Monday, December 2, 2013


Lately I've noticed friends on Facebook participating in a sharing game about their lives. Maybe you've seen it: You leave a message on a pal's wall who has already shared details about themselves; your friend then emails you a number — that's how many tidbits you're supposed to reveal about yourself. 

I never found that game enticing...

Monday, November 4, 2013


Who among us hasn't experienced the awkward moment when a well-meaning person utters something inane (or insane) in response to our discussing our cancer treatment or diagnosis (and/or our mental, physical or emotional processing of the two)? You know, the verbiage that doesn't stay inside their head but is inappropriately spilled out onto yours. And you, as the cancer patient, are left feeling unheard, misunderstood, and thinking, Did he/she really just say that? 

Sunday, October 27, 2013


I was going through my archives when I found this 2011 blog post entitled "Land of Confusion" — very popular among readers. So I dusted it off and am rerunning it. Let me know if it strikes an emotional chord with you...

Friday, October 11, 2013


(Copyright ©2013 Jennifer Ledda Vennes/Keep the Calm)
The breast cancer blogging community has lost another wonderful woman, wife, mother, blogger to the scourge that is breast cancer — Jen "jelebelle" Vennes. She was 39.

Jen penned the supremely well-written, super honest, often raw and always inspiring blog, KeepTheCalmI'd been following her story since Spring 2012, when she first wrote about the chemo drug Navelbine (something her nurses jokingly referred to as "navy bean"), which was part of the trifecta of chemo drugs she was desperate to have work...

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Many positives come out of cancer, and I admit I don't always write about them. But today I'm going to. The biggest ones involve the many new friends I've made since my December 2010 breast cancer diagnosis. I often refer to these friends as  The Rubies, and I'm fortunate to have several sets of such wonderful gems. 

Long before I was on Twitter, and about four months before I started this little blog...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


With "Pinktober" right around the corner, I received this morning from Dr. Susan Love's "Act With Love" Research Foundation. Dr. Love understands the challenges, the politics and the need for greater research (vs. "awareness") with regard to breast cancer and is busy putting programs in place to not just raise research dollars, but to actually tap the people of the world so we can assist in the research itself. It's pretty impressive...

Friday, September 6, 2013


(Copyright © 2013 The Big C and Me)
I wrote a blog post back in January 2013 about how our relationships change at various points during our cancer treatment, how the demands on our time changes, and how this can leave us feeling invisible. It struck a chord with many, so I thought it might be important to post again. Maybe you (or someone you know) can relate...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Happy Wednesday! If you haven't visited the Smith Magazine website lately, I encourage you to do so. It's a fun, eye-opening exercise in storytelling brevity. Since it's only fair I write one myself, here goes: I am feeling anything but resilient. I've plucked a dozen six-word memoirs ...

Monday, August 12, 2013


A few days ago, I read an article on the front page of the Los Angeles Times about a woman named Jacqueline Suskin who sits at a tiny table at fairs and farmers markets up and down the West Coast. She types on-the-spot, improvisational poetry (on her vintage green typewriter, no less!) while you wait. Oh, and you get to name the price you pay her.

I find that fascinating...

Saturday, August 3, 2013


© Gayle Sulik PhD Pink Ribbon Blues
I've just read a brilliant and profound article on what it means to be a cancer survivor. I wanted to Tweet about it, but there's so much more to say than can fit in 140 characters. 

The article I'm referring to was written by the indomitable Gayle A. Sulik, PhD (author of Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women's Health and founder of the Breast Cancer Consortium)...

Monday, July 29, 2013


On Saturday, July 27th, 2013, AnneMarie of Chemo-Brain fame celebrated seven years of living with NED (No Evidence of Disease) post-breast cancer. Of this milestone, AnneMarie reflects...

Monday, July 22, 2013


(Copyright © 2013 The Big C and Me)  
While I've been busy not blogging, I've been amassing a large number of potential blog posts. Some are half written; others are merely a headline. Some describe experiences I've had yesterday; others occurred long ago. All include insight gleaned from my breast cancer experience. 

This bulging list of ideas overwhelms me...

Friday, July 12, 2013


Lately, every click I make leads me to more bad news. Storm clouds seem to be everywhere I turn. I need a buffer between me and life. 

I need to become more resilient. 

By definition, resiliency is being able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditionsUm, that would be my life this week. A tale of too much. Allow me to explain...

Thursday, June 13, 2013


In case you haven't noticed, I've hit a wall with my blog posts. I've placed my hands on this keyboard more times than I can count, trying to find a way back into blogging about TheBigCandMe. 

After my dreaded rash finally receded (turns out I developed an allergy to laundry detergent and soap), my scars healed, and my doctor was no longer on speed dial, my writing mojo took a sharp turn down the road of recovery — and has all but evaporated.

I've got the writer's blog blues. But I'm in good company. Many of my bloggy friends (The Accidental Amazon, Bringing Up Goliath, Breast Cancer Sisterhood, to name but a few) decided to suspend their blog writing so they can focus their energies on living life post-cancer. 

Other blogs come to a screeching halt because the writer died from cancer...

Sunday, May 26, 2013


I have been rather remiss in my blog posting. I was out of town, I got busy, I took a nap, I went out of town again, I got busy, I took another nap, yadda yadda.

So tonight I sat down at the computer with a few minutes to spare before bed, with the
© Green Monkey Tales

intent of catching up on a few pals in the blogosphere. I got excited to see that my friend Shannon, who blogs over at Green Monkey Tales, had written a new blog post. Shannon is a sporadic poster; her prose, some of it fiction, is truly brilliant. I eagerly clicked her link.  

I had no idea what her blog title "Wrecked Tail" was supposed to mean, but figured it would be funny; Shannon is hilarious, and often sprinkles a little monkey humor into her writing. 

It wasn't long before I realized what she was sharing wasn't funny at all...

Saturday, May 11, 2013


The blogosphere is a pretty amazing place, filled with some pretty amazing people.

Some are bloggers. Some are readers. Some are commenters. Some are all three; some are two; others, one.

In our burgeoning breast cancer blogging community, we have a special woman who is a faithful reader and commenter on so many of our blogs. She always signs her name "Karen, TC." I never knew what the "TC" stood for; I never asked. 

Turns out it means "The Commenter." How perfect. How clever.

I always looked forward to Karen, TC's comments...

Sunday, April 28, 2013


DAY 25's challenge: Share something from another health activist that everyone should know. (Only something? I've too many 'somethings' to share.) 
Last week, Jody Schoger  beloved co-founder and member of the Breast Cancer Social Media group #BCSM — revealed she has metastatic breast cancer (MBC) after having no evidence of disease (NED) for 15 years. Yes you heard that right: 15 years later she became metastatic.
The blogosphere was abuzz with shock and love and support for Jody. Unfortunately Jody is far from alone; 155,000 Americans are living with MBC right now. Since Day 28's challenge is to create a must-follow list on a single social network, I'm focusing on bloggers with metastatic breast cancerI know there are many MBC bloggers out there; iyou have an MBC blog and aren't listed below, please leave a comment in the section for a future post. :-)

Here are 9 of my favorite MBC bloggersTo read more of their work, just click on their blog links and SHOW THEM SOME LOVE! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


DAY 23 of #HAWMC, PART 1: Write about a device I wish existed to help me track my health. I'd invent a portable meter-like device (like the one diabetics use) ...


DAY 22 of the #HAWMC challenge: Write about something ordinary that’s inspiring; something simple, perhaps overlooked.
© 2013
Time to confess: I am a cloud chaser. I make it a point to look out the window every night to: A) see if there are any clouds in the sky; if so, then I: B) go outdoors and look up to determine whether what I see is sunset worthy. If yes, then I: C) grab my camera and head to the hiking trail. If no, then I: D) stay home and finish the dishes. 

There is an odd cloud phenomenon that I've noticed; maybe you have too...

Monday, April 22, 2013


I'm a bit behind in my WEGO Challenge writing — which is appropriate since the topic I stalled on is burnout! With today being Earth Day and all, I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone (pardon the nature idiom).

DAY 20 of the #HAWMC asks: What gets me OUT of burnout, or OUT of the pit of despair when nothing is going my way? I get thee to the wide-open spaces. 
Copyright TheBigCandMe blog

Hiking up a hill that spills out onto a breathtaking vista is the surest way for me to
put my problems into perspective. The sight of nature acts like a vacuum for my worries, sucking them into the wild, spewing them out across the valley floor, rendering them too infinitesimal to take me down.

I love to hike in the morning when the light is bright and the breeze still chill, before the air drifts up between the canyons and gets toasted by the sun. 
I also love to hike when there is a threat of an approaching storm. Weather of any kind is a reminder that nature is in charge — and I am not alone.

Because it isn't just me up on that mountain; there is a pulsing world of wildlife living in the chaparral and the bunchgrass. 

Bees and insects alight on dainty blossoms, ants aim for the lily leaves, flies feast on coyote scat. Rabbits run through sage scrub; deer disappear beneath the protective cloak of an evergreen, a sycamore, a bay laurel or a black walnut tree. The mountain sings with the sparrows and wrens, swoons with the red-tailed hawks, swoops with the eagles and falcons. 

Lazy lizards with amputated tails stop to sunbathe, while ground squirrels appear like popcorn out of holes in the earth. Rattlesnakes and tarantulas co-exist — it's us that must make our peace with them.

I often encounter the unexpected when hiking, and I look for (and embrace) these moments. 

It's always a good day when I spot a horse being worked out much like me on the trail. Or when I hear the roar of half a dozen cops on motorbikes who stop to shoo a king cobra off the trail and warn me of others farther down the hill.
I also know if I hike too close to sunset, I risk entering "Beauty and the Beast" zone. That's when nature puts on her technicolor light show, while hungry coyotes with their haunting howls hide stage left and right. 

It's also when I see the evening birds fluttering above me in a quickly darkening sky and I recognize them for what they really are: These are the imposter birds. I pick up my pace and pull my hat a little lower over my brow, hoping to make it to my car before the bats drive-bomb my hair.
Despite my sundown dance with the Princes of Darkness, no matter when I take my leave of the mountain, I make sure to leave my troubles there too. Let the wildlife have at my worry; I've got some livin' to do.

DAY 21 of the #HAWMC asked me to ponder this quote: "The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all," then write about where I bloom best. I believe I just did. Two challenges in one post, two birds with one stone. Whew who!

Friday, April 19, 2013


DAY 19 of #HAWMC — post a vintage image of myself and write a caption about it.

This photo was taken:
Copyright TheBigCandMe blog

  • 6 months after my siblings spun me around in my father's office chair, sending me flying into the furnace.
  • 3 years before I would slice my lip on a broken china cup while pretending to sip tea with my dolls.
  • 4 years before I would see the Pieta at the New York World's Fair.
  • 7 years before I would develop a fear of dogs after being bitten by a German Shepherd, leaving me with a scar near my eye...

Thursday, April 18, 2013


DAY 18 of #HAWMC and I'm supposed to write about a time that I lashed out at someone close to me out of frustration/fear/anger caused by cancer.

Instead, I prefer to write tonight about the anger I feel that another lovely lady has passed away from cancer. Her name was Cindy. She had a very rare cancer: sarcoma of the upper arm.

I didn't know Cindy in person, but I followed her blog. In February 2013 she was given 6-12 months to live. Her friend Becky posted that Cindy died on April 4, 2013. 

Cindy lived in New Mexico and in addition to writing about cancer, she loved to write about hiking and walking in nature. In fact, she devoted an entire section of her blog to what she called The Mind-Body Walk. I loved that part.

In honor of Cindy, I'd like to leave you with a bit of her writing....

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


DAY 17 — Wordless Wednesday! As part of #HAWMC, we're creating word clouds via

To come up with the words and terms I used in the cloud below, I perused many of the breast cancer blogs I follow and then selected a word or phrase from the title of a recent posting of three dozen of them. I love this wordle because it showcases what's on the minds of many breast cancer bloggers the past few weeks:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


DAY 16 of the #HAWMC is F-U-N! Lord knows we could use some levity in the wake of the horror in Boston. 

Today, I'm going to tell you FOUR things about myself — but only three are true. One of them is a lie. Can you find it?

In the comments section, tell me which of the following statements you don't think is true. I'll reveal the correct answer at the completion of the #HAWMC challenge!

A) I used to work with Jim Carrey.

B) I'm allergic to nickel.

C) I performed in an improv troupe.

D) I left a million-dollar boyfriend for an unemployed jazz musician.

Monday, April 15, 2013


DAY 15 of the #HAWMC is about sharing. I've been asked to select someone else’s blog post, write a comment to them, then make that comment my post. The blog I've chosen to share dovetails with what we in the breast cancer blogging community call "Mets Monday." This is the day each week dedicated to promoting awareness of metastatic breast cancer.

Metastatic cancer occurs when cancer cells spread to another part of the body from where it was initially found. According to the National Cancer Institute, for example, breast cancer that has spread to the lung is metastatic breast cancer, not lung cancer. (To learn more about metastatic breast cancer, please visit as well as the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network.) 

Today, I am highlighting one of my favorite bloggers — Kate, a 33-year-old wife and mother living in Norway and dealing daily with the reality of metastatic breast cancer...


DAY 14 of the #HAWMC challenge gives me a chance to thank a few of my fellow Health ActivistsI participated in last year's #HAWMC and writing every day under a specific topic can feel, well, forced. And challenging. This is my shout out to a few of my fellow breast cancer bloggers who are taking part in the WEGO challenge, despite the commitment (and writers block!) that a daily prompt can bring.

I chose to highlight snippets from each blogger's Day #10 challenge; that's the day we shared our favorite images of ourselves, and I think it provides you, the reader, with a sense of who these ladies are and why I think they're terrific! (Just click on the links below to read their fabulous posts in full.)...

Sunday, April 14, 2013


DAY 13 of the #HAWMC challenge: Write a health "acrostic" (acrostic = a poem where every letter of a word serves as the first letter of a word or phrase) for my health condition. Since I write about breast cancer and reconstruction, I've combined them.



Saturday, April 13, 2013


On DAY 12 of the Wego Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge, I'm asked a simple question: "If you could go back in time and talk to yourself on the day of diagnosis, what would you say?" Well, I probably wouldn't stop talking if I had it to do over again. The way it went down, I hardly talked at all that day. Here's why.

I waited about five days between biopsy and phone call. When the phone finally rang at lunchtime on December 8, 2011, I heard Dr. S. (my primary physician) say in a very upbeat voice, "Well, I have your test results!" 

And I thought: Oh good! In the nanosecond between his comment and mine, I really (no, really) thought he was going to give me good news, that the biopsy revealed nothing. I to this day can remember how my body suddenly relaxed.

But then he dropped the C-bomb...

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Day 11 of the Wego Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge asks us to write about our favorite social network. 

I'm crazy for Twitter! Which is completely crazy, because until two weeks ago I was a Twitter holdout. But I folded up my fear and finally completed my account. My impetus? To participate in the Monday night #BCSM Tweetchat (yes, I'm impressed I even knew what #BCSM meant too!). 

On Twitter, #BCSM stands for "The Intersection of Breast Cancer and Social Media." This online community was founded in 2011 by Jody Schoger and Alicia Staley (both breast cancer survivors), along with Dr. Deanna J. Attai, a board-certified breast surgeon. In April of 2013, they created a BCSM blog, and posted a terrific article entitled, "Respect the Hashtag." Check it out to learn more about the proper ways to post on Twitter and #BCSM.

The #BCSM’s mission: "To help support, empower and inform women about issues related to breast cancer." #BCSM is an awesome group of women and men who have cancer, had cancer or have an interest in cancer. However, #BCSM Twitterchats are not for the faint of heart! They move quickly, and I am slowly getting the hang of thinking of short but relevant things to tweet. Join us every Monday night at 9 PM Eastern Time, 8 PM Central Time and 6 PM Pacific Time.

I know now why I was afraid of Twitter: I didn't understand it. I thought it was something I could only access from my smart phone. (Which I didn't even own until last Christmas. Silly me.) My world has been widened: I've since figured out how to "follow" folks (475 and counting!), and it's been great fun to watch as people "follow" me (150 and counting).

To follow me on Twitter, click here. See you Monday night!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


DAY 10 of the Wego Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge: It's Wordless Wednesday (YAY!) and I'm to post my favorite picture of myself. I chose this photo for five reasons:
  1. It's a self-portrait 
  2. It was taken post-cancer and represents my "new" life
  3. It was shot at the beach (one of my favorite places!)
  4. It was taken on a day I was hanging out with my friend R., who has metastatic breast cancer. When I see this image, it reminds me of her. (R. is doing remarkably well despite having mets for many years. She is feeling terrific. BIG shout-out to R.!)
  5. It represents the mystery in meYou may have noticed that I'm rather shy about revealing who I am on my blog. That may seem strange since I'm certainly not shy about writing about breast cancer! But I find it more liberating to write from behind the shadows. Of course, this could change at any time. But that day is not today.

    Tuesday, April 9, 2013


    DAY 9 of the WEGO Health Activist Writers Month Challenge is about caregiving and to me that means easing the pressure on everyone involved. 

    As a cancer patient, I've been on the receiving end of plenty of caregiving; as a daughter, I've been on the caregiving end to both of my parents at various times. Below are some strategies that fit both scenarios.

    Monday, April 8, 2013


    DAY 8 of the WEGO #HAWMC asks: "If your health condition was an animal, what would it be?" A snake comes immediately to mind; specifically, a timber rattlesnake  aptly named C. Horridus. (I found that so apropos!)
    This is a California rattler.
    My 8 reasons why rattlesnakes remind me of breast cancer...

    Saturday, April 6, 2013


    DAY 6 dawns on the WEGO Health Activist Writer's Month ChallengeLast year, we were asked to write a letter to our 16-year-old selves. That was a toughie...

    Friday, April 5, 2013


    I read an interesting article on the Huffington Post website yesterday that became the fire behind DAY 5 of my WEGO Health Activist Writers Month Challenge.

    THE CHALLENGE: If time, money and physical restrictions were not an issue, what would my "plan" for breast cancer activism be? How would I direct my activist energies? My aspirations are rather simple. I want to write my way out of worry. And I want to show you how to work your worry away, too...

    Thursday, April 4, 2013


    After my double mastectomy in February 2011, I compiled a list of things that helped me prepare both before and after surgery. I hit a nerve — it's my blog post with the greatest number of hits.

    Some of these tips apply before your surgery, some during, and some afterwards. With some minor tweaks to update a few items (for example, I combined shopping tips and added a photography section), here are my TIPS ON HOW TO PREPARE FOR BREAST CANCER SURGERY. I hope it helps you or someone you know. Please feel free to share! 

    Tuesday, April 2, 2013


    Day 2 of the Wego Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge has dawned — and it's Introduction Day! That's when I share my encounter with Breast Cancer and the 5 things I want you to know about it. 

    1) My first blog post was about the mammogram that would change everything. Next, I wrote about hearing the words You Have Cancer (that's here), how I broke the news to my husband here, why we chose to keep it a secret here (and the lesson I learned from that here), and how I kept myself from going completely off-the-wall ballistic here and here

    2) And all that happened before a scalpel ever touched my skin. If you've ever had cancer (or been through it with someone close), you know exactly what I'm talking about. (I can hear your shaking head from here!) If you've recently been diagnosed, the above links will help you. A lot...

    Monday, April 1, 2013


    Today is Day 1 of the 2013 Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge (HAWMC). I took part in the challenge last year, too, so this is my second time at bat. The daily writing process last year was challenging and invigorating yet also very fun. My favorite part was bonding with other breast cancer bloggers. And I hope some of them will join me again this year! The HAWMC challenge forced me to write faster, and more frequently, and since I have trouble with both, it pushes me to be a better blogger. So I'm jumping in again and looking forward to where the month will lead! Let's get to it...

    Friday, March 15, 2013


    To my many bloggy friends near and far who are seeking strength right now (no matter the reason or the season), I dug up some right fine wisdom from the right and honorable (and always inspiring) Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Though both of these poems may be familiar to many, I don't recall ever reading them before. When viewed through the veil of grief or cancer, they are especially poignant. Both were written in the 1830s.

    Thursday, February 28, 2013


    We had a death in the family. My husband's only sibling died suddenly three weeks ago. He was not young; he was not old. He was middle aged. And his death sent shock waves throughout the family. 
    (Copyright © 2013 The Big C and Me)
    Which reminded me that the rituals surrounding death, while varied, exist for a reason: Society has been following mourning rituals for thousands of years — because they work. No matter what those rituals are, they're important, and they're in place to help soften death's blow. These traditions have vast intrinsic value in helping to push us gently along our own pathways of grief...

    Wednesday, February 20, 2013


    (© Michael Appleton for The New York Times)
    I got up early this morning to watch Robin Roberts' return to Good Morning America following her five-and-a-half-month hiatus.

    For those not in the know, Robin was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and underwent lumpectomy and chemotherapy. Unfortunately, in June of 2013, Robin announced she developed Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) as a result of chemo. Treatment for Robin's MDS included more chemo — and a bone marrow transplant. But first, she needed to find a donor. She was fortunate to find a perfect match in her sister, who agreed to donate her healthy bone marrow to Robin...

    Friday, February 15, 2013


    (Copyright © 2013 The Big C and Me)
    I read a wonderful poem recently about cancer written by Maryland's poet laureate, Stanley Plumly, in the Los Angeles Times. I am struck by it's lyrical, imaginative and original nature, and inspired to write some poetry of mine own.

    But not today. 

    Instead, allow me introduce you to...

    Saturday, February 9, 2013


    (Copyright © 2013 The Adventures of OBB)
    “Courage isn't having the strength to go on — it is going on when you don't have strength.” Napoleon Bonaparte

    I just learned this morning that another blogging sister's cancer has returned: Kate over at The Adventures of OBB. Her husband posted the news this morning.

    If you have a moment, please pop over and show her some love.

    I hate cancer.