Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick or Treat

John was being grumpy about the kids coming to the door. “Stupid Holiday, stupid” every time the door bell rang. . Grumble grumble…so I went into the bedroom, changed into black lace stockings and put on my trench coat.…I went out the door and said over my shoulder, “If any kids come please answer the door and give them the candy.” Grumble grumble… then I went outside counted to ten and came back and rang the bell and when John opened the door I yelled “Trick or Treat” and flashed him.

A new attitude!

Caught in the Middle

76 million of us Baby Boomers. That means a lot of sandwich generation caregivers. We are taking care of parents, sometimes grandparents, children, grandchildren, step children and spouses. We live longer but the fine print that accompanies that good news says that we live longer with more illness and more—multiple—disabilities. (Of course we; do you can’t live longer without stuff happening to your body.)

So where is the good good news? It’s this: There are a lot of us and so we have colleagues and peers and can have companions if we seek them out. Our friends are caregivers too and we can support each other and trade information. We can take turns driving, shopping and listening. We can volunteer. We can commiserate.

We can’t change life and we can’t change death but we can help each other.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Oh God!

The downside to being an atheist is that you have no one to cry out to in the throes of an orgasm.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I read obituaries every day. I have since I was in my twenties. I think of them as little stories, very, very short novels or Haiku lives. But recently I’ve been keeping score of how many of the regional dead are in their late 50’s or early 60’s—our ages—me and John.

I think again—“People my age and John’s age die every day.” And they are not extraordinary deaths, just regular ones from illness and disease and cancers.

I try to use this in a positive way. To remind myself to live my life—mine and not someone else’s idea of my life. To choose my day and –maybe I can’t completely choose what’s in that day --but to choose my attitude about that stuff. To include more of what does matter to me in this day and less of what doesn’t.

I don’t want to die on the day that I was obsessed with who didn’t like me or on the day that I kept trying to please someone else.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Loves Long Walks on the Beach

This weekend felt like a good Hallmark card or a bad posting. A beautiful fall weekend on Cape Cod. On the drive there we laughed listening to Tina Fey “Bossypants”. Ate steamers and fried clams and blueberry pie. John did chores. I hit the jackpot at TJ Max. And we had long, long walks on the beach. Holding hands. Laughing. We saw a friend’s new house. Went to the movies. Felt so grateful for our lives. This is one of those times when it feels like the clouds parted. I feel grateful for every struggle and every minute of therapy that got us here. Not that I want to relive any of it. No, but I do love long walks on the beach

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Dead Friends by Marie Howe

I have begun,
when I'm weary and can't decide an answer to a bewildering question
to ask my dead friends for their opinion
and the answer is often immediate and clear.
Should I take the job? Move to the city? Should I try to conceive a child
in my middle age?
They stand in unison shaking their heads and smiling-whatever leads
to joy, they always answer,
to more life and less worry. I look into the vase where Billy's ashes were-
it's green in there, a green vase,
and I ask Billy if I should return the difficult phone call, and he says, yes.
Billy's already gone through the frightening door,
whatever he says I'll do.

-- by Marie Howe

Monday, October 17, 2011


Words—it’s all about words. Language is what creates our reality, and language is what allows us to think. Think about that. If you have language, you have power and in CancerLand we need all the power we can get.

Words really do matter. That’s what got me started on this journey of writing about sex and intimacy and cancer. I had to write out my frustration because of all the words no one would use with me and John, and because of the words they did use that made me crazy.

But it’s not just in CancerLand. Our culture is inhibited about sexual language and even anatomical language. Now, I know that most women over 30 think they have that nailed. We do not talk like our mothers or our grandmothers. We have come to a place where we believe that we are so open and forthright; we don’t say “down there” or “pee pee” to refer to our genitals but we have raised a huge group of young girls who think their whole genital area is a vagina.

No! That is not your vagina or your Vajayjay—sorry Oprah. Most of the time we are mislabeling the mons, vulva, labia and clitoris, with the equally euphemistic vagina.

And that is a problem in CancerLand and in women’s lives. To think we need words and to have intimacy we have to have words. So what are we gonna do about our words?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Pig in the Python

We, the “Baby Boomers”, were born between 1946 and 1964. Nice numerical bookends to remember who we are. I was born in 1953 so I’m nicely embedded in the center of this large, unruly, and predictable but independent demographic group. We are—according to demographers-- the “Pig in the Python”—so named because they can watch us move along the lifespan and longevity track.

Yes, we know there are so many of us and we know the benefits. Wish for a more comfortable shoe for your middle-aged feet? Ten new brands. Want a vacation geared to an aging but not willing to admit it body? Thousands to choose from.

But here’s a fun fact to pause and think about: Our big group is aging together and we are getting—and going to get—disabled together, and we are going to have more and more and more cancer together. This is the consequence of our “Boomer Bump” combined with better healthcare. The longer you live the more cancer, and more likelihood of cancer, you’ll have.

So we all have a very selfish and very altruistic reason to care about cancer. If you too were born between 1946 and 1964 cancer is coming soon to a body near you.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Steve Jobs: How to live before you die | Video on

Tonight I watched this video of Steve Jobs at Stanford and loving hearing him talk about doing what you love and embracing death every day. That is a great way to love in the time of cancer. Click on the link below to see and hear this 12 minute talk:

Steve Jobs: How to live before you die | Video on

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs

I am sad about Steve Jobs. He died yesterday from pancreatic cancer and its treatment. I didn’t know him—my only connection is an I Phone and a laptop. But he was 56 and smart and talented and fierce.

Maybe too, his death is a reminder—again—that we die. And that no amount of money, access, power or even the best healthcare in the world can beat death. We die.

I’m also saying to myself, “Oh Diane, get this, please get this, people my age and John’s age die every day--and death at our age is not extraordinary, so really, does work or money or who doesn’t like me really matter?”

I know that the answer is “no”. But living it—that’s another matter.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Kegels are on the list of things we don’t talk about with our friends. But we should. We really should. If sex isn’t satisfying it is mostly because it’s not pleasurable. And it’s not pleasurable because we’re not having orgasms or not having them often enough or with the intensity to send those endorphins loose.

Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles makes the difference.

I wish that someone had told me about Kegels 20 years ago. So I am telling you. You can click on the link below to the Mayo Clinic website for an explanation and discussion.

There should be public service announcements about Kegels. Book groups should talk about Kegels. Weight Watchers should have handouts on Kegels: Want to eat less? Have more orgasms—do your Kegels!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Volunteer Opportunities with the American Cancer Society Hope Club

I saw the staff team from The American Cancer Society Hope Club today and learned about their volunteer opportunities. I’ve done some of these activities as a volunteer in the past and I know how satisfying and manageable they are--and how appreciated. Check it out:

Drivers for Road to Recovery: give someone a ride to treatment—round trip or one way. Surprisingly easy to do—even if you are working or have kids.

Coordinator for Road to Recovery Drivers: You will be blown away by the people you meet and talk about having gratitude in your day! Yes!

Patient Navigation: If you have been through CancerLand you can help someone else. Share the wisdom; translate the jargon; teach a caregiver how to cope; turn victim into advocate. You already know so much.

For more information call The ACS Hope Club at 518-782-9833

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Strawberries and Plums

At the funeral on Wednesday the priest shared this Buddhist parable:

A man walking across a field encounters a tiger. The man runs and the tiger chases him. Coming to a cliff, the man caught hold of a wild vine and swung himself over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Terrified, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger had come, waiting to eat him. Then two mice, one white and one black, little by little began to gnaw away at the vine. Realizing his situation the man looks around and sees nearby a luscious strawberry. Grasping the vine in one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other, and popped it in his mouth. How sweet it tasted!

We are that man. Lots of tigers. Lots of mice. And if we look around, lots of ripe strawberries.

This reminder to taste the fruit of life brought to mind the poem, “This is Just to Say” by
William Carlos Williams:

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.