s especially during these times when my heart gets heavy with the lack of humanity and compassion people show towards one another. My Facebook “friend” group, for example, is very diverse — many different identities and intersecting identities of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, faith/religion, socioeconomic class, education — and I’m “friends” with people for many different reasons. And, through all of this diversity, I like to believe that we are friends because we share humanity, we share this world, and we share a common commitment to see love win.

Yet, I’ve been struggling. I slowly disconnected (only to give in and re-install my social media apps a few hours later!) and have felt the desire to just pull away. To just leave the very platform that has given me support, kindness, and love in my own toughest time.

But, my heart gets heavy. My heart gets heavy when people who “like” my status updates about how my children have been bullied or called unkind names, and then they use those same unkind words to describe the protesters and those involved in social movements.

Or, when I write about how I love the city I live in because of it’s unique socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, and political diversity  — those status updates get “liked” by people who then judge others for having a Coach wallet and a card that assists them with buying groceries.

My heart is heavy.

When we write status updates about an act of dissent that blocks traffic, and yes, causes dangerous situations, and how unique this is. Yet, our status updates from just a few weeks ago was also about traffic and how it was a stand-still, and how nothing was moving. Even without the protests of last week, I have plenty of archived status updates from friends who write about how they are stuck on the highway and how they are “glad they peed before they left work because they’ve been on the on-ramp for over an hour”. Even my own husband calls me from his commute home from work — every day — because he is in stand-still traffic.

What would it mean if it were true?

I can’t solve the world’s problems. On most days, I can’t even get out of my own way to solve my daily problems. But, I know that I commit myself to asking “What would it mean if it were true?”. Essentially, I do the best I can to put myself in the place of another, even if it means I have a false understanding, of what it must mean to be that person in that moment. It doesn’t always work, and I don’t always succeed. But, I practice it every day. 

When someone cuts me off on the road, I’m pissed. I’m angry. And, I likely utter a few choice words. And, then I tell myself to come up with 1 reason why that person did it — one reason beyond, “‘Cause he’s an ass.” What would it mean if that person just heard his Mom passed away? What would it mean if that person just heard “If you don’t get here in 2 minutes, you’re fired.” What would it mean if that were true? Now, likely, the person just cut me off ’cause he’s an ass. Okay, fine. But, what’s going to have me move past that moment — I have to assume that there was some reason.

There are situations where this is harder — nay, impossible, for me. For example, I simply find this exercise too impossible when I try to figure out why a group of people would kidnap girls and strap bombs to them and send them into villages. I just can’t do it. I’ve tried. I’ve tried. I’ve tried to find compassion and humanity in this. Maybe individually, those men have been told something terrible will happen if they do not. Maybe they have been systematically brainwashed. Maybe,… I don’t know… this one is too hard for me.

But, what would it mean if it were true that you could take a minute to do this to? What would it mean for you to develop compassion in this way? What would it mean if, after you’ve initially judged someone’s view, someone’s behavior, and someone’s life, that you took 60 seconds to ask yourself, “What would it mean if it were true?”

What would it mean if it were true that the woman with the Coach wallet was now relying on public assistance for food? Maybe it would mean that she, like thousands of Americans, was in a good working job where she could readily provide for her family, and then she was called into the office and was told  she was let go. That all of her health insurance was cut off, and that she had to navigate signing up for public health care. That her child, who had an appointment at a hospital, suddenly had to cancel the appointment or pay out of pocket. That she usually goes to the grocery store when it’s not as crowded, but that, today, she had to help out a neighbor. So, now she was in line at the busiest time of the day.

Would would it mean if it where true that an individual just found out she was diagnosed with cancer, and that she felt she hadn’t done much with her life. And, with the year she had left, she was going to make a difference. So, she showed up to a meeting about protesting, participated in a protest that made people angry, but that for the first time in her 40 years, she felt alive. Really alive.

These could be made up. But, what would it mean if it was true?

If it was true, then we’re all a little bit human.

If it was true, then we are all a little bit faulty.

If it were true, then we are all a little bit imperfect.

If it were true, then we are all just trying to do what we can to be who we can.

What would it mean if it were true that you could be any one of those people tomorrow? What would it mean if you were the one who cut me off while driving?

What would it mean if I believed that you were just trying to be who you needed to be?

What would it mean, if we all believed this could be true?

Peace, love, and believing in humanity,

Liza

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INTENTIONS

Throughout the years, my childhood bedroom changed with the seasons. As soon as the spring weather grew warmer, my mom would predictably hand me a large plastic bin so that I could carefully fold all of my sweaters, sweatshirts and thick pants into storage. The empty space was then filled with t-shirts, cotton clothes, shorts and skirts that were desperate to be unfolded from the bin. I used the outside of my closet — the two brown sliding doors — to express whatever new interest I was in. I admit, at one point it was covered with New Kids on the Block posters that I had carefully clipped out of Teen Beat magazine. Other times, I had inspirational posters of famous runners. Another time, I had created my own music touring company and made marketing posters with shiny, white posterboard and Crayola markers for myself as an artist. My life as a pre-teen was filled with adventure and imagination! It’s amazing to look back on who I was nearly 25 years ago and see how those early messages shaped me today.

While the inside and outside of the closet changed, I had one part of my room that always stayed the same: a rectangular cork-board displayed just to the left of my bedroom window that was covered with cards, notes, and photos of me and my friends.

Tucked away, barely dangling, on the bottom right hand side of this cork-board was my list of “New Years Resolutions.” Years had gone by, but those resolutions had stayed up there through most of my teenage years.

While some of them have been long forgotten, there are ones that I vividly remember writing when I was 14 years old:

  • do not weigh more than 110 lbs
  • exercise every day
  • kiss a boy
  • get good grades
  • be nicer to my siblings

Yes, I did finally kiss a boy. Yes, I did manage to get good grades. Pretty sure my siblings are cracking up about the “being nicer to them” one. Exercise every day? I did achieve for a while. Do not weigh more than 110 lbs? This didn’t stick.

For most of my life, I have placed such a huge emphasis on how I look and how much I have weighed. So much that it caused me some serious problems in college and for a few years afterwards. But, as I reflect back on the quarter of a century (good heavens….) since that first list of New Year’s Resolutions, I shifted my “resolutions” to  “intentions.”

I truly can’t remember the last time I made a New Year’s Resolutions list –  maybe it was just after I had kissed a boy (check!) 

This year, I will turn 40 years old. And, so I’ve made a list of my intentions for the year. I’m writing them down here to not only hold myself accountable but to also draw on your encouragement, strength and incredible cheerleading abilities! Readers and friends, you’ve gotten me through a ridiculous amount of challenges — and these intentions are about as challenging as they come for me!

As you read through these, I’m asking you to think of your own intentions. And, if any of them line up with mine (or have in the past), please let me know! I need your help to keep going! For years, you have all been my support system through a mastectomy, oophorectomy, training for a 1/2 marathon, and reframing my thinking. And, I need you again! Let me know what you’re doing and share YOUR intentions!

Liza’s Intentions for 2015 (aka the Year of 40)

Intention #1: Run at least 40 miles a month. I know. Some of you run 40 miles a week. I get it. For me, this is a huge challenge. For the past six months, I have been building up my mileage and training faithfully for a half-marathon. I recently registered for a half-marathon that I was VERY excited about. But, a few months ago, my body decided to work against this goal, and I’m afraid I’ve been sidelined. I went through a bit of a depressive period after this, and I know that exercise will help me deal with my feelings of failure. So, yes, 40 miles a month (or 10 miles a week) is a big deal.

Intention #2: Write 40 more pages of the dissertation. For the past 4 years, I have been actively pursuing my doctorate full time (while also working full time). This year, I’m in full dissertatin’ mode. I want to finish. I will finish! So, these 40+ pages represent the results, finding and discussion sections. Graduation 2016 — I’m coming for you!

Intention #3: Take 40 weeks of photos with the kids. When my youngest child was born, I took photos of my children every single week for a year. I love those photos. But, over the years, I’ve let that time slide. I was also so embarrassed by how I looked (post-baby) that I didn’t get in those photos. I want my children to remember me in their photos, and so this intention is really allowing myself to be remembered.

Intention #4: Write 40 new posts on the blog this year. I love writing and connecting with all of you. Yet, my medical problems consumed so much of my energy these past few months and I fell into a slump. Now, I’m back and realizing my support system is so strong here (where would I be without you all???). So, 40 new posts are coming!

Intention #5: Be freed from 40 lbs. This one is a hard one for me to write down. Because of my very troubling history with weight and body image, I’m always uncomfortable stating that I want to lose weight or need to lose weight. So, I’m choosing to call it “be freed” from it. In 2014, surgical menopause and stress resulted in me packing on weight that feels unhealthy for my body. So, freeing me from the weight means I can breathe easier, move my body more fluidly, and have more energy. Here, I’ll really need your support and encouragement to keep going!

PLEASE know that I don’t want to can’t do these alone. I need your stories, your struggles, your experiences to keep me going! Feel free to leave a comment or message me about your own intentions or progress! What are your intentions for the new year?

Peace, love, and rebuilding the road paved with good intentions,

Liza

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The Gift

On the first day of Christmas, the doctors gave to me …. Another freakin’ surgery.

Oh, BRCA. The gift that keeps on messing with my life.

Tomorrow I head back to the hospital for a surgical procedure to stop the 77 day stretch of bleeding I’ve been having. It’s been an emotional — and physical — toll on my body which has impacted my daily life and, not to mention, my half-marathon training. Sometime in mid-October, after my 10 mile run, I was told to stop exercising and see if the rigor was influencing my symptoms. Now, I just live vicariously through the people on the pages of my running magazine, curled up on the couch, in my pajamas, as my running-partner audiobooks lay unplayed on my iPhone.

Did I ever tell you about the time I was 12-years old and stumbled upon a video of a doctor performing cataract surgery?

Back when there were VCRs, I had put in an exercise video tape into the player and completed half the workout. When I got home from school, I wanted to finish the rest of it. So, I took off my school clothes, changed into my black/hot pink spandex, and took my position in front of the television. I pressed play, waited for the delay of the VCR to register my directions and spin the tape wheels, and closed my eyes. I inhaled deeply. I opened my eyes expecting to see Jane Fonda in her unitard and headband doing a reach-and-pull. Instead, I saw a close up of an eyeball with a small metal tool carving out the upper layer of the eye.

“Dad!” I screamed to my Dad who I knew was still in his office two towns away from our house.

At some point between my workout yesterday and this moment in time, my father had inserted one of his medical procedure tapes, likely just passing the time while eating breakfast or waiting for my Mom to get ready for work.

Now, call it exercise-laziness, or maybe just fascination, but I sat down on the floor and continued to watch the rest of the surgery. I was amazed by how the ophthalmologist precisely lifted the outer layer of the eye in order to clear up the cloudiness of the cataract. I pressed pause, and just like my dad, grabbed a snack, and hit play again. It was beautiful.

Last night, as I try to fall asleep, I pulled out my iPhone and searched for videos about hysteroscopy polypectomy — the procedure that I’ll have tomorrow. The description walked me through, step-by-step, the exact process of what will happen when I get to the hospital. Then, I watched what my gynecological oncologist will be doing — from the inside.

When the video was over, I closed my eyes. I inhaled deeply. And, I fell asleep.

While tomorrow’s procedure brings me comfort knowing that my marathon-medical-issues session will end, I would be lying if I wrote that I wasn’t nervous. My last surgery left me with, essentially, what felt like a betrayed body; so, there is certainly some residual trauma from that. But, I know that all will be fine. All will work as planned. And, as I constantly remember, I am very fortunate to know what I know; to have access to medical care; and to have support from friends and family. It is especially during this time when I think of the many who do not have access to what I take for granted each day.

For me, I have the privilege of re-framing my struggles. Knowing about my BRCA status has been, minimally, a burden, but largely a gift.  But, I know that is not always available to others. May we continue to all live in solidarity with one another. As we enter into a holiday season when we cherish miracles, faith, family, and love, I ask that you not only remember those who cannot, but that, together, we demonstrate acts of kindness and humanity towards one another.

Peace and one love,

Liza

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