Bees in My Bonnet: From the Archives

Bee in the Lavender

October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Last year my posts during October focused more on breast cancer so here’s a look at some posts from the archives.

Your Man Reminder” is an app and a campaign done by Rethink Breast Cancer.  I find the campain, and the video (hello, shirtless men) highly refreshing compared to some of the other stuff that show up around this time of year.

Breast Cancer is Not a Pink Ribbon takes a look at the work of photographer David Jay.  He also is working to put a new face to awareness campaigns around breast cancer; a raw and powerful one called “The SCAR Project.”

Last year my mother shared her story and our family history of breast cancer in a guest post.

I also watched and reviewed the documentary “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” in a two part series I called, “The Darker Side of Pink.”  Part onePart two.

Read about a woman who made the choice to undergo a double mastectomy and how it affected her life and her self image.

Some of the songs that helped me out when I needed it.

Last year’s “Bees in My Bonnet” wrapping up Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast Cancer Ribbon

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Single for the Holidays?

Someone posted this on my Facebook wall and I thought it was too great not to share.  Happy Holidays!

This holiday season, don’t let nosy questions about your singleness catch you off-guard. While it’s none of your great-aunt’s business as to why you’re still single, she’s still likely to inquire.

Here are 10 great comebacks to the “Why are you still single?” question:

1. Because you haven’t proposed yet.

2. Just lucky, I guess.

3. Name one married superhero. Exactly.

4. My mail-order spouse should be arriving any day now.

5. Because I want my cat to grow up in a stable environment.

6. Jesus was single. Would you be bugging him?

7. Because I keep turning down proposals.

8. Because no company is better than bad company.

9. What’s the rush? With a longer life expectancy than previous generations, I can get married later in life and still end up celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary.

10. True love is worth waiting for. I’m not going to settle just because I’ve been single for a while.

Replacing Hate With Love: A Father Writes a Letter to His Hypothetically Gay Son

This is not technically “new” news.  I read about it some time ago but have been letting it percolate.  Some time in August a young man posted a letter on Reddit.  It was a letter from his father in response to him “coming out.”

"This is how hate sounds."

The first time I read this my heart broke.  I thought about how my own family would have responded if I had come to them with a similar conversation.  Would they have been as angry, hateful, and ready to throw out our relationship?  Or would they have responded with love and acceptance?  Those are not the only two options, they are the extreme ends of the spectrum, and the ones we hear most often about.  We hear the stories like the one above, where loved ones are quick to judge and slow to understand.  Or we hear the stories where life goes on pretty much the same as before, families respond with open arms and wonder why the child/brother/sister/friend/etc. waited so long to share that piece of their life.  Based on how my family has reacted in the face of other things I have shared with them I want to believe that they would lean more towards the acceptance side.  Though they may not understand, and it would probably challenge some of their beliefs I would still be welcome in their home.  They would not disown me as their daughter/sister/niece/granddaughter/cousin.  But that is not something that I will ever have to deal with.  This is not a struggle we will have to face as a family, at least not from me.  I can only speak in hypotheticals.

Speaking of hypothetical, another blogger saw the letter I posted above and wrote his own letter in response.  He wrote the letter to his hypothetically gay son.  At the time he wrote the letter his wife was still pregnant with their child.  It tells a much different story than the first one.

“Let me be perfectly clear. I love you. I will always love you. Since being gay is part of who you are, I love that you’re gay. I’m just trying to wrap my head around the idea. If you sensed any sadness in my silence last night, it was because I was surprised that I was surprised. Ideally, I would have already known. Since you were an embryo, my intent has always been to really know you for who you are and not who I expect you to be. And yet, I was taken by surprise at last night’s dinner. Have I said “surprise” enough in this paragraph? One more time… surprise!”

The father goes on to state that their house will always be a place of love and that if necessary he would go to war to advocate for his son.  It is a beautiful piece and I encourage you to read the whole thing.

If your child came out to you, how would you respond?  If this is not a hypothetical situation for you what did the conversation look like?  Do you wish you (or your family) would have responded differently?

What would your letter say?

Cracks, Roots, Support

Music is often the way that I cope with pain and hardship.  I am not a song writer myself, but the music of others helps me to express what I’m feeling, and sometimes even what I want to say.  When I look back through old playlists or listen to old cds I burned I can tell you exactly what was going on in my life at that time.  I tend to gravitate towards a certain type of music depending on how I feel and what I’m going through.

You’ve read about my mother’s journey with breast cancer so you  know part of mine as well.  I don’t want to go into the rest of mine too much because I have a cold and crying when you have a cold is the worst.  I will share some music though that has helped me, both during and after, and even in the midst now.

**Warning: Tissues may be needed**

I’m Gonna Love You Through It by Martina McBride

Lyrics here

Flower by Jewel

Lyrics here

Guest Post: Cancer and Strong Women, My Heritage

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1972—she was 42 and I was 10.  It was before chemotherapy, radiation, and breast reconstructive surgery.  She took the bold step of having a radical mastectomy with my dad’s full support, a surgeon who respected her decision, and an attitude in which she never really looked back only forward.  I would say life changed for her, but I’m not really sure it did.  She was glad to be alive, went on with her profession as a college professor, got her doctorate, and she was my mom—she just didn’t have her breasts.

When I was a teenager we talked about it—how her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother had breast cancer.  At that moment it became my heritage.  Life didn’t change a lot I just started having mammograms earlier than my friends and Mom made sure I knew how to do a self-breast exam.  Life went on, I married a wonderful supportive man who knew my family history, became a veterinarian, and had two girls of my own.  20 years later Mom became a real breast cancer survivor. We always knew she was a miracle but then it became official.  However, when Mom turned 66 cancer entered her life again as she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  At first it was thought that maybe this was a manifestation of the previous breast cancer, and then we learned it was a different cancer, but they were linked together genetically.  Gene testing was just rearing its head but she was told that to have those two cancers meant she had to have a breast cancer gene—all of the sudden this family history became very real in our lives.

At this point life did change—it became filled with surgeries, chemotherapy every 3 weeks, blood tests, drugs to control vomiting, deep talks about the future, and learning how to say good-bye to a person who meant the world to me.  I was with Mom for every chemotherapy treatment except the first one, as it was done in the hospital following the initial surgery, and I had to work.   Eventually, I adjusted my work schedule to correlate with her treatment schedule.  Often, our youngest daughter, who at the time was 4, came with me to the cancer treatment center.  We read books together while the toxic drug was poured into Mom’s veins, hoping it would annihilate the cancer cells that were trying to take her from us.  Our relationship changed as I watched this strong independent woman who was my mother and had always been in charge of her life, falter and become unable to make decisions.  She would turn to me for help and it was difficult for me to take that leadership role from her.  Then she would feel better and the reins of life would be returned to her.  We eventually learned how to do this trade back and forth with grace and ease.  For a while, the therapy worked and she went into remission for 3 wonderful years.  Then it returned with a vengeance and wouldn’t respond to the same drugs so different drug protocols were tried; they would work for a while and then not.  Eventually one day Mom looked at me and said, “I’m done, I just want to come home with you.  I want to be in your home, with your family, and you holding me in your arms when I go to meet my God.”

My mom gave it a good fight, tried not to let the cancer rule her life, and went on fulfilling her life goals becoming a mediator and a CASA (Court appointed special advocate for neglected/abused children) in her retirement years but the cancer eventually won the battle.  She died at 72 and I was 39.  Yes, she died in our home and in my arms as she wished.  I provided the hospice care for her, my children learned about death, and I lost one of my best friends at much too young of an age.  My world was not the same but my mother taught me not only how to live but how to die with grace and dignity.

So, here the story changes to my story.  At 42 I had my first lumpectomy and the mass was benign.  5 years later I had a second lumpectomy and the mass was classified as atypical ductal hyperplasia—what they called a pre-pre cancer.  Due to my family history, I consulted with an oncologist who sent me directly to the genetics department to be tested for the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 gene mutations, with the knowledge that she was 100% sure I would test positive, as was the genetic counselor who took my history.  However, I tested negative.  This is good, right?  Yes and no.  I now know I do not carry the most common breast cancer gene mutations and thus could not have possibly passed them on to my own daughters. Also, my odds of developing breast cancer have dramatically decreased, however, I do not know if my mother carried one of these mutations. There are also other gene mutations that she could have carried and passed on to me—these can’t be tested for because my mother is no longer living.  So, there does remain a cloud around the futures of my daughters and myself.

I am currently seeing my oncologist every 6 months, having a mammogram once a year, and a breast MRI once a year at 6-month intervals.  I have also consulted with a plastic surgeon that does breast reconstructive surgery and am contemplating having a radical mastectomy.  I have previously had my uterus and ovaries removed as preventative measures.  I have always known I would have to make these personal decisions but I figured I would have cancer when making them.  Now, that it is here, without cancer and with the knowledge I have, it feels different then I imagined.  I often feel very raw and overwhelmed by the decisions that are before me.  I have so many more choices than my mother did and different personal health issues that come into play with my decisions, as well.

So, yes cancer has changed my life although it hasn’t hindered my ability to reach life goals it has stretched me, made life more precious to me, and taught me not to take any human relationship I have lightly.  If there is anything to pass on to my girls it is what I learned from my mom—to face life head on without blinders, to be proactive and preventative in action, and to bravely take on whatever gets thrown at you even if it’s cancer and if it is cancer not to let it rule your life.

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Cathy is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine who specializes in felines.  She loves cooking, baking, and filling her home with people to feed.  She and her loving husband of almost 30 years live in a small town in the Northwest.  Their second daughter recently moved out and they are beginning to enjoy the new-found freedom of an empty nest.  She also happens to be my mother.

Guest Post: Choosing Not To Be A Feminist

I was born in the late 1960s and as such was a daughter of America’s feminism movement of the 1970s.  Probably not literally, though.  Like Lindley, I don’t think I have ever actually had a conversation with my mom about her self-identification — or not — as a feminist.  Regardless, I was definitely surrounded by feminist ideals as I came of age in the 1980s.  As I went off to college at a university that made Berkeley look conservative, I took with me my self-attached FEMINIST label and convictions to be strong, self-directed, self-determinate, independent, and successful in any profession I chose.  I had grown up being told — by my parents and society — that the world should be open to me regardless of my gender.  I believed it and I was going to take full advantage of it.

Interesting, though, the choice thing.  While it was clear I was “allowed” to choose any profession I wanted, society was also telling me that that was the only decision I had to make.  The rest…well, I could have it all!  It was the era of the Super Mom, where women brought home the bacon, fried it up in a pan, colored their hair because they were worth it, and baked their kids cupcakes and lead Girl Scout troops after work.  There was so much excitement and empowerment and cheering from the feminists blazing the trail ahead of me.  No longer was I just expected to be a housewife.  Now I could have a career AND a family!  YAY ME!  YAY US!

Behind the fanfare, though, I saw something else.  While it was awesome that women now had a choice, instead of choosing, most women seemed to be adding.  Very counter to everything that surrounded me, I distinctly remember deciding before I left my teens that I would do things differently.  I was going to choose.  Career or family but not both, not at the same time.  I did not want to have it all because, frankly, it looked exhausting.  Feminism was about having choices, right?  So making a choice still allowed me to call myself a feminist, right?

Apparently not.

It became clear to me pretty quickly that my decision to either have a career OR a family was not an acceptable one.  Well, at least not a feminist one.  Somehow I was still being oppressed by choosing one over the other?  So I learned to keep my family plans to myself.  A number of working moms, trail blazers a couple decades my senior, got huffy when I suggested I would stop working if I ever had kids.  I got the distinct impression that that was NOT what all their hard work had been for.  Suddenly I was ungrateful and selfish.  And definitely not a feminist.  So I dropped their banner and haven’t picked it up since.

Sadly,  the times I grew up in have resulted in “feminist” having a less than desirable connation for me.  I am as eager to call myself a feminist as I am to own being a Christian.  But the truth is, at their core, their foundation, I am both.  But both terms can drag along such baggage and so quickly sort me into an assumed category of beliefs that may or may not be true about me.  And so today, at 44, married, and having chosen career instead of children, I am simply, happily, Toni.

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Toni is a dear friend of mine and an avid blogger.  Check out her blog Woodhaven Ramblings.

A Letter to my Nephew

To my dearest nephew,

You don’t know it yet but you are privileged.  You may get better, higher paying job offers than your sister.  People will not assume you are a bad driver just because of your gender.  When you grow up, people will listen to what you have to say, even if it is ridiculous.

I watch you play on the playground with other children and am brought to tears by your compassion.  The way you include others in whatever game you have invented makes me so proud of you.  The way you watch out for your sister even when she is not paying attention touches my heart.  The way you, at family gatherings go out of your way to sit by grandpa and include him in the conversation because he cannot hear everything convicts me, because I did not consider doing the same.  Your heart is so big and you notice everyone around you.  You know exactly when someone needs a hug and you’re never afraid to be the one to give it.  You are a great mediator even if you don’t know what that means yet.  You are so good at making sure everyone gets a say and all the voices are heard.  You are the most caring ten year old I know.

And yet the day will come when someone will try and beat that compassion I love so much out of you.  You may be called a fag or gay.  Someone will tell you, you throw like a girl and instead of making you laugh it will hurt your feelings.  When you cry someone will tell you to man up, suck it up, or stop acting like a girl.  You will be expected to punch your friends and play sports, even if it is not really your thing.  And if you resist they may hurt you.  You will be expected to be physical, tough, and a womanizer, you will even be praised for it.  You will no longer feel comfortable having tea parties with your sister on the front lawn.  You will no longer laugh about that time you dressed up like a girl for a fundraiser.

My hope for you is that you resist.  That you hold onto your love and compassion for others.  Say fuck ‘em if you have to but never stop caring for the weak, the unnoticed, and the underrepresented.  Don’t let people get away with telling you you’re not a “real man” because you cry when you fall, or you like hanging out with your sister.  Don’t listen to them when they tell you that to be cool you have to play sports and date lots of girls.  Don’t let them off the hook when violence against women is treated as a joke or being compared to a woman is used as an insult.  Remember the amazing women in your life who are strong, beautiful, and capable (and could kick their ass if need be).  Never stop telling your mom you love her and when they tease you because of it tell them you had to say it because it is the truth.  Never stop hugging your parents because they will always need your hugs and never stop letting me kiss you on the head, even though soon you will be taller than me.

You are a bright, wonderful little person and I love you so much.  I hope that even as you get older you will still get excited to see me and be bursting to tell me about your day.  So, when you have to, say screw the world, and always be true to who you really are.